The history in this chapter, like the two or three preceding, is full of distress, though the subject varies. From private calamities we are now introduced to the relation of public: and from an house, or family, the evil is extended to the Nation. Now we hear of the wars on account of sin. The story of the Levites' wrongs is heard in the several tribes of Israel; they form a resolution to avenge them on the Benjamites: matters soon come to an issue: and a dreadful slaughter in consequence thereof is related in this chapter.
The readiness of all Israel to assemble upon the complaint of the Levite, seems to say; the Lord had yet a seed to serve him. And no doubt, in the worst of times, this is, and must be the case. There is a sweet promise, to this effect, Isaiah 59:21. Mizpeh, was not far from Shiloh; so that it became a well appointed place, for the collecting Israel together from Dan, the most northern city; and Beersheba, the most southern of all the provinces.
(Now the children of Benjamin heard that the children of Israel were gone up to Mizpeh.) Then said the children of Israel, Tell us, how was this wickedness?
If Benjamin had not been grossly sunk in wickedness, what a fine opportunity was here afforded to have sent in their supplication for pardon. But alas! Sin hardens, and not softens, by repeated commissions.
I pass by the relation of the story itself, (for we had it before in the preceding chapter) to call the Reader's attention to the Levites appeal. What are, or ought to be the children of Israel? Moses had told them long before; Thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God, Deuteronomy 7:6. Faithfulness to the God of their salvation, and the most brotherly love and attachment to one another, were implied in this honourable distinction. Nothing therefore could have been more admirably chosen, in the Levite, than to appeal to their feelings, under this high title.
Oh! that all the tribes of Jesus were so consolidated in his cause, and so united to him, their great head, and to each other as the members of his mystical body: what might not be expected in their zeal for the divine honour and glory!
This fair appeal common justice required. The wicked only are to be punished in his iniquity. And this with a view also, to stop the execution of God's wrath. How lost therefore was Benjamin to refuse. But is there not in all this, the picture of human nature, hardened to its own ruin by sin.
The disposition of the army of Israel, and then asking counsel from the Lord, is a sweet token for good. And, as the Lord appointed Judah to lead, who doth not see shadowed out in this, the early tokens of that war, which the Lord fights for his people against sin and Satan; and Jesus, who according to the flesh, sprang out of Judah, going before, Hebrews 7:14.
The apparent success of Benjamin, is a lively representation of the seeming success of Satan, in the holy war. How frequently are God's people apparently worsted, and in the conflict, prompted to exclaim, Surely the Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me, Isaiah 49:14.
Here we see that through the whole the victory was not doubtful. The Lord hereby taught Israel, who perhaps vaunted more upon the strength of their numbers, compared to Benjamin and Gibeah, than simply leaned upon the arm of Jehovah, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong. And are not God's people taught the same now, when at any time tempted to trust an arm of flesh?
But six hundred men turned and fled to the wilderness unto the rock Rimmon, and abode in the rock Rimmon four months.
I would not overstrain the holy word, to discover more than it is intended to convey: but in those six hundred men of Benjamin fleeing to the rock; may we not be led, at least, to reflect on the happiness, and safety of those who flee to the rock Christ Jesus, as a refuge from every evil.
And the men of Israel turned again upon the children of Benjamin, and smote them with the edge of the sword, as well the men of every city, as the beast, and all that came to hand: also they set on fire all the cities that they came to.
What an awful catastrophe doth the close of the chapter form: and all arising from one and the same cause of sin! Oh! my soul, flee from the very approaches of sin, and have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness: but may I come out from among them, and touch not the unclean thing: then will He be the Lord my God, and I shall be one among the sons and daughters of the Lord God Almighty, 2 Corinthians 6:17-18.
HERE let me learn, from the unanimity of Israel in a just cause, and the blessing of the Lord God upon them, how much it becomes the Israel of God, to unite in the suppression of sin, and in supporting the interest of Jesus in the world. Oh! for zeal for him, and his blessed cause, who hath so loved me as to give himself for me! Here blessed Jesus, give me grace to unite in heart and soul with all thy holy army, and to be valiant in thy cause. And ye soldiers of the Lamb! ye who wear the regimentals of Jesus, and profess to have put on his whole armor; let me speak to you, as the Levite did at Mizpeh, Behold! ye are children of Israel! Be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might. Never give quarter to Satan but resist stedfast unto death, striving against sin and count not your life dear unto yourselves. So that you may finish your course with joy, and having fought the good fight of faith may lay hold of eternal life.
And ye men of Benjamin, shall I call you? my poor brethren in sin and transgression, oh! cast down your rebellious arms at the foot of the cross or flee, like the men at Rimmon, flee to Christ Jesus for shelter, while the opportunity of escape remains and while the door of salvation is open. Sweet is the voice, and most precious the promise - All that the Father giveth me, shall come to me, and him that cometh I will in no wise cast out
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Judges 20". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany