I recently just finished reading the Torah, Joshua, and the book of Judges in about 20 days. It’s been a whirlwind reading the history of Israel so quickly, but it also has helped me see even more clearly than ever how quickly these people of God plummet into disobedience, deception, and distrust in the Lord.
The end of Judges is like a smack in the face when you’re reading. The first two thirds of the book is full of disobedience followed by deliverance by the judges. It’s bad—and the Israelites, because of their sin, keep getting conquered by differing nations. But the Lord continues to raise up deliverers to rescue them. Some are better than others. Samson in particular is full of good and bad. But in the end, the cycle continues.
But then Samson dies and chapter 17 begins. From here, their defiance against their God gets crazy. There’s two main stories.
Shrine, Gods, Carved Image, and an Idol
The first: This man Micah makes a carved image and cast idol (what is he doing!?). Then he gets a Levite to be a priest for him in his house. Then some people from the tribe of Dan hear about it, and they recognize that Micah has four (awful) things in his house: a shrine, household gods, a carved image, and an idol (see Judges 18:14). So the Danites decide to rescue the Levite out of their, and take the four things. But then—just when you think the Danites are pursuing God’s glory and holiness—what do they do with them? They use them themselves! It’s terrible (Judges 18:30-31).
But it only gets worse.
Abuse, Assault, and Abduction
The second: A Levite’s concubine runs away, and so he goes to find her and get her. He finds her, and when they leave, he decides to go stay a night at Gibeah, a town in Benjamin. They go to stay outside in the city square, but a man comes to them and says that they shouldn’t stay there. So they stay with this man. All of sudden there are many men from the city, pounding their door, asking to bring the man out so that they may sleep with him. It’s Sodom all over again—but it gets worse. So the owner of the house sends out his daughter and the concubine, and says “You can use them and so to them whatever you wish” (Judges 19:24). Unreal. So, these men do. They rape the concubine and abuse her all night.
Then the Levite in the morning sees his concubine—abused and raped all night—and all he has to say to her is, “Get up; let’s go.” She is put on the donkey, but then seen to be dead. So he finally cuts her up into twelve pieces and sends the pieces all over Israel, in order to show Israel how evil Gibeah had been.
In the next chapter, the rest of Israel at least sees that the Benjamites were evil. The Benjamites apparently do not. A battle then ensues, and the tribe of Benjamin eventually loses because the Lord defeats them.
But then the last chapter of Judges ends on another crazy, wicked part. Since the people of Benjamin now have no wives, they try to figure out where to get them from. So first, they notice that. A clan, Jabesh Gilead, didn’t come up to worship at Mizpah. So what do they do? They go, kill all the men and non-virgin women in the clan, and give the rest of the women to the Benjamites. But that still isn’t enough women. So what else do they do? They know that there is a festival to the Lord in Shiloh, and so they go there while it is going on and abduct women to be the wives of the Benjamites.
Then the book of Judges ends.
Idolatry and Immorality
The first story highlights the idolatry—as Micah has these gods, carved images, and idols. The second highlights immense immorality—abuse and abduction of these women.
And in there is clearly a causal relationship. You cannot read through this and not see that, as they forsake their God, they become evil. Really evil. Their idolatry leads to immorality.
But why am I writing all the? Because reading this is made me more appreciate Christ and the new covenant even more. These people were delivered out of Egypt, they had God on their side, they conquered much land, they were blessed in many ways. But they kept on plummeting down and down and down.
The refrain throughout the end of the book of Judges is that “Israel had no king and each did whatever was right in their own eyes.” There’s two things that this shows, both which are fulfilled in Christ, both of which make me appreciate Christ even more.
First, they had no king. They had one to rule over them, to guide them. The Lord was to be their King, but they kept forsaking him. They needed someone to under-rule, submitting to the Lord. This we get in Christ. He is our Savior and our King. He rules. I am thankful he guides and directs me. Without him, I’d be scarily like these Israelites. He knows what brings him the most glory and what is best for me. I get to follow him.
Second, they all did whatever was right in their own eyes. This is related to the fact that they had no guidance, but it is also a heart issue. They wanted to do what they wanted to do. What they wanted to do seemed right to them (since they wanted to do it), but it was evil. As a result, they needed a new, changed heart that was inclined to follow God’s ways—so that their hearts wanted to do what God wanted them to do. It’s a radical transformation. But this we also get in Christ, in the new covenant.
They lacked the external guidance and rulership of a godly King; and they lacked the internal change of their rebellious hearts. In the gospel of Christ, in this new covenant, we get the external King over all and we get the internal new heart.
Reading these books makes me see how they tragically plummet. It’s shocking and alarming. Saved by the Lord, they needed more. They needed Christ. So do I. I read these books and see much religion. I notice even much true worship of God. But as time went on, their deficiency and corruption was revealed. So would mine, apart from Christ. I’m thankful for him and the covenant he brought and bought.