No one will preach on the last three chapters of Judges (and I don't blame them)

Updated: Aug 12, 2020

The book of Judges is ripe with courageous heroes, strong women, and shining examples of piety. We go to Samson to learn about God's second chances. We go to Deborah to learn that God can break cultural norms to make a leader. We go to Gideon to inspire the fearful. Heck, even Ehud teaches us how to assassinate an evil overlord on the toilet. The book of Judges is a goldmine for VBS stories, inspirational preaching points, and life lessons. So, what's wrong with the last three chapters of Judges?

Here's a quick overview. These are R-rated scenes, fyi.

Phil Vischer keeps rejecting my script for a Veggie Tales episode called The Legume and His Tater-bite

Chapter 19: A Levite and his concubine

This chapter title sounds like the worst Chronicles of Narnia book in the series. There was a Levite from Ephraim who went to Bethlehem to retrieve his unfaithful concubine. After many nights of drinking and eating with his father-in-law, he got permission to leave. On the way home, they passed through a Benjamite town, Gibeah.

Gibeah was a rude town. No one offered their home for the Levite to spend the night. When an elderly gentleman finally offered, the number one fear happened. The townspeople forcefully demanded the elderly gentleman to give up his guest for a night of unspeakable desecration. The elder, not wanting to be rude, told the townspeople to have their way with his concubine, instead. Under the law, the Levite was allowed to protect his concubine, but instead she got thrown to the wolves. Horrible and unholy things happened and the concubine died from the abuse. The Levite got so angry over this Benjamite town that he sent a message to the other tribes of Israel. He dismembered the concubine and delivered a piece of her to every tribe to enrage them into battle.

Why is this outrageous?:

It should be clear why no youth leaders or pastors are preaching from this chapter. The atrocious rape of that poor woman should send us off the handle. I was expecting some fire and brimstone, a la Sodom and Gomorrah. Instead we get a totally different reaction that makes historians scratch their heads. A man of God cutting someone up is so out of character for a Levite, let alone a Hebrew. You won't find it anywhere in the Bible. The closest we have to this story is when Saul cut up an ox as motivation for Israel to go to war.

Obviously, we are rooting for Israel sacking this poor excuse of a town. But, what happens next will deflate you.

Chapter 20: The Israelites Punish the Benjamites

Now is the time for some sweet retribution. Gibeah was going to get what it deserved. I have no pity on this slob town. Israel gathered the tribes at Mizpah and consulted the LORD about how to punish the Benjamites. The tribe of Benjamin refused to repent, leading Israel to declare war.

With decency and holiness on the side of Israel, the nation invoked the LORD for His counsel. The eleven tribes of Israel outnumbered Benjamin and the LORD was on their side. What can go wrong?

Time for sweet justice!

Just kidding. Benjamin wiped the floor with Israel in the first skirmish. The LORD's army lost. the LORD even handpicked Judah's army to fight them and they still lost. The Israelites ran back to their camp weeping over the failure, while Benjamin was under the impression that they ruled the roost. Israel asked the LORD again about how to best battle this threat. The LORD replied: “Go up against them.”

So, this time the Israelites go to victory? Nope! JK. The Benjamites defeat the tribes again. The Israelites ran back to camp with their tails between their legs. This had to be a cosmic joke. Every other judge over Israel got an instant KO over their enemies and for some reason this fraction of a nation is winning. Scripture hints that Benjamin had some warriors that were pretty decent with a left handed sling, but still!

Third time was the charm when the LORD told the Israelites, “Go, for tomorrow I will give them into your hands.” This time Israel had a battle plan. They devised a fake front on the battlefield against Benjamin, while a counterattack sacked their city. As Benjamin is winning the fake battle, the true army destroyed their city. It worked! Benjamin got a little too cocky, but regretted it when they see Gibeah in smoke. The offensive army was surrounded and over 25,000 Benjamites are killed on the battlefield. Towns get burned to the ground, villagers are put to the sword, and families get wiped out.

Why is this outrageous?:

Every war in the Old Testament is supposed to be an open and shut case. When God tells an army to go to war, you figure He has a plan that will turn the tide of battle. This battle was ugly, but it still had God's stamp of approval on it. Really makes you think about our expectations. We assume that every struggle worth fighting will have a clean victory that makes it look like God flipped a button. Sometimes you can do the right thing and fail.

But, we can put this dark day behind us, right?


Chapter 21: Wives for Benjamites

Israel, after victoriously wiping out the rebellious tribe, felt remorse for their brethren. The tribe of Benjamin had only a handful of men left and no wives to carry on their legacy. That would ruin God's promise to increase His people. The tribes of Israel were still sore that Benjamin would rape a man's concubine so they all made a vow that they would never give their daughters to Benjamin for marriage. That could have led to a tribe going extinct so Israel needed a work around.

Israel started throwing ideas around until one of them asked, "remember that last conference we had at Mizpah? Which tribe didn't show up to it?" Jabesh Gilead was a no-show at their last gathering. This lead the Israelites to sack the towns of Jabesh Gilead, kill all their men and women, and capture all their virgins.

Problem solved!


Apparently Jabesh Gilead didn't have enough virgins for the men of Benjamin. Some of the warriors wouldn't be getting a consolation prize wife. So Israel went back to the drawing board. Finally, a man came forward and said, "There is an annual festival at Shiloh that has this dancing women troupe. We should just hide in the bushes, wait for them to come out, and carry them off."

Give that man Employee of the Month!

That is what Israel did and it worked. The dancing ladies were captured as brides for Benjamin. Israel was kind enough to leave a note for the grieving fathers and brothers of the daughters stating, "Do us the favor of helping {the Benjamites}, because we did not get wives for them during the war. You will not be guilty of breaking your oath because you did not give your daughters to them.”

Why is this outrageous?:

This chapter is dedicated to horrible ideas. Nothing has ever been done like this in the Old Testament, but at the same time Israel was operating without the LORD's help. All these decisions were based on fear, guilt, and bad oaths. The workaround to fix it all seems like it was orchestrated by Michael Scott. The chapter ends with "Israel had no king and everyone in the land did as they saw fit." Perhaps the last chapter of Judges was the author's proof that a nation without loyalty to God makes terrible decisions.

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