Today’s reading continues the stories from earlier in the Judges era, from the generations just after the conquest, when Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, served as High Priest. While chronologically out of order with the rest of Judges, this story’s descent into treachery fits the author’s logic: in the period between Joshua and the establishment of the kings, life in Israel was unraveling.
Some stories are told to inform, some to encourage, some to warn. It seems that – and you can debate this if you like – it seems that this story is intended to shock and infuriate the reader. The account of the Levite, the concubine, and the men of Gibeah will remind you – perhaps intentionally – of the most brutal and despondent stories we’ve read thus far. It is connected to yesterday’s reading only by the detail of another wandering Levite, who chases his “unfaithful” concubine to Bethlehem.
On their return journey they are besieged at the Benjamite city of Gibeah, a violation occurs such as has never happened or been seen from the day that the people of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt…” The crime at Gibeah leads to open civil war, Benjamin is decimated, and Israel is left to despair, “O Lord, the God of Israel, why has this happened in Israel, that today there should be one tribe lacking in Israel?” Pay attention to when, and how, Israel finally consults the LORD, and to the observation that the LORD defeated Benjamin before Israel.
The observation that in those days there was no king in Israel is fitting for both the opening and closing lines today. Listen all the way to the end, as a postscript closes the author’s observations on this era, and leaves the reader wondering if, and how, the hope of the covenant might be fulfilled.
Our verse for this week is John 3:35: The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.
Judges chapters 19 through 21. Now let’s read it!
The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.