The Downward Spiral Reaches Rock Bottom
March 21 - Nº 80 Judges 17 – 21
As the Israelites continued to settle their new land, they increasingly forgot the One who had given it to them and why they were there. Instead of driving out the people who worshiped foreign gods, they married them and began to worship those gods themselves. In Judges 17-18 we are told about a man named Micah who stole a lot of silver from his mother. When he finally confessed and returned it to her, she made it into an idol and gave it back to him! Micah crafted more idols and set up his own shrine. He eventually hired a man from the tribe of Levi to be his personal priest. Then some men from the tribe of Dan stole his idols and his priest. For the first time in Israel’s history, a whole tribe abandoned God to establish their own religion. Things grew even worse as time went on. In chapter 19, the downward spiral seemed to hit rock bottom. A Levite’s concubine (a woman legally bound to a man, but without the status of a wife) left her “husband” and returned to her parents. The man convinced her to come back and live with him again. On their way home, they stopped in Gibeah, a small village in Benjamite territory. An elderly man invited them to stay in his home. While they were there, evil men from the village pounded on the door. The Levite offered them his concubine so they wouldn’t attack him. By the end of the night, they had sexually abused and murdered her. The Levite was so upset that he decided to let everyone in Israel know how bad things had become. He sent each of the 12 tribes a separate piece of her body along with the details of the gruesome story. Everyone was shocked and outraged—except for the Benjamites who chose to protect the men from their tribe even though they were criminals. Most of the Israelites decided to go to war against the tribe of Benjamin. However, the first two days of battle didn’t go very well for the Israelites. They cried and begged God for forgiveness and wisdom. The next morning, they showed up with a new battle plan. They lured the Benjamite warriors away from Gibeah and snuck in behind them. Then they ransacked the city and set it on fire. The Benjamites saw the smoke and realized they were surrounded. Only 600 Benjamite men escaped. No women or children survived. As their tempers cooled, the Israelites felt bad about almost annihilating an entire tribe. Although they had vowed to never let their daughters marry Benjamites, they came up with a plan to provide them with wives so that the tribe could survive. Since the men of Jabesh-Gilead had not helped them in the battle at all, the Israelites decided to punish them. They destroyed their city and killed most of the residents. However, they saved 400 virgin girls and brought them back to Shiloh. Then they helped the 400 remaining Benjamite men sneak in from the vineyards and “kidnap” the young women as they danced at the annual harvest celebration. God concludes this dark chapter in Israel’s history by saying, “In those days there was no king in Israel, and every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (21:25). That pretty much sums it up! Lies, sex, betrayal, violence, and wars had deeply scarred Israel’s first 400 years in the Promised Land.
How is your eyesight? Do you make decisions based on what you see with your own eyes, or do you look for God’s spiritual insights? If we only see life through our own distorted lenses, we are likely to surround ourselves with shady friends who will lead us into darker and darker places.