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Like every library, the Bible is sectioned into different kinds of books. We looked at
the book of Leviticus which belongs to the law section of the library. We're now going
to look at a history book - quite different. Actually, the Bible is unique in being mostly
history. If you study the other sacred scriptures of the world - of the other religions, none
of them are history. You read the Koran through or the holy Vedas, you find there's no history
in them. The Bible is a book of history and unlike any other history book it begins earlier
and it ends later; and in fact it records history that no historian can record - nobody
was present at the beginning of the history of our universe and nobody has yet been present
at the end of it, and yet the Bible covers the entire history of the universe from beginning
to end. Which means that the earliest part of the Bible and the latest part are either
divine inspiration or human imagination - but you've got to decide. But here's history written
when there has been no historian present to record what happened. But most of it is history
like other histories - it's the human part and in the book of Judges we're into a book
of history. Now there are four levels of studying history
- all history. And in the history section of your library you'll find histories written
from all points of view. One point of view is to study the Personalities who make history
happen, the great characters, the great figures. And one series of the history of England focuses
on the king or the queen and what happened during their reign. A second level of studying
history is to look at nations and Peoples and see the political history of the world
and how one nation gets bigger and stronger and another weakens, and then that one weakens,
and another takes over. The history of peoples as distinct from personalities. A third level
of studying history is to look for Patterns - to look for somehow rhythms in history so
you get cycles of recession and economic growth and some historians try and find patterns
of history and see how the ebb and flow of civilisations happens. There have been twenty-one
civilisations that have come and gone so far, and they follow a remarkably similar pattern
of rise and fall like the Roman Empire. There is a fourth level which historians like Toynbee
have tried to write and that is to see the Purpose of history – where's it going?
Is it just a matter of patterns, or is there a purpose being fulfilled through the centuries?
Is something going on, is there a plot, is there some clear end in view?
Well now, there are two answers to that last question - is there a purpose in history?
On the one hand, there are those who say there's no purpose; history is going nowhere, it's
going round in circles, everything happens again. Have you heard the popular proverb
'history repeats itself'? That's what we call the cyclical view of history, that
it's getting nowhere, it's just going round, and round, and round and you have good times
and bad times and good times and bad times and empires rise and fall, and history's going
nowhere - it's going in a circle. On the other hand, that's a human view of
history but the divine view of history is that it's a linear purpose rather than a cyclical.
In other words, history is going somewhere. It's travelling in only one direction from
the past, through the present, to the future. And this is the view of history in the Bible
and history is a line, it's linear, it's got purpose; it has a beginning, a middle
and an end and God is moving history to his planned ending. And therefore history is his
story and he's writing it. Now it's interesting that whenever in the
Bible people got away from God, this was the pattern that resulted, and if you've read
Judges you know that it's just one cycle after another; and the same thing happens again
and again, actually seven times in the book of Judges, the same story happens again, because
they had got away from the Lord. And in fact individual lives are the same - away from
the Lord, life is a roundabout: you get up, you go to work, you come home, you watch telly,
you go to bed, you get up, you go to work, you come home, you watch telly and you go
on doing that for forty years and then you retire and die and you get off just where
you got on, life's been a roundabout, a cycle and it's got nowhere. Whereas when you're
in line with God, your life has a purpose and it's going somewhere. It's a line again
- do you follow me? Now since in the book of Judges people had
got away from God and were disobedient to God and were not obeying Leviticus and the
other laws of Moses, life became cyclical - a roundabout, and things just happened again
and again and again. With the book of Ruth, on the other hand, the line becomes the main
thing and it ends with a royal line that is fulfilling God's purpose.
So, is life a cycle or a line for you - circle or a line? Depends on whether you're in touch
with the Lord. And that's one of the big things that redemption does for you. It gets
you off the roundabout and gets you on to a line that's going somewhere and that you're
part of a purpose that's being worked out in history. Well now, originally the book
of Judges and the book of Ruth were one book and still are in the Hebrew Bible. That's
very important because they belong together - they are really one book. And we're going
to ask who wrote this one book and why? Because in fact the most important question about
any book in the Bible you can ask is, why was that book written? And once you've got
the answer to that, you've got the biggest key to unlock it - why was that book written?
So why was this single Hebrew book Judges/Ruth written, and who wrote it, and when? And astonishingly,
we can answer these questions exactly, even though the answers are not given in either
book; but we've got to do a little detective work.
Now the tragedy is - we'll begin with Judges - and the tragedy is that most people only
have a Sunday school knowledge of the book of Judges. Do you know what I mean by that?
They only know the Bowdlerized version. Now that maybe a verb unfamiliar to you. Bowdler
was a famous man who didn't approve of William Shakespeare because he said, there are naughty
bits in Shakespeare. So he actually revised Shakespeare and cut out all the naughty bits
and it was known as the Bowdlerized version and his name has gone down in history. Well
I'm afraid you can't teach judges as a whole in Sunday school. It's full of pretty horrid
things of concubines and prostitutes being cut up into pieces and rape and murder and
phallic symbols. No wonder they edited it very carefully for Sunday school teaching.
And I'm afraid when you do that, you finish up only knowing about the personalities - you
don't know the book. That's typical. There's a comic of Samson, and actually he didn't
look like that at all he looked more like me. I mean if Samson had looked like that,
do you think Delilah would have said, what is the secret of your great strength? I mean
actually he had a very small physique. His strength did not lie in his biceps, he wasn't
Atlas or Mr. World or whatever, but we were given these in Sunday school - you know the
kind of thing. And lurid stories of his adventures, suitably Bowdlerized of course. But unfortunately,
that's the level at which most people know the book of Judges. They know about Samson,
they know about Gideon; if they're feminists, they know all about Deborah these days, but
we're getting a bit stuck now for some of the names of the others and that's a great
pity because it's not just a book of personalities. It's not just a book of Sunday school stories
or of folk tales - not fairy tales - folk tales; but they no doubt went through the
stages of folk tales - they were remembered, then repeated, then recorded and most of the
Bible came that way, as things were remembered and then retold and repeated and then somebody
put them down with pen and ink and they became recorded for us.
Well now, of the heroes and personalities in the book of Judges, it's really quite unbalanced.
For example, Samson has four chapters all to himself, Gideon has three, but some of
these others only get a little mention and it seems that the more sensational they were
the more mention they got, it's almost a tabloid newspaper record. Deborah and Barak had quite
a bit, Gideon had more so I've given him 2 stars, and Samson had most so I've given
him 3 stars. And the first impression is that it was simply folk heroes like Nelson and
Wellington – you know, people who've saved the situation. When you run through them,
what an odd crowd they are. This is Caleb's younger brother, and we're only told that
he brought peace to his people for 40 years, and that's about all we know about him.
Ehud was a very colourful character; he was left handed and he used to carry his eighteen-inch
blade sword strapped to his right leg and people who frisked you frisked your left leg
because that was where a right- hander would pull the sword from. So rather cunningly,
he carried it in his left trouser leg and he could pull it out pretty sharply. And he
went to the king of Moab and said, I've got a message for you and it's a very private
message, so send everybody out of the room. And the king of Moab was very, very fat and
when everybody had left the room, Ehud pulled out his sword - they'd frisked his right leg
but not his left, and he'd still got the sword - and he plunges it in to the king of Moab's
belly, who was so fat that the fat closed over the sword and Ehud's hand. A most edifying
tale this - and then having killed the king of Moab, he went out and he told the guards,
the king has gone to relieve himself, so he says, don't trouble him for the next fifteen
minutes - and thus got back safely to Israel. What on earth is that doing in the Bible?
Shamgar, well he killed 600 Philistines with an ox goad - bully for him! Then Deborah - Deborah
and Barak - and Deborah was a prophetess; her name means 'busy bee' and she was
married to a man called Flash - otherwise known as Lappidoth in Hebrew - and she would
settle disputes by hearing from the Lord. But when the big battle came, she did not
lead the people of God into battle, she called on Barak, a man to do that. He was not a man
and he said, I'm not going into the front line unless you come with me - because it
is the custom in Israeli army for the senior officer to lead his troops in battle - still
true of the Israeli army - which is why they lose so many officers when they fight. It's
the only army - British army is a little different and the Americans and the others. But there,
Barak said, I'll only lead in front if you'll come with me which would have exposed her
to danger and because of that, God was angry and said that the enemy Sisera would fall
to the hand of a woman to humiliate Barak in his cowardice and of course Sisera died
of surprise - such a thing had never entered his head before. And I'm just seeing if you've
read it, and if you haven't, go and read it and you'll find out why I said that.
Gideon - this fearful man - he put some meat on an altar and fire from heaven burns up
the meat and then he says, Lord I need a sign from heaven. I mean it's almost laughable,
that having had fire of heaven burn up meat in front of his eyes, he wants a sign. So
he asks for a fleece. A friend of mine in New Zealand, one night… he was invited to
consider being a missionary in Malaysia and he said, Lord I need a fleece. When he came
down the next morning, here was a sheepskin on top of his car in the drive covered in
dew and he has not, to this day, found out who put it there. None of the neighbours put
it there. He's never asked for a fleece again. But I meet so many Christians who say,
I'm asking for a fleece. Are you really? Well he's the only man I've ever known who got
one apart from Gideon, but Gideon got his sign with the fleece that was dry one day
and wet the next. But he had to learn that it's by God's strength and strategy that battles
are won and you remember that God reduced his army from 200,000 to 300 so that Gideon
would learn not to put his trust in human resources.
Just out of interest, you remember he sorted them out by bringing them to a stream and
seeing whether they lapped or not, that's the Spring of Hared where he took them. I
want you to imagine hundreds of Israeli soldiers stooping down. Those who put their heads down
to the water and licked, were rejected and those who cupped the water in their hands
and lifted it, so they could still keep an eye open for the enemy, they were chosen;
and ultimately got down to 300. By the way, that's where Deborah and Barak gathered their
troops on the top of Mount Tabor and this is the area where Sisera and his troops were.
It's a marshy area and their chariots got stuck in the mud and Sisera fled on foot,
but that's where it happened. It's a real education to go to the Holy Land (and Chris
Hill is the ideal person to take you).
Well now, let's go on. Who'd we got up to? Passed Gideon. Tola; Jair - Thirty sons, donkeys
and towns he had - interesting! Jephthah, the Head of Gilead, that's all we know about
him. And then Ibzan, he had thirty daughters and thirty sons, and all his sons married
outside the clan of Judah - and he belonged to Bethlehem. Now there's an interesting
little note, I want you to remember that. This family in Bethlehem married outside the
clan - still within Israel, but outside the tribe.
That's going to come up again a bit later when we get to Ruth. Then there was Elon,
we know nothing about him. Abdon had forty sons, thirty grandsons and seventy donkeys!
That makes seventy children and seventy donkeys. And then we come to Samson whose name was
Sunshine - that's what Samson means. And Sunshine was brought up a Nazirite. I was once preaching
on him and I said he wasn't allowed to take alcohol, and somebody in the audience shouted
Hallelujah! And I said, and he had to let his hair grow long - and there was dead silence!
And I said, why do you just approve of part of the word of God? But he was a Nazirite
and had a miraculous birth; and you know the story about him killing the lion and finding
the honey in it, and he offered that as a conundrum at his wedding reception – 'out
of the strong comes forth sweetness'. And you know anybody could have found the answer
by looking at Tate & Lyle's golden syrup tin! Because the answer's there on the Tate & Lyle
golden syrup tin - every one you buy - but they didn't have that in those days. When
they managed to persuade his wife to let the puzzle out, he was so angry, and she went
off with the Best Man. It's an extraordinary tale of a man who married and his marriage
broke up before even their honeymoon, then he moved to nameless prostitutes, finally
he had a mistress called Delilah - you know the sad story - the story of a weak man, not
a strong man. And you know that ultimately after many amazing feats of strength which
were due purely to his charismatic anointing and not to his muscles, that the Spirit of
the Lord departed from him and he was blinded and put in a treadmill and ultimately made
a joke by the Philistines. Some of you will have heard a famous sermon
I preached - or infamous or whatever - called 'Samson's hair is growing again' which
I preached way back in 1982 and which went round this country like a prairie fire. One
young person who heard that sermon wrote a poem about the blind Samson led by the little
boy to the pillars of the temple where he pulled the whole temple down. I must read
you that poem, it's most moving. It's called 'The Boy Who held His Hand'. It
goes like this – “They gouged them out. At first, I could
not bear to look, empty and raw and cruel. I would not look; the shock of emptiness knowing
that he would not see. I watched the shaven head bowed low rocking with the rhythm of
the grindstone round, round, round. I watched the needless shackles, heavy and hard, biting
the flesh that needs no binding. Now, it does not matter that his eyes are gone. I am his
eyes; he sees through me. He has to see through me - there is no other way, and I have wept
the tears he cannot weep for all those careless years. And I have learned to love this broken
man, while he has learned at last to fear his God. So, I am not afraid to die, happy
to be his eyes this one last time, taking his hand, leading with practised care step
by guided step, into the place where he can pray. Oh Lord! Oh Sovereign Lord! And as the
pillars fall, I cry Amen.” That's quite a poem isn't it? Dear old Samson.
In the last five minutes, he did more for his people than he did in all the years of
his life. Well that's just looking at personalities,
and the Bible is an honest book. It first of all doesn't hide human weakness. Many of
these characters are quite weak, even cowardly. They're not strong characters, they're
not holy people, and yet God used them. They are all charismatic people in that the secret
was the Holy Spirit came on them. But, however, though the human weakness was matched by divine
strength, that anointing of the Holy Spirit only came on a few people out of all God's
people, 12 out of 2,000,000 to be precise, and the Holy Spirit only came on them temporarily
and not permanently. It was an anointing Spirit that touched them, rather than an in-dwelling
Spirit who stayed with them. That's important - that's the pattern of the Holy Spirit in
the old Testament. But what were they all? In English, they're called Judges - the book
of Judges. It's a pity; it's not a very helpful word - it's a bit of a misnomer. In fact,
the noun is not applied to any of those. The verb is. It says, Samson judged Israel, Gideon
judged Israel. They're not called judges. The verb is used and yet it's not 'judged'.
I would call them trouble-shooters. They delivered their people or as I said earlier, they saved
the situation. You could almost call them saviours - but that's what the verb actually
means - they saved the situation. And each of them saved the nation from a very bad situation
because along with these heroes, there were the baddies and in fact, it was when they
attacked, that these were anointed by God to save the situation. The only person to
whom the noun is applied in the book of Judges is God, which is very interesting. So actually
God is the Saviour and these people saved the situation. So the noun is God operating
through these heroes who were the verb; do you get it? And that in fact is how God operates
in the Bible - he is this, but he does it through people. See? And, so God is the deliverer,
the Saviour of the situation, but he does it through people and that's how he does most
of his work. He anoints people by his Spirit and then what he is becomes what those people
are able to do. So God is the healer, but he can heal through
people anointed by the Spirit. So you see, what he is is done by people filled with his
Holy Spirit. Now there seem so many enemies, the Amalekites, the Ammonites - all the parasites
from all over the place - seem to be involved. And this tells us that the people of God came
into a highly populated area. It was not an empty land when they came in - it was filled
with people and surrounded by people - and people didn't like them coming in there. This
sounds strangely modern. Since 1948, precisely the same situation has happened and the only
justification for them being in that land at all, was that God gave it to them. And
frankly, that is still the only justification, there is no other. And after all, “the earth
is the Lord's and the fullness thereof”, and he can give it to anybody he chooses.
It's not ours; God gives it to those he intends to have the land.
So, we have all these enemies coming in and already we're beginning to see that this book
is a national book. It's not just about personalities; it is not just a collection of hero stories
for hero worship, it is the story of a people in the flow of God's history. Why then did
God allow all these people to come in and attack them when he'd promised to be their
Minister of Defence? And this is where we begin to get into the book itself.
If you add together all the years that these people judged Israel, 40 years, 80 years and
so on, you get to a figure of 400, and yet the book of Judges only covers 200 years.
Now there's a little mathematical problem here, see? If he brought peace for 40 years,
and he brought peace for 80 years, and so on and so on, and Samson brought peace for
40 years - add them all together – 400. And yet we know from the rest of the Bible
that actually it only covers 200 years, and this is where a little map is needed to help
us. By now the tribes of Israel were settled in
different areas - see? Here's the tribe of Gad, here's the tribe of Reuben, here's
the little tribe of Benjamin, here's the tribe of Judah, that's where Dan tried to
settle but as we shall see in the book of Judges, they didn't make it. They didn't overcome
their enemies and they moved way up to the north to Mount Hermon. Zebulon, Issachar,
Manasseh - they were already settled, two and a half tribes this side of the Jordan
the others that side of the Jordan. Now here's the key - we tend to get the impression
when we read about Gideon and Samson that in fact they were delivering the whole nation.
Actually, they weren't - the nation was now divided into groups of tribes and so in fact
the 40 years may only apply to the north, while another one may have been saving the
situation in the south at the same time. Now do you understand? In other words, there is
a geographical reason for that 400 years of deliverance being squeezed into 200; do you
follow me? And, in fact, there were two big valleys cutting straight across like this,
which divided them into the north, the middle and the south. And in fact, the valley of
Jezreel was the main valley here. And so in fact the tribes were grouped into north, middle
and south, and you must realise that Samson was only delivering the south tribes and Gideon
was only delivering the north tribes. So that, it isn't the whole nation - geographically
they are separated. Furthermore, these two valleys cutting through enabled enemies to
get into the heart of the territory, in between the groupings of the tribes.
There was also a political reason for this bitterness in their history and that was that
there was no national leader. See, while Moses and Joshua had been leading them, Moses leading
them out of Egypt, Joshua bringing them in here to the Promised Land, they all looked
to one figurehead. But there was no replacement for Joshua and that's why God raised up
judges here and there to meet the local situation. None of them was a national leader; there
was in fact a political vacuum, there was no king in Israel in those days. There was
no man big enough to lead the whole people so there was a political reason for this bitterness,
but there was also a moral reason, and this is the heart of the message of the book.
Let's look at the book as a whole and see its shape or outline. It very clearly divides
into three parts. It's so clear, it doesn't take much of a brain to do this. I've given
them alliterative headings. I don't know if that helps or not. But chapters one to three
verse six, I've labelled The Inexcusable Compromise. When they went into the Promised Land, they
compromised their position very seriously, we'll see how in a moment.
The whole middle part of the book from 3:7 to 16 – I'm afraid that should be 16:31,
that's the major portion of the book, is about this cycle and it went through those four
stages: Sedition by the people, Subjection to an enemy, Supplication to the Lord and
Salvation by a deliverer, and they go round that cycle seven times in the middle section
of the book. Then finally, the inevitable corruption that resulted from getting into
this cycle, and it took the traditional form of idolatry in the north, immorality in the
south. Idolatry in the tribe of Dan and immorality in the tribe of Benjamin - I want you to notice
that particularly - that's why I've underlined Benjamin. The book finishes with a statement
that actually is the refrain of the book - it keeps coming in all the way through – 'there
was no king in those days. Every man did what was right in his own eyes.'
Well now, let's just look at the first section. The Compromise was twofold: on the one hand
God sent them in to destroy everybody in there, and we know how wicked they were and how perverted
and how corrupt they were, how diseased they were as a result. Sexually transmitted diseases
were rife in Canaan, and the more we know the more we realise they deserved to be put
out of that land; they really were terrible. In fact God kept the Jews in Egypt 300 years
“until the wickedness of the Amorites was full”, meaning until they were bad enough
to be put out. And God sent them in as the instrument of his judgement on a most perverted
society; but instead of doing what God told them, they made allowances and they allowed
many people to live, particularly in the valleys. The Israelis only took the hills and the mountains,
but they left the valleys alone and so you had God's people up in the mountains but pagan
people and perverted people living in the valleys. The result was that they made alliances
with them and especially when the young men of Israel wanted a night out, they went down
to the valley, and ever since Lot went down to the valley of Sodom and Gomorrah, you can
guess the rest of the story. So you see, here were God's people up on the
hills, but just the opposite down in the valleys. If holiness was up here - uncleanness was
down here and because they didn't clean up the land, that was a constant problem to them.
The result was they got into this terrible cycle because when you have mixed marriage,
what happens when the clean and unclean come together? What happens when the holy and the
clean come together? You see? Somebody has said, if you marry a child of the devil, you'll
have real problems with your father-in-law. And I don't know how many Christian women
who've married men who are not Christians - in the hope that they might be converted
- regret it for the rest of their lives. Mixed marriages are not on, even in the New Testament;
you marry within the people of God. But marriage is invariably - you see, it's like me standing
on a table and you standing on the floor, and me pulling you, trying to pull you up
onto the table, and you trying to pull me down on the floor – who's going to win?
Well you've got the law of gravity on your side; that's the problem. And if you have
a mixed marriage, the law of spiritual gravity is with the one pulling it down, so this is
what happened. So they soon got into disobedience, rebellion; and God punished them by bringing
one of those enemies in, up the valley, and taking over. Once they were in that mess,
they took the third step. They cried to the Lord and said, Lord, we're sorry; it's our
fault; please save us and he did - and they went right back into it. It's as if you saved
someone from drowning and pulled him out of the river and pumped him dry and he said,
oh thank you, you saved my life; and he turned round and jumped back in again. You pull him
out again, and he says, you've saved me twice; I'm doubly grateful to you. And he turns round
and jumps back in the river. How many times are you going to pull him out? Seventy times
seven? I wouldn't. I'd say, you don't want to be saved. And I'm afraid this is what happened
here, seven times! They went round this cycle, and God kept raising up a charismatic leader
to deliver them again. It's a cycle that God's people can get into.
I want to major on this last section, because that's fairly familiar to you. But you see,
if you only look at the life of Samson or the life of Gideon, you miss this cycle, you
miss the pattern. And that's what the book is there to teach you, because God's people
get into this cycle so easily, even individual believers get into this cycle, they sin, they
get into a mess, they cry to the Lord, the Lord gets them out of the mess, twelve months
later they're back in the same sin, in the same mess. Have you known people like that?
It's so easy to get into this cycle away from God, it's not only an endless cycle, it is
a spiral going down. Once you get into this, it's not just going round in circles, you're
actually going down in circles and the last part of the book of Judges is a most unedifying
account of what happened to the people ultimately. In both situations, one in the north in Dan,
and one in the south in Benjamin, you have the people of God being misled by a Levite,
by a priest - a man of God - who gets into trouble and leads the people astray. It's
tragic when the spiritual leaders of God's people get into a mess.
Well, I've only got 5 minutes left for this talk, so I must hurry through the story. You
will have to read it for yourselves. But there are two examples here of decadence, of disobedience,
of corruption, of pollution - moral pollution - and they are really stories that you certainly
wouldn't teach in Sunday school. Up in the north, a man called Micah stole eleven hundred
shekels of silver from his mother - from his own mother - and then, overcome with fears
because she cursed the man who had stolen it, he gave it back, and she said, you're
a good boy because you've given it back. I'll make a little silver god for you and you can
have it for your collection of gods, because her son was already collecting little idols
- and the silver he returned she had made into a god for his collection. What a mother
to spoil her son that way. She was asking for trouble. And this son made his son his
priest, and said, now son you see all these idols? You can be the priest and look after
them. And that little boy was not even a Levite. So there it was. But a Levite priest running
away from scandal in Bethlehem of Judea of all places ran to the north and actually lodged
in this house for a night and said to this boy, that's a nice collection of gods you've
got there, and the son Micah said, well I'll give you £4.00 a year and board and lodging
if you'll be my private priest. Because he thought, now I've got a real priest, I've
got a Levite; and the man accepted the job. However, later, the tribes of Dan who failed
to take the land God had given them in the south, migrated north and their leaders lodged
in this house. They saw these gods and they saw this Levite, and they said, hey! you're
just a chaplain to the family? How would you like to be a priest to our whole tribe? We'll
pay you far more. The Levite accepted it. That's why the tribe of Dan became an idolatrous
tribe, and just as Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples went missing, Dan is
a tribe that is missing in the book of Revelation, and it all happened because of a Levite, a
man who should have been a man of God, who for pay became a private chaplain - first
to a family and then to a whole tribe. It's a sad story - and the other one is even worse
and with this we'll finish this talk. Another Levite, and again from the same tribe
of Ephraim, took a concubine this time, a mistress, from Bethlehem of Judea again – extraordinary!
But she got fed up with him, left him and went home. After 4 months he went to get her
back and the father kept procrastinating and delaying, and finally the father let her go
and they set off too late in the day and they got as far as Jerusalem, which was still a
pagan city, and he said, we're not staying with pagans; we must stay with Israelis, and
so they pressed on to the tribe of Benjamin. Got to Gibea by nightfall and were just setting
up the tent when a dear old man in Gibea said, well don't sleep in a tent - I'll give you
a bed for the night. So he took them in and no sooner had this man and this concubine
gone in, that a crowd of gay men came to the door, knocked at the door and said, that man
who's come in to you he's very attractive, we'd like to have sex with him, let's have
him. And the old man of Gibea said, no he's my guest; but you can have the concubine if
you like or you can have my daughter, and he pushed the concubine outside and they gangraped
her 'til the morning and treated her so badly, she was dead on the doorstep in the
morning. And they were so horrified that they took the body and they cut it into twelve
pieces and sent a piece to all the twelve tribes of Israel - this is what has happened
in the tribe of Benjamin! And do you know, funnily enough, for the very first time all
the tribes united. Isn't it amazing what unites people? And all the tribes united and met
in Mizpah and said, we're going to deal with Benjamin for this, and they came and for the
first time there was civil war in Israel over just this one dreadful event, and it all started
with a priest taking a concubine. Amazing! One person led to civil war - and they slaughtered
the Benjamites and many Israelites were slaughtered. In fact, one man in ten in the whole of Israel
was killed in the civil war that followed. The tribe Benjamin was so angry to have their
internal affairs being dealt with by the other tribes, that they fought, and the result was
- if you read the story - that the tribe of Benjamin was virtually wiped out, there were
only 600 men left and no women and children, they were all slaughtered. So 600 men fled
away. And then they realised what had happened to the nation: we were 12 tribes, now we're
11 - what has happened to us? They came to their senses and they went raiding in Jabesh
Gilead and found 400 virgins and brought them back and gave them to the Benjamite men and
said, marry them and you can keep the tribe going. Still there weren't enough. They needed
another 200 and, typical casuistry, they arranged for the Benjamites to kidnap some Israeli
girls at the next big festival at Shiloh, and they would turn a blind eye - because
they had sworn, no Benjamite will take a daughter of ours as wife, so they said, kidnap them
and then we haven't given them to you. That's a typical way of getting round finding a loophole.
Now all that, you see, is saying that this spiral went down and down - look at the tribe
of Dan and its idolatry and, above all, look at Benjamin and what finished off - nearly
wiped out a tribe of the people of God over one man's immorality.
Well that's how Judges ends. You see there was no king in Israel in those days and every
man did what was right in his own eyes - not wrong, right - but in his own eyes. You see
holiness is doing what is right in the Lord's eyes. So Judges ends with a mess and it ends
with that tribe. I want you to remember that - that's terribly important - ends with a
rotten tribe that nearly disappeared after a tenth of the men of Israel had died. It's
a sad story, isn't it? Thank God, that isn't the whole book in the Hebrew Bible and it
isn't. A horrible ending for a book. Unfortunately, in the English Bible that's what does end
the book. Well, we'll break there and we'll pick up some better news in the next talk.
I haven't finished with Judges yet, a little more to say about Judges and then we're going
to look at the other half of the book which we call Ruth.
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Unlocking the Old Testament Part 18 - Judges and Ruth 1

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Naphtali published on January 12, 2019
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