Judges 21

This post follows the Bible reading plan available at oaktreechurch.com/soap.

Chapter twenty-one concludes both the story of Benjamin’s near demise and the book of Judges. The writer included a new detail about the meeting at Mizpah a few days earlier. In addition to swearing that they would kill the perpetrators of the crime against the Levite’s concubine, they had also sworn to not allow their daughters to marry any man of Benjamin (Judges 21:1-7). When the battle was finally over, the people realized what had happened: they had nearly killed off an entire tribe and had left them without means to marry anyone except pagans, something God had forbidden. They assembled again to determine how to correct it. Discovering that no one from Jabesh Gilead had joined the assembly when the oath was made, they sent soldiers against them, killing everyone except four hundred virgins, whom they brought back for the Benjaminites (Judges 21:8-12).

Still needing to provide two hundred more wives, the Israelites instructed the Benjaminites to ambush and kidnap that many virgins from Shiloh when they passed by (Judges 21:13-22). Since they were kidnapped, their family was not in danger of breaking their oath to not give their daughters away in marriage (Judges 21:23-25). Thus, the book ends with every person doing “what he considered to be right,” rather than trusting and obeying God.

Judges 18

This post follows the Bible reading plan available at oaktreechurch.com/soap.

Chapter eighteen continues the story of Micah and his hired Levite. At this point in Israel’s history, the tribe of Dan had been run out of their allotted territory by the Amorites, but they had not yet settled elsewhere (Judges 1:34; Joshua 19:40-48). Verse one contains the second reference in this story to the fact that Israel did not yet have a king (Judges 17:6; 18:1). This supports the idea that the book of Judges was compiled later, possibly by Samuel, after the monarchy had begun. In order to find a homeland, the Danites sent five men to spy out the land of Canaan to see what might be suitable for them (Judges 18:1-6). Leaving the hill country in their originally allotted land, they entered the Ephraimite hill country and came to the home of Micah and his hired Levite. After hearing the Levite’s story, the men asked him to gain an oracle from God, indicating if their search for land would be successful. He said that it would be.

When they reached the far northern part of the land, they found a peaceful area that was remote enough that the inhabitants did not have military allies (Judges 18:7-10). This encouraged them, so they returned home and confidently told their brothers to attack that peaceful area and claim it. Six hundred Danite soldiers began the march north (Judges 18:11-20). Coming again through Ephraim, they passed the house of the Levite, which the original spies told them contained a great deal of silver in idols. While the six hundred soldiers kept the Levite occupied at the gate, the spies broke in and stole the idols. When he protested, they argued that it would be better for him to serve a whole tribe rather than just one family, so he agreed to go with them.

When Micah discovered what had taken place, he and his neighbors hurried after them (Judges 18:21-26). Catching up with them, he accused them of stealing his idols and his priest. However, the Danites threatened to kill him if he crossed them, so they went their own ways. When they arrived at Laish in the north, they attacked and killed its inhabitants and took over the land, renaming it Dan (Judges 18:27-31). They established their own place of worship there, and it was Moses’ own descendants who “served as priests for the tribe of Dan until the time of the exile.” Which “exile” is referred to is unknown. Constable notes that, if the Assyrian captivity is meant, this note must have been added to the book much later. This blatant unfaithfulness to God and his established structure of worship is sometimes credited for the fact that Dan is missing from the list of tribes in Revelation 7, where he is replaced by Levi.

Judges 17

This post follows the Bible reading plan available at oaktreechurch.com/soap.

Chapter seventeen begins the first of the last two stories in Judges. No date is given for this narrative, only that “Israel had no king” (Judges 17:6). However, the abject moral depravity displayed may indicate that this was later in the historical timeline, although the lack of a Danite homeland may imply earlier (Judges 18:1). A man named Micah had stolen “eleven hundred pieces of silver” from his mother (Judges 17:1-6). When she pronounced a curse on the thief, he confessed and returned the money. Because of his honesty, she dedicated the money to God but promptly used it to purchase or make idols, which Micah put into a shrine in his house.

At an unknown point, Micah met a young Levite from Bethlehem (Judges 17:7-13). He was traveling to find another place to live and minister when Micah hired him to serve in his house at his shrine. They agreed to an annual wage, and the Levite moved in with Micah, becoming “like a son to” him. In addition to Micah being wrong to create and worship idols and this Levite being wrong to agree to serve Micah and his idols as a priest in the name of Jehovah, Micah was also wrong to think that having a Levite on his payroll would bring God’s blessings.