It Was the Worst of Times (Judges 19)
Judges ends with a description of the political and religious decline of Israel (reverse of introduction). Last week we noted the corruption of worship as idolatry in the household of Micah escalated to idolatry in the tribe of Dan.
The decline magnifies in the following section where Benjamin looks like Sodom.
You won’t find illustrations of this chapter in your Children’s Storybook Bible. Why is this so dark? (19:1; cf. 17:6). Judges was probably written early in the period of Israel’s monarchy as a reminder and warning.
Last week we saw the religious consequences of everyone doing what was right in their own eyes. This week we see the moral consequences of Israel’s depravity.
Read Judges 19
The depths of Man’s depravity are difficult to comprehend but too important to ignore.
This is no light study. It’s hard reading. But it’s our history. We cannot afford to avoid it’s penetrating insight. These events sound worse than Hollywood, but they actually happened.
Atheist Philosopher George Santayana famously wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
However, even though we face depravity head on, we’re still doomed to repeat it. We cannot escape it, but we can look forward to another world.
I. The Absence of Morality
An example of hospitality (1-9)
The concubine “played the harlot.” This indicates that she was of lower status than a wife, but more than a prostitute. The Levite seeks reconciliation.
The father-in-law’s hospitality was excessive, but fairly normal. The Levite’s hurry to leave conflicts with the father-in-law’s desire for them to stay. This leads to their late departure, setting an ominous tone for what follows.
An example of Canaanization (10-15)
Irony #1: They passed Jebus (6mi away) thinking Gibeah would be safer.
Irony #2: They found hospitality from an Ephraimite sojourning in Gibeah. Benjamin has spiraled below the morality of conflict-prone Ephraim (cf. Gideon and Jephthah).
An example of depravity (16-26)
From the excessive hospitality received in Bethlehem, they find shocking hostility in Gibeah. But the Levite’s depravity is what shocks us the most.
Jeremiah Burroughs, “It is a very evil choice for any soul under heaven to choose the least sin rather than the greatest affliction.”
The Levite avoided affliction by casting his concubine out to the mob.
An example of callousness (27-30)
Saul dismembered oxen in order to arouse the Israelites for battle against the Philistines (1 Sam. 11:7). The Levite separates his concubine into twelve pieces.
The divided woman was sent to each tribe suggesting that the nation is divided. This served as one of Israel’s worst pictures of moral corruption (Hos. 9:9; 10:9).
The Sodom of Israel: The Benjamites were acting like Sodomites. The same wickedness has entered the camp. Rather than escaping, this story ends in tragedy and civil war. Their Canaanization is complete.
Symbolism: Namelessness highlights the universalization of the characters. This could’ve been anyone. It also speaks to the deterioration of human identity. The narrator began by naming everyone, even the minor characters. But now he avoids personal names.
The concubine’s lifeless hand on the threshold indicts the Levite. Instead of finding safety from a religious leader, she was left to die alone.
Treatment of Women: The power and success of women like Achsah (Judges 1:13-15) and Deborah (Judges 4-5) have spiraled downward to the victimization of the nameless concubine. Sisera’s mother imagined his army raping Israelite women. But here, the Israelites were guilty.
II. The Absence of Hope
Once again, this chapter is about God’s lack of participation. Apart from the Lord’s mercy humanity is left to wallow in her sin (Rom. 1). The nation was in need of serious sifting. Evil needed to be purged from the covenant community.
Not only do we need to be rescued from our enemies, but we need to be rescued from ourselves. We need a greater judge/savior.
In the marriage of the Levite and the concubine we see a husband who fails to love. When he should’ve protected her, he protected himself. When the crowd called for him, he threw his bride outside in his place. When he should’ve been one with her, he was separating her.
Our awareness of the exceeding sinfulness of sin needs to increase. Our reaction to grave and heinous sin, may be evidence that we take our own sin a bit too lightly. The moral corruption depicted in this story is not so far removed from our own story.
Jeremiah Burroughs, “You would think it is a horrible wickedness for any man to be so deep in lust with another woman as to wish the death of his wife. This would be a horrible wickedness! And yet this is in your hearts, to wish that God had no being so that you might have your sin.”
Israel’s religious failure led to gross moral failure. Every step they tried to take out of their predicament only led them deeper into it.
Let’s not minimize our sin. Let’s not grow comfortable with it. Let’s recognize how evil it really is!
Concluding With Christ:
The very least sin would have required the death of Christ. And yet, that’s precisely why he died, to deliver us from the penalty and power of sin.
We see our own depravity in these worst of time, but that ought to stir up our affections for the Savior who is preparing us to enter into the best of times.
It is only when we acknowledge what our sin truly deserves, that we appreciate what Christ’s blood fully purchased!
Rather than sending his bride outside, Christ went outside in her place. Rather than handing her over to the lusts of the world, he willingly endured the shame and torture in her place.
We are the unfaithful concubine, but instead of being left to die, we were redeemed by the Bridegroom’s own precious blood.
“Dear dying Lamb, your precious blood shall never lose its power, till all the ransomed church of God be saved to sin no more.” ~ William Cowper