This is Episode #84 and today we’ll read Judges chapters 19-21 together. Prepare yourself. This is one of the most outrageous, gory, and senseless acts of violence in the entire Old Testament. It demonstrates graphically the depravity to which the Israelites had given themselves over. You might want to excuse the kids from Bible reading today so you can listen first.
Joy: You’re listening to Season 2 of the Lifting Her Voice podcast. This is Episode #84 and today we’ll read Judges chapters 19-21 together. Prepare yourself. This is one of the most outrageous, gory, and senseless acts of violence in the entire Old Testament. It demonstrates graphically the depravity to which the Israelites had given themselves over. You might want to excuse the kids from Bible reading today so you can listen first.
Welcome to the Lifting Her Voice podcast, Season 2! I’m your host, Joy Miller, and I invite you to grab your Bible and join me – from the beginning – simply reading God’s word together. We built some spiritual muscles in 2020 with just the New Testament. But this year we’re going all out, cover-to-cover, Old Testament and New. So, whether with your first cup in the morning, your commute to work, or as the last thing on your mind before sleep, God’s Word will equip you for every good work. I’m really glad you’re here!
Judges Chapter 19
Outrage in Benjamin
In those days, when there was no king in Israel, a Levite staying in a remote part of the hill country of Ephraim acquired a woman from Bethlehem in Judah as his concubine. But she was unfaithful to him and left him for her father’s house in Bethlehem in Judah. She was there for four months. Then her husband got up and followed her to speak kindly to her and bring her back. He had his servant with him and a pair of donkeys. So she brought him to her father’s house, and when the girl’s father saw him, he gladly welcomed him. His father-in-law, the girl’s father, detained him, and he stayed with him for three days. They ate, drank, and spent the nights there.
On the fourth day, they got up early in the morning and prepared to go, but the girl’s father said to his son-in-law, “Have something to eat to keep up your strength and then you can go.” So they sat down and the two of them ate and drank together. Then the girl’s father said to the man, “Please agree to stay overnight and enjoy yourself.” The man got up to go, but his father-in-law persuaded him, so he stayed and spent the night there again. He got up early in the morning of the fifth day to leave, but the girl’s father said to him, “Please keep up your strength.”
A Stop at Gibeah for the Night
So they waited until late afternoon and the two of them ate. The man got up to go with his concubine and his servant, when his father-in-law, the girl’s father, said to him, “Look, night is coming. Please spend the night. See, the day is almost over. Spend the night here, enjoy yourself, then you can get up early tomorrow for your journey and go home.”
But the man was unwilling to spend the night. He got up, departed, and arrived opposite Jebus (that is, Jerusalem). The man had his two saddled donkeys and his concubine with him. When they were near Jebus and the day was almost gone, the servant said to his master, “Please, why not let us stop at this Jebusite city and spend the night here?”
But his master replied to him, “We will not stop at a foreign city where there are no Israelites. Let’s move on to Gibeah.” “Come on,” he said, “let’s try to reach one of these places and spend the night in Gibeah or Ramah.”
So they continued on their journey, and the sun set as they neared Gibeah in Benjamin. They stopped to go in and spend the night in Gibeah. The Levite went in and sat down in the city square, but no one took them into their home to spend the night.
Welcomed by an Old Man
In the evening, an old man came in from his work in the field. He was from the hill country of Ephraim, but he was residing in Gibeah where the people were Benjaminites. When he looked up and saw the traveler in the city square, the old man asked, “Where are you going, and where do you come from?”
He answered him, “We’re traveling from Bethlehem in Judah to the remote hill country of Ephraim, where I am from. I went to Bethlehem in Judah, and now I’m going to the house of the Lord. No one has taken me into his home, although there’s straw and feed for the donkeys, and I have bread and wine for me, my concubine, and the servant with us. There is nothing we lack.”
“Welcome!” said the old man. “I’ll take care of everything you need. Only don’t spend the night in the square.” So he brought him to his house and fed the donkeys. Then they washed their feet and ate and drank. While they were enjoying themselves, all of a sudden, wicked men of the city surrounded the house and beat on the door. They said to the old man who was the owner of the house, “Bring out the man who came to your house so we can have sex with him!”
Nothing Like This Has Ever Happened
The owner of the house went out and said to them, “Please don’t do this evil, my brothers. After all, this man has come into my house. Don’t commit this horrible outrage. Here, let me bring out my virgin daughter and the man’s concubine now. Abuse them and do whatever you want to them. But don’t commit this outrageous thing against this man.”
But the men would not listen to him, so the man seized his concubine and took her outside to them. They raped her and abused her all night until morning. At daybreak they let her go. Early that morning, the woman made her way back, and as it was getting light, she collapsed at the doorway of the man’s house where her master was.
When her master got up in the morning, opened the doors of the house, and went out to leave on his journey, there was the woman, his concubine, collapsed near the doorway of the house with her hands on the threshold. “Get up,” he told her. “Let’s go.” But there was no response. So the man put her on his donkey and set out for home.
When he entered his house, he picked up a knife, took hold of his concubine, cut her into twelve pieces, limb by limb, and then sent her throughout the territory of Israel. Everyone who saw it said, “Nothing like this has ever happened or has been seen since the day the Israelites came out of the land of Egypt until now. Think it over, discuss it, and speak up!”
Judges Chapter 20
War Against Benjamin
All the Israelites from Dan to Beer-sheba and from the land of Gilead came out, and the community assembled as one body before the Lord at Mizpah. The leaders of all the people and of all the tribes of Israel presented themselves in the assembly of God’s people: four hundred thousand armed foot soldiers. The Benjaminites heard that the Israelites had gone up to Mizpah.
The Israelites asked, “Tell us, how did this evil act happen?”
The Levite, the husband of the murdered woman, answered, “I went to Gibeah in Benjamin with my concubine to spend the night. Citizens of Gibeah came to attack me and surrounded the house at night. They intended to kill me, but they raped my concubine, and she died. Then I took my concubine and cut her in pieces, and sent her throughout Israel’s territory, because they have committed a wicked outrage in Israel. Look, all of you are Israelites. Give your judgment and verdict here and now.”
Then all the people stood united and said, “None of us will go to his tent or return to his house. Now this is what we will do to Gibeah: we will attack it. By lot we will take ten men out of every hundred from all the tribes of Israel, and one hundred out of every thousand, and one thousand out of every ten thousand to get provisions for the troops when they go to Gibeah in Benjamin to punish them for all the outrage they committed in Israel.”
Hand Over the Wicked Men!
So all the men of Israel gathered united against the city. Then the tribes of Israel sent men throughout the tribe of Benjamin, saying, “What is this evil act that has happened among you? Hand over the wicked men in Gibeah so we can put them to death and purge evil from Israel.” But the Benjaminites would not listen to their fellow Israelites. Instead, the Benjaminites gathered together from their cities to Gibeah to go out and fight against the Israelites. On that day the Benjaminites mobilized twenty-six thousand armed men from their cities, besides seven hundred fit young men rallied by the inhabitants of Gibeah. There were seven hundred fit young men who were left-handed among all these troops; all could sling a stone at a hair and not miss.
They Inquired of God
The Israelites, apart from Benjamin, mobilized four hundred thousand armed men, every one an experienced warrior. They set out, went to Bethel, and inquired of God. The Israelites asked, “Who is to go first to fight for us against the Benjaminites?”
And the Lord answered, “Judah will be first.”
In the morning, the Israelites set out and camped near Gibeah. The men of Israel went out to fight against Benjamin and took their battle positions against Gibeah. The Benjaminites came out of Gibeah and slaughtered twenty-two thousand men of Israel on the field that day. But the Israelite troops rallied and again took their battle positions in the same place where they positioned themselves on the first day. They went up, wept before the Lord until evening, and inquired of him, “Should we again attack our brothers the Benjaminites?”
And the Lord answered, “Fight against them.”
On the second day the Israelites advanced against the Benjaminites. That same day the Benjaminites came out from Gibeah to meet them and slaughtered an additional eighteen thousand Israelites on the field; all were armed.
The whole Israelite army went to Bethel where they wept and sat before the Lord. They fasted that day until evening and offered burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to the Lord. Then the Israelites inquired of the Lord. In those days, the ark of the covenant of God was there, and Phinehas son of Eleazar, son of Aaron, was serving before it. The Israelites asked, “Should we again fight against our brothers the Benjaminites or should we stop?”
The Lord answered, “Fight, because I will hand them over to you tomorrow.”
So Israel set up an ambush around Gibeah. On the third day the Israelites fought against the Benjaminites and took their battle positions against Gibeah as before. Then the Benjaminites came out against the troops and were drawn away from the city. They began to attack the troops as before, killing about thirty men of Israel on the highways, one of which goes up to Bethel and the other to Gibeah through the open country. The Benjaminites said, “We are defeating them as before.”
But the Israelites said, “Let’s flee and draw them away from the city to the highways.” So all the men of Israel got up from their places and took their battle positions at Baal-tamar, while the Israelites in ambush charged out of their places west of Geba. Then ten thousand fit young men from all Israel made a frontal assault against Gibeah, and the battle was fierce, but the Benjaminites did not know that disaster was about to strike them. The Lord defeated Benjamin in the presence of Israel, and on that day the Israelites slaughtered 25,100 men of Benjamin; all were armed. Then the Benjaminites realized they had been defeated.
The men of Israel had retreated before Benjamin, because they were confident in the ambush they had set against Gibeah. The men in ambush had rushed quickly against Gibeah; they advanced and put the whole city to the sword. The men of Israel had a prearranged signal with the men in ambush: when they sent up a great cloud of smoke from the city, the men of Israel would return to the battle. When Benjamin had begun to strike them down, killing about thirty men of Israel, they said, “They’re defeated before us, just as they were in the first battle.”
A Whole Tribe Nearly Wiped Out
But when the column of smoke began to go up from the city, Benjamin looked behind them, and the whole city was going up in smoke. Then the men of Israel returned, and the men of Benjamin were terrified when they realized that disaster had struck them. They retreated before the men of Israel toward the wilderness, but the battle overtook them, and those who came out of the cities slaughtered those between them. They surrounded the Benjaminites, pursued them, and easily overtook them near Gibeah toward the east. There were eighteen thousand men who died from Benjamin; all were warriors. Then Benjamin turned and fled toward the wilderness to Rimmon Rock, and Israel killed five thousand men on the highways. They overtook them at Gidom and struck two thousand more dead.
All the Benjaminites who died that day were twenty-five thousand armed men; all were warriors. But six hundred men escaped into the wilderness to Rimmon Rock and stayed there four months. The men of Israel turned back against the other Benjaminites and killed them with their swords — the entire city, the animals, and everything that remained. They also burned all the cities that remained.
Judges Chapter 21
An Oath with Consequences
The men of Israel had sworn an oath at Mizpah: “None of us will give his daughter to a Benjaminite in marriage.” So the people went to Bethel and sat there before God until evening. They wept loudly and bitterly, and cried out, “Why, Lord God of Israel, has it occurred that one tribe is missing in Israel today?” The next day the people got up early, built an altar there, and offered burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. The Israelites asked, “Who of all the tribes of Israel didn’t come to the Lord with the assembly?” For a great oath had been taken that anyone who had not come to the Lord at Mizpah would certainly be put to death.
But the Israelites had compassion on their brothers, the Benjaminites, and said, “Today a tribe has been cut off from Israel. What should we do about wives for the survivors? We’ve sworn to the Lord not to give them any of our daughters as wives.” They asked, “Which city among the tribes of Israel didn’t come to the Lord at Mizpah?” It turned out that no one from Jabesh-gilead had come to the camp and the assembly. For when the roll was called, no men were there from the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead.
Brides for Benjamin
The congregation sent twelve thousand brave warriors there and commanded them, “Go and kill the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead with the sword, including women and dependents. This is what you should do: Completely destroy every male, as well as every woman who has gone to bed with a man.” They found among the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead four hundred young virgins, who had not been intimate with a man, and they brought them to the camp at Shiloh in the land of Canaan.
The whole congregation sent a message of peace to the Benjaminites who were at Rimmon Rock. Benjamin returned at that time, and Israel gave them the women they had kept alive from Jabesh-gilead. But there were not enough for them.
The people had compassion on Benjamin, because the Lord had made this gap in the tribes of Israel. The elders of the congregation said, “What should we do about wives for those who are left, since the women of Benjamin have been destroyed?” They said, “There must be heirs for the survivors of Benjamin, so that a tribe of Israel will not be wiped out. But we can’t give them our daughters as wives.” For the Israelites had sworn, “Anyone who gives a wife to a Benjaminite is cursed.” They also said, “Look, there’s an annual festival to the Lord in Shiloh, which is north of Bethel, east of the highway that goes up from Bethel to Shechem, and south of Lebonah.”
Then they commanded the Benjaminites, “Go and hide in the vineyards. Watch, and when you see the young women of Shiloh come out to perform the dances, each of you leave the vineyards and catch a wife for yourself from the young women of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin. When their fathers or brothers come to us and protest, we will tell them, ‘Show favor to them, since we did not get enough wives for each of them in the battle. You didn’t actually give the women to them, so you are not guilty of breaking your oath.’”
The Benjaminites did this and took the number of women they needed from the dancers they caught. They went back to their own inheritance, rebuilt their cities, and lived in them. At that time, each of the Israelites returned from there to his own tribe and family. Each returned from there to his own inheritance.
In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did whatever seemed right to him.
I think we can all agree that the Israelites had lost their way. Their collective sense of priorities was totally screwed up. From a woman being treated like property, to the men chickening out but being perfectly okay with throwing the women to the wolves, to the absolutely heinous act of chopping up a dead woman and shipping her parts all over the country. Nothing in this story speaks of God and everything points to how far the Israelites had fallen. When a people does whatever is right its own eyes instead of following God’s ways, evil prevails. Proverbs 14:34 says, Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people. I would really like to know what you have to say about these chapters. Weigh in at Lifting Her Voice.com, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
And with that, congratulations. You’ve just finished another book. You’ll be gratified to know we’ll see Jesus in the next book. Call a friend and listen together.
Thank you for joining me here today. I pray that by spending time in His Word every day, you will by changed. Visit me at Lifting Her Voice.com with your comments and questions. And don’t forget to visit the Blog page while you’re there. If you like the podcast, it would be great if you’d give it a five-star review and share it with everyone you know. Don’t forget to subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. See you tomorrow!
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Christian Standard Bible(r), Copyright (c) 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible(r) and CSB(r) are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
Bible Study Resources
- CSB Study Bible – Hardcover or Kindle!
- The Bible Project’s Bible Basics – Free!
- Every Bible You Could Ever Want!
- The Bible Hub – Free!
- Bible Study Tools – Free!
- The Bible Project– Free!
- Want to use your tablet for Bible reading? Consider Kindle .
- I love Audible! Try it for free!
- Want it? FaithGear has it!
- Wear your faith! Christian Strong
- Bet Hannon Business Websites designed and maintains my website.
- Title of song used in the podcast is 3 Joys & the Truth, by Daniel O’Connor
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. That means if you purchase anything, I may get a small commission. This does not cost you anything and it helps offset the costs of the podcast. Thank you in advance.
View my Broadcast License.