Day 95: The Sin of Benjamin
Judges 19:1-30 At Gibeah, in the land of Benjamin, in an episode reminiscent of Sodom, a man was propositioned to engage in homosexual acts. The plan was altered through the substitution of his concubine, who was sexually abused by the townsmen until she died. The incident reveals how the people of Israel were prone to fall into sins of the most grievous depravity. (CCC 418, 1264, 1869, 2515, 2529)
Ch 20:1-48 Enraged upon hearing of the grave sin at Gibeah, all the other tribes sent soldiers upon the Tribe of Benjamin. The bloody battles that ensued nearly destroyed the Benjaminites entirely. It is notable that at the beginning of the Book of Judges, the tribes were united in fighting against the pagan enemies; now, in the later chapters, Israel has turned upon itself, killing its own in civil warfare.
Ch 21:1-25 The end of battle left Israel in mourning over the potential loss of the tribe of Benjamin, which now comprised only the surviving soldiers. The members of the other eleven tribes had already vowed not to allow any of their women to marry Benjaminite. Their solution was to destroy Jabsh-gilead, a town in Manasseh that had not supplied any warriors to the battle, and kill everyone except the virgin women. These 400 virgins were given to the surviving Benjaminites for wives, and they soon began rebuilding their decimated tribe.
Every man to his tribe and family: The social units of the community are important to an ordered society, and such social groups in society can work toward the common good. (CCC 1882)
Ch 21:25 This line had been used before in Judges, and it closes the book as an explanation for all the evil that had befallen Israel.
In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right IN HIS OWN EYES.
Psalm 148 All of creation praises the Lord, and this psalm is an illustration of the nature of that praise. Celestial bodies, the natural elements, the rich assortment of living things, and humanity itself all glorify God the Creator by their very existence since all show the richness of his wisdom and love. (Cf. St. John Paul II, General Audience, July 17, 2002)
(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)
The Levites, Too
Next follows two stories illustrating how the religious leaders join in Israel’s corruption.
In the first story, Micah employs his mother’s wealth to hire a Levite to be a priest and spiritual father to his household.
After a time, the Levite receives a better offer to serve as a priest for the entire tribe of Dan.
He leaves taking with him the graven image, teraphim, and ephod belonging to Micah.
Micah reaps what he sowed in his own theft from his mother.
For dramatic effect, the name of this Levite is not given until the end of the story. He is Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Moses (Jgs 18:30).
The irony of Moses’ grandson setting up an idol in the territory of Dan, in the very house of the Lord at Shiloh where the Ark of the Covenant rests, is shocking.
A descendant of Moses now perpetuates idolatry reminiscent of the golden calf.
The second story is a horrific tale of evil upon evil.
It begins with a Levite taking a concubine from Bethlehem.
This location suggests that she is from the tribe of Judah, which is a serious problem, as Levites were to marry only within the tribe of Levi, a special requirement for the priestly clan.
The Levite’s concubine “plays the harlot” against him (Jgs 19:2).
It is worth noting that some translations do not follow the Hebrew text, instead translating the phrase “she became angry with him.”
This translation misses the fact that harlotry serves as the background, and often the foreground, of the entire story of Judges.
The Levite reclaims his concubine and on their return journey, in a scene eerily reminiscent of Lot’s story in Sodom and Gomorrah, the men of Gibeah (which is part of the tribe of Benjamin) demand the Levite’s host to give over the Levite that they may sexually “know” him.
Fearing for his own life, the Levite sends his concubine outside into the mob of depraved men.
At daylight, the Levite awakens, having slept in safety, to find his concubine near death after being violently exploited all night.
The scene grows even darker as the Levite returns home, and the story, with intentional ambiguity, does not indicate when the concubine dies (on the journey or at the hands of the Levite) but goes on to tell how the Levite dismembers the woman, cutting her into twelve pieces and sending the dismembered parts of her body off to the twelve tribes.
The Levite’s actions are a grim echo of the perversion of Israelite sacrificial worship, only now at the hands of the very tribe entrusted with guarding the purity of that worship.
All the tribes but Benjamin gather at Mizpah and accept the Levite’s account of the story, which conveniently leaves out his culpability, and demand justice of the guilty men of Gibeah.
War breaks out, with all the tribes united against Benjamin.
This is the first time in Judges that all of the tribes unite to fight, but, ironically, they fight against one of their own people, not the pagan nations around them.
When early on the Benjaminites have the upper hand, the other tribes gather at Bethel and weep, just as at Bochim at the beginning of Judges, but this time they do not understand why they suffer.
The united tribes prevail, slaughtering Benjamin’s women and children and leaving the tribe of Benjamin a remnant of only six hundred.
Judges concludes with Israel’s failure to fight the Amorites, while at the same time they fight their own brethren, the Benjaminites, to the point of near annihilation.
Regretting their violence against Benjamin, the tribes decide to wipe out the males of Jabesh-gilead, since they had not answered the summons to fight against Benjamin, and Israel had sworn an oath to kill anyone who refused the call to arms.
The tribes then give the virgins of Jabesh-gilead to the surviving men of Benjamin to perpetuate their tribe.
This still leaves the Benjaminites men short of women, so the Israelites invite the remaining Benjaminites to the vineyards of Shiloh, where women will soon appear to dance at a night festival kept to memorialize Jephthah’s daughter from the earlier narrative of Judges (Jgs 11:39-40).
Jephthah’s rash oath is now matched with Israel’s foolish oath.
The civil war that had begun with the outrage of a rape now leads to the rape of six hundred women by the surviving Benjaminites.
Israel’s anarchic attempt at justice perpetuates injustice and leads to a telling summary: “In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes” (Jgs 21:25).
Moral blindness and relativism characterize Israel.
Israel does not need mighty men, but men of character and faith.
Israel’s infidelity to God is aptly embodied in the image of harlotry.
Israel plays the harlot and will end up like the Levite’s harlot, tragically raped and dismembered by the pagan nations.
The final observation, that all this happens when there is no king in the land, points to Israel’s need for righteous leadership and anticipates the continuing story of salvation history.
(*Walking With God: A Journey Through The Bible by Tim Gray and Jeff Cavins)
(please excuse me while I pick my jaw up off the floor)
Ok here we go, we knew that some of the darkest stuff in the Bible is here in the end of the Book of Judges, Ch 19-21
Here is a Levite Priest who takes a wife, a half-wife essentially
She calls him husband, but she is not his FULL WIFE
She is a CONCUBINE
There are people in the old testament who have concubines AND IT NEVER ENDS WELL
God made it very very clear from the second chapter of Genesis
This is the reason why a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife that they should become ONE FLESH
This is SO SO KEY
Whenever we see these BREAKS IN GOD’S LAW
ESPECIALLY WHEN IT COMES TO FAMILY
ESPECIALLY WHEN IT COMES TO SEXUAL RELATIONSHIPS
Whenever we see a BREAK in those Laws, what happens is CATASTROPHE
That is exactly what happens today
The concubine runs off and goes back to her father’s home
The Levite Priest goes to get her
For some reason, the woman’s father wants the “husband” to stay extra days
They finally leave in the twilight of the evening
They don’t go into Jebus, where the Jebusites are aka JERUSALEM
They go to the land of the Benjaminites, in Gibea, thinking that THESE ARE OUR BRETHREN, OUR FAMILY, A TRIBE OF ISRAEL
The men of Gibeon want to rape the Levite (THEY WANT TO “KNOW” HIM)
Instead, the Levite throws out his concubine
THIS WAS SUCH A TRAGIC TRAGIC TRAGIC THING that happens to her
IT IS NOT THE RIGHT THING
REMEMBER THIS CLEARLY
Not only is her death the WRONG THING
Not only was the Levite PUSHING HER OUT THE DOOR TO HER DEATH THE WRONG THING
Not only was the Levite DISMEMBERING HER BODY INTO 12 PIECES AND SENDING THEM TO THE 12 TRIBES OF ISRAEL
THIS IS A STRAIGHT UP HORROR MOVIE
The other tribes find out about this and set out to kill the BENJAMINITES
They kill EVERYBODY including ALL THE WOMEN
The tribes now realize that they have essentially cut off the Tribe of Benjamin from the People of Israel which are NEEDED
The tribes made a VOW that none of their daughters would become WIVES OF THE BENJAMINITES
So what on earth are they going to do?
They go to Jabesh-Gilead and they KILL ALMOST EVERYBODY
They KIDNAP 400 women who had never been married
This STILL wasn’t enough
So they gave PERMISSION to the Benjaminites to KIDNAP women who were WORSHIPPING THE LORD at Shiloh
They tried to rationalize a way OUT OF THEIR VOW because they did not “GIVE PERMISSION” but since they were kidnapped, it was ok
THIS IS ALL KINDS OF MESSED UP
EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENED IS SUMMED UP IN JUDGES 21:25
“In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.”
This sums up SO MUCH
This is one of the reasons why the Book of Judges sums up WHERE WE ARE RIGHT NOW
WHERE WE ARE IN OUR CULTURE
WHERE WE ARE IN OUR UNITED STATES
WHERE WE ARE IN THE WORLD RIGHT NOW
We have given ourselves over to MORAL RELATIVISM TO SUCH A DEGREE that we just do what’s right in our own eyes
Do you understand what it means to do what is right in your own eyes?
That is called MORAL RELATIVISM
YOU DO YOU
WHO KNOWS WHAT TRUTH IS?
YOU HAVE YOUR TRUTH
I HAVE MY TRUTH (and MY TRUTH is that the EARTH IS NOT FRIGGIN FLAT!!!! 😡)
YOU HAVE WHAT YOU THINK IS RIGHT
I HAVE WHAT I THINK IS RIGHT
One of the reasons why the Book of Judges is so RELEVANT for us today is because it is SO BROKEN and we live in SUCH A BROKEN PLACE
Here is something you MUST UNDERSTAND
BROKENNESS WAS CHOSEN!!
Truth had been REVEALED to the People of Israel
They CHOSE to not pay attention to it
Truth has been REVEALED TO US
Some of us CHOOSE to not pay attention to it
This is why the Book of Judges is SO CRITICAL TO US
WE MUST NEVER EVER FORGET
We must NEVER FORGET how we can TURN AWAY FROM GOD and DO WHAT IS RIGHT IN OUR OWN EYES and then SUFFER THE CONSEQUENCES FOR THAT
DO NOT FORGET THE REDEMPTION PART
We CALL OUT TO THE LORD
We RECOGNIZE WHAT WE HAVE DONE
GOD HEARS OUR PRAYERS, just like He heard the prayers of the Israelites
AND GOD COMES TO OUR AID
That’s what we are going to see in 1 Samuel
For those lucky enough to get a reading plan, you already know after that we will go into the Gospel of John
Just 3 days for Samuel
Pray for Fr. Mike
Pray for EACH OTHER
Prayer by Fr. Mike: “Father, it is right that we give you praise and it is right that we give you glory. In the midst of true horror, in the midst of true evil, we thank you for your word. We thank you for being our King. We thank you for guiding us, not only in the depths of our conscience, not only with your Spirit, but also with your truth and with your life, with your law, with your word, and by your grace that gives us power to accomplish your will and accomplish your word and accomplish your law. Thank you, Father. We give you praise today. Help us to keep moving forward. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.”