Judges chapters 17-21 shows a series of nasty events designed to display how people can spiral into evil rather quickly when they do not look to God. Listed below are some events to show how wild, carnal, and evil God’s people had become.
Chapter 17: Micah
Micah was a thief, even stealing from his own mother. He stole 1,100 shekels of silver (or about 550 ounces; at today’s silver prices worth $8,200), then returned the money to his mother only out of fear because she invoked a curse upon the lost money (17:2). He had a large idol made with the silver, and also an ephod and other, smaller idols (17:5). Micah found a Levite from Jerusalem and convinced him with money to stay and be the priest for the idols he had in his house (17:10). In essence, this Levite sold his soul for money (18:4).
Chapter 18: the Danites
People from the tribe of Dan were on the warpath, looking for land (18:1). In their search, they come across Micah and his family and realize that there is great value in all the idols he has. In addition, the Danites want the priest to serve their tribe, and not just Micah and his small family. The Danites decide to steal the idols and offer to pay the Levite to now be their priest and serve them, to which he agrees (18:19). Even though God did not want His people to worship and serve idols, they simply ignored God and did what was right in their own eyes.
Chapter 19 – the Levite and his concubine
This story will make anyone cringe. Wow, people were rotten back then because they did not try to do what God wanted, they just did what they wanted. Here are the highlights:
- There was a Levite (different from the one in chapters 17 and 18) from Ephraim who had a concubine.
- He and his concubine go visit her family.
- They are trying to get home, but don’t make it and decide to stay overnight in the town of Gibeah – 19:15.
- The Levite is offered no hospitality by anyone in the town, except one old man who was also from Ephraim, but lived in Gibeah. Because of their connection, the old man offers to let the Levite and his concubine stay at his house.
- The men from Gibeah [this is the tribe of Benjamin] come to the old man’s house and demand to have sex with the man (19:22). Had God’s people not learned the lesson from Sodom & Gomorrah (Gen 19:4, 5)?
- The men get the Levite’s concubine and rape her until she dies – 19:25, 28, 29; 20:5, 9
- The Levite takes her back home and cuts her into 12 pieces and sends her body throughout all of Israel demanding justice.
Chapter 20 – The war in Israel
- This event of the Levite’s concubine brings 400,000 soldiers from the tribes of Israel to deliver punishment upon the people of Gibeah (Jdg 20:2).
- The tribe of Benjamin has the chance to do right and deliver up the guilty people from Gibeah, but they refuse to do so and just protect the wicked people (Jdg 20:13).
- The 11 tribes fight against the tribe of Benjamin and nearly destroy them, leaving only 600 men alive.
Chapter 21 – More bad examples
- Feeling sorry for nearly destroying one of the tribes of Israel, the remaining tribes decide that the tribe of Ephraim should not be totally destroyed (21:6). Since the tribe needed to be built back up, the 600 surviving men of Ephraim needed wives. The conundrum was that all the 11 tribes had promised to NOT let any of their daughters marry ANYONE from Ephraim. So how would they get around this problem?
- It was discovered that during this war against Ephraim, nobody from Jabesh Gilead had come to help in the fight (21:8). All the other tribes and towns around lost lives in the battle. Jabesh Gilead was a no-show and people were angry. So a plan was hatched that they would attack JG, destroy them, and take their virgins and give them to the 600 men of Ephraim (21:10). By doing this, they would not break their “promise” of not allowing their daughters to marry anyone from Ephraim.
- They did attack, and they got 400 women from JG, but that was not enough.
- Another crooked plan was devised in which they told the remaining 200 men from Ephraim where to find some more women for wives. Each year there was a feast in Shiloh (21:19) where the women would go dance. If the men of Ephraim hid in the vineyards, they could attack and abduct the remaining 200 women they needed (21:21). Doing this would also allow the 11 tribes to feel good since they had not technically given their daughters in marriage, but they were simply kidnapped against their will by men from Ephraim (21:22).
In all these events, God is showing how people were fickle, changing themselves, their rules, even His rules to meet their wants and desires. Truly, “…everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” – Jdg 17:6; 21:25