The last five chapters of the book, Judges 17-21, form a separate part. They are not a historical sequel to the previous chapters, but show something of the spiritual and social climate within the people of the land during the entire period in which the book of Judges plays. In those chapters two more histories are described, the first in Judges 17-18, the second in Judges 19-21.
In these sections we do not read about judges. Nor is there any oppression and a period of time is not given. It is very likely that the events described took place at the beginning of the period of judges. This can be deduced from Judges 18 where there is a grandson of Moses (Jdg 18:3030The sons of Dan set up for themselves the graven image; and Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh, he and his sons were priests to the tribe of the Danites until the day of the captivity of the land.) [it is assumed that Manasseh must be Moses; see Judges 18:30], while in Judges 20 the name of Phinehas the high priest is mentioned (Jdg 20:2828and Phinehas the son of Eleazar, Aaron’s son, stood before it to [minister] in those days), saying, “Shall I yet again go out to battle against the sons of my brother Benjamin, or shall I cease?” And the LORD said, “Go up, for tomorrow I will deliver them into your hand.”), a grandson of Aaron, who has already reached adulthood during the wilderness journey. This seems to confirm that both the events of Judges 17-18 and those of Judges 19-21 should be set in the beginning of the period that the judges judged.
The fact that they are described only here is proof that not only the way in which events are depicted is Godly inspired, but also that their classification, the order, is equally Godly inspired. What appears at first sight to be disorder, appears on closer inspection to confirm the perfection of the Word of God. The fact that it is only here that these events are brought to the fore is intended to illustrate the moral and religious fall of the people of God during the entire period covered by the book of Judges.
It is even possible that in time order Judges 17-18 must be placed after Judges 19-21. That first the history of Micah and the tribe Dan is written is a confirmation of this. God wants to show us that leaving or replacing Him (Judges 17-18) also has a dramatic effect on the relationships among His people (Judges 19-21).
The people are controlled by a spirit of self-willingness throughout the entire period of this book. Because there is no inhibitory influence – “in those days there was no king in Israel” (Jdg 17:66In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.; 18:11In those days there was no king of Israel; and in those days the tribe of the Danites was seeking an inheritance for themselves to live in, for until that day an inheritance had not been allotted to them as a possession among the tribes of Israel.; 19:11Now it came about in those days, when there was no king in Israel, that there was a certain Levite staying in the remote part of the hill country of Ephraim, who took a concubine for himself from Bethlehem in Judah.; 21:2525In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.), – gives that spirit free rein to all kinds of excesses. Is it a miracle then that the people repeatedly deviate from God and sin? These last five chapters thus form the dark background against which everything that takes place in this book must be seen.
In the history of Judges 17-18 we get a painting of the religious decay of the people. In Judges 17 we see how a religious system is set up by a person for the benefit of his family, while Judges 18 describes how this system is introduced in an entire tribe.
God tells us everything without punishing or even expressing His displeasure. The assessment is left to our mental discernment.
What we find in these two chapters are
1. a man-made god,
2. humanly organized worship; and
3. a man-made priesthood.
It is a striking description of what we see around us today in ritualistic Christianity.