Judges
Introduction 1-2 The People of God as One Man 3-7 The Report of the Levite 8-10 The Reaction 11-14 The Demand to Gibeah and the Response to It 15-21 First Encounter 22-25 The Second Encounter 26-28 Preparation for the Third Encounter 29-48 The Third Encounter
Introduction

This chapter highlights important issues that also apply to the exercise of discipline in the church. In addition, it emerges that this exercise of discipline is something that the whole church has to deal with. The whole people are involved. The way that Israel goes to remove sin from among themselves and what God teaches them on that way, give a clear illustration of the actions of local churches when sin has to be removed from among them. It also shows the mind in which this should be done,

Any sin that becomes public in a local church and must be disciplined is at the same time a matter for the church to reflect on its cause. She will have to examine her own condition in God’s light and have the desire to hear from Him how it is possible that this sin could have happened.


The People of God as One Man

1Then all the sons of Israel from Dan to Beersheba, including the land of Gilead, came out, and the congregation assembled as one man to the LORD at Mizpah. 2The chiefs of all the people, [even] of all the tribes of Israel, took their stand in the assembly of the people of God, 400,000 foot soldiers who drew the sword.

The first thing that the message of the atrocity works out is that the whole people come together as one man to the LORD. Although there is still a lot to be learned later on, this fact in itself is a praiseworthy reaction. It is the time when everyone does what is right in his eyes. Characteristic of such a time is that people live along each other. Every feeling of togetherness has disappeared. In that time of individualism the LORD uses the sin committed to bring unity among His people again.

The second thing is that they are in the right position and that is with the LORD at Mizpa. A correct position, however, is no guarantee for a correct mind. Some important conditions may be met, such as unanimity and a correct position, but there is something else that needs to be added and that is the right mind.

It is a good thing that the people come together as one man – see also verse 88Then all the people arose as one man, saying, “Not one of us will go to his tent, nor will any of us return to his house. and verse 1111Thus all the men of Israel were gathered against the city, united as one man. – to punish evil. It is also good that it is diligent in cleansing itself from evil, just as it is good that it is in the right position. But the people are not yet in the good mind to exercise discipline. They only acts out of carnal indignation and on their own initiative. Only in verse 1818Now the sons of Israel arose, went up to Bethel, and inquired of God and said, “Who shall go up first for us to battle against the sons of Benjamin?” Then the LORD said, “Judah shall go up first.” do they ask God, but then they have already made their own plans. It is evil that brings them together.

But never will anything that is evil be able to serve as a bond with which God’s people can be held together. And if taking the right position does not lead to an appropriate attitude and behavior, this is no guarantee for correct handling in disciplinary cases. These things must go hand in hand.

It may be that believers take the right place or position in Christianity. I am thinking here of the church meeting around the Lord Jesus, with Him as its center, free from all kinds of human institutions or group thinking. If this is not done out of love for Christ and with a sense of grace and in an attitude of humility, the confession of that position gives no guarantee of blessing and the presence of the Lord Jesus.

When there is unity, the leaders also come forward. An important aspect in the functioning of the church as a unity is that there is again the exercising of leadership in a biblical way. In Judges 5 we have heard Deborah singing about leaders who took the lead again (Jdg 5:22“That the leaders led in Israel,
That the people volunteered,
Bless the LORD!
). If there is no king in Israel and there is no leadership, this is also at the expense of the feeling of togetherness.


The Report of the Levite

3(Now the sons of Benjamin heard that the sons of Israel had gone up to Mizpah.) And the sons of Israel said, “Tell [us], how did this wickedness take place?” 4So the Levite, the husband of the woman who was murdered, answered and said, “I came with my concubine to spend the night at Gibeah which belongs to Benjamin. 5But the men of Gibeah rose up against me and surrounded the house at night because of me. They intended to kill me; instead, they ravished my concubine so that she died. 6And I took hold of my concubine and cut her in pieces and sent her throughout the land of Israel’s inheritance; for they have committed a lewd and disgraceful act in Israel. 7Behold, all you sons of Israel, give your advice and counsel here.”

When asked, the Levite gives a brief account of the events at Gibeah. He lets nothing be heard of his own unfaithfulness and the wrong way he has gone. He also conceals the fact that he himself has given his wife into the hands of those lusty people. He also makes it appear whether he has been in danger of death. He tells his story in such a way that he himself emerges from it as well as possible.

He motivates the cutting in pieces of his wife’s body and its distribution in Israel by pointing out the scandalous act and the folly committed in Israel. He concludes by pointing out that, as Israelites, they should know what they have to do. He does not say a word about his own responsibility as Levite who must teach the law.


The Reaction

8Then all the people arose as one man, saying, “Not one of us will go to his tent, nor will any of us return to his house. 9But now this is the thing which we will do to Gibeah; [we will go up] against it by lot. 10And we will take 10men out of 100 throughout the tribes of Israel, and 100 out of 1,000, and 1,000 out of 10,000 to supply food for the people, that when they come to Gibeah of Benjamin, they may punish [them] for all the disgraceful acts that they have committed in Israel.”

With his story, the man has underlined once again the fact that the people are already convinced of that action must be taken against the men who committed this atrocity. They commit themselves not to go home before they have dealt with Gibeah. All they have to do is throw lot to find out in what order they should go to battle. Ten percent of the men are kept apart to provide food during the campaign. Everything that is being done is still about the dishonor done to Israel and not about the dishonor done to God.


The Demand to Gibeah and the Response to It

11Thus all the men of Israel were gathered against the city, united as one man. 12Then the tribes of Israel sent men through the entire tribe of Benjamin, saying, “What is this wickedness that has taken place among you? 13Now then, deliver up the men, the worthless fellows in Gibeah, that we may put them to death and remove [this] wickedness from Israel.” But the sons of Benjamin would not listen to the voice of their brothers, the sons of Israel. 14The sons of Benjamin gathered from the cities to Gibeah, to go out to battle against the sons of Israel.

For the third time we read that Israel is gathered “as one man” – see verse 11Then all the sons of Israel from Dan to Beersheba, including the land of Gilead, came out, and the congregation assembled as one man to the LORD at Mizpah. and verse 88Then all the people arose as one man, saying, “Not one of us will go to his tent, nor will any of us return to his house.. The message they have sent through the entire tribe of Benjamin, in which Gibeah lies, is short and concise. Its text indicates that they are not yet in the right mind to act against evil. In the previous verses we have seen that the willingness to act stems from human indignation. Because of this they don’t think of first asking the LORD to know how to act against sin. They speak to Benjamin about the evil that has happened “among you” and not ‘among us’.

Perhaps we have also noticed that we see sin in the other person earlier than in ourselves. To be able to point out sin to someone else, there must first be self-judgment. This means that one must be free of sin oneself, that there must be no unjudged sin in one’s own life. If anyone thinks he should be concerned with the sins of others, while allowing his own sins to exist, he is hypocritical. The words of the Lord Jesus apply to such a person when He says: “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Mt 7:55You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.).

Being personally free from sins is a first condition to be met by self-judgment. A second condition is linked to this self-judgment. We can only point out his sin to someone when we realize that what he has done wrong can also happen to us, including me. We are nothing better than the other. Galatians 6 tells us how we can meet this second condition: “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; [each one] looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted” (Gal 6:11Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; [each one] looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.).

What Israel must learn is to identify with the sin that has been committed and that it is not just the sin of a city or a tribe. With the sin through Achan this same principle comes to the fore: “But the sons of Israel acted unfaithfully in regard to the things under the ban, for Achan, … took some of the things under the ban” (Jos 7:11But the sons of Israel acted unfaithfully in regard to the things under the ban, for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, from the tribe of Judah, took some of the things under the ban, therefore the anger of the LORD burned against the sons of Israel.). There is one man who sins, but the whole people are declared guilty by God.

If Israel had made itself one with the sin of Gibeah, Benjamin would have reacted in another way. Benjamin would then have seen a people mourning and confessing sin as if they had committed it themselves. But there are no fraternal feelings among the people. It is easier to see things that are wrong and that need to be judged than to go to God with those things and see and feel them as God sees and feels them. Through their actions, they blame only the sons of Benjamin and hold them accountable for what happened, without realizing that it is an evil that took place in their midst, that is, in the midst of Israel.

In the New Testament Paul deals with a sin within the church that is so bad that it was not found even among the Gentiles (1Cor 5:11It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife.). What he blames the Corinthians above all for is that they have not mourned about the terrible evil that is taking place among them (1Cor 5:22You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst.). They continue to meet quietly as if nothing is wrong. That is also a way of not making yourself one with the present evil.

Both in Corinth and here in Judges one reacts to evil in a self-willed way. The matter is not presented to God with shame about what has happened, so He cannot reveal His will as to how to act.

Israel is taking the wrong approach to the matter, but that doesn’t acquit Benjamin’s reaction to it. What the sons of Benjamin do shows that they are not aware of the horrible sin committed in their area. In that way the whole tribe makes itself one with sin. Sin is bad, but even worse is the refusal to condemn it. They even defend sin, even though they did not commit sin themselves, but a number of corrupt people.

What started as a punitive expedition against a city, degenerates into a complete civil war because of Benjamin’s attitude. Having tolerated the evil in their midst, they are now going to defend it and start a brother war. Benjamin turns it into a tribal case. We hear nothing more about the culprits themselves.

As can be seen from 1 Corinthians 5, the worst sin can occur in every local community. However bad and shameful that may be, the presence of the worst sin cannot be a reason for anyone to leave a community of Christians. One reason to separate ourselves from a local church, however, is the refusal to condemn even the slightest evil. Then it is even necessary that we separate ourselves, if we do not want to be judged by God with the whole.


First Encounter

15From the cities on that day the sons of Benjamin were numbered, 26,000 men who draw the sword, besides the inhabitants of Gibeah who were numbered, 700 choice men. 16Out of all these people 700 choice men were left-handed; each one could sling a stone at a hair and not miss. 17Then the men of Israel besides Benjamin were numbered, 400,000 men who draw the sword; all these were men of war. 18Now the sons of Israel arose, went up to Bethel, and inquired of God and said, “Who shall go up first for us to battle against the sons of Benjamin?” Then the LORD said, “Judah shall go up first.” 19So the sons of Israel arose in the morning and camped against Gibeah. 20The men of Israel went out to battle against Benjamin, and the men of Israel arrayed for battle against them at Gibeah. 21Then the sons of Benjamin came out of Gibeah and felled to the ground on that day 22,000 men of Israel.

The positions have been made clear on both sides. There is no longer any doubt, there is no hope of recovery. Numerically, the sons of Benjamin are far in the minority, but their capacities compensate for that to a large extent. There is talk of “700 choice men” who “were left-handed; each one could sling a stone at a hair and not miss” (verse 1616Out of all these people 700 choice men were left-handed; each one could sling a stone at a hair and not miss.)

They can be exquisite men, known for their accuracy, their precision, but if they raise a concern for an evil cause, they use their capacities wrong. We can compare them to people we also encounter in Christianity. People who are very precise in everything and sometimes call evil good. Because of their precise approach to the matter it seems that they still have the right on their side as well.

Benjamin wins the victory again and again, but we see in a moment why. Not everything is as it should be with the tribes that go out to battle. Certainly, they ask God for advice, but they do so only after they have decided how they will act. The only thing they want to know is which tribe has to go out first. They have already asked this question once before, in Judges 1 (Jdg 1:11Now it came about after the death of Joshua that the sons of Israel inquired of the LORD, saying, “Who shall go up first for us against the Canaanites, to fight against them?”). But what a difference between Judges 1 and here. There they ask their question with a view to fighting the enemy, while here they want to fight a brother and already have arranged everything.

Thus there may be situations in which we too say that it is unnecessary to consult God. We see that there is sin and we are ready to act immediately, without it coming to us to go to God with that sin and first to make ourselves one with it. In our view, that is not necessary. There are still some details, such as who has to speak with the brother or sister who has fallen into sin. To do so, we first ask God, but that’s it.

It takes more to be used by God to deal appropriately with evil than just a quick willingness to act as His instrument. Their revenge is too direct, too inappropriate, too ruthless. There is too little awareness that they must carry out God’s judgment. They do not bring a sin offering, which would have been proof that they are one with evil. They count on their supremacy.

The result is defeat. Through this defeat, God wants to teach them that numbers do not count for Him and that their confidence to be the victors is wrong. The fact that the Israelites are defeated may be due to the fact that they themselves are not free from the influences of the pernicious practices of the Canaanites either. Then there can be no power to act. What they need is the same cleansing as Benjamin.


The Second Encounter

22But the people, the men of Israel, encouraged themselves and arrayed for battle again in the place where they had arrayed themselves the first day. 23The sons of Israel went up and wept before the LORD until evening, and inquired of the LORD, saying, “Shall we again draw near for battle against the sons of my brother Benjamin?” And the LORD said, “Go up against him.” 24Then the sons of Israel came against the sons of Benjamin the second day. 25Benjamin went out against them from Gibeah the second day and felled to the ground again 18,000 men of the sons of Israel; all these drew the sword.

The defeat comes hard. They did not expect this. They are working on a just cause, aren’t they? Their large number is proof of that, isn’t it? So why are they defeated instead of the evildoers punished? Is God then on the side of the sinning tribe?

They may have asked themselves all these questions. Yet the first reaction to their defeat is not that they go to God with these questions. The first thing they do is to encourage themselves: “But the people, the men of Israel, encouraged themselves and arrayed for battle again in the place where they had arrayed themselves the first day.” David did it differently. We read of him after he has lost everything through his own fault and the people turn against him: “But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God” (1Sam 30:66Moreover David was greatly distressed because the people spoke of stoning him, for all the people were embittered, each one because of his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.).

The Israelites first gather courage and then they ask the LORD. They are still not in the right place before God, although they are much more cautious in their questions to Him. They still have to learn the lesson that they are nothing better in themselves than their brother. They have to learn the lesson of the log and the speck from Matthew 7 yet (Mt 7:3-53Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?4Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye?5You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.).

It is also a step forward that they are now talking about “my brother”. They are starting to feel the fact that they are dealing with someone of the same origin. When exercising discipline, it is always important that we realize that it should not be done from an attitude that we are better. Elihu, who had to warn Job about his statements about God, understood that. He aptly says to Job: “Behold, I belong to God like you; I too have been formed out of the clay. Behold, no fear of me should terrify you, Nor should my pressure weigh heavily on you” (Job 33:6-76“Behold, I belong to God like you;
I too have been formed out of the clay.
7“Behold, no fear of me should terrify you,
Nor should my pressure weigh heavily on you.
).

If this had been Israel’s mind, this battle would not have cost so many victims. If this had been the attitude in many disciplinary cases in the church, many excommunications would not have had to take place, or after a short period restoration could have taken place. Not all disciplinary cases could have been avoided. The church is obliged to exercise discipline because it owes it to the holiness of God. God can never allow anything of sin to exist among His people. But discipline should always be applied with a view to the restoration of the one who has sinned. It should not happen out of personal irritation or fear of losing face to the environment.

Before they go up, they first ask the LORD if they will go up. That, too, is progress compared to the first time. Yet God also lets this second encounter result in a defeat for Israel. He has not finished with them yet.


Preparation for the Third Encounter

26Then all the sons of Israel and all the people went up and came to Bethel and wept; thus they remained there before the LORD and fasted that day until evening. And they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD. 27The sons of Israel inquired of the LORD (for the ark of the covenant of God [was] there in those days, 28and 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.”

Before the Israelites began the fight against the evildoers, they had expected an easy victory. They would do that job in a short time. After all, they were by an overwhelming majority, weren’t they? The result of this attitude, however, is that they have already been defeated twice. They don’t understand anything about it anymore.

In their desperation they humbly turn and in tears again to the LORD in Bethel (meaning ‘house of God’) and ask Him if they need to go up again. They even start fasting. There is now no longer any question of man oneself and going back to battle again. They realize that they have failed. It begins to dawn on them that God has something to say to them first.

Before they go to ask God, they offer “burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD”. That’s beautiful. By offering these offerings they say, as it were, that they can only exist before God on the basis of the value of these sacrifices. Both sacrifices speak of the work of the Lord Jesus on the cross.

The burnt offering shows this work as a work by which the Lord Jesus on the cross glorified God completely. It is an offering entirely reserved for God (Lev 1:1-171Then the LORD called to Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying,2“Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When any man of you brings an offering to the LORD, you shall bring your offering of animals from the herd or the flock.3If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer it, a male without defect; he shall offer it at the doorway of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before the LORD.4He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, that it may be accepted for him to make atonement on his behalf.5He shall slay the young bull before the LORD; and Aaron’s sons the priests shall offer up the blood and sprinkle the blood around on the altar that is at the doorway of the tent of meeting.6He shall then skin the burnt offering and cut it into its pieces.7The sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire on the altar and arrange wood on the fire.8Then Aaron’s sons the priests shall arrange the pieces, the head and the suet over the wood which is on the fire that is on the altar.9Its entrails, however, and its legs he shall wash with water. And the priest shall offer up in smoke all of it on the altar for a burnt offering, an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the LORD.10‘But if his offering is from the flock, of the sheep or of the goats, for a burnt offering, he shall offer it a male without defect.11He shall slay it on the side of the altar northward before the LORD, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall sprinkle its blood around on the altar.12He shall then cut it into its pieces with its head and its suet, and the priest shall arrange them on the wood which is on the fire that is on the altar.13The entrails, however, and the legs he shall wash with water. And the priest shall offer all of it, and offer it up in smoke on the altar; it is a burnt offering, an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the LORD.14‘But if his offering to the LORD is a burnt offering of birds, then he shall bring his offering from the turtledoves or from young pigeons.15The priest shall bring it to the altar, and wring off its head and offer it up in smoke on the altar; and its blood is to be drained out on the side of the altar.16He shall also take away its crop with its feathers and cast it beside the altar eastward, to the place of the ashes.17Then he shall tear it by its wings, [but] shall not sever [it]. And the priest shall offer it up in smoke on the altar on the wood which is on the fire; it is a burnt offering, an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the LORD.). On the basis of that offering God can bless His people and accept them. It is the only ground on which this can be done. For us this is beautifully expressed in Ephesians 1, where it says that God made us pleasant “in the Beloved” (Eph 1:66to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.). Bringing a burnt offering means that we are aware that God sees us in the value of the work of the Lord Jesus and not on the basis of anything in ourselves.

The peace offering is a fellowship offering. It expresses that through the work of the Lord Jesus, fellowship is possible with God, with the Lord Jesus and with all members of God’s people. A description of this sacrifice can be found in Leviticus 3 and 7 (Lev 3:1-171‘Now if his offering is a sacrifice of peace offerings, if he is going to offer out of the herd, whether male or female, he shall offer it without defect before the LORD.2He shall lay his hand on the head of his offering and slay it at the doorway of the tent of meeting, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall sprinkle the blood around on the altar.3From the sacrifice of the peace offerings he shall present an offering by fire to the LORD, the fat that covers the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails,4and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them, which is on the loins, and the lobe of the liver, which he shall remove with the kidneys.5Then Aaron’s sons shall offer [it] up in smoke on the altar on the burnt offering, which is on the wood that is on the fire; it is an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the LORD.6But if his offering for a sacrifice of peace offerings to the LORD is from the flock, he shall offer it, male or female, without defect.7If he is going to offer a lamb for his offering, then he shall offer it before the LORD,8and he shall lay his hand on the head of his offering and slay it before the tent of meeting, and Aaron’s sons shall sprinkle its blood around on the altar.9From the sacrifice of peace offerings he shall bring as an offering by fire to the LORD, its fat, the entire fat tail which he shall remove close to the backbone, and the fat that covers the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails,10and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them, which is on the loins, and the lobe of the liver, which he shall remove with the kidneys.11Then the priest shall offer [it] up in smoke on the altar [as] food, an offering by fire to the LORD.12‘Moreover, if his offering is a goat, then he shall offer it before the LORD,13and he shall lay his hand on its head and slay it before the tent of meeting, and the sons of Aaron shall sprinkle its blood around on the altar.14From it he shall present his offering as an offering by fire to the LORD, the fat that covers the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails,15and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them, which is on the loins, and the lobe of the liver, which he shall remove with the kidneys.16The priest shall offer them up in smoke on the altar [as] food, an offering by fire for a soothing aroma; all fat is the LORD’s.17It is a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwellings: you shall not eat any fat or any blood.’”; 7:11-2111‘Now this is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings which shall be presented to the LORD.12If he offers it by way of thanksgiving, then along with the sacrifice of thanksgiving he shall offer unleavened cakes mixed with oil, and unleavened wafers spread with oil, and cakes [of well] stirred fine flour mixed with oil.13With the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving, he shall present his offering with cakes of leavened bread.14Of this he shall present one of every offering as a contribution to the LORD; it shall belong to the priest who sprinkles the blood of the peace offerings.15‘Now [as for] the flesh of the sacrifice of his thanksgiving peace offerings, it shall be eaten on the day of his offering; he shall not leave any of it over until morning.16But if the sacrifice of his offering is a votive or a freewill offering, it shall be eaten on the day that he offers his sacrifice, and on the next day what is left of it may be eaten;17but what is left over from the flesh of the sacrifice on the third day shall be burned with fire.18So if any of the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offerings should [ever] be eaten on the third day, he who offers it will not be accepted, [and] it will not be reckoned to his [benefit]. It shall be an offensive thing, and the person who eats of it will bear his [own] iniquity.19‘Also the flesh that touches anything unclean shall not be eaten; it shall be burned with fire. As for [other] flesh, anyone who is clean may eat [such] flesh.20But the person who eats the flesh of the sacrifice of peace offerings which belong to the LORD, in his uncleanness, that person shall be cut off from his people.21When anyone touches anything unclean, whether human uncleanness, or an unclean animal, or any unclean detestable thing, and eats of the flesh of the sacrifice of peace offerings which belong to the LORD, that person shall be cut off from his people.’”). Bringing this offering means that the consciousness is present of the fellowship that exists among the people of God.

Benjamin is also included in this. But because sin cannot have a place in this fellowship – it has been judged and is removed through the work of which this sacrifice speaks – sin must be judged. If there is then to be dealt with public sin among God’s people, it is from the meaning of this sacrifice and not from a personal grievance or a feeling hurt as a group. It is God’s intention that Israel then (and we now) stand on the basis of these sacrifices. We are never in a position to act with someone else before God has been able to act with what is contrary to His Name in our own souls.

Another important aspect is that the whole people are involved. If there are exercises to exercise discipline in a particular case, these exercises should not be limited to a few brothers. It concerns the entire local church. This is not a secret sin, of which only a few know, but something that is generally known.

There is often little strength in the exercise of discipline because the exercise is often limited to a few who show a spiritual mind. If we really come to God’s presence with a disciplinary case, we can no longer be only indignant. Then there is real grief about what has happened among us and where we ourselves are capable of.

There is also talk of “the ark of the covenant of God”. It is the only time that the book of Judges mentions the ark. The ark is a beautiful image of Christ. He is the basis of all the actions of God with us and of our actions for God. By always keeping that in mind, we are preserved from acting in the spirit of being better than the other. A proper judgment of evil and its elimination is no basis for fellowship. Our fellowship as saints is based only on Christ and His death. Only from this position can evil be judged. There, in picture, God must bring His people through the discipline He must allow.

This is not about a comparison between Benjamin and Israel, but about what is evil in the eyes of God and that it should be removed in the way He indicates. He cannot tolerate evil among His people because He dwells among His people. This applies in exactly the same way today for the local church that have gathered together in the Name of the Lord Jesus. He said of this: “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst” (Mt 18:2020For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”). Therefore, sin must be removed from a local church.

In the process to which God subjects His people to bring them into the right mind, the name of Phinehas is also mentioned. As noted earlier, this indicates that the period in which this event takes place must be just after the people have arrived in the promised land. Phinehas is a man who has fought for the honor of God in the wilderness. If evil has entered the camp, he judges it by killing the evildoers (Num 25:6-156Then behold, one of the sons of Israel came and brought to his relatives a Midianite woman, in the sight of Moses and in the sight of all the congregation of the sons of Israel, while they were weeping at the doorway of the tent of meeting.7When Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he arose from the midst of the congregation and took a spear in his hand,8and he went after the man of Israel into the tent and pierced both of them through, the man of Israel and the woman, through the body. So the plague on the sons of Israel was checked.9Those who died by the plague were 24,000.10Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,11“Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned away My wrath from the sons of Israel in that he was jealous with My jealousy among them, so that I did not destroy the sons of Israel in My jealousy.12Therefore say, ‘Behold, I give him My covenant of peace;13and it shall be for him and his descendants after him, a covenant of a perpetual priesthood, because he was jealous for his God and made atonement for the sons of Israel.’”14Now the name of the slain man of Israel who was slain with the Midianite woman, was Zimri the son of Salu, a leader of a father’s household among the Simeonites.15The name of the Midianite woman who was slain was Cozbi the daughter of Zur, who was head of the people of a father’s household in Midian.).

We have to be zealous with God’s zeal and not with our natural feelings. With Phinehas was a holy, priestly and spiritual indignation. With him we can perceive insight into God’s thoughts. That the people come to him to consult the LORD through him also shows us that the people are where they should be.

We can say that Paul is the Phinehas of the New Testament. He has worked hard to make the will of God known in all churches. He has always fought when the believers threatened to deviate from Christ through wrong doctrine or wrong practices. It is to be hoped that each of us wants to be a Phinehas too.


The Third Encounter

29So Israel set men in ambush around Gibeah. 30The sons of Israel went up against the sons of Benjamin on the third day and arrayed themselves against Gibeah as at other times. 31The sons of Benjamin went out against the people and were drawn away from the city, and they began to strike and kill some of the people as at other times, on the highways, one of which goes up to Bethel and the other to Gibeah, [and] in the field, about thirty men of Israel. 32The sons of Benjamin said, “They are struck down before us, as at the first.” But the sons of Israel said, “Let us flee that we may draw them away from the city to the highways.” 33Then all the men of Israel arose from their place and arrayed themselves at Baal-tamar; and the men of Israel in ambush broke out of their place, even out of Maareh-geba. 34When ten thousand choice men from all Israel came against Gibeah, the battle became fierce; but Benjamin did not know that disaster was close to them. 35And the LORD struck Benjamin before Israel, so that the sons of Israel destroyed 25,100 men of Benjamin that day, all who draw the sword. 36So the sons of Benjamin saw that they were defeated. When the men of Israel gave ground to Benjamin because they relied on the men in ambush whom they had set against Gibeah, 37the men in ambush hurried and rushed against Gibeah; the men in ambush also deployed and struck all the city with the edge of the sword. 38Now the appointed sign between the men of Israel and the men in ambush was that they would make a great cloud of smoke rise from the city. 39Then the men of Israel turned in the battle, and Benjamin began to strike and kill about thirty men of Israel, for they said, “Surely they are defeated before us, as in the first battle.” 40But when the cloud began to rise from the city in a column of smoke, Benjamin looked behind them; and behold, the whole city was going up [in smoke] to heaven. 41Then the men of Israel turned, and the men of Benjamin were terrified; for they saw that disaster was close to them. 42Therefore, they turned their backs before the men of Israel toward the direction of the wilderness, but the battle overtook them while those who came out of the cities destroyed them in the midst of them. 43They surrounded Benjamin, pursued them without rest [and] trod them down opposite Gibeah toward the east. 44Thus 18,000 men of Benjamin fell; all these were valiant warriors. 45The rest turned and fled toward the wilderness to the rock of Rimmon, but they caught 5,000 of them on the highways and overtook them at Gidom and killed 2,000 of them. 46So all of Benjamin who fell that day were 25,000 men who draw the sword; all these were valiant warriors. 47But 600 men turned and fled toward the wilderness to the rock of Rimmon, and they remained at the rock of Rimmon four months. 48The men of Israel then turned back against the sons of Benjamin and struck them with the edge of the sword, both the entire city with the cattle and all that they found; they also set on fire all the cities which they found.

The third and final meeting between Israel and Benjamin is described in detail. It starts with the laying of ambushes. Here, as in the fight against Ai in Joshua 8, ambushes speak of acknowledging one’s own weakness and counting on the hidden power of God. Victory is achieved by using resources hidden from the enemy. By fleeing, Israel openly acknowledges that it is weak. It does indeed seem weak to flee, but it gives to the hidden resources, the ambushes, opportunity to do their work.

This is a beautiful illustration of prayer. Lying on your knees resembles weakness, but there is strength in it. Personal humiliation before God is the great secret to overcome. Therein strength is found for every exercise of discipline, both for parents towards their children and for the church towards the evildoers.

It is therefore not Israel that defeats Benjamin, but “the LORD struck Benjamin before Israel” (verse 3535And the LORD struck Benjamin before Israel, so that the sons of Israel destroyed 25,100 men of Benjamin that day, all who draw the sword.). First, the sons of Benjamin think that they will also be successful the third time. The previous victories have made them confident and even overconfident (verses 32,3932The sons of Benjamin said, “They are struck down before us, as at the first.” But the sons of Israel said, “Let us flee that we may draw them away from the city to the highways.”39Then the men of Israel turned in the battle, and Benjamin began to strike and kill about thirty men of Israel, for they said, “Surely they are defeated before us, as in the first battle.”). But this time God connects His blessing to the strategy Israel has chosen.

As soon as Benjamin leaves the city, the ambushed warriors appear, take possession of the unprotected city and set it on fire. In Deuteronomy 13 we also read about a city that has to be set on fire. That must happen if there are men there who have called for idolatry. It says that that city must be burned “as a whole burnt offering to the LORD your God” (Deu 13:1616Then you shall gather all its booty into the middle of its open square and burn the city and all its booty with fire as a whole burnt offering to the LORD your God; and it shall be a ruin forever. It shall never be rebuilt.). We can say that Gibeah’s sin is punished just as severely as the idolatry mentioned in Deuteronomy 13.

When the sons of Benjamin see the city burning, the victory tug turns into fear. They can’t believe their eyes, the shock is great. Their lust to fight fades away and they flee. Israel does not grant itself peace and chases the fugitives. In an almost ‘Jehu’s zeal’ they kill almost all the sons of Benjamin.

What the consequences of their far-reaching zeal are, we will see in the next and final chapter. The balance sheet can be drawn up for the time being. The victory is achieved, the evil judged. But there is also loss. Israel has lost about 40,030 men (verses 21,25,3121Then the sons of Benjamin came out of Gibeah and felled to the ground on that day 22,000 men of Israel.25Benjamin went out against them from Gibeah the second day and felled to the ground again 18,000 men of the sons of Israel; all these drew the sword.31The sons of Benjamin went out against the people and were drawn away from the city, and they began to strike and kill some of the people as at other times, on the highways, one of which goes up to Bethel and the other to Gibeah, [and] in the field, about thirty men of Israel.). More than 25,000 men have died of Benjamin, through which the tribe nearly is eradicated. Only 600 men remain.

If someone doesn’t live in self-judgement, by which sin is given a chance to assert itself and others have to engage in it, it always results in loss. If those others are also involved in the removal of that sin in a nonspiritual way, the damage is incalculable. The only way to avoid becoming a source of misery, both for ourselves and for others, is to live in close fellowship with the Lord and in obedience to His Word.


Read more