Study 13—People Without a King. What’s Next?. Study 14 Exiles in a foreign land Study 15 Living in a pagan society: 5 models Study 16 The dream of the kingdom Study 17 The fiery furnace Study 18 The mad King Study 19 The writing on the wall Study 20 The lion’s den. What’s Next?.
Study 21 Joseph and the dream
Study 22 Joseph’s fall and rise
Study 23 Joseph and his brothers
Study 24 Joseph redeems his family
Study 25 The feasts of the King
Religious pluralism is a set of worldviews that stands on the premise that one religion is not the sole exclusive source of values, truths, and supreme deity. It therefore must recognize that at least “some” truth must exist in other belief systems. This is one example of “they can’t all be right.”
This is the last part of the 5-chapter “appendix” to the book of Judges. In this appendix we have two “ground level” examples of what Israel’s life was like between judges. Last week, the case study revealed the “hollowness” and “weightlessness” of Israelite culture and religion. On the outside, it invoked the name of the Lord and utilized the forms of Biblical worship, but at its core it
was idolatrous. That is: 1) it relied on religion rather than repentance, for 2) a goal of manipulating God rather than serving and loving God, and 3) it was grounded in human experience rather than divine revelation.
The first story in the appendix (17:1-18:31) was very rather banal and slightly comical. It depicted weak-willed, opportunistic, and unprincipled people trampling on each other. That is why we readers are unprepared and stunned by the violence this second story — it goes far beyond anything we have read already. Even by modern standards, it is deeply repulsive to both ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’ sensibilities. But though it is very different in tone, it’s theme is the same (21:25) as in the first story (17:6) — the need for a Savior-King.
She did two things.
Just as her leaving shows a great deal of alienation from the Levite, the Levite’s delay is evidence that his affection for her is not strong.
Again we see that the relationship is based on his drives and passions, not on a personal and legal mutual commitment, as in a real
The two incidents are mainly alike:
The differences are only two:
The message is pretty obvious. The Israelites had received enormous privileges that no other nation on earth had been given: the covenants of Abraham and Moses, the law and the prophets, the tabernacle worship and promises, the mighty acts of God bringing them out of Egypt, and the shekinah glory cloud over the ark of the covenant. (See Rom.9:4-5.)
Other nations had only the glimmer of God’s law in their consciences, and therefore they are not held tothe same standards (Rom.2:1-12; cf. James 3:1ff.) Yet here we have Israelites acting exactly like the Canaanites and pagan nations that had received none of these things. This is, then a fitting climax to the book of Judges. We have seen throughout that Israel declines deeper and deeper during this period. This is the
bottom — they cannot go deeper.
Verse 25 in the most general terms covers the whole night in which the concubine was in the hands of the men of Gibeah. But from v.26ff we get a very specific picture painted.
The details inevitably draw our attention to the unbelievable callousness and inhumanity of the Levite toward a woman who was his lover. The narrator is trying to show us that the sin in this event is by no means all on one side, even though the rest of Israel does not see this.
The only conclusion is that he considers her his
property, but not his love. She has value as a commodity, and now she has been ruined. When he cuts her up into pieces in order to inflame the nation against Gibeah, he reveals finally that he has no affection and respect for her at all. It is clear that the pagan culture’s idea of a ‘second-class wife’ and womenas-chattel had deeply penetrated the sensibilities of this man.
This is a remarkable self-serving account, well edited to hide any wrongdoing on his part.
2) Second, he completely leaves out the fact that he callously sacrificed his concubine rather than fighting to protect her.
The men of Gibeah certainly appear to be the villains, since their sins are so overt and heinous. They tried to do homosexual gang rape but had to settle for heterosexual gang rape. They show their complete disregard for human life sexually.
But the Levite’s moral performance is, though more subtle, no better.
We saw that he sends her out to the mob, then sleeps like a baby, says “get up” to her battered body, and then mutilates her corpse. It is no exaggeration to say that the very relationship of this man to his concubine had already been a ‘violent’ one, though not physically.
In short, this passage shows the truth of the first two-and-a-half chapters of Romans. In Romans 1 Paul says that the obviously debauched pagan world, with its orgies and lusts is lost in sin, but in Romans 2 he says that the moral religious person is also lost in sin. Under the surface, both are proud toward God and inhuman to others. He sums it up with the famous categorical statement: “No one is righteous, no not one… All have gone astray, they have together become worthless.” (Rom.3:10,12).
One idol that is most destructive to human unity is the idol of one’s blood or kindred — “my family/country right or wrong”. Though common decency tells us that the men of Gibeah violated all moral standards, the Benjamites close ranks and refuse to allow any outsiders to find fault with any insiders.
When we put our blood or racial ties above the common good and the transcendent moral order, we make a ‘god’ of our own people. So now we see how sin builds upon itself. The callousness of the Levite and the sexual licentiousness of some local hooligans has turned into a “full-blown civil war” because of the lack of candor of the Levite master and pride of the Benjamites.
First, we see that the Israelites put to death every single Benjamite, man, woman, child and even animal! (v.48) That is vastly beyond even the rule of ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’!
Second, we see that the Benjamites made two “rash vows”. They swore to not let any Benjamite marry any Israelite daughter (21:7). We also see that they
had sworn that they would kill any Israelites that had not united with the rest of them against Benjamin (21:5).
First, we have to realize what forgiveness is. Forgiveness is granted before it is felt (Luke 17:3-6). Forgiveness is primarily a promise to a) not bring the matter (the wrong) up to the person, b) not bring the matter up to others, and c) not bring the matter up in your thoughts to yourself. (In other words, it is a promise to not dwell on the hurt and nurse ill-will toward the other.) These are under the control of your will. You are not able to keep a thought from occurring to you, but you don’t have to entertain it.
Second, we have to realize why forgiveness is. Forgiveness is possible only if you see and feel the reality of God’s massive and costly forgiveness of us through Christ. (Matt. 18:21-35) Only the knowledge of our debt to God can put in perspective someone else’s debt to us. The forgiveness of Christ gives us the emotional humility to forgive (“who am I to withhold forgiveness when I am such a sinner?”) and emotional ‘wealth’ to forgive (“what has this person really robbed me of, when I have so much in Christ?”)
If, 1) with our wills we practice forgiveness, and 2) with our hearts we dwell on Christ’s forgiveness — then slowly a feeling of forgiveness will come.
Lastly, we must do forgiveness work in our hearts even before we try to reconcile to someone who has done wrong (Mark 11:25). That way we won’t be too angry in our discussion with him and slip into trying to ‘score points’ and humiliate the person. In reconciliation we are trying to restore the relationship. We do that by admitting everything wrong we have done, by then pointing out any injustice that they have done, and then asking to be reconciled
We saw that the religion of Israel is very like a very widespread form of religion in our own day. It is 1) superficially similar to the ancient Biblical faith, but 2) it has been shaped more by the surrounding culture than God’s divine revelation. 3) At its core it is uses religious activities and practices to secure God’s favor, and 4) it drops any attributes of God that it finds unmanageable or unpalatable.
The result of this veneer of religion is the cult of self-worship, personal power and ego-fulfillment. In chapters 17 and 18 we saw the normal day-to-day resultsof all this — Micah robbing his mother, the Danites robbing Micah, the Levite selling his religious services to the highest bidder. But here we see that, under pressure, the self-centeredness can explode into blood lust and genocide.
They could have recognized that they were as much under oppression and slavery as if they had a foreign slave-master!
The superstition of the Israelites regarding their vows puts them into a great conflict. (See the discussion regarding this issue under Jephthah.) In order to keep their vow they first slaughter one town and then kidnap the daughters of another town. How could they not have known that kidnapping and murder were, if anything, more heinous violations of God’s law than breaking a sinful, bitter promise? It is, again, an example of relying on religious activities (vowkeeping) instead of repentance and holiness.
This quote explains it all! We all must worship-and-therefore-serve something. If we are not enslaved by the true Lord (whose service alone is perfect freedom), then we will serve some ‘Baal’. That ‘lord’ will lead to psychological and social breakdown eventually.
All emotional problems, all philosophical problems, and social problems are the result of making some good, created thing into an ultimate thing in the place of God. While personal-emotional idols (work, sex, comfort, power, approval) lead to individual breakdown, so corporate-social idols (my tribe and race, national wealth, military power, ‘divine right’ of kings or the state) leads to social breakdown.
The great tragedy of the final chapters was that the people did not see that their real false masters were not political foreigners but their own inward idols of personal power and happiness.