Once again my daily Bible-reading program has brought me around to Judges, and through it. I don’t know how many times I’ll have to revisit it before I can truly say I understand it.
There are a lot of stories in Judges that really aren’t very nice: the book is a history, so that’s what we should expect. Ehud smuggles a weapon in to a private audience with the king of Moab, and assassinates him. Sisera takes refuge in Jael‘s tent, and after she lulls him to sleep, she drives a tent-spike through his head. The tyrant Abimelech murders his brothers, puts down a rebellion, and comes to a shameful and violent end. We read of the tragedies of Samson and Jephthah.
And then at the end come two truly awful stories. A man named Micah steals his mother’s silver, then restores it to her–so, naturally, they melt it down and make it into an idol! And of course a wandering Levite agrees to become their personal household priest, ministering to the idol. And sure enough, a big gang of Danites, seeking a new homeland, steal Micah’s graven and molten images, threaten to kill him if he tries to get them back, and the Levite is more than happy to go along with then and be their priest–complete with idols.
The last incident in the book tells the story of a gang-rape committed by the inhabitants of a town belonging to the tribe of Benjamin, and how all Israel went up against Benjamin. And Benjamin refused to surrender the guilty parties, and fought against all the 11 other tribes of Israel at once, and was almost made extinct.
Is any of this any way for God’s people to behave?
They must have known better. They had the Ten Commandments. The Ark of the Covenant was among them. Note: the actions of Ehud and Jael, although they may seem to us unsavory, are presented as righteous actions to deliver Israel from oppression. And Samson and Jephthah, while they had their faults, fought mightily against God’s enemies.
But what are we to make of these last two stories in the book?
Pray, ponder, and meditate…