The Immorality of Benjamin
Dr. Joe Temple

Review

Open your Bibles to the book of Judges, that portion of the Word of God that we are studying together. We are in what we have referred to as “the appendix” to the book of Judges. The book of Judges actually closed with chapter 16; then from chapters 17-21, there is what we refer to as “the appendix” to the book. The Holy Spirit took two incidents out of chronological order and put them here at the end of the book to summarize all of the teaching of the book of Judges about the condition that existed in the days which are covered by the period of time recorded in the book of Judges.

The first thing we noticed in the appendix was found in chapters 17 and 18, which we referred to as “the idolatry of Dan.” Dan was one of the twelve tribes of Israel. We learned in our last lesson that Dan was the only tribe that did not possess its possessions. It had been driven into the mountains, in the territory that had been granted to it by casting lots, and the Amorites had kept them circumscribed to the point they couldn't occupy the land that was theirs. They needed room for expansion. They sent out five men to spy out the land of Israel to see where there would be an easy place to settle.

You remember they came to the city of Laish, which was occupied by colonists from the city of Zidon. They said, “This city is far away from its native people. It will be easy for us to capture it.” They did, and they settled in that territory.

While they were making their journey, they passed by the home of a man by the name of Micah. Micah had built a house of gods on his property. He had hired a Levite to be his priest. He had four idols in his house of gods. When the Danites settled in the territory of Laish, they decided that they should have some gods of their own. So they went down to the house of Micah where they had been previously. They said to the priest who was serving him, whose name was Jonathan, “Why don't you come serve a whole tribe instead of serving just one man?” Jonathan, who placed more emphasis on materialistic things than he did on spiritual things, agreed to be their priest, and idolatry was set up in Dan, that idolatry eventually to spread through the whole nation.

We showed you the seriousness of it in our last lesson by reminding you that the tribe of Dan was left out of the genealogies recorded in the book of Chronicles, that the tribe of Dan was left out of the twelve tribes who are to evangelize the whole world during the Tribulation period. But we emphasized God's grace in that during the millennial reign of Christ, the tribe of Dan is going to have an opportunity of blessing and a portion of service. That brings us up to chapter 19, which we said would introduce to us the second part of the appendix, and we called it “The Immorality of Benjamin.”

It is an interesting thing to keep in mind that in summarizing the book of Judges, the Spirit of God would emphasize that both tables of the Decalogue were broken in this period of time when there was no king in Israel, when everybody did that which was right in his own eyes.

The first table of the Decalogue, which describes man's allegiance to God, was broken by the idolatry of Dan. We are going to notice that the second table was broken with immorality of Benjamin because the second table of the Decalogue, the Ten Commandments, deals with man's responsibility to man.

It would be good if we had the time to read chapters 19, 20, and 21 before we even try to discuss them. But you realize that we do not have time to do that, so I'm going to ask you to just notice in your Bibles, as I point out the highlights of what is in these three chapters, so that we might create the background for our story and the lessons that I hope God will teach us from this particular portion of the Word.

In chapter 19, the first ten verses, you have the story of the Levite and his concubine. The story boils down to this: Another Levite, a priest, had taken unto himself a concubine, a second wife. She had played the harlot; she should have been stoned to death according to the law of the day. Knowing that, she ran back to her home. The Levite did not want to stone her to death, so he went to the home of her father and asked her to come back home with him. The father, of course, was overjoyed, as was the daughter, the wife of the Levite, that she would not be sentenced to death. So they spent a day of feasting. The first day was over and they were preparing to leave. The father said, “Spend another day,” and so the story went on until five days had been spent in drinking and in feasting.

The Inhospitality of the Benjamites

Then the Levite said, like many of us say at times, “Now, I just can't stay a moment longer.” The father said, “But it's night, and it is dangerous to travel at night. Why don't you wait until morning?” The Levite said, in so many words, “If I do that, I will stay another day. No, we are going out tonight.” So they left that night and began their journey to Bethlehem from whence they had come. In the paragraph which begins with verse 11 and concludes with verse 21, we have the story of their journey, climaxing with what I refer to as the “inhospitality of the Benjamites.”

They came by the city of Jerusalem, and night was falling and the servant said to his master, “Why don't we go in here?” He said, “No this is enemy territory.” Jerusalem, at that time, was occupied by the Jebusites. He said, “We will go on to Gibeah, possibly to Ramah, because those two cities are occupied by Benjamites, our brethren.” Well, as they traveled on, night came faster than they had expected so they turned in to the city of Gibeah and they sat down in the public square, waiting for someone to invite them in to spend the night, which was the custom and which was the thing that God ordained should be done, and from which we get our admonition in the book of Hebrews, “Be careful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unaware.”

But things were in such a state during this period of time that we are talking about that nobody invited them in. They were sitting there in the market square; night had fallen. An old man was coming home from the fields. He saw the Levites, his servant, his concubines and his two asses, and he engaged them in conversation. He asked them where they were going, etc., and when he discovered they had no place to stay, he said to them, “You must come in and stay at my house,” because he, too, was from Bethlehemjudah.

So, the story goes, they went to the house of this old man. The asses were bedded down for the night. The servants were situated, and the concubine was in her proper place; and no sooner had they settled down to have their evening meal, than something else happened. It is recorded in verse 22 of chapter 19, and it goes through verse 28. I would refer to it as the “sin of the Sodomites.” No, we are not talking about the city of Sodom, but we are talking about sin for which the city of Sodom and Gomorrah was destroyed, No sooner had they gotten settled than there was a knock on the door, and the men of the city of Gibeah demanded that the visitors be turned over to them that they might commit homosexual acts with them, that they might attack this man homosexually. The old man said, “This cannot be. This is a terrible wickedness. I have a daughter who is a virgin. Let me give her to you.”

Does that bring back some memories? Sounds almost exactly like what happened in the city of Sodom, doesn't it? But the city of Sodom were heathen. These were Israelites whom God had delivered out of Egypt. Finally the man said, “Take my concubine.” Of course, that is not too admirable of him to sacrifice her to save himself, but it is another indication of the sad state of affairs in which the nation of Israel was during these days.

They did take the concubine, and they abused her all night long. It was mob rape. Finally as the morning began to dawn, she found her way back to the house, and she fell upon the threshold of the house and died with her hands clasping the door sill. The next morning when the man was ready to leave, he opened the door, and he saw his concubine lying there. He said, “Up, let us be going,” and then he realized there was no life in her. He picked up her body, and put it on one of the asses, and went on to his home.

The Call to Justice

Then an unusual thing happened that begins in verse 29 and continues on through verse 7 of chapter 20. I call it, “the call to justice,” for he took this concubine and cut her up into twelve pieces and sent one piece to each of the twelve tribes of Israel with a report of the horrible sin that had been committed in Gibeah, the land of Benjamin.

Will you keep in mind that many things occured during these days that God is not to be blamed for and that God did not condone. So often individuals read things in the Bible and blame God for what they read. Keep in mind, the Bible is an honest Book. It tells the good; it tells the bad; and this is an awful and a repulsive thing that I am talking about. Nevertheless, it did happen, and perhaps it took some drastic thing like this to awaken Israel out of the lethargy into which she had slipped, because when the tribes of Israel realized the horrible thing that had happened, they all gathered outside of Gibeah to take vengence upon the tribe of Benjamin.

That story is found in the paragraph which begins with verse 8 and continues on through verse 48 of chapter 20, all the way through to the end. They began by visiting Gibeah in the tribe of Benjamin and asking for the men who had committed this crime. They said, “Turn them over to us, that we might punish them.” The tribe of Benjamin said, “We won't do it; you try to take them. We are not about to deliver them to you.” And so all of the rest of the tribes of Israel covenanted together to war against the tribe of Benjamin. The whole nation of Israel was striken with civil war.

The strange thing about it is that when the nation of Israel went up against the tribe of Benjamin, they met with defeat. The first time they went up, they lost 22,000. The next time they went, they lost 18,000. More again by half than the entire number of the tribe of Benjamin.

You might wonder why they met with such defeat when they were doing what you might call an execution of justice. We will find out why they did, before we are through with our discussion. Now, finally they had the victory, and they took such vengeance upon the tribe of Benjamin, killing all the men and all the women and the children, until there were only 600 men left. These 600 men escaped to the rock of Rimmon.

Belated Concern for Actions

In chapter 21, the tribes of Israel began to have some of what I call belated concern about their actions. They said, “You know, we have done a terrible thing. We have almost caused to be extinct one of the tribes of Israel, and God told us the twelve tribes should always be intact. We have practically exterminated one of the tribes, because only 600 men are left, and we have taken a vow that none of us will permit our daughters to marry them. The tribe will be gone when those six hundred men have died. What are we going to do?”

What they decided to do, in the energy of the flesh, is described in chapter 21. They said, “What portion of all the tribes of Israel did not come up to battle when we issued the call to come to war?” And they said, “The inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead didn't respond to the cry.” So they went down to Jabesh-gilead, and they killed all the men, all the women, and all the children, except virgins of a marriageable age. Then they took those virgins and gave them to the six hundred men to be their wives. But they still did not have enough wives to go around. They said, “What can we do? We've taken a vow that we won't give these men our daughters, and we lack two hundred girls. What can we do?” They said, “You know, we usually have a festival at Shiloh, and the young maidens go out and dance in the open. Why don't we get the word to these men from Benjamin that if they want to run in and steal two hundred of our daughters, we will look the other way while they do it.” That is what happened, and the tribe of Benjamin was saved from extinction through this method.

Now, that is the story of what you find in these chapters. I suggest you read them if you haven't, and if you have perhaps even read it again, because you might discover some interesting things that I have not had presence of mind to bring to your attention. But generally speaking, that is the story.

Let me emphasize again that this story was chosen to go hand in hand with the story of the idolatry of Dan that we might know what terrible conditions existed in the days of the judges.

If I were to pronounce the benediction right now and permit you to go home, I wonder how much you would have gained from this discussion. Perhaps you have heard a story for the first time that you haven't realized was in the Scripture, because this isn't a portion that we spend a lot of time with. Perhaps your mind has been refreshed about a story that you have heard before, and you had almost forgotten was there, but you would not have been helped a great deal. I do not believe the Bible was written just to provide us a story book. I believe that, as we have learned in our study of the book of Romans, all that is given in the Scriptures is written for our admonition, for our learning, that we through the comfort and patience of the Scriptures might have hope.

So I would like to suggest that we examine some of the lessons that are to be learned from the story that I have just told you, and ask the Holy Spirit to make application of these individual lessons to our lives because all I'll have time to do is to bring them to your attention.

Idolatry Always Related to Immorality

The first thing that I would like to suggest to you is that idolatry is always related to immorality. Idolatry is always related to immorality. Remember in the first part of the appendix, we read concerning the idolatry of Dan; in the last part of the appendix we read concerning the immorality of Benjamin. This is a principle.

Turn, please, to the book of Romans, and notice how God lays down in the Scriptures the principle, because the principle applies not only to the nation of Israel during the period of the judges, but it applies to the individual in any age in which he lives. It applies to any nation, and we should be very much concerned. Notice Romans, chapter 1, verse 21:

Romans 1

21Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; [this is speaking of the whole human race, but it applies to Israel doesn't it] but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
22Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
23And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

There is your idolatry. Notice that it started with man and ended up with creeping things. This is what Israel did. They went off into idolatry first. Now notice verse 24 and 25:

Romans 1

24Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:
25Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator…

When they accepted idolatry, they began to worship the creature more than the Creator, which naturally led to excess sexual sin.

In verses 26-27:

Romans 1

26For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
27And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

Here it names the sin of which the Benjamites were guilty. So remember idolatry is always related to immorality.

Immorality In Our Nation

This group may not need to be particularly concerned from a personal standpoint about this principle, but Beloved, we ought to be greatly concerned from a national standpoint. Do you realize since God is being ruled out of the knowledge of men, beginning with the Supreme Court decision, that other decisions of like nature have been made so that idolatry is being related to immorality. And do you realize that the very sin that we are talking about here is on the increase? Not only is it on the increase, movements are on in legislative bodies to legalize sin and make no crime punishable related to it. Do you realize it has all happened since we dethroned God?

Oh, we may not be making idols the same way these Israelites did, but we are becoming irreligious, and the more irreligious we become, the more immoral we will become. That is why we need to be concerned nationally. That's the reason we need to be concerned about our children. Let's face it, they are growing up in a different world than we grew up in, and immorality is on every hand because of idolatry. You continue to make your own application as the Spirit of God may lead you.

There is another lesson to be learned, a principle. The Bible describes it, “like priest, like people.” That phrase is used several times over in the Scriptures, and the idea is that if the priesthood, the ministry is not carrying the standard high, its effect will be felt on the people.

Twice over in this appendix, we have had a reference to the Levites. The Levites were the men of God of that day, one of them willingly accepting the pastorate of a church that was filled with idols. The second reference to the Levite we find violating the marriage vow and taking unto himself a second wife, for that is what a concubine was. Now how could you expect the Israelites to be any better than the Levites? You couldn't.

As we speak of the depressing conditions that are existing in our land today, we must recognize that part of the blame, and perhaps the major portion of it, lies at the foot of the pulpit, because the men of God, the ministry, have not taken the stand that they ought to take. When you find ministers advocating the legalizing of a sin such as we are talking about today, you know that the ministry has slipped. When you find the ministry making speeches before the legislature to advocate the murder of little babies, under the title of “legalized abortion,” you know the ministry has slipped into a tremendous error. When you find ministers being bold enough to live in the same house with a wife and a mistress and still insist on pastoring a church, you know the ministry has slipped.

The Results of Anarchy

Why am I saying this, Beloved? I believe we are living in an age very similar to that of the judges, and we need to be greatly concerned because we find then, and we find now, that anarchy always results in unreasonable and extreme measures.

Go back to the book of Judges, if you will, please, and notice in chapter 19 a statement that is made, something like four times, in this appendix.

Judges 19

1And it came to pass in those days, when there was no king in Israel…

Go back to chapter 18, verse 1:

Judges 18

1In those days there was no king in Israel:…

Judges 17

6In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.

This is not a reference to the fact that they didn't have a king, for actually no king came upon the scene in Israel's history until long after this. It's not a reference to the idea that the town was vacant. It is a reference to the fact that there was no authority that was being exercised over the whole nation, and every man did that which was right in his own eyes. Surely I do not have to take a lot of time with intelligent people to suggest to you that we are livng in an age very much like that today, because we are living in an age, Beloved, when every man is doing that which is right in his own eyes. Mob violence is the order of the day, and we remind you that whenever anarchy is on the throne, it results in unreasonable and extreme measures.

If you look at verse 48 of chapter 20, you read:

Judges 20

48And the men of Israel turned again upon the children of Benjamin, and smote them with the edge of the sword, as well the men of every city, as the beast, and all that came to hand: also they set on fire all the cities that they came to.

They murdered, they pillaged, they burned all in the name of self-imposed authority. They had no more right to do that than individuals would have the right today to destroy with mob violence the things they are destroying and calling it their right to do it.

Mark what I tell you: If there is not a return to authority in this land of ours, drastic things are going to occur, extreme things. If you think that what you read here in these chapters was a horrible and terrible thing, if you think that the near annihilation of a tribe, women and children as well as men, was a horrible thing, then we would suggest to you that you need to be prepared for something that is going to be even worse than what we are reading about here, because the anarchy that is in existence in our own day is most certainly going to result in this or even something worse before the full end comes. That is the reason the people of God need to remember that God said, “If My people” (He didn't say, “If the whole nation…”) “who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray” (confessing their sins), “then I will hear from Heaven and heal their land.”

I don't expect this whole nation to bow its knees to God. Don't expect that. God doesn't expect it. But Beloved, I want to tell you, if we who call ourselves by the name of God, if we the people of God do not humble ourselves and pray, I don't know what is going to happen to our nation. I don't know where the end will be.

The Need for Self-judgment

That leads me to suggest that we learn another lesson from the sad mistakes that were made by these Israelites. I have referred to it, for want of a better way of presenting it, as “the need for self-judgment.” The fact that this sin about which we have been speaking today could exist in the manner in which it exists indicated that the nation was condoning this sort of thing, yet when they went about to set things right, they saw no need whatsoever in judging themselves.

Turn with me, please, to Romans, chapter 2, as I remind you what God said about this very important thing, of the need for self-judgment, before you take upon yourself the responsibility of setting things right. In Romans, chapter 2, God said, in verses 17-20:

Romans 2

17Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God,
18And knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law;
19And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness,
20An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law.

All of these things represented the attitude of the eleven tribes of Israel, but God said in verse 21:

Romans 2

21Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal?
22Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege?
23Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God?

You see, what God is saying is that before you take upon yourself the responsibility of setting things in order, there is a need to set things in order in your own life. You who attempt to cast a little splinter out of your brother's eye, have you done anything about the two-by-four in your own eye? That is what God is saying.

Notice Galatians, chapter 6, verse l:

Galatians 6

1Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.

“Ye which are spiritual, restore such an one.” Over and over again the emphasis in the Word of God is placed upon the need for self-judgment. God can not bless unconfessed sin, even if the work is being done with the intention of setting things right. So will you keep in mind that when the tribes of Israel went about to set Benjamin right, in verse 18 of chapter 20:

Judges 20

18And the children of Israel arose, and went up to the house of God, and asked counsel of God, and said, Which of us shall go up first to the battle against the children of Benjamin? And the LORD said, Judah shall go up first.

Listen closely now. God didn't tell them to do this. They had decided to do it. Then they asked, “God, which one of us shall do it first?” You may be thinking, “Why didn't God stop them? Why didn't God say, you are not going about this in the right way?” You know why He didn't. Because their ears were dull of hearing. They could not hear the still, small voice of God. They had forgotten to listen so long that it was long past the time when they could really hear what God had to say. They asked counsel of the Lord, in verse 18. They went up to battle against Benjamin, and down in verse 21, we read that 22,000 men of all the tribes of Israel lost their lives because of the energy of the flesh.

The Need for Confession

When they saw the terrible havoc that was wrought, they said to themselves, “Something must be wrong.” So they went up to the house of God again, and this time they asked counsel of God, and they wept until the evening. It wasn't just a quick prayer; it wasn't one of those little “Bless me, Lord, in this thing I'm about to do.” They wept until the evening. No, they didn't weep for the dead; they wept to know the will of God. We read here in verse 23 the difference in this verse:

Judges 20

23(And the children of Israel went up and wept before the LORD until even, and asked counsel of the LORD, saying, [now notice the difference] Shall I go up again to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother? And the LORD said, Go up against him.)

Surely you would think that they would have victory, but look down in verse 25. Eighteen thousand of them died. Eighteen thousand of them died when they made that second trip against the Benjamites. Why did God let this happen? God was trying to get their attention. Well, He finally got it, because the third time when they went up to the house of God, the story has it, they wept all day until the evening. They sat before the Lord, which means they waited. They said, “Lord, we want to know what you have to tell us. We're ready to listen now.” And they fasted, which indicated their sincerity. Nothing was going to detract. Then they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord, and this last thing–the most important thing they did–means they confessed their sin unto God. They said, “Lord, we have sinned.” This was what God was wanting from the very start. When they reached the place where they confessed their sin, then God permitted them to have the victory, even though they were still walking in the flesh, even though they were carrying things to extreme measures.

Indulge me just a few minutes, as I suggest to you the last thing that I want you to learn from this story here in the book of Judges. It is an important lesson. It is something I believe many of us are guilty of at times–the foolishness of standing by things done in the energy of the flesh. I beg to suggest to you, Beloved, that if they had asked God how to handle this to begin with, it would not have been handled the way it was. When we insist on having our own way, then God lets us have our own way.

Refusing to Recognize Their Mistake

The foolishness of standing by what they had done in the energy of the flesh is illustrated by the fact that they made a foolish vow, recorded in chapter 21, verse 1:

Judges 21

1Now the men of Israel had sworn in Mizpeh, saying, There shall not any of us give his daughter unto Benjamin to wife.

Why they made a vow like that, nobody knows, except in their anger to take vengeance upon these people, without due consideration for due process of law and order, they said, “We will not give any of our daughters to Benjamin to wife.”

After they had been up to the tabernacle the third time, it would have been much better for them, when they saw that the tribe was about to become extinct, to say, “God, release us from the vow. It was made in the energy of the flesh, and it isn't sensible, and it isn't practical. We have sinned.” But no, they wouldn't do that. Instead of saying to God that they sinned when they made this vow, instead of saying that they had sinned in practically causing the extinction of this tribe, they began to blame God for what was done.

Notice in verse 2, of chapter 21:

Judges 21

2And the people came to the house of God, and abode there till even before God, and lifted up their voices, and wept sore;
3And said, O LORD God of Israel, why is this come to pass in Israel, that there should be to day one tribe lacking in Israel?

“God, what did you do this for?” That is what they were saying. They did it; God didn't; and the extinction of the tribe would not have been a necessity had they simply said, “We made a foolish mistake. Let's give our daughters to our brethren in Benjamin for their wives.”

But they, like us, try to get out of things by blaming God, and when that doesn't work, they did what most of us do. They manifested further energy of the flesh, and that further energy of the flesh we already referred to when we gave you a survey of the background of the story. They said, “What could we do to get some wives for these men of Jabesh-gilead, who didn't come up to battle?” They did another horrible thing; they killed all the men; then they killed all the women who had been married; then they killed all the children, and the only ones they left were virgins. What for? To correct, to undo, a foolish mistake that they themselves had done. How much simpler it would have been to have said, “God, we're fools, and we're not going to keep the vow that we made. Release us from it.” But instead, in order to stand by a foolish vow, in the energy of the flesh, they slaughtered another group of people.

Compromising the Truth

The last thing that I would like to point out is that in order to stand by the thing that they did in the flesh, they compromised the truth. This eventually happens. Beloved, if we do not confess our sins, and if we do not acknowledge before God that we have acted in the flesh when we have acted in the flesh, then we wind up compromising the truth.

How did they do it? We have told you that in relation to the background of the story. They said, “We have promised not to give our daughters to wives for Benjamin; but at the feast of Shiloh when our daughters go out to dance in the fields (somewhat like a Maypole dance), let's get the word out to the men of Benjamin that we will be looking the other way.” And they slipped in and stole two hundred of the women of the tribes of Israel. You see, this is compromising the truth. Beloved, this represents a summary of the book of Judges. It's what happens when there is no king and when every man does that which is right in his own eyes.

Conclusion

Let's make a very personal application and say that this is what will happen in your life because it is possible to have anarchy in individual lives. If the Lord Jesus Christ is not Lord of your life, there is anarchy there. Anything and everything can rule, and if He is not King, the flesh will be making its demand, and you will be following it and anything can happen.

I wish that I could speak with confidence when I say I would love to see the day when the terrible conditions now in this land would be brought to an end and we would see law and order again. I can't speak with the confidence with which I would like to speak, but I do say to you that whether we will live to see such a condition in our land, you can see it in your own life. If there is a need to admit that there has been no king in your life, and you have been doing the thing that is right in your own eyes, then admit it, and let the Holy Spirit control, and order will be brought out of chaos.


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