Judges 21 & Acts 25

Judges 21

    Now the men of Israel had sworn at Mizpah, “No one of us shall give his daughter in marriage to Benjamin.” And the people came to Bethel and sat there till evening before God, and they lifted up their voices and wept bitterly. And they said, “O LORD, the God of Israel, why has this happened in Israel, that today there should be one tribe lacking in Israel?” And the next day the people rose early and built there an altar and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. And the people of Israel said, “Which of all the tribes of Israel did not come up in the assembly to the LORD?” For they had taken a great oath concerning him who did not come up to the LORD to Mizpah, saying, “He shall surely be put to death.” And the people of Israel had compassion for Benjamin their brother and said, “One tribe is cut off from Israel this day. What shall we do for wives for those who are left, since we have sworn by the LORD that we will not give them any of our daughters for wives?”

    And they said, “What one is there of the tribes of Israel that did not come up to the LORD to Mizpah?” And behold, no one had come to the camp from Jabesh-gilead, to the assembly. For when the people were mustered, behold, not one of the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead was there. So the congregation sent 12,000 of their bravest men there and commanded them, “Go and strike the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead with the edge of the sword; also the women and the little ones. This is what you shall do: every male and every woman that has lain with a male you shall devote to destruction.” And they found among the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead 400 young virgins who had not known a man by lying with him, and they brought them to the camp at Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan.

    Then the whole congregation sent word to the people of Benjamin who were at the rock of Rimmon and proclaimed peace to them. And Benjamin returned at that time. And they gave them the women whom they had saved alive of the women of Jabesh-gilead, but they were not enough for them. And the people had compassion on Benjamin because the LORD had made a breach in the tribes of Israel.

    Then the elders of the congregation said, “What shall we do for wives for those who are left, since the women are destroyed out of Benjamin?” And they said, “There must be an inheritance for the survivors of Benjamin, that a tribe not be blotted out from Israel. Yet we cannot give them wives from our daughters.” For the people of Israel had sworn, “Cursed be he who gives a wife to Benjamin.” So they said, “Behold, there is the yearly feast of the LORD at Shiloh, which is north of Bethel, on the east of the highway that goes up from Bethel to Shechem, and south of Lebonah.” And they commanded the people of Benjamin, saying, “Go and lie in ambush in the vineyards and watch. If the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in the dances, then come out of the vineyards and snatch each man his wife from the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin. And when their fathers or their brothers come to complain to us, we will say to them, ‘Grant them graciously to us, because we did not take for each man of them his wife in battle, neither did you give them to them, else you would now be guilty.’” And the people of Benjamin did so and took their wives, according to their number, from the dancers whom they carried off. Then they went and returned to their inheritance and rebuilt the towns and lived in them. And the people of Israel departed from there at that time, every man to his tribe and family, and they went out from there every man to his inheritance.

    In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

(Judges 21 ESV)

Acts 25

    Now three days after Festus had arrived in the province, he went up to Jerusalem from Caesarea. And the chief priests and the principal men of the Jews laid out their case against Paul, and they urged him, asking as a favor against Paul that he summon him to Jerusalem—because they were planning an ambush to kill him on the way. Festus replied that Paul was being kept at Caesarea and that he himself intended to go there shortly. “So,” said he, “let the men of authority among you go down with me, and if there is anything wrong about the man, let them bring charges against him.”

    After he stayed among them not more than eight or ten days, he went down to Caesarea. And the next day he took his seat on the tribunal and ordered Paul to be brought. When he had arrived, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing many and serious charges against him that they could not prove. Paul argued in his defense, “Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I committed any offense.” But Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, “Do you wish to go up to Jerusalem and there be tried on these charges before me?” But Paul said, “I am standing before Caesar's tribunal, where I ought to be tried. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you yourself know very well. If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death. But if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar.” Then Festus, when he had conferred with his council, answered, “To Caesar you have appealed; to Caesar you shall go.”

    Now when some days had passed, Agrippa the king and Bernice arrived at Caesarea and greeted Festus. And as they stayed there many days, Festus laid Paul's case before the king, saying, “There is a man left prisoner by Felix, and when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews laid out their case against him, asking for a sentence of condemnation against him. I answered them that it was not the custom of the Romans to give up anyone before the accused met the accusers face to face and had opportunity to make his defense concerning the charge laid against him. So when they came together here, I made no delay, but on the next day took my seat on the tribunal and ordered the man to be brought. When the accusers stood up, they brought no charge in his case of such evils as I supposed. Rather they had certain points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus, who was dead, but whom Paul asserted to be alive. Being at a loss how to investigate these questions, I asked whether he wanted to go to Jerusalem and be tried there regarding them. But when Paul had appealed to be kept in custody for the decision of the emperor, I ordered him to be held until I could send him to Caesar.” Then Agrippa said to Festus, “I would like to hear the man myself.” “Tomorrow,” said he, “you will hear him.”

    So on the next day Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp, and they entered the audience hall with the military tribunes and the prominent men of the city. Then, at the command of Festus, Paul was brought in. And Festus said, “King Agrippa and all who are present with us, you see this man about whom the whole Jewish people petitioned me, both in Jerusalem and here, shouting that he ought not to live any longer. But I found that he had done nothing deserving death. And as he himself appealed to the emperor, I decided to go ahead and send him. But I have nothing definite to write to my lord about him. Therefore I have brought him before you all, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that, after we have examined him, I may have something to write. For it seems to me unreasonable, in sending a prisoner, not to indicate the charges against him.”

(Acts 25 ESV)

Something to Consider

Judges 21: After regretting an oath that would cut off the tribe of Benjamin from existing among the tribes of Israel, the other eleven tribes decide to make a provision for the tribe of Benjamin. However, their plan of provision comes only through further disunity, disaster and disorder. The book of Judges comes to its tragic conclusion leaving the reader with a sympathetic desire for a saving king to come and deliver Israel from its own disastrous depravity. 

The site of the horrific rape and murder of a Levite’s concubine took place within the Benjaminite city of Gibeah (Judges 19). Therefore, an assembly of the other eleven tribes teamed up to fight against Benjamin and to devote the entire tribe to utter and complete annihilation. Ironically, God had commanded the Israelites to ‘devote to destruction’ all the Canaanites living in the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 20), but here we see the depths of Israel’s depravity in the way they have decided to devote one of their own tribes to complete destruction instead. 

Realizing and regretting their oath that "no one of us shall give his daughter in marriage to Benjamin", the other eleven tribes decide to provide women for the Benjaminites through an extremely despicable and distorted two-fold plan. First, they decided to attack a group of their own people who had not joined in the civil war in order to punish them on the one hand and to capture their virgin women on the other. The captured women would then be allotted to the Benjaminite men to take as wives. Next, they encouraged the remaining Benjaminite men who had no wives to “lie in ambush” outside the yearly feast in Shiloh in order to “snatch” a wife for themselves from the Israelite virgins that may participate in the dancing ceremonies associated with the feast. They attempted to justify this plan by saying this was a way in which Benjaminite men could be granted wives from among Israel without going to battle for them and without the other eleven tribes technically ‘giving’ the Benjaminites women from their own tribes (they were technically ‘taken’ rather than ‘given’). 

And again we are given the reason for such reckless behavior in Israel, “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” 

The stage is now set for the coming of a king named David with whom God would make an everlasting covenant that would further prepare the way for the ultimate King who would ultimately deliver His people from their own sinful depravity.