Lesson 7: Chapters 19-21
Part III: The Depravity of the Israelites through Immorality and Civil War

Beloved Heavenly Father,
We know that we disappoint You and damage our relationship with You when we are weak and yield to the temptations to sin. Too often we judge our actions by what seems to be "right" in our eyes instead of what is right according to the moral law You gave us in the Ten Commandments and in the teachings of Your Divine Son, Jesus Christ. The grace of complete forgiveness for sins and reconciliation with You was not available to the Israelites under the Sinai Covenant. Yet, they had Your gift of partial reconciliation through the blood atonement of animal sacrifice followed by the pronouncement of forgiveness for their inadvertent sins through Your ordained priests. We are grateful, Father, that in this Final Age of mankind that You have given us the means to completely reconcile ourselves with You through the unblemished sacrifice and atoning blood of our Savior, Jesus Christ. It is through Jesus' sacrifice, and by the agency of His priestly representative, that our sins are forgiven and we return to communion with You and Your Church. Send Your Holy Spirit to guide us in our last lesson on the sin that pervaded the lives of many of the covenant people in the age of Israel's Judges. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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But if you are not doing right, Sin is crouching at the door, hungry to get you. You can still master him.
Genesis 4:7b

For it is I, Yahweh, who am your God. You have been sanctified and have become holy because I am holy ... Yes, I it is I, Yahweh, who brought you out of Egypt to be your God: you must therefore be holy because I am holy.
Leviticus 11:44-45

Therefore, whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall. No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out so that you may be able to bear it.
1 Corinthians 10:12-13 (NAB)

The accounts of the deplorable behavior of the Israelites and their Levitical religious leaders continues with the narrative of a Levite from one of the Levitical cities within the lands of the tribe of Ephraim and his concubine that will lead to civil war within the Promised Land. The conditions in Israel at the end of the era of the Judges puts the entire destiny of the chosen people in jeopardy, but God will not allow Satan and his influence to undo His divine plan for mankind's salvation, in which the nation of Israel has such a vital role.

Chapters 17-21 cover the third section of the Book of Judges: Israel's sins of immorality and civil war. This last section of the Book of Judges can be divided into three parts. We covered part one in last week's lesson. In this lesson, chapters 19-21 address:

The Sin of Immoral Conduct

The Failure of Israel Through Disunity and Civil War

The events in chapters 17-20 take place early in the era of the Judges when Aaron's grandson Phinehas was Israel's high priest (Judg 20:27-28). Phinehas succeeded to the high priesthood upon the death of his father, Eleazar son of Aaron, not long after the death of Joshua at the end of the first phase of the conquest of Canaan (Josh 24:33).(1)

Chapter 19: The Crime at Gibeah

The days of punishment have come, the days of retribution are here; Israel knows it! The prophet is mad and the inspired man [man of the Spirit] a fool! Great has been your guilt; all the greater then the hostility! The watchman of Ephraim is with my God: it is the prophet. And a fowler's trap is placed on all his paths; and in the shrine of his God there is enmity towards him. They have become deeply corrupt as in the days of Gibeah; he will remember their guilt, he will punish their sins.
Hosea 9:7-9


Since the days of Gibeah, Israel, you have sinned. There they have taken their stand, and will not war overtake the guilty at Gibeah? I am coming to punish them; nations will muster against them to punish them for their two crimes.
Hosea 10:9

Judges 19:1-10 ~ The Levite of Ephraim and his Concubine
1 In those days, when there was no king in Israel, there was a man, a Levite, whose home was deep in the highlands of Ephraim. He took as concubine a woman from Bethlehem in Judah. 2 In a fit of anger his concubine left him and went back to her father's house at Bethlehem in Judah, and she stayed there for some time, four months. 3 Her husband [is/ish = man] then set out after her, to appeal to her affections and fetch her back; he had his servant and two donkeys with him. As he was arriving at the house of the girl's father, the father saw him and came happily to meet him. 4 His father-in-law, the girl's father, kept him there; and he stayed with him for three days; they ate and drank and spent the nights there.   5 On the fourth day they got up early, and the Levite was preparing to leave when the girl's father said to his son-in-law, 'Have something to eat to gather strength; you can leave later.'  6 So they sat down and began eating and drinking, the two of them together; then the girl's father said to the young man, 'Please agree to spend tonight here too and enjoy yourself.' 7 And when the man got up to leave, the father-in-law pressed him again, and he spent another night there. 8 On the fifth day, the Levite got up early to leave, but the girl's father said to him, 'Please gather strength first!' So they stayed on until the sun began to go down, and the two men had a meal together.   9 The husband [is/ish = man] was getting up to leave with his concubine and his servant when his father-in-law, the girl's father, said, 'Look, day is fading into evening.   Please spend the night here. Look, the day is nearly over.  Spend the night here and enjoy yourself. Then, early tomorrow, you can leave on your journey and go back home.' 10 But the man, refusing to stay the night, got up and went on his way until he arrived within sight of Jebus, this is, Jerusalem. He had with him two donkeys saddled, his concubine and his servant.
[..] =
literal translation IBHE, vol. I, pages 688-89. Is was common for a wife to call her husband "my man," and therefore the translators use the word "husband;" however, a concubine called her master "my lord"/my master," adon or baal (see Hos 2:18/16).

The phrase: In those days, when there was no king in Israel, is repeated from 17:6 and will be repeated again in 21:25 at the very end of the Book of Judges narrative. Notice the repetitions in the narrative. The words "the girl's father" is repeated six times (19:3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9). Also notice that this is the third mention of "Bethlehem in Judah."   Bethlehem in Judah will be mentioned seven times in Judges (see 17:7, 8, 9; 19:1, 2, 18 twice) and prepares the reader for the story of Ruth where the majority of the action takes place in Bethlehem of Judah in the era of the Judges (Rt 1:1, 2, 19, 22; 2:4; 4:11). Bethlehem of Judah will also be the hometown of David, the great-grandson of Ruth and Boaz, who was anointed by God to be Israel's second and greatest king (1 Sam 16:4, 19; 2 Sam 5:1-5).   Centuries later, the prophet Micah (5th century BC) will reveal that the Redeemer-Messiah will be born in the little town of Bethlehem in Judah (Mic 5:1-3).

This is the story of another Levite. According to 19:1, this Levite is from the highlands of Ephraim.
Question: What is familiar concerning the territory of Ephraim and the town of Bethlehem from the last story in chapters 17-18 (see 17:1, 8; 18:2, 13)?
Answer: Mt. Ephraim is the same territory where Micah lived and where the renegade Levite in that narrative came to live with Micah to be his hired priest.  Levites from Mt. Ephraim are featured in both narratives, but the starting point is different. The previous Levite left Bethlehem to travel to the highlands of Ephraim and this Levite travels from the highlands of Mt. Ephraim to Bethlehem.

Question: This is the second time a concubine (pileges) has been mentioned in the Book of Judges. When was a concubine mentioned previously, and what was the significance? See Judg 8:31.
Answer: Abimelech's mother was a concubine, and the mention of her in the narrative was the introduction to the period of violence and chaos that was present during Abimelech's leadership of Israel.

A concubine was purchased as property. There was no marriage covenant, there was no wedding feast, and there was no dowry to support her in the event her husband died. Concubinage was a common practice in the ancient Near East, and there were laws concerning concubines in many ancient law codes. However, in the Law of the Sinai Covenant, there is not a single mention of concubines and there are no laws for regulating the relationship between a man and a concubine. There are laws, however, that regulate protection for virgin daughters, for the inheritance of daughters, for the sexual violation of daughters, and the protection of wives. As Jesus made clear in His statement concerning marriage and divorce in Matthew 19:3-9, God intended marriage to be between one man and one woman (Gen 2:24). No story in the Bible concerning a concubine or plural marriage is presented in a favorable light.

It is significant that this Levite is from territory in Ephraim; it identifies him as a member of the clan of Kohath. The Levites from the clan of Kohath occupied ten towns in the territories of the tribes of Ephraim, Dan, and the half-tribe of Manasseh (Josh 21:5-6). One of these towns would have been the ancestral home of Jonathan, the Levite in the earlier narrative since, as a descendant of Moses, he was of the clan of Kohath (Ex 6:18, 20; Judg 17:7-13). The Levites who were the servants of the chief priests and the teachers of the Law are not presented in a favorable light in these last five chapters of the Book of Judges.

The narrator does not tell us why the concubine decided to leave her master other than she was angry/distressed (19:2). Some other versions of this text add that "she was unfaithful to him," but this is probably a scribal addition to reflect badly on the concubine and favorably on the Levite.(2) Her possible reasons for leaving him and returning to her home in Bethlehem will become evident as we learn more about the character of the Levite. He does not attempt to reclaim his concubine for four months and then journeys with a servant and two donkeys to the home of her father.   Like the story of Samson, this narrative has the combination of threes and fours in the narrative.

Question: What is the father's attitude toward his daughter?
Answer: The man may be the "girl's father," as the narrator reminds us six times, but he does not act like a loving father. He completely ignores her and is more concerned with the Levite. It does not even appear that she takes a meal with them (19:6, 8).

Question: How long does the Levite stay with the girl's father?
Answer: He stays five days and four nights.

The girl's father seems to be enamored with the Levite, or perhaps he is just desperate for company. His favor does not seem to be extended to his daughter. The delay in leaving on the fifth day makes them late in starting out.   They are traveling north from Bethlehem, and when they have traveled the five miles toward Jerusalem (Jebus), it is growing dark.

Judges 19:11-21 ~ The Levite Spends the Night in the town of Gibeah
11 By the time they were near Jebus, the light was going fast. The servant said to the master, 'Come on, please, let us turn off into this Jebusite town and spend the night there.' 12 His master replied, We shall not turn off into a town of foreigners, of people who are not Israelites; we shall go on to Gibeah.' 13 He then said to his servant, 'Come on, we shall try to reach one or other of those places, either Gibeah or Ramah, and spend the night there.' 14 So they kept going and went on with their journey. As they approached Gibeah in Benjamin, the sun was setting. 15 So they turned that way to spend the night in Gibeah. Once inside, the Levite sat down in the town square, but no one offered to take them in for the night. 16 Eventually, an old man came along at nightfall from his work in the fields. He too was from the highlands of Ephraim, although he was living in Gibeah; the people of the place, however, were Benjaminites. 17 Looking up, he saw the traveler in the town square. 'Where are you going?' said the old man, 'And where have you come from?' 18 'We are on our way from Bethlehem in Judah to a place deep in the highlands of Ephraim. That is where I come from. I have been to Bethlehem in Judah and now I am going home, but no one has offered to take me into his house, 19 although we have straw and provender for our donkeys, and I also have bread and wine for myself, and this maidservant and the young man who is travelling with your servant; we are short of nothing.' 20 'Welcome,' said the old man. 'I shall see that you have all you want. You cannot spend the night in the square.' 21 So he took him into his house and gave the donkeys provender. The travelers washed their feet, then ate and drank.

The Jebusites occupied the ancient city of Jerusalem and were the original Canaanite inhabitants. The city was allotted to the tribe of Benjamin, but they had been unable to drive out the original inhabitants (Judg 1:21). As the narrative progresses, it becomes ironic that the Levite refused to rest in the town belonging to Canaanites because he believed he would be safer in an Israelite town.

There were several towns named Gibeah in Israel. The Hebrew word gibeah means "hill" as opposed to mountain. There was a Gibeah in Judah (Josh 15:57) that was the hometown of Aaron's son and successor, the High Priest Eleazar. It was also the home town of his son and successor Phinehas, the high priest during this episode in Judges (Josh 24:33; Judg 20:27-28). The town named Gibeah in our story is in the territory of Benjamin.  The towns of Gibeah and Ramah mentioned in verse 13 were among the fourteen towns allotted to the tribe of Benjamin (Josh 18:21-28). The town was located about five miles north of Jerusalem.  Ramah was about three miles beyond Gibeah and will be the home town of Israel's last Judge, the prophet-judge Samuel (1 Sam 7:17). You may recall that Deborah judged between Ramah and Bethel (Judg 4:5).

The town square was the common place for travelers to wait for a kind person to take them in for the night, but the Levite finds that no one will welcome him. It is a situation in contrast to his reception at Bethlehem and suggests there may be problems with the Benjaminite population of Gibeah.
Question: Who finally takes in the travelers?
Answer: A man from the tribe of Ephraim who is living as a resident alien in Gibeah.

The old man who finally takes them in probably feels a bond with the Levite since he is also from the highlands of Ephraim. He provides for the Levite's donkeys, even though the Levite has provisions for both the animals and his companions, and the old man gives them water to wash their feet. It was the common practice for travelers to wash their feet upon entering a dwelling (Gen 19:2; 1 Sam 25:41; 2 Sam 11:8; Jn 13:5).

Judges 19:22-25 ~ The Crime of the Rabble of Gibeah
22 While they were enjoying themselves, some townsmen, scoundrels [worthless sons of men], came crowding around the house; they battered on the door and said to the old man, master of the house, 'Send out the man who went into your house, we should like to have intercourse with him [that we may know him]!' 23 The master of the house went out to them and said, 'No, brothers, please do not be so wicked. Since this man is now under my roof, do not commit such an infamy. 24 Here is my daughter; she is a virgin: I shall bring her out to you.   Ill-treat [abuse] her, do what you please with her [what is good in your own eyes], but do not commit such an infamy against this man.' 25 But the men would not listen to him. So the Levite took hold of his concubine and brought her out to them. They had intercourse [knew] with her and ill-treated [abused] her all night till morning; when dawn was breaking they let her go [discarded her].
[..] =
literal translation IBHE, vol. I, pages 690.

Question: How is the crowd of men characterized in verse 22 and what is their demand?
Answer: They are described as native Gibeonites who are "scoundrels," or literally "worthless sons of men."  They demand to have sex with the Levite who is a stranger.

The Hebrew word translated as "worthless" is beliya'al.  The word is used twenty-seven times in the Old Testament with reference to people of evil intent or bad character (Webb, page 466). It is derived from the word belial, meaning "evil", "wicked." These are not all the men of Gibeah but certain evil men intent on homosexual rape who represent a class of people who are symptomatic of the depraved state of society in the town.
Question: What was God's law concerning homosexual acts? See Lev 18:22; 20:13.
Answer: Such acts of immorality were expressly condemned and the penalty for such acts committed by an Israelite was death.

The immoral practices of homosexuality and male and female prostitution were common among the Canaanites and were condemned and despised by God as an abomination (Gen 18:20-21; 19:5, 13; Lev 20:22-23).   Homosexual acts were also condemned under New Testament moral law (Rom 1:24-27; 1 Cor 6:9-10; 1 Tim 1:10; 2 Pt 2:6-7; Jude 7). The Catechism of Pius X calls homosexuality a sin that "cries out to Heaven for vengeance, " and the universal Catholic Catechism states: "Basing itself on Sacred Scripture which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered" (CCC 2357, also see 2358-59).

Question: These events recall what similar event in the era of the Patriarchs when "worthless men" (same Hebrew word as in Judg 19:22) threatened strangers with homosexual rape? What are the similarities between the two events and what happened to the offending town and its men?   See Gen 19:1-11.
Answer: The event that reveals the moral depravity of the some of the men of the Benjaminite town of Gibeah recalls an event in the city of Sodom told in Genesis 19 where the moral depravity of the men of Sodom led to God's judgment in the total destruction of the city. The two events are strikingly similar:

Genesis Chapter 19:1-8 Judges Chapter 19:11-24
The travelers reach Sodom in the evening (Gen 19:1a).   The travelers reach Gibeah in the evening (Judg 19:11).
Lot invites the strangers to stay in his home for the night (Gen 19:1b-3). A man invites the travelers to stay in his home for the night (Judg 19:20-21).
They wash their feet upon entering Lot's house and have a meal (Gen 19:2). They wash their feet upon entering the man's house and have a meal (Judg 19:21b).
A crowd of "worthless men" demand to have sex with the guests in Lot's house: Send out the men who went into your house that we may know them (Gen 19:4-5).* A crowd of "worthless men" demand to have sex with the guest in the man's house: Send out the man who went into your house that we may know him (Judg 19:22).*
Lot tries to dissuade them (Gen 19:6-7). The man tries to dissuade them (Judg 19:23).
Lot offers his virgin daughters instead, placing the obligation of hospitality over the protection of his virgin daughters (Gen 19:8). The man offers his virgin daughter instead, placing the obligation of hospitality over the protection of his virgin daughter (Judg 19:24).

*The words Send out the man who went into your house that we may know him in the literal Hebrew text of Judges 19:22b is exactly the same wording as in Genesis 19:5b except "man" is in the plural.

The inspired writer intends for us to compare the event at Gibeah with the event that occurred at Sodom centuries earlier and to understand the moral implications for the Levite, his host, and the city of Gibeah.

Question: What does the comparison to the events at Sodom demonstrate for this episode?
Answer: This episode demonstrates the gross misunderstanding among the unfaithful Israelites of what is considered moral conduct. They are behaving like the Canaanites just as God warned they would.   The Israelite who is the host is so morally bankrupt that he cannot discern the difference between the obligations of hospitality and the obligation of a father to protect the lives of innocent women under his roof! He behaves like Lot when faced with the same crisis in Genesis 19:4-8. However, in that episode, the angels, who were guests in Lot's house, protected his daughters and intervened to prevent Lot's sin in sacrificing them for the sake of a misdirected sense of the obligation of hospitality (Gen 19:10-11).

Question: In what earlier episode in the Book of Judges did a man sacrifice his daughter because of a perverted sense of morality? See Judg 11:30-39.
Answer: This is the second time in Judges that a virgin daughter has been sacrificed to a father's perverted sense of moral obligation. The Judge Jephthah sacrificed his daughter in order to keep an unholy vow that was in essence a bribe for God to give him victory.

The Levite is no better. He is supposed to be a teacher of God's laws and a protector of the innocent.
Question: What does the Levite do and why?
Answer: He pushes the concubine out the door into the hands of the mob. He is a coward trying to preserve his own life, and he is therefore willing to forfeit the life of his concubine to whom he has the obligation of protection. He purchased her as "property" and he treats her like property that can be used to his advantage and discarded when no longer useful.

Both men have broken the commandment against becoming an accomplice in the death or possible death of an innocent person (Ex 23:6; Dt 16:20). The woman in effect became a bribe to save the Levite's life in violation of the law (Ex 23:8; Dt 27:25). Instead of fearing the mob, both men should have feared God and His judgment in cursing them for their moral failure (Dt 27:26).

Question: The inspired writer spares us the graphic details but uses what three verbs in quick succession to describe the horror?
Answer: They "knew" her, they "abused" her, and they "discarded" her.

Judges 19:26-30 ~ The Levite Seeks Revenge
26 At daybreak the girl came and fell on the threshold of her husband's [lord's] host, and she stayed there until it was light. 27 In the morning her husband [lord] got up and opening the door of the house, was going out to continue his journey when he saw the woman, his concubine, lying at the door of the house with her hands on the threshold. 28 'Get up,' he said, 'we must leave!' There was no answer. He then [ha-is = the man] loaded her on his donkey and began the journey home. 29 Having reached his house, he took his knife, took hold of his concubine and cut her, limb by limb, into twelve pieces; he then sent her throughout the territory of Israel. 30 He gave instructions to his messengers, 'This is what you are to say to the Israelites, "Have anything like this been done since the day when the Israelites came out of Egypt until today? Take this to heart, discuss it; then give your verdict."' And all who saw it declared, Never has such a thing been done or been seen since the Israelites came out of Egypt until today.
[..] =
literal translation IBHE, vol. I, pages 691.

The Levite was prepared to leave in the morning as though nothing has happened. It does not appear that he intended to leave with the concubine until he saw her on the threshold. Notice that twice in this passage the Levite is referred to as her "lord" (adoneyha). In the beginning of the narrative the Levite was "her man" but now he is "her lord" and "the man."   There is nothing personal about the relationship. He was no true "man/husband" to the woman.

Question: How does the inspired writer define the Levite's relationship with the girl now?
Answer: His relationship with her is defined in terms or rule and power, using the word "lord" twice. She is his property and nothing more.

Question: What is his attitude when he sees her and what additional information does his behavior tell us about his character?
Answer: His is completely callous concerning her condition. He is not only a coward but a heartless man. We now understand why she left him.

Question: What does he do with the concubine when he reaches his destination?
Answer: He cuts her body into twelve pieces and sends one piece to each of the tribes of Israel.

Question: When did the narrator say the concubine died?
Answer: We are not told when she died.

The question that remains unanswered is: did the violence of the gang rape kill her, or did the Levite kill her? The narrator does not say that she died on the threshold of the house or on the journey. In addition, the Levite would have considered her so "unclean" as to never have intimate relations with her again; therefore she had no value in his eyes. We must accept the possibility that it was the Levite who killed the concubine, and he has desecrated her body (compare with Adoni-Bezek's death in 1:8; Othniel in 3:11; King Eglon in 3:25; Sisera in 4:22; Gideon in 8:32; Abimelech in 9:55; etc). The story of Judges has come full circle: the violence in Judges began with the mutilation of King Adoni-Bezek (Judg 1:5-6) and now the events surrounding the mutilation of the body of an Israelite girl will conclude the violence in the Book of Judges. In sending the girl's body in parts to the twelve tribes of Israel with his message, the Levite is calling the tribes to a National Assembly with the intention of receiving a judicial verdict to punish the Benjaminites of Gibeah.

Chapter 20: Civil War

Judges 20:1-11 ~ The Israelites Vow to Avenge the Crime at Gibeah
1 The Israelites then all turned out and, as one man, the entire community from Dan to Beersheba, including Gilead, assembled in Yahweh's presence at Mizpah. 2 The leaders of the entire people, of all the tribes of Israel, were present at this assembly of God's people, four hundred thousand trained infantry. 3 The Benjaminites heard that the Israelites had gone up to Mizpah. The Israelites then said, 'Tell us how this crime was committed.' 4 The Levite, husband [man] of the murdered woman, spoke in reply and said, 5 'The men of Gibeah ganged up against me and, during the night, surrounded the house where I was lodging. They intended to murder me. They raped my concubine to death. 6 I then took [seized] my concubine, cut her up and sent her, throughout the entire territory of the heritage of Israel, since these men had committed a shameful act, an infamy, in Israel. 7 Now, all you Israelites, discuss the matter and give your decision here and now.' 8 The whole people stood up as one man and said, 'None of us will go home, none of us will go back to his house! 9 And this is what we are now going to do to Gibeah. We shall draw lots 10 and, throughout the tribes of Israel, select ten men out of a hundred, a hundred out of a thousand and a thousand out of ten thousand to collect food for the people, so that, on their arrival, the latter may treat Gibeah in Benjamin as this infamy perpetrated in Israel deserves.' 11 Thus, as one man, all the men of Israel mustered against the town.
[..] =
literal translation IBHE, vol. I, pages 692.

Question: Did all twelve tribes answer the summons to a national assembly?
Answer: Apparently all the tribes with the exception of Benjamin sent representatives to the National Assembly at Mizpah.

All the tribes respond except Benjamin who only "hears" about the call to assemble. Their failure to attend is the beginning of their separation from Israel. The wording "from Dan to Beersheba" refers to the land of Israel from the farthest northern community of Dan (Judg 18:28-29) to the southernmost city of Beersheba in the territory of Judah (Josh 15:29) and includes the tribes on the east side of the Jordan River. Ironically, the response of the tribes is greater than any of the judges received in their call to arms to defend Israel.

The tribes assemble at Mizpah ("watchtower"). There were several sites that bore this name: Mizpah of Judah, Mizpah of Gilead, Mizpah of Gad, the land of Mizpah, and Mizpah of Moab for example. They are probably meeting at Mizpah in Judah (Josh 15:38). It will also be the site of future National Assemblies in 1 Samuel 7:5-15 and 10:17.

Question: When questioned by the tribal representative, how does the Levite "spin" his story?
Answer: He tells the basic story but omits that the men sought to have sex with them, that he gave his concubine over to the crowd to save his own life, and he says that it was all the men of Gibeah who threatened him and not just "worthless sons of men" of the town. He says she "died" (which the narrator did not include), but then says that "he took/seized his concubine and cut her up" instead of saying he cut up her corpse or lifeless body.

Question: What plans do the Israelites make for the coming battle?
Answer: The Israelites decide that ten percent of the assembled troops are to provide logistical support for the warriors while the rest will go into battle to punish the sin of the Benjaminites of Gibeah.

Judges 20:12-13 ~ The Refusal of the Benjaminites to Punish Gibeah
12 The tribes of the Israel sent messengers throughout the tribe of Benjamin to say, 'What is this crime which has been committed in your territory? 13 Now, give up these men, these scoundrels [worthless sons of men], living in Gibeah, so that we can put them to death and wipe out this evil from Israel.' The Benjaminites, however, would not listen to their brother Israelites.  [..] = literal translation IBHE, vol. I, pages 692.

Question: Why did the Benjaminites refuse to listen to their brother Israelites?
Answer: Benjaminites had a misdirected greater allegiance to their kinsmen at Gibeah despite their crimes than to either the Law of Yahweh or to their Israelite kinsmen as a whole.

Question: Why was it a serious offense for the Benjaminites to fail to attend the National Assembly and to disregard the decision of the assembly? See Dt 17:8-13.
Answer: The National Assembly was a judicial hearing as much as a military muster in which the decision was reached that the men of Gibeah must be held accountable. Under the Law of the Sinai Covenant, the failure to obey a judicial decision was death.

According to the Law, the death penalty required the testimony of two or more witnesses (see Num 35:30; Dt 17:6-7; 19:1), but perhaps the ruling council of the Assembly questioned the Levite's servant. There is no mention of an attempt to save the old man who was the Levite's host; his life was obviously not important to the Levite. Like Abimelech, the Levite is an anti-judge whose actions almost destroy Israel instead of saving Israel. The call to action is not only a National Assembly and a judicial hearing but a military muster and a call to war that will divide the tribes of Israel.

Question: Who was the ancestral father of the tribe of Benjamin from among the sons of Jacob-Israel and what saintly apostle of the New Testament was a member of the tribe of Benjamin? Gen 30:22-24; 35:16-20; Phil 3:5.
Answer: Benjamin was the twelfth and last son of Jacob-Israel by his beloved wife Rachel, and he was the brother of Rachel's other son Joseph who became the governor of Egypt. St. Paul identified himself as a Benjaminite.

The War Against the Tribe of Benjamin

Judges 20:14-25 ~ The First Two Engagements Against Benjamin at Gibeah
14 The Benjaminites left their towns and mustered at Gibeah to fight the Israelites. 15 At that time, a count was made of the Benjaminites from the various towns: there were twenty-six thousand swordsmen; and the count excluded the inhabitants of Gibeah. 16 In this great army there were seven hundred first rate left-handers, every man of whom could sling a stone at a hair and not miss it. 17 A count was also held of the men of Israel, excluding Benjamin: there were four hundred thousand men, all experienced swordsmen. 18 They moved off, up to Bethel, to consult God. The Israelites put the question, 'Which of us is to go first into battle against the Benjaminites?' And Yahweh replied, 'Judah is to go first.' 19 In the morning, the Israelites moved off and pitched their camp over against Gibeah. 20 The men of Israel advanced to do battle with Benjamin; they drew up their battle line in front of Gibeah. 21 But the Benjaminites sallied out from Gibeah and that day massacred twenty-two thousand Israelites.   22 The Israelites went and wept before Yahweh until evening; they then consulted Yahweh; they asked, 'Shall we join battle again with the sons of our brother Benjamin?' Yahweh replied, 'March against him!' 23 The army of the men of Israel then took fresh heart and again drew up their battle line in the same place as the day before. 24 This second day, the Israelites advanced against the Benjaminites, 25 and, this second day, Benjamin sallied out from Gibeah to meet them and massacred another eighteen thousand Israelites, all experienced swordsmen.

Verse 16 is another mention of the left-handedness of the Benjaminites (see Judg 3:15) and a comment on their military expertise. For the third time, the Israelites again assemble at the Sanctuary at Bethel, and for the second time they consult Yahweh (Judg 1:1; 2:1). You may recall that in Judges 2:1 the messenger of Yahweh went from Gilgal to Bethel to call a covenant lawsuit against the Israelites in the presence of a National Assembly for the Israelite's failures in fidelity to the covenant.

Question: Which tribe is selected by Yahweh to be the vanguard of the attack?
Answer: The tribe of Judah is selected out of the tribes to be the vanguard of the attack.

Since the rendezvous with Yahweh at Mt. Sinai, the tribe of Judah, the largest of the twelve tribes, has been regularly singled out to have a prominent role. The tribe of Judah led the march in the forty years spent in the wilderness, and they were chosen by Yahweh to renew the conquest in chapter one (see Judg 1:2; also see Num 2:5-4; 7:11; 10:13-14).  King David, his descendants who are the Davidic kings of Judah, his descendants Joseph and Mary of Nazareth, and Mary's son Jesus are all from the tribe of Judah.

Twice the Israelite forces attack the Benjaminites and are soundly defeated. Twice they inquired of Yahweh through His High Priest Phinehas and are told to engage in battle.(3)
Question: Why is it that God gives no other directions for the attack or the promise of victory as He provided for Moses and Joshua in their battles?
Answer: Perhaps it is because in the previous attempts to consult Yahweh they offered no sin sacrifices to prepare themselves as holy warriors.

Judges 20:26-28 ~ Yahweh Promises Israel Victory Over the Benjaminites
26 Then all the Israelites and the whole people went off the Bethel; they wept and sat in Yahweh's presence; they fasted all day till the evening and presented burnt offerings and communion sacrificed before Yahweh. 27 The Israelites then consulted Yahweh. In those days, the Ark of the Covenant of God was there, 28 and Phinehas son of Eleazer, son of Aaron was its minister at the time. They said, 'Ought I to go into battle against the sons of my brother Benjamin again, or should I stop?' Yahweh replied, March! For tomorrow I shall deliver him into your hands.'

Question: What is different about the third time the Israelites consult Yahweh at His Sanctuary? See Lev 1:1-9 (whole burnt offering); 4:13-21 (communal sin sacrifice); 7:1/11-15/5 (communion/peace offering).
Answer: They fasted in repentance and presumably offered sin sacrifices for the entire community. They also offered whole burnt offerings and then communion sacrifices which they would have eaten in God's presence. This time God promises them victory.

Judges 20:27 ~  The Israelites then consulted Yahweh. In those days, the Ark of the Covenant of God was there, 28 and Phinehas son of Eleazer, son of Aaron was its minister at the time.
That the Ark of the Covenant was at Bethel means the Sanctuary was there. The Ark of the Covenant (also called the Ark of Testimony) was kept in the Holy Place of the Sanctuary. It was where God's Presence dwelled in the midst of His people, just as God promised the Israelites at Mt. Sinai: There I shall come to meet you; from above the mercy-seat, from between the two winged creatures which are on the Ark of the Testimony, I shall give you all my orders for the Israelites (Ex 25:22; see the chart of the Tabernacle in Yahweh's Sanctuary).(4)

Judges 20:29-48 ~ The Defeat of the Tribe of Benjamin
29 Israel then positioned troops in ambush all round Gibeah. 30 On the third day the Israelites marched against the Benjaminites and, as before, drew up their line in front of Gibeah. 31 The Benjaminites sallied out to engage the people and let themselves be drawn away from the town. As before, they began by killing those of the people who were on the roads, one of which runs up to Bethel, and the other to Gibeah through open country: some thirty men of Israel. 32 The Benjaminites decided, 'We shall run away and draw them away from the town along the roads.'   33 All the Israelites then retreated and re-formed at Baal-Tamar, while the Israelite troops in ambush surged from their positions to the west of Gibeah. 34 Ten thousand picked men, chosen from the whole of Israel, launched their attack on Gibeah. The battle was fierce; and the others knew nothing of the disaster impending. 35 Yahweh defeated Benjamin before Israel and that day the Israelites killed twenty-five thousand one hundred men of Benjamin, all of them trained swordsmen. 36 The Benjaminites saw that they were between. The Israelites had given ground to Benjamin, since they were relying on the ambush which they had positioned close to Gibeah. 37 The troops in ambush threw themselves against Gibeah at top speed; fanning out, they put the whole town to the sword. 38 Now it had been agreed between the Israelites and those of the ambush that the latter should raise a smoke signal from the town, 39 whereupon the Israelites in the thick of the battle would turn about. Benjamin began by killing some of the Israelites, about thirty men, and thought, 'We have certainly beaten them, as we did in the first battle.' 40 But the signal, a column of smoke, began to rise from the town, and the Benjaminites looking back saw the whole town going up in flames to the sky. 41 The Israelites then turned about, and the Benjaminites were seized with terror, for they saw that disaster had struck them. 42 They broke before the Israelite onslaught and made for the desert, but the fighters pressed them hard, while the others coming out of the town took and slaughtered them from the rear. 43 They hemmed in the Benjaminites, pursued them relentlessly, crushing them opposite Gibeah on the east. 44 Of Benjamin, eighteen thousand men fell, all of them brave men. 45 They then turned tail and fled into the desert, towards the Rock of Rimmon. Five thousand of them were picked off on the roads, and the rest were relentlessly pursued as far as Gideon, two thousand of them being killed. 46 The total number of Benjaminites who fell that day was twenty-five thousand swordsmen, all of the brave men. 47 Six hundred men, however, turned tail and escaped into the desert, to the Rock of Rimmon, and there they stayed for four months. 48 The men of Israel then went back to the Benjaminites, and put them to the sword: people, livestock and everything else that came their way in the town. And they fired all the towns involved.

The story is told in such amazing detail that the inspired writer may have heard the account from an eyewitness to the events or had access to an account written down by one of the Israelite warriors that was passed down in his family.

Judges 20:30 ~ On the third day the Israelites marched against the Benjaminites and, as before, drew up their line in front of Gibeah. Here is another of the "threes" that are so prominent in the Book of Judges (i.e., the three sons of Anak, , the three hundred men in the Gibeon narrative, the three Danite cities named in the Samson narrative, the series of threes as in the three unsuccessful attempts of Samson's wife to learn his riddle, Samson's three hundred foxes/jackals, Delilah's three unsuccessful attempts to learn the secret of Samson's strength, the three thousand Philistines killed in Samson's last defiant act, and the first three days the Levite stayed in Bethlehem just to name some of the threes and not including the threes in fighting men (thousands or units).

Baal-Tamar ("lord of the palm/lord of palms") in verse 33 was the staging area for the assault on Gibeah. The inspired writer does not say that the ambush strategy was Yahweh's, but since the success was promised by Yahweh and the Israelites acknowledge God achieved their victory, it is likely that the plan was told to them as it was as in the way Yahweh gave the strategy for the battle to Joshua at Jericho and Ai. In fact, the ambush strategy is very like the strategy Yahweh gave them at Ai (Josh 8:1-8, 18-25).

In the war against Benjamin, the other tribes put the towns of the Benjaminites under the ban of herem, the "curse/judgment of destruction" (total destruction in the death of every living thing). It was a curse of destruction that was only supposed to be applied against the Canaanites living in the Promised Land, but herem has been wrongly applied to Israelites own kinsmen and kinswomen (see herem applied to Jericho in Josh 6:17-21).

Condemning Gibeah was one thing. The "worthless sons of men" of the town were guilty of murder and the people shared in that guilt for protecting the guilty. However putting all the citizen of Gibeah under the ban of herem as well as the other towns in the territory of Benjamin was an act of barbarism.

Judg 20:45 ~  They then turned tail and fled into the desert, towards the Rock of Rimmon. Five thousand of them were picked off on the roads, and the rest were relentlessly pursued as far as Gideon ...
Only six hundred men survived from the tribe of Benjamin.   The Rock of Rimmon was evidently an easily defensible height in the wilderness to the southeast. Gideon is an unknown site.

Question: Compare the numbers of fighting men from Benjamin and the other combined eleven tribes of Israel in Judges Chapter 20 with the numbers of fighting men from the tribes after the census at Mt. Sinai in Numbers 26:1-51 that was prior to the conquest. What conclusion can be drawn from these numbers?

Israelite Warriors Numbers Chapter 26 Judges Chapter 20
The Twelve Tribes 601,730            426,700           
The Tribe of Benjamin* 45,600            26,700           
The Eleven Other Tribes of Israel 556,130            400,000           

*Not including the male population of the town Gibeah that qualified as warriors. The conclusion is that despite the victories in the initial conquest under Joshua, the Israelites have not continued to increase in population.

At this point in the era of the Judges they have suffered about a 30 percent decline in the population of fighting men.  This is a direct result of Israel's covenant failures. Yahweh promised Israel blessings for covenant obedience including numerous children and the health of the population (Lev 26:9; Dt 28:1-8). However, God warned: But if you do not obey the voice of Yahweh your God, and do not keep and observe all his commandments and laws which I am laying down for you today then all these curses will befall you. You will be accursed in the town and accursed in the countryside; accursed your basket and your kneading trough; accursed, the offspring of your body, the yield of your soil, the young of your cattle and the increase of your flock (Dt 28:15-18). In other words, if they did not want Yahweh's blessings through obedience to the Law, He would raise His hand of protection and they would face all the disasters that the Canaanite inhabitants of the land faced (also see Lev 18:26).

Chapter 21: The Israelites' Grief for Benjamin


Chapter 21:1-7 ~ The Tribes Vow to Refused to Give their Daughters as Wives to Benjamin
1 The men of Israel had sworn this oath at Mizpah, 'None of us is to give his daughter in marriage to Benjamin.' 2 The people went to Bethel and stayed there until evening, sitting before God and raising their voices, made a great lament, 3 and exclaiming, 'Yahweh, God of Israel, why has this happened in Israel that a tribe should be missing from Israel today?' 4 The next day the people got up early and built an altar there; they presented burnt offerings and communion sacrifices. 5 The Israelites then said, 'Out of all the tribes of Israel, who has not come to Yahweh, to the assembly?' for they had sworn a solemn oath that anyone who did not come to Yahweh at Mizpah would certainly die. 6 Now the Israelites felt sorry about Benjamin their brother. 'Today,' they said, 'a tribe has been amputated [cut off] from Israel. 7 What shall we do to provide wives for those who are left, since we have sworn by Yahweh not to give them any of our own daughters in marriage?'
[..] =
literal translation IBHE, vol. I, page 697.

After their victory the warriors returned to the Sanctuary at Bethel. Bethel had special significance for the Israelites. It was at Bethel that Jacob (the grandson of Abraham) had his dream-vision of angels ascending and descending and received a revelation of Yahweh. God revealed Himself to Jacob and promised to continue the covenant He made with Abraham through him, repeating two of those covenant promises: to greatly increase the numbers of his descendants and to give them the land of Canaan (Gen 28:10-18).
Question: At Bethel they did not celebrate their victory over the defeat of the tribe of Benjamin. What did they do and why?
Answer: The tribes mourned the deaths of the Benjaminites.

Question: What is significant concerning their lament in which they call on Yahweh as "God of Israel" three times in verse 3?
Answer: The Israelites imply that the situation with Benjamin is essentially God's responsibility. Their lament is less a request for an answer than a protest and an attempt to absolve themselves of responsibility. However, God does not accept the implied accusation and offers them no solution and no comfort.

This national weeping at Bethel brings the Book of Judges full circle to where Israel's distress began with God's judgment for covenant failure in the covenant lawsuit issued by God's messenger in Judges 2:1-5 and the people's weeping at God's verdict for their infidelity. The responsibility for this national disaster rests with Israel and Israel's covenant failures.

Judges 21:4 ~  The next day the people got up early and built an altar there; they presented burnt offerings and communion sacrifices.
It is unclear why they would build an altar since Yahweh's sacrificial altar was part of the Sanctuary at Bethel and only on it could sacrifices be offered (Lev 17:1-9; Dt 12:8-14). It has been suggested that so many sacrifices were offered that another altar was built to accommodate the number of animal sacrifices. This is unlikely; at the pilgrim feasts where every man of the covenant was required to present himself before God’s altar with sacrifices, the size of the altar was considered sufficient. It only makes sense that they would be compelled to build their own altar if the High Priest Phinehas refused their sacrifices at God’s holy altar. He might have refused because of their collective sin in applying herem to all the Benjaminites instead of just punishing the men of Gibeah.

Question: What vow did the Israelites make before God at the first National Assembly at Mizpah before they went to war against the Benjaminites?
Answer: They all swore not to give any of their daughters in marriage to a Benjaminite.

Judges 21:5 ~  The Israelites then said, 'Out of all the tribes of Israel, who has not come to Yahweh, to the assembly?' for they had sworn a solemn oath that anyone who did not come to Yahweh at Mizpah would certainly die.
The Israelites are looking for a way to help the Benjaminites without breaking their oath. The implication is that whatever people did not come to the National Assembly must also be in rebellion against Israel and must be punished according to their oath.

Chapter 21:8-14 ~ The Abduction of the Daughters of Jabesh in Gilead
8 They then asked, 'Out of the tribes of Israel, who is it that has not come to Yahweh at Mizpah?' It was discovered that no one from Jabesh in Gilead had come to the camp for the assembly; 9 for, a count having been made of the people, none of the inhabitants of Jabesh in Gilead was present. 10 The community then dispatched twelve thousand of their bravest men there, with these orders: 'Go and slaughter all the inhabitants of Jabesh in Gilead, including the women and children. 11 This is what you are to do. All males and all those women who have ever slept with a man, you will put under the curse of destruction [herem], but the lives of the virgins you will spare.' And this they did. 12 Among the inhabitants of Jabesh in Gilead they found four hundred young virgins who had never slept with a man, and brought them to the camp (to Shiloh in the territory of Canaan). 13 The whole community then sent messengers to offer peace to the Benjaminites who were at the Rock of Rimmon. 14 Benjamin then came home: they were given those of the women [na'arah = young girl from birth to adolescence] of Jabesh in Gilead whose lives had been spared, but there were not enough for all.
[..] =
literal translation IBHE, vol. I, pages 698.

Question: Without breaking their vow, how did they decide they could find wives for the surviving Benjaminites? What does this decision imply?
Answer: They decide to put the town of Jabesh in Gilead under the ban of herem and to only spare the virgins who they will give to the Benjaminite bachelors. This is another indication that an immoral people are incapable of making moral decisions. The people of Jabesh-Gilead were not summoned to present their defense.

Jabesh-Gilead was about 22 miles south of the Sea of Galilee, and one mile east of the Jordan River.(5) The Israelites reason if they were justified in putting to death the Benjaminites who sided with the town of Gibeah, then all who aligned themselves with the Bemjaminites must also be subject to the same punishment. This reasoning works to their advantage in their present dilemma because they will be able to secure virgins as brides for the Benjaminites. The inspired writer makes his readers fully aware of the contrast between the Israelite's compassion for the Benjaminite men and their hard-heartedness concerning the Israelites of Jabesh-Gilead on the east side of the Jordan River. They go forward in shedding even more Israelite blood and we, the readers, are fully aware of the casuistry and moral blindness of the Israelites as they go from bad to worse.

Question: Why didn't the other tribes suggest that the Benjaminites take Canaanite women as wives? After all, they have broken that prohibition (Judg 3:6) and many others in the Law.
Answer: They couldn't make that suggestion because an Israelite's identity as an Israelite comes from an Israelite mother. If the Benjaminites men married Canaanite women and had children, the result would be that there were no true Benjaminites, and it would mean the end of Benjamin as an Israelite tribe.

Chapter 21:15-24 ~ The Abduction and Rape of the Daughters of Shiloh
15 The people felt sorry about Benjamin, Yahweh having made a breach in the tribes of Israel. 16 And he elders of the community said, 'What shall we do to provide wives for the survivors, since the women of Benjamin have been wiped out?' 17 They went on, 'How can we preserve a remnant for Benjamin so that a tribe may not be lost to Israel? 18 We cannot give them our own daughters in marriage;' for the Israelites had taken an oath: 'Accursed be the man who gives a wife to Benjamin!' 19 'However,' they said, 'there is the feast of Yahweh, held every year at Shiloh.' The town lies north of Bethel, east of the highway that runs from Bethel up to Shechem, and south of Lebonah. 20 So they told the Benjaminites to do as follows, 'Put yourselves in ambush in the vineyards. 21 Keep watch: when the girls of Shiloh come out in groups to dance, you then come out of the vineyards, each of you seize a wife from the girls of Shiloh and make for Benjaminite territory. 22 If their fathers or brothers come and complain to us, we shall say, "Let us have them, since we could not take wives for everyone in the battle; and you could not give them to them, or you would then have been guilty." 23 The Benjaminites did this and, from the dancers whom they caught, took as many wives as there were men and then, setting off, went back to their heritage. 24 The Israelites then dispersed, each man to rejoin his tribe and clan, each leaving that place for his own heritage.

Notice that again the inspired writer indicates that the Israelites held Yahweh responsible for the destruction of the tribe of Benjamin. The festival at Shiloh was probably originally a Canaanite harvest festival (see 9:27) that was adopted by the Israelites living in the region.   Once again, the Israelites seek to ease their consciences in the decimation of the tribe of Benjamin by breaking the law in illegally securing brides for the unmarried men of Benjamin.
Question: In the rape of the daughters of Shiloh, what law of the covenant was all of Israel implicated in breaking? See Dt 22:23-29.
Answer: Virgins were protected under the law. If the Benjaminites took a virgin who was betrothed, the penalty should have been death. If they took a virgin who was not betrothed, the law stated that the man could never divorce her and he must pay her father double the bride price, but they father also had the right of refusal to a marriage.

Having successfully arranged the rape of the virgins of Shiloh, the other tribes and their elders are satisfied that they have done all they can to preserve the tribe of Benjamin, and they return to their ancestral lands.

Concluding Statement:
Judges 21:25 ~  In those days there was no king in Israel, and everyone did as he saw fit [what was right in his eyes].
[..] =
literal translation IBHE, vol. I, pages 699.

The statement that "everyone did what was right in his eyes" (literal translation) closes the history of the Judges of Israel. It is the summary statement of the failure of Israel in this period of salvation history:

In doing what each man saw was "right in his eyes", the Israelites are in direct violation of their covenant obligation to act as God commanded: Faithfully keep and obey all these orders which I am giving you, so that you and your children after you may prosper for ever, doing what is good and right in the eyes of Yahweh your God (Dt 12:28; also see Dt 12:25; 13:19/18, underlining added).

Question for reflection or group discussion:
Question: Activist atheist groups assert that one does not need religious guidelines to be a moral person and that each person can determine for him or herself that which is morally just. Is this true? How do the events recorded in the Book of Judges and the course of human history disprove that thesis?

Question: How can the themes in the Book of Judges and the attitudes of the Israelites in that era be compared to modern society and the transgressions of professing Christians today?
What lessons can we learn from their failures, and how is our situation different from theirs?
Answer: This book of the Bible which already contains very dark themes of betrayal, infidelity, rape, kidnapping, murder, and war ends very abruptly with the very somber, discouraging, and fatally dark final words: "In those days there was no king in Israel, and everyone did what was right in his own eyes." This is the dramatic and final warning of this text that is wrought with tragedy after tragedy. This warning can best be understood by Christians today as, "Behold the consequences of relativism."

Our dear brothers and sisters in Christ, there is nothing new under the sun (Ecc 1:9). Just as our culture suffers from the consequences of godlessness and relativism today, so did the Israelites during the era of the Judges. And their suffering from sin manifested itself in many of the same ways our sins manifest in today's culture. Here are some manifestations to consider:

  1. Abuse of marriage as God intended: A self-sacrificial relationship between one man and one woman not being upheld. For the Israelites it was the taking of concubines and treating them like property. For our culture today it is cohabitation and using others for personal pleasure.
  2. Homosexual acts. The Israelites normalized these acts through mob mentality while our culture normalizes these acts through legislation.
  3. Moral perversion to the point where people could no longer discern what is right from what is wrong. The Israelites committed evil through rationalizations just as our culture commits evil through rationalizations (i.e.: Doing good by promoting a "women's right to choose" [abortion], helping couples conceive children [invitro fertilization], and many other acts of evil).
  4. >Preservation of the life of the physical body taking precedence over the preservation of spiritual and everlasting life. This is seen in the stories discussed in Judges. It is seen in our culture by our willingness to endeavor in mortally sinful acts such as embryonic stem cell research and medical research on the corpses of aborted babies for the sake of preserving physical health.
  5. The Israelites began to behave like the pagan Canaanite culture just as Christians today begin to adopt the sinful thinking and practices of today's godless culture.
  6. Blaming God for our failures and the harmful consequences of sins that we commit instead of acknowledging our sin, recognizing it is our fault, repenting, and acknowledging that justice requires our destruction which does not happen only because of God's love and mercy towards us
  7. But for us today there is great hope and good news. The last line in Judges stated, "In those days there was no king in Israel, and everyone did what was right in his own eyes." While in those days Israel had no king, today in God's Church, we do have a king. And that king is the Eternal and Perfect King, the King of Kings, and He has given us objective morality, divinely revealed right and wrong through the preaching of His Gospel handed down by His Apostles and the Bishops to this day. Objective Truth preserved through Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and the Universal Magisterium of the Church has been provided to us by our Divine King so that we may not be morally perverse and confused doing whatever we feel is right but instead know and obey what is right in God's eyes. May the example of Israel in the Book of Judges be a constant reminder and warning to us to be vigilant and persevering in the Faith in all things.
    ~ Jason Hull, Agape Catholic Bible Study Facebook Administrator. Visit our Facebook page for more insights by Jason.


1. During the last journey of the tribes of Israel to the camp on the east side of the Jordan River, after the forty years in the wilderness, Phinehas deflected God's anger and saved the people from destruction when the Israelite men were seduced into Baal worship in Moab (Num 25:1-11). As a reward, God made an eternal priestly covenant of peace with Phinehas (Num 25:12-13; Sir 45:23-26) that is fulfilled in the eternal priesthood of Jesus Christ (Heb 7:28-8:8; 10:11-12).

2. The Jewish Masoretic text of the modern Tanakh (Jewish Bible) records that she was unfaithful, but the Septuagint (LXX), which predates the Masoretic text, only records that "she departed from him and returned to the house of her father to Bethlehem Judah..."

3. The inquiry is probably made through the high priest's use of the ocular devices known as the urim and thummim (Ex 28:30; Num 27:21; Dt 33:8; 1 Sam 14:41). They were small devices used for divination to determine a divine "yes" or "no" answer.

4. The "Mercy-seat" or "Seat of atonement" was the solid gold lid of the Ark of the Covenant. Two golden images of cherubim faced each other on the lid with their wings extended forward and upward (Ex 25:10-21; 37:1-9). The Presence of God rested between the cherubim. The Mercy-seat was God's earthly throne of grace.

5. The citizens of Jabesh-Gilead will continue to have a close relationship with the tribe of Benjamin. King Saul, of the tribe of Benjamin, will come to their rescue when they are threatened, and when King Saul is murdered by the Philistines in the Battle of Gilboa, they will rescue Saul's body from desecration (1 Sam 31:1-13).

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2013 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.

Catechism references for this lesson:
Homosexual acts: CCC 2357-59
Moral law: CCC 1950-53
Natural Moral Law: CCC 1954-60
Definition of sin: CCC 1849-50
Satan the cause of sin: CCC 2852
Moral evil entered the world: CCC 311, 1869
Root of sin: CCC 1853
Consequences of sin: CCC 705, 761, 1420, 1472
Offenses against God: CCC 431, 1850
Liberation from sin: in baptism CCC 977-78, 985, 1213, 1237, 1263-64; through Christ CCC 987, 1741 who is this the "expiation for our sins," CCC 457, 604