Rev. Jon Walla, pastor at Bethel Lutheran Church in Bismarck, ND, joins host Rev. Timothy Appel to study Judges 20:29-48.
The sin committed in Gibeah continues to affect the entire nation of Israel. At multiple points in this closing account of Judges, people have the opportunity for repentance that would have stopped the downward spiral leading to civil war, but sadly, such repentance never seems to come. The tribes of Israel united against Benjamin have received the LORD’s promise of victory on the third day. They set a trap for the Benjaminites, who fail to see that their judgment is at hand. Upon routing their brothers, Israel leaves only 600 men of Benjamin alive. The outcome for the tribe of Benjamin stands as a warning for all to be ready for the day of judgment. Israel’s slaughter of the Benjaminites ought to give us all cause to reflect where God-given authority for judgment is taken too far into unrighteous vengeance. This sad account puts before our eyes wickedness and bloodshed in order that we might look all the more intently at the blood shed by Jesus for our own sin and evil.
“Rebellion and Rescue” is a mini-series on Sharper Iron that goes through the book of Judges. This book is characterized by a familiar. As the generations after Joshua forget the LORD and what He has done for Israel, they fall into idolatry. The LORD gives them over into the hands of their enemies in order to bring them to their senses. When they cry out to Him in repentance, He sends a judge to rescue them and give them rest for a time, until they relapse into idolatry once more. In this cycle, we see a picture of our own Christian life. Daily, the old Adam in us is drowned in contrition and repentance, and the new man emerges in Baptismal forgiveness to live in righteousness and purity before God forever.
Sharper Iron, hosted by Rev. Timothy Appel, looks at the text of Holy Scripture both in its broad context and its narrow detail, all for the sake of proclaiming Christ crucified and risen for sinners. Two pastors engage with God’s Word to sharpen not only their own faith and knowledge, but the faith and knowledge of all who listen.
Sharper Iron is underwritten by Lutheran Church Extension Fund, where your investments help support the work of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Visit lcef.org.
29 So Israel set men in ambush around Gibeah. 30 And the people of Israel went up against the people of Benjamin on the third day and set themselves in array against Gibeah, as at other times. 31 And the people of Benjamin went out against the people and were drawn away from the city. And as at other times they began to strike and kill some of the people in the highways, one of which goes up to Bethel and the other to Gibeah, and in the open country, about thirty men of Israel. 32 And the people of Benjamin said, “They are routed before us, as at the first.” But the people of Israel said, “Let us flee and draw them away from the city to the highways.” 33 And all the men of Israel rose up out of their place and set themselves in array at Baal-tamar, and the men of Israel who were in ambush rushed out of their place from Maareh-geba.[a] 34 And there came against Gibeah 10,000 chosen men out of all Israel, and the battle was hard, but the Benjaminites did not know that disaster was close upon them. 35 And the Lord defeated Benjamin before Israel, and the people of Israel destroyed 25,100 men of Benjamin that day. All these were men who drew the sword. 36 So the people of Benjamin saw that they were defeated.
The men of Israel gave ground to Benjamin, because they trusted the men in ambush whom they had set against Gibeah. 37 Then the men in ambush hurried and rushed against Gibeah; the men in ambush moved out and struck all the city with the edge of the sword. 38 Now the appointed signal between the men of Israel and the men in the main ambush was that when they made a great cloud of smoke rise up out of the city 39 the men of Israel should turn in battle. Now Benjamin had begun to strike and kill about thirty men of Israel. They said, “Surely they are defeated before us, as in the first battle.” 40 But when the signal began to rise out of the city in a column of smoke, the Benjaminites looked behind them, and behold, the whole of the city went up in smoke to heaven. 41 Then the men of Israel turned, and the men of Benjamin were dismayed, for they saw that disaster was close upon them. 42 Therefore they turned their backs before the men of Israel in the direction of the wilderness, but the battle overtook them. And those who came out of the cities were destroying them in their midst. 43 Surrounding the Benjaminites, they pursued them and trod them down from Nohah[b] as far as opposite Gibeah on the east. 44 Eighteen thousand men of Benjamin fell, all of them men of valor. 45 And they turned and fled toward the wilderness to the rock of Rimmon. Five thousand men of them were cut down in the highways. And they were pursued hard to Gidom, and 2,000 men of them were struck down. 46 So all who fell that day of Benjamin were 25,000 men who drew the sword, all of them men of valor. 47 But 600 men turned and fled toward the wilderness to the rock of Rimmon and remained at the rock of Rimmon four months. 48 And the men of Israel turned back against the people of Benjamin and struck them with the edge of the sword, the city, men and beasts and all that they found. And all the towns that they found they set on fire.
- Judges 20:33 Some Septuagint manuscripts place west of Geba
- Judges 20:43 Septuagint; Hebrew [at their] resting place
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.