James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
And there was a man of mount Ephraim, whose name was Micah.Judges 17:1-21:25
APPENDIX TO THE BOOK
The chapters concluding the book detail certain incidents at various periods during the preceding history, when the whole nation was disordered and corrupt, and “every man did that which was right in his own eyes.”
A MAN-MADE PRIEST (Judges 17)
Chapter 17 tells of Micah who established his own imitation of the tabernacle. Of course it was contrary to the law and evinced ignorance and superstition, although the motive may not have been bad.
ORIGIN OF THE CITY OF DAN (Judges 18)
Chapter 18 carries the story further. It shows how Micah lost his tabernacle, and his priest obtained a broader field. The Danites wanted more territory and dispatched five men to search out a good place (Jdg 18:1-2). By accident they discovered Micah’s self-made “priest” and sought counsel of him, which was as ambiguous as the heathen oracles (Jdg 18:3-6). Nevertheless they came to a town called Laish, which seemed a desirable and easy prey, and which they persuaded the men of war of their tribe to advance upon (Jdg 18:7-12). Passing through Micah’s town on their errand, they impressed his priest into their service (Jdg 18:13-21), and, although Micah and his fellow townsmen pursued them, it was without avail (Jdg 18:22-26). They overcame Laish at the end, built their city there and called it Daniel They also continued their idolatrous worship introduced by Micah’s priest, down to the captivity (Jdg 18:27-31).
AN AWFUL DEED AND AN AWFUL RETRIBUTION (Judges 19-21)
Chapters 19-21 tell an awful story of lust, civil war and pillage fearfully illustrative of a world without God.
A Levite, after the manner of those days, married a secondary wife who proved unfaithful. Returning to her father’s house at Bethlehem, he followed her to persuade her to come back (19:1-4). After a few days they start their journey accompanied by a servant, lodging the first night at Gibeah (Jdg 19:5-21). Here wicked men abuse the concubine until she dies; her husband, his servant and his host acting so discreditably as to be almost unbelievable, were it not for the sacred record of the fact (Jdg 19:22-28).
Subsequently her husband took a remarkable way of obtaining redress, explicable only on the absence of regular government among the tribes. He divided the corpse into twelve pieces and distributed them with the story of the wrong among all the tribes, so that the latter came together saying: “There was no such deed done nor seen from the day that the children of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt unto this day; consider of it, take advice, and speak your minds” (Jdg 19:29-30).
The result was a conference of the tribes at Mizpeh (Jdg 20:1). The phrase “unto the Lord” is possibly explained by the circumstance that Mizpeh was near Shiloh, the place of the tabernacle, and that the leaders went there to consult Jehovah, if haply he would reveal His mind at this crisis, through the high priest.
The Levite is now given an opportunity to state his case formally, in which he inferentially lodges a complaint against the whole tribe of Benjamin, as Gibeah was in its territory (Jdg 20:4-7).
The decision is to punish that city (Jdg 20:8-11), but first to demand that the perpetrators of the crime be surrendered for execution, which Benjamin, through pride or some other reason refuses to do (Jdg 20:12-13). Internecine war follows, in which the Benjamites are at first successful, but in the end succumbed to the greater numbers and the strategy of the united tribes (Jdg 20:14-48).
Humbling Experiences and Their Cause
But why, if the united tribes asked counsel of the lord, and acted on it were they so unsuccessful at first, and why did they suffer so heavily? Perhaps they did not seek it early enough. Their own plans seem to have been formed first, and all they sought of the Lord was to name their leader (Jdg 20:18). It was their disasters that seemed to bring them to their senses and to the Lord, in real earnestness, and then the tables were turned (Jdg 20:26-28).
It is notable that Phineas, the grandson of Aaron, was their high priest, indicating the time to be not long after Joshua’s death.
Folly upon Folly
All that was left of Benjamin was six hundred men (Jdg 20:47), for it appears that all the women and children were slain. Now, the other tribes had sworn that they would not give their daughters to the Benjamites for wives, and the result was that the whole of that tribe was likely to become extinct another illustration of a rash vow.
Ashamed of their folly, they repented of it, but not to the extent of taking back their vows (Jdg 21:1-8). Instead of this, having discovered that none of the men of Jabesh-gilead had gathered to the battle, they determined to destroy its inhabitants, with the exception of the unmarried women, and give the latter to the Benjamites (Jdg 21:8-15).
But there were not enough of these to suffice. Therefore, they decided upon the expedient of permitting 200 more to be stolen by the Benjamites from the other tribes under the circumstances narrated in Jdg 21:16-23.
No wonder the book closes with the refrain heard several times before, “In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did that which was right in his own eyes.”
1. What designation might be given to the closing chapters of the book?
2. Did these events come presumably after the last judgeship, or before?
3. State the history of the city of Dan.
4. What was the occasion of the war between Benjamin and the other tribes?
5. What means were taken to perpetuate Benjamin?
6. How is the disorder in Israel explained?
7. Was a divine or human king required the more?