Anarchy in Israel

  • January 24, 2017 | JUDGES 21:1–25
We live in a cultural time of the reboot. Classic television shows such as Star Trek and MacGyver are remade. Popular music styles from the 1960s have come back into fashion, and clothing fashions from past decades parade down catwalks and sidewalks. Big-budget movies all seem to be sequels or prequels or an updated version of an old classic—just last year a new Ben-Hur film was released.

In this final chapter in the book of Judges, it appears at first glance that Israel has changed. But as we read on, we see that they did not renounce disloyalty and disobedience. The scene is like the remake of a famous movie. All of the elements of their former treachery are present.

Israel regrets the devastation delivered upon Benjamin, but they rely on human, rather than divine, wisdom for solving problems. They demand an unnecessary oath to punish by curse of death those who would not heed the ruling of the court in Mizpah (v. 5). They put to death husbands, wives, and children of Jabesh Gilead and then claim the young virgin women for the surviving Benjamite men. When there aren’t enough to go around, they plot to steal more women during a worship service at Shiloh. They justified this kidnapping and human trafficking by claiming fidelity to their vows (v. 18).

These events demonstrate that Israel is obedient—but only to their own self- pronounced commands, not to the Lord. The dismal end to the book reminds us that the choice to persist in sin will lead to manifold suffering. The final refrain, “Everyone did as they saw fit” (v. 25), should sound like a warning siren: Here is the devastation that happens when we forsake God and try to live on our own terms.

Apply the Word

Judges leaves us with the distinct impression that Israel is on the edge of national catastrophe. And while Judges leads us to 1 Samuel and the eventual inauguration of King David, even he is not the sure hope of Israel. Judges, like the rest of the Old Testament, point to our need of Jesus: the greater Savior, the true King.

BY Jennifer Michel

Jen Pollock Michel is a regular contributor for Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics. Her first book, Teach us to Want: Longing, Ambition and the Life of Faith, is published by InterVarsity Press. Jen earned her BA in French from Wheaton College and her MA in Literature from Northwestern University. She lives in Toronto, Canada, with her husband and five children, and serves on staff at Grace Toronto Church. You can follow Jen on Twitter @jenpmichel or you can find her at

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