JUDGES - CHAPTER 21
Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
2000 James Melough
“Now the men of Israel had sworn in Mizpeh, saying, There shall not any of
us give his daughter unto Benjamin to wife.”
have noted in other studies that the wife represents the expression of the man’s
spiritual life: either the new spiritual life obtained through faith in the Lord
Jesus Christ as Savior, or the religion that passes for spiritual life with the
natural man. As man without a wife is
unable to perpetuate his life physically in children, so is he, without what the wife
represents (spiritual life), unable to perpetuate his life spiritually.
This vow, then, becomes the spiritual equivalent of determination on our part
to withhold spiritual life from those who are our enemies, and Scripture warns us
against such folly, for it is written, “If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he
thirst, give him drink” (Ro 12:20). That
command extends beyond literal food and drink. We
dare not withhold spiritual food and drink (the Gospel) from those who make
themselves our enemies. The Lord was
willing to die for such, pleading even as He hung on the cross to which they had
nailed Him, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34).
was the sin of which Israel has always been guilty.
She would not share the knowledge of God with the nations around her, but in
haughty pride stood aloof, and called them dogs.
Christendom, as represented by the apostate travesty ruling from Rome, and her evil
sister apostate Protestantism, have followed all too faithfully in her proud
footsteps. Neither one preaches the
“And the people came to the house of God, and abode there till even before
God, and lifted up their voices, and wept sore;”
aware of the folly that had led them to make such a rash vow, they came before God,
apparently hoping to find a way out of the dilemma, and we should note that they
“abode there till even before God.” In other words, for that whole day all other activities were put
aside. This matter of Benjamin’s
preservation took precedence over all else. It
would be well if the salvation of the lost were given the same priority amongst
God’s people today.
should note also that their sorrow was genuine.
They “wept sore.” Superficial
concern for the lost may deceive men, but we can’t deceive God.
What is needed today is for all of us to get down before God in sincerity, and
not to rise until we have a genuine concern for the souls of men and women, that will
send us out to them with the Gospel.
“And said, O Lord God of Israel, why is this come to pass in Israel, that
there should be today one tribe lacking
additional lesson will be learned here if we make another application of the type,
and view the 600 remaining Benjamites, whose line would die out unless wives were
found for them, as being also types (in this immediate context) of the unsaved
members of our own families. Benjamin
was their brother, and they wept to think of his perishing from the earth.
Surely their sorrowful waiting upon God rebukes our own carelessness in regard
to our own family members who are also in danger of perishing eternally.
What transformation there would be in our midst if we too were to come before
God with the same concern for them, and beseech Him with the same earnestness for
“And it came to pass on the morrow, that the people rose early, and built
there an altar, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings,”
rising early speaks of zeal, and their building an altar speaks of a desire to offer
something to God; but again, as in 20:26, conspicuously absent is any mention of the
Trespass or Sin offering. All their
zealous activity, in fact, appears to have been without direction from God; and in it
we see the equivalent of what marked the nation in the days of Christ, in regard to
which Paul has written, ... they have a zeal of God, but not according to
knowledge” (Ro 10:2). Similar ignorant
zeal characterizes much of Christendom today. There
is much busy activity, but it is to be feared that much of it is simply the energy of
absence of any reference to the Trespass or Sin offering speaks of an inadequate
comprehension of their own sinfulness, and sadly, that same lack is all too apparent
in the midst of professed believers today.
“And the children of Israel said, Who is there among all the tribes of
Israel that came not up with the congregation unto the Lord?
For they had made a great oath concerning him that came not up to the Lord to
Mizpeh, saying, He shall surely be put to death.”
following verses make it clear that they then conceived the expedient of finding
wives for the Benjamites from among those who would be slain in fulfillment of their
rash vow relative to those who hadn’t joined them in the conflict with Benjamin.
There is nothing to indicate that they had any command from God to engage in
this further slaughter, or that it was His plan to furnish wives of the virgin
daughters of those who would be slain.
lesson is obvious in all of this. God
would have us learn the folly of making rash vows; and He would have us see the
circuitous paths into which one disobedience may lead us.
Jephthah is an example of the former (Jg 11:30).
His foolish vow doomed his daughter to perpetual virginity.
Adam is an example of the latter. What
misery has attended his one act of disobedience!
much wiser they would have been to wait upon God from beginning to end of the whole
“And the children of Israel repented them for Benjamin their brother, and
said, There is one tribe cut off from Israel this day.”
condemn them for the rash vow and subsequent action that had wrought such
destruction, is to declare that we have forgotten how often we ourselves have had
equal cause to repent of hasty words, and foolish conduct.
And our guilt is compounded if the memory of their folly and ours doesn’t
preserve us from repeating the error.
concern for Benjamin reminds us that we should have similar concern, not only for
unsaved family members, but for other believers, for they are our brethren.
“How shall we do for wives for them that remain, seeing we have sworn by the
Lord that we will not give them of our daughters to wives?”
repeated emphasis on the need of wives for the Benjamites continues to confirm the
truth that the wife represents the expression of the man’s spiritual life: true
spiritual life, or religion which the natural man mistakes for spiritual life.
Note the first Biblical reference to this type in Ge 2:18 “... It is not
good that the man should be alone.” Adam,
without a wife, is a type of man in his natural state.
concern to provide wives for their Benjamite brethren reminds us that we ought to
have the same concern to see that the Gospel is brought to the unconverted, for as
the Benjamites, without wives, would die out, so will men and women without the
spiritual life (of which the godly wife is the typological expression), die the
second death, i.e., enter the fearful lake of fire to endure eternal torment (Re
“And they said, What one is there of the tribes of Israel that came not up
to Mizpeh to the Lord? And, behold,
there came none to the camp from Jabesh-gilead to the assembly.”
the recollection of their rash vow (verse 5) had suggested a solution to the problem,
but it seems clear that they had neither consulted God before making that vow, nor
had they sought His counsel relative to the need of wives for the Benjamites.
Their whole scheme savors of human invention, reminding us that such expedient
governs much that passes today for Christian service, and explains why so much that
is found in Christendom lacks any Scriptural warrant.
There is no place in the spiritual realm for human innovation.
means dry, and Gilead, heap of witness: rolling for ever, so that the
name means literally dry heap of witness.
It speaks clearly of an ineffective or nonexistent testimony.
Debate is unlikely to furnish an answer to the question of whether
Jabesh-gilead was right in not going with the others against Benjamin; or whether the
other tribes were right in keeping their vow to slay the men of Jabesh-gilead, but an
obvious lesson may be learnt from the fact that they were put to death.
Failure to be a witness in the Gospel is an indication that the man himself
may not possess spiritual life, so that he will discover when it is eternally too
late that all he had was an empty profession. And
if he is a believer, but refuses to be a witness for Christ, the Bema will
reveal that he might as well have been dead: there will be no reward.
“For the people were numbered, and, behold, there were none of the
inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead there.”
the questions remain moot as to whether Jabesh-gilead should have gone against
Benjamin, and whether the other tribes should have slain the Jabesh-gileadites, one
thing is clear - however much may have been wrong in the other tribes, they had at
least acted according to such light as their low spiritual state afforded.
They had sought to return to God, and had given evidence of repentance even
though it was according to a very imperfect perception of their true condition; but
it seems that no such contrition was found among the men of Jabesh-gilead. Though they had no need to repent of any part in the slaughter of
the Benjamites, they did have need to repent of the spiritual state that had made
possible the rape and murder of the Levite’s concubine.
fact that they were put to death reminds us that death is the concomitant of the
spiritual state portrayed in the meaning of their name dry heap of witness,
for it must not be forgotten that a genuine conversion consists, not only of belief
in the heart, but also of confession with the mouth, “If thou shalt confess with
thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him
from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For
with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is
made unto salvation” (Ro 10:9-10).
“And the congregation sent thither twelve thousand men of the valiantest,
and commanded them, saying, Go and smite the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead with the
edge of the sword, with the women and the children.”
ten is the number of God in government, so is twelve the number associated with those
under that government, e.g., the twelve tribes of Israel, and the Church “built
upon the foundation of the (twelve) apostles and prophets” (Eph 2:20).
In the twelve thousand sent to slay the Jabesh-gileadites, therefore, we are
meant to see some spiritual lesson related to the display of divine government, and
surely that lesson isn’t difficult to read. Failure
to be a witness for God is a violation of the Lord’s command, “Go ye into all the
world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mk 16:15).
But disobedience is sin, and the wages of sin is death, so that failure to
bear witness for Christ indicates either disobedience, or the fact that there is no
spiritual life. Relative to the former,
the Bema will reveal that as far as reward is concerned, the believer might as well
have been dead; but relative to the latter, the great white throne judgment will
certify that in spite of profession, there was no divine life.
would do well to examine ourselves as to whether we do bear a testimony for Christ.
If we don’t it may indicate that in spite of profession we have never been
sword is a symbol of the Word of God, and it is that Word by which we are to judge
ourselves now, for it is that same Word that will eventually judge us, either at the
Bema, or at the great white throne (Jn 12:48) when it will be too late for repentance
the present context the Jabesh-gileadite wives represent, not genuine spiritual life,
but the counterfeit thing possessed by the natural man; and the children would
represent the fruits of mere profession, so that the death of both declares that in
the final analysis false profession and its fruits will likewise prove worthy only of
“And this is the thing that ye shall do, Ye shall utterly destroy every
male, and every woman that hath lain by man.”
continues to emphasize the truth already noted above.
The wife represents the expression of the believer’s spiritual life, or the
counterfeit which the unbeliever thinks is spiritual life.
The Jabesh-gileadites, in the present context, represent those who have
nothing but an empty profession.
“And they found among the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead four hundred young
virgins, that had known no man by lying with any male: and they brought them unto the
camp to Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan.”
should recognize that the town Jabesh-gilead represents any corporate body claiming,
falsely, to belong to Christ, so that we may see here an OT type of the great false
church, and in the destruction of that city God is giving us a glimpse of the coming
destruction of that false system. It is
to be remembered, however, that within that evil system are some true believers, to
whom God’s word is, “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her
sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues” (Re 18:4).
four hundred young virgins, therefore, represent those true believers within the
apostate travesty of the true Church. Their
being spared declares that true believers within the false church will be spared when
she is destroyed. Since four is the
number of earth and testing, and a virgin is one of the Biblical symbols of purity,
these four hundred virgins remind us that only genuine believers (those made pure
through the blood of Christ) will survive the ultimate testing of God’s Word.
being brought to Shiloh peace-bringer: bringer of prosperity, an epithet of
Christ (Ge 49:10), would appear to
confirm our interpretation, as would also its being said that they were brought to
Shiloh “in the land of Canaan,” for Canaan represents the spiritual sphere into
which believers are brought at conversion.
“And the whole congregation sent some to speak to the children of Benjamin
that were in the rock Rimmon, and to call peaceably unto them.”
noted already, the six hundred Benjamites at the rock Rimmon represent believers foreknown
of God, but not yet actually converted. Israel’s
sending messengers to “call peaceably unto them,” i.e. “proclaim peace unto
them,” therefore portrays the presentation of the Gospel, for the Gospel is the
proclamation of God’s peace to men.
practical lesson to be learnt from the fact that “the whole congregation
sent ....” is that the spread of the Gospel is not a work reserved just for a few:
every believer has a part in it, and while certainly not everyone is gifted as an
evangelist, everyone who has been saved can at least tell another how to be saved,
and all of us can contribute something to that essential work through prayer, and the
practical support of those who have been called to this work.
We should be specific in our prayers for the unconverted, and for the workers,
and we should be careful to remember the temporal needs of the latter, and to
minister to those needs.
“And Benjamin came again at that time; and they gave them wives which they
had saved alive of the women of Jabesh-gilead: and yet so they sufficed them not.”
is the moment which typically marked the conversion of four hundred of the Benjamites
who had found refuge at the rock Rimmon, and at first sight the lack of wives for the
remaining two hundred would seem to indicate some inadequacy in the Gospel, which we
know of course not to be so, for it is sufficient for the needs of the whole world.
in mind that the terrible slaughter and destruction which are the background for this
salvation of the remnant of Benjamin, are a foreshadowing of what will be in the
coming Tribulation, this typological conversion of the surviving Benjamites
representing the conversion of the remnant in the Tribulation, the first four hundred
representing the hundred and forty-four thousand who will be converted at the
beginning of the Tribulation, and the remaining two hundred who later received wives,
representing the remainder of the Tribulation-age converts.
“And the people repented them for Benjamin, because that the Lord had made a
breach in the tribes of Israel.”
continues to point to the sorrow which Israel will experience in the Tribulation.
“Then the elders of the congregation said, How shall we do for wives for
them that remain, seeing the women are destroyed out of Benjamin?”
“And they said, There must be an inheritance for them that be escaped of
Benjamin, that a tribe be not destroyed out of Israel.”
terrible Tribulation judgments will prompt concern in the hearts of the Jews, not
just for the preservation of one tribe, but of the whole nation.
It will seem as though she is about to be destroyed.
“Howbeit we may not give them wives of our daughters: for the children of
Israel have sworn, saying, Cursed be he that giveth a wife to Benjamin.”
failure to see a solution declares the truth that no man can provide salvation for
himself, much less for another, as it is written, “None of them can by any means
redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him” (Ps 49:7).
“Then they said, Behold, there is a feast of the Lord in Shiloh yearly in a
place which is on the north side of Bethel, on the east side of the highway that
goeth up from Bethel to Shechem, and on the south of Lebonah.”
seeing in connection with the annual feast of the Lord in Shiloh, the possibility of
a solution to the problem, is the symbolic announcement of the truth that the Gospel
is the answer to every problem known to man. That feast represents the feast of the Gospel, and inasmuch as it
was at Shiloh peace bringer: prosperity bringer (both a name and a type of
Christ, see e.g., Ge 49:10), we are being reminded that He is the true Shiloh.
He is the Answer to every man’s need.
is what a broken, repentant Israel will learn in the Tribulation.
means house of God, and the north is the Biblical direction that speaks of
intelligence, so that Shiloh’s being on the north side of Bethel is the symbolic
announcement of the truth that salvation is to be found only with God, and that
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is
understanding” (Pr 9:10).
being on the east side of the highway has yet another lesson to teach, for the east
is the direction that speaks of sin and departure from God; and the highway
represents the highway of life. Man in
his natural state is on the “east” side of that highway: he is estranged from
God; but God in incomprehensible grace has brought salvation down to where man is.
The Lord Jesus Christ left the glory of heaven, and came down to earth where
men lay spiritually dead in trespasses and sins, so that He might be their Savior
through His death on the cross to atone for their sins.
That road led to Shechem shoulder (literally early rising): diligence.
It speaks of the place of security and strength into which faith brings the
penitent sinner, like the lost sheep of Lk 15:5 which was sought by the shepherd, and
when found, was placed on his shoulders.
was also “on the south side of Lebonah frankincense,” but the south is the
Biblical direction that speaks of faith, while frankincense is the emblem of prayer
and worship. The spiritual lesson is
easily read. The salvation which is to
be found only in Christ, produces a life of prayer and worship.
“Therefore they commanded the children of Benjamin, saying, Go and lie in
wait in the vineyards:”
“And see, and, behold, if the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in
dances, then come ye out of the vineyards, and catch you every man his wife of the
daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin.”
continues to emphasize the character of the Gospel.
It is a feast, and associated with it is the joy portrayed both in the
dancing, and in the place, for the vineyard is the source of wine which is the
Biblical symbol of joy and gladness. The
twice repeated “daughters of Shiloh” adds the further detail that the Gospel
received brings peace and prosperity of soul.
the need of the Benjamites to go to the vineyards, and to catch each man his wife, we
have the reminder that salvation involves the individual’s will.
God foreknows who will be saved, but that foreknowledge is not to be confused
with predestination. No one is
predestinated either to be saved or lost. Whether
he will be in heaven or the lake of fire eternally is the result of each man’s
choice made here on earth to accept or reject the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.
and go to the land of Benjamin” is the symbolic declaration of another truth
related to salvation, for since Benjamin means son of the right hand, the land
of Benjamin, the dwelling place of those sons, tells us that faith brings the
believer into that sphere where there are available to him all the privileges and
blessings of those who are the sons of God, his own disobedience being the only thing
to prevent his enjoyment of those privileges and blessings.
“And it shall be, when their fathers or their brethren come unto us to
complain, that we will say unto them, Be favorable unto them for our sakes: because
we reserved not to each man his wife in the war: for ye did not give unto them at
this time, that ye should be guilty.”
this expedient the fathers and brethren of the women were exempt from the curse
pronounced upon any who would give a wife to Benjamin, see verse 18.
“And the children of Benjamin did so, and took them wives, according to
their number, of them that danced, whom they caught: and they went and returned unto
their inheritance, and repaired the cities, and dwelt in them.”
“And the children of Israel departed thence at that time, every man to his
tribe and to his family, and they went out from thence every man to his
return of the Benjamites to their inheritance, and their repair of the ruined cities,
together with the departure of the other tribes to their families and inheritance,
combine to furnish a symbolic picture of what will be in the Millennium after the
devastation of the Tribulation judgments.
War will give place to peace, and a converted Israel, together with the
converted remnant of the nations, will enjoy the blessings of an earth basking under
the beneficent dominion of the Prince of Peace.
“In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was
right in his own eyes.”
though we have been given a brief glimpse of the age that will bring earth’s
history to a peaceful close, the fact remains that the book of Judges is the preview
of the apostasy and anarchy that will mark the end of the Church age, and of the
terrible Tribulation judgments that will follow the rapture of the true Church.
In each of the judges and the brief local deliverances accomplished by each,
however, God would have us see a type of the Lord Jesus Christ, and of the universal
and eternal deliverance which He has accomplished at Calvary.
The era of the Judges may close with the ominous words of this last verse,
those words being applicable also to the present day relative to the world and the
professing church, but God would have believers lift their eyes above the ruin which
man’s disobedience has wrought, and look with glad expectation for that moment
when, “The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of
the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the
clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Th