The book of Judges, many times, reads like a cautionary tale about how not to please God. There are some stories where the people of the kingdom (actually the non-kingdom) of Israel did some very bad things. Like in chapter 19 verse 22 and following, where the men of Gibeah demand the master of the house throw out his guest so that they can rape him. So the guest throws his concubine out, and they rape her to death. Then the guest is so angry that he cuts her body into 12 pieces and sends them to each tribe.
It took this level of outrage to cause Israel to react. So, in the next chapter they congregate and ask the man why he has done this with his concubine. So he relates the whole story, and the people of Israel get angry at Gibeah (which is from the tribe of Benjamin) that they immediately went to punish the men responsible. But the people of the tribe of Benjamin would not comply, and there was a civil war for three days. Israel kept asking God if they should keep fighting the tribe of Benjamin, and God kept saying yes. When it was over most of the tribe of Benjamin was dead.
Then look at Judges 21:1:
Now the men of Israel had sworn at Mizpah, “No one of us shall give his daughter in marriage to Benjamin.”
Notice that the text does not say “God said…” Here is Israel, who has fallen to such a state that Gibeah is beginning to resemble Sodom and Gommorrah. This horrible thing has happened. They have sought God and followed his will in handing out punishment to the men of Gibeah, as well as those in the tribe of Benjamin that stood with them. After all of this, Israel goes a step further and swears to cut off the rest of the tribe of Benjamin. Now they have a problem.
They have sworn before God not to give their women as wives. But they don’t want the tribe to die off. So what is their big plan?
They go to a city that did not join in the fight against Benjamin, kill the adults and take the young virgin girls and gave them to Benjamin. God did not command this, they decided this was a good idea. But even that is not enough. Then they tell the people of Benjamin to go kidnap young women from those taking part on the yearly feast of the Lord at Shiloh. Men of Benjamin hide in the vineyards and take girls who come and dance there.
And that’s the resolution of the story. Everyone goes home like this was all great and grand. OK, not really, this was one huge mess. The book ends with this statement:
“Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. Judges 21:25b”
It’s pretty easy for us modern, western civilization types to sit back and look with disgust at this whole situation. Throughout the whole story human life is worth very little. Women and children are worth even less than men. We wouldn’t find ourselves in that situation.
But we might be able to see facets of this in our own lives if we are not careful.
When we take what God has directed us to do, and go beyond that, we are in danger of doing what Israel did here. We may not actually kill anyone, but we will destroy relationships and hurt people if we are not careful. God may have set a task before you, but did he tell you to roll over people on the way to accomplishing it?
Nothing Israel did regarding wives for Benjamin pleased God. He never asked them to make a foolish promise. He definitely never asked them to kill a village and kidnap 400 virgins. And he never told them to kidnap more young girls. It was unjust, and contrary to who God is. I’ll be the first to admit that God took extraordinary measures to protect Israel and the line of David until Jesus was born. He was serious about purity of the faith. But this isn’t who he is.
In your zeal to do what God has asked you to do, be sure your behavior reflects the God whose will you are trying to follow.