1 Chronicles 12-15: Seeking the Father in the days of Christ

Chapter 12 continued with various descriptions of David’s mighty men, from Benjaminites (v.2), Gadites (v.8), men of Judah (v.16) and Manassites (v.19) to the other tribes listed in the divisions of the armed troops who also assisted David in turning the kingdom of Saul over to him (such as Simeon (v.25), Levi (v.26), Jehoiada of the house of Aaron (v.27), Ephraim (v.30), Issachar (v.32), Zebulun (v.33), Naphtali (v.34), Dan (v.35), Asher (v.36), Reuben (v.37) – altogether a large number of men from all the 12 tribes of Israel).  These were men of notable abilities (v.2), the least was a match for a hundred men and the greatest for a thousand (v.14).  Amasai (the “strong“, the chief of the thirty v.18), being filled with the Spirit, thus declares that these men are as follows:

We are yours, O David, and with you, O Son of Jesse!  Peace, peace to you, and peace to your helpers!  For your God helps you

Indeed, but for David’s LORD, these mighty men would not be David’s subjects to begin with, that they were scatter from Saul’s headship and kingship to be with the one persecuted and rejected by the kingdom at large (v.19).  These are the men who were added day to day to David’s camp, until there was a great army of God (v.22)  indeed, an army of God, not an army of man.  This army had one single purpose:  to make David king over all Israel (v.38), hundreds of thousands of men feasting with David for three days (v.39) on food from afar, celebratory elements of flour, figs, raisins, wine, oil, oxen and sheep – a shadow of the marriage supper of the Lamb in new creation (v.39-40; Revelation 19:9), for “there was joy in Israel“.

This familial supper is thus combined with the celebratory reclamation of the ark.  Chapter 13 begins with David consulting with the commanders, the leader, and above all – the LORD (v.2), to firstly gather brothers in Christ who were scattered across the land.  Just as the good news was to be brought to the ends of the world as Israel was to be a priest to the nations (Exodus 19:6; Mathew 24:14), Israel must firstly be gathered and seek the LORD as one man (c.f. Judges 20, before the days of Saul).

From the day that the ark was lodged at Kiriath-jearim, a long time passed, some twenty years, and all the house of Israel lamented after the LORD.” (1 Samuel 7).  It has therefore been over two decades until David has ushered in the symbolic presence of the LORD back into the arms of the Israelites.  This explains why David assembled Israel to bring the ark of God from Kiriath-jearim, as it was brought to that region by the Philistines who had been struck with curses (e.g. 1 Samuel 5:6).  Eleazar (God has helped), the son of Abinadab (father of nobleness) has thus taken care of the ark since it was brought to his father’s house in Samuel’s day.

However, terror struck in v.9, at the threshing floor of Chidon (meaning “javelin“; or Nacon, meaning “prepared“- c.f. 2 Samuel 6:6) when Uzzah unwittingly touched the ark when the oxen stumbled and died there before God.  Although it would seem to be merely a careless mistake that this son of Abinadab had died simply from touching the ark, this family of Levites should have known from Exodus 25:14 that the proper method of transporting the ark is not by a cart but by the poles in the side of the ark.  This proper procedure was not observed with care, and thus the incident – a reminder that such joy for the LORD should not come without proper knowledge of the gospel and worshipping in His will and His direction.  Thus, as shown in the house of Abinadab and in the house of Obed-edom – with proper understanding of our standing before the LORD in our worship of Him, understanding that the work of the priesthood can never be replaced or revised, allows us to remember that the Father has indeed chosen to bless us through the High Priest and not through our devised methods of worship.  This, of course, translates into the Protestant obsession with “faith” and “grace” (sometime with a capital G) rather than with Christ Himself:

“The views to which the Wesleys were led by these means became of historic importance, for these views influenced the beliefs they held throughout life.  They both spoke of ‘seeking Christ’, yet as one analyses the pertinent passages in their Journals it becomes evident that they were actuallly seeking faith more than they were Christ. Faith had become the great desideratum in their thinking, insomuch that they began to look upon it as an entity in itself.  Under [the Moravian] Bohler’s instructions they had forsaken their trust in personal endeavours and works, but faith had become a kind of new endeavour which they substituted for their former endeavours and a work which took the place of their former good works.  They had still learned nothing about receiving Christ in the fullness of His person and the completeness of His saving work, but were concerned about faith itself and what measure of it might be necessary for salvation.  Charles expected that the coming of this faith might be associated with some visible presence of Christ, and John looked for an experience which would be accompanied by an emotional response.  ‘I well saw’, he wrote, ‘that no-one could, in the nature of things, have such a sense of forgiveness and not feel it.  But I felt it not.” – Arnold Dallimore on John Wesley in his George Whitfield, vol 1

Chapter 14 chronicles David’s victories against the Philistines, underscoring God who has broken through David’s enemies by David’s hands; so also it is the Father’s joint victory over the cross through the Son.  As Karl Barth states it in his first volume of his Church Dogmatics – the Father’s work has His own distinguishable personality and mark compared to the Son’s, but should never be separated from the Son.  The Son was indeed the One on the cross, but it is as much the Father’s work in the Son’s overcoming of the sting of death as it is the Son’s.  David’s fame is therefore underlined by the LORD (v.17); not by Saul’s type of might, nor by Abinadab’s type of good works, but simply by seeking Christ Himself.

Note the difference in chapter 15 with the break-out against Uzzah in chapter 13; David has learned from his experience and has chosen the heads of the fathers’ houses of the Levites to consecrate themselves so that they may bring up the ark of the LORD (v.12).  The proper procedure has been observed, and David understood that the failure came from the fact that they “did not carry it the first time, [so] the LORD our God broke out against us, because we did not seek him according to the rule“.  Exodus 24:15 was thus observed in chapter 15:15.  The LORD thus helped the Levites (who had prepared joyous music in this act of worship, see v. 16-25), and their response was to sacrifice seven bulls and seven rams (v.26; c.f. Numbers 23:1; Job 42:8; Ezekiel 45:23) – at the same time, David was dressed as a Levite, robed in fine linen with a linen ephod.  This is a grand picture of the Saviour in His fullness, the salvific work of the Lamb through His sinless sacrifice, the glorious High Priest and King coming in the sound of the horn, trumpets, cymbals, harps and lyres (c.f. Book of Revelation).

Yet, in this wonderful occasion, the chapter ends with Michal’s jealousy for David which is nothing like the jealous love of the LORD.  Her heart for David consumed her above her love for the LORD (2 Samuel 6:23), forgetting what the mystery of marriage truly is about (Ephesians 5:22-33).

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1 Chronicles 12-15: Seeking the Father in the days of Christ

Married

Hi all – apologies for my hiatus from writing (consistently) for so long.  I am now happily married 🙂 In keeping up with this blog/commentary, hopefully what Christ teaches me through the mysterious and spiritual Book of Life – the Word of God – will only serve to enrich our oneness as man and wife.

Ephesians 5:22-33, the Great Gospel, is what marriage is all about.  How about time we learned about the first marriage before Adam and EveChrist and His Bride?

 

Married

1 Kings 3: Wisdom and folly

1(A) Solomon made a marriage alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt. He took Pharaoh’s daughter and brought her into(B) the city of David until he had finished(C) building his own house(D) and the house of the LORD(E) and the wall around Jerusalem. 2(F) The people were sacrificing at the high places, however, because no house had yet been built for the name of the LORD.

There has been ample speculation regarding Solomon’s relationship with Pharoah’s daughter, many of which has been negative (due namely to the commandment in Exodus 34; Deuteronomy 7:3-4; however, Egypt is not specifically mentioned – rather, the crux of such prevention of inter-marriage is to ensure that these foreign people do not bring with them foreign gods to ensnare the Israelites).  Yet, note that Solomon’s kingdom is a type of the new creation kingdom, and littered throughout Solomon’s reign is a shadow of the inclusion of the Gentiles which has already been happening prior to Solomon’s reign (Rahab in Joshua 2:1-3, 6:17-25; Barzillai, blessed by David in 1 Kings 2 and hails from the tribe of Gileadites from the mixed race of the sons of Manasseh – Numbers 26:29; and the blessing of Japheth, the father of Gentiles, in Genesis 9:27) and truly fulfilled on the Pentecost after Christ’s ascension (Acts 2).

What is the focus of this portion of the chapter however is not his marriage alliance with Pharoah though indeed we should not ignore the significance of this being one of his first actions as king, especially marked after his receipt of the Spirit’s wisdom in this chapter.  Rather, it is that the people were sacrificing at the high places (v.2), just as Solomon had done so (v.3-4), but not because the people necessarily consciously sinned against the LORD.  Rather, the reason is given in v.2 – it is “because no house had yet been built for the name of the LORD”.  Note that Solomon is emphasized as loving the LORD and walking in his father’s statutes (even in his marriage alliance with Pharoah) – but the emphasis is placed on the fact that he is offering at high places, the Hebrew indicating that this is not a good thing (“however” in v.2, and “only” in v.3).

How are we then to reconcile the fact that there is the tent of God, the tabernacle for just offerings; but there being no “house of the LORD”?  This tension may be resolved by understanding that this chapter lays down the blueprint and background behind Solomon’s building of the temple, compared to David’s building of the temple (2 Samuel 7; 1 Chronicles 28).  The focus therefore is not simply an issue of whether these men are sinning or not when they sacrifice in “unauthorized” places like Gibeon (for the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night at Gibeon – v.5; and furthermore reconciled with 2 Chronicles 1:3 where the tent of meeting was actually there at Gibeon as well, though the ark is in Jerusalem – 2 Chronicles 1:4), but the symbolism behind how these Christians who offered burnt offerings to God at different places were united because the house of the LORD was finally built by an anointed son of David.

If sin is not the central thrust of the discussion here, then the inclusion of the marriage alliance with Pharoah falls neatly into place – for we are then speaking of the shadow of the Israelite-Gentile church, scattered around the globe, providing their various burnt offerings but still having no place that they can call home (1 John 2:15).  Yet, such a great task of building the house of the LORD cannot be easily met by mere intelligence or human wisdom – even the less impressive and mobile tabernacle had to be built by architects filled with the Spirit (Exodus 28:3, 31:3, 35:21, 35:31).  Consider therefore Solomon’s concern in relation to how he is to lead the nation as a king, and how to subsequently build this house (1 Kings 5):

5(J) At Gibeon(K) the LORD appeared to Solomon(L) in a dream by night, and God said, “Ask what I shall give you.” 6And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant David my father, because(M) he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you. And you have kept for him this great and steadfast love and(N) have given him a son to sit on his throne this day. 7And now, O LORD my God,(O) you have made your servant king in place of David my father,(P) although I am but a little child. I do not know(Q) how to go out or come in. 8(R) And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people,(S) too many to be numbered or counted for multitude. 9(T) Give your servant therefore an understanding mind(U) to govern your people, that I may(V) discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?”

10It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. 11And God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, 12behold,(W) I now do according to your word. Behold,(X) I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you. 13(Y) I give you also what you have not asked,(Z) both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days. 14And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments,(AA) as your father David walked, then(AB) I will lengthen your days.”

Note Solomon’s wise request – he had asked the LORD for an understanding mind to govern His people, to discern between good and evil, for who (but the LORD) is able to govern His great people (v.9)?  What a reverent way to address the LORD, compared to the very arrogance of Adam and Eve in attempting to discern good and evil (Genesis 3:5, 3:22), for themselves (Genesis 3:5 – “you” will be like God) rather than for creation (Genesis 1:26 – dominion over the fish of the sea, birds of the heavens, livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth… for we are made in God’s image – v.27; thus, it is God’s primary role as head of such dominion, which man has but inherited from God as a gift) and His people.

However, v.14 is again a condition which only Christ could fulfill perfectly.  For 2 Samuel primarily marks not the triumph of David, but rather David’s reliance on the LORD who triumphs on His behalf, the Angel who stayed His hand upon David’s offering at Jebus (2 Samuel 24; 1 Chronicles 21; 2 Chronicles 3:1).  Yet, this is already counted as “walking in [the LORD’s] ways, keeping [His] statutes and [His] commandments” (v.14), despite David’s grave sins of murder and adultery (2 Samuel 11-12, adultery with Bathsheba; murder of Uriah). Thus, the condition is merely that Solomon, like David, must proclaim the LORD as his LORD, despite Solomon’s shortcomings as a man born in the sin of Adam but clinging onto the hope of the Anointed Offspring of Adam (Genesis 3:15) and David (2 Samuel 7).  Where Solomon fulfilled v.14, his son Rehoboam failed miserably for he sinned defiantly and did not return to the LORD for true propitiation like David had (1 Kings 12; 1 Kings 15:6 – there was war all the days of Rehoboam’s life, very different from the peace and safety accorded under Solomon’s reign), finally leading to the rejection of Israel in the Assyrian and Babylonian captivity (2 Chronicles 30-33).

15And Solomon(AC) awoke, and behold, it was a dream. Then he came to Jerusalem and stood before the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and offered up burnt offerings and peace offerings, and made a feast for all his servants.

Observe how Solomon, after the dream (Genesis 31, 37; Joel 2:28; Matthew 1:20 – often associated with the beginning of one’s ministry, similar to that of a “vision of the night” – Job 33:15), has not turned to worshipping at Gibeon, but immediately travels to Jerusalem before the ark (v.15).  This is his first step in consolidating the Christians in Israel back to the house of the LORD, just as our Christ is now preparing a house for us (book of Ezekiel / John 14:2 / Revelation 21:2), that we should set our sights on the house of the LORD in new creation.  Furthermore, this is a restoration of the centrality of the ark of the covenant, which has been long neglected during Saul’s reign (1 Chronicles 13:3), retrieved by David, Zadok and Abiathar (2 Samuel 15:29), and now no longer shunned to the side and given its full significance as it had been during the time of Moses.  Therefore, to this day, we will look to the day when we worship the LORD before the ark of the covenant in new creation (Revelation 11:19).

16Then two prostitutes came to the king(AD) and stood before him. 17The one woman said, “Oh, my lord, this woman and I live in the same house, and I gave birth to a child while she was in the house. 18Then on the third day after I gave birth, this woman also gave birth. And we were alone. There was no one else with us in the house; only we two were in the house. 19And this woman’s son died in the night, because she lay on him. 20And she arose at midnight and took my son from beside me, while your servant slept, and laid him at her breast, and laid her dead son at my breast. 21When I rose in the morning to nurse my child, behold, he was dead. But when I looked at him closely in the morning, behold, he was not the child that I had borne.” 22But the other woman said, “No, the living child is mine, and the dead child is yours.” The first said, “No, the dead child is yours, and the living child is mine.” Thus they spoke before the king.

What a sick scenario, that we see two prostitutes fight over their rightful son.  Here, we see a shadow of the Satan working through the prostitute with the dead son, for Satan’s “offspring” (John 8:44; 1 John 2:22) are but subject to the death caused by Satan himself (v.19; c.f. Genesis 3).

23Then the king said, “The one says, ‘This is my son that is alive, and your son is dead’; and the other says, ‘No; but your son is dead, and my son is the living one.'” 24And the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So a sword was brought before the king. 25And the king said, “Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one and half to the other.” 26Then the woman whose son was alive said to the king, because(AE) her heart yearned for her son, “Oh, my lord, give her the living child, and by no means put him to death.” But the other said, “He shall be neither mine nor yours; divide him.” 27Then the king answered and said, “Give the living child to the first woman, and by no means put him to death; she is his mother.” 28And all Israel heard of the judgment that the king had rendered, and they stood in awe of the king, because they perceived that(AF) the wisdom of God was in him to do justice.

However, look at the wisdom of Solomon – rather than subject himself to the wisdom which he had before his reign, he now rules more definitively by gift of more Wisdom from God to discern between good and evil.  Thus, the first two actions after receiving such a gift is the immediate worship at the tabernacle; followed by discernment of the wheat from the chaff, the Satan masquerading as an angel of light and pretending to be the rightful mother of this babe.  For Solomon’s kingdom shall not be ruled merely by the sword, but by Wisdom (Proverbs 8).  This first judgment by Wisdom is but a microcosm of what every king has failed or succeeded in doing – the discernment of good and evil for God’s people rather than the king’s people (v.9).  Note the loving mother who yearned for her child in v.26 compared to the Satanic prostitute who would rather the child be divided – at first they are presented as identical, but very swiftly the darkness is exposed and that such is the spiritual perception of God’s wisdom  (v.28), to not only differentiate good from evil but to also exalt the woman who is a prostitute to glory as a mother who yearns for her child; to not only exalt the prostitute-church who has cared for her offspring, but also expose the murderous woman of Babylon for quenching the child of the church (Revelation 17).

1 Kings 3: Wisdom and folly

2 Samuel 13: The Zealous Church and the False Head

The theme of chaos and reversal does not cease in chapter 12 – and the reality of this theme is broken loose as we see significant consequence of David’s adultery; where he forced himself upon a married woman in chapter 11, the parallel occurs in chapter 13 where his son, a single man and potential heir to the throne forces himself upon a virgin.  The irony should not be lost on those hearing this passage that the Father’s sin is re-committed by Amnon – just to show the fullness what it means when the covenantal relationship between the Father and the Son; and between the Son and the church, is not displayed.

The theme of covenant-breaking is carried forward even in the names and gender roles themselves.  Ammon, he who is “faithful”, is instead anything but.  This incestuous relationship would not have a future (Leviticus 18) – and yet, just as there is no future for Adam and Eve to eat of the fruit of the tree of good and evil, just as Ammon the ‘faithful’ would instead pursue a relationship outside of God’s ordination, we have the crafty man Jonadab.  It would be a mistake to assume that this ‘craftiness’ is the same craftiness, or cunningness,  of the serpent in Genesis 3 – yet that is exactly the purpose of this chapter – to present the absolute reversal and irony of God’s goodness.  It is the faithful Ammon, led by crafty (or more literally, wise, rather than cunning) Jonadab that the impossible is committed.  That instead of Ammon loving his sister, to serve his sister, he would instead wish to do anything to her.  The verb connotes an action towards an inanimate object, or an action which is not filled with service, nor love:

Amnon.  The heir to the throne of Israel.  He is the firstborn son of David about whom there must have been high hopes.  His name means faithful.  Here is a faithful ruler.  And he is a lover, v1.  In fact he is literally love-sick for Tamar.  Amnon is depressed, he’s losing weight, (v4) he’s become haggard with desire for Tamar.

But look at what lies behind these feelings.  See the last half of v2.  It does not  read: “It seemed impossible for Amnon to do anything for her.”  That would be love.  Love in the Bible means service, it means sacrifice – putting yourself out for the other.  But Amnon’s love was a love that wanted to do something ‘to’ Tamar.” – Glen Scrivener in his sermon on 2 Samuel 13

And so, just like the scheming of chapter 11, we see the elaborate plan in the raping of Tamar.

What ensues is a picture which is shocking – a picture which displays the true suffering of this world.  Where is God in all this suffering?  Where is God when Tamar is literally torn apart in her flesh by her very own brother?  This picture is not pretty – and look at v.7-10: a picture of true service, a picture of a wife, a picture of a woman, a picture of a weaker vessel, a picture of the willing worshipper.  Yet, this is the picture of those who are serving a beast; this is the picture of those zealous and religious people of this world, taking dought, kneading it, making and baking cakes before the sight of the man.  Yet, does she know what her brother is about to do?  No – she serves him out of love; yet he returns her love with hatred (v.15).

Note that Tamar pleads with Ammon attempting to arouse his sense of sin in his heart – by calling him her brother; by saying that nothing like this has been done in Israel before; by calling him an ‘outrageous fool’ (v.11-13).  And when none of this worked, she desperately asked Ammon to speak with the king (v.13), just before Ammon had failed to listen – a blind, deaf and heartless man – and therefore raped Tamar in spite of her service for him, in spite of her pleadings and truly wise reasoning.  In the entire chapter, she has been the voice of Spiritual reason – and yet she is silenced.  The church is silenced; the church’s service is ignored.  This is not love – this is hatred.

This is why we immediately see the picture of the ravaged virgin; the picture which God had from the foundation of creation had prevented from happening by the sacrifice of the lamb (Revelation 13:8).  In this picture of Tamar’s suffering, sin has become very real.  Yet, is this not the picture of the church, her robe torn apart, and her innocence ravaged from the inside out that she should have ashes on her head instead of the Logos, the arche, the true head of creation as her Head?  And this is the picture of those who have been ravaged by Ammon; this is the picture of the false gods raping their worshippers despite these obedient servants’ zeal.  This is the picture of the reversal of redemption – and this is the reality of Satan’s work in a man’s heart.  Rape.

In the midst of such raping; in the midst of such suffering, we should not forget that without the cross, such chaos and reversal of redemption would result in a purely nihilistic world.  Yet, what the Spirit tells us here in chapter 13 is that the cross of Christ has even removed the shame of being violated. That the cross of Christ has removed the shame of being raped; instead, Jesus took on the sexual intrusion.  Where Tamar walked around in teary shame in the streets of the city (v.18-19), instead we have Christ being removed from His Father’s bosom on the cross (Matthew 27:46).  Instead, we have Christ our Mediator, our Head, being bruised by the serpent.  Christ was even raped on our behalf, so we would escape this shame.

Chapter 13, however, is a picture of what happens when the Wisdom of God is silenced:

Pro 1:20-33  Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice;  (21)  at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:  (22)  “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?  (23)  If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you.  (24)  Because I have called and you refused to listen, have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded,  (25)  because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof,  (26)  I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when terror strikes you,  (27)  when terror strikes you like a storm and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you.  (28)  Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but will not find me.  (29)  Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD,  (30)  would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof,  (31)  therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices.  (32)  For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them;  (33)  but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.”

So Tamar cries aloud in the streets and no-one hears, just as the Spirit of God cried aloud in the streets to enjoin people to the harmony under Christ the Head.  Her robe of different colours is instead torn; her robe of righteousness trampled upon.  And so, we see David angry; but he does nothing.  Absalom is angry, but he silenced Tamar.  Ammon was lustful, and he was indifferent to Tamar’s call.  Jonadab relied on his own wisdom, but he did not rely on the Wisdom of God, the Holy Spirit.  We are thus left with a picture of Tamar, ravaged and living in desolation.  There is no happy ending for her until the embraces of new creation when all chaos and reversal is turned back on its Head.

Just as the words of those surrounding Tamar were words of folly, so Absalom falls into a similar category.  “Strike Amnon”, “Do not fear; have I not commanded you?  Be courageous and valiant”.  What irony!  Absalom is assuming a position of courage and valour, and yet he would rather his servants do the execution of Amnon; rather than protect his sister and provide her with love as a true brother would, he merely housed her.  Absalom is not the antithesis of Amnon; Absalom is of the same breed as Amnon – where Absalom positively offended Tamar, Absalom negatively was indifferent to Tamar.  Instead, he was bloodthirsty – and spoke to Amnon neither good nor bad (v.22), to await the day of revenge rather than provide justice by the Word (Romans 12:20).  Absalom, just as he would do so in chapter 14 onwards, would assume the position of God and enact revenge as if he was the Judge, to assume the position of the throne when David was still king.  All the king’s sons arose – and what did they do?  They fled.  As if to lessen the guilt of Absalom, Jonadab’s words of ‘wisdom’ are but a re-interpretation of the event.  “Let not my lord suppose that they have killed all the young men the king’s son, for Amnon alone is dead… determined [by Absalom] from the day he violated his sister Tamar”.  As if this redeems the situation!  Instead, the first report is accurate: for Absalom’s threat is not merely to Amnon alone – but his sword shall be the dividing factor of David’s kingdom until chapter 18.  His threat is aimed at David’s throne – and that is why David is in fact intricately involved in chapter 13 though he is barely mentioned.

This is because of Nathan’s prophecy in chapter 12:10.  This prophecy states that all that is to happen after David’s adultery is directly a result of David’s sin.  Amnon’s death; Absalom’s rebellion; the silencing and raping of Tamar – all stemming from David’s moment of pleasure and moment of stepping out of covenantal relationship with Christ.  Yet, this is but a shadow of the true picture of what it would be like if Christ stepped outside of His Trinitarian relationship.  Rape.  Silence.  Revenge.  Death.  Injustice.  The tearing of the kingdom of God.  This is the implication if the Son was forever removed from the Father; and yet, in the Son’s resurrection, in the Return of the Son on the Day of Resurrection, the suffering shall be ended by the One who already suffered and removed the sting of death, removed the sting of being raped, and replaced on our head the glory of the Father so that we would not have to cover our head in shame (v.19; c.f. 1 Corinthians 11).

2 Samuel 13: The Zealous Church and the False Head

2 Samuel 3: Abner and Nabal

The ‘long war’ spoken of, is this war of the end-times.  The Christian church grew stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul, the continual epitome of old Israel, became weaker and weaker (v.1).  Is this not the picture of the present day, that Israel (though the nation is re-established on the geographical map) has a long way to go before many are called to join the house of David?  While the gospel has gone out to the Gentiles and other worthless men who are now hiding under the banner of Jesus?

It is no surprise that v.2-5 is therefore a return to a genealogical account of David because it contrasts the birthing of new sons in the house of David against the death of Saul’s family, save for a few daughters such as Milcah and the son Ish-bosheth and a grandson Mephibosheth (c.f. chapter 4).  In the dwindling house of Saul, the head of this house is symbolically Ish-bosheth; but Abner is the real mediator between the two houses.  It is clear that there could be no procreation of this old Israel and that they must join with the house of David if they were to continue to exist.  In comparison to the richness of the wives and sons by David’s side, Abner and Ish-bosheth quarrel over a rumour of Saul’s concubine being disloyal, and fear and adultery rules in this house where the king is subdued by the army commander (v.11); where the head fears the body.  Yet, one thing is for certain – the looming fulfillment of the prophecy that David will be king (v.10) which has been burnt into Abner’s heart.  This shameful man Ish-bosheth must turn from this accusation of adultery and move onto the inevitable truth that the house of Saul must fail; and that like Abner, choose to surrender and follow the new head David.

Yet, it is in v.12-16 that we learn truly why the genealogical account was given in v.2-5:  because Milcah was David’s first wife.  Because Milcah is Saul’s daughter; and it is by Milcah that David is (by implication) to become the potential heir to the throne besides Jonathan and his other brothers.  And it is in God’s economy and irony that Saul’s own prophetic words are fulfilled (1 Samuel 18:21), but not for the good of Saul but for the pleasure of the Father in heaven.  Milcah is no snare and has not proven to be the catalyst for David’s rise to the throne; rather, it is David who initiated this fulfillment of the first marriage to honour the house of Saul just as Abner has been doing in lieu of Saul’s death.

Thus, it is by circumcision that the old enemy, the Philistines, is exchanged as a bridal price for Saul’s daughter (v.14), as Justin Martyr in his Dialogue with Trypho states:

“The command of circumcision, again, bidding [them] always circumcise the children on the eighth day, was a type of the true circumcision, by which we are circumcised from deceit and iniquity through Him who rose from the dead on the first day after the Sabbath, [namely through] our Lord Jesus Christ. For the first day after the Sabbath, remaining the first of all the days, is called, however, the eighth, according to the number of all the days of the cycle, and [yet] remains the first.”

And in this chapter we see the transfer of the bride to the true first head, God delivering (Paltiel) Milcah from the hands of the false husband who is the son of Laish, the ancient name of the tribe of Dan, the prophesied symbolic serpent (Genesis 49:17) rejected from the book of Revelation; of Abner declaring that his hand shall be with David to bring over all Israel to him (v.12), further declaring the long foretold prophecy of David as the true king of Israel (v.17-19) finally admitting that David is the true Messiah and not some king of the physical lineage of Saul’s.  Will this be the picture of Israel in the end-days, that they will no longer call Christ an imposter-Messiah but finally accept that the prophecies, shadows, sacraments and types of the Old Testament all point definitively to this God-man upon which the physical lineage of the kings are removed in favour of the priestly line of Melchizedek (Psalm 110)?

The joint fact that Abner had conferred with the elders of Israel privately and thereafter in v.20-21 had a feast with David (c.f. Exodus 24; Matthew 22 – the wedding feast typified by David’s reunification with Michal) upon his re-uniting with Michal is more than simply a message of the church uniting in new creation to finally see the Father and the Son face-to-face (v.13).  It is a message of the restoration of Israel under the banner of Christ; it is the message of the long-war whereupon the elect nation Israel will not be replaced by the Gentiles, but will submit to the true God alongside them (Revelation 21:12).

The transparency of Abner’s dealings with the elders of Israel depict a man who has finally accepted the fulfillment of Yahweh’s prophecy in Jesus Christ typified in David; yet Joab’s murder of Abner is not fuelled by love for his enemy but fuelled by wrath and blindness (v.25).  It is therefore interesting what pronouncement David makes over Joab’s house in v.29: “May it fall upon the head of Joab and upon all his father’s house, and may the house of Joab never be without one who has a discharge or who is leprous or who holds a spindle or who falls by the sword or who lacks bread!”  What a seemingly extreme curse in light of Asahel’s death (v.30)!  Yet, as we have looked at the last chapter that Asahel’s pursuit of Abner is more typical of the son of Zeruiah than the son of Mary (c.f. v.39), so David’s pronouncement is on this ‘missing father’ of these sons who take upon the matronymic label; instead, David’s pronouncement is not merely on some physical father but on the spiritual father of these sons – this spiritual father being Satan (John 8:44), who had used Joab to prevent the unity of the Israelite and the Gentile church which has been the subject of the end-times since Christ’s ascension (c.f. Acts 2, which shows the momentous act of the Gentiles speaking in tongues, and book of Ephesians which both focus on the addition of Gentiles to the church of Israel).

Thus, the burial of Abner at Hebron (v.32) is a mirror to the birth of David’s sons also at Hebron (v.2-5); just as the burial of Asahel at Bethlehem is a mirror of the birth of David in Bethlehem; just as the death of Michal’s second marriage to be replaced by the first love under David’s banner (1 Samuel 18:28).

“He speaks as one boasting that Abner did not fool himself out of his life: “Died Abner as a fool dies? No, he did not, not as a criminal, a traitor or felon, that forfeits his life into the hands of public justice; his hands were not pinioned, nor his feet fettered, as those of malefactors are: Abner falls not before just men, by a judicial sentence; but as a man, an innocent man, falleth before wicked men, thieves and robbers, so fellest thou.” Died Abner as Nabal died? so the Septuagint reads it. Nabal died as he lived, like himself, like a sot; but Abner’s fate was such as might have been the fate of the wisest and best man in the world. Abner did not throw away his life as Asahel did, who wilfully ran upon the spear, after fair warning, but he was struck by surprise. Note, It is a sad thing to die like a fool, as those do that in any way shorten their own days, and much more those that make no provision for another world.” – Matthew Henry

In David’s poetic cry Abner’s death is compared to the death and sacrifice of the Christ; upon his death are the Israelites and the Gentiles united.  Though this typology is imperfect for Abner is at fault for Asahel’s death (though made in self-defence), the poetry speaks of the contrast between Abner and Nabal; the former repenting of his treatment of David and willing to unite Israel under David, against the latter refusing to repent and leading to God’s punishment of death.

Further, in David’s fasting he uses a similar phrase as Abner had done in his heated conversation with Ish-bosheth – “God do so to me and more also” to identify that both men are of the same agenda.  Both men, though from different houses, have set in their mind matters of peace and mediation between the two houses, united under the prophecy of Yahweh’s anointing of David as the very centre of unity.  Abner is no mere army commander, but a prince and a great man (v.38) with whom he had made a covenant with (v.13) rather than directly with Ish-bosheth himself (c.f. v.14 where Ish-bosheth was asked to deliver Michal but nothing was stated about the covenant which he offered to make with Abner).  Though Asahel is buried in Bethlehem as a mark of the end of his ministry without mourning, the death of Abner in Hebron is marked with true mourning and fasting; where peace was achieved in chapter 2v.17 but denied by Asahel’s pursuit upon which he died a warrior’s death (Matthew 26:52), true peace was indeed achieved in this chapter (v.23) but again denied by the hands of a son of Zeruiah whereupon the curse is on the father of these sons and a blessing is proclaimed on the house of Abner – the house of Saul, with whom David managed to make a covenant with before Abner’s passing away.

2 Samuel 3: Abner and Nabal

1 Samuel 25: The Redemption of the Olive Tree Branches

Now we come to see how David sent these ten young men (v.5) in a similar manner to how Abraham sent his servant to seek for his Son a wife (Genesis 24) – and so these young men came in the name of David (v.9) just as we are proclaiming the victory of Christ in His name.  Yet, this Nabal was a lost sheep in the wilderness (v.4) – and David, the shepherd at heart, goes out with his men to redeem and reclaim this lost sheep and his wife Abigail, and usurp Nabal’s position as the man with possessions in the garden-land Carmel (v.2, v.14), a shadow of Christ restoring us to our position as righteous children and stewards in the true Garden of Eden through his prayer in the garden of Gethsemane.

Verses 6-8 are reflective of David’s compassion on Nabal and Abigail: “Peace be with you… to your house… to all that you have”.  How is this peace obtained?  Because Nabal’s business consists of the shearing of sheep in Carmel (v.2), and the shepherd need be protected to manage the sheep – these very shepherds being  protected by David (v.7) during the time at Carmel.  David had secured peace for Nabal in a variety of ways; by the first defeat of Goliath by David’s self-election; by the defeat of the Philistines, by the protection of Nabal’s shepherds, and even through his ancestor’s Caleb’s obedience that the land Carmel, near Hebron, was even inherited and passed down (Joshua 14:14; Joshua 15:54-55) – from both a wider and more specific context, we can see that David achieved salvation for Nabal and his household as a type of Christ just as Caleb was.  This day, he came to find favour in his eyes as they came on a feast day (v.8).

And this is not how our Christ achieved salvation for us long before we knew him?  He had ensured our greatest peace with the Father through his work on the cross (Romans 5:1) that our household may inherit the covenant of grace through Christ, so that on the day when the Saviour comes to find us in the wilderness, we may have a feast day with him in anticipation of the Resurrection feast day.

Yet, Nabal’s answer is typical of the unbeliever – “Who is this David?  Who is the son of Jesse?”  What ridicule!  This Calebite, his very existence dependent upon his father Caleb who stood faithfully by Yeshua/Joshua, was the only spy who came back alive from tasting the firstfruit of Canaan (Numbers 13:20-27), and yet this Nabal would not recognise the true Yeshua typified in David, son of Jesse.  Who is this Jesus Christ, son of Joseph?  Who is this Jesus Christ, son of God?  These words are treated with contempt – and to those who ignore the peace achieved in Christ remains condemnation and wrath on their heads (John 3:18; Romans 1:18-32).

Hope is not lost on Nabal’s household as one young man manages to recount the glory of David to Nabal’s wife – “David sent messengers out of the wilderness… the men were very good to us… we suffered no harm, and we did not miss anything when we were in the fields, as long as we went with them.  They were a wall to us both by night and by day, all the while we were with them keeping the sheep”.   This young man spoke of the salvation through David; he was giving his testimony to Abigail – and like the pillar of cloud and fire (Exodus 13:21), so David and his men shielded these shepherds who were also in themselves sheep which needed divine protection.

This entire episode bears semblance to the Angel of the LORD seeking for Moses’ life for failing to circumcise his child, but by the mediation of the blood of the child’s circumcision was this wrath propitiated; so also we see the mediation of Nabal by the sacrifice of Abigail (v.18).  Is not David’s work to lead us to salvation, his blessings for the intention of repentance (Romans 2:4)?  Yet, if it does not achieve this effect, then David’s work of salvation is indeed done in vain; so also Christ’s work on the cross and His blessings to us is entirely meaningless if we do not confess Him to be our Saviour, though that work of salvation indeed did occur and remains true.

However, what we see next is a wonderful word-play of David as Abigail’s lord, fighting the battles on the LORD (the Father’s) behalf – and what we see here is Abigail expounding a Trinitarian understanding of how salvation is effected:

“24She fell at his feet and said,(AC) “On me alone, my lord, be the guilt. Please let your servant speak in your ears, and hear the words of your servant. 25Let not my lord regard(AD) this worthless fellow, Nabal, for as his name is, so is he. Nabal[c] is his name, and folly is with him. But I your servant did not see the young men of my lord, whom you sent. 26Now then, my lord,(AE) as the LORD lives, and as your soul lives, because(AF) the LORD has restrained you from bloodguilt and from(AG) saving with your own hand, now then(AH) let your enemies and those who seek to do evil to my lord be as Nabal. 27And now let this(AI) present that your servant has brought to my lord be given to the young men who follow my lord. 28Please forgive the trespass of your servant. For the LORD will certainly make my lord(AJ) a sure house, because my lord(AK) is fighting the battles of the LORD, and evil shall not be found in you so long as you live. 29If men rise up to pursue you and to seek your life, the life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living in the care of the LORD your God. And the lives of your enemies(AL) he shall sling out as from the hollow of a sling. 30And when the LORD has done to my lord according to all the good that he has spoken concerning you and has appointed you prince over Israel, 31my lord shall have no cause of grief or pangs of conscience for having shed blood without cause or for my lord(AM) taking vengeance himself. And when the LORD has dealt well with my lord, then remember your servant.””

This is her response upon hearing from the young man of the testimony of the lord David; and in the household of Nabal, in which the covenant of peace was made, Nabal did not represent the entire house, just as Jacob was not the representative of the entire nation of Israel.  Even in the house of Israel, there are plenty of Nabals (fools), just as there are plenty of Abigails who, upon hearing the word (Romans 10:14) are convicted of the truth of the Anointed One.  Just as she cannot serve two lords, she has decidedly put herself before David in worship and reverence, just as men have bowed before the Angel of the LORD rather than mere angels (Numbers 22:31 against Exodus 23:24).  She readily calls her husband, her first lord a fool; but rather submit herself to the second lord David whose victories are by the LORD in heaven.  Is this not also true of us?  That we may denounce our first man Adam to receive the second Adam?  To denounce the first king Saul to receive the true prince David (v.30)?  Just as the LORD redeemed Lot from the land of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19), had preserved a remnant of Israel in times of overt heresy and rebellion (Romans 11:5), so David preserved at least one in the household of Nabal.  Are we to remain in the house of Adam if we do not receive Christ and His Spirit by Whom we are reborn into the body of the new Head, of the new prince, of David?  If so, we will perish alongside Nabal – and it does not please David to hurt (v.34), just as it does not please the LORD to see people die (Ezekiel 18:31).

So the death of Nabal shall come in the same way as the drunken and merry heathens experienced – that the coming of Christ and his redemptive work was actually necessary, true, and a great surprise (2 Peter 2).  “In the morning, when the wine had gone out of Nabal, his wife told him these things, and his heart died within him, and he became as a stone” (v.37).  As if the news of David coming to cleanse the household of Nabal was not sobering enough, the judgment came from the hand of the Father though the condemnation already came by Christ.

What then of Abigail, who now has no husband?  Just as we were once married (Romans 7:2), by the death of Nabal is Abigail freed from the head of her household, that she should attach herself to the new and true lord David as her new husband – so we also escape from Adam, our flesh crucified in Christ, and reborn under the new head of Jesus.

It is here that we need to differentiate between the grammatico-hermeneutical method of exegesis and the Christological hermeneutic – here, David (and like many before him, such as Abraham) takes two more wives (besides Michal) – Ahinoam and Abigail.  Though it is apparent why Abigail is taken (for she was redeemed from the hands of the false steward, an analogy of the salvation of the church-sheep from the clutches of the Satan), what of Ahinoam?

In 1 Samuel 14:50, Saul’s wife is mentioned as Ahinoam, named my brother is delight, the daughter of Ahimaaz, named my brother is anger.  Yet, Saul has, instead of contributing to any delight in his wife’s life has instead become an epitome of anger and jealousy in the latter half of the first book of Samuel.  Contrarily, we have here a juxtaposition of David taking a bride of the same name as Saul’s wife placed next to a verse where David’s first wife is given away by Saul, and taking the faithful wife Abigail; instead, Michal is not ‘redeemed’ by David until 2 Samuel 3; and her demise is summed up in 2 Samuel 6:23 – that she shall have no more children.  Michal, though faithful to David and truly loved David in 1 Samuel 18, did not love David’s LORD.  Yet, Abigail and by implication Ahinoam are David’s new wives who do love the LORD – and here we see the unnatural olive tree branches implanted as the natural olive tree branch is removed (Romans 11).  Though David returns to buy her back (2 Samuel 3) such that our LORD God has not forsaken the Israelites his first bride, her limp response to him when he danced before the LORD truly portrayed a bride who was not suitably dressed for the true Wedding Day (Matthew 22:11).

1 Samuel 25: The Redemption of the Olive Tree Branches

Judges 19-21: Who is the King?

Judges 19:  Christ the Levitical Concubine

Jdg 19:1-30  In those days, when there was no king in Israel, a certain Levite was sojourning in the remote parts of the hill country of Ephraim, who took to himself a concubine from Bethlehem in Judah.  (2)  And his concubine was unfaithful to him, and she went away from him to her father’s house at Bethlehem in Judah, and was there some four months.  (3)  Then her husband arose and went after her, to speak kindly to her and bring her back. He had with him his servant and a couple of donkeys. And she brought him into her father’s house. And when the girl’s father saw him, he came with joy to meet him.

Judges chapters 19 and 20 follow on naturally from chapter 17, where “in those days… there was no king in Israel”.  This is deliberate, for we are brought to focus on two aspects of this fallen period – the focus on Bethlehem (for the Levite Jonathan, the descendant of Moses, came from there; and the concubine of the upcoming chapters also resided there with her father), as well as the focus on the period when there is absolutely no king – no judge, no king, no ruler, no head.  Why did chapters 17-21 of Judges come after the period of the judges, when chronologically this is occurring after the rule of Joshua?

I believe it points us to the emphasis of God’s pattern of creation and redemption: of chaos first, then formation, then filling – then Sabbath; and the process once more repeated, just as the trees die and rise up again from their ‘death-like’ sleep from winter to summer.  However, during this Godless and king-less period, Bethlehem is the centre of the attention.  Bethlehem is a small place of low repute (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:6), and it is from this small place where we find King David and the true King Jesus Christ (John 7:42).  Where Jonathan, the heretical Levite, came from Bethlehem in the previous chapters, the concubine of the Levite in chapter 19 also comes from Bethlehem.

What is characteristic of this Levite-concubine relationship at the beginning of the chapter is that this ‘concubine’ is seen by some commentators as a ‘wife’ as well.  Adam Clarke postulates that the original languages indicate how this concubine was not necessarily unfaithful to the Levite, and here he quotes an alternative translation:

“who when she was alienated from him, or angry with him, left him”.

Yet, is not spiritual adultery the same as alienation from God?  This hendiadys is important for us in drawing the parallel between the relationship of the mysterious unnamed concubine and mysterious unnamed Levite.  Unlike the previous stories of Judges, chapters 19-21 include no names, except for names of places.

As such, it should be the joint meaning of concubine and her being from Bethlehem that we understand the character of the Levite’s love.  He is unlike Jonathan; this Levite has the law written in his heart (v.12-13, 18), extends his love like that of God with us (Hosea 2), and is not tempted by food nor drink to become slothful or gluttonous.  Because his character is so strongly contrasted to Jonathan, the narrator points us to the concubine as the centre of the Levite’s attention.  This concubine is redeemed by the Levite who wished to travel from Ephraim to Bethlehem, back to the House of God then to his home in Ephraim.  The journey as described in v.3 is purposeful – it is a journey of compassionate love, the love of Christ for his enemies; the love of Christ for his church.  This pitiful church, this pitiful whorish bride from the least of the clans of Judah where darkness resides – it is here that light enters into the world and shone the brightest in the form of virgin birth.

(4)  And his father-in-law, the girl’s father, made him stay, and he remained with him three days. So they ate and drank and spent the night there.  (5)  And on the fourth day they arose early in the morning, and he prepared to go, but the girl’s father said to his son-in-law, “Strengthen your heart with a morsel of bread, and after that you may go.”  (6)  So the two of them sat and ate and drank together. And the girl’s father said to the man, “Be pleased to spend the night, and let your heart be merry.”  (7)  And when the man rose up to go, his father-in-law pressed him, till he spent the night there again.

This is a joyful reconciliation – and we see from the taking of the concubine an image of Eden.  For God had created Adam and his woman, taking both to His bosom as a shadow of taking Christ, the Father’s true image, to His bosom.  Yet, unlike Christ and much to the similarity of the earliest church of man and wife, the concubine leaves the side of the priest and returns to her father in Bethlehem.  She would rather return to darkness than to abide in light.

Through the Levite’s compassionate love of his enemy, the prostitute who had alienated herself from Christ is redeemed by His love.  There is an unexplained silence between the Levite and his bride for four months, and upon the end of that silence he goes to reclaim her: just as Christ and Israel had a silence for four hundred years between the entrance to Egypt and the great exodus; and between Malachi and Matthew, before Christ’s incarnation into Bethlehem.  Even the father of the bride is blessed and it is a picture of temporary joy, of feasting and drinking as Christ was sent into Bethlehem to enjoy communion with us daily until his crucifixion.  He is the God who eats with us (Exodus 24), though this be a shadow of things to come, and we are his treasured possession who He wishes to spend more time with (Matthew 13:46).  Yet, he cannot remain with us forever (John 20:17), and must return to Shiloh where the House of the LORD is; He must return to the Holy of Holies.

(8)  And on the fifth day he arose early in the morning to depart. And the girl’s father said, “Strengthen your heart and wait until the day declines.” So they ate, both of them.  (9)  And when the man and his concubine and his servant rose up to depart, his father-in-law, the girl’s father, said to him, “Behold, now the day has waned toward evening. Please, spend the night. Behold, the day draws to its close. Lodge here and let your heart be merry, and tomorrow you shall arise early in the morning for your journey, and go home.”  (10)  But the man would not spend the night. He rose up and departed and arrived opposite Jebus (that is, Jerusalem). He had with him a couple of saddled donkeys, and his concubine was with him.  (11)  When they were near Jebus, the day was nearly over, and the servant said to his master, “Come now, let us turn aside to this city of the Jebusites and spend the night in it.”  (12)  And his master said to him, “We will not turn aside into the city of foreigners, who do not belong to the people of Israel, but we will pass on to Gibeah.”  (13)  And he said to his young man, “Come and let us draw near to one of these places and spend the night at Gibeah or at Ramah.”

It is on the fifth night that the Levite stayed at Gibeah, the fifth day being the day of the filling of the water creatures in Genesis 1 – a sign of judgment as on day two of creation.  So here is similarly a sign of judgment on both Gibeah and the church.  The reason for the Levite to desist from staying at Jerusalem (Jebus) is because it is a city of foreigners – above all, the city which had persecuted Christ in His final days up to His crucifixion.  It is still not yet named Jerusalem, the city of peace, for it is now Jebus – a threshing floor.  Yet, the nature of Jerusalem during the time of Christ’s incarnation is like a threshing floor, for it is not a true city of peace until New Jerusalem in new creation.  Thus the Levite’s dismissal of Jebus is Christ’s dismissal of Jerusalem as a city of God, because it is filled with foreigners rejecting Him.

This truth is further expanded once the Levite moves to Gibeah, a hill (like Ramah, also meaning “hill”).  For the gospel of Christ’s humiliation and ascension is recorded in this narrative, the Levite who left Ephraim, the land of double-fruitfulness where the House of the LORD resided, entered into the dark and unimportant land of Bethlehem to retrieve his concubine-bride, and to return to Ephraim by the hill (be that Ramah or Gibeah) like Christ who is the One who ascended the holy hill (Psalm 24:3).

(14)  So they passed on and went their way. And the sun went down on them near Gibeah, which belongs to Benjamin,  (15)  and they turned aside there, to go in and spend the night at Gibeah. And he went in and sat down in the open square of the city, for no one took them into his house to spend the night.  (16)  And behold, an old man was coming from his work in the field at evening. The man was from the hill country of Ephraim, and he was sojourning in Gibeah. The men of the place were Benjaminites.  (17)  And he lifted up his eyes and saw the traveler in the open square of the city. And the old man said, “Where are you going? And where do you come from?”  (18)  And he said to him, “We are passing from Bethlehem in Judah to the remote parts of the hill country of Ephraim, from which I come. I went to Bethlehem in Judah, and I am going to the house of the Lord, but no one has taken me into his house.  (19)  We have straw and feed for our donkeys, with bread and wine for me and your female servant and the young man with your servants. There is no lack of anything.”  (20)  And the old man said, “Peace be to you; I will care for all your wants. Only, do not spend the night in the square.”

And like the story of Bethlehem where Joseph and Mary could not find a place to stay, here a man from Ephraim was also sojourning in Gibeah.  Note that he is not from Gibeah, like Lot who was not from Sodom and Gomorrah.  Lot stood by the city gates, bowing down when the angels came to visit him; Gibeah, who knew the man to be a Levite going by the way of the House of the LORD (v.18-20) equally provided shelter for he who does the LORD’s will.  As Christ has said in Matthew 25:31-46, this is an act of service as if done to Christ himself.  Judgment has already been proclaimed onto Gibeah, as no-one in Gibeah seemed to be humbled by the prospect that they wish to know a Levite; just as no-one in Sodom and Gomorrah revered the angels as Lot did.  The Levite entered Bethlehem and was merry with the father-in-law and the concubine; the Levite enjoyed himself with the friendly stranger from Ephraim sojourning in Gibeah; and so Christ enjoys fellowship and communion with the minority and those who are outcast and humble in the world.  Yet, Gibeah, to become Gibeah of Saul, is presumably a place of recognition – and for its recognition, it fails to recognize the Levite, the Priest, the Christ.

(21)  So he brought him into his house and gave the donkeys feed. And they washed their feet, and ate and drank.  (22)  As they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, worthless fellows, surrounded the house, beating on the door. And they said to the old man, the master of the house, “Bring out the man who came into your house, that we may know him.”  (23)  And the man, the master of the house, went out to them and said to them, “No, my brothers, do not act so wickedly; since this man has come into my house, do not do this vile thing.  (24)  Behold, here are my virgin daughter and his concubine. Let me bring them out now. Violate them and do with them what seems good to you, but against this man do not do this outrageous thing.”  (25)  But the men would not listen to him. So the man seized his concubine and made her go out to them. And they knew her and abused her all night until the morning. And as the dawn began to break, they let her go.  (26)  And as morning appeared, the woman came and fell down at the door of the man’s house where her master was, until it was light.  (27)  And her master rose up in the morning, and when he opened the doors of the house and went out to go on his way, behold, there was his concubine lying at the door of the house, with her hands on the threshold.  (28)  He said to her, “Get up, let us be going.” But there was no answer. Then he put her on the donkey, and the man rose up and went away to his home.  (29)  And when he entered his house, he took a knife, and taking hold of his concubine he divided her, limb by limb, into twelve pieces, and sent her throughout all the territory of Israel.  (30)  And all who saw it said, “Such a thing has never happened or been seen from the day that the people of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt until this day; consider it, take counsel, and speak.”

It is quite clear that the narrative is not completely unbiased.  Given the focus on the righteous Levite who is a type of Christ’s humiliation and ascension; the focus on the stranger from Ephraim sojourning in Gibeah as akin to righteous Lot; and the focus on the worthless fellows (v.22) of the tribe of Benjamin as the culprits of these chapters, the minority party in Christ are pitted against the majority party of Satan in the middle of the land of Israel.  It is an internal struggle of the physical against the spiritual church, when there is no king in the land of Israel.  This is especially highlighted in contrast to Gibeah of Saul, in contrast to Jebus the true spirit of Jerusalem then, because both are cities hostile to the LORD.

Only with this backbone to the final chapters of Judges can we then understand the difficult nature of v.23-30.  Two direct parallels can be drawn with respect to the giving of the concubine and the virgin daughter – the story of Abraham in Genesis 12 where he offered his wife as his sister; and Lot in Genesis 19.  With respect to Abraham labeling his wife as his sister, he is in fact not far from the truth, for his wife Sarah is indeed his half-sister if we were to trace the line of genealogy.  Furthermore, Abraham’s giving of Sarah to the Pharoah is seen as the giving of the church to Pharoah; while the church is protected, unharmed and not violated, Pharoah contrarily is plagued by God’s curses, sending Abraham and his wife away with more riches than they came.  This is the story of salvation, that God would create a beautiful bride, only for her to be sent into the world temporarily given over to Satan but the true restoration is the removal of power from this fallen steward into the hands of Christ, who is better than Eden.  So also, the story resonates with the concubine whom the Levite conjoined himself with, the concubine who alienated herself from him but he would go the length to humiliate himself into Bethlehem and return by way of the hill to Shiloh in Ephraim.  So the concubine is temporarily given over but is redeemed into the faithful hands of the Bridegroom.

Similarly, Lot’s giving of his two daughters to the Sodomites is a sign of rejection, knowing that his two daughters are worthless for they are the source of incest and the source of the tribes against Israel.  Lot has changed much after his salvation by the hands of God through Abraham in Genesis 14; and his reverence for Yahweh is noticeable, which means that his actions are led by the Spirit revealing a truth deeper than merely for us to condemn him for giving his two daughters away.

Therefore, with regards to both stories, they are not stories where we investigate the individual morality of the saint; rather, they are stories displaying a greater truth of the giving over of the church into the hands of Satan so that all is restored in Christ.  Dev Menon looks at it in this way:

“God gives good gifts to all men in His provision
then He places a famine on these things so that they don’t satisfy (cf. Hag 1).  Then a Ruler is raised up that stores good things in Himself, so that at the time of uttermost famine – all good things are found only in One Person, the true Joseph – Chris; so even in creation itself (of course after the church reveals it), we can say:

Acts 14:17
Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.

Look around you and see the abundant provision of the Lord showing He is good – yet these things are going to be and have now been stored up in Christ and will be completely removed on the day of Judgment.”

Alternatively the giving up of the apostates into the hand of Satan will leave them condemned in him (Romans 1:24-28, especially note the repeated phrase “gave them up”; c.f. Revelation 20:13).

With this understanding, we can now see why the Levite gave his concubine over to the men of Gibeah.  She, unlike the virgin daughter, is the body of the Levite;  she is the proud church who is sent into the world by the Priest, attacked from each and every direction.  She will ultimately die as a martyr, completely consumed by death just as Christ himself died on the cross for us.  What we therefore see which is happening to the concubine is also what we saw in Leviticus 17 on the Day of Atonement – the two goats, one killed on the spot whereas the other being left in the wilderness bearing the sins of Israel.  So we see here a graphic representation of the same truth, the body of the Head entirely destroyed just as Christ himself was destroyed for bearing the sins of mankind.  He was raped, he was abused all night as he was throughout his trials from the Sanhedrin, Pontius Pilate, and teased on the cross by the Roman officials – He is our Priest and we His concubine in Him, as He took on the duty and the experience of the concubine in His incarnation, taking His blood up the hill to the House of the LORD.

So, upon the rising of the Levite on the new morning, the condemnation shall come in the appropriate and righteous vengeance for the murdered church on the Day of Resurrection; for the murdered body of Christ as Christ himself had received punishment on behalf of the believers (v.29-30).  Indeed, the separation of the body of Christ into twelve pieces is akin to the separation of the body of Christ into the 12 apostles, the foundation of the New Testament Church; yet one will be the cause of rebellion, he who is from the tribe of the son of the right hand (Benjamin) but is in fact filled with people who fight with their left.  He who is like Judas, masquerading as a son of the right hand, as an apostle of Christ, though he is very much following in the spirit of Satan.  This is also picked up by Matthew Henry and Adam Clarke:

“… All the forces they could bring into the field were but 26,000 men, besides 700 men of Gibeah (Jdg_20:15); yet with these they will dare to face 400,000 men of Israel, Jdg_20:17. Thus sinners are infatuated to their own ruin, and provoke him to jealousy who is infinitely stronger than they, 1Co_10:22. But it should seem they depended upon the skill of their men to make up what was wanting in numbers, especially a regiment of slingers, 700 men, who, though left-handed, were so dexterous at slinging stones that they would not be a hair’s breadth beside their mark, Jdg_20:16. But these good marksmen were very much out in their aim when they espoused this bad cause. Benjamin signifies the son of the right hand, yet we find his posterity left-handed.” – Matthew Henry

“ולא יחטא  velo yachati, and not sin: και ουκ εξαμαρτανοντες; Sept. Here we have the true import of the term sin; it signifies simply to miss the mark, and is well translated in the New Testament by ἁμαρτανω, from α, negative, and μαρπτω, to hit the mark. Men miss the mark of true happiness in aiming at sensual gratifications; which happiness is to be found only in the possession and enjoyment of the favor of God, from whom their passions continually lead them. He alone hits the mark, and ceases from sin, who attains to God through Christ Jesus.” – Adam Clarke

It is especially ironic given Clarke’s analysis that these left-handed men as ‘not missing the mark’ (i.e. not sinning) – such is the pride of Satan that he perhaps believed by delusion that he can sit on the throne of the Father though he is anything but ‘hitting the mark’.

As the 12 pieces of His body are sent to the coasts of Israel (v.29 re-translation from the Hebrew), so are these men from the corners of Israel brought together as one under the banner of Christ as we shall see in chapter 20.  Yet, if they did not avenge the death of the concubine, then blood of her corpse will literally be on their hand (c.f. Ezekiel 3), just as the blood of Christ will be a result of our own murdering of Him.  To re-iterate the truth of Matthew 25:31-46, what is done to the concubine is as done to Christ himself, who is her Head.

Judges 20:  The Breach of Israel

Jdg 20:1-48  Then all the people of Israel came out, from Dan to Beersheba, including the land of Gilead, and the congregation assembled as one man to the LORD at Mizpah.  (2)  And the chiefs of all the people, of all the tribes of Israel, presented themselves in the assembly of the people of God, 400,000 men on foot that drew the sword.  (3)  (Now the people of Benjamin heard that the people of Israel had gone up to Mizpah.) And the people of Israel said, “Tell us, how did this evil happen?”  (4)  And the Levite, the husband of the woman who was murdered, answered and said, “I came to Gibeah that belongs to Benjamin, I and my concubine, to spend the night.  (5)  And the leaders of Gibeah rose against me and surrounded the house against me by night. They meant to kill me, and they violated my concubine, and she is dead.  (6)  So I took hold of my concubine and cut her in pieces and sent her throughout all the country of the inheritance of Israel, for they have committed abomination and outrage in Israel.  (7)  Behold, you people of Israel, all of you, give your advice and counsel here.”  (8)  And all the people arose as one man, saying, “None of us will go to his tent, and none of us will return to his house.  (9)  But now this is what we will do to Gibeah: we will go up against it by lot,  (10)  and we will take ten men of a hundred throughout all the tribes of Israel, and a hundred of a thousand, and a thousand of ten thousand, to bring provisions for the people, that when they come they may repay Gibeah of Benjamin, for all the outrage that they have committed in Israel.”  (11)  So all the men of Israel gathered against the city, united as one man.

The key of the opening verses of chapter 20 lies in v.11 – that they are all united as one against the city using the same Hebrew as Genesis 2:24 – they shall be אֶחָד (echad).  The second focus lies in the place where they are united as one – they are united at Mizpeh, the watchtower where a heap of stones were piled up by Jacob and Laban (Genesis 31) on Mount Gilead as a witness to the covenant between them; and similarly this is the watch-tower where the Israelites resisted the Ammonites (Judges 10) and where Jephthah met his daughter in Judges 11.  It is aptly named for it is a place where there is either impending judgment or salvation, and it is here that the Trinitarian communion of Israel gathered as one man against Benjamin, a difficult feat unless they were united under the One Man Jesus Christ.  And thus, it is effectively this One Man who judges Benjamin, by the word of the Levite.

(12)  And the tribes of Israel sent men through all the tribe of Benjamin, saying, “What evil is this that has taken place among you?  (13)  Now therefore give up the men, the worthless fellows in Gibeah, that we may put them to death and purge evil from Israel.” But the Benjaminites would not listen to the voice of their brothers, the people of Israel.  (14)  Then the people of Benjamin came together out of the cities to Gibeah to go out to battle against the people of Israel.  (15)  And the people of Benjamin mustered out of their cities on that day 26,000 men who drew the sword, besides the inhabitants of Gibeah, who mustered 700 chosen men.  (16)  Among all these were 700 chosen men who were left-handed; every one could sling a stone at a hair and not miss.  (17)  And the men of Israel, apart from Benjamin, mustered 400,000 men who drew the sword; all these were men of war. (18)  The people of Israel arose and went up to Bethel and inquired of God, “Who shall go up first for us to fight against the people of Benjamin?” And the LORD said, “Judah shall go up first.”

So finally we see the judgment upon the Benjaminites, the people who attempted to both know the Levite as well as murder him (v.5).  What is peculiar is that after chapters of silence, the Israelites finally speak to the LORD and inquire of Him in v.18.  Note how he says that Judah shall go up first, for Jesus Christ is the first to conquer, He who is from the line of Judah.  However, also see that the LORD does not say that Judah will conquer; Judah will merely go up first.  In the words of Matthew Henry, “… this honour was done to Judah because our Lord Jesus was to spring from that tribe, who was in all things to have the pre-eminence. The tribe that went up first had the most honourable post, but withal the most dangerous, and probably lost most in the engagement. Who would strive for precedency that sees the peril of it?”  Thus, despite the overwhelming majority of Israelites pinned against the Benjaminites, unless the battle is by the hand of the LORD, the Israelites will still lose.

(19)  Then the people of Israel rose in the morning and encamped against Gibeah.  (20)  And the men of Israel went out to fight against Benjamin, and the men of Israel drew up the battle line against them at Gibeah.  (21)  The people of Benjamin came out of Gibeah and destroyed on that day 22,000 men of the Israelites.  (22)  But the people, the men of Israel, took courage, and again formed the battle line in the same place where they had formed it on the first day.  (23)  And the people of Israel went up and wept before the LORD until the evening. And they inquired of the LORD, “Shall we again draw near to fight against our brothers, the people of Benjamin?” And the LORD said, “Go up against them.”  (24)  So the people of Israel came near against the people of Benjamin the second day.  (25)  And Benjamin went against them out of Gibeah the second day, and destroyed 18,000 men of the people of Israel. All these were men who drew the sword.  (26)  Then all the people of Israel, the whole army, went up and came to Bethel and wept. They sat there before the LORD and fasted that day until evening, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD.  (27)  And the people of Israel inquired of the LORD (for the ark of the covenant of God was there in those days,  (28)  and Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron, ministered before it in those days), saying, “Shall we go out once more to battle against our brothers, the people of Benjamin, or shall we cease?” And the LORD said, “Go up, for tomorrow I will give them into your hand.”

Here, we finally see that the victory at judgment is achieved only through burnt offerings and peace offerings, on the second day of their battle against Gibeah.  Their first inquiry of the LORD indicated that Christ shall lead the battle through Judah; their second inquiry of the LORD on the second day indicated that Christ must die for the battle to be won; and so the LORD will achieve this victory on the third day, just as the death of Christ who took on the flesh of the concubine is equally avenged on the third day:

(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.  (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.

Thus the defeat of the Benjaminites came from Baal-tamar, aptly named the “Lord of palm trees” (v.33), for the true LORD of palm trees, the true husband of palm trees (Exodus 15:27; Leviticus 23:40; Numbers 24:6; 1 Kings 6:29-35; Psalm 92:12; Ezekiel 41:18; Revelation 7:9) is the Christ who judges the physical church who is part of the world outside of Noah’s ark.

However, the true glory of the prophesied Christ in these verses is that the Benjaminites had thought they were victorious.  When they violated, abused and martyred the body of Christ, they had not thought of the repercussions.  They merely satiated their lustful desires, and arrogantly believed that victory is in their clasp.  Yet, whilst our LORD was humiliated and received beatings, which discouraged even those closest to Him and discouraged others to the point of questioning whether there is true victory after all, we finally see the light shine the brightest in the midst of darkness.  We truly experience light greater at noon than it is at dawn, which entered not merely in Bethlehem, but could shine fear into the hearts of the depths of Babylon.  After the imminent victories of Israel on the third day, we see a turn of the tide.  Where it has always been clear that Benjamin is under judgment the day they dedicated themselves to abuse and violate the Levite’s wife, it is also clear that Christ’s humiliation is but temporary.  His victory is already gained, and we are victors in His Name.

How much similarity there is therefore between the gospel, which seemed first so tragic and yet so astounding?  V.41 sums up the case for all those who mocked Noah; who patronized him into believing that there is no rain to come – and yet, like Satan, all these non-believers will be “dismayed, for they [will see] that disaster [is] close upon them”.  This phrase will be especially fitting on the Day of Resurrection, for while Noah sails away in the Ark of Christ, everyone outside will only feel the rain drop heavier and heavier on their shoulders.

(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 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.

And this is the nature of the sinner, that instead of turning to Israel for solace, one would rather escape into the direction of the wilderness.  What idiocy!  As if the death of an entire generation of Israelites in the wilderness did not already teach them of the lack of shelter in the wilderness!   Not only do they run aimlessly, but it is made clear by the narrator that they are running to the rock of Rimmon from Nohah – from calmness and tranquility to Rimmon, bearing the same name as a deity of wind, rain and storm worshipped by the Syrians of Damascus, and finally to Giddom, a placing of cutting down.

Revelation 6:15 clarifies this entirely – that these self-proclaimed kings of Gibeah, of Gibeah of Saul, are nothing but false rulers, hiding in clefts of rocks but not hiding in the cleft of the Rock.  These false liars can only turn to more lies for comfort for that is what they do best, and they turn instead to Rimmon, another man-made God.  In the words of Matthew Henry:

“…the Benjamites, in the beginning of the battle, were confident that the day was their own: They are smitten down before us, v. 32, 39. Sometimes God suffers wicked men to be lifted up in successes and hopes, that their fall may be the sorer. See how short their joy is, and their triumphing but for a moment. Let not him that girdeth on the harness boast, except he has reason to boast in God… Evil was near them and they did not know it, v. 34. But (v. 41) they saw, when it was too late to prevent it, that evil had come upon them. What evils may at any time be near us we cannot tell, but the less they are feared the heavier they fall. Sinners will not be persuaded to see evil near them, but how dreadful will it be when it comes and there is no escaping! 1 Thess. v. 3… Though the men of Israel played their parts so well in this engagement, yet the victory is ascribed to God (v. 35): The Lord smote Benjamin before Israel. The battle was his, and so was the success…”

Although this success seemed to indicate that Israel has restored itself of a true ruler, a true King – Yahweh – the following chapter immediately connotes otherwise, for the final verse of the book of Judges still rings true as a theme of the latter chapters of Judges:

“In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

Judges 21:  Spiritual Famine before Recapitulation

1 Now the men of Israel had sworn at Mizpah, No one of us shall give his daughter in marriage to Benjamin.

2 And the people came to Bethel and sat there till evening before God, and they lifted up their voices and wept bitterly.

3 And they said, O LORD, the God of Israel, why has this happened in Israel, that today there should be one tribe lacking in Israel?

This is a question asked also upon the death of Judas.  Who can replace him?  Who shall be the 12th apostle?  It is important for us to see, indeed, that the missing tribe and missing apostle would not inherently affect the unity of Israel, of the church.  Yet, the missing tribe and the missing apostle is equivalent to a missing representative head – for the number 12 represents theocracy, represents true Christocracy, then the instituted 12 leading men and tribes should be upheld to represent the eternal government of God in creation.

Such is the propensity of man’s hurriedness that they make such hasty oaths as to not marry any of their daughters to Benjamin as an act of glory to God, for God himself caused a ‘breach’ in the House of Israel (v.15).  This will be an important theme throughout the chapter.

And like the book of Acts where the choice of Matthias (Acts 1:23-26) is indicative of the hurriedness in replacing Judas, so this is shown equally in this chapter.  Paul is the new 12th apostle, and what an apostle he became – effectively sent to the Gentiles though he still had a yearning for the Jews.  Instead, Israel did not inquire of the LORD and looked to restore Benjamin’s inheritance through robbing the virgins of Jabesh-gilead who were placed in Shiloh.

4 And the next day the people rose early and built there an altar and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings.

5 And the people of Israel said, Which of all the tribes of Israel did not come up in the assembly to the LORD? For they had taken a great oath concerning him who did not come up to the LORD to Mizpah, saying, He shall surely be put to death.

6 And the people of Israel had compassion for Benjamin their brother and said, One tribe is cut off from Israel this day.

7 What shall we do for wives for those who are left, since we have sworn by the LORD that we will not give them any of our daughters for wives?

8 And they said, What one is there of the tribes of Israel that did not come up to the LORD to Mizpah? And behold, no one had come to the camp from Jabesh-gilead, to the assembly.

9 For when the people were mustered, behold, not one of the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead was there.

10 So the congregation sent 12,000 of their bravest men there and commanded them, Go and strike the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead with the edge of the sword; also the women and the little ones.

11 This is what you shall do: every male and every woman that has lain with a male you shall devote to destruction.

12 And they found among the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead 400 young virgins who had not known a man by lying with him, and they brought them to the camp at Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan.

It is immediately apparent as to the selfish nature of Israel’s worship – they would rather build another altar besides the brazen altar of the tabernacle, which intimates prayer and worship through Jesus Christ alone in the House of God.  Adam Clarke suggests that this is due to the recurring refrain between chapters 17-21: “This affords some evidence that this was not a regular place of worship, else an altar would have been found in the place; and their act was not according to the law, as may be seen in several places of the Pentateuch. But there was neither king nor law among them, and they did whatever appeared right in their own eyes.”  Instead, what we find here are hasty oaths – the first one in v.1, and the second one in v.5.  v.6 moves on to say that Israel (not, not the LORD) had compassion for Benjamin, despite their first oath which would have effectively cut off the inheritance of Benjamin.  V.7 seems to suggest that they are not restoring the inheritance because of God’s leading (for they did not provide offerings by the brazen altar but by the altar of their own choosing), but because of their own desires.

Thus, the extermination of the camp from Jabesh-gilead, again, is not a leading from God but from their oath, some commentators calling this a ‘criminal excess’, others noting that the Israelites now have strayed from God after devoting Benjamin to destruction for they are supporting their own authority, following their own lead, their own theology of worship.  The Pharisaic heart began in the garden of Eden, and this treacherous vine has spread to Israel in the time when there was no king; when they would rather, by initiative, follow their own hearts, try to avoid the spirit of the law, of the oath, by conjuring up a plan of destroying the men and married women of Jabesh-gilead, and by stealing the girls of Shiloh to fill the tribe of Benjamin.  Is this the way of creating a new foundation for the 12th and youngest tribe?  By hasty oaths, misled compassion, murder, thievery?  The breach occurred for it was necessarily, and now we understand the extent of Jacob’s prophecy in Genesis 49:

Gen 49:27  “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf, in the morning devouring the prey and at evening dividing the spoil.”

Note that both King Saul and Apostle Saul are from this tribe; the latter having changed his name from that of the faithless king, of the old order – yet what is important is that we note how the book of Judges, chronologically, is placed before the period of the first king Saul.  To take Saul out of Benjamin (1 Samuel 9:21), rather than David out of Judah, is indeed a prophetic implication that Saul was never meant to be the king after Yahweh’s heart.  Saul may be from humble Benjamin, but only because Benjamin was humbled in this inter-tribal war and because God deliberately humbled the tribe by cutting off its inheritance; but David is from humble Bethlehem, because it is virtually unknown and is also a place where Jonathan the Levite and the concubine originally came from.

13 Then the whole congregation sent word to the people of Benjamin who were at the rock of Rimmon and proclaimed peace to them.

14 And Benjamin returned at that time. And they gave them the women whom they had saved alive of the women of Jabesh-gilead, but they were not enough for them.

15 And the people had compassion on Benjamin because the LORD had made a breach in the tribes of Israel.

16 Then the elders of the congregation said, What shall we do for wives for those who are left, since the women are destroyed out of Benjamin?

17 And they said, There must be an inheritance for the survivors of Benjamin, that a tribe not be blotted out from Israel.

18 Yet we cannot give them wives from our daughters. For the people of Israel had sworn, Cursed be he who gives a wife to Benjamin.

v.15 in particular is revealing of the heart of Israel – the people had compassion on Benjamin because the LORD had made a breach in the tribes of Israel?  The word for “because” in Hebrew bears many different meanings, and it could also be aptly changed to when, except that, surely and so forth – given the context.  And the context here calls for a direct contention between Yahweh’s intention to deprive Benjamin of its inheritance and Israel’s compassion by repopulating Benjamin as a direct contradiction to the LORD’s destruction in the previous chapter.

19 So they said, Behold, there is the yearly feast of the LORD at Shiloh, which is north of Bethel, on the east of the highway that goes up from Bethel to Shechem, and south of Lebonah.

20 And they commanded the people of Benjamin, saying, Go and lie in ambush in the vineyards

21 and watch. If the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in the dances, then come out of the vineyards and snatch each man his wife from the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin.

22 And when their fathers or their brothers come to complain to us, we will say to them, Grant them graciously to us, because we did not take for each man of them his wife in battle, neither did you give them to them, else you would now be guilty.

Such is the fallenness of Israel when they are not led by the king, that they would encourage this essential rape of the women of Shiloh, a direct parallel to the act of the sin of Gibeah by raping that poor concubine.  Israel effectively restored the fall of Benjamin, and though Benjamin rebuilt the towns and lived in them, their hearts were essentially still not circumcised; the 400 virgins from the tribe essentially corrupted like those who were devoted to destruction.

23 And the people of Benjamin did so and took their wives, according to their number, from the dancers whom they carried off. Then they went and returned to their inheritance and rebuilt the towns and lived in them.

24 And the people of Israel departed from there at that time, every man to his tribe and family, and they went out from there every man to his inheritance.

25 In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

The end of Judges begs the question: surely it would have been wiser to end on chapter 16, at least by the end of the period of the Judges?  However, what the narrator aims to do is not to put our faith in the judges; rather, to put our faith in the Judge who will rule forevermore.  The death of the judges always lead to years of spiritual famine that persecution would not come from the outside but even from the inside; and to end the book of Judges on famine is to suggest that the following books will cover a restoration, a great restoration, fitting of the famine.

Is this book therefore followed up with the story of Saul?  No.  Story of David?  No.  Of Solomon?  No – but of Ruth.  What a peculiar placing of the books of the Old Testament, that Ruth, this woman from a cursed non-Israelite tribe would be the focus of the next book.  Yahweh will use her as the true restoration to come after the period of the judges, for the judge may be like a ruler, these humble men who are anointed with the Spirit; but only the Anointed One can carry the title of the true king and true judge.  The foundation for that understanding must come firstly through the joining of the Moabite and the Israelite, of Ruth and Boaz, for us to understand the global nature of the spiritual church which both David and Solomon were merely a typical kings of.   It is thus fitting for us to remind ourselves of the end of Joshua chapter 24 – that the land of Gibeah in the hill country of Ephraim was meant to belong to the High Priest Phinehas.  The treachery of Gibeah and their subsequent devotion to destruction should have implicated a restoration of the land to the High Priest; but soon Israel fell into false altar worship, fell into religiousness of vow-making, and fell deeper and deeper into Pharisaic religion – and although this is temporarily remedied throughout the period of judges, only through the progeny of Ruth can true healing be achieved.

Judges 19-21: Who is the King?