1 Samuel 3: The Revelation of the Son

1 Samuel 1 and 2 have been building towards the bigger picture of Eli’s eviction from the House of God.  Eli’s rebuke of his sons were actions done out of religiosity; they were not done out of a conviction of loving Christ Jesus.  The LORD had already accused him of this sin in chapter 2v.29 where Eli has scorned God’s sacrifice, further elaborated in chapter 3v.13 – “And I declare to him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them [my emphasis].”

And this contrast is visible – the youthful and innocent Samuel who had been worshipping and praising the LORD consistently in the previous two chapters is now the reception of God’s word.  v.1 explained that the word of the LORD was rare in those days, the word of the LORD coming traditionally true frequent vision (חזון chazon) – a word commonly associated with prophetic dream-like visions (Prov 29:18; Isaiah 1:1, 29:7; Jer 14:14, 23:15; Lam 2:9; Eze 7:29, 13:16; Daniel 8:1, 9:24, 10:14, 11:14; Hosea 12:10; Obadiah 1:1; Nahum 1:1; Habakkuk 2:2-2:3).  Yet, what Samuel is to experience is beyond a prophetic vision.

It is upon the third time that Eli recognises how Samuel, who has been worshipping the LORD, has not yet received direct revelation from him.  Eli is the High Priest; yet even the LORD chose not to speak to him directly.  Instead, He chose to speak through Samuel as an intercessor to shame Eli.  In the same way that the Gentiles are used to shame the Israelites, so also Eli needed to accept that this is good in the LORD’s eyes (v.18).  Yet, Eli’s hard-heart has prevented him from serving the LORD effectively; in fact, his actions extend to that of blasphemy: failing to restrain his sons who had been prostituting themselves and even now, no more direct revelation from God.  In chapter two, a “man of God” came to Eli (v.27).  Who this man is not as relevant as the fact that the High Priest did not receive revelation; and now, it is through a Christophany, through Jesus Christ who came and stood before Samuel (chapter 3v.10).  v.7 should not throw us off by any means – the word for “know” in Hebrew encompasses a vaster meaning than that of simply to know a friend in the English language; rather, this “know” involves physical perception, involves sight.  This would be faithful to the previous chapters, where it would be more accurate to say that Samuel worshipped the LORD through his service in the tabernacle; through his reading of the Scriptures; but had not yet seen Christ, the visible LORD, and not yet receive direct revelation from him.  Yet, here, the LORD appeared before Samuel; and once again, He appeared at Shiloh, for the LORD revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the LORD (v.21).

This brings me to the important words which Christ shared during his time as incarnate Jesus of Nazareth:

Mat 11:27  All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

And so, the Father revealed Himself to Samuel by the word; not by mere vision though that is already infrequent, but an even greater and better glory of physical perception, of physical sight, of seeing the appearance of the LORD Christ Himself.  He who is the Visible, walking, standing, speaking Word.  Yet, all of this is not simply to see the awe of Samuel as the chosen prophet, because this truth has been indicated from chapter 1 onwards.  It is clear that, as Samuel continued to grow, he would hold an important role as a prophet and witness to David the typological Son; and only a prophet who would not let any of his words fall to the ground would be able to discern who the true coming King is – to discern between Saul and David.  It is at Shiloh, where Elkanah and Hannah (and not Peninnah, nor Hophni, nor Phinehas) praised Him exceedingly – and it is here that the LORD appears once again to confirm Samuel’s prophethood.  Yet, what is truly emphasised is the failure of the high priestly line through Eli.  Something which would tingle the two ears of everyone who hears (v.12-14):

“On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end.  And I declare to him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them.  Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever.”

This is almost a direct parallel to Jeremiah’s prophecy in chapter 19 (v.3, but the rest of the chapter retains the poignancy and pain of the subject matter):

“You shall say, ‘Hear the word of the LORD, O kings of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem. Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I am bringing such disaster upon this place that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle.”

Indeed – what will shake people to the core is the fact that the chosen priesthood, both Eli and Israel, seen as priesthood and light to the nations (Exodus 19:6), is rejected by the One who chose them.  However, the only chosen One, the only Elect One, the only Predestined One, is not any individual.  Rather – it is Christ himself (Isaiah 42:1), and only those who cling onto Christ will also be chosen like Him; those who cling onto Christ will also be righteous like Him, because His self-election, His righteousness, His mysteries are all revealed and given to us from the Father through the Son, who makes the Father known to us.  In this way, we shame those who call themselves Christians but have never received revelation, love, truth from the Father; for these are the people who say “Lord Lord” but He has never known them.  Instead, they worship a figment of their creation; they look upon a God who is not living, whom they continually spit upon for they do not surrender themselves to the Word by Whom we know the Father and know that He has become sin who knew no sin.  So Israel even made election a religiosity of itself; but we are truly elect in Him because of His Son, in the line of Melchizedek shaming the physical but spiritually uncircumcised line of Levi and Israel.

1 Samuel 3: The Revelation of the Son

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?

Joshua 17-18: From Shiloh to Jerusalem

Joshua 17

Manasseh

1Then allotment was made to the people of Manasseh, for he was(BQ) the firstborn of Joseph. To(BR) Machir the firstborn of Manasseh, the father of Gilead,(BS) were allotted Gilead and Bashan, because he was a man of war.

When we look at the first verse we wonder about the allotment being made to Manasseh before Ephraim from the language of the ESV; however, in the Hebrew, the word “for” can also mean “though”. It would make more sense for the verse to be “though he was the first-born of Joseph”, he received these things, given the context of the blessing to Ephraim before Manasseh.

Prior to this chapter, Manasseh was already divided into two parts, one on the east and one on the west; the giving of Gilead to Manasseh is a result of acknowledging Machir, son of Manasseh, as a man of war. Gilead and Bashan being on the border, a mountainous region on the East-side of Israel facing the neighbouring pagan enemies (much like Judah in the south) is therefore fittingly given to Machir. It is one of the few times that the LORD expressly explains why he gave a particular piece of land to a particular person from a tribe. His providential allocation is by no means random and is fitting to the character of the person and tribe, justifying the importance of looking at which tribe is placed where, and for what reason we can deduce especially in accordance to Jacob’s blessing to the 12 tribes in Genesis 48.

Rest of the clans (the descendants of Manasseh)

2And allotments were made(BT) to the rest of the people of Manasseh by their clans, Abiezer, Helek, Asriel, Shechem, Hepher, and Shemida. These were the male descendants of Manasseh the son of Joseph, by their clans.

v.2 in particular focuses on “the male descendants of Manasseh the son of Joseph” – from Manasseh to Machir to Gilead to Hepher to Zelophehad. This is immediately juxtaposed to v.3 which focuses on the daughters of Zelophehad, a point which I have discussed in Numbers 27, concerning the freedom of men and women before the LORD as according to the eternal truth laid out in Galatians 3:28 (though there is, of course, a distinction to be made as noticeable in the predominantly allocation to the male heads so far). In the situation where there is no male head, a woman is indeed suitable though not necessarily preferred in the leadership and headship of representing the tribe.

Daughters of Zelophehad

3Now(BU) Zelophehad the son of Hepher, son of Gilead, son of Machir, son of Manasseh, had no sons, but only daughters, and these are the names of his daughters: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. 4They approached(BV) Eleazar the priest and Joshua the son of Nun and the leaders and said,(BW) “The LORD commanded Moses to give us an inheritance along with our brothers.” So according to the mouth of the LORD he gave them an inheritance among the brothers of their father. 5Thus there fell to Manasseh ten portions, besides(BX) the land of Gilead and Bashan, which is on the other side of the Jordan, 6because the daughters of Manasseh received an inheritance along with his sons. The land of Gilead was allotted to the rest of the people of Manasseh.

Through the allotment we learn a bit about God’s culture imposed upon the Israelites. Contemporary scholarship seems to look at the Jewish culture as unhelpful in our understanding of the Trinitarian God, but only helpful in understanding who this mysterious ‘YHWH’ is. It is important to see how the connections are played out in replacing Zelophehad and Hepher with the five daughters, and the other five sons of Gilead making up the ten portions.

Sons (5 sons of Gilead)

Daughters (5 daughters of Zelophehad)

Abiezer

Mahlah

Helek

Noah

Asriel

Hoglah

Shechem

Milcah

Shemida

Tirzah

It is therefore fitting that in present time, the five daughters fully represent the one head Hepher; if not for the daughters it is most likely that the land would have been split between the six sons of Gilead as listed in v.2. This takes me to Hebrews 7:10 – that we have paid our tithes to the King of Salem through Abraham while we were still in his loins; and here the daughters are blessed, representing Zelophehad son of Hepher. For what reason? As Numbers 26, 27 and Joshua 17 has intimated, because they are the daughters of Zelophehad and no other reason beside that. Similarly, it is because we are Abraham’s spiritual children that we are blessed through him; it is because we stand in the seed of Genesis 3:15 that we are blessed in the pre-elected Son of God. If the 5 daughters were to stand before Yeshua without the heritage and headship of their forefather, without the approval of God through Yeshua, then this land would not have been given to them. What right have we to stand before the Father without the blessings and testimony of the Son and the Spirit who represent us?

Side

Specific boundaries

East

7The territory of Manasseh reached from Asher to(BY) Michmethath, which is east of Shechem.

South

Then the boundary goes along southward to the inhabitants of En-tappuah. 8The land of(BZ) Tappuah belonged to Manasseh, but the town of Tappuah on the boundary of Manasseh belonged to the people of Ephraim. 9(CA) Then the boundary went down to the brook Kanah. These cities, to the south of the brook, among the cities of Manasseh, belong to Ephraim.

West and North

Then the boundary of Manasseh goes on the north side of the brook and ends at the sea, 10the land to the south being Ephraim’s and that to the north being Manasseh’s, with the sea forming its boundary. On the north Asher is reached, and on the east Issachar. 11Also in Issachar and in Asher(CB) Manasseh had Beth-shean and its villages, and Ibleam and its villages, and the inhabitants of(CC) Dor and its villages, and the inhabitants of En-dor and its villages, and the inhabitants of Taanach and its villages, and the inhabitants of Megiddo and its villages; the third is Naphath.[a]

12(CD) Yet the people of Manasseh could not take possession of those cities, but the Canaanites persisted in dwelling in that land. 13Now when the people of Israel grew strong, they put the Canaanites(CE) to forced labor, but did not utterly drive them out.

It is unfortunate, like the other tribes mentioned before, that Israel cannot put her faith in the LORD and drive out the unbelievers. We can point at v.12-13 and look at the weakness and rebellion of Israel, but let us take the logs out of our eyes and consider the depth of our sins in our modern idols, our metropolitan affluence, which make us spiritually adulterous, as equally compromising in His eyes as the Israelites were. Should it then surprise us that the LORD decides to send calamity on our nations, on our economy, on our personal livelihood when Israel should have expected no less for failing to drive out the respective Canaanites from each tribe?

14Then(CF) the people of Joseph spoke to Joshua, saying, “Why have you given me but(CG) one lot and one portion as an inheritance, although I am(CH) a numerous people, since all along the LORD has blessed me?” 15And Joshua said to them, “If you are a numerous people, go up by yourselves to the forest, and there clear ground for yourselves in the land of the Perizzites and(CI) the Rephaim, since(CJ) the hill country of Ephraim is too narrow for you.” 16The people of Joseph said, “The hill country is not enough for us. Yet all the Canaanites who dwell in the plain have(CK) chariots of iron, both those in Beth-shean and its villages and those in(CL) the Valley of Jezreel.” 17Then Joshua said to the house of Joseph, to Ephraim and Manasseh, “You are a numerous people and have great power. You shall not have one allotment only, 18but the hill country shall be yours, for though it is a forest, you shall clear it and possess it to its farthest borders. For you shall drive out the Canaanites,(CM) though they have chariots of iron, and though they are strong.”

The nature of the Israelites is further explored and exposited by Calvin here:

“We are therefore led to conclude, that when the lots were cast for the two tribes, the admirable counsel of God arranged that the brothers, who had a common father, should be contiguous and neighbors to each other. It is unworthy in them, therefore, to complain and plead that only one inheritance had been given to them, because Joshua had neither such heartlessness nor so much malice as to defraud them of a clear right either through thoughtlessness or envy.160 But herein lay the falsehood of their complaint concerning narrow boundaries, that they counted all that was yet to be acquired by warlike prowess as nothing; as if the lot had assigned portions to the other tribes only in subjugated territory. Joshua, accordingly, in a single sentence, refutes and disposes of their plea, and retorts upon them a charge by which they were trying to throw obloquy upon him. If your resources and your numbers are so great, why, he asks, do you not make an inroad on the enemy, whose country has been given to you? Nor will the event disappoint you, if, trusting to the promise of God, you boldly proceed to the inheritance which he has bestowed upon you. We see how, although proper provision had been made for them, they were so blinded by sloth as to complain that they were straitened for room, because they were unwilling to move their finger to seek the full possession of their inheritance. Wherefore, this passage teaches us, that if at any time we think less is performed for us than is due, we ought carefully to shake off all delays, and not rashly throw upon others the blame which is inherent in ourselves.”

Is it so untypical of Manasseh to ask this from Joshua, especially when we have seen just how filled with fear the Israelites are? That they have chosen not to go up the mountain to meet the LORD save Moses; that despite their numbers in Egypt they did not fight for their freedom; despite the manna they still complained that the LORD is unfaithful and that Moses is leading them to death; despite Moses being on the mountain covered by miraculous cloud and fire they would still create their own gods; despite the presence of Christ in the tabernacle they would still provide their own extra offerings; despite the victory of the Israelites and Achan would still covet causing corporate harm. Indeed, what the Manassites have asked is indeed typical of this chosen nation to be light to all other nations. The LORD knows as much and the refrain at the end of the allotments referring to their failure to drive out the non-Christian nations is testament to the failures of the physical church compared to the spiritual church embedded in Israel and later proclaimed more widely in the rest of the world after the Pentecost. In the words of Adam Clarke, “God will not reverse his purpose to meet their slothfulness; they alone who overcome shall sit with Jesus upon his throne. Reader, take unto thee the whole armor of God, that thou mayest be able to stand in the evil day, and having done all – to Stand. And remember, that he only who endures to the end shall be saved.”

Joshua 18

Allotment of the Remaining Land

1Then the whole congregation of the people of Israel assembled at(CN) Shiloh and set up(CO) the tent of meeting there. The land lay subdued before them.

Joshua 18 starts out victoriously, after the reader is reminded of the failures of Israel through the shame and sloth of Manasseh, fitting to a tribe who is great in relation to the rest of Israel – but not as great as Ephraim. V.1 immediately takes us to Shiloh, named after the Messianic name first mentioned in Genesis 49:10 (in the original Hebrew it represents ‘tranquility’ and more insightfully ‘tribute’ in the ESV translation). With the tabernacle set up at this symbolic place of tranquility, “the land lay subdued before them” – this three-fold imagery of a Sabbath-like rest should be a welcome break to the succession of wars prior to these chapters of geographical allotment. In Genesis 49:10 Jacob makes this specific prophecy about Judah:

The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.” (KJV translation)

The danger of the ESV translation is that the word ‘tribute’ does not carry with it the theological weight as Shiloh does. It should not be a surprise that this place called Shiloh is a chosen place for the tabernacle to rest; for the people to rest; and for them to see that the land has been subdued before them. John Calvin especially looks at the Hebrew word play “Shiloh” to mean “his son” – and this type of wordplay is not devoid of its function especially in a book named “Yeshua”, which as a Hebrew noun means “salvation” (again, a fitting name, along with Shiloh, to refer to Christ the Son!):

“That which some of the Jews suppose, namely, that it denotes the place (Shiloh) where the ark of the covenant had been long deposited, because, a little before the commencement of David’s reign, it had been laid waste, is entirely destitute of reason. For Jacob does not here predict the time when David was to be appointed king; but declares that the kingdom should be established in his family, until God should fulfill what he had promised concerning the special benediction of the seed of Abraham. Besides the form of speech, “until Shiloh come,” for “until Shiloh come to an end,” would be harsh and constrained. Far more correctly and consistently do other interpreters take this expression to mean “his son,” for among the Hebrews a son is called שיל (shil.) They say also that ה (he) is put in the place of the relative ו (waw😉 and the greater part assent to this signification.205 But again, the Jews dissent entirely from the meaning of the patriarch, by referring this to David. For (as I have just hinted) the origin of the kingdom in David is not here promised, but its absolute perfection in the Messiah. And truly an absurdity so gross, does not require a lengthened refutation. For what can this mean, that the kingdom should not come to an end in the tribe of Judah, till it should have been erected? Certainly the word depart means nothing else than to cease.”

Of course, Shiloh is but a symbolic place, just as Bethel, Hebron, Sinai and the garden of Eden were. The LORD is by no means restricted to any of these areas, for all of these places intimate the meeting place between the Father and mankind – through the Son, by the power of the Spirit:

Psa 78:56-61 Yet they tested and rebelled against the Most High God and did not keep his testimonies, (57) but turned away and acted treacherously like their fathers; they twisted like a deceitful bow. (58) For they provoked him to anger with their high places; they moved him to jealousy with their idols. (59) When God heard, he was full of wrath, and he utterly rejected Israel. (60) He forsook his dwelling at Shiloh, the tent where he dwelt among mankind, (61) and delivered his power to captivity, his glory to the hand of the foe.

For all the shortcomings of the Israelites in failing to obey God, it is moreso because of their failure to understand how Canaan, how the Levites who possess no land, how Shiloh and how the tabernacle all point towards Christ. Hence “they provoked him to anger with their high places”. The Christians since the Spirit has been poured onto all flesh have no escaped from these temptations either; and why should they, when the Israelites who were equally blessed with the presence of the Spirit could not resist the heresy of the extreme iconodules – that they have begun to love the icons, the high places, the objects which symbolize the true object of worship? The sins of Eli and his household in later books has revealed the place as mere symbolism, and inherently without divine value, but it is indeed a shadow to the peaceableness of the more perfect tabernacle, Yeshua:

“Some think there was an eye to the name of the place, Shiloh being the name by which the Messiah was known in dying Jacob’s prophecy (Gen_49:10), which prophecy, no doubt, was well known among the Jews; the setting up of the tabernacle in Shiloh gave them a hint that in that Shiloh whom Jacob spoke of all the ordinances of this worldly sanctuary should have their accomplishment in a greater and more perfect tabernacle, Heb_9:1, Heb_9:11. And Dr. Lightfoot thinks that the place where the tabernacle was set up was therefore called Shiloh, because of the peaceableness of the land at this time; as afterwards in Salem was his temple, which also signifies peaceable.” (Matthew Henry)

2There remained among the people of Israel seven tribes whose inheritance had not yet been apportioned. 3So Joshua said to the people of Israel,(CP) “How long will you put off going in to take possession of the land, which the LORD, the God of your fathers, has given you?

With the huge pretext within the first verse of Joshua 18, we understand Joshua’s statement. Why should they delay to take the land? Why should the Israelites, when leaving Egypt, wait for the leavened bread which represents their unwillingness to put their faith in Christ and destroy their past life? Joshua points out the persistent sins of these tribes, even though Christ has won this land for us already. And thus the division of portions takes us back to God’s divine providence and sovereignty, symbolic seven perfect portions (the number representative of God’s perfect Sabbath-rest) decided before the LORD in Shiloh out of all the other places (v.8).

4Provide three men from each tribe, and I will send them out that they may set out and go up and down the land. They shall write a description of it with a view to their inheritances, and then come to me. 5They shall divide it into seven portions.(CQ) Judah shall continue in his territory on the south,(CR) and the house of Joseph shall continue in their territory on the north. 6And you shall describe the land in seven divisions and bring the description here to me.(CS) And I will cast lots for you here before the LORD our God. 7(CT) The Levites have no portion among you, for the priesthood of the LORD is their heritage.(CU) And Gad and Reuben and half the tribe of Manasseh have received their inheritance beyond the Jordan eastward, which Moses the servant of the LORD gave them.” 8So the men arose and went, and Joshua charged those who went to write the description of the land, saying, “Go up and down in the land and write a description and return to me. And I will cast lots for you here before the LORD in Shiloh.” 9So the men went and passed up and down in the land and wrote in a book a description of it by towns in seven divisions. Then they came to Joshua to the camp at Shiloh, 10and Joshua(CV) cast lots for them in Shiloh before the LORD. And there Joshua apportioned the land to the people of Israel,(CW) to each his portion.

The Inheritance for Benjamin [the first of the seven allotments]

11The lot of the tribe of the people of Benjamin according to its clans came up, and the territory allotted to it fell between the people of Judah and the people of Joseph.

Side

Specific boundaries

North

12(CX) On the north side their boundary began at the Jordan.(CY) Then the boundary goes up to the shoulder north of Jericho, then up through the hill country westward, and it ends at the wilderness of(CZ) Beth-aven. 13From there the boundary passes along southward in the direction of Luz, to the shoulder of(DA) Luz (that is, Bethel), then the boundary goes down to(DB) Ataroth-addar, on the mountain that lies south of Lower(DC) Beth-horon.

West

14Then the boundary goes in another direction, turning on the(DD) western side southward from the mountain that lies to the south, opposite Beth-horon, and it ends at Kiriath-baal ((DE) that is, Kiriath-jearim), a city belonging to the people of Judah. This forms the western side.

South

15And the southern side begins at the outskirts of Kiriath-jearim. And the boundary goes from there to Ephron,[b](DF) to the spring of the waters of Nephtoah. 16Then the boundary goes down to the border of the mountain that overlooks(DG) the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, which is at the north end of the Valley of(DH) Rephaim. And it then goes down the(DI) Valley of Hinnom, south of the shoulder of the Jebusites, and downward to En-rogel. 17Then it bends in a northerly direction going on to En-shemesh, and from there goes to Geliloth, which is opposite the ascent of Adummim. Then it goes down to(DJ) the stone of Bohan the son of Reuben, 18and passing on to the north of(DK) the shoulder of Beth-arabah[c] it goes down to the Arabah. 19Then the boundary passes on to the north of the shoulder of(DL) Beth-hoglah. And the boundary ends at the northern bay of(DM) the Salt Sea, at the south end of the Jordan: this is the southern border.

East

20The Jordan forms its boundary on the eastern side. This is the inheritance of the people of Benjamin, according to their clans, boundary by boundary all around.

Names of the Cities

21Now the cities of the tribe of the people of Benjamin according to their clans were(DN) Jericho, Beth-hoglah, Emek-keziz, 22Beth-arabah, Zemaraim, Bethel, 23Avvim, Parah, Ophrah, 24Chephar-ammoni, Ophni, Geba—twelve cities with their villages: 25Gibeon, Ramah, Beeroth, 26Mizpeh, Chephirah, Mozah, 27Rekem, Irpeel, Taralah, 28Zela, Haeleph,(DO) Jebus[d] (that is, Jerusalem), Gibeah[e] and Kiriath-jearim[f]—fourteen cities with their villages. This is the inheritance of the people of Benjamin according to its clans.

Specifically, with reference to Jebus in v.28, we understand them to be the bearers of the ancient city and name of Jerusalem also known as Salem (c.f. Psalm 76:1-2), which Melchizedek was the king of during the times of Abraham; not to mention Zela which is the place where Saul, Jonathan and the family of Kish were buried. Benjamin is not short of places which will later become landmarks in Israel’s history though not immediately clear as to why it may fit this ravenous wolf of Genesis 49:27 – unless we place it in the context of the events of the gospel which occur at the key place of Jerusalem.

Benjamin is the second (and last) son of Rachel causing the death of his mother as she called him Ben-oni – and this may give us true insight as to why Jerusalem, among other important cities, are given to such a small but important tribe. Ben-oni literally means “son of my sorrow/pain” as opposed to “Benjamin” which means son of my right hand; and it goes to wonder why Jerusalem, the place where the Son is crucified, is under Benjamin’s jurisdiction, this head initially called the “son of my sorrow/pain” and immediately transferred to being the Son at his father’s right hand, indicative of virtue, strength and Jesus Christ at the heavenly Father’s right hand. So the divine allotment continues in fitting this city to Benjamin; it is in the tribe’s jurisdiction that so many people divide the spoils like a ravenous wolf just as they divided the spoils of Jesus’ clothing (Psalm 22:18), and yet it is here that we see the Son being exalted and fully glorified.

Joshua 17-18: From Shiloh to Jerusalem