Judges 21:20-21, 23
For context, read Judges 19-21
Over the years, I have heard people claim that the Bible condones the mistreatment of women. After reading accounts like this one, it is obvious that the Bible reports the mistreatment of women, even among His own people. But does that mean God is condoning it? I don’t think so. Let’s look more closely.
The story of the girls of Shiloh actually begins with another abused woman. The concubine of a Levite man. In a story that reads eerily familiar to the story of the wicked men that surrounded Lot’s house and demanded to have their way with the angels in Sodom, so wicked men surrounded the house in Gibeah where the Levite man was a houseguest and demanded that he be sent out for their pleasure. The owner of the house rightly refused but then offered up his own daughter and the man’s concubine! The Levite sent out his concubine and she was brutally and repeatedly raped and murdered!
But it gets worse. In an effort to rally troops, the Levite cuts up his concubine and sends her to the tribes of Israel in 12 pieces. What a despicable way to send a message, especially when he was the one who had allowed her assault to happen in the first place! But Judges 20:1
says that the Israelites “came out as one man and assembled before the LORD” in Mizpah. The men of Israel all took a stand and refused to let the crime against this woman go unpunished.
In Judges 20
, we see the Israelites confronting the tribe of Benjamin asking for the evil men who committed the rape and murder to be brought out and put to death. When the tribe of Benjamin refused, the Israelites sought the LORD and asked if they should go up and fight against Benjamin, their brothers. He said yes. He delivered the tribe of Benjamin into their hands as vengeance for this woman’s life and for the Benjaminite’s sin in not handing over the evil men that were among them. It is a message loud and clear from God that He would punish this evil.
But then, the Israelites realized that they had another problem. In their anger against the Benjaminites, they vowed to never give their daughters in marriage to them. But they had just wiped most of the tribe out. 600 Benjaminite men were left without wives. They realized that one of the tribes of Israel would cease to exist if they couldn’t find wives for these 600 men.
What should they have done to solve this problem? Well, in Judges 20
, before they attacked, they asked the LORD. But it says nothing of the sort this time. It says they asked themselves what to do. And therein lies the problem. Phase 1 of their plan to provide wives for the Benjaminites was to massacre a tribe that did not send troops to fight against Benjamin but spare 400 virgins and give them to the Benjaminites. Phase 2 of this plan was to tell the other 200 Benjaminites to just carry off a girl from Shiloh. They were not commanded to do this by the LORD, and they did not ask Him if they should do it.
See what a mess we make of things when we “do what is right in our own eyes” and do not seek and follow the LORD? After punishing the Benjaminites for an act of violence against a woman, they came up with a plan that was in fact another act of violence against women and murdered other Israelites in the process!
But sisters, take heart. The LORD has promised justice. In Luke 18:7-8
, Jesus says. “And will not God bring about justice for His chosen ones, who cry out to Him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, He will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”
The WORD about women in this story of atrocities against women is that justice will ultimately be served. Men “do whatever seems right in their own eyes”. But the LORD is the perfect Judge. One day, every evil doer will have to answer to Him for every evil deed. And we have to have faith in Him until that day comes.