What does it say?
The nation is in freefall as a Levite journeys through Gibeah and his mistress is gang raped and horribly abused. The Levite then hacks her into 12 pieces and sends them through the nation to draw attention to the outrage (Jud 19). The other tribes demand that the Benjamites turn over their tribesmen from Gibeah. When they refuse, civil war ensues and the tribe of Benjamin is nearly exterminated (Jud 20).
As the dust settles, the other Israelites realize that they made a rash vow to not allow their daughters to marry into the tribe of Benjamin. Only 600 men of Benjamin remain that the people are faced with the stark reality that a tribe might disappear. They devise a scheme to allow the 600 Benjamites to take wives clandestinely during an upcoming feast in order to prevent the demise of the entire tribe and protect them from shame due to the consequences of their foolish vow (Jud 21).
What does it mean?
The two narratives that dominate chapters 17-21 are examples of the very worst of humanity and the perpetrators are God’s chosen people. Even believers are not exempt from the vilest sins. The second generation forgot what God had done (2:10). By the end of Judges, society has bottomed out in sin. The last phrase, repeated three times previously, is the summation of what has happened (21:25). Applying this truth to any culture or individual at any time, we might paraphrase by saying that when there is no absolute authority in life, everyone does that which is right in one’s own eyes and the result is chaos. The theme of chaos is contrasted with the lack of absolute authority.
How will I respond?
Do I have a King in my life? Is Jesus Christ truly my Lord in fact as well as in words? Do I give him and his word the place of absolute truth in my life? What is one decision I have made recently for the pure fact that God’s absolute truth guided me and not my own thinking?