Judges 21
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
A rule of justice, morality, and prudence. Benjamin represents the libertine, a character too common ]n our own day. Here is a method of dealing with such men that ought to commend itself to every parent.


II. THE CONSIDERATIONS THAT OUGHT TO GOVERN IT. The welfare of the child; the possibility of greater happiness and usefulness: and provision for the future. Moral soundness ought therefore to be a sine qua non in all aspirants to the hand of a Christian man's daughter. What security can there be for the wife of a licentious man, even if he be as wealthy as Croesus? Righteousness of life and a Christian character should be the first and indispensable qualifications of a son-in-law.

III. ADVANTAGES OF SUCH A COURSE AS THIS. If parents would exclude from their homes, their drawing-rooms, and the society of their children persons known to be licentious, it would exert great influence -

1. In checking such conduct.

2. In preventing society from thinking lightly of it. - M.


1. It is natural on personal grounds. We are members one of another, so that if one member suffer, all suffer. The Israelites felt that it would be a common calamity to the whole nation for one tribe to be blotted out. It would not only be a judgment on that tribe, it would be "a breach in the tribes of Israel." England suffers through the wars and famines and storms which devastate even remote countries. If adversity falls upon one great town, one trade, one class, the whole community feels the effect of it. It is foolish, on selfish considerations alone, for the rich and happy to ignore the distresses of the poor and wretched.

2. But it is natural to be distressed at the troubles of others on unselfish grounds. When we are not hardened by sin we must naturally feel sympathy. The law of Christ requires us to bear one another's burdens (Galatians 6:2). If Jews of old felt for their brethren in their trouble, how can Christians, who owe all their best blessings to the compassion and suffering of Christ for them, harden their hearts against the cries of the world's misery, when they in turn are expected to show the spirit of Christ in sympathy and vicarious sacrifice?

II. IF WE ARE CALLED TO PUNISH MEN FOR THEIR SIN, WE SHOULD ALSO PITY THEM FOR THEIR DISTRESS. Israel had punished the tribe of Benjamin, but the sight of the ruin thus wrought filled all the people with grief. It is right and necessary to be firm in repressing wickedness; yet this should not be done in hot hatred, in callous sternness, nor in complacent self-satisfaction, but with grief, mourning for the distress, and more for the sin occasioning it. So does God chastise, in grief, like a father loving his child, and therefore the more hating the iniquity which produces all the trouble.

III. DISTRESS FOR THE TROUBLES OF OTHERS SHOULD LEAD US TO GOD ON THEIR BEHALF. The people came to the house of God, and wept there before God. We should bring all our trouble before God, and, when we know not what to ask for, confide in him and relieve our souls by leaving the burden with him. If we are really and deeply grieved for others, we shall be constrained to do the same with the sorrow of sympathy. All Christians are called to be priests, intercessors for others. We should pray most earnestly for those who will not pray for themselves. We should humble ourselves for their sin, since the oneness of the human family brings shame upon all when any go astray. Such sorrow before God will incline us to fresh acts of self-sacrifice and dedication. As the Israelites offered burnt offerings, we shall consecrate ourselves to God, that we may be more capable of relieving those for whom we grieve. - A.

It was quite in accordance with the rude and cruel age of the judges that a whole town should be visited with the death-penalty for deserting the tribes in the assembly of war. The punishment was not so unreasonable as it might appear at first sight, though there are circumstances in the whole transaction which reflect discredit on the Israelites.

I. DESERTION IS A GREAT CRIME. In war-time, even among civilised nations, desertion is punished with death.

1. Negative wickedness may be as bad as positive sin. If we know that an equally injurious result will follow inaction, this is equally guilty with an active offence. Thus the refusal of a ship's master to save a drowning man is morally equal to the guilt of murdering him.

2. We must not measure the value of our actions by their individual effects, but by the effects of the principles they express. One act of desertion may have no perceptible effect. But if one is justifiable, many are, and thus the principle of freedom to desert allows of total desertion resulting in total ruin. Desertion from the cause of Christ is a great sin. To refrain from obeying his call to action is as guilty as to actively disobey him.

3. The crime which is heinous when committed by one man is equally bad when committed by a whole community. We should not think of destroying a town for the crime for which we should execute an individual; but this is because of our horror of wholesale slaughter, etc., and not because evil desert is lessened when it is shared by a number.

II. CHARITY IS NO EXCUSE FOR THE NEGLECT OF DUTY, That was a terrible work to which the tribes were summoned - the slaughter of the Benjamites. Yet if they felt it to be a necessary act of justice sanctioned by God, as they evidently did feel it to be, they had no right to shrink from it out of feelings of kindliness. It is terrible to be called to such a duty; but it is brave and noble to accept the odium when the necessity is felt, and weak and selfish to avoid it. Charity is not honoured by the sacrifice of justice. It is more charitable to punish wickedness than to let it work its evil unchecked. Charity to the criminal often means cruelty to the victim. There is a danger lest we should become so mild that we should virtually punish the innocent in order to spare the guilty.

III. THE PURITY OF JUSTICE IS VIOLATED WHEN PUNISHMENT IS ADMINISTERED WITH INTERESTED MOTIVES. It appears that the great motive of the Israelites in executing the threat of their oath on the people of Jabesh-Gilead was not a regard for strict justice, but a desire to secure wives for the escaped Benjamites. This motive vitiated the character of their action. The difficulty of executing punitive justice lies in the danger of other motives than a simple regard for right entering rote our conduct. We desecrate the temple of justice when we convert it into a house of merchandise. - A.

I. MEN FIND THEIR MOST HAPPY CONDITION IN THE PURSUIT OF PEACEFUL OCCUPATIONS AND THE ENJOYMENT OF HOME LIFE. It is pleasing to see this concourse of war break up, and the Israelites return home to their farms and their families. War is unnatural, and should be treated as a monstrous evil. The nation which regards military exploits as the chief occupation for its energies is forsaking solid happiness for empty glory.

1. Politically a nation is prosperous when industry flourishes, trade is unchecked, literature finds patrons, science and art are pursued, and general education, morality, and religion are sedulously promoted by the leading men of the age.

2. Religiously a people is prosperous when angry controversy gives place to the peaceful cultivation of holiness, and practical efforts to conquer the sin of the world and spread the blessings of Christianity.

3. Personally men are prosperous when they are at liberty to work in peace and enjoy the fruits of their labours without molestation. In proportion as war, controversy, jealousy, and competition give place to quiet home life and simple endeavours to do our daily duties will happiness be enjoyed as a solid, lasting human treasure.

II. IT IS SOMETIMES NOT POSSIBLE TO ENJOY SOLID PEACE TILL AFTER THE FAITHFUL PERFORMANCE OF THE DUTIES OF WARFARE. The peace which the Israelites now enjoyed was the reward which followed the faithful performance of painful acts of justice. The cry of "peace at any price" may be the ignominious utterance of blindness, indolence, cowardice, or selfishness. We can have no worthy peace while the wrongs of any who have claims upon us call for our active interference.

1. National peace must follow the establishment of order and justice. Better all the horrors of civil war than unchecked tyranny, unpunished violence, or outraged innocence.

2. Religious peace must follow the righteous maintenance of truth and right. We must not let false religions go unchallenged, or unholy conduct unrebuked, for the sake of preserving peace. Christ came to send a sword (Matthew 10:34), and his peace comes after the valiant overthrow of the lies and sins which oppose his rule.

3. Personal peace must follow the battle of the soul with its sins and doubts. That is a hollow peace which comes from stifling doubt. We must fight it down. No true peace is possible while sinful habits are unopposed; these must be "resisted unto blood." True peace follows victory over evil.

III. A PEACEFUL LIFE IS SECURED AND MAINTAINED THROUGH THE EFFORT OF EACH MAN TO TAKE HIS OWN PLACE AND DO HIS OWN WORK. Trouble too often arises from our forsaking our post and interfering with other people.

1. Industry is favourable to peaceful prosperity. The children of Israel went home immediately after settling affairs in the disturbed district. They went straight from war to work, and wasted no time in idle self-indulgence as a reward for victory.

2. Orderly arrangements promote peace. Every man went to his tribe. Let each of us find his own place in the world, and seek quietly to occupy that, and nothing else.

3. Domestic life inclines to peace. Every man went to his family. The home is the foundation of the most solid blessings of the State. If we desire happiness and peaceful prosperity, let us cherish the sanctities of the hearth.

4. Property favours peace. The men went to their several inheritances. When a man has possessions he is reluctant to create a social disturbance. Therefore lovers of peace should promote thrift and efforts to facilitate the acquisition of property by the people generally - of course as the fruits of honest industry.

5. Religous convictions form the most solid foundations for peaceful prosperity. The Israelites accepted their inheritances quietly in obedience to a Divine distribution. We shall enjoy a peaceful life best if we believe that God chooses our inheritance, and accept our lot in contentment and trustfulness from him, endeavouring to use it as his stewards, and hoping for the perfect inheritance of the everlasting home which he will give to his faithful people. - A.

This is the key-note, as it is the refrain, of the whole book. The point raised is one of great significance in dealing with the foundations of Society and the State.



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