Judges 20:18
The Israelites set out, went up to Bethel, and inquired of God, "Who of us shall go up first to fight against the Benjamites?" "Judah will be first," the LORD replied.
From Justice to Wild RevengeR. A. Watson, M. A.Judges 20:1-48


1. This implies conjunction. The individuality of the parts is not destroyed when these are united. Each of the separate stones retains its shape after it is built into the common structure, and the union is formed by cementing all close together. So union amongst men does not destroy the personality and character of each man, but, instead of acting separately, men in union act in common.

2. This implies harmony. Conjunction without harmony brings not union, but confusion, and the nearer the conjunction, the fiercer is the internal conflict. Thus civil war is more cruel than war with a foreign nation, family feuds more bitter than quarrels with strangers. Harmony implies diversity, but agreement, as the several stones in a building, though each may be different in shape and size from others, fit in together, and fit the better because they are not all alike.

3. This implies the subordination of the individual to the whole. So far there may be a partial suppression of individuality; but in the end this develops a higher individuality. The several organs of the body are made not to exercise their functions for their own sakes, but for the good of the whole body. Yet this differentiation of parts allows of the more full development of each organ, and so leads to a more complete individuality in its form and character. When men are working under a social system, each is able to contribute his part to the good of the whole by a more free exercise of his own special talents than would be possible in a condition of isolation.


1. Union increases strength. There is not only the gross force resulting from the addition of the units of force; there is a multiplication of strength, an economy of power. The nation can do as a whole what all its citizens could not do if acting separately. The Church can accomplish work for Christ which private Christians would fail to do.

2. Union promotes peace. When men are knit together as one they forget their private differences. Though we cannot attain the peace of uniformity, we should aim at securing the peace of harmony.

3. Union favours growth and development. Israel suffered from her disintegration. Her national unification was requisite for any solid advance of civilisation. This development of harmonised and organised union distinguishes civilised nations from savage tribes. As the Church learns to think more of common Christian charity than of narrow sectarian differences, she will advance in likeness to the mind of Christ and in the enjoyment of the graces and blessings of the gospel.

III. THE GROUNDS OF UNION. Men need some cause to draw them together - some common ground of union.

1. This may be found in a great wrong to be removed. A fearful crime stirred the hearts of all Israel. In presence of this the tribes forgot their minor grievances. Should not the great sin of the world be a call to Christians to sink their ceaseless quarrels in one united effort to destroy it with the power of Christ's truth?

2. This may be found in the attack of a common enemy. When the invader is on our coast, Tories and Radicals fight side by side, moved by a common instinct of patriotism. When the truth of Christianity is assailed by infidelity and her life by worldliness and vice, should we not all rally round the standard of our one Captain for a united crusade against the power of our common enemy the devil?

3. This may be found in a good cause of universally recognised merit. Fidelity to truth, love to mankind, devotion to Christ should unite all Christians. - A.

The people served the Lord all the days of Joshua.
I. THE POWER OF A GREAT MAN TO ADAPT HIMSELF TO CHANGING CIRCUMSTANCES, AND TO BE EQUALLY GREAT UNDER VARYING CONDITIONS. Many a man great in conquest is a nonentity in peaceful times. The great warrior does not always make a great statesman. Joshua, on the contrary, was the moral ruler of the nation in peace as well as the military commander of the army in war. The Romans are said to have conquered like savages and ruled like philosophic statesmen. Joshua, too, excelled in war and peace. Perhaps he was greatest in peace, because "he that ruleth his spirit is better than he that taketh a city." Contrast Napoleon in St. Helena with Joshua at Timnath Heres.

II. THE FORMATIVE INFLUENCE OF ONE GREAT LIFE IN GIVING CHARACTER TO AN AGE. Such men as Joshua are necessarily exceptional, There is a Divine economy in the sending of great men. Like miracles, they must not be allowed to degenerate into commonplaces. There is a reserve in producing great leaders: they come one in a century — in some instances, one in a millennium. Men of the Joshua type are sent to give a character to their time. The history of the world is largely the history of single champions.

III. THE LIMITATIONS OF A PERSONAL INFLUENCE — even one of the most powerful kind; for we see here the strange capacity of one age to prove untrue to the best traditions of that which preceded it: "There arose another generation," etc.

1. This generation suffered from the lack of direct personal testimony. They could not say, "We speak that which we do know, and testify that which we have seen." All they knew was by hearsay, and spirituality must be very vigorous and intense to breathe life into hearsay.

2. These people sadly under-estimated, and therefore ignored, the value of historic record — "knew not," etc. They severed themselves from the past.

3. This was an age of ease, and, as such, the least productive of noble manhood. These were poverty-stricken times. The nation was no longer braced by one common ambition, or bent upon one object. They had lapsed into a state of indolence and indifference. Moreover, there was no central supreme power, for they had leaders only in times of war, and the old leader and his subordinates were dead. This was a time when a great character was most needed to save the nation from degeneracy. Such ages often succeed the iron ages of history. I am not sure that we, as Christians, have not lost much of the robustness of the past age.

IV. WHAT A RESPONSIBILITY IS INVOLVED IN THIS SUCCESSION OF AGES TO MAINTAIN THE CONTINUITY, to be worthy followers of those who through faith and patience have inherited the promises; to be, of a truth, successors of the apostles and of other holy men!

V. THANK GOD, THE RECORD IN OUR TEXT IS ONLY FRAGMENTARY. That age was not a final break upon the progress of revelation. History is progressive after all. Span the centuries. Don't let the point of observation be too narrow or near. Ascending from lowlands to highlands there are undulations; but take a span large enough, and you will find that it is an ascent all the way. So in the history of our race. God has been advancing throughout all time in spite of the "dark ages"of the world, and in spite of human relapses into sin.

(D. Davies.)


1. All creatures are the servants of God, but they serve Him in different ways.

(1)Some without a will. Inanimate matter and insentient life.

(2)Some with their will. Brutes — instinct.

(3)Some against their will. Wicked men and fallen angels.

(4)Some by their will. Saints and angels.

2. To serve Him in this way is the obligation of the race. But there is one condition indispensable to this — supreme love for Him as the Sovereign. This will —

(1)Induce man to attain an understanding of His law;

(2)prompt him cheerfully to obey it.


1. That a man can induce his race to serve the Lord. Joshua did.

2. That a man, to do this, must himself be a servant of the Lord. Joshua was.

3. That, however useful a man may be to his race in this respect, he must die. Joshua died.


1. The succession involves no extinction. The mighty generations that are gone live on some other shore.

2. The mode of the succession involves a moral cause. We say the "mode," not the "fact." If the race continue to multiply as now, the limitation of the world's area and provisions would require a succession. This planet was probably intended as a stepping-stone to another. Had there been no sin, however, instead of the succession taking place through the grave, it might have been through a "chariot of fire," as in the case of Elijah.


1. This degenerating tendency is often found stronger than the most elevating influences of truth. Peter fell in the very presence of Christ.

2. This degenerating tendency indicates the necessity of a conscious reliance upon the gracious help of God.




1. The nature of their apostasy. God is jealous of His own honour; and to unite His name with idols, and to His worship to join the revolting orgies of Ashtoreth, was diabolism, and must be judged and punished.

2. Their apostasy was intensified by all the distinguishing privileges and blessings they had enjoyed. As virtue is proportioned in vigour to the temptations resisted, so transgression is proportioned to the forces of conscience, education, example and blessing which have been fought with and conquered. Nor was this all their sin. To the list must be added disobedience. They refused to execute the Divine command to expel the Canaanites from the land. It was terrible surgery, and not murder, that the Israelites were commanded to perform as touching the heathen idolators — a true and just surgery, cutting away unflinchingly the diseased part, that themselves might remain sound. Stopping short in the operation, they became infected with the moral leprosy which made the Canaanites loathsome to heaven and earth (Leviticus 18:21-30; Deuteronomy 12:30-32).(1) Mercies despised, privileges scorned, pledges made to God in covenant and broken, become the foundation for towering iniquity. The best things perverted are the worst.(2) Nothing is more fatal to the Christian calling than alliances with the ungodly. He who makes the experiment of such entangling alliances will speedily discover that his power is lost; that what he builds with one hand he pulls down with the other; that he does not win the world to God: the world wins him. It is a notorious fact that alliances with the wicked do not command the respect of the very men for whose favour they are formed. The world scorns those who sacrifice their religious principles to worldly policy or social ambitions.


1. No two ideas are more inseparably linked together than these two of sin and suffering. The one follows the other by a law as fixed and imperative as the agony of a burning hand. They are the "twin serpents" of the race, inseparable companions.

2. But all suffering is not penal. With respect to God's people it is remedial and corrective. Moses Browne truly saith, "A great deal of rust requires a rough file."

IV. GOD'S MERCIFUL PROVISION FOR ISRAEL'S DELIVERANCE. God answered the cries of distress by sending them Judges — men chosen and qualified to act as His vicegerents in the emergencies of the nation. Let no Christian despair or be discouraged even in the most adverse circumstances. Evermore it is true that "Man's extremity is God's opportunity."

(W. G. Moorehead, D. D.)

There arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord
Sermons by the Monday Club.
With ages of schooling, and always the same lessons, mankind is slow to learn the absolute and unalterable conditions of prosperity; equally slow to note and steer clear of the reefs and shoals on which nationality after nationality has gone to wreck.

I. THE DRIFT OF HUMAN NATURE. It is towards sin, and away from God. The Israelites were men no better and no worse than other men. Sentimental philosophers of the modern type may write out in soft phrase their exalted estimates of human nature; they may enlarge upon its beauties and excellences; but, in spite of their fancies and ecstacies, here the fact asserts itself in the record, as it does on every page of history, that human nature, left to itself, gravitates downward.

II. THE INFLUENCE OF MEN IN HIGH STATION. The significant fact is recorded that "the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua," etc. A great responsibility rests upon those who occupy prominent places in society or in the State — a responsibility that is not discharged by fidelity to the specific duties of their position. There is that undefined, incalculable something of influence which is inseparable from their station, which they are to guard and direct.

III. THE DANGER OF RELIGIOUS INSENSIBILITY. It is twofold. There is danger that men will come into a state of mind and heart where they will be unmoved by Divine truth, and there is great danger in that state. The children of Israel did not sweep over at once and in a body into idolatry. They drifted, by slow and unrecognised gradations, from the service of God to the worship of Baal and Ashtaroth. Carelessness about single duties, indifference to single truths — here were the causes of their final detection. The process has been often repeated, is still in progress. Men and women walk our streets to-day utterly indifferent to the most solemn truths of religion, to whom all the truths of God were once intensely real. There was a time when conscience was quick, and the least wandering from duty brought sorrow and repentance. There was a time when immortality, with its heaven of blessedness and its land of infinite sorrow, loomed colossal on the horizon of thought. There was such a time, but it has passed, perhaps for ever. Neglect of duty, lack of watchfulness against sin, disobedience to many a heavenly calling — things like these, slight and unnoticed in themselves, have swept them away from the moorings of faith and interest, and they are adrift on the dark sea of unbelief and indifference.

IV. THE SECRET OF PROSPERITY. The Israelites had all the human factors of success — a fruitful country, a genial climate, experience in the arts of war and peace, and the prestige of a triumphant march from Egypt to Canaan. These were seemingly enough to make them a power among the nations. But one thing, the indispensable thing, was missing — the Divine favour which they had forfeited by their sin. Is God for us or against us? is the decisive question. If He frown, empires with the glow of centuries of art and culture transfiguring them may crumble to dishonoured dust, and the shame of their defeat become greater than the splendour of their conquests. From the tawny sands that cover the old-time magnificence of Babylon and Nineveh, and the scores of historic centres that have faded out of sight, comes one and the same declaration, voiced by the desert wind that moans over their graves, "Even so shall it be with the nations that forget God." And what is true of men in the mass is true of individuals. The conditions of real and enduring success in life are always the same. "If God be for us, who can be against us?" Many things are rightly estimated as elements in what is called a successful life. Enterprise, thrift, patience, energy — all these are helpful and desirable forces; but it still remains unalterably and everlastingly true that the sovereign maxim of political and social economy is that given long ago by Jesus on the mount: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God," etc.

(Sermons by the Monday Club.)

Aaron, Benjamin, Benjaminites, Benjamites, Dan, Eleazar, Israelites, Nohah, Phinehas, Samuel, Tamar
Baal-tamar, Beersheba, Bethel, Dan, Gibeah, Gidom, Gilead, Maareh-geba, Mizpah, Nohah, Rimmon
Battle, Benjamin, Benjaminites, Benjamites, Bethel, Beth-el, Commencement, Counsel, Directions, Fight, Got, Inquired, Judah, Replied, Rise, Sons
1. The Levite in a general assembly declared his wrong
8. The decree of the assembly
12. The Benjamites, being cited, make head against the Israelites
18. The Israelites in two battles lose forty thousand
26. They destroy by a plan all the Benjamites, except six hundred.

Dictionary of Bible Themes
Judges 20:18

     8648   enquiring of God

Judges 20:18-48

     5214   attack

To his Most Serene and Mighty Imperial Majesty, and to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation.
Dr. MARTINUS LUTHER. The grace and might of God be with you, Most Serene Majesty! most gracious, well beloved gentlemen! It is not out of mere arrogance and perversity that I, a single poor man, have taken upon me to address your lordships. The distress and misery that oppress all the Christian estates, more especially in Germany, have led not only myself, but every one else, to cry aloud and to ask for help, and have now forced me too, to cry out and to ask, if God would give His Spirit to any one,
Martin Luther—First Principles of the Reformation

Upon Our Lord's SermonOn the Mount
Discourse 7 "Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: And thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly." Matthew 6:16-18. 1. It has been the endeavour of Satan, from the beginning of the world,
John Wesley—Sermons on Several Occasions

For the understanding of the early history and religion of Israel, the book of Judges, which covers the period from the death of Joshua to the beginning of the struggle with the Philistines, is of inestimable importance; and it is very fortunate that the elements contributed by the later editors are so easily separated from the ancient stories whose moral they seek to point. That moral is most elaborately stated in ii. 6-iii. 6, which is a sort of programme or preface to iii. 7-xvi. 31, which constitutes
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament

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