Judges 21:23
The Benjamites did as instructed and carried away the number of women they needed from the dancers they caught. They went back to their own inheritance, rebuilt their cities, and settled in them.
An Unreasonable OathC. Ness.Judges 21:1-25
Confusion and Misery Through Want of OrdersS. G. Green, D. D.Judges 21:1-25
One LackingJ. Parker, D. D.Judges 21:1-25

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.

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.)

Benjamin, Benjaminites, Benjamites, Israelites, Jabesh
Bethel, Canaan, Jabesh-gilead, Lebonah, Mizpah, Rimmon, Shechem, Shiloh
Benjamin, Benjaminites, Build, Building, Built, Carried, Caught, Cities, Dance, Danced, Dancers, Dancing, Dwell, Dwelt, Force, Girls, Got, Heritage, Inheritance, Rebuilt, Repaired, Returned, Settled, Sons, Taking, Themselves, Towns, Turn, Violently, Wife, Wives, Women
1. The people bewail the desolation of Benjamin
8. By the destruction of Jabesh Gilead they provide them four hundred wives.
16. They advise the remainder to surprise the virgins that danced at Shiloh

Dictionary of Bible Themes
Judges 21:16-23

     5365   kidnapping

Judges 21:21-23

     5287   dance

Judges 21:21-25

     5695   girls

As we take up our pen to write these closing paragraphs, we do so conscious that we have merely skimmed, here and there, the surface of a vast ocean of truth. Though upwards of five hundred Scriptures have been referred to in these pages, yet, hundreds more could have been cited in support of the positions which we have advanced. An exhaustive classification and examination of all the passages which are connected, directly or indirectly, with the subject of the Redeemer's Return, would necessitate
Arthur W. Pink—The Redeemer's Return

Of Civil Government.
OF CIVIL GOVERNMENT. This chapter consists of two principal heads,--I. General discourse on the necessity, dignity, and use of Civil Government, in opposition to the frantic proceedings of the Anabaptists, sec. 1-3. II. A special exposition of the three leading parts of which Civil Government consists, sec. 4-32. The first part treats of the function of Magistrates, whose authority and calling is proved, sec. 4-7. Next, the three Forms of civil government are added, sec. 8. Thirdly, Consideration
John Calvin—The Institutes of the Christian Religion

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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