Judges Chap. 20: Seven Lessons on Investigating and Disciplining Sin from the Jews’ Civil War

Introduction: Sometimes it is not enough to act with the right intentions. When serving God, you must also act in the correct manner. Judges chapter 20 documents the sad civil war that broke out between 11 of the tribes and the tribe of Benjamin following the brutal gang rape and death of a Levite’s concubine in the Benjamite town of Gibeah. During this war, each side believed that it was acting in a correct manner. Each side, however, acted out of the emotions of the flesh. Not until the very end did the 11 tribes act properly as God intended. As a result, 65,700 men and most of the Benjamites died in this unnecessary war. God wanted the tribes to come together to fight the Canaanites. The Levite who lost his concubine unintentionally united the tribes like no other deliverer. Yet, the tribes were only united in fighting each other. From this regrettable civil war, God provides lessons on investigating and disciplining sin.

First, from the collective response of the tribes to the gang rape and murder allegations of the Levite, God reveals that His justice requires that all alleged crimes be investigated. Second, from the misleading testimony of the Levite that inspired the civil war, God reveals that alleged crimes that carry the death penalty must be confirmed by the testimony of two or more witnesses. Third, from the refusal of the Benjamites to release the men of Gibeah to the elders from the 11 tribes, He reveals that His justice requires that believers submit to authority. Fourth, from the Jews’ loss of 40,000 soldiers (one tenth of their total) after failing to wait for His signal to attack, He reveals that His justice is patient and never quick to judge others. Fifth, from the sin offerings that the Jews made before receiving God’s approval to attack, He reveals that you must first confess and deal with your own sin before you can correct a brother or sister. Sixth, from the successful battle plan that God gave to the Jews, He reveals that true justice is guided by the Spirit and not by your flesh. Finally, from the overly harsh punishment of the Benjamites, He reveals that His justice requires that believers address and discipline sinners out of love.

1. God’s Justice Requires the Investigation of all Alleged Crimes. Judges 20:1-3

  • The investigation the 11 tribes into the Levite’s allegations. After the Levite cut up the body of his concubine and sent a piece to each of the 12 tribes, 11 tribal elders assembled together “as one man to the Lord” to investigate the crime: “1 Then all the sons of Israel from Dan to Beersheba, including the land of Gilead, came out, and the congregation assembled as one man to the Lord at Mizpah. The chiefs of all the people, even of all the tribes of Israel, took their stand in the assembly of the people of God, 400,000 foot soldiers who drew the sword. (Now the sons of Benjamin heard that the sons of Israel had gone up to Mizpah.) And the sons of Israel said, ‘Tell us, how did this wickedness take place?’” (Jdgs. 20:1-3). The gathering happened in a town called Mizpah, located between Judah and Benjamin (Josh. 15:38; 18:26). At the time, the Jews kept the ark in the nearby city of Shiloh. Before Jerusalem was retaken by David, the larger city of Mizpah was used for many of the large religious gatherings of the tribes (1 Sam. 7:5; 10:17). The reference to “from Dan to Beersheba” and “the Land of Gilead” (Jdgs. 20:1) is an Old Testament merism that was used to convey all the cities from Dan in the far north to Beersheba in the far south and the tribes to the east in Jordan (1 Sam. 3:20; 2 Sam. 24:2; 2 Chr. 30:5). This gathering was similar to the gathering of the nine and one half tribes in Shiloh in Joshua’s day when they perceived that the two and a half tribes in modern day Jordan had built an unauthorized altar outside the Promised Land (Josh. 22:10-12). The message that runs through both accounts is that alleged sin must always be investigated. If it is ignored, it will spread and grow like cancer. By bringing together 400,000 soldiers, the Levite had brought together more Jews than any other leader since Joshua. Yet, the text later implies that the Benjamites were not present. Presumably, they received the body part of the deceased concubine and conducted an investigation that was limited to speaking with only the wrongdoers. Thus, instead of having 12 tribes, the Jews had only 11. In the Bible, the number 11 symbolizes chaos. It was an 11-day journey from Mount Horeb to Kadesh-barnea, where the Jews rebelled against God (Dt. 1:2-4). Chaos also broke out amongst the disciples when Judas abandoned Jesus and only 11 disciples remained. The message is that the Body of Christ must speak in unity against sin (Phil. 2:2). If not, the devil will cause chaos.

  • Unaddressed murder can curse a land. Another lesson from this account is that alleged murder must be addressed or it will pollute the land and cause God to lift His hedge of protection: “So you shall not pollute the land in which you are; for blood pollutes the land and no expiation can be made for the land for the blood that is shed on it, except by the blood of him who shed it.” (Nu. 35:33). “And shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and their daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; and the land was polluted with the blood.” (Ps. 106:38; Is. 24:5). “The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground.” (Gen. 4:10(b)). Thus, the Church cannot take a blind eye toward sin and allegations of murder. Yet, as one commentator notes, it is hard to imagine the sins of the people of Gibeah receiving the same response today: “It seems that the crime of Gibeah shocked the conscience of Israel. Today it seems that the crime at Gibeah would be material for tabloid news, cable television, daytime talk shows, and talk radio - more than a national call to righteousness and repentance.” (David Guzik on Judges 20). Some may read the book of Judges and marvel at the level at the unrepentant sin throughout the land. Yet, that is exactly how God must see the western world today.

2. God’s Justice Requires Testimony From Two or More Witnesses. Judges 20:4-12.

  • The Jews’ trial based upon the testimony of only one witness. Although the Levite succeeded in bringing the tribes together, he used half-truths to inflame the tribes to go to war against the Benjamites. The 11 tribes then failed to investigate his claims through the testimony of any other witnesses: “So the Levite, the husband of the woman who was murdered, answered and said, “I came with my concubine to spend the night at Gibeah which belongs to Benjamin. But the men of Gibeah rose up against me and surrounded the house at night because of me. They intended to kill me; instead, they ravished my concubine so that she died. And I took hold of my concubine and cut her in pieces and sent her throughout the land of Israel’s inheritance; for they have committed a lewd and disgraceful act in Israel. Behold, all you sons of Israel, give your advice and counsel here.’ Then all the people arose as one man, saying, ‘Not one of us will go to his tent, nor will any of us return to his house. But now this is the thing which we will do to Gibeah; we will go up against it by lot. 10 And we will take 10 men out of 100 throughout the tribes of Israel, and 100 out of 1,000, and 1,000 out of 10,000 to supply food for the people, that when they come to Gibeah of Benjamin, they may punish them for all the disgraceful acts that they have committed in Israel.’ 11 Thus all the men of Israel were gathered against the city, united as one man. 12 Then the tribes of Israel sent men through the entire tribe of Benjamin, saying, ‘What is this wickedness that has taken place among you?” (Jdgs. 20:8-12). In an effort to incite the elders and their 400,000 soldiers, the Levite falsely told the elders that the Benjamites “intended to kill me” (Jdgs. 20:5). Possibly because he feared that it would not create the same emotional response, he did not tell the elders that the Benjamites’ real desire was to sodomize him (Jdgs. 19:22). If he had disclosed this, the Jews might have learned through further questioning that either he or his host offered his concubine as a substitute to protect the Levite. This would have in turn raised complicated questions regarding whether the Levite selfishly consented to the gang rape of his concubine to save himself. An investigation that included interviews with the host and the rapists might have also raised unseemly questions regarding whether the rapists intentionally killed her or whether the Levite finished off the concubine in a barbaric “honor killing” that was common at that time. The Levite knew that allegations of rape would inflame the Jews and cause them to retaliate, just as Jacob’s sons did following Dinah’s rape (Gen. 34:7; cf., 2 Sam. 13:12). By misrepresenting what really happened in an official proceeding, the Levite violated God’s Ninth Commandment against perjury (Ex. 20:16; Dt. 5:20). Perjury also profanes God’s Holy name (Lev. 19:12). This in turn violated the Third Commandment (Dt. 5:11; Ex. 20:7). The penalty under the Ninth Commandment was death (Prov. 19:9; 21:18). Likewise, the penalty for breaking the Third Commandment was also death (Lev. 24:16; Dt. 5:11). For the Levite, the ends justified the means. He symbolized the times when everyone did what was right in their own eyes (Jdgs. 17:6; 21:25). There were none who were righteous and without blame before God (Ecc. 7:20; Ro. 3:23).

  • Forgive those who hurt you, and show love to your enemies. As a Levite, he was called to set the example for the Jews by not holding grudges and by loving his neighbors: ‘“You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.”’ (Lev. 19:18). Like the Levites, believers are called upon to be God’s holy priesthood today (1 Pet. 2:5). As part of His holy priesthood, you too are called upon to set the example by not holding grudges and by loving your neighbors (Matt. 22:39; Mk. 12:31; Lk. 10:27; Jo. 13:34; Ro. 12:19; 13:19). Are you showing forgiveness and love to those who hurt you?

  • Capital punishment requires at least two witnesses and a trial by a jury. While the individual has a duty to forgive, society must still investigate alleged murder. Yet, before any elders or soldiers went out to put the alleged criminals to death, their needed to be two or more witnesses to support the charges: “On the evidence of two witnesses or three witnesses, he who is to die shall be put to death; he shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness.” (Dt. 17:6). The rule that a person could not be convicted of a serious crime without two or more witnesses is repeated throughout Scripture: “A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin which he has committed; on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed.” (Dt. 19:15). “But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed.” (Matt. 18:16). “Even in your law it has been written that the testimony of two men is true.” (Jo. 8:17). “Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses.” (1 Tim. 5:19). “This is the third time I am coming to you. Every fact is to be confirmed by the testimony of two or three witnesses.” (2 Cor. 13:1). The existence of two witnesses, however, does not relieve a leader to still conduct a “thorough” investigation (Dt. 17:4). Jesus was convicted in a trial based upon the false testimony of two witnesses (Matt. 26:60). In cases involving capital punishment, God also required a trial by an impartial jury: “[T]hen the congregation shall judge between the slayer and the blood avenger according to these ordinances. The congregation shall deliver the manslayer from the hand of the blood avenger, and the congregation shall restore him to his city of refuge to which he fled. . .” (Nu. 35:24-35). The Jews’ decision to agree with the Levite without first holding a trial with more than one witness most likely influenced the Benjamites’ decision to rebel against what they must have saw as a mob lynching.

  • Joshua’s example and Jesus’ instructions for investigating alleged sin. The Jews previously investigated alleged sin within the tribes when the nine and one half tribes believed that the tribes in Jordan had built an illegal altar outside the Promised Land. Yet, instead of going to war, Joshua sent Eleazar, the High Priest, and 10 representatives from the nine and a half tribes inside the Promised Land to investigate (Josh. 22:13-20). Joshua and the ten elders followed the procedure that Jesus later laid out in detail for confronting sin. First, the elders or leaders approached the person accused of sinning with the goal of first verifying the sin and then correcting the sin out of love: “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” (Matt. 18:15-17). Like the High Priest and the elders, the Church is to confront sin privately with the goal of restoring any believer caught in sin: “My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back,” (Jam. 5:19). Believers are to follow in this same example when confronting sinners. First, you must remove the planks in their own eyes to avoid accusations of hypocrisy. “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.” (Matt. 7:5). Second, you must confront the believer privately (Matt. 18:15-17). Third, motivated by love, you should restore the believer: “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.” (Gal. 6:1; 1 Cor. 4:21). “with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,” (2 Tim. 2:25). When people sin, are you following the correct steps by privately confronting them to restore them out of love and put them back on their walk with Jesus?

3. God’s Justice Requires All Parties to Submit to His Authority. Judges 20:13-16.

  • The refusal of the tribe of Benjamin to submit to the tribes’ investigation. Possibly because the Benjamites felt that the other Jews had improperly rushed to judgment, they refused to allow the Jews to seize the rapists in Gibeah. Instead, they assembled their best soldiers to defend the city: “13 Now then, deliver up the men, the worthless fellows in Gibeah, that we may put them to death and remove this wickedness from Israel.’ But the sons of Benjamin would not listen to the voice of their brothers, the sons of Israel. 14 The sons of Benjamin gathered from the cities to Gibeah, to go out to battle against the sons of Israel. 15 From the cities on that day the sons of Benjamin were numbered, 26,000 men who draw the sword, besides the inhabitants of Gibeah who were numbered, 700 choice men. 16 Out of all these people 700 choice men were left-handed; each one could sling a stone at a hair and not miss.” (Jdgs. 20:13-16). The reference to 700 “left-handed” carried two meanings. First, the name Benjamin means “son of the right hand.” In this context, their left-handedness meant that they completely stood out against God’s people. Second, they also misused their special talents against God’s people. During that time period, being left handed meant that a person was specially trained in battle. These soldiers were ambidextrous. To learn to fight with their left hands, they trained by binding up their right hands. In line formation combat, they could cause confusion amongst a line of enemy soldiers, who typically carried their swords in their right hand and their shields in their left. The deliverer Ehud, who killed the Moabite King Eglon, is one example of a specially trained left handed soldier from the tribe of Benjamin (Jdgs. 3:15). These ambidextrous soldiers were also feared during Saul’s reign: “They were equipped with bows, using both the right hand and the left to sling stones and to shoot arrows from the bow; they were Saul's kinsmen from Benjamin.” (1 Chr. 12:12). The lesson here is to never misuse your God-given “talents” for the flesh. Are you using your God-given talents to serve the body of Christ? (Matt. 25:14-30; Lk. 19:12-28).

  • Submit to Godly leadership. For refusing to obey the tribal elders, the penalty under God’s law was to purge the offending Benjamites from the land: “The man who acts presumptuously by not listening to the priest who stands there to serve the LORD your God, nor to the judge, that man shall die; thus you shall purge the evil from Israel.” (Dt. 17:12). God expects order. He commands that we submit to His appointed leaders. His leaders are His “avengers” against injustice. (Ro. 13:4). They also are supposed to “watch out for your souls.” (Heb. 13:17). First, you submit to God through his Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:14), His Word (2 Tim. 3:16), and His church leadership (Matt. 18:17-20; Heb. 13:17). Second, you submit to your civil authorities (1 Pet. 2:13-14; Rom. 13:1-2). Third, you submit to God’s family order (Eph. 5:22-25; 6:10). Only when your authorities refuse to follow God’s law can you ignore them (Acts 4:19). By contrast, Satan’s goal has always been to break down authority through rebellion. His goal is to create chaos and misery. Satan first led a third of the angels in rebellion against God’s rule (Rev. 12:3-9). He then led Eve to rebel against God’s rules (Gen. 3:1-4). He then lead Adam and Eve to rebel against each other (Gen 3:16). Satan led 12 rebellions to depose Moses as the leader of the Jews. Jesus once quoted a prophesy: “I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.” (Mk. 14:23). Upon His arrest, the disciples scattered. Peter likewise revealed that the corrupt “despise authority.” (2 Pet. 2:10). Are you rebelling against any leaders that God has appointed over you?

4. God’s Justice is Patient and Never Quick to Judge. Judges 20:17-25.

  • The Jews’ loss of 40,000 soldiers over two days after failing to wait for God’s timing. In this account, both sides failed to follow God’s law for investigating sin and resolving conflict. Both sides acted out of their flesh and not according to the Spirit. As a result, when the Jews rushed into battle they did so without God and lost 40,000 men over two days: “17 Then the men of Israel besides Benjamin were numbered, 400,000 men who draw the sword; all these were men of war. 18 Now the sons of Israel arose, went up to Bethel, and inquired of God and said, ‘Who shall go up first for us to battle against the sons of Benjamin?’ Then the Lord said, ‘Judah shall go up first.’ 19 So the sons of Israel arose in the morning and camped against Gibeah. 20 The men of Israel went out to battle against Benjamin, and the men of Israel arrayed for battle against them at Gibeah. 21 Then the sons of Benjamin came out of Gibeah and felled to the ground on that day 22,000 men of Israel. 22 But the people, the men of Israel, encouraged themselves and arrayed for battle again in the place where they had arrayed themselves the first day. 23 The sons of Israel went up and wept before the Lord until evening, and inquired of the Lord, saying, ‘Shall we again draw near for battle against the sons of my brother Benjamin?’ And the Lord said, ‘Go up against him.’ 24 Then the sons of Israel came against the sons of Benjamin the second day. 25 Benjamin went out against them from Gibeah the second day and felled to the ground again 18,000 men of the sons of Israel; all these drew the sword.” (Jdgs. 20:17-25). At first blush, it would appear that the 11 tribes properly consulted God and followed His instructions. Indeed, the wording from the first battle account directly parallels the opening account of the book when God instructed the Jews to send Judah against the Canaanites: “Now it came about after the death of Joshua that the sons of Israel inquired of the LORD, saying, ‘Who shall go up first for us against the Canaanites, to fight against them?’ The LORD said, ‘Judah shall go up; behold, I have given the land into his hand.’” (Jdgs. 1:1-2). Yet, there are important differences. God repeatedly told the Jews to destroy the Canaanites upon entering the Promised Land (e.g., Dt. 7:2; 7:16; 13:8). The Jews did not need to wait on His timing because He had already told them to fight. By contrast, God never wanted the Jews to fight each other out of haste. For this reason, they were required to hold trials with two or more witnesses before they took any actions. The Jews’ actions showed that they had already planned out the battle with the Benjamites and were merely looking for God to ratify their decision. This is evidenced by three facts. First, they did not bother to hold a proper trial. Second, they had already decided on their own who they would select for their initial attack by using lots (Jdgs. 20:9). Third, the Jews formed their own supply lines by using one tenth of their men to find food as opposed to trusting God for their provision (Jdgs. 20:10). This also was not the first time that the Jews had suffered a combat defeat by acting at the wrong time. The men of Ai also struck down the Jews when one Jew sinned and the Jews attacked without waiting on God’s timing and approval (Josh. 7:5). God would ultimately bless the Jews’ endeavor. Yet, they needed to learn to wait upon His timing. These same lessons also apply to believers today.

  • Be slow to judgment and always wait upon God’s direction before you act. God never wants you to be quick to act against a brother or sister who has sinned: “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.” (Prov. 16:32). “He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who is quick-tempered exalts folly.” (Prov. 14:29). “This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger;” (Jam. 1:19). “Like a city that is broken into and without walls is a man who has no control over his spirit.” (Prov. 25:28). Are you slow to anger and waiting upon God before you react to others?

5. God’s Justice Requires that You First Confess Your Own Sins. Judges 20:26-28.

  • The Jews’ fasting, burnt offerings, and peace offerings. After losing 40,000 soldiers, the Jews realized that something was not right. At that time, they repented and presented offerings for their sins. Only after they had addressed their own sins did God give them the final approval to attack: “26 Then all the sons of Israel and all the people went up and came to Bethel and wept; thus they remained there before the Lord and fasted that day until evening. And they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord. 27 The sons of Israel inquired of the Lord (for the ark of the covenant of God was there in those days, 28 and Phinehas the son of Eleazar, Aaron’s son, stood before it to minister in those days), saying, ‘Shall I yet again go out to battle against the sons of my brother Benjamin, or shall I cease?’ And the Lord said, ‘Go up, for tomorrow I will deliver them into your hand.’” (Jdgs. 20:26-28). In the Bible, the number 40 symbolizes testing. The loss of 40,000 troops over two days represented a test. God wanted to see if the Jews would trust Him in the time of their loss. The 40,000 troops also represented a 10th of the total number of troops. They correlated with the exact number of troops that the Jews had set aside to provide for their needs instead of trusting God (Jdgs. 20:10). Although the Jews had acted with the correct intentions, they did not act in the correct manner. Only after they repented of their sins could God use them to judge the Benjamites.

  • Repent of your sins before you confront a brother or sister out of love. Jesus also wants you to repent and remove the sin in your life before you correct an errant brother or sister. “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matt. 7:5). In that day, the High Priest Eleazar discerned God’s timing through two stones (Nu. 27:27; Lev. 8:8; Ex. 28:30). Today, you have the two stones of the Word and the Holy Spirit to guide your path (Ps. 119:105; Jo. 14:16, 26). Are you repenting of your sins, reading the Word, and consulting the Holy Spirit in prayer so that He can use you to correct others?

6. With God’s Justice, the Spirit Guides You When Confronting Others. Judges 20:29-35.

  • The Jews’ ambush and defeat of the Benjamites on day three. In addition to needing to wait upon God’s timing, the Jews also had to let the Holy Spirit guide them in their attack. Only when they did this did they succeed in battle: “29 So Israel set men in ambush around Gibeah. 30 The sons of Israel went up against the sons of Benjamin on the third day and arrayed themselves against Gibeah as at other times. 31 The sons of Benjamin went out against the people and were drawn away from the city, and they began to strike and kill some of the people as at other times, on the highways, one of which goes up to Bethel and the other to Gibeah, and in the field, about thirty men of Israel. 32 The sons of Benjamin said, ‘They are struck down before us, as at the first.’ But the sons of Israel said, ‘Let us flee that we may draw them away from the city to the highways.’ 33 Then all the men of Israel arose from their place and arrayed themselves at Baal-tamar; and the men of Israel in ambush broke out of their place, even out of Maareh-geba. 34 When ten thousand choice men from all Israel came against Gibeah, the battle became fierce; but Benjamin did not know that disaster was close to them. 35 And the Lord struck Benjamin before Israel, so that the sons of Israel destroyed 25,100 men of Benjamin that day, all who draw the sword.” (Jdgs. 20:29-35). The Jews’ victory on the third day after two days of torment foreshadowed Christ’s victory over sin on the third day after His suffering for us (1 Cor. 15:4). The ambush also matched the ambush that Joshua ordered when the Jews defeated the city of Ai (Josh. 8:4). This battle plan reveals that God does not always use a visible miracle to win your battles. During other battles, God also helped the Jews defeat their enemies through conventional military ambushes (e.g., 2 Kgs 7:12; 2 Chr. 13:13). He does not need to part the Red Sea or the River Jordan to show that He is fighting for you. He also may not work in the same way when He intervenes in your life. Yet, the basis for victory is always the same. It includes trusting God. When you are attacked, are you putting your faith and hope in Him?

  • Satan will use the same spiritual attacks against you until you change your response. God told the Jews to defeat the specially trained Benjamite soldiers by drawing them out for an ambush instead of attacking in a line formation where the Benjamites would have had the advantage. Just as the Benjamites used the same strategy to try to defeat the soldiers from the 11 tribes, Satan will use the same strategy to entrap believers until they change their response to his attacks. If you place yourself in a place where you are weak, Satan will charge after you to entrap you. If you have fallen into sin, have you removed yourself from environments where you may be tempted to fall to the same sin?

  • Lure out those caught in sin from their spiritual strongholds. Jesus tells every believer to be as wise as a serpent and as harmless as a dove: “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matt. 10:16). You are to be harmless like a dove toward others. Yet, you must be cunning in the spiritual warfare battles to free friends, family, and the nation from sin. Like the 11 tribes, you must lure those trapped in darkness out of their spiritual strongholds to share the good news with them. They will not hear the message while in a stronghold like a bar, a casino, or other places that appeal to the flesh. Yet, you may be able to free a trapped soul by drawing them out into God’s territory. Are you inviting nonbelievers to Christian venues where they might understand the good news that you are sharing?

  • Victory requires the body of Christ to work together. In most of the stories where the Jews prevailed in a battle, God limited the size of the Jewish army to make sure that the glory for the victory went to Him. What makes the story of this battle and the battle of Ai unique is the fact that He ordered the Jews to send armies that were multiple times larger than the force that they were attacking. Just as there are different kinds of military campaigns, the battle here and the battle of Ai reveal that there are different kinds of spiritual warfare as well. In some circumstances, the enemy can be rebuked through faith and prayer in Jesus’ name. Yet, there are many spiritual strongholds that cannot be broken without the help of other believers. This requires that churches have times of prayer and fasting in coordination with others to pray for the nation. Christians should also act together in the political arena to be salt and light in the world. As salt, the Church must sting in the wound of sin. Are you praying with others for the nation?

7. God’s Justice Requires that Sinners be Disciplined. Judges 20:36-48.

  • God’s judgment against the Benjamites. After the Benjamites’ defeat, God used the prevailing tribes to bring judgment upon them: “36 So the sons of Benjamin saw that they were defeated. When the men of Israel gave ground to Benjamin because they relied on the men in ambush whom they had set against Gibeah, 37 the men in ambush hurried and rushed against Gibeah; the men in ambush also deployed and struck all the city with the edge of the sword. 38 Now the appointed sign between the men of Israel and the men in ambush was that they would make a great cloud of smoke rise from the city. 39 Then the men of Israel turned in the battle, and Benjamin began to strike and kill about thirty men of Israel, for they said, ‘Surely they are defeated before us, as in the first battle.’ 40 But when the cloud began to rise from the city in a column of smoke, Benjamin looked behind them; and behold, the whole city was going up in smoke to heaven. 41 Then the men of Israel turned, and the men of Benjamin were terrified; for they saw that disaster was close to them. 42 Therefore, they turned their backs before the men of Israel toward the direction of the wilderness, but the battle overtook them while those who came out of the cities destroyed them in the midst of them. 43 They surrounded Benjamin, pursued them without rest and trod them down opposite Gibeah toward the east. 44 Thus 18,000 men of Benjamin fell; all these were valiant warriors. 45 The rest turned and fled toward the wilderness to the rock of Rimmon, but they caught 5,000 of them on the highways and overtook them at Gidom and killed 2,000 of them. 46 So all of Benjamin who fell that day were 25,000 men who draw the sword; all these were valiant warriors. 47 But 600 men turned and fled toward the wilderness to the rock of Rimmon, and they remained at the rock of Rimmon four months. 48 The men of Israel then turned back against the sons of Benjamin and struck them with the edge of the sword, both the entire city with the cattle and all that they found; they also set on fire all the cities which they found.” (Jdgs. 20:36-48). Only 600 soldiers survived. Yet, they remained trapped and under judgment. The Benjamites’ judgment symbolized mankind’s judgment. Because of the evil desires within their hearts, all mankind has been ensnared by sin and is under judgment: “By transgression an evil man is ensnared, but the righteous sings and rejoices.” (Prov. 29:6; 11:5; 5:22; Ro. 3:23). Thus, like the Benjamites, every person must repent and turn to Christ to be saved from certain judgment (Jo. 3:16).

  • Discipline sinners out of love. Although the Benjamites were under judgment, the Jews would later regret that they destroyed so many members of the tribe. Judgment was not limited to the rapists and the leaders who obstructed the investigation. It was not proportional to the wrong committed. Believers must also be careful never to discipline a sinner out of anger. Instead, believers must only administer discipline out of love and with the goal of restoring the believer. “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.” (Gal. 6:1). “What do you desire? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love and a spirit of gentleness?” (1 Cor. 4:21; Matt. 18:15). When a brother or sister sins, are you seeking to restore the person out of love? Or, do you cut down the sinner with gossip and slander?

  • Don’t allow strongholds of evil to be rebuilt in your life. The Jews burned the city that had been a source of evil in their lives: “they also set on fire all the cities which they found.” (Jdgs. 20:48). They also burned the fortress of Jericho and the city of Ai (Josh. 8:28). God also destroyed Sodom. Satan will use any opportunity to rebuild a stronghold of evil in your life. You might renounce an evil vice and stay true to your vows for a period of time. Yet, Satan will look for opportunities to rebuild those strongholds brick by brick when your guard is down. If you are not vigilant, he will cause you to keep adding bricks back until you imprison yourself again in sin. Thus, you must ruthlessly remove all evil influences in your life (Matt. 5:29-30; 18:8; Mk. 9:43). Are you staying vigilant in keeping yourself free from the things that once imprisoned you?