I should have actually posted this last week (sorry) since we've come to the end of the book of Judges in our Bible reading. I added another map on this post which is a little bit clearer to see, showing the areas throughout Israel where the Judges where from.
(Here's Part 1 if you want to refer back to it.)
(map and info on pgs 25 & 27 of the 1/15/05 WA)
Highlights From the Book of Judges (pt 2)
OTHER OFFENSES IN ISRAEL
The last part of the book of Judges contains two outstanding accounts. The first concerns a man named Micah, who sets up an idol in his house and employs a Levite to act as a priest for him. After destroying the city of Laish, or Leshem, the Danites build their own city and name it Dan. Using Micah’s idol and his priest, they set up another form of worship in Dan. Evidently, Laish is captured before Joshua’s death.—Joshua 19:47.
The second event takes place not long after the death of Joshua. A mass sex crime committed by some men of the Benjamite city of Gibeah leads to the near annihilation of the entire tribe of Benjamin—only 600 men survive. However, an expedient arrangement allows them to get wives, and their number increases to nearly 60,000 warriors by the time of David’s rulership.—1 Chronicles 7:6-11.
*FYI -the account at Judges 19-21 (which is our Bible reading for this week), is one of those Biblical passages that contains a rather gruesome experience, (which is almost like the 'Jack the Ripper' story of the Bible), and many people have a very difficult time understanding why, (including myself at first). In fact, even Richard Dawkins mentions this particular passage while having a discussion with a priest, in his attempt to discredit the value of the Bible because of the violence in this account. However, if you do some backround research, you'll find that the reason the Levite dismembered his dead concubine's body and sent the pieces throughout the land to all 12 Tribes of Israel, was in order to rouse all the people to action by making them aware of a brutal crime which had taken place which was so serious an offence, that it required the immediate attention of the entire nation. If this kind of violence and sexually deviant behavior was being tolerated and going on in their land, they needed to come together and root it out ASAP.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
17:6; 21:25—If ‘each one was accustomed to do what was right in his own eyes,’ did this foster anarchy? Not necessarily, for Jehovah made ample provisions to guide his people. He gave them the Law and the priesthood to educate them in his way. By means of the Urim and the Thummim, the high priest could consult God on important matters. (Exodus 28:30) Every city also had older men capable of providing sound counsel. When an Israelite availed himself of these provisions, he had a sound guide for his conscience. His doing “what was right in his own eyes” in this way resulted in good. On the other hand, if a person ignored the Law and made his own decisions about conduct and worship, the result was bad.
20:17-48—Why did Jehovah let the Benjamites defeat the other tribes twice, even though the former needed to be punished? By allowing the faithful tribes to suffer great losses at first, Jehovah tested their determination to root out evil from Israel.
(there's some more indepth info at the bottom of this post to get a clearer picture on this part)
Lessons for Us:
19:14, 15. The unwillingness on the part of the people of Gibeah to extend hospitality was an indication of a moral shortcoming. Christians are admonished to “follow the course of hospitality.”—Romans 12:13.
The Deliverance Ahead
Very soon now, God’s Kingdom in the hands of Christ Jesus will destroy the wicked world and provide a great deliverance for the upright and the blameless. (Proverbs 2:21, 22; Daniel 2:44) ‘All of Jehovah’s enemies will then perish, and his lovers will be as when the sun goes forth in its mightiness.’ (Judges 5:31) Let us prove to be among the lovers of Jehovah by applying what we have learned from the book of Judges.
The fundamental truth demonstrated over and over in the accounts of the Judges is this: Obedience to Jehovah leads to rich blessings, disobedience to dire consequences. (Deuteronomy 11:26-28) How vital that we become “obedient from the heart” to the revealed will of God!—Romans 6:17; 1 John 2:17.
The Levites were not given an inheritance in the Promised Land except for 48 cities scattered throughout Israel.
(the following excerpts from the 2/1/78 Watchtower)
Success Only by Reliance on Jehovah
Perfect holiness, firmness for what is right, coupled with mercy and long-suffering—these are the outstanding qualities of God demonstrated in the Bible book of Judges. And the fact that no success can come without wholehearted recognition of and reliance on him is the chief lesson taught. The account bridges the somewhat unsettled period of Israelite history between the death of Joshua and the events leading to the establishment of the kingdom under Saul.
The history of the period of the judges is one of Israel’s alternately falling into idolatry and oppression by their enemies and their returning to Jehovah, with resulting deliverance.
Victory Only Through Pure Worship
The last five chapters of Judges are not chronologically placed. These chapters are, in effect, appendices to the book of Judges. Chapters 17 and 18 record the beginning of idolatrous worship shortly after the death of Joshua and the sin and unrighteousness connected with it from its very start. The last three chapters depict how deep-rooted the corruption produced by the influence of the Canaanites had become at that early period. And this helps us to see why God commanded the extermination of the Canaanite peoples.
However, this latter account, which describes the war waged against Benjamin by the other tribes because of Benjamin’s extreme moral degradation, also illustrates how Israel as a whole had kept itself from such corruption. The tribes showed great zeal for what was right. But they had evidently relied on themselves and their action was not primarily motivated by interest in clearing reproach from Jehovah’s name. Here, as throughout the accounts of the judges, the absolute need to rely wholly on Jehovah is emphasized in this way: Even with their zeal for clean worship, the 11 tribes seemed to rely on their own power in the first two attempts to punish Benjamin. They were defeated in these battles, sustaining a loss of 40,000 men. High Priest Phinehas was with the sacred Ark that had been brought from Shiloh to Bethel, where the army was encamped. But after the two defeats they fasted and offered burnt offerings and communion offerings, thereby recognizing the need for Jehovah to fight the battle for them. Only then did Jehovah deliver the Benjaminites into their hands.—Judges 20:20-29.
A reading of the book of Judges is faith-strengthening. It is a powerful testimony to Jehovah God’s holiness and insistence on pure worship and to his great mercy toward those who call on him in sincerity and truth. The book inspires confidence in its readers that they can come off victorious by ‘rolling their works upon him.’ Through his appointed Leader and Great Judge Jesus Christ, deliverance will come to those putting their trust in Jehovah, no matter how great the obstacles.—Proverbs 16:3; Romans 8:35-39.
Just to recap...
What *specific* actions made the third request different than the first two times? Initially, the men didn't actually request God's direction as to what action they should take,...they merely made up their mind that they were going to engage in battle, formed a strategy themselves, and then inquired of Jehovah *after the fact* as to which tribe should take the lead. Which also indicates a lack of reliance on God's law, since they should have known full well, (according to their army tribe divisions), that Judah takes the lead. (Numbers 10:14)
The 3rd occasion was different because the Israelites were finally handling the matter the right way. They showed full reliance on Jehovah by following the *proper protocol* for inquiring about a matter of great importance which affected the entire nation.
Also, at Judges 20:26, notice that on this last occasion, it says that ALL the people gathered together, (including women and children, not just the men). And more importantly, they went up to Bethel -where the Ark of the Covenant and the high priest Phinehas was, to have him inquire of Jehovah. The reason that was important is mentioned in the Insight book:
*When it was necessary to inquire of Jehovah about a matter of importance to the nation, the high priest wore the ephod and the breastpiece containing the Urim and the Thummim. (Numbers 27:21; 1Samuel 28:6; Ezra 2:63) David had Abiathar bring the ephod near (prior to engaging in battle) so that he could inquire of Jehovah as to what course of action to take.—1Samuel 23:9-12; 30:7, 8.
So I thought that was a really important point to remember from this account. Since it shows that Jehovah not only expects us to be vigilant for pure worship, but he also expects us to fully rely on him by obeying and following his directions...rather than just doing things our own way (even if it seems right to us at the time).