Martin Luther King, Jr., said, “Only when it’s dark enough can you then see the stars.”
Judges ends on a dark note. As we come to the end of this book, we see a nation of people who have taken step after step away from the Lord. We’ve seen Israel take on the religious convictions and practices of their Canaanite neighbors. We’ve seen them abandon God. And we’ve seen their world unraveling.
In this last chapter, infighting among the tribes of Israel has led to Benjamin’s defeat at the hands of the others. But now those other tribes are beginning to fear that their victory will lead to Benjamin’s extinction. Panged with regret, they assemble to come up with a solution to ensure Benjamin’s survival. Their answer to this problem: wives. The tribes will find and deliver wives for the men of Benjamin so they can build up their numbers to a sustainable level.
As you read this chapter, let the ugliness of what’s happening hit you. People are being slaughtered. Oaths to never forgive are being taken. Young women—probably teenagers—are being kidnapped and given over to the men of Benjamin as part of a solution to a problem Israel brought upon itself.
This is where the road to apostasy had led God’s people—to violence and human trafficking, to vengeful hearts and survival of the fittest. They no longer look anything like the “blessing to the world” God told Abraham they would become.
Why is this book in the Bible? It certainly isn’t a book about how to follow after the Lord. If anything, it’s the opposite—a book about how to abandon the Lord. So where is the redemption in this book?
The redemption in Judges is in the ache for a king, for someone to come and lead God’s people with righteousness and peace. For someone to seek the Lord’s counsel and to love God’s people. For someone to not only serve themselves, but to lay down their life for their friends.
When looking at the Bible as a whole, we see that Judges highlights Israel’s desperate need for God. The books of 1 and 2 Samuel follow, describing how Israel gets its king in young David—a man after God’s own heart and a focused warrior whose struggle is for peace. But even more than that, Israel’s need for a king is addressed in Christ, the eternal King who rules at the right hand of God as our Prince of Peace.
Our need for Jesus, the bright morning star, runs deeper than we know or are willing to admit (Revelation 22:16). But the darkness of a book like Judges helps us see how much we need Him, and gives us cause to rejoice that He has come. The Lord has not left us in darkness. In fact, “In him was life, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, and yet the darkness did not overcome it” (John 1:4–5). Amen. Thanks be to God.
Written by Russ Ramsey