Although the section header, “Brides for Benjamin,” may at first glance seem lighthearted, the reality is very grim. There’s no humor in the final chapter of Judges. The book ends in tragedy. Indeed, the final verse gives a sobering overview of Israel’s moral state: “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did whatever seemed right to him” (Judges 21:25).
As chapter 21 begins, smoke was still rising from the towns in Benjamin after the other Israelite tribes avenged the rape and murder of the Levite’s concubine in Gibeah, a Benjaminite town. Throughout the entire tribe of Benjamin, only 600 men escaped. And although they had nearly annihilated one of their own, the men of Israel worried for Benjamin’s future. They had slaughtered every Benjaminite woman and vowed that “none of us will give his daughter to a Benjaminite in marriage” (Judges 21:1). How would Benjamin survive?
The men of Israel’s solution was to exploit a loophole in their own oath. They had vowed not to give any wives to the men of Benjamin. But they hadn’t said anything about wives being forcibly taken. So on the sordid advice of the other tribes, the Benjaminite survivors swept into the town of Jabesh-gilead and carried off 400 unmarried girls to give to the surviving Benjaminite men. Thus, Benjamin (the tribe of future King Saul, no less) was saved.
Depraved human decision-making—void of all divine wisdom or godly counsel—made a terrible situation even worse and resulted in hundreds of innocent lives being upended. As God’s people, we are to be marked by a radically different mindset. James calls us to a righteous way of living. “For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there is disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without pretense” (James 3:16–17).
The book of Judges is an unflinching window into the human heart—our hearts—apart from God. But where human tragedy exists, God’s redeeming love prevails. Even as Judges ends in sorrow, the groundwork was laid for a righteous King—an eternal ruler who saves His people from their sins. Praise God for His Son, Jesus, who saves us by His blood and gives us true wisdom from above!