Don’t forget to come back next week for our wrap up lesson!
Questions to Consider
1. Go back to lesson 3 (link above) and review your answer to the first part of question 5, Israel’s pattern of sin and repentance in 2:16-23. How does today’s passage fit this pattern? How does today’s passage fit the theme verse of Judges (21:25), “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”?
2. Chapter 21 is a continuation of the story that began in chapter 19. Briefly review lessons 15 & 16 (links above) to refresh your memory.
3. Read all of chapter 21.
4. Explain 1-15 in your own words. What is taking place in this passage? What transpired at Mizpah (1,18)? (hint: use your cross references) Why was there “one tribe lacking in Israel”? (3,6) Which tribe was it, and why was it “lacking”? (3,6, chapter 20) If there were no Benjaminite women left for the Benjaminite men to marry and none of the other Israelite tribes would give their daughters to the Benjaminite men for wives (7), what would have happened to Benjamin as a tribe? Why was it imperative that the Benjaminite men marry women from among the tribes of Israel? Why couldn’t they just marry a woman from a neighboring country?
5. In the law, God explained why He didn’t want Israel marrying foreign wives. What was His reason? Think about all the idolatry we’ve seen in the book of Judges. Which seemed to be more important to Israel in chapter 21, the letter of the law (the outward behavior of not marrying foreign wives), or the heart of the law (the inward heart condition of loving God and rejecting idolatry)?
Recall Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount: “You have heard it said that [letter of the law], but I say to you [heart of the law].” Was Jesus saying that obedience in our external behavior – such as (for the Israelites) obeying the command not to marry foreign wives – wasn’t important? Where does our outward obedience flow from? From God’s perspective (a perspective we should attain to), is mere outward, behavioral conformity to the law true obedience to Him?
Compare the Old Testament’s prohibition on God’s people marrying unbelievers to the New Testament’s prohibition on God’s people marrying (or closely yoking with) unbelievers.
6. We live in a very individualistic society. Old Testament Israel was a very corporate society. How does this impact and explain Israel’s grief and compassion (2,3,6,15) over the potential loss of the tribe of Benjamin, even though they had recently been at war with, and killing, the Benjaminites?
Compare the Old Testament corporate perspective in this passage with the New Testament corporate perspective of the church in 1 Corinthians 12. Make the connection between Judges 21:2,3,6,15 and 1 Corinthians 12:26. Why did God design His people to be interdependent – to need each other?
7. Explain in your own words what is happening in verses 16-25. What does verse 22 mean?
Did telling and allowing the Benjaminites to snatch the women (22) let Israel and Shiloh off the hook for the vow (18) since they weren’t technically “giving our daughters to them”? Were they truly keeping the vow, or was this yet another letter of the law versus heart of the law situation? What about the laws against coveting and stealing – were those laws being kept or broken in this situation?
When it comes to sin, does God ever let people off on a technicality? Is someone who looks for loopholes in God’s commands a person whose obedience is motivated by her love for the Lord, or someone who loves sin and wants to “get away with” as much of it as possible? Do you ever play games like this with God’s commands?
8. Do you notice anything in chapter 21 indicating that God instructed Israel to do any of the things they did, or that He approved of any of these things? Did Israel inquire of the Lord about the lack of wives for the Benjaminite men, or did they take matters into their own hands? Think about how Sarai took matters into her own hands to have a son, when God’s plan was for Him to provide her with a son. Could not the same God who miraculously provided an offspring for Abraham have also miraculously provided wives for Benjamin? How does taking matters into our own hands, especially by sinning, a) demonstrate a lack of trust in God and His ways, and b) never turn out as well as trusting God and His ways does?
9. How would you respond to this statement? “Living by doing what is right in your own eyes (25) gives you an inconsistent spiritual framework that puts you in the position of looking in moral indignation upon one sin while committing another to ‘correct’ it.”
Compare verse 4 to verse 25. Do our outward actions of worship (4) mean anything if our hearts aren’t right with God (25)?
Review your answers to question 5, above. Are there any areas of your life in which you are being externally, behaviorally obedient to God, but that outward conformity to the requirements of Scripture isn’t motivated by love for God or the heart of the law?
Think it over and repent of any areas in which your obedience is not a natural outflow of your heart. Choose one of these areas, and over the next week, do a deep dive into the Word on that particular issue. Why does God want you to do or not do that behavior? What should be the posture of your heart that leads to outward obedience on that issue? Ask God to change your heart so your outward behavior will be rightly motivated and will be a joy rather than a burden.