Judges 20
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
There are times when a nation is stirred to its depths. Its consciousness is then a religious one. A solemn unity of sentiment pervades it, and prevails over all lesser differences. It is then ready and effective as the servant of the Lord. Observe -


1. A common detestation of the crime.

2. A common danger.

3. The Spirit of Jehovah.

II. THE MEASURE DETERMINED ON. By the council of the nation.

1. Immediate punishment of the criminals.

2. Failing their delivery, the punishment of those who protected them and condoned their wickedness. - M.


1. This implies conjunction. The individuality of the parts is not destroyed when these are united. Each of the separate stones retains its shape after it is built into the common structure, and the union is formed by cementing all close together. So union amongst men does not destroy the personality and character of each man, but, instead of acting separately, men in union act in common.

2. This implies harmony. Conjunction without harmony brings not union, but confusion, and the nearer the conjunction, the fiercer is the internal conflict. Thus civil war is more cruel than war with a foreign nation, family feuds more bitter than quarrels with strangers. Harmony implies diversity, but agreement, as the several stones in a building, though each may be different in shape and size from others, fit in together, and fit the better because they are not all alike.

3. This implies the subordination of the individual to the whole. So far there may be a partial suppression of individuality; but in the end this develops a higher individuality. The several organs of the body are made not to exercise their functions for their own sakes, but for the good of the whole body. Yet this differentiation of parts allows of the more full development of each organ, and so leads to a more complete individuality in its form and character. When men are working under a social system, each is able to contribute his part to the good of the whole by a more free exercise of his own special talents than would be possible in a condition of isolation.


1. Union increases strength. There is not only the gross force resulting from the addition of the units of force; there is a multiplication of strength, an economy of power. The nation can do as a whole what all its citizens could not do if acting separately. The Church can accomplish work for Christ which private Christians would fail to do.

2. Union promotes peace. When men are knit together as one they forget their private differences. Though we cannot attain the peace of uniformity, we should aim at securing the peace of harmony.

3. Union favours growth and development. Israel suffered from her disintegration. Her national unification was requisite for any solid advance of civilisation. This development of harmonised and organised union distinguishes civilised nations from savage tribes. As the Church learns to think more of common Christian charity than of narrow sectarian differences, she will advance in likeness to the mind of Christ and in the enjoyment of the graces and blessings of the gospel.

III. THE GROUNDS OF UNION. Men need some cause to draw them together - some common ground of union.

1. This may be found in a great wrong to be removed. A fearful crime stirred the hearts of all Israel. In presence of this the tribes forgot their minor grievances. Should not the great sin of the world be a call to Christians to sink their ceaseless quarrels in one united effort to destroy it with the power of Christ's truth?

2. This may be found in the attack of a common enemy. When the invader is on our coast, Tories and Radicals fight side by side, moved by a common instinct of patriotism. When the truth of Christianity is assailed by infidelity and her life by worldliness and vice, should we not all rally round the standard of our one Captain for a united crusade against the power of our common enemy the devil?

3. This may be found in a good cause of universally recognised merit. Fidelity to truth, love to mankind, devotion to Christ should unite all Christians. - A.

The Christian sometimes encounters defeat in the enterprises of spiritual warfare - in the battle of the inner life, in efforts to destroy the wickedness and misery of the world, in missionary campaigns.

I. DEFEAT SHOULD AROUSE REFLECTION. The Israelites had acted hastily under the impulse of sudden indignation. In defeat they were thrown back to think of the object and methods of their war. This war against a brother tribe was a terrible undertaking. Was it necessary? No war should be undertaken till it is absolutely necessary. It may be our duty to oppose our own brethren; but this should be done only after serious reflection. We are sometimes allowed to fail that we may consider more deeply all that is involved in actions attended with serious consequences.

II. DEFEAT SHOULD INDUCE HUMILITY AND REPENTANCE. The Israelites had been too self-confident. Enraged at the wickedness of one town, they had not realised their own sin, nor how this wickedness was but one act of national depravity. They were now the champions of justice. The position thus assumed by them would blind them to their own failings and stimulate pride. When Christian men do battle against some monstrous evil, they too are in danger of falling into similar failings of pride and self-righteousness. Defeat is then a wholesome humiliation leading to repentance. If we are to testify against the sin of others, we too must not forget that we also are sinners.


1. The Israelites had consulted some oracle, some "gods," before going to war. After defeat they turned to the true God, the Eternal. We often need to fail before we will learn to pray. Then we see that our wisdom is to follow God's will.

2. The Israelites did not simply ask for success. They asked whether or no they should go up to war. We should not pray for God's blessing on the enterprise which we are obstinately pursuing irrespective of his will, but should first ask for light to teach us whether we should pursue it.

3. The Israelites did not ask for God's strength, but only for his guidance. Perhaps if they had invoked his aid they would not have failed a second time. We need trust in God and reliance on his help for perfect success.

IV. DEFEAT SHOULD LEAD TO RENEWED AND IMPROVED EFFORT. Through repeated defeats Israel persevered on to victory. So it is with the Christian. "Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down" (Psalm 37:24). - A.

It is a desperate strife. The avengers are at first punished more thorn the guilty. Yet they continue steadfast, and humiliate themselves before God.

I. PRIVATE WRONGS ARE PUBLIC MISFORTUNES AND DANGERS, It was a peril to all peace-loving citizens that one of their number should suffer outrage. Yet also was it a further trouble and loss to punish such transgressors. How many will rather suffer wrong than take the trouble to bring it to justice!This is treason to the commonwealth.

II. How HARD IT IS TO ROOT OUT AN INDIVIDUAL OR NATIONAL SIN. How many are found to sympathise with or condone the deed, and to shield the transgressor! What ties connect the transgressor with ourselves!

III. THE SIN OF ONE IS OFTEN DUE TO THE GENERAL SPIRIT AND CONDITION OF THOSE AROUND HIM; THEY ALSO ARE GUILTY WITH HIM. Benjamin is but an exaggeration of the prevalent tone and manners of the time. Many crimes and sins of individuals may be traced up to wider influences. The sin or the righteousness of our brother is, in a measure, our own. Vicarious suffering and atonement.

IV. THE DUTY OF RIGHTING WRONG MUST BE CARRIED OUT AT WHATEVER EXPENSE OF TROUBLE AND LOSS. The humiliation of Israel. Defeat only nerves them to a higher and more heroic struggle. Religious principle and feeling are more influentially present. The absolute claim of God's righteousness. Like Israel the Church has to right a great wrong; but in a different way. Frequent discomfiture. The difficulty of evangelising one's own neighbourhood; far less the world! Yet it has to be done, and it can be done; but not in our own strength. Only as we submit ourselves wholly to God and his Son can we fulfil the mighty task. Let us too wait upon God, and p. luck wisdom and heroism from defeat. The Spirit of God is with us, and the promise of Christ is ours. - M.

How descriptive this of all men I Our misfortunes often overtake us unawares. There is no earthly security. The sinner especially should not encourage himself in fancied immunity. The Son of man cometh as a thief in the night, for judgment and for reward.



III. How TO BE DELIVERED FROM FEAR AND THE REAL EVILS OF THIS IGNORANCE. A righteous life the great safeguard. But how attained? Christ's the only authoritative "Fear not." External evils will through him minister to our eternal welfare and well-being. This trust in him should he implicit, and an active force in every life. - M.

I. THERE IS USUALLY AN ESCAPED REMNANT FROM THE MOST SEVERE PROVIDENTIAL ACT OF JUDGMENT. So it was in the flood, in the destruction of the cities of the plain, in the captivity, in the conquest of Jerusalem by the Romans. God does not totally destroy. Mercy is mingled with judgment. Though this is some mitigation of the calamity, it is no reason for rash indifference to danger, because

(1) the remnant may be but a small minority,

(2) none can tell whether they will be included in it, and

(3) the remnant, though escaping the worst fate; suffers great hardships.

II. THE REMNANT DOES NOT NECESSARILY CONSIST OF BETTER MEN THAN THOSE WHO ARE DESTROYED. If one is taken and another left, this diversity of treatment is no proof of difference of character. As they who are subject to signal calamities are not to be regarded as especially wicked (e.g. Job, the men on whom the tower of Siloam fell, etc.), so those who are favoured by remarkable deliverances have no right to be considered especially virtuous. Their position is one to excite special gratitude, but not to encourage pride. Sometimes, indeed, it is dishonourable to them. It may be a result of cowardice, indolence, or falsehood. The traitor may escape while the true man falls. Barabbas escaped while Christ was crucified. In times of persecution the unfaithful are saved and the faithful suffer martyrdom.

III. THERE IS A PROVIDENTIAL END TO BE SECURED BY THE PRESERVATION OF A REMNANT. The idea of "the remnant" is familiar to the reader of Scripture (e.g. Isaiah 1:9). There must be some Divine purpose in it. Can we discover that purpose? Possibly it is this - every nation, every tribe, every community of men which has special characteristics of its own has also a special mission to the world dependent on those characteristics. If, therefore, it is entirely blotted out of existence, the fruits of that mission will be lost to the world. A remnant is spared that the special gifts may be transmitted through a small hereditary line, and thus be preserved and turned to the continued service of the world. Israel had a mission to the world dependent on her peculiar endowments. If the remnant of Israel had not been delivered from Babylon, this mission would have been destroyed, and the human side of the origin of Christianity, such as we now see it, made impossible. Benjamin had a mission. From this tribe sprang the first king of Israel and the chief of Christ's apostles. If the 600 Benjamites had not been spared St. Paul would never have appeared. - A.

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