Bible: Judges 17-21

Micah Makes His Own Religion

17:1 There was a man named Micah from the Ephraimite hill country. 17:2 He said to his mother, “You know 1  the eleven hundred pieces of silver which were stolen 2  from you, about which I heard you pronounce a curse? Look here, I have the silver. I stole 3  it, but now I am giving it back to you.” 4  His mother said, “May the Lord reward 5  you, my son! 17:3 When he gave back to his mother the eleven hundred pieces of silver, his mother said, “I solemnly dedicate 6  this silver to the Lord. It will be for my son’s benefit. We will use it to make a carved image and a metal image.” 7  17:4 When he gave the silver back to his mother, she 8  took two hundred pieces of silver 9  to a silversmith, who made them into a carved image and a metal image. She then put them in Micah’s house. 10  17:5 Now this man Micah owned a shrine. 11  He made an ephod 12  and some personal idols and hired one of his sons to serve as a priest. 13  17:6 In those days Israel had no king. Each man did what he considered to be right. 14 

Micah Hires a Professional

17:7 There was a young man from Bethlehem 15  in Judah. He was a Levite who had been temporarily residing among the tribe of Judah. 16  17:8 This man left the town of Bethlehem in Judah to find another place to live. He came to the Ephraimite hill country and made his way to Micah’s house. 17  17:9 Micah said to him, “Where do you come from?” He replied, “I am a Levite from Bethlehem in Judah. I am looking for a new place to live.” 18  17:10 Micah said to him, “Stay with me. Become my adviser 19  and priest. I will give you ten pieces of silver per year, plus clothes and food.” 20  17:11 So the Levite agreed to stay with the man; the young man was like a son to Micah. 21  17:12 Micah paid 22  the Levite; the young man became his priest and lived in Micah’s house. 17:13 Micah said, “Now I know God will make me rich, 23  because I have this Levite as my priest.”

The Tribe of Dan Finds an Inheritance

18:1 In those days Israel had no king. And in those days the Danite tribe was looking for a place 24  to settle, because at that time they did not yet have a place to call their own among the tribes of Israel. 25  18:2 The Danites sent out from their whole tribe five representatives, 26  capable men 27  from Zorah and Eshtaol, to spy out the land and explore it. They said to them, “Go, explore the land.” They came to the Ephraimite hill country and spent the night at Micah’s house. 28  18:3 As they approached 29  Micah’s house, they recognized the accent 30  of the young Levite. So they stopped 31  there and said to him, “Who brought you here? What are you doing in this place? What is your business here? 32  18:4 He told them what Micah had done for him, saying, 33  “He hired me and I became his priest.” 18:5 They said to him, “Seek a divine oracle for us, 34  so we can know if we will be successful on our mission.” 35  18:6 The priest said to them, “Go with confidence. 36  The Lord will be with you on your mission.” 37 

18:7 So the five men journeyed on 38  and arrived in Laish. They noticed that the people there 39  were living securely, like the Sidonians do, 40  undisturbed and unsuspecting. No conqueror was troubling them in any way. 41  They lived far from the Sidonians and had no dealings with anyone. 42  18:8 When the Danites returned to their tribe 43  in Zorah and Eshtaol, their kinsmen 44  asked them, “How did it go? 45  18:9 They said, “Come on, let’s attack them, 46  for 47  we saw their land and it is very good. You seem lethargic, 48  but don’t hesitate 49  to invade and conquer 50  the land. 18:10 When you invade, 51  you will encounter 52  unsuspecting people. The land is wide! 53  God is handing it over to you – a place that lacks nothing on earth!” 54 

18:11 So six hundred Danites, fully armed, set out from Zorah and Eshtaol. 55  18:12 They went up and camped in Kiriath Jearim in Judah. (To this day that place is called Camp of Dan. 56  It is west 57  of Kiriath Jearim.) 18:13 From there they traveled through the Ephraimite hill country and arrived at Micah’s house. 18:14 The five men who had gone to spy out the land of Laish 58  said to their kinsmen, 59 Do you realize that inside these houses are an ephod, some personal idols, a carved image, and a metal image? Decide now what you want to do.” 18:15 They stopped 60  there, went inside the young Levite’s house (which belonged to Micah), 61  and asked him how he was doing. 62  18:16 Meanwhile the six hundred Danites, fully armed, stood at the entrance to the gate. 63  18:17 The five men who had gone to spy out the land broke in and stole 64  the carved image, the ephod, the personal idols, and the metal image, while the priest was standing at the entrance to the gate with the six hundred fully armed men. 65  18:18 When these men broke into Micah’s house and stole 66  the carved image, the ephod, the personal idols, and the metal image, the priest said to them, “What are you doing? 18:19 They said to him, “Shut up! Put your hand over your mouth and come with us! You can be our adviser 67  and priest. Wouldn’t it be better to be a priest for a whole Israelite tribe than for just one man’s family? 68  18:20 The priest was happy. He took the ephod, the personal idols, and the carved image and joined the group. 69 

18:21 They turned and went on their way, but they walked behind the children, the cattle, and their possessions. 70  18:22 After they had gone a good distance from Micah’s house, Micah’s neighbors 71  gathered together and caught up with the Danites. 18:23 When they called out to the Danites, the Danites 72  turned around and said to Micah, “Why have you gathered together? 18:24 He said, “You stole my gods that I made, as well as this priest, and then went away. What do I have left? How can you have the audacity to say to me, ‘What do you want?’ 73  18:25 The Danites said to him, “Don’t say another word to us, or some very angry men 74  will attack you, and you and your family will die.” 75  18:26 The Danites went on their way; when Micah realized 76  they were too strong to resist, 77  he turned around and went home.

18:27 Now the Danites 78  took what Micah had made, as well as his priest, and came to Laish, where the people were undisturbed and unsuspecting. They struck them down with the sword and burned the city. 79  18:28 No one came to the rescue because the city 80  was far from Sidon 81  and they had no dealings with anyone. 82  The city 83  was in a valley near Beth Rehob. The Danites 84  rebuilt the city and occupied it. 18:29 They named it Dan after their ancestor, who was one of Israel’s sons. 85  But the city’s name used to be Laish. 18:30 The Danites worshiped 86  the carved image. Jonathan, descendant 87  of Gershom, son of Moses, 88  and his descendants 89  served as priests for the tribe of Dan until the time of the exile. 18:31 They worshiped 90  Micah’s carved image 91  the whole time God’s authorized shrine 92  was in Shiloh.

Sodom and Gomorrah Revisited

19:1 In those days Israel had no king. There was a Levite 93  living temporarily in the remote region of the Ephraimite hill country. He acquired a concubine 94  from Bethlehem 95  in Judah. 19:2 However, she 96  got angry at him 97  and went home 98  to her father’s house in Bethlehem in Judah. When she had been there four months, 19:3 her husband came 99  after her, hoping he could convince her to return. 100  He brought with him his servant 101  and a pair of donkeys. When she brought him into her father’s house and the girl’s father saw him, he greeted him warmly. 102  19:4 His father-in-law, the girl’s father, persuaded him to stay with him for three days, and they ate and drank together, and spent the night there. 19:5 On the fourth day they woke up early and the Levite got ready to leave. 103  But the girl’s father said to his son-in-law, “Have a bite to eat for some energy, 104  then you can go.” 19:6 So the two of them sat down and had a meal together. 105  Then the girl’s father said to the man, “Why not stay another night and have a good time! 106  19:7 When the man got ready to leave, 107  his father-in-law convinced him to stay another night. 108  19:8 He woke up early in the morning on the fifth day so he could leave, but the girl’s father said, “Get some energy. 109  Wait until later in the day to leave!” 110  So they ate a meal together. 19:9 When the man got ready to leave 111  with his concubine and his servant, 112  his father-in-law, the girl’s father, said to him, “Look! The day is almost over! 113  Stay another night! Since the day is over, 114  stay another night here and have a good time. You can get up early tomorrow and start your trip home.” 115  19:10 But the man did not want to stay another night. He left 116  and traveled as far as 117  Jebus (that is, Jerusalem). 118  He had with him a pair of saddled donkeys and his concubine. 119 

19:11 When they got near Jebus, it was getting quite late 120  and the servant 121  said to his master, “Come on, let’s stop at 122  this Jebusite city and spend the night in it.” 19:12 But his master said to him, “We should not stop at a foreign city where non-Israelites live. 123  We will travel on to Gibeah.” 19:13 He said to his servant, 124 Come on, we will go into one of the other towns 125  and spend the night in Gibeah or Ramah.” 19:14 So they traveled on, 126  and the sun went down when they were near Gibeah in the territory of Benjamin. 127  19:15 They stopped there and decided to spend the night 128  in Gibeah. They came into the city and sat down in the town square, but no one invited them to spend the night. 129 

19:16 But then an old man passed by, returning at the end of the day from his work in the field. 130  The man was from the Ephraimite hill country; he was living temporarily in Gibeah. (The residents of the town were Benjaminites.) 131  19:17 When he looked up and saw the traveler 132  in the town square, the old man said, “Where are you heading? Where do you come from? 19:18 The Levite 133  said to him, “We are traveling from Bethlehem 134  in Judah to the remote region of the Ephraimite hill country. That’s where I’m from. I had business in Bethlehem in Judah, but now I’m heading home. 135  But no one has invited me into their home. 19:19 We have enough straw and grain for our donkeys, and there is enough food and wine for me, your female servant, 136  and the young man who is with your servants. 137  We lack nothing.” 19:20 The old man said, “Everything is just fine! 138  I will take care of all your needs. But don’t spend the night in the town square.” 19:21 So he brought him to his house and fed the donkeys. They washed their feet and had a meal. 139 

19:22 They were having a good time, 140  when suddenly 141  some men of the city, some good-for-nothings, 142  surrounded the house and kept beating 143  on the door. They said to the old man who owned the house, “Send out the man who came to visit you so we can have sex with him.” 144  19:23 The man who owned the house went outside and said to them, “No, my brothers! Don’t do this wicked thing! After all, this man is a guest in my house. Don’t do such a disgraceful thing! 19:24 Here are my virgin daughter and my guest’s 145  concubine. I will send them out and you can abuse them and do to them whatever you like. 146  But don’t do such a disgraceful thing to this man! 19:25 The men refused to listen to him, so the Levite 147  grabbed his concubine and made her go outside. 148  They raped 149  her and abused her all night long until morning. They let her go at dawn. 19:26 The woman arrived back at daybreak and was sprawled out on the doorstep of the house where her master 150  was staying until it became light. 151  19:27 When her master 152  got up in the morning, opened the doors of the house, and went outside to start on his journey, there was the woman, his concubine, sprawled out on the doorstep of the house with her hands on the threshold. 19:28 He said to her, “Get up, let’s leave!” But there was no response. He put her on the donkey and went home. 153  19:29 When he got home, he took a knife, grabbed his concubine, and carved her up into twelve pieces. 154  Then he sent the pieces throughout Israel. 155  19:30 Everyone who saw the sight 156  said, “Nothing like this has happened or been witnessed during the entire time since 157  the Israelites left the land of Egypt! 158  Take careful note of it! Discuss it and speak!

Civil War Breaks Out

20:1 All the Israelites from Dan to Beer Sheba 159  and from the land of Gilead 160  left their homes 161  and assembled together 162  before the Lord at Mizpah. 20:2 The leaders 163  of all the people from all the tribes of Israel took their places in the assembly of God’s people, which numbered 164  four hundred thousand sword-wielding foot soldiers. 20:3 The Benjaminites heard that the Israelites had gone up to Mizpah. Then the Israelites said, “Explain how this wicked thing happened! 20:4 The Levite, 165  the husband of the murdered woman, spoke up, “I and my concubine stopped in 166  Gibeah in the territory of Benjamin 167  to spend the night. 20:5 The leaders of Gibeah attacked me and at night surrounded the house where I was staying. 168  They wanted to kill me; instead they abused my concubine so badly that she died. 20:6 I grabbed hold of my concubine and carved her up and sent the pieces 169  throughout the territory occupied by Israel, 170  because they committed such an unthinkable atrocity 171  in Israel. 20:7 All you Israelites, 172  make a decision here! 173 

20:8 All Israel rose up in unison 174  and said, “Not one of us will go home! 175  Not one of us will return 176  to his house! 20:9 Now this is what we will do to Gibeah: We will attack the city as the lot dictates. 177  20:10 We will take ten of every group of a hundred men from all the tribes of Israel (and a hundred of every group of a thousand, and a thousand of every group of ten thousand) to get supplies for the army. 178  When they arrive in Gibeah of Benjamin they will punish them for the atrocity which they committed in Israel.” 179  20:11 So all the men of Israel gathered together at the city as allies. 180 

20:12 The tribes of Israel sent men throughout the tribe 181  of Benjamin, saying, “How could such a wicked thing take place? 182  20:13 Now, hand over the good-for-nothings 183  in Gibeah so we can execute them and purge Israel of wickedness.” 184  But the Benjaminites refused to listen to their Israelite brothers. 20:14 The Benjaminites came from their cities and assembled at Gibeah 185  to make war against the Israelites. 20:15 That day the Benjaminites mustered from their cities twenty-six thousand sword-wielding soldiers, besides seven hundred well-trained soldiers from Gibeah. 186  20:16 Among this army 187  were seven hundred specially-trained left-handed soldiers. 188  Each one could sling a stone and hit even the smallest target. 189  20:17 The men of Israel (not counting Benjamin) had mustered four hundred thousand sword-wielding soldiers, every one an experienced warrior. 190 

20:18 The Israelites went up to Bethel 191  and asked God, 192 Who should lead the charge against the Benjaminites?” 193  The Lord said, “Judah should lead.” 20:19 The Israelites got up the next morning and moved 194  against Gibeah. 20:20 The men of Israel marched out to fight Benjamin; they 195  arranged their battle lines against Gibeah. 20:21 The Benjaminites attacked from Gibeah and struck down twenty-two thousand Israelites that day. 196 

20:22 The Israelite army 197  took heart 198  and once more arranged their battle lines, in the same place where they had taken their positions the day before. 20:23 The Israelites went up and wept before the Lord until evening. They asked the Lord, “Should we 199  again march out to fight 200  the Benjaminites, our brothers?” 201  The Lord said, “Attack them!” 202  20:24 So the Israelites marched toward 203  the Benjaminites the next day. 20:25 The Benjaminites again attacked them from Gibeah and struck down eighteen thousand sword-wielding Israelite soldiers. 204 

20:26 So all the Israelites, the whole army, 205  went up to 206  Bethel. 207  They wept and sat there before the Lord; they did not eat anything 208  that day until evening. They offered up burnt sacrifices and tokens of peace 209  to the Lord. 20:27 The Israelites asked the Lord (for the ark of God’s covenant was there in those days; 20:28 Phinehas son of Eleazar, son of Aaron, was serving the Lord 210  in those days), “Should we 211  once more march out to fight the Benjaminites our brothers, 212  or should we 213  quit?” The Lord said, “Attack, for tomorrow I will hand them 214  over to you.”

20:29 So Israel hid men in ambush outside Gibeah. 20:30 The Israelites attacked the Benjaminites the next day; 215  they took their positions against Gibeah just as they had done before. 20:31 The Benjaminites attacked 216  the army, leaving the city unguarded. 217  They began to strike down their enemy 218  just as they had done before. On the main roads (one leads to Bethel, 219  the other to Gibeah) and in the field, they struck down 220  about thirty Israelites. 20:32 Then the Benjaminites said, “They are defeated just as before.” But the Israelites said, “Let’s retreat 221  and lure them 222  away from the city into the main roads.” 20:33 223  All the men of Israel got up from their places and took their positions at Baal Tamar, while the Israelites hiding in ambush jumped out of their places west of Gibeah. 20:34 Ten thousand men, well-trained soldiers from all Israel, then made a frontal assault against Gibeah – the battle was fierce. 224  But the Benjaminites did not realize that disaster was at their doorstep. 225  20:35 The Lord annihilated Benjamin before Israel; the Israelites struck down that day 25,100 sword-wielding Benjaminites. 226  20:36 Then the Benjaminites saw they were defeated.

The Israelites retreated before 227  Benjamin, because they had confidence in the men they had hid in ambush outside Gibeah. 20:37 The men hiding in ambush made a mad dash 228  to Gibeah. They 229  attacked 230  and put the sword to the entire city. 20:38 The Israelites and the men hiding in ambush had arranged a signal. When the men hiding in ambush 231  sent up a smoke signal from the city, 20:39 the Israelites counterattacked. 232  Benjamin had begun to strike down the Israelites; 233  they struck down 234  about thirty men. They said, “There’s no doubt about it! They are totally defeated as in the earlier battle.” 20:40 But when the signal, a pillar of smoke, began to rise up from the city, the Benjaminites turned around and saw the whole city going up in a cloud of smoke that rose high into the sky. 235  20:41 When the Israelites turned around, the Benjaminites panicked 236  because they could see that disaster was on their doorstep. 237  20:42 They retreated before the Israelites, taking the road to the wilderness. But the battle overtook 238  them as men from the surrounding cities struck them down. 239  20:43 They surrounded the Benjaminites, chased them from Nohah, 240  and annihilated 241  them all the way to a spot east of Geba. 242  20:44 Eighteen thousand Benjaminites, all of them capable warriors, fell dead. 20:45 The rest 243  turned and ran toward the wilderness, heading toward the cliff of Rimmon. But the Israelites 244  caught 245  five thousand of them on the main roads. They stayed right on their heels 246  all the way to Gidom and struck down two thousand more. 20:46 That day twenty-five thousand 247  sword-wielding Benjaminites fell in battle, all of them capable warriors. 248  20:47 Six hundred survivors turned and ran away to the wilderness, to the cliff of Rimmon. They stayed there four months. 20:48 The Israelites returned to the Benjaminite towns 249  and put the sword to them. They wiped out the cities, 250  the animals, and everything they could find. They set fire to every city in their path. 251 

600 Brides for 600 Brothers

21:1 The Israelites had taken an oath in Mizpah, saying, “Not one of us will allow his daughter to marry a Benjaminite.” 21:2 So the people came to Bethel 252  and sat there before God until evening, weeping loudly and uncontrollably. 253  21:3 They said, “Why, O Lord God of Israel, has this happened in Israel?” An entire 254  tribe has disappeared from Israel today!

21:4 The next morning the people got up early and built an altar there. They offered up burnt sacrifices and token of peace. 255  21:5 The Israelites asked, “Who from all the Israelite tribes has not assembled before the Lord?” They had made a solemn oath that whoever did not assemble before the Lord at Mizpah must certainly be executed. 256  21:6 The Israelites regretted what had happened to 257  their brother Benjamin. They said, “Today we cut off an entire 258  tribe from Israel! 21:7 How can we find wives for those who are left? 259  After all, we took an oath in the Lord’s name not to give them our daughters as wives.” 21:8 So they asked, “Who from all the Israelite tribes did not assemble before the Lord at Mizpah?” Now it just so happened no one from Jabesh Gilead had come to the gathering. 260  21:9 When they took roll call, 261  they noticed 262  none of the inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead were there. 21:10 So the assembly sent 12,000 capable warriors 263  against Jabesh Gilead. 264  They commanded them, “Go and kill with your swords 265  the inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead, including the women and little children. 21:11 Do this: 266  exterminate every male, as well as every woman who has had sexual relations with a male. 267  But spare the lives of any virgins.” So they did as instructed. 268  21:12 They found among the inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead four hundred young girls who were virgins – they had never had sexual relations with a male. 269  They brought them back to the camp at Shiloh in the land of Canaan.

21:13 The entire assembly sent messengers to the Benjaminites at the cliff of Rimmon and assured them they would not be harmed. 270  21:14 The Benjaminites returned at that time, and the Israelites 271  gave to them the women they had spared from Jabesh Gilead. But there were not enough to go around. 272 

21:15 The people regretted what had happened to 273  Benjamin because the Lord had weakened 274  the Israelite tribes. 21:16 The leaders 275  of the assembly said, “How can we find wives for those who are left? 276  After all, the Benjaminite women have been wiped out. 21:17 The 277  remnant of Benjamin must be preserved. An entire Israelite tribe should not be wiped out. 278  21:18 But we can’t allow our daughters to marry them, 279  for the Israelites took an oath, saying, ‘Whoever gives a woman to a Benjaminite will be destroyed!’ 280  21:19 However, there is an annual festival to the Lord in Shiloh, which is north of Bethel 281  (east of the main road that goes up from Bethel to Shechem) and south of Lebonah.” 21:20 So they commanded the Benjaminites, “Go hide in the vineyards, 21:21 and keep your eyes open. 282  When you see 283  the daughters of Shiloh coming out to dance in the celebration, 284  jump out from the vineyards. Each one of you, catch yourself a wife from among the daughters of Shiloh and then go home to the land of Benjamin. 21:22 When their fathers or brothers come and protest to us, 285  we’ll say to them, “Do us a favor and let them be, 286  for we could not get each one a wife through battle. 287  Don’t worry about breaking your oath! 288  You would only be guilty if you had voluntarily given them wives.’ 289 

21:23 The Benjaminites did as instructed. 290  They abducted two hundred of the dancing girls to be their wives. 291  They went home 292  to their own territory, 293  rebuilt their cities, and settled down. 294  21:24 Then the Israelites dispersed from there to their respective tribal and clan territories. Each went from there to his own property. 295  21:25 In those days Israel had no king. Each man did what he considered to be right. 296 

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