The story goes like this:
A Levite got himself a concubine from Bethlehem. They must have had a spat or some disagreement because she took off to her father’s house and left him. The Levite went after her and once at his in-laws, (which was in the land of the Benjamites) he dines and spends a few days with them. As he gets ready to leave, the men from the city (Benjamites) surround the house and demand that the Levite be given to them for their sexual pleasure. An argument erupts and the Levite ends up giving them his concubine so they could do whatever they wanted to her instead, thus saving his own skin (figures!).
In the morning he rises to go and finds his concubine on the threshold of the house dead (she had been raped by the Benjamites all night). He becomes furious and takes her home, cuts her into 12 pieces and sends each piece to the 12 tribes of Israel demanding vengeance. The other tribes get together and attack the Benjamites, killing most of the men and almost destroying the entire tribe.
Afterwards, they cried out to the Lord because of how things went down. The come up with a creative plan to get wives for the remaining few males of the tribe in order that the tribe of Benjamin would not be erased from Israel. The strategy works but things will never be the same for the tribe of Benjamin whom to this day remain the smallest tribe of the twelve.
I just gave you a short version of the events, but enough for you to understand what took place. One thing I find interesting about this story is that at that time, there was no king in Israel other than God, but the people rejected God and did as they pleased. Obviously sin had gone unchecked for some time, lines between wrong and right had been blurred and the fear of the Lord was almost non-existent. I guess one could say, it was much like today’s society, where everything and anything goes with very little conviction.
These are the factors I believe played a part in this sad tragedy:
- Lack of Leadership – God was their king, yet they rejected Him and did as they pleased. They had Levites and priests, yet their sins had gone unchecked and out of control. When you look at the Levite’s answer to the Benjamites demand and how he dealt with the consequence of his decision, it is clear that the people had become self-centered rather than sacrificial.
- Lack of Unity – When the other eleven tribes met to take action, not everyone came to that meeting (could it be that not everyone agreed with the decision to fight against what was already a small tribe? I can’t help but wonder…) Afterwards, they realized they had gone against their own flesh and blood and wept bitterly with the blood of their brothers still fresh in their hands. When all was said and done, each man went back to his own land
- Lack of Accountability – The eleven remaining tribes strategize to help the Benjamites recover, but instead of dealing with the heart issue they try to make a wrong – right by scheming and stealing from other people and by murdering more innocent people. They punished their brothers harshly, but offered them a cheap solution rather than godly admonishing and redemption.
You see now why I say in this story there are no winners? Each man goes home to continue doing whatever pleased them and life goes on just as it was before the incident, with the exception of the Benjamites, life will never, ever be the same for them. You might say, “well, they deserved what happened to them because they were wicked people!” Perhaps you’re right but I try to leave the judging to God. Besides, if we all receive what we deserved, there wouldn’t be a human race left to speak of. The truth of the matter is, we are all capable of behavior such as the one the Benjamites engaged in. When God stops being the center of our lives and when we let other teachings, bad habits, bad relationships, etc, influence our faith, eventually we too, will stop fearing the Lord.
Here is what I really want you to take away from this story; Fear the Lord with all your heart, and show your brothers and sisters the same compassion you’ve been shown by God. Don’t cheapen grace by scheming quick fixes or harsh judgment on others for their shortcomings and wrongdoings. Instead, Lead by instructing and rebuking out of a heart of compassion. Exercise Unity by loving as Christ has loved you, by going beyond the ugly mess and following up with encouragement. Don’t leave them stranded and broken, Keep them accountable as you yourself must be accountable as well.
Is not that complicated: Leading, Unity & Accountability all wrapped up in love…that’s a recipe that produces a much better result when dealing with messy situations.
Remember the Benjamites.