Judges 21 is the end of a sequence of events that seems truly bizarre to our modern eyes. Take a moment to change your mindset to that of an Israelite in the promised land. One of twelve tribes brought to the land by God and meant to be a holy nation. An example to those around of a Godly people. A people who care for each other and act with justice.
The tribe of Bejamin have have been held to account for the brutal murder of a woman. The other tribes of Israel sought to bring justice against Benjamin in battle. But now the other tribes are faced with a stark reality in the aftermath of that battle. The tribe of Benjamin may cease to exist.
In an act of love and concern for their brother Benjamites they seek to find wives for them. This is a noble thing and shows how deeply rooted the value of the twelve tribes had amongst the people.
However, they have constrained themselves from giving wives to the Benjamiites by an oath. The strange events that follow as they hatch their cunning plan is of their own making. We are seeing something described, not prescribed as they go on their wife snatching hunt.
Just like the vow of Jephthah in Judges 11:29-49, it is a rash vow that has tied their hands and brought them to this questionable solution.
But God does not value their legalistic adherence to their vows, or to any laws:
I get no pleasure from the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.
When you come to worship me, who asked you to parade through my courts with all your ceremony?
Stop bringing me your meaningless gifts; the incense of your offerings disgusts me
Imagine the impact on their own hearts and their nation if they instead humbled themselves and admitted their foolishness before God.
God’s desire for their hearts is beautifully summarised by Micah:
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God
In Philippians, Paul urges the church to beware those who would bind them up in laws rather than keeping their confidence in Christ Jesus. Paul feigns boasting about such things, as he points out he was a “Hebrew of Hebrews”. Yet his wonderful words show where he now places his value:
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.
He does not consider his lineage, his upbringing, his training or his religious zeal anything to be counted. He only counts one kind of righteousness to be of any value:
that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.
May we only ever lean on the righteousness that comes from God as we seek to act justly, love mercy and above all walk humbly with our God.