JEPHTHAH.

BY HE RY WARD BEECHER

In continuing these early tracings of the Scriptures, the more one reads them the more he feels the distance which there is between the Old Testament and the ew. It is not a distance of time alone. The moral distance is even greater than the distance in chronology. The characters that rise up in the Old Testament are simply impossible to the ew Testament history. We cannot conceive of anything that wou'ld be more astonishing than a character in the Gospels like that of the hilarious giant Samson, whose history will follow this, delineated from life, with his biography. The anachronism would be shocking. It would jar like discord in a symphony. Such a character does not belong to the ew Testament age, nor to the ew Testament style of thinking. Samson was a primitive man. So was Jephthah. All others who lived at the time when the history recorded in the book of Judges was enacted were primitive people. Even the prophet Samuel would be greatly out of place as one who figured in ew Testament times. You could not connect him with any of the Apostles, and still less could you connect him with the Master. Conceive, for the moment, of that stern old priest bearing iron rule, and sitting at the feet of Jesus ; it would be like one of the gigantic Egyptian figures sitting before Apollo in the Grecian sculpture, — strong, harsh, rude, in contrast with perfection of beauty, inwardly and outwardly. So then we find a great deal to learn, and very little to copy, in these ancient records. There is much that excites

Sunday evening, April 20, 1879. Lesson : Psa. cxli.

384 BIBLE STUDIES. admiration and sympathy, but scarcely anything for imitation. The virtues of those of whom we read as having lived in the remote past were virtues that broke out in great power from untrained natural affections and gifts : but of that which we mean by grace, or of that which is

the fruit of spiritual culture, begun early and continued through life, they had none. There was no provision for it — none in the Mosaic economy, and none in the institutions which we have spoken of thus far. For mxorality, yes ; a great deal : and for that simple, single strain of religion which teaches man to look Godward, yes : but for the higher and liner grace of spirituality, no. That grew up apparently by and by of itself. That is to say, under that dispensation of Providence by which the best things are steadily evolved out of inferior things, gradually the world came to institutions higher and to culture deeper, and finally through Jesus Christ to a spirituality loftier than any that had been known on earth before. There were three dramas enacted. I despair of being able, as I desired, to group them to-night, and present them in their threefold aspect. They are the three dramas that close the book of Judges. They were geographically located at wide distances from each other. They are, first, the history of Jephthah, which took place on the eastern side of the Jordan ; second, the history of the exit or partial exit of the tribe of Benjamin, which took place near the middle of Palestine ; and, third, the history of Samson of the tribe of Dan, on the western border of that country, touching the very sea. That of Jephthah is in some respects more remarkable, having a deeper tragical element, with less rudeness, than either of the others. Jephthah was an illegitimate child. When he grew to man's estate his father's other sons — his brothers — conceived against him a violent prejudice. Undoubtedly it arose from the strength of his character. Jephthah was a great man — or, as the record has it, a might}^ man of valoi" ¦ — and they expelled him from the family.

JEPHTHAH. 385 "Thou shalt not inherit in our father's house ; for thou art the son of a strange woman." Family pride is a moral element which may be very cruel at times, but which yet is eminently conservative. It is a means of preserving honor ; often it brings to bear upon

men motives that hold them up when all other exterior things fail : and we cannot blame the brethren that they should not want the son of a strange woman to inherit with the legitimate children of the household. " Then Jephthah fled from his brethren, and dwelt in the land of Tob." obody knows v/here Tob was. Most likely it was in the extreme south of Moab, and on the borders of Arabia Petraea. When Jephthah was thus expelled he became a chief — that is to say, a head-robber — and levied on the weak for all that was necessary to support himself and the folknvers who soon flocked to his leadership. We should have called him a freebooter. That calling v/as never very respectable, but it was much more nearly so in those days, when every man did that which was right in his own eyes, when no legitimate cause of action was deemed essential, and when nations had nothing to do but to eat each other up. Jephthah only did on a small scale that which nations were doing on a large scale. It did. not seem so bad then as it does now, measured by our modern ideas ; and we must not carry back our moral judgment to critically judge of the characters of men or their dealings then ; for though cruelty is always cruelty, injustice is always injustice, and wickedness is always wickedness, yet the judgments which we pass upon relative wickedness, injustice, and cruelty vary in different ages, according to the degree of light and development which prevails ; and at that time there was very little light and development, and a glorious opportunity for wrong-doing. "And it came to pass in process of time, that the children of Amnion made war against Israel. And it was so, that when the children of Amnion made war against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to fetch Jephthah out of 25

386 BIBLE STUDIES. the land of Tob : and they said unto Jephihah, Come, and be our captain, that we may fight with the children of Amnion." Then follows an exhibition of Vvhat you will find in Jephthah's character all the way through — brilliant com-

mon sense and sound reasoning. Though he was a man of violence, a rude man, you will be struck that at every step reason ran before his hands or his feet, and he acted along a line of thought. "And Jephthah said unto the elders of Gilead, Did not ye hate me, and expel me out of my father's house ? and why are ye come unto me now when ye are in distress ? "And the elders of Gilead said unto Jephthah, Therefore we turn again to thee now, that thou mayest go with us, and fight against the children of Amnion, and be our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead." ow comes his forethought again. It was quite enough to be turned out once. He did not mean to run the chance of a second expulsion after he had delivered them, and so he comes to terms with them. "And Jephthah said unto the elders of Gilead, If ye bring me home again to fight against the children of Amnion, and Jehovah deliver them before me, shall I be your head [I, a bastard, an exile, and an outcast] ? " He put it to them, whether they wanted to serve themselves by him at a pinch, or whether they meant that he should be their head as an established thing. He was determined that it should be understood that if he led their armies to victory he should have the glory and the authority. " The elders of Gilead said unto Jephthah, Jehovah be witness between us, if we do not so according to thy words." That was something worth while. "Then Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and captain over them : and Jephthah uttered all his words before Jehovah in Mizpeh." The Ammonites, it seems, had not actually commenced the invasion ; they were gathering their forces : and the first step that Jephthah took was diplomatic. He sent out word to them, asking them why they were making war upon him and his people, and disturbing their peace.

JEPIITIIAIL 3S7

" What hast thou to do with me, that thou art come against me to fight in my land ? " He had assumed, now, not simply the position but the tone of ro5'alty. "The king of the children of Amnion answered unto the messengers of Jephthah [and the answer seems at first to have been a perfectly satisfactory one], Because Israel took away my land, when they came up out of Egypt^, from Arnon even unto Jabbok, and unto Jordan : now therefore restore those lands again peaceably." If I were to read no further, everybody would say, ''Well, they had the right of it ; those were the lands of their fathers." "And Jephthah sent messengers again unto the king of the children of Anmion : and said unto him, Thus saith Jephthah : Israel took not away the land of Moab, nor the land of the children of Ammon." That is to say, Israel did not take it away ruthlessly or unjustly. Then he recites the history. "When Israel came up from Egypt, and walked through the wilderness unto the Red Sea, and came to Kadesh; then Israel sent messengers unto the king of Edom, saying, Let me, I pray thee, pass through thy land : but the king of Edom would not hearken thereto. And in like manner they sent unto the king of Moab: but he would not consent : and Israel abode in Kadesh. Then they went along through the wilderness, and compassed the land of Edom, and the land of Moab, and came by the east side of the land of Moab, and pitched on the other side of Arnon, but came not within the border of Moab : for Arnon was the border of Moab. And Israel sent messengers unto Sihon king of the Amorites, the king of Heshbon ; and Israel said unto him, Let us pass, we pray thee, through thy land into my place. But Sihon trusted not Israel to pass through his coast [his border] : but Sihon gathered all his people together, and pitched in Jahaz, and fought against Israel. And Jehovah the God of Israel delivered Sihon and all his people into the hand of Israel, and they smote them : so Israel possessed all the land of the Amorites, the inhabitants of that country. And they possessed all the coasts of the Amorites, from Arnon even unto Jabbok, and from the wilderness even unto Jordan. " So now Jehovah the God of Israel hath dispossessed the Amorites from before his people Israel, and shouldest thou possess it?" The argument is very conclusive : " You say you are

going to get back your old country that we have wrested from you ; but how came it to be in our possession ? You would not permit us to go througli it ; and when we made a circuit clear around about Moab and the Amorites, and

388 BIBLE STUDIES. endeavored to pass by in the most peaceable manner, they sought our extermination, and we defended ourselves, and overthrew your fathers, and took* your lands by a war which you yourselves brought on. It was not Israel, it was Jehovah the God of Israel, who took your land. ow, do you expect to get it back -again ? " Then he makes an argument ad Jiominem. He throws the responsibility of their own god home upon them. "Whenever you go out under the direction of your god and gain a land by victory, do not you think yourselves entitled to it?" " Wilt not thou possess that which Chemosh thy god giveth thee to possess ? So whomsoever Jehovah our God shall drive out from before us, them will we possess." He w^as ready to honor either of the titles. He recognized their divine Providence and that of the Israelites : but claimed precedence for his own God. "And now art thou anything better than Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab .'' did he ever strive against Israel, or did he ever fight against them .? While Israel dwelt in Heshbon and her towns, and in Aroer and her towns, and in all the cities that be along by the coast of Arnon, three hundred years ; why therefore did ye not recover them within that time .'' " Possession is more than nine-tenths of the law, when possession is by the sword. " Wherefore I have not sinned against thee, but thou doest me wrong to war against me : Jehovah the Judge, be judge this day between the children of Israel and the children of Amnion. " Howbeit the king of the children of Amnion hearkened not unto the words of Jephthah which he sent him." Thus far the diplomatic passage was carried before the

war. Jephthah was on the defensive. He was not anxious to fight, but he justified the title of his people, and argued that if it was not just it ought to have been shown long before. The Israelites had dwelt there for three hundred years, they had gained a right to the lands by a protracted period of undisturbed possession, and the Ammonites had forfeited their title to them by non-use. This discussion resulted in no agreement, and the war was to go on. So Jephthah gathered his hosts. They had

JEPIITIIAII. 389 a general ; but they were superstitious, — for you find that an unintelligent religion is always superstition, — and there must be a vow and a covenant made with their God. "And Jephthah vowed a vow unto Jehovah, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Amnion into mine hands, then it shall be, that whatsoever* cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Amnion, shall surely be Jehovah's, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering." He had no business to make such a vow; and he had no business to keep it when it was made. o man has a right to break a pledge that he has unwdttingly made, in respect to things that are moral, and are within the rightful control of his will. If, therefore, a man has made a vow, or covenant, or promise, without sufficient forethought of things that might come to pass, he must not draw back w^hen he finds that it is to his damage ; he must fulfill it, though it mulcts him, though it impoverishes him, so long as it is within the range of ordinary morality. But no man has a right to make a promise or covenant or vow that is extra-moral, outside of permission. Where a man makes a blind covenant, taking the chances of the future, it opens endless doors to possibility, and he has no right to keep that covenant when it may involve others in the grossest wrong, cruelty, or injustice. So, I repeat, Jephthah had no right to make the vow he did, it was morally improper ; and he had no right to keep it, under the circumstances. If keeping it would have brought damage simply upon himself, it would have been his duty to keep it ; but if one makes a vow that is wrong, he only makes it worse by keeping it, Jephthah, however, being superstitious, kept

the covenant he made, though it was wrong. " So Jephthah passed over unto the children of Amnion to fight against them; and Jehovah delivered them into his hands. And he smote them from Aroer, even till thou come to Minnith, even twenty cities, and unto the plain of the vineyards, with a very great slaughter. Thus the children of Ammon were subdued before the children of Israel." Jephthah, flushed with victory, turned his steps home-

* Or ''whosoever." Rev. Vers. via7'gi7t.

390 BIBLE STUDIES. ward. He was a redeemed exile. He should no longer endure the scorn of his brethren. He was now their head — the head of the house ; more, he was the redeemer of his tribe and of his people, and their head also. And with what exultation, with what wild joy, did this heroic man approach his home ! He had forgotten, doubtless, his vow ; or, if he thought of it, he probably marveled what might be the first thing he should meet. It might be some of the flock of sheep, straying out upon the way in which he should come. But no, it was his daughter ! " Jephtbah came to Mizpeh unto his house, and, behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances : and she was his only child; beside her he had neither son nor daughter." AVas there ever, since the world began, such a damsel, and such music, that greeted the eyes and ears of a father, as this sweet girl with her joyous dancing and her timbrels ! Was there ever such a cruel dance as that with which she came out, bearing laurels in her hands to encircle the brow of her victorious father ! With joy in her eyes, and love in her heart, and triumph on her brow, she went forth to meet him. The sight of her smote him as with a poisoned arrow. It fell upon him as darkness and midnight. "And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he rent his clothes, and said,

Alas, my daughter ! thou hast brought me very low, and thou art one of them that trouble me : for I have opened my mouth unto Jehovah, and I cannot go back." He was held fast by the terrible rashness of his vow. It was wrong ; but he thought it was right. He sacrificed every instinct of a father, he trampled upon the strong feelings of a parent toward a child that he loved more than his own life, under the power of superstition. By this power were overruled in him all the great guiding principles of nature. ow the daughter shines out beautiful as a star when the storm is lifted upon the horizon. There is not a lovelier phase, there is not a sweeter exhibition of woman's

JEPIITIIAH. 391 nature, in the whole compass of sacred history. There was no shock, no wild protest, no breaking down in grief. She sunk herself in the joy of her country and in the glory of her father. " She said unto him, My father, if thou hast opened thy mouth unto Jehovah, do to me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth." Is there anything grander than that in human history ? It was his only daughter, of tender years. " Forasmuch as Jehovah hath taken vengeance for thee of thine enemies, even of the children of Amnion." " My country has been saved, my father has been victorious, and what matters it what becomes of me ? Let him fulfill his vow." Such was her thought. "And she said unto her father, Let this thing be done for me: let me alone two months, that I may go up and down upon the mountains, and bewail my virginity, I and my fellows." In a land where to be wed and become a mother of children was the highest earthly felicity, to be cut off in the morning of life, without conjugal love and household joy, was the greatest misfortune, and her only petition was this : " Since I must die thus, let me go and prepare

myself hy mourning and meditation in the mountain." Dear child ! She saw no little ones around her table, she experienced no love and no gratitude in a household in which she was the honored wife and mother ; but to the end of the world thousands and tens of thousands will lift up their hearts in admiration and in praise of her. Her name has gathered to itself that which, if she had lived in the ordinary way of human life, she would never have inherited. "And he said, Go." If there was ever anything vexatious in connection with this account, it is the attempt of commentators, for the last two hundred years, to regulate the Old Testament by the ethics of the ew, and to show that because the keeping of his vow by Jephthah would have been a cruel and wanton thing, it is not probable that he did it, making believe,

392 BIBLE STUDIES. that instead of sacrificing his daughter he dedicated her to eternal virginity m some retreat on the mountains. You must bear in mind that among the peoples and in the time of Jephthah, and in the land where he lived, the sacrifice of men or their children v\^as common. It was in accordance with the law. In close contiguity with that scene we have this record. "When the king of Moab saw that the battle was too sore for him, he took with him seven hundred men that drew swords, to break through even unto the king of Edom : but they could not. Then he took his eldest son that should have reigned in his stead, and offered him for a burnt offering upon the wall. And there was great indignation against Israel : and they departed from him, and returned to their own land." Here, within a very short period, was the instance of the sacrifice by the king of Moab of his eldest son, to propitiate the adverse god. We read in Micah that Balak offered to slay his eldest son if God would give him victory over the Israelites. Jephthah, who was living in that very region, and among this very people, made a covenant which amounted to a vow to sacrifice his only child. In-

deed, the offering of Isaac by Abraham was a sort of shadow of that which prevailed throughout that land. Unquestionably the daughter of Jephthah came back to her father's house, and gave up her sweet life, and was offered upon the altar as a lamb in sacrifice. A beautiful creature ; a very sad death ; but one of the sweetest of the scenes that lie along the mountains and rugged defiles of the Old Testament. "And it eame to pass, at the end of two months, that she returned unto her father, who did with her according to his vow which he had vowed : and she knew no man. And it was a custom in Israel, that the daughters of Israel went yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in a year." There is only one more scene in the life of Jephthah, and that, too, is characteristic. You will recollect that, in the history of Gideon, after he had gained the victory by which he had rescued his country, as soon as he had taken the fords of the Jordan, and slain the common enemy, the Ephraimites arrogantly and enviously turned on him be-

JEPIITHAIL 393 cause they had not been in the battle, and said it was his fault. Precisely that identical thing takes place again. "The men of Ephraim [the same tribe] gathered themselves together, and went northward, and said unto Jephthah, Wherefore passedst thou over to fight against the children of Ammon, and didst not call us to go with thee ? we will burn thine house upon thee with fire." Jephthah, instead of retorting, uses reason once more. " I and my people were at great strife with the children of Ammon ; and when I called you, ye delivered me not out of their hands. And when I saw that ye delivered me not, I put my life in my hands, and passed over against the children of Ammon, and Jehovah delivered them into my hand: wherefore then are ye come up unto me this day, to fight against me ? " The Ephraimites had gone beyond the Jordan into the land of Gilead, to seek him. " Then Jephthah gathered together all the men of Gilead, and fought

with Ephraim : and the men of Gilead smote Ephraim, because they said. Ye Gileadites are fugitives of Ephraim among the Ephraimites, and among the Manassites." There was a feud between these two peoples. They were essentially of the same stock. The Ephraimites had possession on both sides of the Jordan. It was said of those on the east side — the Gileadites — that they were fugitives. "And the Gileadites took the passages of Jordan before the Ephraimites : and it was so, that when those Ephraimites which were escaped said. Let me go over ; that the men of Gilead said unto him, Art thou an Ephraimite ? If he said, ay ; then said they unto him, Say now Shibboleth [meaning, probably, " a stream," and referring to the Jordan, which separated the two peoples] : and he said, Sibboleth : for he could not frame to pronounce it right." It was like the failure of a German or a Frenchman to correctly pronounce some English word. Instead of giving the sound of h with that of i", the Gileadite made a simple hiss, and so betrayed his hostile nationality. "Then they took him, and slew him." They slew him because he could not say Shibboleth ; and that kind of slaying has been going on ever since. When in the ordinances men cannot say Shibho\.^X\\, but say Sibholeth, they are slain with the sword of the church. Since

394 BIBLE STUDIES. there have been Christian denominations they have not given over making war one upon another on grounds as narrow as that between shih and sib. Every one mounts his conscience on some doctrinal distinction ; and then the devil is riding on it, — for a fiery conscience is nearer like the devil than anything else that we know anything about. " Jephthah judged Israel six years. Then died Jephthah the Gileadite, and was buried in one of the cities of Gilead." The next account to which we come is that terrible one which is given in the nineteenth of Judges, and which is fit to be made known only because it gives such a portrayal

of the whole way of life at that time. It is very hard for us to see how the Israelites were under a special providence, when we consider that they went through a period of three or four hundred years almost totally without any indications of leadership, except these sporadic local fighting-chiefs called judges, and that they left such an odious history as here follows. " It came to pass in those days, when there was no king in Israel, that there was a certain Levite sojourning on the side of Mount Ephraim, who took to him a concubine [a kind of secondary wife] out of Beth-lehemjudah." It seems that they had a quarrel, and she went home to her father. He could not live with her, nor could he live without her ; and that is often the case. "And her husband arose, and went after her, to speak friendly unto her, and to bring her again [Time and distance are oftentimes the best poultices for family difficulties], having his servant with him, and a couple of asses : and she brought him into her father's house [She seems to be placated now] ; and when the father of the damsel saw him, he rejoiced to meet him." ov/ comes a scene of great conviviality. "And his father-in-law, the damsel's father, retained him ; and he abode with him three days : so they did eat and drink, and lodged there." That was all they had to do for amusement in those days. " It came to pass on the fourth day, when Ihey arose early in the morning, that he rose up to depart : and the damsel's father said unto his son-inlaw, Comfort thine heart witli a morsel of bread, and afterward go your way. And they sat down, and did eat and drink both of them together, for

JErHTilAl/. 395 the damsel's father had said unto the man, Be content, I pray thee, and tarryall night, and let thine heart be merry. And when the man rose up to depart, his father-in-law urged him : therefore he lodged there again." They had a bout — a three days' bout. /* He arose early in the morning on the fifth day to depart : and the dam-

sel's father said, Comfort thine heart, I pray thee." He was a good-natured, merry, hospitable old fellow. He was fond of good company, he liked this man, — who was probably a likable man. "And they tarried until afternoon, and they did eat, both of them. And when the man rose up to depart, he, and his concubine, and his servant, his father-in-law, the damsel's father, said unto him. Behold, now the day draweth toward evening, I pray you tarry all night : behold, the day groweth to an end, lodge here, that thine heart may be merry : and to-morrow get you early on your way, that thou mayest go home. But the man would not tarry that night, but he rose up and departed, and came over against Jebus, which is Jerusalem ; and there were with him two asses saddled, his concubine also was with him. And when they were by Jebus, the day was far spent ; and the servant said unto his master, Come, I pray thee, and let us turn in into this city of the Jebusites, and lodge in it. And his master said unto him, We v/ill not turn aside hither into the city of a stranger [You will recollect that Jebus, Jerusalem, was not subdued till after the time of David], that is not of the children of Israel ; we will pass over to Gibeah." That was one of their own country-place towns. "And he said unto his servant, Come, and let us draw near to one of these places to lodge all night, in Gibeah, or in Ramah. And they passed on and went their way; and the sun went down upon them when they were by Gibeah, which belongeth to Benjamin. And they turned aside thither, to go in and to lodge in Gibeah : and when he went in, he sat him down in a street of the city [according to the way of the East] : for there was no man that took them into his house to lodging." In that age and in that land inhospitality was a lack of humanity. In most places, even then, a stranger under such circumstances would have been invited to tarry; but it seems that in this city of unmitigated wickedness, Gibeah by name, the people were reduced to a condition as bad as that of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. "And, behold, there came an old man from his work out of the field at even, which was also of Mount Ephraim ; and he sojourned in Gibeah : but the men of the place w^ere Benjamites. And when he had lifted up his eyes, he saw a wayfaring man in the street of the city: and the old man said,

39^ BIBLE STUDIES.

Whither goest thou ? and whence comest thou ? And he said unto him, We are passing from Beth-lehem-judah toward the side of Mount Ephraim ; from thence am I : and I went to Keth-lehem-judah, but I am now going to the house of Jehovah ; and there is no man that receiveth me to house. Yet there is both straw and provender for our asses ; and there is bread and wine also for me, and for thy handmaid, and for the young man which is with thy servants : there is no want of anything," In other words, " I am not a pauper ; I am not begging for anything ; I have all that I want ; I am not seeking for anything but shelter." "And the old man said, Peace be with thee ; howsoever let all thy wants lie upon me ; only lodge not in the street. So he brought him into his house, and gave provender unto the asses : and they washed their feet, and did eat and drink." ow came the terrible catastrophe. Men of the city, actuated by the most hideous depravity, besieged the house, and demanded the stranger. To protect him, the host laid hold on the man's concubine and took her out to them, and, V\^hen the woman was delivered to them, with ribaldry and unnatural cruelty they dragged her out and subjected her to the basest uses. The result is told in a few words that can hardly have a parallel for simplicity. "Then came the woman in the dawning of the day, and fell down at the door of the man's house where her lord was, till it was light. And her lord rose up in the morning, and opened the doors of the house, and went out to go his way : and, behold, the woman his concubine was fallen down at the door of the house, and her hands were upon the threshold And he said unto her, Up, and let us be going. But none answered, " Then the man took her up upon an ass, and the man rose up, and gat him unto his place. And when he was come into his house, he took a knife, and laid hold on his concubine, and divided her, together with her bones, into twelve pieces, and sent her into all the coasts of Israel, "And it was so, that all that saw it said, There was no such deed done nor seen from the day that the children of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt unto this day : consider of it, take advice, and speak your minds." What a messenger and what a message to send to all the tribes around about ! " Then all the children of Israel went out, and the congregation was gathered together as one man, from Dan evew to Beer-sheba, with the land

of Gilead, unto Jehovah in Mizpeh. And the chiefs of all the people, even of all the tribes of Israel, presented themselves in the assembly of the

JEPHTHAIL ¦ 2,97 people of God, four hundred thousand footmen that drew sword. ( ow the children of Benjamin heard that the children of Israel were gone up to Mizpeh.) " Then said the children of Israel, Tell us, how was this wickedness ? And the Levite, the husband of the woman that was slain, answered." And he gives the story in brief, as it has ah'eady been narrated. Then he said : — " Behold, ye are all children of Israel ; give here your advice and counsel. And all the people arose as one man, saying, We will not any of us go to his tent, neither will we any of us turn into his house. But now this shall be the thing which we will do to Gibeah ; we will go up by lot against it." Lots were cast, and there were taken ten men out of a hundred, a hundred out of a thousand, and a thousand out of ten thousand, and they went up against Gibeah, and they assaulted it, and took it, and put to the sword all the men, women, and children in it — eleven tribes against this one ; for when the tribe of Benjamin was told to deliver up the men that had done this wickedness, as a testimony of their horror, and to separate themselves from the guilt of this public crime, they refused. The tribal spirit ran high ; they stood up for their own kin, and they went willingly to battle, bringing out their whole armed forces ; for they were valiant men of war, and the eleven tribes had three successive days of obstinate fighting before subduing them. And it is said that, as a result, with the exception of about six hundred that shut themselves up in a cave, the Benjamites were all put to the sword, and the tribe was very nearly exterminated. Then came a kind of popular revulsion. This was a time of strange contrasts. The people, aroused to fury against Benjamin by a sense of the wrong that had been committed, had emptied their cities and villages, and gone up, a great multitude, to avenge this crime, and they had all but cut off the tribe, having slain all the women, all the children, and all the men except about six hundred. Then they

withdrew, and went back to the ark and the tabernacle, and were seized with a feeling of horror at the thought, "A tribe is blotted out in Israel ! " That seemed to touch

398 BIBLE STUDIES. the very pride of the nation, that but eleven tribes remained. Six hundred men only lived of the thousands and tens of thousands of the inhabitants of Benjamin ; and there could be no households among them, for the people of Israel had sworn by a solemn oath unto the Lord that they would not allow one of their daughters to marry into that tribe. So there was mourning, and they said, " They have no wives, and although these six hundred remain there will be no posterity, and the tribe will be extinct." But they fell upon a device which was peculiar to that age. They called for the record, and made an examination to see if all the people had come up upon the summons, and they found that none from Jabesh-gilead had come to the fight ; and therefore they walked over to Jabesh-gilead, and killed all the men and all the married women, and spared the young women, of whom there were four hundred, and called peaceably upon the six hundred children of Benjamin to come out from their hiding places, and all but two hundred of them had waives provided for them through this courting by the sword. Two hundred more w^ere needed : but the Israelites had vowed that they would not allow any of their children to be married into that tribe ; and so they whispered to the Benjamites who had no wives that at Shiloh there were certain religious festivals and dances going on, and that if they would rush in and catch and run off with tw^o hundred more virgins the parents should be argued with and placated, so that no harm should come of it. Thus, having taken four hundred maidens by the sword, and having stolen two hundred more, the Israelites fitted out the six hundred Benjamites with wives, and preserved the integrity of that tribe. That is the second history. What a time ! What a state of society ! And these were " the people of God." They were a people that arrogated to themselves superiority. They were the people that had for hundreds and hundreds of years borne testimony that they were the peculiar people of God. And yet, in no age, and by no nation, were there

ever performed more barbarous deeds than during three or

JEPHTHAH. 399 four hundred years were performed in the history of this people. ow, if we believe that God develops mankind by his divine providence, according to a method of evolution under natural law, we can bridge over this terrible gulf ; but if we suppose that all this time these people were under the speciaL guardianship and immediate direction of God, what are you going to do with these four hundred hideous years of darkness ? And those parallel four hundred dreadful years in Egypt — what are you going to do with them ? Along the line of the thought that the-re is a providence which works through natural law among the nations by a process of the unfolding of germinant moral sense, and tends toward civilization, morality, and spirituality, I can get relief ; but along the other line I can get none. In following these episodes, I have not always taken them in the order of their occurrence in the record, but rather have grouped them according to the chief elements they manifest. Our readings to-night have shown the power of superstition on rude natures and the readiness with which men find religious sanction for the devices and desires of their own hearts. The third of the three stories mentioned this evening as concluding our study of the time of the Judges is that of Samson, which we will consider next Sunday evening.

1. 68 FREE BOOKS http://www.scribd.com/doc/21800308/Free-Christian-Books

2. ALL WRITI GS http://www.scribd.com/glennpease/documents?page=970

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful