Day 096: Join or Die (Judges 19-21)

“The people of Israel arose and went up to Bethel and inquired of God, “Who shall go up first for us to fight against the people of Benjamin?” And the Lord said, “Judah shall go up first.””
‭‭Judges‬ ‭20:18‬ ‭ESV‬‬

An early Revolutionary War pamphlet featured a snake cut into eight pieces, each piece labeled with one of the colonies. The slogan “Join or Die” was a call to arms for the colonies to unite in their fight against the British. And at the beginning of Judges, that is the picture we have of Israel. They have settled into the land, and now they are uniting against a common enemy:

“After the death of Joshua, the people of Israel inquired of the Lord, “Who shall go up first for us against the Canaanites, to fight against them?” The Lord said, “Judah shall go up; behold, I have given the land into his hand.””
‭‭Judges‬ ‭1:1-2‬ ‭ESV‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‭‭ ‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬
‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‭‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‭‭‭‭‭‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

In today’s reading, we see almost the exact same verse, but with a HUGE difference:

“The people of Israel arose and went up to Bethel and inquired of God, “Who shall go up first for us to fight against the people of Benjamin?” And the Lord said, “Judah shall go up first.””

At the beginning of Judges, the people of Israel were united. The only question was who would lead the charge against their enemies.

At the end of Judges, the people are divided. The only question was who would lead the charge against the Benjamites— their own brothers.

There is another parallel. Compare the account of the second battle of Ai in Joshua 8:6-23 to the battle of Gibeah in Judges 20:29-43. The strategy, the outcome, and the language are nearly identical.

But again, the difference is that the tribes of Israel were united against an outside enemy in Joshua. In Judges they were united against one of their own tribes. Against themselves. I can’t not make parallels between the War of 1812, when the British burned the Capitol, and January 6, 2021, when one group of Americans breached the Capitol in opposition to another group of Americans.

Even within the Church, the divisions between Christian Americans run horribly deep. Have you ever said, “I just don’t see how anyone can claim to be a Christian and vote for [insert political candidate’s name here]. I know many churches that are more comfortable welcoming an unrepentant adulterer or a dishonest businessman into their fellowship than they would a member of the other political party.

This is what happens when a nation forgets the Lord. When everyone does what is right in their own eyes, sin spirals down, things fall apart, atrocity is piled upon atrocity, and we turn on each other.

Sin separates. Idolatry divides.

I wonder if this is the lesson we are supposed to get from the story of the woman whose body was cut into twelve pieces. The twelve tribes of Israel were supposed to be one body. One beautiful bride, beloved and chosen by God. But sin had ripped her apart.

The concubine was both a sacrifice and a symbol. Her broken body was intended to shock the people of Israel into action. The twelve disjointed pieces were to represent a nation torn apart. But because Israel had fallen so far, the result wasn’t repentance, sorrow over sin, and the unity that brings about. It was civil war.

The only thing that can unite us is repentance and sorrow over our sin. And that will only happen when we look to Jesus, whose body also was torn for the twelve tribes.

Author: James

I pastor Glynwood Baptist Church in Prattville, Alabama. I read a lot, write a little, and drink lots of coffee. I have three callings in life: surrender to Christ, be a husband to Trish, and be the best father/grandfather I can be. Everything else is an assignment, because everything else can be done by someone else.

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