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Oaths Rule

No repentance.

Judges 21:1–7

Now the men of Israel had sworn an oath at Mizpah, saying, “None of us shall give his daughter to Benjamin as a wife.” Then the people came to the house of God, and remained there before God till evening. They lifted up their voices and wept bitterly, and said, “O LORD God of Israel, why has this come to pass in Israel, that today there should be one tribe missing in Israel?”

So it was, on the next morning, that the people rose early and built an altar there, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. The children of Israel said, “Who is there among all the tribes of Israel who did not come up with the assembly to the LORD?” For they had made a great oath concerning anyone who had not come up to the LORD at Mizpah, saying, “He shall surely be put to death.” And the children of Israel grieved for Benjamin their brother, and said, “One tribe is cut off from Israel today. What shall we do for wives for those who remain, seeing we have sworn by the LORD that we will not give them our daughters as wives?”

Notice that the discussion of wives for the Benjamites means that the men who hid at the rock of Rimmon for four months have been discovered. Had they been found earlier, they would have been killed.

But now everyone has cooled off and they’re having second thoughts about what they’ve done, and also about the oath they swore at Mizpah.

And let’s not kid ourselves. The oath had, as its goal, the extermination of Benjamin. The genocidal war that followed confirms this.

Now, the 600 Benjamites who fled toward the wilderness to the rock of Rimmon are all that’s left. So the rest of Israel grieves for Benjamin and makes great sacrifices to the LORD.

But notice what’s missing. They act as if someone else did this awful thing to Benjamin. There’s no repentance—no, “My God, what have I done?”

This lack of repentance sets the stage for the terrible things they’ll do to “fix” the problem.

Notice how all the pieces are coming together in this passage. If the Benjamites had driven out the Jebusites from Jebus (Jerusalem) like they were supposed to, then maybe the Levite would have lodged there and this whole mess wouldn’t have happened in the first place.

But they disobeyed the LORD’s command and everything ultimately went haywire. A gang of evil men in Gibeah commits a shocking crime. Then everyone responds sinfully and a war kills many more people. In fact, so many Benjamites are now dead that everyone’s worried that the whole tribe might go extinct.

On top of all that the men of Israel had, in their anger, sworn an oath against letting their daughters marry Benjamites.

And notice their absolute allegiance to this oath. All kinds of evil are okay, but not breaking an oath?

These Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay. The Weekend DEEPs are written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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