Preaching the Theology in Judges’ Civil War


In these posts I am trying to provide strategies for preaching difficult narratives found in the book of Judges. What makes them difficult, you might ask? Well, they’re long Old Testament Narratives. But, if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know you can trust the genre. That could be your New Year’s resolution:

In 2017 I will trust the genre.

Trusting the genre in Judges 20:1–21:25 means identifying the major rise in the story’s action. The tribes of Israel send men through all the tribe of Benjamin saying: “…give up the men, the worthless fellows in Gibeah, that we may put them to death and purge evil from Israel” (v. 13a).

You may recall that the worthless fellows performed Sodom-like sins in the previous chapter.

When Benjamin refuses, the civil war begins. The narrative takes it time to describe how the civil war unfolded and how the “good guys” suffered multiple defeats before the victory.

Don’t allow yourself to get bogged down in all the detail. The theology is conveyed by the narrative structure, but not in all the detail. Allow the broad strokes of the narrative to preach to the church:

There is a tragic, but necessary kind of unity as God’s people combine to discipline their brothers (20:1, 8, 11).

There is also a tragic, but necessary kind of discipline (20:12-13, 18, 23, 26-28, 35). When God’s people decide to remain in sin, God instructs His non-sinning-at-the-moment people to act on His behalf. You can make canonical connections to God’s judgment on sinners (such as Matt. 11:20-24 or Romans 1:24, 26, 28) and also to God’s judgment on professing Christians who refuse to stop sinning (such as in 1 Corinthians 5 and Matt. 18).

A welcomed, yet messy expression of compassion occurs in 21:1-23a. The judgment on their brothers did not create ongoing animosity.

Finally, there is hope for future spiritual success in 21:23b-25 when rebuilding takes place and things almost seem to be normal again. The emphasis on “inheritance” points to future spiritual success that we enjoy in Christ.

This section is one of the best places to teach the church about the holiness of God and the need for discipline.

Preach well so He receives glory in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).


P.S. If you are interested in how Judges is put together, you might like to know that the book is ending where it began. It begins and ends with Israel asking God, “Who will go up” to fight against____? The problem is the first question addresses going up against God’s enemies. By the end of the book the question addresses going up against their own people! An entire tribe has morphed into the morality of the culture.

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