Judges 14: A nation with no king

Judges 19-21


We have been on a journey studying the book of Judges for a couple months now—I believe this is your 14th sermon on the book of Judges.

  • You may think that you’ve seen everything, especially after the last one—”The darkest time”
  • But the author of Judges saved the best (the worst) for last

We are looking at the final three chapters, and have come to be familiar with this phrase:

“In those days, when there was no king in Israel…” (Judges 19:1 ESV)


And it ends in this way… (the very last verse in the book of Judges)

“In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

(Judges 21:25 ESV)


We can read the book of Judges as a distant story, far-removed from our time…

  • And say: “How could this ancient story have any relevance to me today, right?”


Two things:

  • All the evil that happened in the book of Judges is still happening today.
  • The reason that caused all the evil in the book of Judges is the same reason for the evil that is happening today.

How about that for relevance?

  • When you sin, at the very core, the reason and your motivation are the same as the Israelites in the book of Judges.
  • That is, “There was no king, and everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

The story of Judges ends by giving us a depressingly grim picture of what life looks like without a king.


  1. Justice Perverted
  2. Justice Performed
  3. Justice Paid

1. Justice Perverted

A Levite and his concubine

  • “A certain Levite took for himself a concubine…” (19:1)
    • A second-class wife
    • An object and possession for personal pleasure


No name

  • In this story, the Levite nor the other characters were given no names, unlike the previous stories in the book of Judges. Why?
  • This is to tell the reader that this story teaches principles—principles that are applicable to all people of all time.

Do you still think this was an irrelevant, distant issue in a nation far away, from a time long ago?

  • Men, when you’re looking at porn, you are objectifying women just like “A certain Levite in Israel who took for himself a concubine.”
  • God created man and woman with different roles, but of equal value.
  • Sex, is God’s good design, for an exclusive enjoyment between a man and woman within a covenant of marriage.
    • Anything outside of that is a perversion of God’s good design

“Then her husband arose and went after her…” (19:3)

  • The concubine was unfaithful to him (Heb. zanah = played a harlot), left him and returned to her father
  • It must be a terrifying thing for the concubine to have her “husband and master” came to get her back

The Concubine remained silent

  • The concubine remained silent throughout the interactions between the Levite and his father-in-law.
  • We did not read whether she wanted to return home with the Levite.
  • She was a mere object!
    • Tragically, not only in the eyes of her husband
    • But also in the eyes of her father.

The father wants to avoid disgrace, while the husband wants his sex-slave back.


God created the woman to be loved by her father and husband, that is justice.

When the woman is used as an object for personal gain, that is justice perverted.


After days of eating and drinking they finally left the concubine father’s home…


Read: Judges 19:10-15


They came by Jebus.

  • The Levite refused to enter the city to spend the night there.
  • It was a foreign city, and because the Levite man was a racist
  • He thought, “Surely, it is safer to keep going and spend the night in Israel”
  • But no one in Gibeah received and showed them hospitality

The Benjamites should have been better in showing hospitality, at least to the standard of the concubine’s father.


Read: Judges 19:16-21


An old man, not a local Benjamite, but an expat from Ephraim, took them into his home and showed them hospitality.


“And the old man said, “Peace be to you; I will care for all your wants. Only, do not spend the night in the square.””

(Judges 19:20 ESV)


Why not?

What could be so dangerous? Aren’t they just as good as being at home in Israel? Aren’t the Benjamites their own brothers?


What happened next is an unspeakable evil, a terrible perversion of justice.


Read: Judges 19:22-30


  • The town’s people demanded the old man to hand the Levite over, so that they may “know” him (19:22).
  • Instead of handing him over, he offered his virgin daughter and the Levite’s concubine to be raped.


Again, we see an evil perversion of justice.

  • The people have asked for the man to be raped,
    • The Ephraimite offered instead two women, not even the male servants or slaves.
  • The wicked men of Gibeah proceeded to raping and abusing the concubine all night until the morning (19:25).

This story was sickeningly similar to what happened in Sodom. But Sodom was a pagan city, and yet, God’s own people were not any better.


  • While the concubine was violently raped by wicked men, the Levite went to bed and wake up the next morning just like any other days.
  • He found her at the doorstep only as he was about to “go on his way” (19:27).
  • His first , “Get up, let us be going” (19:28), only to realise that she is dead.
  • He then cut her up limb by limb, into twelve pieces, and sent her throughout all the territory of Israel (19:29).

Israelites not better than Sodom

Just because you call yourself a Christian and attend church every week, that doesn’t make you any better than the next person.

  • Philip Zimbardo, an American Psychologist and a professor emeritus of Stanford University, says, “Given the right circumstances, we are all capable of evil.”

A great tragedy is when you read an account of sin in the Bible, instead of going into self-reflection that leads to repentance, you pray, “I thank God I am not like them.”


Read: Luke 18:9-14


Tim Keller once told a story in his sermon, about an illustration by the great Baptist Minister Charles Spurgeon:


Spurgeon says, “Look at an acorn. What do you see in the acorn? When you look into an acorn you will see an ocean of wood. First of all inside the acorn is a tree, a huge tree. And every single bit of that tree is in that acorn all scrunched up. It’s in there. Not only that, but on the tree that is in there are thousands of other acorns. And each acorn is another tree which means that inside that acorn is not only another tree but one thousand other trees and each one of them is a thousand other trees. One acorn has the power to cover the entire world with an ocean of wood. That’s how much power is in there.


But if that acorn falls on the pavement, within a couple of days it rots. All of its power goes to nothing. It doesn’t mean that the power is not there. To see the power, to understand the power, it has to actually fall on the soil; it has to get watered and so on.


Spurgeon would turn around and say, “What do you think murder is?” “What do you think it starts with?”


Murder has to start with the thought that says “I wish that person weren’t here. I don’t like that person”… it starts with a grudge, it starts with selfishness, it starts with pride, it starts with self-centeredness.


Don’t make the same mistake as the Israelites thinking that you are not that bad—that just because you’re a Christian, you are incapable of perversion.

2. Justice Performed

Why did the Levite do what he did to his concubine?

  • He wanted justice.

But not because of love, but for the loss of his property.


The Levite took four months before going after her concubine (19:2-3). He didn’t really love her nor bothered by her unfaithfulness.


When justice is perverted, and when the root cause isn’t resolved, any attempts to perform justice will result in injustice, often worse than the offence that brought it on.


And this is exactly what happened next in the story.


Read: Judges 20:1-5


  • If we do not know the context, we would have thought that the Levite was a good man—he said:
    • “They meant to kill me, and they violated my concubine, and she is dead.” (20:5)
  • The men of Gibeah were evil, but the Levite was not much better either.
    • Even the supposedly good guy in the story is perverting justice.

“We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

 There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities.”

(Isaiah 64:6–7 ESV)


  • The Levite’s and the Israelites act of “righteousness” is nothing but a polluted garment.

Read: Judges 20:12-15

  • The Benjamites refused to hand over “the worthless men” over (20:13).
  • They decided to turn a blind eye towards sin, they are doubling down on their commitment to perversion.

Just as Isaiah had written, the people did not call upon the name of the LORD.

  • They made a decision to perform their own justice
  • They asked God: “Who should go up first and fight the people of Benjamite?” (20:18)
  • They have decided what to do, they just wanted to use God

Fighting is nothing new for the Israelites. But this time, they were fighting their own people.

  • When justice is perverted, sin will dig on deeper

What is the result of their own attempt to perform justice?

  • They murdered all the Benjamites, except for 600 men who escaped.
  • The Israelites were so bitter that they did not even think to spare or forgive the Benjamites.
  • As if a massacre wasn’t enough, they promised to stop the line of Benjamin.

“Now the men of Israel had sworn at Mizpah, “No one of us shall give his daughter in marriage to Benjamin.””

(Judges 21:1 ESV)


And only a couple of verses later, they blamed God for the problem they created!

Truly, a facepalm moment!

“And they said, “O LORD, the God of Israel, why has this happened in Israel, that today there should be one tribe lacking in Israel?””

(Judges 21:3 ESV)


After they realised what mess they are in, what did they do?

  • They killed the women and children of their own yet again, this time the people of Jabesh-Gilead.

Read: Judges 21:10-12

  • They also kidnapped 400 virgins, but there were 600 men of Benjamin (200 women short!)
  • Again and again, women were being treated as object – a deep and ugly perversion of justice

Just when you think it cannot get any worse…

Read: Judges 21:19-21

They decided to kidnap women and raped them!

I hope you can see how they are making it worse by trying to fix it on their own. They are now performing  injustice across the land.

  • It started with one rape and one murder case of a concubine
  • Their version of justice led them to the murder of tens of thousand of people, including women and children
  • And the kidnapping and raping of hundreds of women

How do you deal with sin?

  • Do you come up with excuses to justify your sin?
  • Promise yourself that you will do better next time?

No, you will not do better next time.


You cannot fix it on your own, you will just dig deeper into the pit of sin.


The world is telling you, you are a good person deep down. That’s a lie!

The Bible shows: Deep down, you are far from good, you rot to the core.

You are actually a far worse sinner than you ever believed.

3. Justice Paid

When a nation is without a king, the people do whatever was right in their own eyes.

  • They make things worse every time they try to fix their own problems.
  • Like a young child who dropped a cake onto a brand new carpet. Any attempts to fix the problem, trying to clean the mess on his own will just make things worse.

They wanted justice by seeking revenge.

Throughout the book of Judges, the people seek a saviour-judge to get them out of troubles. But they needed more—they needed a king.


We are no different.

We too look for a version of a saviour in our life…

  • Money so we can live and retire comfortably
  • A spouse so we can be happy
  • Knowledge/Education so we don’t have to feel dumb

But they are all inferior and poor substitutes.

C.S. Lewis:

“We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he can not imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”


This is how the book ends, and what a disappointment.

“And the people of Benjamin did so and took their wives, according to their number, from the dancers whom they carried off. Then they went and returned to their inheritance and rebuilt the towns and lived in them. And the people of Israel departed from there at that time, every man to his tribe and family, and they went out from there every man to his inheritance.

In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

(Judges 21:23–25 ESV)


The Israelites didn’t seem to have learned their lessons and repented from their perversion.

How can God not punish injustice?


The ending of the book of Judges is shocking for anyone from any society living in any time of the history of humanity.


But it is shocking not because…

  • the evil that the men treated the women, or
  • the men’s violent and unforgiving heart towards their own brothers

Rather, how can a just God not destroy these evil people completely?


The prophet Hosea wrote about the incident during the time of Judges:

“They have deeply corrupted themselves as in the days of Gibeah: he will remember their iniquity; he will punish their sins.” (Hosea 9:9)


That gives us a hint that God will remember and that God will punish their sins.


Ruth — a book that comes straight after Judges, actually runs in parallel with the book of Judges.

“In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land…”

(Ruth 1:1 ESV)


The book of Ruth ends with a hope of a Redeemer, a saviour-king.

This saviour-king was no ordinary human.

He was the only begotten Son of God.

His name is Jesus.


Jesus is not only a saviour, He is the king that we all have been waiting for.

A saviour rescues, but a king, you submit your life to.


Did God punish the sins of the Israelites?

Yes. Not just theirs, but yours and mine as well.


On the cross, Jesus, on our behalf, took our sins on his shoulders.

And God unleashed his wrath the world has never seen before, destroying his only Son.


Therefore, how should we now live?

Like the Israelites, our problem is not a problem of performance (or lack of), it’s a problem of kingship.

We wanted a saviour to give us what we need so we can live well, but what we desperately need is a King who died so we can live.


Jesus died the death we all deserved. So that we can live the life He deserved.


Tim Keller explained, “We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”

If you see this, King Jesus did for you on the Cross, you can gladly submit to Him.

You don’t have to take your own revenge.

Jesus is not only your saviour, He is your King. You can trust Him with your life because He gave it up for you.


Discussion questions:


  1. What struck you the most from this sermon?
  2. Like the Levite’s version of the incident to the Israelites, we also curate our story by leaving out the not-so-flattering bits to make ourselves look better than we actually are. When do you find it easiest to edit the truth about your thoughts, words, and actions?
  3. The story of the Israelites’ perversion of justice should move us to mourn, not just for them, but for ourselves. Are there secrets in your life that you need to confess, mourn, and repent of, knowing that despite who we are, God is full of grace towards us?
  4. How does knowing what Christ has accomplished on the cross shape your treatment of others? Is there anyone you need to extend forgiveness to?
  5. If you had to sum up the Gospel message of the entire book of Judges in a sentence, what would you say?
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