“You ought rather to forgive and comfort him” 2 Cor 2:7

by Steven Chan
10 August 2008

This is the last of the series of articles on the account in Judges 19-21 concerning the unfortunate incident involving the sin of the Benjamites that resulted in the death of a Levite’s spouse.

We have learned many lessons including (a) the danger of being influenced to do wrong, (b) the complacency which leads to evil-doing and the drastic action sometimes required to wake up brethren who are so pre-occupied with their own lives and have lost their sense of responsibility to do God’s will, (c) the consequences of failing to correct an evil that had been committed in our midst, (d) the importance of seeking counsel from God for all our actions, and (e) the need to persevere even when things do not go on smoothly for us, as failure often provides the foundation for our eventual success.

In this article, we will observe the attitude of the brethren towards those whom they had disciplined.  After the children of Israel had eliminated/destroyed most of the tribe of Benjamin because of their unwillingness to do that which is right, the children of Israel “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?” (Judg 21:2-4). Their attitude is indeed commendable. They did not gloat over those whom they had overcome. They were very troubled by what they had done and the sad plight of the survivors from the tribe of Benjamin. They were still thinking of their well-being; they asked: “What shall we do for wives for those who remain?” (Judg 21:7).

A similar attitude was taught by the apostle Paul in 2 Cor 2:4-11 when he wrote thus: “For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you, with many tears, not that you should be grieved, but that you might know the love which I have so abundantly for you. But if anyone has caused grief, he has not grieved me, but all of you to some extent–not to be too severe. This punishment which was inflicted by the majority is sufficient for such a man, so that, on the contrary, you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow. Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him. For to this end I also wrote, that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things. Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.”

After the imposition of the discipline, there must be room for forgiveness and comforting of those who have been disciplined. All this would only be possible if we speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15) and we restore such erring ones in a spirit of gentleness (Gal 6:1). We ought always to remember the observation in Heb 12:11: “Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

Having sworn that they would not give their own daughters to be the wives of the surviving members of the tribe of Benjamin, the children of Israel came out with an interesting scheme to assist the Benjamites. Apart from taking four hundred young virgins from Jabesh Gilead to be the wives of the surviving male Benjamites (Judges 21:12), they also “instructed the children of Benjamin, saying, “Go, lie in wait in the vineyards, and watch; and just when the daughters of Shiloh come out to perform their dances, then come out from the vineyards, and every man catch a wife for himself from the daughters of Shiloh; then go to the land of Benjamin.” (Judg 21:20-21). They contended that by so doing, they would not be in breach of their own oath of not giving their own daughters to be the wives of the Benjamites. The extraordinary length to which they went to help the remnant Benjamites reflected their love and affection to these brethren although they had done wrong in the past. Would our brethren be able to demonstrate the same extent of love towards those who have done wrong in the past?

Isn’t it interesting to note that the first king of Israel actually came from the remnant of these Benjamites (I Sam 9:16)? Just because the tribe had been disciplined does not mean that no good servants can arise from them to be the leader of the people of God. One from those who had been almost totally destroyed by his brethren was later to be the first king of the entire land of Israel. If we do as God commands us, then Satan will have no opportunity to take advantage of us (2 Cor 2:11).

The final point to note in this account is that the Israelites also disciplined the brethren who failed to join them in the fight against the Benjamites: “What one is there from the tribes of Israel who did not come up to Mizpah to the LORD?” And, in fact, no one had come to the camp from Jabesh Gilead to the assembly” (Judg 21:8). In Matt 12:30 Jesus said: “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad.” We must all stand together in the fight of faith and righteousness. In Matt 12:25, Jesus said: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.” Unity among brethren is very important and every attempt should be made to persuade brethren not to stand aloof or be indifferent in the cause of truth.

May we be guided by the many lessons garnered from this last major incident recorded in the last few chapters of Judges.