Catacomb Resident Blog

OT History Connections 01

07 June 2022

When people study the Bible, they tend to miss out on some of the background story because they aren't taught to read it as one long narrative. They lose track of the sequence of events and connections made. Thus, Old Testament history in particular is often a very difficult subject for typical Christians trying to understand the text.

During the Period of Judges, you might remember that the people struggled to remain faithful to Jehovah. At times, a significant number of towns and villages were infested with idolatrous cults. At one point, the folks in Gibeah of Benjamin were hosting a sex cult. A Levite stopped in the village and the cult worshipers demanded his host hand him over to be abused. It had to do with religious/political rivalry, helping their deity humble a ritual servant of Jehovah. Instead, the man let them have his wayward concubine that he had just chased down, so they raped her to death. Then he cuts up her body and sends the bloody remains throughout Israel as a message.

When the rest of Israel heard about this, they demanded that the Tribe of Benjamin hand over the cultists. The Benjamites arrogantly refused, and so there was a war over it. The City of Gibeah was slaughtered and burned, while the rest of the Tribe of Benjamin was nearly wiped out. The national leaders called a halt in remorse. There were about 600 soldiers of Benjamin that survived, hiding in an old fortress. The rest of the nation realized they would have to find a way to rebuild the tribe, but they had already pledged not to let any of their daughters intermarry with Benjamites. So, they came up with a bright idea: Did any of the major cities refuse to support the war?

Turns out that Jabesh-gilead (a part of Manasseh) had refused to send troops. So the rest of the nation came and destroyed that city, and saved only the virgin girls. But this was not enough to fill the need. Thus, they came up with a plan where the Benjamites would be allowed to "kidnap" brides to make up the difference. The Tribe of Benjamin started over with a tiny amount of people. Meanwhile, Jabesh-gilead was rebuilt and settled again with far more noble people.

A few generations later, when Saul is crowned King of Israel, his "throne" was in Gibeah, the city that was once infested with a cult that warranted a war. It's an embarrassing part of Benjamite history. As a Benjamite, Saul could not allow his city to encourage disunity again. And, it was also that same Jabesh-gilead that was now besieged by the Ammonites. Can you understand why Saul had such a strong connection to the besieged city, and why he reacted so forcefully by carving up a team of oxen and using them as the symbolic message calling the nation to mobilize to protect Jabesh-gilead? It was a redemption of the carved up carcass of the Levite's concubine that was sent out across the nation to call them to war against Benjamin.

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