Today's passage: I Samuel 11:1-6
Civil war is an oxymoron. When is war ever civil? Our own Civil War took more lives than in any other war our country had been involved. Other nations' civil wars have been even bloodier by people less merciful. I was directed to the book of Judges (specifically chapters 19-21), one of Israel's civil wars. I think it is important to understand the events there, to really get a good grasp on what is happening here in Chapter 11. Those chapters reveal a lot about the legacy of Benjamin's tribe, Saul's heritage.
Judges 19 relates the story of a Levite whose concubine goes back to her village to visit family. After an extended stay, the Levite goes to bring her back to his home. Each day he gets ready for the journey home, and each day the girl and her father convince him to stay yet another day. This goes on for a week or so, until the Levite refuses, insisting they must get home. They start their journey rather late in the day and stop in Jerusalem (at that time called Jebus), which was part of Benjamin's territory. They are not offered anywhere to stay, prepared to sleep in the street, until an old farmer on his way home from the fields, knowing they will be unsafe, offers hospitality in his home. The town is a wicked place. As happens in Genesis, when Lot houses the two angels, the old farmer is prevailed upon by men of the town (Benjamites) to let them have their way with the gentleman and his servant. I know a lot of people would say that the generation we live in is worse than any previous generation, but when I read the story here and in Genesis, I would have to say no. We are getting there, but I still don't believe our nation is as wicked as in Old Testament times. Yet. Or maybe I just haven't visited the places that are this evil. I've admitted before, I am naive. The old man gives them the Levite's concubine instead, and forgive the language but the passage says, "and they knew her, and abused her all the night until the morning". Reading that, my heart aches for that poor woman. Her heart is broken. Her body is broken. Her spirit is broken. The Levite has to transport her home by donkey, and either she is dead on arrival, or she cannot revive to her former self. I'm not clear on the details here, but the Levite then cuts her bone and flesh into twelve portions which he sends throughout the tribes, as evidence to what had taken place in Gibeah. The other tribes are outraged. Together, they make a plan of action to declare war on Benjamin's tribe. Each tribe individually goes up against these men of Gibeah. Many lives are lost. Finally, the Benjamites are foiled and the other eleven tribes triumph. But nobody really triumphs, especially in a war among your own. Benjamin is given sanctions. The other tribes refuse to allow them to marry from their women. The Benjamites have no choice but to take wives from Jabesh-gilead (Manasseh's tribe who refused to help in the fighting). This sets the scene for today's passage.
The Ammonites live in the far eastern part of Palestine. One of their own, Nahash, boldly sets up camp in Jabesh-gilead (just east of the Jordan River), those whose wives had been taken for the Benjamites to marry. Saul himself, may have been a product of these marriages. With this history between the tribes of Benjamin and Manasseh, either their relationship was very close, or very contentious. The residents of Jabesh-gilead are willing to strike a deal with this Ammonite (or so it seems). It would appear they did not have love for their new king, seeing as he is a Benjamite. Maybe Nahash suspected this, and it is why he chose to go north of his own Ammon, hoping he might engage an ally against Israel's new king. When the people of Jabesh-gilead pledge their allegiance to Nahash, he tells them their reward will be to have their right eyes plucked out. What a deal! Sign me up. I guess the townspeople felt this was better than being torn from limb to limb. But before they agree, they want a week to think about it. They really want a week to enlist help from the other tribes. For whom do they send? King Saul and the tribe of Benjamin.
"And the Spirit of God came upon Saul when he heard those tidings, and his anger was kindled greatly." People protesting war need to realize, that even God ordained it sometimes. It was God's Spirit who had righteous anger towards these Ammonites who were threatening his people. War is never civil, but it is sometimes necessary. Easy for me to say, I don't have a son or daughter in Iraq or Afghanistan. I never lost a father or uncle in Vietnam. I never saw my brothers suffer flashbacks from the Gulf War. I'm not saying it is easy. I'm not saying it is desirable. There are times when war is a definite match of good versus evil. Our own Revolutionary War attained for us the liberty to worship freely. The Civil War afforded the Civil Rights Movement in our country to establish that all men really are created equal. World War I fought against absolute power by any one country, a time when missionaries were establishing the Lord's work throughout the world. The results of World War II preserved God's people, the Jews. Korea, Vietnam and today in Afghanistan and Iraq, were all fought to enable liberty for those peoples. I cringe when people argue we should not be in those places. Why is it our job? Because we have the means to do it. What other country in the world has the Light that we have? What other nation has our resources? Why should we surrender our men and women for these causes? First of all, our men and women (my heart swells with pride when I write this) mostly volunteer. They volunteer to defend our liberties, and they volunteer to help the downtrodden. Second of all, war is always sacrificial. We sacrifice our best, to keep the best. It angers me when people try to take Scripture and say, "God is against war". God sometimes instigated war. In the passage in Judges, as each tribe is being demolished before the Benjamites, the remaining tribes go to the Lord and ask Him if they are supposed to go against their brother like this. Each time, God says yes. Am I saying every war is God's will? No. But every war has accomplished a purpose for God, in some fashion. War is never civil. It is never pretty. It is never something to desire. But it is sometimes the only way to achieve the work that God needs to do. The remainder of this chapter I will continue tomorrow. This post certainly took a turn different than what I had expected. God's Hand is on Saul right now. We will see how he will enable him to accomplish more for Him.