The Tragedy of Those Times


The Tragedy of Those Times

May 15th, 1960 @ 8:15 AM

This sermon is about The Tragedy of Those Times. In our following through the Book of Judges, you can easily follow the sermon. The last incident in the Book is found in Judges 19, 20, and 21; Judges 19, 20, 21.
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Dr. W.A. Criswell

Judges 19, 21

5-15-60    8:15 a.m.




This is the pastor bringing the early morning message entitled The Tragedy of Those Times, which could also be The Tragedy of These Times.  In our following through the Book of Judges, we come to the concluding message this morning.  And if you will turn in your Bible to the Book of Judges you can easily follow the sermon. 

            The last incident in the book is found in Judges 19, 20, and 21; Judges 19, 20, 21.  This incident, which was a colossal thing and one of the most unadulterated, brazen pieces of iniquity that I have ever read in any literature in all the earth, this incident which precipitated a war, is a thing so dark and so tragic I’ve never heard it referred to in any, in any church, in any pulpit, in any sermon, in any message.  And yet as we go through the Book and study the Word, I am persuaded that we ought to look at all of it.  For all of it is a part of this life and this human nature and carries with it an awesome lesson. 

            So we begin.  Judges, chapter 19: “It came to pass in those days, when there was no king in Israel, that there was a certain Levite sojourning on the side of Mount Ephraim” [Judges 19:1].  A certain Levite who lived in Mount Ephraim, who took to him a wife, you have her designated there as a concubine.  And we will follow through with that word “concubine,” but really she was his wife.  He seems to have had no other wife, and certainly by law and by legal contract she was his wife.  So this Levite who lives in Mount Ephraim “took to him a wife out of Bethlehem-Judah.  And his concubine played the harlot against him, and went away from him unto her father’s house to Bethlehem-Judah, and was there four whole months” [Judges 19:1-2]

            For some reason we do not know, which is not delineated, this Levite’s wife went off and gave herself to another man and broke up the home.  “And her husband arose, and went after her, to speak friendly unto her, and to bring her again” [Judges 19:3].  The husband in his heart forgave her, wanted her back, so made this journey to Bethlehem-Judah “to speak friendly to her, and to bring her again.  And he had his servant with him, and two asses: and she brought him”—when he found her in Bethlehem-Judah she was gracious, and seems to have repented of the wrong herself; “and she brought him into her father’s house: and when the father of the damsel saw him, he rejoiced to meet him.  And his father-in-law, the damsel’s father, retained him; and he abode with him three days: so they did eat and drink, and lodged there” [Judges 19:3-4].

            And that’s the beginning of the story.  And though it starts off with a very serious declination, yet the wonderful Levite in his ableness to forgive, and the concubine who seems to have been happy to have been invited back again, and the father of the concubine so rejoicing over it all, everything is all patched up.  It is all put together again, and this family is reunited. 

            Now the father-in-law is very generous and very gracious, so he constrains the man to stay with him one day, and two days, and three days, and four days [Judges 19:5-9].  Now when he tried to constrain him further, now we begin at the tenth verse: “The man would not tarry that night, but rose up and departed, and came over against Jebus,” which was a heathen city in the hands of the Jebusites; the Israelites had not possessed it.  And as he was journeying back up to Mount Ephraim from Bethlehem-Judah, they came to the city of Jebus in the evening.  “And there were with him the two asses saddled, his concubine also with him,” and the servant [Judges 19:10]

            “And when they were by Jebus, the day was far spent; and the servant said unto his master, Come, I pray thee, and let us turn into this city of the Jebusites, and lodge in it” [Judges 19:11].  Now it was a heathen city, and his master said unto him, the Levite who was very devout and very committed to God, “We will not turn aside hither into the city of a stranger that is not of the children of Israel; but we will pass over to Gibeah.  And he said unto his servant, Come, and let us draw near to one of these places to lodge all night, in Gibeah, or in Ramah” [Judges 19:12-13]

            Now just north and a little to the left, just north of Jerusalem, which in that day was Jebus, a heathen city that belonged to the Jebusites, just north was this city of Gibeah.  And the country up there belonged to the tribe of Benjamin, and Gibeah was inhabited by Benjamites. 

            Now the fifteenth verse, “So they turned aside thither, to go in and to lodge in Gibeah” [Judges 19:15], even though it was late and it was a traveling very late, which they didn’t do in that day.  Yet because he wanted to stay with his own brethren, and his own people, and with the people of God, he made that extra journey up to Gibeah.  “And when he went in, he sat him down in a street of the city: but there was no man that took him into his house for lodging” [Judges 19:15].  He just sat there in the street.  Nobody good to him; nobody kind to him, nobody invited him.  Now today, of course, we have hotels and inns and motels, taverns; everywhere people can find a place to lodge.  But in this day there was no motel.  There was no hotel.  There was no inn.  There was no lodging, and it was a part of the pattern of life that people opened their places to the sojourner; took care of his beast and provided provender for the animal and opened his house to the stranger. 

            “And, behold,” now we’re at the sixteenth verse; not a single one, not a one of the Benjamites was good to this man of God, this Levite.  “And, behold, there was an old man, there came an old man from his work out of the field at even, which was also of Mount Ephraim” [Judges 19:16].  He’s an Ephraimite and he lives there in Gibeah.  He himself has come from the north, and he lives there in Ephraim, works in a field there.  He’s an old man. 

And he sojourned in Gibeah: but the men of the place were Benjamites.

And when he lifted up his eyes, he saw a wayfaring man in the street of the city:

He saw the Levite. 

And the old man said, Whither goest thou? and whence comest thou?  And he said unto him, We are passing from Bethlehem-judah, toward the side of Mount Ephraim; from thence am I: and I went to Bethlehem-judah, and now I am going back up to the house of the Lord—

which was at Shiloh at Mount Ephraim,

and there is no man that receiveth me to house. 

[Judges 19:17-18]


“They are going to leave us out here in the street all night long.  And yet,” says the Levite, “I would not be chargeable, for I have both straw and provender for our asses; and there is bread and wine for me, and for my wife, and for the young man which is my servant: there is no want of any thing” [Judges 19:19].  It was just on account of the inhospitable spirit of the Benjamites that they were left out in the street. 

            “And the old man said, Peace be with thee; howsoever let all thy wants be upon me; only lodge not in the street” [Judges 19:20]; don’t stay in the street.  “So he brought him into his house, and gave provender unto the asses: and they washed their feet, and did eat and drink” [Judges 19:21].  They broke bread together. 

            “Now, now,” verse 22, “Now as they were making their hearts merry,” that is, as they were breaking bread; as they were seating supper, “behold,” these Benjamites,


. . . behold, the men of the city, certain sons of Belial, they beset the house round about, and beat at the door, and spake to that old man, the master of the house, saying, Bring forth the man that came into thine house, that we may know him.

And the man, the master of the house, went out unto them, and said unto them, Nay, my brethren, nay, nay, I pray you, do not so wickedly; seeing that this man is come into mine house, do not this folly.

Behold, here is my own daughter a maiden, and here is the concubine; the man’s wife, them I will bring out now, and humble ye them, and do with them what seemeth good unto you: but unto this man do not so vile a thing.

[Judges 19:22-24]


            I have read that before:


And there came the two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate…  and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and bowed down with his face to the ground;

And said, Behold now, turn in, I pray you, into my house, and tarry all

night . . . 

And he pressed upon them greatly; and they turned in unto him, and entered into his house; and he broke bread with them, and they did eat.  But before they lay down at night, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young …

[Genesis 19:1-4]


            We’re going to follow this thing through.  It’s a disease, and it spreads.  I’ve asked doctors about it, many, many, many doctors about it, and every doctor tells me, no man is ever born that way; never.  Every doctor I have ever talked to has told me it is not congenital.  You’re not born with it.  It’s a thing that grows, and it spreads.  “Before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house around, both old and young,” and it spreads, “all the people” [Genesis 19:4].

And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night?  bring them out unto us, that we may know them.

And Lot went out and shut the door.

And said, I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly. 

Behold, I have two daughters which have never known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as it seemeth good… Only unto these men do no such thing …

And they said, Stand back.  Stand back… And they pressed sore upon him…

And the angels reached out and took Lot and drew him in, shut the door. 

[Genesis 19:5-10]


Had it not been for the angels smiting the Sodomites with blindness [Genesis 19:11], there would have been the awful story about Lot also. 

            So when I read it here, “Bring him out, bring him out, that we may know him,” [Judges 19:22], they are Sodomites in Israel.  Isn’t it a funny thing?  I never heard of that,  I was never introduced to that until I came to Dallas.  It’s a vile sin of civilization and mostly of city life; sodomy.  “Oh, no,” said this old man, “Here is my daughter, and here is the concubine, but not the man” [Judges 19:24].


But the men would not hearken to him: so the man took his concubine, and brought her forth unto them; and they knew her, and abused her all the night until the morning: and when the day began to spring—when it got to be light—they let her go. 

And the woman in the dawning of the day, fell down at the door of the man’s house where her lord was, till it was light.

And her lord rose up in the morning, and opened the doors of the house, and went out to go his way: and, behold, the woman his concubine was fallen down at the door of the house, and her hands reaching out on the threshold…

And when he was come into his house, he took a knife, and laid hold on his concubine, and divided her, together with her bones, into twelve pieces, and sent her into all the coasts of Israel. 

A leg went to Simeon, and another part of a leg went to Reuben, and her head went to Ephraim, and one arm went to Issachar; divided her into twelve parts,

… and sent her into all the coasts of Israel. 

And it was so, that all that saw it said, There was no such deed done nor seen from the day that the children of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt unto this hour: consider it, take advice, and what do you think? 

[Judges 19:25-30]


That was the most horrible thing that Israel had ever looked upon.  As this tribe looked upon the arm, and this tribe looked upon the torso, and this tribe looked upon a leg, and this one beheld a hand, and all the children of Israel “went out and gathered together as one man” at Mizpeh [Judges 20:1].  And the Levite, the husband of the woman, was asked, “What is this thing?” [Judges 20:3].  And he said,


I came into Gibeah that belongeth to Benjamin, I and my wife, to lodge there among my people.

And the men of Gibeah rose against me, and beset the house round about me by night … and they forced my concubine until she died.

And I took her, and cut her in pieces, and sent her throughout all the inheritance of Israel: for they have committed lewdness and folly in Israel.

[Judges 20:4-6]

            And “the men of Israel gathered against the city, knit together as one man,” Judges 20:11.


And the tribes of Israel sent men throughout all the tribe of Benjamin, saying, What wickedness is this that is done among you?

Deliver us these men, the children of Belial, which are in Gibeah, that we may put them to death, and put away evil out of Israel.

[Judges 20:12-13]


And then the most astonishing thing happened!  The children of Benjamin as one man, gathered together to defend the sodomy of Gibeah [Judges 20:14]

Then they took it to God: “What shall we do?  What shall we do?” [Judges 20:18].  And the Lord God gave them direction, and the rest of that chapter is the war between the eleven tribes of Israel and the Benjamites [Judges 20:19-48].  And at first, the Benjamites destroy out of Israel twenty and two thousand [Judges 20:21].  Then in the second battle, the Benjamites destroy out of Israel eighteen thousand [Judges 20:25].  And the children of Israel come before God with weeping and with fasting all day [Judges 20:23, 26].  And Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, stood before the Lord; and the Lord said, “Tomorrow the Benjamites will be delivered into your hands” [Judges 20:28].  So they went to war a third time, and in that battle they destroyed the entire tribe of Benjamin except six hundred men; six hundred men fled into the wilderness [Judges 20:46-47]

Now the twenty-first chapter of Judges, the sixth verse: “And the children of Israel repented them for Benjamin their brother, and said, There is one tribe cut off from Israel this day.  What shall we do?” [Judges 21:6].  And the rest of the story is about how they secured wives for those six hundred men, that the tribe of Benjamin not perish from the earth [Judges 21:7-23]. 

            Now that is the closing three chapters of the Book of Judges.  “Well, pastor, what is there in that for us today, this hour, this time?”  There is in that for us, this day, and this hour, and this time, an awful, awesome, and terrible lesson.  Somehow God, somehow God in His heaven, in His throne, God takes particular offense at lewdness and gross immorality, and especially sodomy.  The  Lord, in the nineteenth chapter of the Book of Genesis, the Lord sent down to see if it was in Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities of the plain as it had come up to heaven [Genesis 18:20-21].  And when those angels looked upon the men of Sodom and the gross folly and wickedness of the city, God said, “It is enough,” and the cities of the plain were destroyed [Genesis 19:24-29], even though Abraham stood before God and besought in its behalf of those wicked and terrible cities [Genesis 18:22-32]

            And it was such in the land of Canaan.  God said, “The iniquity of the Amorites is full” [Genesis 15:16; Joshua 11:16-23], and the hand of correction and judgment lay in the hand of Israel.  And God said to Israel, “Go over.  Go over, and you are My instruments of judgment upon the iniquity of the Canaanites” [Deuteronomy 20:16-18]   And in the eighteenth chapter of the Book of Leviticus, in the twenty-fourth and following verses, God said, “You,


Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things: for in all of these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you. 

And the land is defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants. 

[Leviticus 18:24-25]


There is an awful judgment of God upon lewdness, and sodomy, and gross immorality; an awful judgment of God.


Ye shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations; neither any of your own nation, nor even a stranger that sojourneth among you: 

(For all these abominations have the men of the land done, which were before you, and the land is defiled:)

  [Leviticus 18:26-27]


            And then in the thirteenth chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy, God gave the final pronouncement interdiction.  

If thou shall hear say in one of thy cities, which the Lord thy God hath given thee to dwell therein, saying,

Certain men, the children of Belial, are gone out from among you …

[Deuteronomy 13:12-13]


You see, these men in Gibeah were called children of Belial [Judges 20:13].  If it is just heard say that there is gone out certain children of Belial, and they fall into those gross orgies and follies,

Then thou shall inquire, and make search, and ask diligently; and if it be truth, and the thing certain, that such abomination is wrought among you;

Thou shall smite the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, destroying it utterly, and all that is therein, and the cattle thereof, with the edge of the sword, every living thing.

Thou shall gather all the spoil of it into the midst of the street thereof, and shall burn with fire the city, and all the spoil thereof, before the Lord: it shall be a heap for ever; it shall never even be built again.

And there shall cleave nought of the cursed thing to thine hand: that the Lord thy God may turn away from the fierceness of His wrath …

  [Deuteronomy 13:14-17]


            Do you think that belongs to a day and a time when God was different from what God is now?  Do you suppose that any nation today can live in lewdness, and sodomy, and gross folly, and iniquity?  God used those awful and bitter Assyrians as the rod of correction against the ten tribes of northern Israel [Isaiah 10:5], and God plowed up their capital city into heaps and destroyed Samaria forever [2 Kings 17:5-23; Micah 1:6]

            I’ve been at Samaria.  You’d never in the earth know that any soul ever inhabited it in the history of creation.  It’s a barren, wind-swept, rocky ledge and that’s all the capital of the great Northern Kingdom of Israel.  And who destroyed it?  Assyria, those bitter and merciless Ninevites, who themselves were vile and idolatrous [Nahum 1:1, 14]

            If you go to Jerusalem today, not for thousands of years now has Jerusalem been the capital of the people of the Lord.  It lies today in the hands of those who are her bitterest enemies.  And God used the rod of Chaldea to destroy Jerusalem and to destroy Judah [Habakkuk 1:6], and then finally the rod that lay in the hands of the Roman legionaries. 

            Any time America, America, beautiful America, any time America lifts up her head in pride, and beneath her skirts are filthiness and lewdness, and gross, vile, indescribable wickedness and iniquity, our destiny lies in the imponderables of God.  Never forget it.  Never forget it.  And at the word of His counsel at the breath of His mouth, all of this beautiful land could be plowed up in heaps and the nation destroyed.  And everything we’ve ever loved and everything to which we have given our lives could overnight become as lost to us as the city of Zion was lost to the people of God. 

            It wasn’t because the Assyrian was any better than the Israelite.  It wasn’t because the Chaldean was any better than the Judean.  It wasn’t because the Roman was any better than the Jew, but God uses these nations as vile as they are sometimes as the rod of His correction and the chastening of His outstretched hand.  It makes you tremble.  It makes you tremble.  And when you see the vileness and the folly of America on her screens and in her theaters, and on the highways and in her homes and in these great cities you tremble before God.  And that’s why these things are written here in the Book; that God’s people might take heed there unto and turn and be saved. 

            Now there’s one other thing and I briefly mention it.  The story begins, “And it came to pass in those days, when there was no king in Israel” [Judges 19:1].  Now the story ends in the same way; the last verse, Judges closes with it: “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes” [Judges 21:25].  The author, and I think it was Samuel, the author seems to give the impression all through these incidents that a part of the awful tragedy of those times lay in the lack of civil government. 

            And now if we had another hour, which we will not take and cannot, we could speak of our obligation in civil government.  In the thirteenth chapter of the Book of Romans, you have Paul’s express word of our commanded loyalty and devotion to civil government; these who are in political authority, and the deference and reverence we are due them; to pay tribute, to pay taxes.  They are God’s ministers, render therefore to them their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due: honor to whom honor; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear [Romans 13:6-7].  This is God’s will for the Christian.  The Christian is to be a good citizen.  I delight to see the great and increasing number of our people who are in these precincts, and who are speaking about politics, and who are taking an interest in elections and in primaries, and in how many other ways are the young people especially of our congregation taking a vital and a leading role in the political complexion of our government and of our nation.  That is great.  That is wonderful.  That is according to the will of God. 

            And these Scriptures here in Judges give the very, very definite impression that no small part of their trouble lay in the fact that they had no fine government and no wonderful leader, who by law interdicted nefarious practice, and who by ordinance, and by mandate, and by statute, and judgment took away from these evil people the doing of what was right in their own eyes, and commanded them and made them obey the just and righteous laws of the land. 

            Such is the depravity of human nature and, unless it is restrained by the strong hand of a strong government, it subverts the whole nation and destroys the whole fabric of a society.  We are commanded to love God; we are commanded to obey the king [1 Peter 2:17].

Now what I really had in the conclusion of this sermon was the great and the tremendous blessedness when the law of God comes out of the statute books and enters the heart and the soul.  If a man is a Christian, you don’t need to pass laws concerning him.  If the governor is a Christian, don’t worry about his being bribed.  If the legislator is a Christian man, you don’t have to worry about his vote.  When the man’s heart is right with God, if he’s in the bank; if he’s in the company; if he’s in the assembly; if he’s in the legislature; if he’s in the governor’s chair; if he’s in the great office of the president of United States; if his heart is right, and if God is his counselor, and if he asks direction of heaven, our destiny is in good hands, Christian hands, godly hands. 

            Now I have already gone far too long.  In the first stanza that we sing this hour, the first note of the first stanza, somebody to give his heart to Jesus [Romans 10:8-13], somebody to put his life in the church [Hebrews 10:24-25]; while we sing this hymn, would you come and stand by me?  “Pastor, this morning I publicly give my life to Jesus.”  Or, “Here we come.  We are putting our lives into the fellowship of this glorious church.”  While we sing this song, would you come on the first note of the first stanza?  While we stand and while we sing.