“In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6).
Throughout the book of Judges we see Israel departing further and further from God. At times, they repent and God provides a judge such as Gideon, Jephthah or Samson to deliver them. Shortly after being delivered each time, once again God’s people turn their back on Him and fall back into sin. By the time we get to the end of the book of Judges, there is no longer a desire on the part of the people of God to repent and turn back to God; instead, “…everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6).
In fact, the last few chapters of the book of Judges we see just how far away from God they had departed. A man Micah sets up an idol and has a Levite to serve as his priest (Judges 17:1-13). Then some from the tribe of Dan come and steal this image and take the Levite and have him serve as their priest because they conclude it is better for the Levite to serve as priest for a whole tribe than for just one person (Judges 18:1-31).
Then another Levite takes for himself a concubine and on his return trip home he comes to the city of Gibeon which was located within the tribe of Benjamin. While there some “perverted men” surround the house where he is lodging and want to “know him carnally”(Judges 19:22). Instead, they take his concubine and abuse her to the point of death (Judges 19:25-28). The Levite then takes the dead body of his concubine, divides it into 12 parts and sends these parts to the 12 tribes of Israel (Judges 19:29-30). This will lead to civil war and there will be a great slaughter of those of the tribe of Benjamin (Judges 20:1-48).
Because almost the entire tribe of Benjamin is eliminated, the Israelites try to salvage the tribe by providing wives for the surviving Benjamites from one of the cities that did not go up to fight against the tribe of Benjamin, Jabesh-Gilead (located within the tribe of Gad). All of the inhabitants of this city were destroyed except for the young women who had not “known a man intimately (Judges 21:1-11). These young women were given to the surviving Benjamites (Judges 21:12-15). Because there were not enough of these young virgins for all the surviving Benjamites, the remain Benjamites were allowed to “catch a wife for himself” at one of the feast of the Lord at Shiloh and take her back to Benjamin (Judges 21:16-23). Israel had degenerated to the point of allowing their own daughters to be kidnapped.
The book of Judges ends with: “In those days there was no king in Israel, everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). This is a very fitting end that accurately describes Israel’s condition: Each was doing what he or she believed was right. They were not submitting to any kind of Divine guidance in their lives. They were not following God!
As I read this, it is easy not to get depressed because this shows in very graphic terms what happens when people turn their back on God. Paul described what happened to the Gentiles who turned their backs on God: “Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen (Romans 1:24-25). When people turn their backs on seeking after God, they begin to act in very cruel ways. There is no set of values they seek to follow. Each does what is right in their own eyes!
However, instead of getting depressed about what happens to men when they depart from God, I can rejoice that God has given me the opportunity to know him. He has given me his word to enlighten me and show me how I should walk during my pilgrimage here upon this earth. God is my king and I will follow Him!
“With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments! Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You!” (Psalm 119:10-11)