Answers In The Old Testament
Question - Hi Shirley, this is just a request for where to look for answers to questions on the Old Testament. Even though I've been a Christian for many years and read over a number of books several times there's still things I find befuddling or a bit weird. For example today in Judges 17 - 21 I was impacted again by the violence and horrified in Chpt 19 then curious about the mix of idolatry with God and having your own priest (Chpt 17, 18) and wondering why when they inquired of God about battle (20:18-25) they didn't win straight away but instead lost 22,000 then 18,000 of their men?
Answer – I’ve found your questions very interesting and have contemplated how to answer them. Your main question was:
Q - Where do I look for answers to questions on the Old Testament?
A – As I look over the examples you gave of what befuddles you, I see that the answers are actually found in the Old Testament itself. So often our confusion or lack of understanding a passage comes from incorrect or incomplete knowledge of Scripture itself. For example, you mentioned the incidents recorded in Judges 17-19. In both cases, the story involves a Levite, not a priest. There is a great lack in the church world today in understanding the difference between them. I wrote to some degree about this subject in the question on “Tithing – A New Testament Practice?” (Article can be found on our website at carpenterministries.org under the “Teaching Material” tab. Then go to “Frequently Asked Questions.” It can also be found on Facebook on our Carpenter Ministries page.) Levites were scattered throughout the land and functioned as teachers and instructors of the Law.
Also, in both stories it is said, “In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.” Both stories must be contemplated through that statement. God’s people mingled the ways of the world around them, which they failed to conquer, with the spiritual life they were called to live. Because it had a spiritual tone, they justified that their ways were acceptable. So it is in much of the Christian world today. We have adopted pagan practices and worldly standards into our Christianity, but keep enough truth to make it palatable and justify our actions. There is a basic principle that we see all through Scripture – When human beings set their own standards and their own laws, you can be sure that the result will be contrary to God’s ways. Our fallen human nature does not think like God thinks, or act like God acts.
This brings us to the next portion of your musings: “why when they inquired of God about battle (20:18-25) they didn't win straight away but instead lost 22,000 then 18,000 of their men?” The answer to this will not be found in any book other than in the Bible itself. Sometimes we just need to stop and ask the right questions to get the right answers. Stop and consider the facts. You’ve got 11 tribes about to go to battle with one tribe. Look at the odds 400,000 to 26,700. With each loss, what effect did it have on the hearts of the warriors remaining? This battle should have been a “shoo-in.” By the third time they went to battle you can be sure they went without pride and without confidence in themselves. I have a feeling that Israel’s dealings with the Benjamites would have been quite different if they would have won the first time and, in their pride, treated them haughtily and without compassion. God was sparing a tribe!
We also need to ask ourselves why this sad story concludes the book of Judges. Here was a tribe of Israel that was nearly wiped out! When Saul told Samuel, “Am I not a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel, and my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin? Why then do you speak to me in this way?” these were not false words of humility!!! This whole event sets up the stage for Israel’s demand for a king and God’s response to their demands.
What I’m basically trying to say is this: If we are going to see beyond the facts of a story, it is important for us to continually read and reread the Scriptures. The first, second, third, or twentieth time we read through the Word, we may not connect the dots that this story is about Benjamites, and the first king of Israel was a Benjamite. But eventually the light will come on! We need to examine the clues that are given in the account, and sniff out the trails. For example, when it said “Levite,” what does that mean?
In the next few weeks I will be listing a number of study books that I recommend. (We are updating the list, and Jackie won’t be working on it until next week – so thanks in advance for your patience.) These will aid you in some of those more difficult areas. Although they are good, none in itself nor collectively is exhaustive. God’s thoughts are far too vast for us to claim absolute knowledge on any subject – no matter how many contributors add to the topic.