What does Judges 21:25 mean?
ESV: In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
NIV: In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.
NASB: In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
CSB: In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did whatever seemed right to him.
NLT: In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.
KJV: In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.
Verse Commentary:
God's intent for His people was that He would provide leadership for them. So long as they followed His law and remained faithful to Him alone, He would provide all they needed. They would live in abundance and have victory over all their enemies without need of a king to control and lead them (Deuteronomy 30:15–20). As the book of Judges notes, this is not what happened.

The writer of Judges ends the book simply, under inspiration from the Lord. He sums up the general theme of every story told in the account so far: these were days when there was no king in Israel. This statement is literal; Israel had not yet formed a central monarchy. It is also symbolic: Israel is spiritually lawless, ignoring their Lord God and doing whatever they'd prefer to do.

Instead of everyone doing what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to His law, everyone acted according to their own preferences. The result was chaos, evil practices, idol worship, judgment from God, repentance, rescue through a deliverer, and then a repeat of the pattern (Judges 2:16–19). Eventually, the people demanded a king and God lets them suffer the consequences of that choice, as well (1 Samuel 8:19–22).
Verse Context:
Judges 21:8–25 closes the book of Judges by describing a convoluted process. Israel has made several ill-considered vows and gone too far in punishing the tribe of Benjamin. Without a creative way to find wives for the surviving men, the tribe will quickly die out. First, Israel destroys Jabesh-gilead for not joining in the war. The young women are spared and given to Benjaminites. The remaining two hundred men of Benjamin obtain wives through a staged kidnapping near Shiloh, so Israel can claim they never "gave" wives to Benjamin. The book ends with a reminder that Israel was without a king during this era.
Chapter Summary:
Israel grieves the near extinction of the tribe of Benjamin, though the situation is the result of their own excessive force. Worse, the other eleven tribes vowed not to give wives to Benjamin. To prevent the loss of a tribe, two schemes are enacted. First, the Israelites of Jabesh-gilead are wiped out for not sending anyone to support the civil war; the young women are spared and given as wives to Benjamin. Next, the remaining unmarried men of Benjamin stage an arranged kidnapping to "take" wives they cannot be "given." The book ends with another reminder of Israel's lawlessness in this era.
Chapter Context:
Judges 21 finds the people of Israel reeling after they killed nearly every person in the tribe of Benjamin. This began as an effort to enact justice and turned into a wide-ranging massacre. To keep Benjamin from dying out, Israel's leaders must work around their own mistakes and two ill-considered vows. The book ends with another reminder that Israel was without a king in this era. The nation was literally leaderless, and spiritually rebellious. Soon, the judge-and-prophet Samuel will rise to guide the people into the era of kings.
Book Summary:
The Book of Judges describes Israel's history from the death of Joshua to shortly before Israel's first king, Saul. Israel fails to complete God's command to purge the wicked Canaanites from the land (Deuteronomy 7:1–5; 9:4). This results in a centuries-long cycle where Israel falls into sin and is oppressed by local enemies. After each oppression, God sends a civil-military leader, labeled using a Hebrew word loosely translated into English as "judge." These appointed rescuers would free Israel from enemy control and govern for a certain time. After each judge's death, the cycle of sin and oppression begins again. This continues until the people of Israel choose a king, during the ministry of the prophet-and-judge Samuel (1 Samuel 1—7).
Accessed 4/18/2024 6:52:31 PM
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