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Defending Sin

The tribes of Israel sent messengers throughout the tribe of Benjamin, saying, “What about this awful crime that was committed among you? Now turn those wicked men of Gibeah over to us so that we may put them to death and purge the evil from Israel.” But the Benjamites would not listen to their fellow Israelites. From their towns they came together at Gibeah to fight against the Israelites. ~ Judges 20:12-14

This is an obscure passage in scripture. The prior chapter tells about a man whose concubine died from a brutal attack. The man wanted justice, so he appealed to all the tribes of Israel for help. However, the Benjamites refused to hand over the criminals, igniting a civil war.


Twenty-six thousand seven hundred Benjamites lined up to fight 400,000 Israelites. Though greatly outnumbered, the Benjamites were extraordinarily skilled. Their prowess may have led to their overconfidence. Tragically, the cost for both sides proved enormous:

  • 40,000 Israelites were cut down in the first two days as the Benjamites retained the upper hand.
  • 25,100 Benjamite casualties counted the third day when the tide turned, leaving only 1,600 fighting men who escaped.
  • ALL the towns of Benjamin put to the sword, essentially wiping out the entire tribe.

The Self-Destructive Nature of Defending Sin

Imagine being one of the few Benjamite soldiers who survived. You would have no home to return to—no mother, father, siblings, wife, or children. Everyone you knew had been slaughtered. Worst of all, your tribe stood on the brink of complete annihilation because no women remained. The utter desolation and loss these survivors faced can hardly be imagined.

The Benjaminite leaders’ stubborn pride resulted in a ripple effect they certainly never intended.


What is the take away for us?

  • Listen when others insist on accountability.
  • Do not defend your sin, or the sin of someone under your sphere of responsibility.
  • Be aware that when sin is exposed, a desperate inclination to save face is human.
  • Consider the long-term cost that stubborn pride exacts on everything in its wake.
  • Therefore, regardless of losses or discomfort in the short run, choose to do the right thing!

How the Benjamites responded to exposed sin brought utter desolation to their tribe and inflicted huge casualties on their Israelite brothers. How easily this tragedy could have been avoided if they had simply handed over the offenders. Truly, pride that digs in its heels produces no good thing.

Lord, we see that defensiveness only brings about death. Help us to not fear repentance, but instead, to embrace it as the path to life. Amen.

Side Note: The Israelites found a way to provide brides for the 1,600 survivors so that the Benjamites would not go extinct. However, we can now better understand the following conversation about the tribes’ small size: Samuel said to Saul, “And to whom is all the desire of Israel turned, if not to you and your whole family line?” Saul answered, “But am I not a Benjamite, from the smallest tribe of Israel, and is not my clan the least of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin? Why do you say such a thing to me?” (I Samuel 9:21)