Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏩ ⏹️
Image from The Bane Of Modern Society: Excessive Individualism by Rajiv Vij, 2019
In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.
— Judges 21:25
The final verse of Judges, a refrain heard three times already in the final five chapters of this book1, is an attempt to explain the terrible things that occur in the final stories, and perhaps to offer justification for the institution of a monarchy which follows in the book of Samuel. On the other hand, many (including this writer) hear it as an ironic phrase. The Israelites had rejected God as their king, and the moral, political, social, and spiritual chaos that ensued came about purely as a result of this rejection. Abandoning God opened the door to a rife, unchecked individualism, every man did that which was right in his own eyes. Each man became his own ruler and judge, disregarding the needs of others and of the community as a whole. It would be one thing to openly abandon God, but what was occurring in those times was much worse. It was a pretence of righteousness, an appropriation of God to meet ones own selfish, self-centered ends. This appropriation is parodied in the darkly comedic story of the tribe of Dan stealing Micah's made-up religion, even going so far as kidnapping his Levite priest!2
It's all so familiar. Events at the USA presidential residence earlier this year were conducted in the name of God,3 many mass-shootings and mass-suicides are carried out by people in the delusion they are somehow doing God's work. Almost all wars have one side or both claiming allegiance with God, as if calling on the name justifies the atrocities. We are a fallen people, perhaps we always have been and will always be. Living by God's simple, sensible and humane commandments as a way of life is a concept that seems to continually elude us. Instead we search for and demand human leaders to solve our problems, just as the Israelites believed an earthly king would solve theirs. But it is this very search that has us stagnate, and disregard our own responsibility. I am reminded of these words of Peter Block:
"It is when citizens stop waiting for professionals or elected leadership to do something, and decide they can reclaim what they have delegated to others, that things really happen." 4
Thus ends the Book of Judges.
1 In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes (Judges 17:6) In those days there was no king in Israel (Judges 18:1) And it came to pass in those days, when there was no king in Israel (Judges 19:1)
2 Judges 18:18-27. Read my refection on this story here.
3 Maga mob's Capitol invasion makes Trump's assault on democracy literal, The Guardian, 6/1/21
4 from chapter 12 of Community: The Structure of Belonging, by Peter Block, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2008