Brides for Benjamin
Open Your Bible
Judges 21:1-25, Deuteronomy 12:8-14, 2 Samuel 24:18-25
BY Guest Writer
Scripture Reading: Judges 21:1-25, Deuteronomy 12:8-14, 2 Samuel 24:18-25
“The Hollow Men” is a haunting, exquisite poem by T.S. Eliot. You may have heard the closing lines referenced in pop culture: “This is the way the world ends / Not with a bang but a whimper.”
I reread the poem after walking backward and forward through today’s passage in Judges, the final chapter of a brutal journey. We are trained, when reading stories, to settle into a conclusion not long after the climax. We long to be satisfied. The book of Judges doesn’t do that.
Earlier in the poem, Eliot writes:
The eyes are not here
There are no eyes here
In this valley of dying stars
In this hollow valley
This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms
… death’s twilight kingdom,
The hope only
Of empty men.
Eliot’s “empty men” are a helpful comparison as we end our study of Judges. The weight and power of Eliot’s words capture, in ways I never could, the heart-wailing of the tribes of Israel. When death is the only hope, we are left in total darkness.
We know that Jesus is our conquering King, the life and light of men. But Judges doesn’t end with Jesus. Judges ends with a “valley of dying stars,” empty men grasping together at nothing. “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (v. 25). As modern readers, we can read this last verse in Judges and know it’ll all be okay because Jesus is coming. Even though that is true, would you be willing to resist that temptation for closure with me today?
Let us whimper. Let us feel the ache of the ages, the desperation for something we cannot name. The longing for a king that led the Israelites in caustic circles, is the same longing that leads us to fill our lives with stuff that distracts and tries to counteract that epic ache.
The inclination to grasp at goodness is the right response to reading the book of Judges. Our hearts are magnetized to light, not darkness. Judges provokes that tension in us, leaving us with an unsettled feeling. It is a historical book, a true tragedy tucked in the middle of the greatest book ever written. And yet, its darkness is unparalleled. Its darkness makes us crave light.
Chiaroscuro is an art technique that utilizes sharp contrasts—light and dark—for dramatic impact. Judges is a book of chiaroscuro. The whole picture of the Bible is made more vibrant, more impactful, more necessary because of these dark corners. We can thank God for the book of Judges, and we can thank Him for wiring our hearts to long for the goodness and light that only He provides.
Melanie Rainer is a bookworm from birth who makes her days writing, editing, and reading in Nashville, where she also joyfully serves as the editor of Kids Read Truth. She has an M.A. in Theological Studies from Covenant Seminary, spends as much time as she can in the kitchen, and can’t wait until her two daughters are old enough to read Anne of Green Gables.