I came across one of the strangest passages in the bible the other day – it has been stuck in my mind as I mulled it over and asked myself: ‘What does God want me to know about Him from this?’ It is just four verses in the beginning of Judges when Judah sets about claiming its portion of the Promised Land.
Judges 1:4-7 When Judah attacked, the LORD gave the Canaanites and Perizzites into their hands and they struck down ten thousand men at Bezek. 5 It was there that they found Adoni-Bezek and fought against him, putting to rout the Canaanites and Perizzites. 6 Adoni-Bezek fled, but they chased him and caught him, and cut off his thumbs and big toes. 7 Then Adoni-Bezek said, “Seventy kings with their thumbs and big toes cut off have picked up scraps under my table. Now God has paid me back for what I did to them.” They brought him to Jerusalem, and he died there.
Judah came across this cruel character in Bezek, who was known as Lord of Bezek – it seems his reputation for cruelty was well known as he had a passion for bullying kings. When Judah catches him and carries out the same humiliating punishment on him that he brought to 70 others he confesses his crimes. To cut a king’s thumb off would stop him from being able to going to war and holding a sword – it belittles him. To cut the big toes off limits his ability to escape the cruelty. It is merciless and horrible torture. Lord Bezek’s aim was not to kill the kings but to humiliate and dis-empower them – he was a first class bully.
Before we dismiss Lord Bezek we need to remember that to some extent we are all capable of cruelty and bullying – especially when making someone else feel small makes us feel big. You might remember the study that showed we all have tendencies to be cruel given the right or more accurately the wrong environment – the Stafford Prison Experiment? We all have a bent towards sin:
1 John 1:8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
So what can we learn from Adoni-Bezek? God sees the bully and the victim: the oppression of others does not go un-noticed or un-punished. While we don’t always see justice done as quickly as we would like God is just. I find it interesting that Lord Bezek got away with his cruelty for 70 times – he must have felt like a really big man, his conscience deadened to his own depravity. He had 69 chances to stop but he didn’t so God put an end to his oppression.
None of us have the right to Lord it over another – God sees the one who is bullied and belittled. He holds the bully accountable. For those of you who feel trod upon by others please know that God sees and will, in His time, take action.
Lord, let me learn from Adoni-Bezek and be careful not to step on the toes of others in order to make myself feel better. Let me avoid wanting to be Adoni-Tracey and let you be the ruler of my life and my guide for treating others.