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2002 11 11
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Chapter 20


1 So all the Israelites came out as one man: from Dan to Beer-sheba, and from the land of Gilead, the community was gathered to the LORD at Mizpah.


The leaders of all the people and all the tribesmen of Israel, four hundred thousand foot soldiers who were swordsmen, presented themselves in the assembly of the people of God.


Meanwhile, the Benjaminites heard that the Israelites had gone up to Mizpah. The Israelites asked to be told how the crime had taken place,


and the Levite, the husband of the murdered woman, testified: "My concubine and I went into Gibeah of Benjamin for the night.


But the citizens of Gibeah rose up against me by night and surrounded the house in which I was. Me they attempted to kill, and my concubine they abused so that she died.


So I took my concubine and cut her up and sent her through every part of the territory of Israel, because of the monstrous crime they had committed in Israel.


2 Now that you are all here, O Israelites, state what you propose to do."


All the people rose as one man to say, "None of us is to leave for his tent or return to his home.


Now as for Gibeah, this is what we will do: We will proceed against it by lot,


taking from all the tribes of Israel ten men for every hundred, a hundred for every thousand, a thousand for every ten thousand, and procuring supplies for the soldiers who will go to deal fully and suitably with Gibeah of Benjamin for the crime it committed in Israel."


When, therefore, all the men of Israel without exception were leagued together against the city,


3 the tribes of Israel sent men throughout the tribe of Benjamin to say, "What is this evil which has occurred among you?


Now give up these corrupt men of Gibeah, that we may put them to death and thus purge the evil from Israel." But the Benjaminites refused to accede to the demand of their brothers, the Israelites.


Instead, the Benjaminites assembled from their other cities to Gibeah, to do battle with the Israelites.


The number of the Benjaminite swordsmen from the other cities on that occasion was twenty-six thousand, in addition to the inhabitants of Gibeah.


Included in this total were seven hundred picked men who were left-handed, every one of them able to sling a stone at a hair without missing.


Meanwhile the other Israelites who, without Benjamin, mustered four hundred thousand swordsmen ready for battle,


4 moved on to Bethel and consulted God. When the Israelites asked who should go first in the attack on the Benjaminites, the LORD said, "Judah shall go first."


The next day the Israelites advanced on Gibeah with their forces.


On the day the Israelites drew up in battle array at Gibeah for the combat with Benjamin,


the Benjaminites came out of the city and felled twenty-two thousand men of Israel.


Then the Israelites went up and wept before the LORD until evening. "Shall I again engage my brother Benjamin in battle?" they asked the LORD; and the LORD answered that they should.


But though the Israelite soldiers took courage and again drew up for combat in the same place as on the previous day,


when they met the Benjaminites for the second time,


once again the Benjaminites who came out of Gibeah against them felled eighteen thousand Israelites, all of them swordsmen.


So the entire Israelite army went up to Bethel, where they wept and remained fasting before the LORD until evening of that day, besides offering holocausts and peace offerings before the LORD.


When the Israelites consulted the LORD (for the ark of the covenant of God was there in those days,


and Phinehas, son of Eleazar, son of Aaron, was ministering to him in those days), and asked, "Shall I go out again to battle with Benjamin, my brother, or shall I desist?" the LORD said, "Attack! for tomorrow I will deliver him into your power."


5 So Israel set men in ambush around Gibeah.


The Israelites went up against the Benjaminites for the third time and formed their line of battle at Gibeah as on other occasions.


The Benjaminites went out to meet them, and in the beginning they killed off about thirty of the Israelite soldiers in the open field, just as on the other occasions.


Therefore the Benjaminites thought, "We are defeating them as before"; not realizing that disaster was about to overtake them. The Israelites, however, had planned the flight so as to draw them away from the city onto the highways. They were drawn away from the city onto the highways, of which the one led to Bethel, the other to Gibeon.


And then all the men of Israel rose from their places. They re-formed their ranks at Baal-tamar, and the Israelites in ambush rushed from their place west of Gibeah,


ten thousand picked men from all Israel, and advanced against the city itself. In a fierce battle,


the LORD defeated Benjamin before Israel; and on that day the Israelites killed twenty-five thousand one hundred men of Benjamin, all of them swordsmen.


To the Benjaminites it had looked as though the enemy were defeated, for the men of Israel gave ground to Benjamin, trusting in the ambush they had set at Gibeah.


But then the men in ambush made a sudden dash into Gibeah, overran it, and put the whole city to the sword.


Now, the other Israelites had agreed with the men in ambush on a smoke signal they were to send up from the city.


And though the men of Benjamin had begun by killing off some thirty of the men of Israel, under the impression that they were defeating them as surely as in the earlier fighting, the Israelites wheeled about to resist


as the smoke of the signal column began to rise up from the city. It was when Benjamin looked back and saw the whole city in flames against the sky


that the men of Israel wheeled about. Therefore the men of Benjamin were thrown into confusion, for they realized the disaster that had overtaken them.


They retreated before the men of Israel in the direction of the desert, with the fight being pressed against them. In their very midst, meanwhile, those who had been in the city were spreading destruction.


The men of Benjamin had been surrounded, and were now pursued to a point east of Gibeah,


while eighteen thousand of them fell, warriors to a man.


The rest turned and fled through the desert to the rock Rimmon. But on the highways the Israelites picked off five thousand men among them, and chasing them up to Gidom, killed another two thousand of them there.


Those of Benjamin who fell on that day were in all twenty-five thousand swordsmen, warriors to a man.


But six hundred others who turned and fled through the desert reached the rock Rimmon, where they remained for four months.


The men of Israel withdrew through the territory of the Benjaminites, putting to the sword the inhabitants of the cities, the livestock, and all they chanced upon. Moreover they destroyed by fire all the cities they came upon.



1 [1] From Dan to Beer-sheba: from north to south. The land of Gilead: all the territory east of the Jordan.

2 [7] The Israelites were asked to decide at once what action to take concerning this crime; cf 2 Sam 16:20. The Levite undoubtedly addressed the tribal heads who would speak in behalf of the multitude.

3 [12] Before the crime at Gibeah was punished, the Benjaminites were invited to join their brethren, the Israelites, in punishing the crime. Since they failed to respond, special messengers were sent asking them to deliver up the guilty ones. They replied by gathering their forces for combat.

4 [18] Judah shall go first: the same response as in Judges 1:1-2, but without the assurance of immediate success. Only after the Israelites were punished at the hands of the Benjaminites for their own grossness, and had performed penance, did they succeed in punishing the latter for their part in the crime of rape and murder, by gaining the victory over them.

5 [29-46] This stratagem proved more useful to the Israelites than force, as in the siege of Ai ( Joshua 8:3-21). In the parallel accounts the first ( Judges 20:29-35) is a summary of the second ( Judges 20:36-46).

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