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Judges 20:1-48

Context
Civil War Breaks Out

20:1 All the Israelites from Dan to Beer Sheba 1  and from the land of Gilead 2  left their homes 3  and assembled together 4  before the Lord at Mizpah. 20:2 The leaders 5  of all the people from all the tribes of Israel took their places in the assembly of God’s people, which numbered 6  four hundred thousand sword-wielding foot soldiers. 20:3 The Benjaminites heard that the Israelites had gone up to Mizpah. Then the Israelites said, “Explain how this wicked thing happened!” 20:4 The Levite, 7  the husband of the murdered woman, spoke up, “I and my concubine stopped in 8  Gibeah in the territory of Benjamin 9  to spend the night. 20:5 The leaders of Gibeah attacked me and at night surrounded the house where I was staying. 10  They wanted to kill me; instead they abused my concubine so badly that she died. 20:6 I grabbed hold of my concubine and carved her up and sent the pieces 11  throughout the territory occupied by Israel, 12  because they committed such an unthinkable atrocity 13  in Israel. 20:7 All you Israelites, 14  make a decision here!” 15 

20:8 All Israel rose up in unison 16  and said, “Not one of us will go home! 17  Not one of us will return 18  to his house! 20:9 Now this is what we will do to Gibeah: We will attack the city as the lot dictates. 19  20:10 We will take ten of every group of a hundred men from all the tribes of Israel (and a hundred of every group of a thousand, and a thousand of every group of ten thousand) to get supplies for the army. 20  When they arrive in Gibeah of Benjamin they will punish them for the atrocity which they committed in Israel.” 21  20:11 So all the men of Israel gathered together at the city as allies. 22 

20:12 The tribes of Israel sent men throughout the tribe 23  of Benjamin, saying, “How could such a wicked thing take place? 24  20:13 Now, hand over the good-for-nothings 25  in Gibeah so we can execute them and purge Israel of wickedness.” 26  But the Benjaminites refused to listen to their Israelite brothers. 20:14 The Benjaminites came from their cities and assembled at Gibeah 27  to make war against the Israelites. 20:15 That day the Benjaminites mustered from their cities twenty-six thousand sword-wielding soldiers, besides seven hundred well-trained soldiers from Gibeah. 28  20:16 Among this army 29  were seven hundred specially-trained left-handed soldiers. 30  Each one could sling a stone and hit even the smallest target. 31  20:17 The men of Israel (not counting Benjamin) had mustered four hundred thousand sword-wielding soldiers, every one an experienced warrior. 32 

20:18 The Israelites went up to Bethel 33  and asked God, 34  “Who should lead the charge against the Benjaminites?” 35  The Lord said, “Judah should lead.” 20:19 The Israelites got up the next morning and moved 36  against Gibeah. 20:20 The men of Israel marched out to fight Benjamin; they 37  arranged their battle lines against Gibeah. 20:21 The Benjaminites attacked from Gibeah and struck down twenty-two thousand Israelites that day. 38 

20:22 The Israelite army 39  took heart 40  and once more arranged their battle lines, in the same place where they had taken their positions the day before. 20:23 The Israelites went up and wept before the Lord until evening. They asked the Lord, “Should we 41  again march out to fight 42  the Benjaminites, our brothers?” 43  The Lord said, “Attack them!” 44  20:24 So the Israelites marched toward 45  the Benjaminites the next day. 20:25 The Benjaminites again attacked them from Gibeah and struck down eighteen thousand sword-wielding Israelite soldiers. 46 

20:26 So all the Israelites, the whole army, 47  went up to 48  Bethel. 49  They wept and sat there before the Lord; they did not eat anything 50  that day until evening. They offered up burnt sacrifices and tokens of peace 51  to the Lord. 20:27 The Israelites asked the Lord (for the ark of God’s covenant was there in those days; 20:28 Phinehas son of Eleazar, son of Aaron, was serving the Lord 52  in those days), “Should we 53  once more march out to fight the Benjaminites our brothers, 54  or should we 55  quit?” The Lord said, “Attack, for tomorrow I will hand them 56  over to you.”

20:29 So Israel hid men in ambush outside Gibeah. 20:30 The Israelites attacked the Benjaminites the next day; 57  they took their positions against Gibeah just as they had done before. 20:31 The Benjaminites attacked 58  the army, leaving the city unguarded. 59  They began to strike down their enemy 60  just as they had done before. On the main roads (one leads to Bethel, 61  the other to Gibeah) and in the field, they struck down 62  about thirty Israelites. 20:32 Then the Benjaminites said, “They are defeated just as before.” But the Israelites said, “Let’s retreat 63  and lure them 64  away from the city into the main roads.” 20:33 65  All the men of Israel got up from their places and took their positions at Baal Tamar, while the Israelites hiding in ambush jumped out of their places west of Gibeah. 20:34 Ten thousand men, well-trained soldiers from all Israel, then made a frontal assault against Gibeah – the battle was fierce. 66  But the Benjaminites did not realize that disaster was at their doorstep. 67  20:35 The Lord annihilated Benjamin before Israel; the Israelites struck down that day 25,100 sword-wielding Benjaminites. 68  20:36 Then the Benjaminites saw they were defeated.

The Israelites retreated before 69  Benjamin, because they had confidence in the men they had hid in ambush outside Gibeah. 20:37 The men hiding in ambush made a mad dash 70  to Gibeah. They 71  attacked 72  and put the sword to the entire city. 20:38 The Israelites and the men hiding in ambush had arranged a signal. When the men hiding in ambush 73  sent up a smoke signal from the city, 20:39 the Israelites counterattacked. 74  Benjamin had begun to strike down the Israelites; 75  they struck down 76  about thirty men. They said, “There’s no doubt about it! They are totally defeated as in the earlier battle.” 20:40 But when the signal, a pillar of smoke, began to rise up from the city, the Benjaminites turned around and saw the whole city going up in a cloud of smoke that rose high into the sky. 77  20:41 When the Israelites turned around, the Benjaminites panicked 78  because they could see that disaster was on their doorstep. 79  20:42 They retreated before the Israelites, taking the road to the wilderness. But the battle overtook 80  them as men from the surrounding cities struck them down. 81  20:43 They surrounded the Benjaminites, chased them from Nohah, 82  and annihilated 83  them all the way to a spot east of Geba. 84  20:44 Eighteen thousand Benjaminites, all of them capable warriors, fell dead. 20:45 The rest 85  turned and ran toward the wilderness, heading toward the cliff of Rimmon. But the Israelites 86  caught 87  five thousand of them on the main roads. They stayed right on their heels 88  all the way to Gidom and struck down two thousand more. 20:46 That day twenty-five thousand 89  sword-wielding Benjaminites fell in battle, all of them capable warriors. 90  20:47 Six hundred survivors turned and ran away to the wilderness, to the cliff of Rimmon. They stayed there four months. 20:48 The Israelites returned to the Benjaminite towns 91  and put the sword to them. They wiped out the cities, 92  the animals, and everything they could find. They set fire to every city in their path. 93 

1 sn Dan was located in the far north of the country, while Beer Sheba was located in the far south. This encompassed all the territory of the land of Canaan occupied by the Israelites.

2 sn The land of Gilead was on the eastern side of the Jordan River.

3 tn Heb “went out.”

4 tn Heb “and the assembly was convened as one man.”

5 tn Heb “the cornerstones”; or “the supports.” The word is used of leaders in only three other texts – 1 Sam 14:38; Isa 19:13; Zech 10:4.

6 tn The words “which numbered” are supplied in the translation for clarification.

7 tn Heb “The man, the Levite.”

8 tn Heb “came to.”

9 tn Heb “which belongs to Benjamin.”

10 tn Heb “arose against me and surrounded against me the house at night.”

11 tn Heb “her”; the referent is more naturally stated in English as “the pieces.”

12 tn Heb “throughout all the territory of the inheritance of Israel.”

13 tn Heb “a wicked and disgraceful [thing].”

14 tn Heb “Look, all of you sons of Israel.”

15 tn Heb “give for yourselves a word and advice here.”

16 tn Heb “as one man.”

17 tn Heb “to his tent.”

18 tn Or “turn aside.”

19 tn Heb “against her by lot.” The verb “we will go up” (נַעֲלֶה, naaleh) has probably been accidentally omitted before “against her” (עָלֶיהָ, ’aleha).

sn As the lot dictates. The Israelite soldiers intended to cast lots to determine which tribe would lead the battle charge (see v. 18).

20 tn Or “people.”

21 tn Heb “to do at their arrival in Geba of Benjamin according to all the disgraceful [thing] which he [collective = “Benjamin”] did in Israel.” Here “Geba” must be an error for “Gibeah.”

22 tn Heb “gathered at the city as one man, united.”

23 tc The MT reads the plural, but surely the singular (which is supported by the LXX and Vulgate) is preferable here.

24 tn Heb “What is this wicked thing which happened among you?”

25 tn Heb “the men, sons of wickedness.”

26 tn Heb “and burn away wickedness from Israel.”

27 tn Heb “assembled from the cities at Gibeah.”

28 tn Heb “besides from the ones living in Gibeah they mustered seven hundred choice men.”

29 tn Heb “And from all this people.”

30 tn Heb “seven hundred choice men, bound/restricted in the right hand.” On the significance of the idiom, “bound/restricted in the right hand,” see the translator’s note on 3:15.

31 tn “at a single hair and not miss.”

32 tn Heb “a man of war.”

33 map For location see Map4 G4; Map5 C1; Map6 E3; Map7 D1; Map8 G3.

34 tn Heb “They arose and went up to Bethel and asked God, and the Israelites said.”

35 tn Heb “Who should go up for us first for battle against the sons of Benjamin?”

36 tn Heb “encamped.”

37 tn Heb “the men of Israel.” The noun phrase has been replaced by the pronoun (“they”) in the translation for stylistic reasons.

38 tn Heb “The sons of Benjamin came out of Gibeah and they struck down in Israel that day twenty-two thousand men to the ground.”

39 tn Heb “The people, the men of Israel.”

40 tn Or “encouraged one another.”

41 tn Heb “I” (collective singular).

42 tn Heb “approach for battle.”

43 tn Heb “my brother” (collective singular).

44 tn Heb “Go up against him” (collective singular).

45 tn Heb “drew near to.”

46 tn Heb “And Benjamin went out to meet them from Gibeah the second day, and they struck down among the sons of Israel eighteen thousand men to the ground, all of these were wielding the sword.”

47 tn Heb “and all the people.”

48 tn Heb “went up and came [to].”

49 map For location see Map4 G4; Map5 C1; Map6 E3; Map7 D1; Map8 G3.

50 tn Traditionally, “fasted.”

51 tn Or “peace offerings.”

52 tn Heb “standing before him.”

53 tn Heb “I” (collective singular).

54 tn Heb “my brother” (collective singular).

55 tn Heb “I” (collective singular).

56 tn Heb “him” (collective singular).

57 tn Heb “the third day.”

58 tn Heb “went out to meet.”

59 tn Heb “and they were drawn away from the city.”

60 tn Heb “from the army wounded ones.”

61 map For location see Map4 G4; Map5 C1; Map6 E3; Map7 D1; Map8 G3.

62 tn The words “they struck down” are supplied in the translation for clarification.

63 tn Or “run away.”

64 tn Heb “him” (collective singular).

65 sn Verses 33-36a give a condensed account of the battle from this point on, while vv. 36b-48 offer a more detailed version of how the ambush contributed to Gibeah’s defeat.

66 tn Heb “heavy”; or “severe.”

67 tn Heb “And they did not know that touching against them was disaster.”

68 tn Heb “And the sons of Israel struck down in Benjamin that day 25,100 men, all of these wielding the sword.”

69 tn Heb “gave place to.”

70 tn Heb “hurried and put off [their hiding place].”

71 tn Heb “the men hiding in ambush.”

72 tn Or “deployed.” The verb normally means “to lead” or “to draw.”

73 tn Heb “they”; the referent (the men hiding in ambush) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

74 tn Heb “turned in the battle.”

75 tn Heb “And Benjamin began to strike down wounded ones among the men of Israel.”

76 tn The words “they struck down” are supplied in the translation for clarification.

77 tn Heb “Benjamin turned after him and, look, the whole city went up toward the sky.”

78 tn Or “were terrified.”

79 tn Heb “disaster touched against them.”

80 tn Heb “clung to”; or “stuck close.”

81 tn Heb “and those from the cities were striking them down in their midst.”

82 tc The translation assumes the reading מִנּוֹחָה (minnokhah, “from Nohah”; cf. 1 Chr 8:2) rather than the MT’s מְנוּחָה (mÿnukhah, “resting place”).

83 tn Heb “tread down, walk on.”

84 tn Heb “unto the opposite of Gibeah toward the east.” Gibeah cannot be correct here, since the Benjaminites retreated from there toward the desert and Rimmon (see v. 45). A slight emendation yields the reading “Geba.”

85 tn Heb “they”; the referent (the rest [of the Benjaminites]) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

86 tn Heb “and they”; the referent (the Israelites) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

87 tn Heb “gleaned.” The word is an agricultural term which pictures Israelites picking off the Benjaminites as easily as one picks grapes from the vine.

88 tn Heb “stuck close after them.”

89 sn The number given here (twenty-five thousand sword-wielding Benjaminites) is an approximate figure; v. 35 gives the more exact number (25,100). According to v. 15, the Benjaminite army numbered 26,700 (26,000 + 700). The figures in vv. 35 (rounded in vv. 44-46) and 47 add up to 25,700. What happened to the other 1,000 men? The most reasonable explanation is that they were killed during the first two days of fighting. G. F. Moore (Judges [ICC], 429) and C. F. Burney (Judges, 475) reject this proposal, arguing that the narrator is too precise and concerned about details to omit such a fact. However, the account of the first two days’ fighting emphasizes Israel’s humiliating defeat. To speak of Benjaminite casualties would diminish the literary effect. In vv. 35, 44-47 the narrator’s emphasis is the devastating defeat that Benjamin experienced on this final day of battle. To mention the earlier days’ casualties at this point is irrelevant to his literary purpose. He allows readers who happen to be concerned with such details to draw conclusions for themselves.

90 tn Heb “So all the ones who fell from Benjamin were twenty-five thousand men, wielding the sword, in that day, all of these men of strength.

91 tn Heb “to the sons of Benjamin.”

92 tc The translation is based on the reading מֵעִיר מְתִים (meir mÿtim, “from a city of men,” i.e., “an inhabited city”), rather than the reading מֵעִיר מְתֹם (meir mÿtom, “from a city of soundness”) found in the Leningrad Codex (L).

93 tn Heb “Also all the cities that were found they set on fire.”



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