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Judges 19:1--20:48

Context
Sodom and Gomorrah Revisited

19:1 In those days Israel had no king. There was a Levite 1  living temporarily in the remote region of the Ephraimite hill country. He acquired a concubine 2  from Bethlehem 3  in Judah. 19:2 However, she 4  got angry at him 5  and went home 6  to her father’s house in Bethlehem in Judah. When she had been there four months, 19:3 her husband came 7  after her, hoping he could convince her to return. 8  He brought with him his servant 9  and a pair of donkeys. When she brought him into her father’s house and the girl’s father saw him, he greeted him warmly. 10  19:4 His father-in-law, the girl’s father, persuaded him to stay with him for three days, and they ate and drank together, and spent the night there. 19:5 On the fourth day they woke up early and the Levite got ready to leave. 11  But the girl’s father said to his son-in-law, “Have a bite to eat for some energy, 12  then you can go.” 19:6 So the two of them sat down and had a meal together. 13  Then the girl’s father said to the man, “Why not stay another night and have a good time!” 14  19:7 When the man got ready to leave, 15  his father-in-law convinced him to stay another night. 16  19:8 He woke up early in the morning on the fifth day so he could leave, but the girl’s father said, “Get some energy. 17  Wait until later in the day to leave!” 18  So they ate a meal together. 19:9 When the man got ready to leave 19  with his concubine and his servant, 20  his father-in-law, the girl’s father, said to him, “Look! The day is almost over! 21  Stay another night! Since the day is over, 22  stay another night here and have a good time. You can get up early tomorrow and start your trip home.” 23  19:10 But the man did not want to stay another night. He left 24  and traveled as far as 25  Jebus (that is, Jerusalem). 26  He had with him a pair of saddled donkeys and his concubine. 27 

19:11 When they got near Jebus, it was getting quite late 28  and the servant 29  said to his master, “Come on, let’s stop at 30  this Jebusite city and spend the night in it.” 19:12 But his master said to him, “We should not stop at a foreign city where non-Israelites live. 31  We will travel on to Gibeah.” 19:13 He said to his servant, 32  “Come on, we will go into one of the other towns 33  and spend the night in Gibeah or Ramah.” 19:14 So they traveled on, 34  and the sun went down when they were near Gibeah in the territory of Benjamin. 35  19:15 They stopped there and decided to spend the night 36  in Gibeah. They came into the city and sat down in the town square, but no one invited them to spend the night. 37 

19:16 But then an old man passed by, returning at the end of the day from his work in the field. 38  The man was from the Ephraimite hill country; he was living temporarily in Gibeah. (The residents of the town were Benjaminites.) 39  19:17 When he looked up and saw the traveler 40  in the town square, the old man said, “Where are you heading? Where do you come from?” 19:18 The Levite 41  said to him, “We are traveling from Bethlehem 42  in Judah to the remote region of the Ephraimite hill country. That’s where I’m from. I had business in Bethlehem in Judah, but now I’m heading home. 43  But no one has invited me into their home. 19:19 We have enough straw and grain for our donkeys, and there is enough food and wine for me, your female servant, 44  and the young man who is with your servants. 45  We lack nothing.” 19:20 The old man said, “Everything is just fine! 46  I will take care of all your needs. But don’t spend the night in the town square.” 19:21 So he brought him to his house and fed the donkeys. They washed their feet and had a meal. 47 

19:22 They were having a good time, 48  when suddenly 49  some men of the city, some good-for-nothings, 50  surrounded the house and kept beating 51  on the door. They said to the old man who owned the house, “Send out the man who came to visit you so we can have sex with him.” 52  19:23 The man who owned the house went outside and said to them, “No, my brothers! Don’t do this wicked thing! After all, this man is a guest in my house. Don’t do such a disgraceful thing! 19:24 Here are my virgin daughter and my guest’s 53  concubine. I will send them out and you can abuse them and do to them whatever you like. 54  But don’t do such a disgraceful thing to this man!” 19:25 The men refused to listen to him, so the Levite 55  grabbed his concubine and made her go outside. 56  They raped 57  her and abused her all night long until morning. They let her go at dawn. 19:26 The woman arrived back at daybreak and was sprawled out on the doorstep of the house where her master 58  was staying until it became light. 59  19:27 When her master 60  got up in the morning, opened the doors of the house, and went outside to start on his journey, there was the woman, his concubine, sprawled out on the doorstep of the house with her hands on the threshold. 19:28 He said to her, “Get up, let’s leave!” But there was no response. He put her on the donkey and went home. 61  19:29 When he got home, he took a knife, grabbed his concubine, and carved her up into twelve pieces. 62  Then he sent the pieces throughout Israel. 63  19:30 Everyone who saw the sight 64  said, “Nothing like this has happened or been witnessed during the entire time since 65  the Israelites left the land of Egypt! 66  Take careful note of it! Discuss it and speak!”

Civil War Breaks Out

20:1 All the Israelites from Dan to Beer Sheba 67  and from the land of Gilead 68  left their homes 69  and assembled together 70  before the Lord at Mizpah. 20:2 The leaders 71  of all the people from all the tribes of Israel took their places in the assembly of God’s people, which numbered 72  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, 73  the husband of the murdered woman, spoke up, “I and my concubine stopped in 74  Gibeah in the territory of Benjamin 75  to spend the night. 20:5 The leaders of Gibeah attacked me and at night surrounded the house where I was staying. 76  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 77  throughout the territory occupied by Israel, 78  because they committed such an unthinkable atrocity 79  in Israel. 20:7 All you Israelites, 80  make a decision here!” 81 

20:8 All Israel rose up in unison 82  and said, “Not one of us will go home! 83  Not one of us will return 84  to his house! 20:9 Now this is what we will do to Gibeah: We will attack the city as the lot dictates. 85  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. 86  When they arrive in Gibeah of Benjamin they will punish them for the atrocity which they committed in Israel.” 87  20:11 So all the men of Israel gathered together at the city as allies. 88 

20:12 The tribes of Israel sent men throughout the tribe 89  of Benjamin, saying, “How could such a wicked thing take place? 90  20:13 Now, hand over the good-for-nothings 91  in Gibeah so we can execute them and purge Israel of wickedness.” 92  But the Benjaminites refused to listen to their Israelite brothers. 20:14 The Benjaminites came from their cities and assembled at Gibeah 93  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. 94  20:16 Among this army 95  were seven hundred specially-trained left-handed soldiers. 96  Each one could sling a stone and hit even the smallest target. 97  20:17 The men of Israel (not counting Benjamin) had mustered four hundred thousand sword-wielding soldiers, every one an experienced warrior. 98 

20:18 The Israelites went up to Bethel 99  and asked God, 100  “Who should lead the charge against the Benjaminites?” 101  The Lord said, “Judah should lead.” 20:19 The Israelites got up the next morning and moved 102  against Gibeah. 20:20 The men of Israel marched out to fight Benjamin; they 103  arranged their battle lines against Gibeah. 20:21 The Benjaminites attacked from Gibeah and struck down twenty-two thousand Israelites that day. 104 

20:22 The Israelite army 105  took heart 106  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 107  again march out to fight 108  the Benjaminites, our brothers?” 109  The Lord said, “Attack them!” 110  20:24 So the Israelites marched toward 111  the Benjaminites the next day. 20:25 The Benjaminites again attacked them from Gibeah and struck down eighteen thousand sword-wielding Israelite soldiers. 112 

20:26 So all the Israelites, the whole army, 113  went up to 114  Bethel. 115  They wept and sat there before the Lord; they did not eat anything 116  that day until evening. They offered up burnt sacrifices and tokens of peace 117  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 118  in those days), “Should we 119  once more march out to fight the Benjaminites our brothers, 120  or should we 121  quit?” The Lord said, “Attack, for tomorrow I will hand them 122  over to you.”

20:29 So Israel hid men in ambush outside Gibeah. 20:30 The Israelites attacked the Benjaminites the next day; 123  they took their positions against Gibeah just as they had done before. 20:31 The Benjaminites attacked 124  the army, leaving the city unguarded. 125  They began to strike down their enemy 126  just as they had done before. On the main roads (one leads to Bethel, 127  the other to Gibeah) and in the field, they struck down 128  about thirty Israelites. 20:32 Then the Benjaminites said, “They are defeated just as before.” But the Israelites said, “Let’s retreat 129  and lure them 130  away from the city into the main roads.” 20:33 131  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. 132  But the Benjaminites did not realize that disaster was at their doorstep. 133  20:35 The Lord annihilated Benjamin before Israel; the Israelites struck down that day 25,100 sword-wielding Benjaminites. 134  20:36 Then the Benjaminites saw they were defeated.

The Israelites retreated before 135  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 136  to Gibeah. They 137  attacked 138  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 139  sent up a smoke signal from the city, 20:39 the Israelites counterattacked. 140  Benjamin had begun to strike down the Israelites; 141  they struck down 142  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. 143  20:41 When the Israelites turned around, the Benjaminites panicked 144  because they could see that disaster was on their doorstep. 145  20:42 They retreated before the Israelites, taking the road to the wilderness. But the battle overtook 146  them as men from the surrounding cities struck them down. 147  20:43 They surrounded the Benjaminites, chased them from Nohah, 148  and annihilated 149  them all the way to a spot east of Geba. 150  20:44 Eighteen thousand Benjaminites, all of them capable warriors, fell dead. 20:45 The rest 151  turned and ran toward the wilderness, heading toward the cliff of Rimmon. But the Israelites 152  caught 153  five thousand of them on the main roads. They stayed right on their heels 154  all the way to Gidom and struck down two thousand more. 20:46 That day twenty-five thousand 155  sword-wielding Benjaminites fell in battle, all of them capable warriors. 156  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 157  and put the sword to them. They wiped out the cities, 158  the animals, and everything they could find. They set fire to every city in their path. 159 

1 tn Heb “a man, a Levite.”

2 sn See the note on the word “concubine” in 8:31.

3 map For location see Map5 B1; Map7 E2; Map8 E2; Map10 B4.

4 tn Heb “and his concubine.” The pronoun (“she”) has been used in the translation for stylistic reasons.

5 tn Or “was unfaithful to him.” Many have understood the Hebrew verb וַתִּזְנֶה (vattizneh) as being from זָנָה (zanah, “to be a prostitute”), but it may be derived from a root meaning “to be angry; to hate” attested in Akkadian (see HALOT 275 s.v. II זנה).

6 tn Heb “went from him.”

7 tn Heb “arose and came.”

8 tn Heb “to speak to her heart to bring her back.”

9 tn Or “young man.”

10 tn Heb “he was happy to meet him.”

11 tn Heb “and he arose to go.”

12 tn Heb “Sustain your heart [with] a bit of food.”

13 tn Heb “And they sat and ate, the two of them together, and they drank.”

14 tn Heb “Be willing and spend the night so that your heart might be good.”

15 tn Heb “and the man arose to go.”

16 tn Heb “his father-in-law persuaded him and he again spent the night there.”

17 tn Heb “Sustain your heart.” He is once more inviting him to stay for a meal.

18 tn Heb “Wait until the declining of the day.”

19 tn Heb “the man arose to go.”

20 tn Or “young man.”

21 tn Heb “the day is sinking to become evening.”

22 tn Or “declining.”

23 tn Heb “for your way and go to your tent.”

24 tn Heb “and he arose and went.”

25 tn Heb “to the front of.”

26 map For location see Map5 B1; Map6 F3; Map7 E2; Map8 F2; Map10 B3; JP1 F4; JP2 F4; JP3 F4; JP4 F4.

27 tc Some ancient witnesses add “and his servant.”

28 tn Heb “and the day was descending greatly.”

29 tn Or “young man.”

30 tn Heb “turn aside” (also in the following verse).

31 tn Heb “who are not from the sons of Israel.”

32 tn Or “young man.”

33 tn Heb “we will enter one of the places.”

34 tn Heb “and they passed by and went.”

35 tn Heb “which belongs to Benjamin.”

36 tn Heb “they turned aside there to enter to spend the night.”

37 tn Heb “and he entered and sat down, and there was no one receiving them into the house to spend the night.”

38 tn Heb “And look, an old man was coming from his work, from the field in the evening.”

39 tn Heb “And the men of the place were Benjaminites.”

40 tn Heb “the man, the traveler.”

41 tn Heb “he”; the referent (the Levite) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

42 map For location see Map5 B1; Map7 E2; Map8 E2; Map10 B4.

43 tn Heb “I went to Bethlehem in Judah, but [to] the house of the LORD I am going.” The Hebrew text has “house of the LORD,” which might refer to the shrine at Shiloh. The LXX reads “to my house.”

44 tn By calling his concubine the old man’s “female servant,” the Levite emphasizes their dependence on him for shelter.

45 tc Some Hebrew mss and ancient witnesses read the singular, “your servant,” which would refer to the Levite. If one retains the plural, then both the Levite and his wife are in view. In either case the pronominal suffix emphasizes their dependence on the old man for shelter.

46 tn Heb “Peace to you.”

47 tn Heb “ate and drank.”

48 tn Heb “they were making their heart good.”

49 tn Heb “and look.”

50 tn Heb “the men of the city, men, the sons of wickedness.” The phrases are in apposition; the last phrase specifies what type of men they were. It is not certain if all the men of the city are in view, or just a group of troublemakers. In 20:5 the town leaders are implicated in the crime, suggesting that all the men of the city were involved. If so, the implication is that the entire male population of the town were good-for-nothings.

51 tn The Hitpael verb form appears to have an iterative force here, indicating repeated action.

52 tn Heb “so we can know him.” On the surface one might think they simply wanted to meet the visitor and get to know him, but their hostile actions betray their double-talk. The old man, who has been living with them long enough to know what they are like, seems to have no doubts about the meaning of their words (see v. 23).

53 tn Heb “his”; the referent (the visiting Levite) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

54 tn Heb “what is good in your eyes.”

55 tn Heb “he”; the referent (the Levite) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

56 tn Heb “and he caused [her] to go outside to them.”

57 tn Heb “knew,” in the sexual sense.

58 tn The Hebrew term here translated “master,” is plural. The plural indicates degree here and emphasizes the Levite’s absolute sovereignty over the woman.

59 tn Heb “The woman came at the turning of the morning and fell at the door of the house of the man where her master was until the light.”

60 tn The Hebrew term here translated “master,” is plural. The plural indicates degree here and emphasizes the Levite’s absolute sovereignty over the woman.

61 tn Heb “And the man took her on the donkey and arose and went to his place.”

62 tn Heb “he carved her up by her bones into twelve pieces.”

63 tn Heb “and he sent her through all the territory of Israel.”

64 tn The words “the sight” are supplied in the translation for clarification.

65 tn Heb “from the day.”

66 tc Codex Alexandrinus (A) of the (original) LXX has the following additional words: “And he instructed the men whom he sent out, ‘Thus you will say to every male Israelite: “There has never been anything like this from the day the Israelites left Egypt till the present day.”’”

67 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.

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

69 tn Heb “went out.”

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

71 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.

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

73 tn Heb “The man, the Levite.”

74 tn Heb “came to.”

75 tn Heb “which belongs to Benjamin.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

82 tn Heb “as one man.”

83 tn Heb “to his tent.”

84 tn Or “turn aside.”

85 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).

86 tn Or “people.”

87 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.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

95 tn Heb “And from all this people.”

96 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.

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

98 tn Heb “a man of war.”

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

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

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

102 tn Heb “encamped.”

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

104 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.”

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

106 tn Or “encouraged one another.”

107 tn Heb “I” (collective singular).

108 tn Heb “approach for battle.”

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

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

111 tn Heb “drew near to.”

112 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.”

113 tn Heb “and all the people.”

114 tn Heb “went up and came [to].”

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

116 tn Traditionally, “fasted.”

117 tn Or “peace offerings.”

118 tn Heb “standing before him.”

119 tn Heb “I” (collective singular).

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

121 tn Heb “I” (collective singular).

122 tn Heb “him” (collective singular).

123 tn Heb “the third day.”

124 tn Heb “went out to meet.”

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

126 tn Heb “from the army wounded ones.”

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

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

129 tn Or “run away.”

130 tn Heb “him” (collective singular).

131 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.

132 tn Heb “heavy”; or “severe.”

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

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

135 tn Heb “gave place to.”

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

137 tn Heb “the men hiding in ambush.”

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

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

140 tn Heb “turned in the battle.”

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

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

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

144 tn Or “were terrified.”

145 tn Heb “disaster touched against them.”

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

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

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

149 tn Heb “tread down, walk on.”

150 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.”

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

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

153 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.

154 tn Heb “stuck close after them.”

155 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.

156 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.

157 tn Heb “to the sons of Benjamin.”

158 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).

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



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