Old Testament Commentary - Judges 20

by Don R. Hender

Scriptural Text [& Editorial]
Commentary & Explanation
Footnotes ~ References ~ JST
            CHAPTER 20              

All Israel arises against Benjamin, who refuse to deliver up the men of Gibeah—Benjamites are smitten and destroyed.

  1 THEN all the children of Israel went out, and the congregation was gathered together as one man, from Dan even to Beer-sheba, with the land of Gilead, unto the LORD in aMizpeh.
  2 And the chief of all the people, even of all the tribes of Israel, presented themselves in the assembly of the people of God, four hundred thousand footmen that drew sword.
  3 (Now the children of Benjamin heard that the children of Israel were gone up to Mizpeh.) Then said the children of Israel, Tell us, how was this wickedness?
  4 And the Levite, the husband of the woman that was slain, answered and said, I came into aGibeah that belongeth to Benjamin, I and my concubine, to lodge.
  5 And the men of Gibeah rose against me, and beset the house round about upon me by night, and thought to have slain me: and my concubine have they aforced, that she is dead.
  6 And I took my concubine, and cut her in pieces, and sent her throughout all the country of the inheritance of Israel: for they have committed lewdness and afolly in Israel.
  7 Behold, ye are all children of Israel; give here your advice and counsel.
  8 ¶ And all the people arose as one man, saying, We will not any of us go to his tent, neither will we any of us turn into his house.
  9 But now this shall be the thing which we will do to Gibeah; we will go up by lot against it;
  10 And we will take ten men of an hundred throughout all the tribes of Israel, and an hundred of a thousand, and a thousand out of ten thousand, to fetch avictual for the people, that they may do, when they come to Gibeah of Benjamin, according to all the folly that they have wrought in Israel.
  11 So all the men of Israel were gathered against the city, aknit together as one man.
  12 ¶ And the tribes of Israel sent men through all the tribe of Benjamin, saying, What wickedness is this that is done among you?
  13 Now therefore deliver us the men, the children of aBelial, which are in Gibeah, that we may put them to death, and put away evil from Israel. But the children of Benjamin would not hearken to the voice of their brethren the children of Israel:
  14 But the children of Benjamin gathered themselves together out of the cities unto Gibeah, to go out to battle against the children of Israel.
  15 And the children of Benjamin were anumbered at that time out of the cities twenty and six thousand men that drew sword, beside the inhabitants of Gibeah, which were numbered seven hundred chosen men.
  16 Among all this people there were seven hundred chosen men alefthanded; every one could sling stones at an hair breadth, and not miss.
  17 And the men of Israel, beside Benjamin, were numbered four hundred thousand men that drew sword: all these were men of war.
  18 ¶ And the children of Israel arose, and went up to athe house of God, and asked counsel of God, and said, Which of us shall go up first to the battle against the children of Benjamin? And the LORD said, Judah shall go up firsta.
  19 And the children of Israel rose up in the morning, and aencamped against Gibeah.
  20 And the men of Israel went out to battle against Benjamin; and the men of Israel put themselves in array to fight against them at Gibeah.
 18a Judah shall go up first Why 'Judah first'? There are a number of unsettling matters in all this which is taken place against the tribe of Benjamin. The Jewish compiled record states that the LORD says for Judah to go up first. But if the action is placed in order as is in the book of Judges then the genealogy of the officiating priest of that 'revelation' is off. And if the account is placed properly then the revelatory priest is more likely the wicked son of Eli who Samuel does follow rather than his wicked sons. The ADDED (...) parathetical editor's commentary of Phinehas being son of Eleazar rather than perhaps Eli forces suspecion that either the account is out of place or else the genealogy certainly is. (see verse 27 & 28 and noted information of 28a below.
  21 And the children of Benjamin came forth out of Gibeah, and destroyed down to the ground of the Israelites that day twenty and two thousand men.
  22 And the people the men of Israel encouraged themselves, and set their battle again in array in the place where they put themselves in array the first day.
  23 (And the children of Israel went up and wept before the LORD until even, and asked counsel of the LORD, saying, Shall I go up again to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother? And the LORD said, Go up against him.)
  24 And the children of Israel came near against the children of Benjamin the second day.
  25 And Benjamin went forth against them out of Gibeah the second day, and destroyed down to the ground of the children of Israel again eighteen thousand men; all these drew the sword.
  26 ¶ Then all the children of Israel, and all the people, went up, and came unto the ahouse of God, and wept, and sat there before the LORD, and fasted that day until even, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD.
  27 And the children of Israel inquired of the LORD, (for the ark of the covenant of God was there in those days,
  28 And Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aarona, stood before it in those days,) saying, Shall I yet again go out to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother, or shall I cease? And the LORD said, Go up; for to morrow I will deliver them into thine hand.
 28a Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron There are a number of things muddled in the telling of the fate of the tribe of Benjamin. Perhaps not first but very noticable is that this account is not placed in the chronological order of the judges. For Phinehas the grandson of Aaron to be the priest at Bethel certainly these events occurred at the beginnings of the judges and not at the ending of them. Or perhaps the genealogy of 'this Phinehas' is wrong and he is the Son of Eli, one of Eli's wicked ministering priests? Also of suspect is the whole of the story of the Levite who was more concerned over eating and drinking than his 'wife'? Certainly portions of his story are not only parallel to that of Lot and his angel visitors, but may have been borrowed purposefully from that Genesis account? (Compare Genesis 19:4-9 and Judges 19:22-25) Now Judah bordered Benjamin and one must ask if there were tribal rubbings among those two tribes in land disputes. As such it seems opportune for Judah to be chosen FIRST to go up against Benjamin. Perhaps it was but the 'lands about Gibeah' that were first in dispute and thought to have been easily settled, but the whole of Benjamin did rally to Gibeah's defense in light of the seemingly suspeciously contrived story of the Jewish concubine who had before played the whore that had been turned out by a drunken Levite to certain abusive men at Gibeah. A true court hearing, which seems not to have occured in behalf of those of Benjamin, would have been interesting to have been in account here. All we have are the results. The tribe of Benjamin reduced to 600 men with Judah seemly coming off the big winner of the land grab, Zelzah, Jerusalem and so forth. The whole of the rest of the story seems quite suspeciously muddled by the Jewish combiled Old Testament records.
  29 And Israel set aliers in wait round about Gibeah.
  30 And the children of Israel went up against the children of Benjamin on the third day, and put themselves in array against Gibeah, as at other times.
  31 And the children of Benjamin went out against the people, and were drawn away from the city; and they began to smite of the people, and kill, as at other times, in the highways, of which one goeth up to the house of God, and the other to Gibeah in the field, about thirty men of Israel.
  32 And the children of Benjamin said, They are smitten down before us, as at the first. But the children of Israel said, Let us flee, and draw them from the city unto the highways.
  33 And all the men of Israel rose up out of their place, and put themselves in array at Baal-tamar: and the liers in wait of Israel came forth out of their places, even out of the meadows of Gibeah.
  34 And there came against Gibeah ten thousand chosen men out of all Israel, and the battle was asore: but they knew not that evil was near them.
  35 And the LORD smote Benjamin before Israel: and the children of Israel destroyed of the Benjamites that day twenty and five thousand and an hundred men: all these drew the sword.
  36 So the children of Benjamin saw that they were smitten: for the men of Israel gave place to the Benjamites, because they trusted unto the liers in wait which they had set beside Gibeah.
  37 And the liers in wait hasted, and rushed upon Gibeah; and the liers in wait drew themselves along, and smote all the city with the edge of the sword.
  38 Now there was an appointed sign between the men of Israel and the liers in wait, that they should make a great flame with smoke rise up out of the city.
  39 And when the men of Israel retired in the battle, Benjamin began to smite and kill of the men of Israel about thirty persons: for they said, Surely they are smitten down before us, as in the first battle.
  40 But when the flame began to arise up out of the city with a pillar of smoke, the Benjamites looked behind them, and, behold, the flame of the city ascended up to heaven.
  41 And when the men of Israel turned again, the men of Benjamin were amazed: for they saw that evil was come upon them.
  42 Therefore they turned their backs before the men of Israel unto the way of the wilderness; but the battle overtook them; and them which came out of the cities they destroyed in the midst of them.
  43 Thus they inclosed the Benjamites round about, and chased them, and atrode them down with ease over against Gibeah toward bthe sunrising.
  44 And there fell of Benjamin eighteen thousand men; all these were men of valour.
  45 And they turned and fled toward the wilderness unto the rock of Rimmon: and they agleaned of them in the highways five thousand men; and pursued hard after them unto Gidom, and slew two thousand men of them.
  46 So that all which fell that day of Benjamin were twenty and five thousand men that drew the sword; all these were men of valour.
  47 But six hundred men turned and fled to the wilderness unto the rock Rimmon, and abode in the rock Rimmon four months.
  48 And the men of Israel turned again upon the children of Benjamin, and smote them with the edge of the sword, as well the men of every city, as the beast, and all that came to hand: also they set on fire all the cities that they came to.