Judges 20

Judges 20,
Tuesday, May 22, 2018

From the northernmost Dan to the southernmost Judahites of beer-shaba, all Israel comes to Mizpah.  (If you have a moment to count, how many tribes invited – not Benjamin, so what 12?)  400,000 armed men is a big, if fanciful, number to respond to a crime.

The Levite presents his side of the story.  Without challenge, the whole body agrees to a 10% draft of all soldiers, to fight Benjamin.  They ask Benjamin to give up Gibeah, but they won’t.  The thing comes to battle- and now 400,000 fight for Israel, the whole crew.

The long story short: 25,000 Benjamanites win day one, killing 22,000, and win day two, killing 18,000.  Then the Israelites think to inquire at the ark of the covenant, and are told to try again.  This time they win, and rout the remaining 600 Benjaminites, while levelling the people and the property left behind.

This is not a historic account, but a lament for fratricide. It’s not a good example, or a great day for Israel.  It’s the consequence of half-baked mobs without leadership, rising from anarchy.  No heroes.
 
Then all the Israelites came out,
 from Dan to Beer-sheba, 
including the land of Gilead, 
and the congregation assembled
 in one body
before the LORD
at Mizpah.

 2The chiefs of all the people, 
of all the tribes of Israel, 
presented themselves
in the assembly of the people of God,
 four hundred thousand foot-soldiers bearing arms.

 3(Now the Benjaminites heard
 that the people of Israel had gone up to Mizpah.)

 And the Israelites said,
 ‘Tell us,
 how did this criminal act come about?’

 4The Levite, 
the husband of the woman
who was murdered, 
answered, 

‘I came to Gibeah
that belongs to Benjamin,
 I and my concubine, 
to spend the night.

 5The lords of Gibeah rose up against me, 
and surrounded the house at night.

 They intended to kill me,
 and they raped my concubine
until she died.

6Then I took my concubine
and cut her into pieces, 
and sent her throughout
the whole extent of Israel’s territory; 
for they have committed a vile outrage in Israel.

 7So now,
 you Israelites,
 all of you,
 give your advice and counsel
 here and now.’

8 All the people got up as one,
 saying, 
‘We will not any of us go to our tents,
 nor will any of us return to our houses.

 9But now this is what we will do to Gibeah: 
we will go up against it by lot.

 10We will take ten men of a hundred
 throughout all the tribes of Israel, 
and a hundred of a thousand, 
and a thousand of ten thousand, 
to bring provisions for the troops,
 who are going to repay Gibeah of Benjamin
for all the disgrace that they have done in Israel.’

 11So all the men of Israel
gathered against the city, 
united as one.

12 The tribes of Israel sent men
through all the tribe of Benjamin,
 saying,
 ‘What crime is this
 that has been committed among you?

 13Now then, 
hand over those scoundrels in Gibeah,
 so that we may put them to death, 
and purge the evil from Israel.’

 But the Benjaminites would not listen
to their kinsfolk, the Israelites.

 14The Benjaminites came together
out of the towns
 to Gibeah,
 to go out to battle
against the Israelites. 

15On that day
the Benjaminites mustered twenty-six thousand armed men
 from their towns,
 besides the inhabitants of Gibeah.

 16Of all this force,
 there were seven hundred picked men who were left-handed; 
every one could sling a stone at a hair, 
and not miss. 

17And the Israelites, 
apart from Benjamin, 
mustered four hundred thousand armed men, 
all of them warriors.

18 The Israelites proceeded to go up to Bethel, 
where they inquired of God,
 ‘Which of us shall go up first
 to battle against the Benjaminites?’

 And the LORD answered,
 ‘Judah shall go up first.’

19 Then the Israelites got up in the morning, 
and encamped against Gibeah.

 20The Israelites went out to battle against Benjamin; 
and the Israelites drew up the battle line against them
at Gibeah. 

21The Benjaminites came out of Gibeah,
 and struck down on that day
twenty-two thousand of the Israelites.

 23The Israelites went up
 and wept before the LORD
until the evening;
 and they inquired of the LORD,
 ‘Shall we again draw near to battle
against our kinsfolk the Benjaminites?’ 

And the LORD said, 
‘Go up against them.’

 22The Israelites took courage,
 and again formed the battle line
 in the same place
where they had formed it
on the first day.

24 So the Israelites advanced against the Benjaminites
on the second day.

 25Benjamin moved out against them from Gibeah the second day, and struck down eighteen thousand of the Israelites, 
all of them armed men.

 26Then all the Israelites,
 the whole army, 
went back to Bethel
and wept, 
sitting there
 before the LORD; 
they fasted
 that day
until evening. 

Then they offered burnt-offerings
and sacrifices of well-being
before the LORD.

 27And the Israelites inquired of the LORD
(for the ark of the covenant of God
was there in those days,
 28and Phinehas
son of Eleazar, 
son of Aaron, 
ministered before it
 in those days),
 saying,
 ‘Shall we go out once more
 to battle against our kinsfolk the Benjaminites, 
or shall we desist?’ 

The LORD answered,
 ‘Go up,
 for tomorrow
 I will give them
 into your hand.’

29 So Israel stationed men in ambush around Gibeah. 

30Then the Israelites went up against the Benjaminites
 on the third day, 
and set themselves in array against Gibeah, 
as before.

 31When the Benjaminites went out against the army,
 they were drawn away from the city.

 As before they began to inflict casualties on the troops, 
along the main roads,
 one of which goes up to Bethel
and the other to Gibeah, 
as well as in the open country,
 killing about thirty men of Israel.

 32The Benjaminites thought,
 ‘They are being routed before us,
 as previously.’

 But the Israelites said, 
‘Let us retreat
and draw them
away from the city
towards the roads.’ 

33The main body of the Israelites
drew back its battle line
 to Baal-tamar, 
while those Israelites who were in ambush
 rushed out of their place
west of Geba.

 34There came against Gibeah
 ten thousand picked men
out of all Israel,
 and the battle was fierce. 

But the Benjaminites did not realize
that disaster was close upon them.
35 The LORD defeated Benjamin before Israel; 
and the Israelites destroyed twenty-five thousand one hundred
men of Benjamin that day,
 all of them armed.

36 Then the Benjaminites saw
 that they were defeated.

The Israelites gave ground to Benjamin,
 because they trusted to the troops in ambush
that they had stationed against Gibeah.

 37The troops in ambush rushed quickly upon Gibeah.
 Then they put the whole city to the sword.

 38Now the agreement
between the main body of Israel
and the men in ambush
 was that when they sent up a cloud of smoke
out of the city
 39the main body of Israel
 should turn in battle.

 But Benjamin had begun to inflict casualties on the Israelites, 
killing about thirty of them;
 so they thought,
 ‘Surely they are defeated before us,
 as in the first battle.’

40But when the cloud,
 a column of smoke,
 began to rise out of the city, 
the Benjaminites looked behind them—
and there was the whole city
 going up in smoke towards the sky!

 41Then the main body of Israel turned, 
and the Benjaminites were dismayed,
 for they saw that disaster was close upon them.

 42Therefore
 they turned away from the Israelites
 in the direction of the wilderness;
 but the battle overtook them, 
and those who came out of the city
 were slaughtering them in between.

 43Cutting down the Benjaminites, 
they pursued them from Nohah
and trod them down as far as a place east of Gibeah.

 44Eighteen thousand Benjaminites fell,
 all of them courageous fighters. 

45When they turned and fled
towards the wilderness to the rock of Rimmon,
 five thousand of them were cut down on the main roads,
 and they were pursued as far as Gidom, 
and two thousand of them were slain.

 46So all who fell that day of Benjamin
were twenty-five thousand arms-bearing men, 
all of them courageous fighters.

47But six hundred turned and fled
towards the wilderness to the rock of Rimmon,
 and remained at the rock of Rimmon for four months.

48Meanwhile,
 the Israelites turned back against the Benjaminites, 
and put them to the sword
—the city, the people, the animals, and all that remained. 
Also the remaining towns they set on fire.