Judges 20 Commentary

 

 

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BELOW ARE LINKS TO
VERSE BY VERSE COMMENTARY
TO THE BOOK OF JUDGES

Judges 1
Judges 2
Judges 3 
Judges 4

Judges 5
Judges 6
Judges 7
Judges 8
Judges 9
Judges 10
Judges 11
Judges 12
Judges 13
Judges 14
Judges 15

Judges 16
Judges 17
Judges 18
Judges 19
Judges 20
Judges 21

 

Judges 20:1 Then all the sons of Israel from Dan to Beersheba, including the land of Gilead, came out, and the congregation assembled as one man to the LORD at Mizpah.

Then all (KJV): Jud 20:2,8,11 21:5 De 13:12-18 Jos 22:12
as one man (KJV): 1Sa 11:7,8 2Sa 19:14 Ezr 3:1 Ne 8:1
from Dan (KJV): Jud 18:29 1Sa 3:20 2Sa 3:10 24:2 1Ch 21:2 2Ch 30:5
with the (KJV): Nu 32:1,40 Jos 17:1 2Sa 2:9
unto the (KJV): Jud 20:18,26 11:11
in Mizpeh (KJV): Jud 10:17 11:11 Jos 15:38 18:26 1Sa 7:5,6 10:17 2Ki 25:23 It does not appear that the Israelites on this occasion, were summoned by the authority of any one common head, but they came together by the consent and agreement, as it were, of one common heart, fired with a holy zeal for the honour of God and Israel. The place of their meeting was Mizpeh; they gathered together unto the Lord there; for Mizpeh was so very near to Shiloh, that their encampment might very well be supposed to reach from Mizpeh to Shiloh. Shiloh was a small town, and therefore, when there was a general meeting of the people to present themselves before God, they chose Mizpeh for their head quarters, which was the next adjoining city of note; perhaps, because they were not willing to give that trouble to Shiloh, which so great an assembly would occasion; it being the residence of the priests that attended the tabernacle.

A C Gaebelein's Summary...

CHAPTER 20  The Horrible War

1. The Levite's story (Jdg 20:1-7)

2. The uprising (Jdg 20:8-11)

3. The slaying of the Israelites (Jdg 20:12-25)

4. Benjamin exterminated except six hundred men (Jdg 20:26-48)

This and the concluding chapter bring before us the awful harvest of what had been sown. "For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" (Gal. 6:7). They had sown the wind and now reaped the whirlwind. Violence and lawlessness result in the slaying of 40,000 Israelites and 23,000 of the tribe of Benjamin. Nearly the entire tribe was wiped out. From Dan to Beersheba into the land of Gilead they gathered at Mizpeh to hear the story of the Levite. Benjamin refused to give up the wicked men and instead of humbling themselves, acknowledging the dreadful guilt and bringing the guilty ones to judgment, they gathered themselves together to fight their own brethren. Their company was small in comparison with the mighty host of Israel . The divine counsel was that Judah should go up first to battle with Benjamin. What a contrast with the beginning of the book! There they were to fight against the common foe; here against their own brethren.

"But to be fit to be used of God to deal with evil involves much more than readiness to be His instrument. They are too ready, as we see in the result. Their wrath is too prompt, too implacable, too unsparing. Theirs is the reckless haste of vengeance, and not the solemn discrimination of divine judgment. They remember not their own sins, bring no sin offering to God, no tears of penitence. They build on their numbers; no doubt on the justice of their cause, also, but in self-righteousness and without self-suspicion. Thus they go up to smite, and they are smitten heavily, disastrously. Benjamin, the wrong-doer, is wholly victorious."

Here too are the lessons for God's people in judging what is evil amongst them. Then the children of Israel went to Bethel (House of God) and with prayer and fasting waited on the Lord and brought the offerings. Then the Lord gave them the assurance of victory. Benjamin is smitten, their women and children are wiped out. Only six hundred men escaped to the rock of Rimmon. All their cities were burned.

To even greater scenes of violence, bloodshed and desolution this poor world, which has rejected God and His beloved Son, is hastening on.

THEN ALL THE SONS OF ISRAEL (except Jabesh Gilead; Jdg 21:8, 9): Not quite all...one important tribe appears to be missing -- the Benjamites were aware of the army being assembled at Mizpah, they had chosen to boycott the conference.

The chapter is a good illustration of [James 3:13, 14, 15,16, 17, 18]. When we operate on the basis of human wisdom, we create one problem after another, but when we pause to pray and seek the mind of the Lord, He shows us what to do.  God’s people today need to deal with sin in their lives (2Co 7:1-note) and in the church family (1Co5). Unconfessed sin is like uncontrolled disease: it spreads and it kills.

Charles Spurgeon said,

“Sin is the mother and nurse of all evil, the egg of all mischief, the fountain of all bitterness, the root of misery.”

FROM DAN TO BEERSHEBA (well of the seven) (1Sa 3:20; 2Sa 3:10; 24:2; 1Ch 21:2; 2Ch 30:5):

Beer Sheba was 48 miles S of Jerusalem, midway between the coast and the Dead Sea. From the northern tip to southern extremity of Israel (from the perspective of the author who wrote after Dan moved north). ‘from the far north to the far south’ (click the map above to see Dan and Beersheba).

AND THE CONGREGATION ASSEMBLED AS ONE MAN:

TO (Hebrew preposition el denotes motion toward, mental or physical) THE LORD AT MIZPAH: Mizpah (watchtower) was 8 miles N of Jerusalem (Jos18:26; 1Sa7:5). Samuel gathered the tribes there to intercede for the them (1Sa7:5ff; cp 1Sa10:17). It is not the Mizpah in Gilead of [10:17]

What does "to" or "toward" the LORD mean? Not sure. But they were not at Shiloh or even at Bethel (where apparently the Ark was in those days for reasons that are unclear [Jdg 20:27]) and there is no record of prayer or what the LORD God would have Israel do. Nevertheless the NIV Study Bible has an interesting note :

"Having first inquired of God for divine direction, they marched against Gibeah and the Benjamites as the disciplinary arm of the Lord ( Jos22:11-34), following him as their King."

Predictably, since they did not inquire of what God would have them do, the nation reacted from their fleshly instinct with burning indignation (Jdg 20:30). After all they must have reasoned the Israelites had been guilty of numerous sins since the Exodus, but never of anything so repulsive as this. They needed to appraise the situation and then plan a course of action. As in the case of Saul's appeal in [1Sa11:7], the nation "came out as one man" (Jdg 20:1). They came even from the distant borders of Israel, including many from Gilead in Transjordan.

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...


Judg. 20. War with Benjamin on the Part of All the Other Tribes.—The expectation of the Levite was fulfilled. The congregation of Israel assembled at Mizpeh to pass sentence upon Gibeah, and formed the resolution that they would not rest till the crime was punished as it deserved (vv. 1–10). But when the Benjaminites refused to deliver up the offenders in Gibeah, and prepared to offer resistance, the other tribes began to make war upon Gibeah and Benjamin (vv. 11–19), but were twice defeated by the Benjaminites with very great loss (vv. 20–28). At length, however, they succeeded by an act of stratagem in taking Gibeah and burning it to the ground, and completely routing the Benjaminites, and also in putting to death all the men and cattle that they found in the other towns of this tribe, and laying the towns in ashes, whereby the whole of the tribe of Benjamin was annihilated, with the exception of a very small remnant (vv. 29–48).


Judg. 20:1-11. Decree of the Congregation concerning Gibeah.—Jdg 20:1, 2. All the Israelites went out (rose up from their dwelling-places) to assemble together as a congregation like one man; all the tribes from Dan, the northern boundary of the land (i.e., Dan-laish, Judg. 18:29), to Beersheba, the most southerly town of Canaan (see at Gen. 21:31), and the land of Gilead, i.e., the inhabitants of the land to the east of the Jordan, “to Jehovah at Mizpeh” in Benjamin, i.e., the present Nebi-samwil, in the neighbourhood of Kirjath-jearim, on the western border of the tribe of Benjamin (see at Josh. 18:26). It by no means follows with certainty from the expression “to Jehovah,” that there was a sanctuary at Mizpeh, or that the ark of the covenant was taken thither, but simply that the meeting took place in the sight of Jehovah, or that the congregation assembled together to hold a judicial court, which they held in the name of Jehovah, analogous to the expression el-Elohim in Ex. 21:6; 22:7. It was not essential to a judicial proceeding that the ark should be present. At this assembly the pinnoth (the corner-pillars) of the whole nation presented themselves, i.e., the heads and fathers as the supports of the congregation or of the sate organism (vid., 1 Sam. 14:38, Isa. 19:13), even of all the tribes of Israel four hundred thousand men on foot, drawing the sword, i.e., armed foot soldiers ready for battle. (
Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 20 - p446)

 

Judges 20:2 And the chiefs of all the people, even of all the tribes of Israel, took their stand in the assembly of the people of God, 400,000 foot soldiers who drew the sword.

drew sword (KJV): Jud 20:15,17 8:10 2Sa 24:9 2Ki 3:26

 CHIEFS (Hebrew "corner, cornerstone") OF ALL THE PEOPLE: Israel was "the people of God", though the actions of Benjamin belied that title. The leaders bore the solemn responsibility of meting out the proper punishment for the crime, and a large army supported them.

 

Judges 20:3 (Now the sons of Benjamin heard that the sons of Israel had gone up to Mizpah.) And the sons of Israel said, "Tell us, how did this wickedness take place?"

the children of Benjamin (KJV): Pr 22:3 Mt 5:25 Lu 12:58,59 14:31,32
how was (KJV): Jud 19:22-27

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...


Judg. 20:3. “The Benjaminites heard that the children of Israel (the rest of the Israelites, the eleven tribes) had come up to Mizpeh;” but they themselves were not found there. This follows from the fact that nothing is said about the Benjaminites coming, and still more clearly from v. 13, where it is stated that the assembled tribes sent men to the Benjaminites, after holding their deliberations and forming their resolutions, to call them to account for the crime that had been committed in the midst of them. Consequently the question with which the whole affair was opened, “Say, how did this wicked deed take place?” is not to be regarded as addressed to the two parties, the inhabitants of Gibeah of the Benjaminites and the Levite (Bertheau), but as a summons to all who were assembled to relate what any one knew respecting the occurrence. (
Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 20 - p446)

 

Judges 20:4 So the Levite, the husband of the woman who was murdered, answered and said, "I came with my concubine to spend the night at Gibeah which belongs to Benjamin.

the Levite (KJV): Heb. the man the Levite
I came (KJV): Jud 19:15-28

SO THE LEVITE, THE HUSBAND OF THE WOMAN WHO WAS MURDERED ANSWERED AND SAID: note "I" and "me" repetitively...a self-serving speech that presented his case in the best possible light.

I CAME WITH MY CONCUBINE TO SPEND THE NIGHT AT GIBEAH WHICH BELONGS TO BENJAMIN: so far he is telling the truth. But if the "people of God" had God as their King and had not been doing what is right in their own eyes, they would have confronted the sin of this Levite who was to be HOLY to the LORD, wholly His (Nu8:16) and was to have nothing to do with a harlot (his concubine had committed harlotry although the Levite does not appear to have related these truths).

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...


 

Judg. 20:4-7. Then the Levite, the husband of the murdered woman, described the whole affair. בַּעֲלֵי הַגִּבְעָה, the owners or citizens of Gibeah (see at Judg. 9:2). “Me they intended to kill:” the Levite draws this conclusion from what had happened to his wife; the men of Gibeah had not expressed any such intention in Judg. 19:22. “All the country (lit. field) of the inheritance of Israel,” i.e., all the land of the Israelites. זִמָּה is applied to the vice of lewdness, as in Lev. 18:17, which was to be punished with death. הָבוּ לָכֶם וגו׳, “give yourselves (לָכֶם as dat. comm.) word and counsel here,” i.e., make up your minds and pass sentence (vid., 2 Sam. 16:20). הֲלֹם, here, where you are all assembled together.  (Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 20 - p446)

 

Judges 20:5 "But the men of Gibeah rose up against me and surrounded the house at night because of me. They intended to kill me; instead, they ravished my concubine so that she died.

And the men (KJV): Jud 19:22
beset (KJV): Ge 19:4-8
and my concubine (KJV): Jud 19:25,26
forced (KJV): Heb. humbled, De 22:24 Eze 22:10,11

BUT THE MEN OF GIBEAH ROSE UP AGAINST ME AND SURROUNDED THE HOUSE AT NIGHT BECAUSE OF ME THEY INTENDED TO KILL ME: This is not exactly what they intended to do...they intended to rape him homosexually.

INSTEAD, THEY RAVISHED MY CONCUBINE SO THAT SHE DIED: The Levite leaves out the detail that it was he who grasped (Lxx uses verb that pictures seizing her himself, so he is hardly innocent in this rape/murder...his hands were stained with her blood & the ground cries out for ) his concubine and "volunteered" her to the worthless men, instead of defending her life.

 

Judges 20:6 "And I took hold of my concubine and cut her in pieces and sent her throughout the land of Israel's inheritance; for they have committed a lewd and disgraceful act in Israel.

cut her (KJV): Jud 19:29
folly in Israel (KJV): Jud 20:10 19:23 Ge 34:7 Jos 7:15 2Sa 13:12,13

LEWD AND DISGRACEFUL ACT IN ISRAEL: “Lewd” is zimma, used often of sexual perversions worthy of death (cf. Lv18:17; 19:29).

“Disgraceful” is nebala, a strong term for active moral rebellion against the divine standards, as in rape (2Sa13:14), homosexual acts (Jud19:23,24) and general promiscuity (Deut. 22:21). While the Levite was mute about his own role in the affair, the acts of the Gibeahites merited death under OT Law (cf. Jud20:13).

 

Judges 20:7 "Behold, all you sons of Israel, give your advice and counsel here."

ye are all (KJV): Ex 19:5,6 De 4:6 14:1,2 1Co 5:1,6,10-12
give here (KJV): Jud 19:30 Jos 9:14 Pr 20:18 24:6 Jas 1:5

BEHOLD, ALL YOU SONS OF ISRAEL, GIVE YOUR ADVICE AND COUNSEL (19:30 ) HERE: what they did not do but should have done is ask God first. Now what is interesting is that we have no record of any other witnesses of this horrid act. God had said they were to have 2 or more witnesses. The Hebrew in Jdg20:3 is plural in the verb "tell us" implying there may have been more than one witness.

It may well have been that drastic action was called for, but what would become of Israel when its assembly could be convened and manipulated by a person of such dubious morals as this Levite? That is the serious question posed by this second episode.

 

Judges 20:8 Then all the people arose as one man, saying, "Not one of us will go to his tent, nor will any of us return to his house.

as one man (KJV): Jud 20:1,11
We will not (KJV): Jud 21:1,5 Pr 21:3 Ec 9:10

THEN ALL THE PEOPLE AROSE AS ONE MAN (Jdg 20:1): Keep in mind that this event took place early in the period of the Judges, at a time when the nation wasn’t under foreign oppression. Though they had no central government, the tribes were still united and able to muster troops and wage war together.

SAYING NOT ONE OF US WILL GO TO HIS TENT (cp Jdg 21:1) NOR WILL ANY OF US RETURN TO HIS HOUSE: this tantamount to declaring a "vow" even though it is not expressly stated as such. The Israelites took an oath to see this through to the end.

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...


Judg. 20:8. Then all the people rose up as one man, saying, “We will not any of us go into his tent, neither will we any of us return to his house,” sc., till this crime is punished. The sentence follows in v. 9: “This is the thing that we will do,” i.e., this is the way in which we will treat Gibeah: “against it by lot” (sc., we will act). The Syriac gives the sense correctly—We will cast lots upon it; but the LXX quite erroneously supply ἀναβησόμεθα (we will go up); and in accordance with this, many expositors connect the words with v. 10 in the following sense: “We will choose one man out of every ten by lot, to supply the army with the necessary provision during the expedition.” This is quite a mistake, because in this way a subordinate point, which only comes into consideration in connection with the execution of the sentence, would be made the chief point, and the sentence itself would not be given at all. The words “against it by lot” contain the resolution that was formed concerning the sinful town, and have all the enigmatical brevity of judicial sentences, and are to be explained from the course laid down in the Mosaic law with regard to the Canaanites, who were to be exterminated, and their land divided by lot among the Israelites. Consequently the meaning is simply this: “Let us proceed with the lot against Gibeah,” i.e., let us deal with it as with the towns of the Canaanites, conquer it, lay it in ashes, and distribute its territory by lot. In v. 10 a subordinate circumstance is mentioned, which was necessary to enable them to carry out the resolution that had been made. As the assembled congregation had determined to keep together for the purpose of carrying on war (v. 8), it was absolutely necessary that resources should be provided for those who were actively engaged in the war. For this purpose they chose one man in every ten “to fetch provision for the people,” לַעֲשֹׂות לְבֹואָם, “that they might do on their coming to Gibeah of Benjamin according to all the folly which had been done in Israel,” i.e., might punish the wickedness in Gibeah as it deserved.  (
Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 20 - p446)

 

Judges 20:9 "But now this is the thing which we will do to Gibeah; we will go up against it by lot.

by lot against it (KJV): Jos 14:2 1Sa 14:41,42 1Ch 24:5 Ne 11:1 Pr 16:33 Jon 1:7 Ac 1:26

Objects were cast on the ground or drawn from a container as a means of seeking guidance from God (cf. Jos18:6; Pr 16:33).

 

Judges 20:10 "And we will take 10 men out of 100 throughout the tribes of Israel, and 100 out of 1,000, and 1,000 out of 10,000 to supply food for the people, that when they come to Gibeah of Benjamin, they may punish them for all the disgraceful acts that they have committed in Israel."

ten thousand (KJV): or, myriad, Ge 24:60

X

 

Judges 20:11 Thus all the men of Israel were gathered against the city, united as one man.

THUS ALL THE MEN OF ISRAEL WERE GATHERED AGAINST THE CITY, UNITED (KJV "knit together") AS ONE MAN: 3rd time expression "as one man" (cf. Jdg 20:1, 8). The Israelites were knit together as a unit, in marked contrast to the days of Deborah and Barak (Jdg 5:15, 16, 17-note) which also supports this event in Jdg 20-21 occurring very early after Joshua & the elders died. When godly leaders die the leaven of sin spreads like wildfire inflaming the lusts of men's unredeemed, unregenerate flesh nature! (cp 1Co10:13-note).

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...


Judg. 20:11. Thus the men of Israel assembled together against Gibeah, united as one man. חֲבֵרִים, lit. as comrades, simply serves to strengthen the expression “as one man.” With this remark, which indicates briefly the carrying out of the resolution that was adopted, the account of the meeting of the congregation is brought to a close; but the actual progress of the affair is really anticipated, inasmuch as what is related in vv. 12–21 preceded the expedition in order of time. (
Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 20 - p446)

 

Judges 20:12 Then the tribes of Israel sent men through the entire tribe of Benjamin, saying, "What is this wickedness that has taken place among you?

sent men (KJV): De 13:14 20:10 Jos 22:13-16 Mt 18:15-18 Ro 12:18

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...


Judg. 20:12–19. Before the tribes of Israel entered upon the war, they sent men to all the tribes of Benjamin, who were to demand that the culprits in Gibeah should be given up to be punished, that the evil might thus be exterminated from Israel, according to the law in Deut. 22:22 as compared with Judg. 13:6 and 17:12. “The tribes of Benjamin” are the same as “the families of Benjamin:” the historian pictured to himself the different divisions of the tribe of Benjamin as warlike powers about to carry on a war with the other tribes of Israel. The word shebet (tribe) is used in a different way in Num. 4:18. But the Benjaminites would not hearken to the voice of their brethren, the other tribes of Israel. The Keri (sons of Benjamin) is a needless alteration, since Benjamin may be construed with the plural as a collective term. By refusing this just demand on the part of the other tribes, the Benjaminites took the side of the culprits in Gibeah, and compelled the congregation to make war upon the whole tribe. (
Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 20 - p446)

 

Judges 20:13 "Now then, deliver up the men, the worthless fellows in Gibeah, that we may put them to death and remove this wickedness from Israel." But the sons of Benjamin would not listen to the voice of their brothers, the sons of Israel.

deliver (KJV): 2Sa 20:21,22
children of Belial (KJV): Jud 19:22 De 13:13 1Sa 30:22 2Sa 20:1 23:6 1Ki 21:13 2Ch 13:7
put away (KJV): De 17:7,12 19:19 21:21 22:21,24 24:7 Ec 11:10
would not (KJV): 1Sa 2:25 2Ch 25:16,20 Pr 29:1 Ho 9:9 10:9 Ro 1:32 Rev 18:4,5 The conduct of the Israelites was very equitable in this demand; but perhaps the rulers or elders of Gibeah ought previously to have been applied to, to deliver up the criminals to justice. However, the refusal of the Benjamites, and their protection of those who had committed this horrible wickedness, because they were of their own tribe, prove them to have been deeply corrupted, and (all their advantages considered) as ripe for divine vengeance as the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah had been. Confiding in their own valour and military skill, they seen to have first prepared for battle in this unequal contest with such superior numbers.

NOW THEN, DELIVER UP THE MEN, THE WORTHLESS FELLOWS IN GIBEAH (Ho9:9, 10:9):

Worthless fellows = literally "sons of Belial, a phrase found 9x in the OT - Dt 13:13 Jdg 19:22
Jdg 20:13 1Sam 2:12 10:27 25:17 1Ki 21:10 21:13 2Chr 13:7 (See convicting use of Belial in Ps 101:3-
note)

Even though they had failed to consult God & were doing what was right in their own eyes, at this time they only wanted those directly guilty of the crime. The sin of the men of Gibeah called for the death penalty, and Israel had to punish the sin which would purge out the evil influence and would cause others to fear committing similar abomination

REMOVE THIS WICKEDNESS FROM ISRAEL: Note this same Hebrew combination (ba'ar ra') "remove or purge the evil" is found ten times in Deuteronomy. (Read these slowly asking God to search your heart for any "evil" that needs to be purged! - Dt 9:15, 13:5, 17:7, 12, 19:19, 21:21, 22:21, 22, 24, 24:7 -
Beloved, God is clearly serious about the polluting, destructive influence of "evil" in the midst of His holy people! What "evil" are you refusing to purge? If you continue in your resistance and stubbornness, on the authority of God's Word, you will one day reap what you are today sowing. Cease sowing and repent, while today is still called "today"! Don't procrastinate. If you are a believer, the vitality of your spiritual life and communion with the Holy God depends on you choosing to serve Him rather than the idols of this passing world!)

Sadly the Israelites did not see the evil that pervaded their own community and this "sin in their camp" (toleration of the sin of the Levite) may have been the cause of their powerless the first 2 battles. (See Related Discussion: The Deceitfulness of Sin)

BUT THE SONS OF BENJAMIN WOULD NOT LISTEN (hearken) TO THE VOICE OF THEIR BROTHERS THE SONS OF ISRAEL:

Like many today (even in the church), the Benjaminites were unable to accept reproof. And so they would have to learn the disastrous hard way. (Pr 29:1, 6:15). Their refusal to cooperate was definitely an act of rebellion against the Lord. By coming to the aid of Gibeah rather than joining in the punishment of that city the tribe identified with the wicked men and merited their punishment. When sin isn’t exposed, confessed, and punished, it pollutes society and defiles the land. The wicked men of Gibeah were like a cancerous tumor in the body that had to be cut out. (1Co5:6, 15:33)

F B Meyer
Our Daily Homily
Judges 20:13

And put away evil from Israel.

The earnestness and promptness with which Israel dealt with and put away this evil thing were very commendable. They had gathered from all the land, even from Gilead beyond the Jordan. They were knit together in a perfect unity of feeling and action. They resolved to subordinate all things beside to the excision of this evil.

So must it be in the Church. The Lord Himself took Ananias and Sapphira out of the infant Church, and the Apostle very earnestly besought and commanded the Corinthians to put away from among them the wicked person, who had committed a sin that would not be named among the Gentiles. “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us; therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1Co 5:7,8).

At the close of this age God will send forth his angels, to sever the wicked from among the just, and to cast them into the furnace of fire.

In our own life it is impossible altogether to avoid contact with such people. Indeed, to do so, as the Apostle says truly, we must go out of the world. But we can abstain from their friendship and company. It is an altogether different thing to have dealings with a worldly man in business, and to admit him into bosom fellowship and comradeship in our leisure hours. The first is permissible, but not the second; else our companions will seduce us from our loyalty to God. Beware of taking on the color of the ground on which you lie. “I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil.”

 

Judges 20:14 And the sons of Benjamin gathered from the cities to Gibeah, to go out to battle against the sons of Israel.

Nu 20:20 21:23 2Ch 13:13 Job 15:25,26

AND THE SONS OF BENJAMIN GATHERED FROM THE CITIES TO GIBEAH (Ho9:9, 10:9) TO GO OUT TO BATTLE AGAINST THE SONS OF ISRAEL: What had begun as a punitive operation against one city now turned into full-scale civil war. Later the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh were to engage in bitter fighting (Jdg 12:4, 5, 6), but here the eleven tribes were all pitted against Benjamin. The men of Benjamin had a good reputation as excellent soldiers, true to the prediction of Jacob in [Ge49:27]. Their prowess with the bow and the sling was well known, and even in the time of Saul some Benjamites could use the sling with either hand (1Ch8:40; 12:2). Their superior skill was expected to offset the numerical advantage of the other tribes. 

Preacher's Commentary writes that...

There is not the slightest doubt as to the action the leaders of the tribe of Benjamin should have taken when they were confronted with the moral responsibility of the crime they allowed the citizens of Gibeah to perpetrate. Either they should have punished the offenders themselves or handed them over to the nation’s representatives, as demanded in verse 13. But they refused to do this, although the guilt of the men of Gibeah was proved beyond question. Instead, they chose to regard the accusation as a personal attack on the tribe and began to mobilize an army of twenty-six thousand men to defend the guilty. By way of application, we need to remember that there is no clearer indication of moral sickness than when wrongdoing is condoned or even defended on the grounds of family or national solidarity and loyalty...In our society...Sins are laundered verbally to make them acceptable, or at least tolerated, to art increasingly undisciplined populace. Adultery is redefined as “wife swapping” or “having an affair.” Homosexuality becomes “a gay lifestyle.” Theft at work is acceptable if it is “the perks of the job.” Lies are always “white,” the truth always “selective.” Greed is sanitized as “upward social mobility.” The examples are endless. The purpose is always the same—to remove my sense of moral guilt, and so to pretend that if something sounds OK and people feel comfortable with it, that’s all that matters. Whether it is in the TV ads or in the newspapers, the circumstances are glamorized and visual images of social acceptability, fun, wealth, and vitality are all used to anaesthetize the conscience, to pretend that “anything goes.”
This was the situation in Israel; but the lesson, then and now, is that a society that refuses to accept guilt, in the sense of distinguishing right from wrong and punishing the offender, will soon prove impossible to govern. Everyone will do what is right in his or her own eyes, and there will be no ultimate restraints. Might becomes right, and civilization ceases...The tragedy of Israel was that these symptoms were not dealt with when they first appeared, because there was no king. Those of us who are entrusted with authority within the biblical structures of home, church, or nation, have a heavy responsibility before God to use it responsibly in love to Him and to our neighbor." (Jackman, D., & Ogilvie, L. J.  Vol. 7: The Preacher's Commentary Series, Judges, Ruth. Page 285. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson)

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...


Judg. 20:14ff. Both sides now made their preparations. The Benjaminites assembled together at Gibeah out of their different towns, and “were mustered 26,000 men drawing the sword, beside the inhabitants of Gibeah they were mustered, 700 picked men” (הִתְפָּקְדוּ, with the reduplication dropped, like the Hothpael in Num. 1:47). “Out of all this people there were 700 picked men, lamed in the right hand, all these (were) slinging with a stone (hitting) at a hair’s breadth without fail.” These statement are not quite clear. Since, according to the distinct words of Jdg 20:6, the 700 slingers with their left hands were “out of the whole people,” i.e., out of the whole number of fighting men mentioned in Jdg 20:16, they cannot be the same as the 700 chosen men referred to in Jdg 20:15, notwithstanding the similarity in the numbers and the expression “chosen men.” The obscurity arises chiefly from the word הִתְפָּקְדוּ in Jdg 20:15, which is separated by the Masoretic accents from שְׁבַע ם׳, and connected with the previous words: “Beside the inhabitants of Gibeah they (the men of the towns of Benjamin) were mustered.” On the other hand, the earlier translators took the clause as a relative one: “Beside the inhabitants of Gibeah, who were mustered 700 men.” And this seems absolutely necessary, because otherwise the following words, “700 picked men,” would stand without any connection; whilst we should certainly expect at least to find the cop. vav, if these 700 men were not inhabitants of Gibeah. But even if הִתְפָּקְדוּ should be taken as a simple repetition of וַיִּתְפָּקְדוּ, according to the analogy of Deut. 3:5 and 1 Kings 5:30, the statement which follows could not be understood in any other way than as referring to the number of the fighting men of Gibeah. There is something striking too in the fact that only Benjaminites “out of the cities” are mentioned, and that emphasis is laid upon this by the repetition of the expression “out of the cities” (Jdg 20:14, 15). Some have inferred from this, that the Benjaminites as the rulers had settled in the towns, whilst the Canaanites who had been subdued settled as dependants in the villages (Bertheau); or that the Benjaminites had formed military brotherhoods, the members of which lived unmarried in the towns, and that this may possibly account for the abominable crime to which the inhabitants of Gibeah were addicted, and in relation to which the whole tribe took their part (O. v. Gerlach). But such inferences as these are extremely uncertain, as the cities may be mentioned a potiori for all the places inhabited by this tribe. There is another difficulty in the numbers. According to Jdg 20:14, 15, the total number of the fighting men of Benjamin amounted to 26,000 and 700, without reckoning Gibeah. But, according to the account of the battle, 25,100 were slain (v. 35), viz., 18,000 in the principal engagement, 5000 as a gleaning, and 200 in the pursuit, i.e., 25,000 men in all (Jdg 20:44, 45, 46), and only 600 were left, who fled into the desert to the rock Rimmon (Jdg 20:47). According to these accounts, the whole tribe would have contained only 25,100 + 600 = 25,700 fighting men, or 25,000 + 600 = 25,600. Accordingly, in v. 15, the LXX (Cod. Al. etc.) and Vulgate give only 25,000 men; whilst the rest of the ancient versions have 26,000, in agreement with the Masoretic text. Josephus (Ant. v. 2, 10) also gives the number of fighting men in Benjamin as 25,600, of whom 600 were splendid slingers; but he has merely taken the numbers from Jdg 20:44, 45, 46, 47. Now, although mistakes do frequently occur in the numbers given, it is a most improbable supposition that we have a mistake of this kind (26,000 for 25,000) in the instance before us, since even the latter number would not agree with Jdg 20:44ff.; and the assumption, that in Jdg 20:35 and Jdg 20:44ff. we have an account of all the Benjaminites who fell, finds no support whatever in the history itself. In the verses referred to we have simply a statement of the number of Benjaminites who fell in the defeat which they sustained on the third day, whereas the victories which they gained on the first and second days could hardly have been obtained without some loss on their part; on the contrary, we may confidently assume that they would not lose less than a thousand men, though these are not mentioned in the brief account before us. The other difference between Jdg 20:35 and Jdg 20:44, 45, 46, viz., that 25,100 are given in the one and 25,000 in the other, may be explained on the simple assumption that we have only the full thousands mentioned in the latter, whilst the exact number is given in the former. “Left-handed:” see at Jdg 3:15.(
Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 20 - p446)

 

Judges 20:15 And from the cities on that day the sons of Benjamin were numbered, 26,000 men who draw the sword, besides the inhabitants of Gibeah who were numbered, 700 choice men.

twenty (KJV): Jud 20:25,35,46,47 Nu 26:41

 

 

Judges 20:16 Out of all these people 700 choice men were left-handed; each one could sling a stone at a hair and not miss.

lefthanded (KJV): {Itter yad yemeeno,} "obstructed in his right hand;" so the Chaldee Targum, {gemid beedaih deyammeena,} contracted or impeded in his right hand." Lev Clerc observes, that the 700 men left-handed seem therefore to have been made slingers, because they could not use the right hand, which is employed in managing heavier arms; and they could discharge the stones from the sling in a direction against which their opponents were not upon their guard, and thus do the greater execution. Jud 3:15 1Ch 12:2
sling stones (KJV): The sling was a very ancient warlike instrument; and, in the hands of those who were skilled in the use of it, produced astonishing effects. The inhabitants of the islands of Baleares, now Majorca and Minorca, were the most celebrated slingers of antiquity. They did not permit their children to break their fast, till they had struck down the bread they had to eat from the top of a pole, or some distant eminence. Vegetius tells us, that slingers could in general hit the mark at 600 feet distance. 1Sa 17:40,49,50 25:29 2Ch 26:14

700 CHOICE MEN WERE LEFT-HANDED  "obstructed in his right hand"

EACH ONE COULD SLING A STONE AT A HAIR (KJV ~ "at an hair breadth") AND NOT MISS: They formed an important component in the armies of Jehoram (2Ki3:25) and Uzziah (2Ch26:14) several centuries later. Slingstones, weighing one pound or more, could be propelled at speeds up to 90-100mph & thus were extremely effective weapons in the hands of a skiller slinger as David later proved in the victory over Goliath.

The Hebrew verb for "MISS" is translated "to sin" in other contexts

 

Judges 20:17 Then the men of Israel besides Benjamin were numbered, 400,000 men who draw the sword; all these were men of war.

four hundred (KJV): Jud 20:2 Nu 1:46 26:51 1Sa 11:8 15:4 1Ch 21:5 2Ch 17:14-18

The forces of Israel comprised a powerful army, the largest the nation had ever assembled!

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...


Judg. 20:17, 18. The forces of the other tribes amounted when numbered to 400,000 men. These numbers (26,000 Benjaminites and 400,000 Israelites) will not appear too great if we consider that the whole of the congregation of Israel took part in the war, with the simple exception of Jabesh in Gilead (Judg. 21:8), and that in the time of Moses the twelve tribes numbered more than 600,000 men of twenty years old and upwards (Num. 26), so that not much more than two-thirds of the whole of the fighting men went out to the war. (
Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 20 - p446)

 

Judges 20:18 Now the sons of Israel arose, went up to Bethel, and inquired of God, and said, "Who shall go up first for us to battle against the sons of Benjamin?" Then the LORD said, "Judah shall go up first."

house of (KJV): Jud 18:31 19:18 Jos 18:1 Joe 1:14
asked (KJV): Jud 20:7,23,26,27 1:1 Nu 27:5,21 Jos 9:14
Judah (KJV): Jud 1:1,2 Ge 49:8-10

The mention of Bethel poses a problem, since the tabernacle was located at Shiloh (cf. Jdg 18:31). Some have suggested that the Israelites inquired of "the house of God" at Shiloh, but normally this is expressed by bet 'elohim and not bet 'el. Besides, the city Bethel is clearly intended in [Jdg 20:31, 21:19]. Bethel had been a revered location ever since the Lord revealed himself to Jacob at that site (Ge 28:11-19); so, like Mizpah (Jdg 20:1), Bethel could have been one of several suitable holy places (at least "right in their own eyes"). The ark of the covenant appears to have been moved from Shiloh to Bethel (cf. Jdg 20:26, 27). The ark frequently accompanied Israel into battle (cf. Nu10:35). Since Phinehas the high priest stayed with the ark, it was possible to inquire of the Lord wherever Phinehas happened to be. In 2Ch1:3, 4 it is plain that at the start of Solomon's reign the tabernacle was at Gibeon while the ark was in Jerusalem.

Most of the space in [Jdg 20:18-48] is devoted to a description of the fighting, with the fluctuating fortunes of the opposing sides. But the three enquiries (by the Israelites) and responses (by the Lord) in [Jdg 20:18, 23, 28] let us see what was going on at a deeper level. They show us what was happening in the minds of the Israelites and between them and the Lord as the war proceeded through its various phases. The Israelites were confident about the rightness and eventual outcome of their cause (Jdg 20:18). They were already committed to the war, and the Lord’s approval was assumed. They therefore raised a purely procedural matter: how was the campaign to be conducted? The Lord commanded Judah to go first, appropriately so since the ravished concubine was from Judah (Jdg 19:1). But there was no promise of victory and none materialized; quite the reverse (Jdg 20:19, 20, 21). The second enquiry (Jdg 20:23) shows the drastic loss of confidence the enquirers had suffered as a result of their disastrous defeat. They were doubtful about the wisdom of continuing the war, and struck a conciliatory note by referring to the Benjamites as their ‘brothers’. But the Lord sent them into battle again—to another resounding defeat (Jdg 20:23, 24, 25).

The Benjamites undoubtedly deserved to be punished. But the moral and spiritual state of the nation as a whole was such that holy war almost destroyed it instead of preserving it. The Lord appears to be as angry with the rest of Israel as He is with the Benjamites, and He shows it by distributing defeat and victory in such a way that the whole of Israel is judged. He is both the Judge and preserver of His wayward people.

AND INQUIRED OF GOD (cp Jdg1:1): they had made their plans and now were asking God to bless them! Don't we all do this for time to time? The memory of God’s past guidance in the days of Joshua sends them to the shrine at Bethel, not to ask God what they should do, or seek His help, but to go through the religious motions of receiving the divine guidance and blessing. We already know that their motivation is revenge so they could not possibly expect God’s approval.

AND SAID, "WHO SHALL GO UP FIRST FOR US TO BATTLE AGAINST THE SONS OF BENJAMIN?":  how different the circumstances from the similar question of [Jdg 1:1]! There it was a united Israel waging a war of occupation against the Canaanites. Here it is a divided Israel, fighting a civil war in which brother is pitted against brother (Jdg 20:28). The victory in answer to the first prayer was given at once (Jdg 1:4). Here it is withheld until Israel is thoroughly broken and demoralized (Jdg 20:26, 27, 28). Indeed, the ‘holy’ war of this chapter scarcely rates as such. It was decided on at an assembly convened by a man of bad character, and it concluded in a bloodbath that reeked more of vengeful excess than of justice

THEN THE LORD SAID, "JUDAH...FIRST: This verse reminds the reader of [Jdg 1:1, 2] and the fact that the Israelites were supposed to be fighting Canaanites rather than one another. However, the Benjamites had cast themselves in the role of Canaanites (cf. Jdg 21:1; Dt7:1, 2, 3).

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...


Judg. 20:18. Before opening the campaign the Israelites went to Bethel, to inquire of God which tribe should commence the war, i.e., should fight at the head of the other tribes (on the fact itself, see Judg. 1:1); and God appointed the tribe of Judah, as in Judg. 1:2. They went to Bethel, not to Shiloh, where the tabernacle was standing, because that place was too far from the seat of war. The ark of the covenant was therefore brought to Bethel, and Phinehas the high priest inquired of the Lord before it through the Urim and Thummim (vv. 27, 28). Bethel was on the northern boundary of the tribe of Benjamin, and was consecrated to this purpose before any other place by the revelations of God which had been made to the patriarch Jacob there (Gen. 28 and 35). (
Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 20 - p446)

 

Judges 20:19 So the sons of Israel arose in the morning and camped against Gibeah.

rose up (KJV): Jos 3:1 6:12 7:16

Confident of victory, the Israelites moved their forces and equipment near Gibeah and lined up for battle. 

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...


Judg. 20:19. Thus equipped, the Israelites proceeded against Gibeah.  (
Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 20 - p446)

 

Judges 20:20 And the men of Israel went out to battle against Benjamin, and the men of Israel arrayed for battle against them at Gibeah.
Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...


Judg. 20:20-28. As soon as the Israelites had posted themselves at Gibeah in battle array (עָרַךְ מִלְחָמָה, to put in a row, or arrange the war or conflict, i.e., to put themselves in battle array, 1 Sam. 4:2; 17:2, etc.), the Benjaminites came out and destroyed 22,000 men of Israel upon that day. הִשְׁחִית אַרְצָה, to destroy to the earth, i.e., to lay dead upon the ground. (
Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 20 - p446)

 

Judges 20:21 Then the sons of Benjamin came out of Gibeah and felled to the ground on that day 22,000 men of Israel.

the children (KJV): Ge 49:27 Ho 10:9
destroyed (KJV): De 23:9 2Ch 28:10 Ps 33:16 73:18,19 77:19 Ec 9:1-3 Jer 12:1

X

 

Judges 20:22 But the people, the men of Israel, encouraged themselves and arrayed for battle again in the place where they had arrayed themselves the first day.

encouraged (KJV): Jud 20:15,17 1Sa 30:6 2Sa 11:25 Ps 64:5

BUT THE PEOPLE, THE MEN OF ISRAEL, ENCOURAGED THEMSELVES AND ARRAYED FOR BATTLE AGAIN IN THE PLACE: in the same place where the former battle was fought, with the hope of retrieving their credit upon the same spot of ground where they had lost it, which they would not superstitiously change, as if there were any thing unlucky in the place.

WHERE THEY HAD ARRAYED THEMSELVES THE FIRST DAY: The startling defeat brought Israel to its knees. On other occasions such slaughter had followed blatant national sin (Nu25:6; Dt1:45, cp defeat at Ai - Jos7:3-5), and in this case there also appears to still be sin "in the camp" of Israel in that they did not deal with the Levite's blatant sin. Mark it down, when you go out to war with sin in the camp, the results will likely be disastrous. Israel as well as Benjamin needed to purge the evil from among themselves before they could go deal with the "speck that was in their brother's eye."

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...


Judg. 20:22. Notwithstanding this terrible overthrow, the people strengthened themselves, and prepared again for battle, “at the same place” where they had made ready on the first day, “seeking out of pure vainglory to wipe out the stains and the disgrace which their previous defeat had brought upon them” (Berleb. Bible). (
Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 20 - p446)

 

Judges 20:23 And the sons of Israel went up and wept before the LORD until evening, and inquired of the LORD, saying, "Shall we again draw near for battle against the sons of my brother Benjamin?" And the LORD said, "Go up against him."

SHALL WE AGAIN DRAW NEAR FOR BATTLE AGAINST THE SONS OF MY BROTHER BENJAMIN?" AND THE LORD SAID, "GO UP AGAINST HIM: The phrase in suggest that Israel may have wondered whether the defeat was punishment for attacking a "brother" tribe. So this time they asked the question the answer to which they had assumed in [v18].

Matthew Henry writes:

"What, and yet miscarry thus! 1. God’s judgments are a great deep, and his way is in the sea. Clouds and darkness are often round about him, but judgment and justice are always the habitation of his throne. We may be sure of the righteousness, when we cannot see the reasons, of God’s proceedings. 2. God would hereby show them, and us in them, that the race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong, that we are not to confide in numbers, which perhaps the Israelites did with too much assurance. We must never lay the weight on an arm of flesh, which only the Rock of ages will bear. 3. God designed hereby to correct Israel for their sins. They did well to show such a zeal against the wickedness of Gibeah: but were there not with them, even with them, sins against the Lord their God? Those must be made to know their own iniquity that are forward in condemning the iniquity of others."

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...


Judg. 20:23. But before renewing the conflict they went up to Bethel, wept there before Jehovah, i.e., before the sanctuary of the ark, where Jehovah was present in the midst of His people, enthroned between the cherubim, until the evening, and then inquired of the Lord (again through the high priest) “Shall I again draw near to war with the children of Benjamin my brother” (i.e., renew the war with him)? The answer ran thus: “Advance against him.”  (
Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 20 - p446)

 

Judges 20:24 Then the sons of Israel came against the sons of Benjamin the second day.
Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...


Judg. 20:24, 25. But on the second day also the Benjaminites brought 18,000 of them to the ground. “The second day” is not the day following the first engagement, as if the battles had been fought upon two successive days, but the second day of actual fighting, which took place some days after the first, for the inquiry was made at Bethel as to the will of God between the two engagements. (
Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 20 - p446)

 

Judges 20:25 And Benjamin went out against them from Gibeah the second day and felled to the ground again 18,000 men of the sons of Israel; all these drew the sword.

destroyed (KJV): Jud 20:21 Ge 18:25 Job 9:12,13 Ps 97:2 Ro 2:5 3:5 11:33

God was very likely using these 2 defeats to humble the whole nation; this was not merely the result of the sin of one man (although in a sense it certainly did have it's inception with one man, a profane, unholy Levite, not living a life wholly given to God). The whole nation had to be humbled, because they first thought that "they" had a sin problem, but they came to see that "we" have a sin problem. Israel had to get the beam out of its own eye before it started dealing with the eye problem of the tribe of Benjamin (Mt 7:3, 4, 5-note). 

 

Judges 20:26 Then all the sons of Israel and all the people went up and came to Bethel and wept; thus they remained there before the LORD and fasted that day until evening. And the

y offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD.

all the children (KJV): Jud 20:18,23
wept (KJV): 1Sa 7:6 2Ch 20:3 Ezr 8:21 9:4,5 Joe 1:14 2:12-18 Jon 3:5-10

THEN ALL THE SONS OF ISRAEL AND ALL THE PEOPLE WENT UP AND CAME TO BETHEL AND WEPT:

They wept, waited, fasted & sacrificed. It is likely that sin the camp accounted for their failure to win the battles the first 2 times (much like the situation in Jos7:1ff) but another truth is that God reminds us that "vengeance is Mine. I will repay." And here Israel was taking "vengeance" into their own hands. It was not necessarily wrong to punish the men of Gibeah who murdered the woman and shed innocent blood. But it was wrong to put themselves in the place of God. As support for this thought note Who it is Who "strikes" Benjamin in (Jdg 20:35).

THUS THEY REMAINED THERE BEFORE THE LORD AND FASTED THAT DAY UNTIL EVENING:

Something they had not done before they took action. Earlier the nation had also wept and sacrificed to the Lord when judgment was threatened (Jdg 2:4, 5-note) but there was no mention made of genuine repentance at that time. Later King David fasted and wept as he begged the Lord to spare the life of Bathsheba's child (2Sa12:21, 22). These episodes reflect bitter tears as the result of sin. We've all shed them. Revelation 7:17-note and Rev 21:4-note say that God will wipe away our tears. While the context does not allow a dogmatic interpretation, commentators such as Erwin Lutzer feel these will be tears the redeemed shed not for sins which are covered by the blood of the Lamb, but of the manifold opportunities missed during life to bring glory to the Father by good deeds, good deeds that could be "missed" because we at that time we were living in unconfessed sin (See related discussion related to the Bema Seat Judgment of Believers - 2Co 5:9-note, 2Co 5:10-note). Perhaps these prophetic tears have another meaning but this interpretation certainly merits pondering while we still have breath allotted with which to redeem the time in these evil days!

In 1827, Adam Clarke wrote about fasting:

"At present it is but little used; a strong proof that self-denial is wearing out of fashion." What would he say about our present day?

Mt Henry:

"Before they only consulted God’s oracle, Who shall go up first? And, Shall we go up? But now they implored His favour, fasted and prayed, and offered burnt-offerings and peace-offerings , to make an atonement for sin and an acknowledgment of their dependence upon God, and as an expression of their desire towards Him. We cannot expect the presence of God with us, unless we thus seek it in the way He has appointed. And when they were in this frame, and thus sought the Lord, then he not only ordered them to go up against the Benjamites the third time, but gave them a promise of victory: Tomorrow I will deliver them into thy hand, Jdg 20:28."

AND THEY OFFERED BURNT OFFERINGS: (Lv1:1-17) voluntary offering that speak of consecration. The burnt offering (Lv 1:1ff) symbolized the complete consecration of the offerer to God. Fellowship offerings (Lv 3:1ff), which included a meal, symbolized restored fellowship with God.

AND PEACE OFFERINGS BEFORE THE LORD: these offering speak of fellowship or communion with God.

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...


Judg. 20:26ff. After this second terrible overthrow, “the children of Israel” (k.e. those who were engaged in the war), and “all the people,” i.e., the rest of the people, those members of the congregation who were not capable of bearing arms, old men and women, came to Bethel, to complain to the Lord of their misfortune, and secure His favour by fasting and sacrifices. The congregation now discovered, from this repeated defeat, that the Lord had withdrawn His grace, and was punishing them. Their sin, however, did not consist in the fact that they had begun the war itself,—for the law in Deut. 22:22, to which they themselves had referred in v. 13, really required this,—but rather in the state of mind with which they had entered upon the war, their strong self-consciousness, and great confidence in their own might and power. They had indeed inquired of God (Elohim) who should open the conflict; but they had neglect to humble themselves before Jehovah the covenant God, in the consciousness not only of their own weakness and sinfulness, but also of grief at the moral corruption of their brother-tribe. It is certainly not without significance, that in v. 18 it is stated that “they asked God” (יִשְׁאֲלוּ בֵאלֹהִים), i.e., they simply desired a supreme or divine decision as to the question who should lead the van in the war; whereas, after the first defeat, they wept before Jehovah, and inquired of Jehovah (Jdg 20:23), the covenant God, for whose law and right they were about to contend. But even then there were still wanting the humility and penitence, without which the congregation of the Lord could not successfully carry on the conflict against the ungodly. The remark in Jdg 20:22, “The people felt (showed) themselves strong, and added (continued) to set in array the war,” is thoroughly expressive of the feeling of the congregation. They resolved upon the continuance of the war, in the full consciousness of their superior power and numerical strength; and it was not till afterwards that they complained to the Lord of their misfortune, and inquired whether they should renew the conflict. The question was followed by a corresponding answer on the part of God, “Go up against him,” which certainly sanctioned the continuance of the war, but gave no promise as to the result, because the people, thinking that they might be certain of success, had not inquired about that at all. It was not till after the second severe defeat, when 22,000 and 18,000, the tenth part of the whole army, had fallen, that they humbled themselves before the Lord. They not only wept because of the calamity which had befallen them, but fasted the same day before the Lord,—the fasting being the manifest expression of the bending of the heart before God,—and offered burnt-offerings and peace-offerings. The shelamim here are not thank-offerings, but supplicatory offerings, presented to implore the gracious assistance of God, and to commemorate the enjoyment of fellowship with the Lord, through the sacrificial meal associated with this sacrifice (as in Judg. 21:4, 1 Sam. 13:9, 2 Sam. 24:25). (
Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 20 - p446)

 

Judges 20:27 And the sons of Israel inquired of the LORD (for the ark of the covenant of God was there in those days,

inquired (KJV): Jud 20:18,23 Nu 27:21
the ark (KJV): Jos 18:1 1Sa 4:3,4 Ps 78:60,61 Jer 7:12 The loss of two battles at length brought this stiff-necked people to enquire of the Lord; for all the company at this time met at Shiloh, and kept a day of fasting and prayer with great earnestness and solemnity. "Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear." Isa 59:1

AND THE SONS OF ISRAEL INQUIRED OF THE LORD (FOR THE ARK OF THE COVENANT OF GOD WAS THERE IN THOSE DAYS (1Sa1:3; 3:3 ):The only mention of the ark in Judges! In this period the ark was sometimes moved from the central sanctuary, especially in wartime (cf. 1Sa4:4, 5 where, as here, the central sanctuary was at Shiloh).

The loss of two battles at length brought this stiff-necked people to enquire of the Lord; for all the company at this time met at Shiloh, and kept a day of fasting and prayer with great earnestness and solemnity. Isa 59:1 Behold, the LORD'S hand is not so short That it cannot save; Neither is His ear so dull That it cannot hear.

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...


Judg. 20:27, 28. Having made these preparations, they inquired of the Lord whether they should continue the war, and received this reply: “Go up (against Benjamin); for to-morrow I will give it unto thy hand” (יָדְךָ, the hand of the congregation carrying on the war). To this the supplementary remark is appended, that the ark of the covenant was at Bethel in those days, and the high priest served before it. The expression “in those days” implies that the ark of the covenant was only temporarily at Bethel, and therefore had been brought thither from the tabernacle at Shiloh during this war.(
Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 20 - p446)

 

Judges 20:28 and Phinehas the son of Eleazar, Aaron's son, stood before it to minister in those days), saying, "Shall I yet again go out to battle against the sons of my brother Benjamin, or shall I cease?" And the LORD said, "Go up, for tomorrow I will deliver them into your hand."

Phinehas (KJV): It is evident, from this mention of Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, that these transactions must have taken place not long after the death of Joshua. Nu 25:7-13 Jos 22:13,30-32 24:33
stood (KJV): De 10:8 18:5
Shall I yet (KJV): Jos 7:7 1Sa 14:37 23:4-12 30:8 2Sa 5:19-24 6:3,7-12 Pr 3:5,6 Jer 10:23
Go up (KJV): Jud 1:2 7:9 2Ch 20:17

PHINEHAS THE SON OF ELEAZAR AARON'S SON: Ministering at Bethel was Phinehas, the zealous grandson of Aaron who had stopped the terrible plague on the plains of Moab, where 24,000 Israelites had perished in the worship of the Baal of Peor (Nu 25:9). Once more he was called on to intercede in a time of national disaster. The sacred ark was also there, symbolizing the presence and power of God (cf. 1Sa4:3).

The fact that Phinehas was still serving as priest at the tabernacle at Shiloh indicates that this distressing series of events occurred soon after the death of Joshua and the elders that outlived Joshua, during the first anarchistic period in the land of Canaan (Jdg 2:7, 8, 9, 10-notes). The rapid descent of the post-Joshua generation of Israelites into apostasy, immorality and inter-tribal warfare (illustrated in these last three chapters of the book of Judges) is a doleful commentary on the utter depravity of human nature (Cp Ro 3:10-note, Ro 3:18-note, Ro 3:23-note, Ro 7:18-note). Yet, despite it all, God was still merciful and ready to forgive.

 

Judges 20:29 So Israel set men in ambush around Gibeah.

Israel (KJV): Though God had promised them success, they knew they could expect it only by the use of proper means. Hence they used all prudent precaution, and employed all their military skill.
liers (KJV): Jud 20:34 Jos 8:4 2Sa 5:23

The ambush was a strategy successfully used by Joshua at Ai (where the Lord himself commanded the use of an ambush) (Jos 8:2) and by Abimelech at Shechem (Jdg 9:32, 33-44-notes). 

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...


Judg. 20:29-48. The Victory on the Third Day’s Engagement.—Jdg 20:29. The account of this commences with the most important point, so far as their success was concerned: Israel set liers in wait (troops in ambush) round about Gibeah.  (
Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 20 - p446)

 

Judges 20:30 And the sons of Israel went up against the sons of Benjamin on the third day and arrayed themselves against Gibeah, as at other times.
Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...


Judg. 20:30. They then advanced as on the former occasions. (
Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 20 - p446)

 

Judges 20:31 And the sons of Benjamin went out against the people and were drawn away from the city, and they began to strike and kill some of the people, as at other times, on the highways, one of which goes up to Bethel and the other to Gibeah, and in the field, about thirty men of Israel.

drawn (KJV): Jos 8:14-16
smite of the people, and kill, as at (KJV): Heb. smite of the people wounded as at, etc
the house of God (KJV): or, Beth-el, Gibeah. Jud 19:13,14 Isa 10:29
thirty (KJV): Jos 7:5

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...


Judg. 20:31, 32. The Benjaminites came out again to meet the people (of Israel), and were drawn away from the town (the perfect הָנְתְּקוּ without ו is subordinate to the preceding verb, and defines more precisely the advance itself, whilst the mode in which they were drawn away from the town is not described more fully till Jdg 20:32, 33), and began to smite the beaten of the people (who pretended to fly) as formerly upon the roads (where two roads part), of which one led up to Bethel and the other to Gibeah, into the field (Gibeah is the town at which the battle took place, that is to say, somewhere in the neighbourhood, so that a road might easily run from the field of battle towards the town into the field), “about (sc., putting to death) thirty men of Israel.” This statement introduces the more precise definition of the חֲלָלִים. (
Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 20 - p446)

 

Judges 20:32 And the sons of Benjamin said, "They are struck down before us, as at the first." But the sons of Israel said, "Let us flee that we may draw them away from the city to the highways."

Let us flee (KJV): This was done, not only because they had placed an ambuscade behind Gibeah, which was to enter and burn the city as soon as the Benjamites left it; but it would seem, that the slingers, by being within the city and its fortifications, had great advantage over the Israelites by their slings, when they could not come among them with their swords, unless they got them in the plain country. Jos 8:15,16

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...


Judg. 20:32. Then the Benjaminites supposed that Israel was beaten by them as before; but the Israelites said: We will flee, and draw it (the tribe of Benjamin) away from the town to the roads (the high-roads mentioned in v. 31). On the Dagesh dirimens in נְתַקְּנוּהוּ, see Ewald, § 92, c.  (
Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 20 - p446)

 

Judges 20:33 Then all the men of Israel arose from their place and arrayed themselves at Baal-tamar; and the men of Israel in ambush broke out of their place, even out of Maareh-geba.

rose up (KJV): Jos 8:18-22
put themselves (KJV): There appear to have been three divisions of the Israelitish army: one at Baal-tamar, (which was situated, says Eusebius, near Gibeah;) a second behind the city in ambush; and a third, who skirmished with the Benjamites before Gibeah.

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...


Judg. 20:33. Carrying out this plan, “all the men of Israel rose up from their places,” i.e., left the place they had occupied, drew back, “and set themselves in battle array” in Baal-thamar, i.e., palm-place, which still existed, according to the Onom., in the time of Eusebius, as a small place in the neighbourhood of Gibeah, bearing the name of Bethamar. While this was going on, the ambush of Israel broke forth from its position “from the plains of Geba.” The ἁπ. λεγ. מַעֲרֶה, from עָרָה to strip, denotes a naked region destitute of wood. גֶּבַע is the masculine form for גִּבְעָה, and מִמַּעֲרֵה־גֶבַע a more precise definition of מִמְּקֹומֹו. This rendering, which is the one given in the Targum, certainly appears the simplest explanation of a word that has been rendered in very different ways, and which the LXX left untranslated as a proper name, Μαρααγαβέ. The objection raised to this, viz., that a naked level country was not a place for an ambush, has no force, as there is no necessity to understand the words as signifying that the treeless country formed the actual hiding-place of the ambush; but the simple meaning is, that when the men broke from their hiding-place, they came from the treeless land towards the town. The rendering given by Rashi, Trem., and others, “on account of the tripping of Gibeah,” is much less suitable, since, apart from the difficulty of taking מִן in different senses so close together, we should at least expect to find הָעִיר (the city) instead of גֶּבַע. (
Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 20 - p446)

 

Judges 20:34 When ten thousand choice men from all Israel came against Gibeah, the battle became fierce; but Benjamin did not know that disaster was close to them.

ten thousand (KJV): Jud 20:29
knew not (KJV): Jos 8:14 Job 21:13 Pr 4:19 29:6 Ec 8:11,12 9:12 Isa 3:10,11 Isa 47:11 Mt 24:44 Lu 21:34 21:34 1Th 5:3

Evil was near them and they did not know it,. But (v41) they saw, when it was too late to prevent it, that evil had come upon them. What evils may at any time be near us we cannot tell, but the less they are feared the heavier they fall. Sinners will not be persuaded to see evil near them, but how dreadful will it be when it comes and there is no escaping! [1Th5:3].

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...


Judg. 20:34. Through the advance of the ambush there came 10,000 picked men of all Israel “from opposite to Gibeah” (who now attacked in the rear the Benjaminites who were pursuing the flying army of Israel); “and the contest became severe, since they (the Benjaminites) did not know that the calamity was coming upon them.” (
Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 20 - p446)

 

Judges 20:35 And the LORD struck Benjamin before Israel, so that the sons of Israel destroyed 25,100 men of Benjamin that day, all who draw the sword.

twenty (KJV): Jud 20:15,44-46 Job 20:5 Though the numbers of the Israelites were immensely superior to those of Benjamin, though the stratagem was well laid and ingeniously executed, and the battle bravely fought, yet the inspired historian ascribes the victory to the hand of the Lord, as entirely as if he had smitten the Benjamites by a miracle.

AND THE LORD STRUCK BENJAMIN BEFORE ISRAEL: Though the numbers of the Israelites were immensely superior to those of Benjamin, though the stratagem was well laid and ingeniously executed, and the battle bravely fought, yet the inspired historian ascribes the victory to the hand of the Lord, as entirely as if he had smitten the Benjamites by a miracle

SO THAT THE SONS OF ISRAEL DESTROYED 25,100 MEN OF BENJAMIN THAT DAY ALL WHO DRAW THE SWORD: Note God's sovereignty interacting once again with man's responsibility. It is an easy thing to trample upon those who have made God their enemy. See [Mal4:3].

G Campbell Morgan
Judges 20.35

And the Lord smote Benjamin before Israel. Judges 20.35

These words briefly recall the real mean­ing of the awful judgment that fell upon Benjamin. It was the stroke of God. The chapter gives the result of the considera­tion, taking counsel, and speaking, of the nation in answer to the call of the Levite. His action served its purpose. The nation was stirred to its centre. A great moral passion flamed out. Underneath all the degeneracy there was a very definite stratum of religious conviction, and it was this which, in the presence of the iniquity of the men of Gibeah, sprang to life and action, It is very remarkable how, in the case of nations backsliding from religious ideals, this is ever so. In the midst of the most soiled and debased times, in the presence of some more than usually violent manifestation of evil, the slumberingconvictions of a people will flame into new sensitiveness and demand recognition. In response to the ghastly and bloody appeal of the Levite, Israel gathered itself to­gether before God, seeking to know how to act. The low level of morality which had manifested itself in so fearful a form, could only be dealt with by general suffering. The men who were in the wrong were brutally defiant. Moreover, they were strong enough at first to defeat the army of Israel. This fact at least suggests that Israel was not clean enough her-self to punish wrongdoers. Again the people gathered before God, and this time in weeping and lamentation. After this, they again went forward, this time to victory and the sore punishment of the sinning people, and those who had con­doned their sin. Thus not Israel, but God, smote Benjamin. (Morgan, G. C. Life Applications from Every Chapter of the Bible).

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...


Judg. 20:35. And Jehovah smote Benjamin before Israel (according to His promise in Jdg 20:28), so that the Israelites destroyed of Benjamin on that day twenty and five thousand and an hundred men (i.e., twenty-five thousand and upwards).


This was the result of the battle, which the historian gives at once, before entering more minutely into the actual account of the battle itself. He does this in vv. 36–46 in a series of explanations, of which one is attached to the other, for the most part in the form of circumstantial clauses, so that it is not till v. 46 that he again comes to the result already announced in v. 35. (
Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 20 - p446)

 

Judges 20:36 So the sons of Benjamin saw that they were defeated. When the men of Israel gave ground to Benjamin because they relied on the men in ambush whom they had set against Gibeah,

for the men (KJV): Jos 8:15-29

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...


Judg. 20:36. The Benjaminites, for instance, saw (this is the proper rendering of וַיִּרְאוּ with vav consec., which merely indicates the order of thought, not that of time) that they were beaten, and the man of Israel vacated the field before Benjamin (נָתַן מָקֹום, to give place by falling back and flying), because they relied upon the ambush which they had placed against Gibeah. The Benjaminites did not perceive this till the ambush fell upon their rear. But the ambush itself, as is added in v. 37 by way of further explanation, hastened and fell (fell as quickly as possible) into Gibeah, and went thither and smote the whole town with the edge of the sword. To this there is added the further explanation in v. 38: “And the arrangement of the Israelites with the ambush was this: multiply, to cause smoke-rising to ascend (i.e., cause a great cloud of smoke to ascend) out of the city.” The only objection that can be raised to this view of הֶרֶב, as the imperative Hiphil of רָבָה, is the suffix ָם- attached to לְהַעֲלֹותָם, since this is unsuitable to a direct address. This suffix can only be explained by supposing that there is an admixture of two constructions, the direct appeal, and the indirect explanation, that they were to cause to ascend. If this be not admitted, however, we can only follow Studer, and erase the suffix as an error of the pen occasioned by the following word מַשְׂאַת; for the other course suggested by Bertheau, namely that הֶרֶב should be struck out as a gloss, is precluded by the circumstance that there is no possible way of explaining the interpolation of so apparently unsuitable a word into the text. It certainly stood in the text used by the LXX, though they have most foolishly confounded הֶרֶב with חֶרֶב, and rendered it μάχαιρα. (
Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 20 - p446)

 

Judges 20:37 the men in ambush hurried and rushed against Gibeah; the men in ambush also deployed and struck all the city with the edge of the sword.

the liers in wait hasted (KJV): Jos 8:19
drew themselves along (KJV): or, made a long sound with the trumpets, Ex 19:13 Jos 6:5

 

 

Judges 20:38 Now the appointed sign between the men of Israel and the men in ambush was that they should make a great cloud of smoke rise from the city.

Now there (KJV): From this verse to the end of the chapter, we have the details of the same operations which are mentioned, in a general way, in the preceding verses of this chapter.
sign (KJV): or, time, Ge 17:21 2Ki 4:16 *marg:
and (KJV): Heb. with
flame (KJV): Heb. elevation

X

 

Judges 20:39 Then the men of Israel turned in the battle, and Benjamin began to strike and kill about thirty men of Israel, for they said, "Surely they are defeated before us, as in the first battle."

And when (KJV): Jud 20:31
smite and kill (KJV): Heb. smite the wounded

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...


Judg. 20:39. “And the men of Israel turned in the battle:” that is to say, as is afterwards more fully explained in Jdg 20:39, 40, in the form of a long new circumstantial clause, whilst Benjamin had begun to smite, etc. (repeated from Jdg 20:31, 32), and the cloud (הַמַּשְׂאֵת = מַשְׂאַת הֶעָשָׁן, v. 38) had begun to ascend out of the city as a pillar of smoke, and Benjamin turned back, and behold the whole city ascended towards heaven (in smoke), Israel turned (fighting) and Benjamin was terrified, for it saw that misfortune had come upon it (see Jdg 20:34). In Jdg 20:41a, the thread of the narrative, which was interrupted by the long circumstantial clause, is again resumed by the repetition of “and the men of Israel turned.” (
Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 20 - p446)

 

Judges 20:40 But when the cloud began to rise from the city in a column of smoke, Benjamin looked behind them; and behold, the whole city was going up in smoke to heaven.

a pillar (KJV): Ge 19:28 Song 3:6 Joe 2:30 Rev 19:3
looked (KJV): Jos 8:20
flame (KJV): Heb. whole consumption

THE WHOLE CITY WAS GOING UP IN SMOKE TO HEAVEN: "WHOLE" is Hebrew often used of "whole burnt offerings" (Dt33:10) and is in fact used of burning a town whose people have become involved in idolatry (Dt13:16). The entire town of Gibeah had literally become a burnt offering to heaven!

Moreover, the Benjamites’ end was like that of the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah (Ge19:28).

 

Judges 20:41 Then the men of Israel turned, and the men of Benjamin were terrified; for they saw that disaster was close to them.

were amazed (KJV): Ex 15:9,10 Isa 13:8,9 33:14 Lu 17:27,28 21:26 1Th 5:3 2Pe 2:12 Rev 6:15-17 18:8-10
was come upon them (KJV): Heb. touched them

They had sown the wind of evil and now were reaping a whirlwind of evil

 

Judges 20:42 Therefore, they turned their backs before the men of Israel toward the direction of the wilderness, but the battle overtook them while those who came out of the cities destroyed them in the midst of them.

the battle (KJV): La 1:3 Ho 9:9 10:9

They headed east toward the desert area extending from Bethel to Jericho (cf. Josh 16:1). Perhaps they hoped to cross the Jordan and escape into the deserts beyond, but the sheer numbers of Israelites made this impossible. The pursuing forces were augmented by men from nearby cities. Whenever Israel had the enemy on the run, it seemed that volunteers flocked to join in the pursuit. The Midianites (7:23-24) and Philistines (1Sa14:22) were also routed by rapidly growing armies.

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...


Judg. 20:42. The Benjaminites “now turned (flying) before the Israelites to the way of the desert,” i.e., no doubt the desert which rises from Jericho to the mountains of Bethel (Josh. 16:1). They fled therefore towards the north-east; but the battle had overtaken (reached or seized) them, and those out of the towns (had perished). The difficult expression וַאֲשֶׁר מֵהֶעָרִים, of which very different, and for the most part arbitrary, explanations have been given, can only be in apposition to the suffix attached to the verb: “Benjamin, and in fact those who had come to the help of Gibeah out of the towns of Benjamin” (see Jdg 20:14, 15), i.e., all the Benjaminites. The following words, מַשְׁחִיתִים וגו׳, are a circumstantial clause explanatory of the previous clause, וְהַמִּלְחָמָה הדב׳: “since they (the men of Israel) destroyed him (Benjamin) in the midst of it.” The singular suffix בְּתֹוכֹו does not refer to Benjamin, as this would yield no sense at all, but to the preceding words, “the way of the desert” (see Jdg 20:45).—In v. 43 the account is continued by three perfects attached to one another without a copula: “they enclosed (hedged round) Benjamin, pursued him; at the place of rest they trod him down to before Gibeah eastwards.” מְנוּחָה is not used adverbially in the sense of “quietly,” which would not give any fitting meaning, but is an accus. loci, and signifies place of rest, as in Num. 10:33. The notice “to before Gibeah” refers to all three verbs. (
Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 20 - p446)

 

Judges 20:43 They surrounded Benjamin, pursued them without rest and trod them down opposite Gibeah toward the east.

enclosed (KJV): Jos 8:20-22
with ease (KJV): or, from Menuchah, etc
over against (KJV): Heb. unto over against

 

 

Judges 20:44 Thus 18,000 men of Benjamin fell; all these were valiant warriors.
Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...


Judg. 20:44. In this battle there fell of Benjamin 18,000 men, all brave men. The אֶת before כָּל־אֵלֶּה is not a preposition, “with” (as the LXX, Cod. Al., and Bertheau render it), but a sign of the accusative. It serves to show that the thought which follows is governed by the principal clause, “so far as all these were concerned, they were brave men.” (
Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 20 - p446)

 

Judges 20:45 The rest turned and fled toward the wilderness to the rock of Rimmon, but they caught 5,000 of them on the highways and overtook them at Gidom and killed 2,000 of them.

Rimmon (KJV): Jos 15:32 1Ch 6:77 Zec 14:10

THE REST TURNED AND FLED TOWARD THE WILDERNESS TO THE ROCK OF RIMMON (Jos15:32; 1Ch6:77; Zec14:10): "Pomegranate Rock" or "Roaring Rock." Rimmon was a conical limestone hill surrounded by wadis and located about 4 miles E of Bethel. Numerous caves provided hiding places from the relentless pursuers.

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...


Judg. 20:45. The remainder fled to the desert, to the rock (of the place) Rimmon, which is described in the Onom. (s. v. Remmon) as a vicus fifteen Roman miles to the north of Jerusalem. It has been preserved in the village of Rummôn, which stands upon and around the summit of a conical limestone mountain, and is visible in all directions (Rob. Pal. ii. p. 113). “And they (the Israelites) smote as a gleaning upon the roads 5000 men.” עֹולֵל, to have a gleaning of the battle, i.e., to smite or slay, as it were, as a gleaning of the principal battle (vid., Jer. 6:9). Mesilloth are the high-roads mentioned in v. 31. “And pursued them to Gideom, and smote of them 2000 more.” The situation of Gideom, which is only met with here, is not precisely known; but it must have been somewhere between Gibeah and Rimmon, as the rock Rimmon, according to Jdg 20:47, afforded a safe place of refuge to the fugitives. (
Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 20 - p446)

 

Judges 20:46 So all of Benjamin who fell that day were 25,000 men who draw the sword; all these were valiant warriors.

twenty (KJV): Jud 20:15,35

SO ALL OF BENJAMIN WHO FELL THAT DAY WERE 25,000 MEN WHO DRAW THE SWORD; ALL THESE WERE VALIANT WARRIORS: Jdg20:15 says there were 26,000 men of Benjamin that "drew the sword." Since 25,000 fell on "that day," evidently a thousand had already been slain during the previous days of fighting. The number 25,000 seems here to be a "round number" for the more accurate count (25,100) mentioned in Jdg20:35.

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...


Judg. 20:46. On the total number of the slain, see the remarks on Jdg 20:15.—In Jdg 20:47 the statement already made in v. 45 with regard to the flight is resumed; and it is still further related, that 500 men reached the rock Rimmon, and dwelt there four months, i.e., till the occurrence described in Judg. 21:13ff. (
Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 20 - p446)

 

Judges 20:47 But 600 men turned and fled toward the wilderness to the rock of Rimmon, and they remained at the rock of Rimmon four months.

six hundred (KJV): Jud 21:13 Ps 103:9,10 Isa 1:9 Jer 14:7 La 3:32 Hab 3:2,
rock of Rimmon, The rock Rimmon was doubtless a strong place; but it is uncertain where situated. It is probable however, that it was near, and took its name from, the village of Remmon, mentioned by Eusebius, fifteen miles north from Jerusalem. It appears that rocks are still resorted to in the East, as places of security; and some of them are even capable of sustaining a siege. De La Roque says, that "The Grand Seignior, wishing to seize the person of the emir (Fakr-eddin, prince of the Druses,) gave orders to the pacha to take him prisoner: he accordingly came in search of him, with a new army, in the district of Chouf, which is part of mount Lebanon, wherein is the village of Gesin, and close to it, the rock which served for a retreat to the emir. It is named in Arabic, Magara Gesin, i.e., the cavern of Gessin, by which name it is famous. The pacha pressed the emir so closely, that this unfortunate prince was obliged to shut himself up in the cleft of a great rock, with a small number of his officers. The pacha besieged him there several months; and was going to blow up the rock by a mine, when the emir capitulated."

AND THEY REMAINED AT THE ROCK OF RIMMON 4 MONTHS: until there was a peace treaty (21:13,14) were the only survivors of the entire tribe of Benjamin. 

 

Judges 20:48 The men of Israel then turned back against the sons of Benjamin and struck them with the edge of the sword, both the entire city with the cattle and all that they found; they also set on fire all the cities which they found.

smote them (KJV): De 13:15-17 2Ch 25:13 28:6-9 Pr 18:19
came to hand (KJV): Heb. was found
they came to (KJV): Heb. were found

Basically the land of Benjamin is ravaged as a result of their foolish (stupid) decision to defend the sin of the "sons of Belial" in Gibeah -- what were they defending? homosexuality, rape, murder, not to mention their failure to show Oriental hospitality to the Levite's traveling party in Jdg 19. What was now right in their eyes was an abomination in the eyes of God. O, how we need to read and heed the seriousness of straying from God's holy word, which alone is the light (Ps 19:8-note, Ps 119:105-note, Pr 6:23-note) to guide us on the the highway of holiness (Isa 35:8) in the midst of a dark, crooked and perverse generation (Php 2:15-note) at the outset of the 21st century.

Since the destruction included the animals and everything else they found, apparently they had placed the Benjamite towns under the ban as in holy war (cf. Jdg 1:17-note). In holy war (war waged at the Lord’s direct command) the Israelites were sometimes told not to take any loot but to destroy everything as a way of offering it to God (under the ban) It was also an extreme form of divine judgment on Israel's enemies (Jos 6:21; 1Sa15:1, 2, 3) and, in certain circumstances, on Israelites themselves (Dt 13:12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18). Here it is applied without any specific instruction from the Lord to do so!

The problem with revenge is that it is uncontrollable. This was one of the main reasons the Old Testament punishment code, “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth,” was first given. It was to restrict the escalation of revenge before things got out of control. But the Israelites chose to jettison that principle. If every man does what is right in his own eyes, then force becomes the arbiter while truth and justice are the first casualties.

Breach and Recovery
Judges 20
Henri Rossi

Following on the crime of Gibeah, all the tribes from the extreme North to the extreme South were gathered together as one man unto Jehovah in Mizpeh" (Jdg 20:1). Very little seemed wanting in this unanimous protest against evil. There was zeal to enquire into, and to purify themselves from, it, and also a sense of Israel's corporate responsibility, which, later on under Deborah, Gideon and Jephthah, was lacking. The assembling together, the actions and the sentiments of the eleven tribes presented above all a fair appearance of unity (Jdg 20:1, 8, 11), for the smallest tribe, and what was more a guilty one, was the only one absent. The centre of the people's unity was acknowledged, for it was "unto Jehovah" that they gathered together in Mizpeh (Jdg 20:1). What then was wanting in Israel? One thing, "the first love,"which finds expression both towards God and towards those that are His. Towards God, this love had waxed cold in Israel. They had hearkened, deliberated, decided, and then consulted God (Jdg 20:18). In place of commencing with the word of God they had left it to the last. Not that it was omitted, but it no longer occupied the first place. This was a mark of having left their first love. "He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me." "If a man love Me, he will keep My word" (Jn 14:21, 23). "This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments" (1Jn 5:3). Another mark was, that their hearts were more alive to the shame inflicted on Israel, than to the dishonour done to God (Jdg 20:6, 10, 13). How often does this tendency show itself in assembly discipline! It is because God no longer has His right place in our hearts.

The forsaking of first love also betrays itself in our conduct towards our brethren; indeed intercourse with God and with our brethren are closely connected. "And this commandment have we from Him, that he who loveth God love his brother also" (1Jn 4:21). Israel looked upon Benjamin as an enemy, and, notwithstanding the fair appearance of unity, did not regard the sin of one tribe as that of all of the people. They said: "What wickedness is this that is done among you?" (Jdg 20:12) - not "among us." What a difference between this love and that which is described in 1Co 13:4, 5, 6, 7 (see commentary -
1Cor 13:4; 1Cor 13:5;  1Cor 13:6; 1Cor 13:7; 1Cor 13:8)! Zeal was not wanting, but that did not make up for having left their first love. "Thou canst not bear them which are evil" of Rev. 2:2-note, was found here; but, as further on in the address to Ephesus, the Lord could say to His people: "I have somewhat against thee." They added: "that we may put away the evil from Israel" (Jdg 20:13), but where was their brotherly affection? This is indeed always thedanger in connection with discipline, and the Corinthians were exhorted to confirm their love toward the one who had fallen, after the discipline had done its work. If on the one hand, the people addressing Benjamin said "you" in place of "us" in Jdg 20:12; on the other, "us" and "we" usurp an undue place in the next verse: "Deliver as the men ... that we may put themto death and put away evil from Israel." Leaving the first love opens the door to self‑importance.

As for Benjamin, they had grievously sinned in upholding evil in their midst, and the remonstrance of Israel, instead of humbling them, incited them to the most serious act: "to go out to battle against the children of Israel" (Jdg 20:14), and then what was far worse - they allied themselves with evil. The children of Benjamin gathered themselves together at Gibeah, they numbered the inhabitants of Gibeah, and they went forth out of Gibeah and destroyed down to the ground of the Israelites (Jdg 20:14, 15, 21). The absence of humiliation on their part led to terrible results; not only did they not judge the evil, but as a necessary consequence, they fatally excused it, taking sides with the evil‑doers against the people of God. It is true that they put on an appearance of being without the inhabitants of Gibeah (Jdg 20:15), but they numbered them and availed themselves of their seven hundred chosen warriors. In this army the "left‑handed" were equal in numbers to the chosen men of Gibeah, weakness which became strength in the Lord's service when it was an Ehud who fought. Here the left‑handed were skilful against the Lord; the hand which ought to have been apt in defence, was strong to attack and deceive those who confronted them.

When every preliminary was exhausted, Israel asked counsel of God (Jdg 20:18). Judah shall go up first, was the reply of Him who was about to discipline Israel, and twenty‑two thousand men of Judah were destroyed down to the ground. What grace God displayed in this defeat! Israel must learn that, in contests between brethren, there could be neither victors nor vanquished, but that all must be vanquished for the Lord to triumph at the end. God made use of this defeat for the restorationof His beloved people. Israel came forth strengthened from a combat which had cost him his troops, for he came out of it judged in reality by God himself. When the twenty‑two thousand fell, the men of Israel encouraged themselves (Jdg 20:22).

See what fruit their chastisement bore:

• First: it led them to seek again the presence of Jehovah.

• Secondly: instead of human indignation, they were filled with sorrow according to God and their tears were the proof of it.

• Thirdly: their sorrow was not transient, for they wept until even.

• Fourthly: they learnt to depend more truly on the word of God, and no longer say, "Which of us shall go up first?" but "Shall I go up again?"

• Fifthly: affection for their brother in his fall is at length revived, for they say: "The children of Benjamin my brother" (Jdg 20:23).

How worthy of God was such a result! It was not victory but defeat which brought about these things, blessed fruits of the discipline, and meanwhile other fruits were yet to be produced. "And Jehovah said, go up against him."

Eighteen thousand men of the children of Israel were destroyed down to the ground in the second defeat.

• Then, in the first place, "All the children of Israel, and all the people went up, and came unto the house of God."  No one was missing; they were unanimous in seeking Jehovah.

• Secondly: Instead of weeping until even, they wept, and sat there before Jehovah. Their sorrow before God was deepened and of longer duration.

• Thirdly: They "fasted that day until even." That was more than sorrow; it was humiliation, judgment of the flesh and repentance.

• Fourthly and fifthly: They "offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before Jehovah." They recovered those two things of inestimable value, a true sense of the value of the sacrifice and of communion. Dependence on the word of God and the realization of His presence became more highly valued, through God's discipline. The people had the consciousness of being before God Himself, who dwelleth between the cherubims over the ark, and drew near to Him, by a living High Priest who interceded for Israel.

• Sixthly: Their own will at last completely broken. "Shall I yet again go out or shall I cease?" (Jdg 20:26, 27, 28)

What thorough restoration! And that which brought it about was a horrible evil; not that God makes light of the enormity of the evil, but in the interest He bears towards His people, He makes use even of the evil for their blessing. From that time God could bless and assure them of victory.

Then the battle took place in which Israel restored, yet experiencing his own weakness and insufficiency, obtained the victory, but lost nearly a whole tribe. Benjamin was defeated by a humbled people who showed themselves weaker than he. It is the principle of all discipline in the assembly. Without love, without dependence on God and His word, without self-judgment, discipline will always be defective, and it is only under such conditions that an assembly can purge out the old leaven.

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...


Judg. 20:48. The Israelites turned (from any further pursuit of the fugitive warriors of Benjamin) to the children of Benjamin, i.e., to such of the people of the tribe of Benjamin as were unarmed and defenceless, and smote them with the edge of the sword, “from the town (or towns) onwards, men to cattle (i.e., men, women, children, and cattle), to every one who was found;” i.e., they cut down men and cattle without quarter, from the towns onwards even to those who were found elsewhere. עַד כָּל־הַנִּמְצָא (to all that was found) corresponds to מֵעִיר (from the city), and מְתִם עַד־בְּהֵמָה (men to beast) serves as a more precise definition of the עִיר (city): everything that was in the city, man and beast. מְתֹם is pointed wrongfully for מְתִם, men, the reading in several MSS and most of the early editions (see Deut. 2:34; 3:6). They also set fire to all the towns that were met with, i.e., all without exception. Thus they did the same to the Benjaminites as to the Canaanites who were put under the ban, carrying out the ban with the strictest severity. (
Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 20 - p446)

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L M Grant...

 

JUDGES 20
JUSTICE FOR THE GUILTY REFUSED BY BENJAMIN
(JUDGES 20:1-13)

 

All the tribes were united in their insistence that judgment must be carried out against those who were guilty of criminal abuse and murder. They did not have the same zeal for God's glory in judging the idolatry of Dan. In fact, Dan was included in the stand against this moral wickedness. Dan wanted to cast out the speck in his brother's eye while ignoring the plank in this own eye! (Mt. 7:4-note)

These tribes gathered at Mizpah (Jdg 20:1, 2), and heard from the Levite the account of what had happened at Gibeah (Jdg 20:4, 5, 6). He then appealed to them as Israelites, to give counsel and advice as to what to do (Jdg 20:7). Israel agreed together to take ten men out of every hundred in their tribes to go against Gibeah, all being united as one man with no dissenting voice (Jdg 20:8, 9, 10, 11).

Yet, rather than attacking first, they sent messengers through the tribe of Benjamin, focusing on the great wickedness that had taken place in Gibeah and demanding that the perverted men be delivered up to suffer for it. It may have been wiser to appeal first to the city of Gibeah to give up these men, in which case great bloodshed might have been avoided, but if this was not done, still the tribe of Benjamin ought to have responded positively to this request, though it was given more in the form of a demand than a request. But they refused, thus expressing their approval of the wicked actions of these men and defending them.

 

WAR: ONE TRIBE AGAINST ELEVEN
(Jdg 20:14-48)

 

Thus Benjamin, foolishly taking sides with wickedness, gathered their armies to fight against Israel (Jdg 20:14). They had 26,000 warriors as well as 700 men of Gibeah. Among this 26,700 were 700 left handed men who were expert with slingshots, so that Benjamin was a formidable warrior tribe (Jdg 20:15-16). Israel's army numbered 400,000, over 15 times the size of Benjamin (Jdg 20:17). Therefore, it would be natural to think that Israel should triumph. However, Israel knew they should inquire of God, and asked Him which tribe should go first, and were told, "Judah first" (Jdg 20:18). Judah means "praise," but Israel was more intent on revenge than on praise, and did not realize their attitude was wrong.

If we think we can triumph over evil, we shall find ourselves badly defeated, as Israel did, for on the first attack they were defeated with the slaughter of 22,000 men (Jdg 20:21). Should this be surprising to us? No, it should not, for if we judge others without first judging ourselves, God will cause us to be humiliated.

Instead of being broken down before the Lord, however, Israel "encouraged themselves," but it is not said "in the Lord," as was the case with David in 1 Samuel 30:6. Yet they wept before the Lord and asked the Lord's counsel as to going against Benjamin. In fact, they say, "My brother Benjamin, "which showed at least a better attitude than that of anger (Jdg 20:23).

When Israel asked the Lord, "Shall I go up against my brother Benjamin," God told them to go, for His judgment against evil must be carried out. But why did they not ask the Lord what was the reason for their shameful defeat before? They did not ask this, and God did not answer any more than they had asked.

Therefore, when they went out the second day, Benjamin repeated their conquest of Israel, killing another 18,000 men (Jdg 20:25). What a terrible toll to pay in seeking the just judgment of the wicked men of Gibeah! But this has a lesson for us, telling us that sin is far too strong for us. We can never gain the victory over it in our own strength. Even a majority cannot win in such a battle. Only God can defeat the awful power that sin has wielded in raising itself against His people.

The second defeat of Israel shocked them enough to add fasting to their weeping. Fasting is symbolic of self-judgment, which is always vitally important when we think of judging others. But this was not all. They also offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord (Jdg 20:26). Fasting was an admission of their own unworthiness, which is the negative side, but the offerings speak positively, for they picture the one great offering of the Lord Jesus on Calvary, which is the only basis for either forgiveness of sins or for judging sin. So that in offering these sacrifices, Israel was giving God the place that is rightly His. The burnt offering reminds us that the glory of God is paramount, for this all ascended in fire to God. If Israel's motives were only for their own relief, this is not good enough. God's glory is far more important than Israel's honor. Yet the peace offering (in which the offerer had a share (Lev. 7:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15), was added to indicate Israel's sharing with God in the value of the sacrifice of Christ, which would give Israel the right to share with God's work in judging evil.

At this time too we are told that the ark of God was present and Phinehas the priest stood before the ark to enquire of God (Jdg 20:28). Phinehas pictures the Lord Jesus as our Great High Priest, and the ark reminds us of Christ as the Sustainer of the throne of God, the One therefore in absolute authority. Priesthood speaks of His compassionate intercession, a lovely complement of His authority.

Thus, we are to learn that when God is given His true place and Christ is given His place, there will be no more defeat. The Lord told Israel, "Go up, for tomorrow I will deliver them into your hand" (Jdg 20:28).

However, the battle was not an easy one. Israel set men in ambush all around Gibeah (Jdg 20:29) and others advanced toward the city (Jdg 20:30). The Benjamites came out and began to strike down and kill some of the Israelites, about thirty men (Jdg 20:30). The Benjamites were evidently strong, determined warriors, and thought they were in command of the situation again (Jdg 20:32). The Israelites encouraged this vain confidence of Benjamin by fleeing before Benjamin, but with the object of drawing them away from the city. Thus the forces of Benjamin were divided, and Israel's men in ambush burst forth from their places and ten thousand select men of Israel came against Gibeah (Jdg 20:33, 34). The men of Benjamin did not even suspect they were in a desperate situation.

But it was the Lord who defeated Benjamin before Israel (Jdg 20:35), enabling them this time to destroy 25,100 Benjamites. This was a terrible decimation, for their entire army had numbered only 26,700, leaving only 1600 who were not killed. But it was still not as many as those of Israel killed by Benjamin!

 

AN EXPLANATION OF THE VICTORY

(Jdg 20:36-48)

 

These last verses in the chapter form are capitulation of the victory of Israel that caused Benjamin to realize they were defeated (Jdg 20:36). The men of Israel had retreated at first from Benjamin because they relied on those who were in ambush, who, after the greater part of Benjamin's army was drawn away, rushed to attack the city (Jdg 20:37). They captured Gibeah without difficulty and set in on fire. The signal for the rest of Israel's army had been appointed as a cloud of smoke rising from the city (Jdg 20:38).

Therefore, when the Benjamites thought they were winning, the great cloud of smoke arose from Gibeah. Not only did the men of Israel see it, but also the Benjamites who were pursuing them (Jdg 20:40). The fleeing army of Israel turned back to face Benjamin; and Benjamin, seeing they were trapped between two companies of Israelites and that the one company had already vanquished Gibeah, were panic stricken (Jdg 20:41). They turned to one side and ran toward the wilderness, but the Israelites were prepared for this and therefore overtook Benjamin, surrounding them and "easily trampling them down" (Jdg 20:43).

In this first onslaught 18,000 men of Benjamin were killed (Jdg 20:44). The rest turned and fled toward the wilderness to the rock of Rimmon. Israel pursued them relentlessly, killing 5000 of them on the highways and another 2000 who were able to flee farther into the wilderness (Jdg 20:45). Thus the total number of Benjamin killed was 25,000, all capable warriors.

Though Benjamin had been defeated with a terrible slaughter, there were 600 of their men who were able to escape to the Rock of Rimmon in the wilderness and remained there for four months (v.47). But Israel was not content with gaining the victory. In returning they burned the cities they came to in Benjamite territory and killed both men and beasts (Jdg 20:48). If the 600 men had not escaped, what would have happened to the tribe of Benjamin?

This whole history is extremely sad. Counting the men of Israel killed, -- 22,000 and 18,000 -- plus those killed in the last engagement, added to the 25,100 of Benjamin, the total number of deaths was over 65,000! If only Benjamin had honorably judged the men who were guilty of the horrible crime against the woman, this would have avoided the awesome slaughter of so many thousands. It is a lesson for us, a warning not to take sides with evil in any way. It will bring dire results, as well as being a dishonor to God.

F B Meyer...

JUDGES 20
NATIONAL INDIGNATION

The Levite's appeal to Israel had an immediate effect. We are reminded of Saul's appeal (1Sa 11:7), and of the Fiery Cross in more recent times. Mizpeh had already become the rallying-place of the people (Judges 20:10-17).

Judges 20:3-11 A judicial inquiry was instituted, which issued in the unanimous determination to avenge the tragedy which had filled all hearts with detestation (Judges 20:11).

Amid the horror of a battlefield, there is one redeeming feature in the brave devotion of men for their country. And amid the horrors of this chapter, there is at least evidence that the conscience of Israel was growing in their detestation of the crime we have considered, though we must remember that it is always easier to denounce sins in other people, and vow vengeance against them, than to exterminate them in ourselves. Would that each reader would appropriate the words of Israel, "We will not any of us go to his tent till we have put away this evil from Israel" (Judges 20:10).

Judges 20:12-14 Benjamin refused the opportunity of disavowing the perpetrators of the crime. -- This made the whole tribe accessory to the deed, and therefore liable to the punishment.

Judges 20:17-29 The double defeat. -- It is at first difficult to understand why, in so good a cause, and after asking God in all sincerity for guidance on two occasions, the children of Israel fled in battle before Benjamin. But we must notice that it was only on the evening of the second day, in answer to fasting and prayer, that God promised to deliver Benjamin into their hand. And we must remember that God was compelled to speak in language that they could understand, and to teach them, through scenes of blood and tears, that higher morality to which they were yet to come.

Judges 20:30-48 The terrible victory. -- This was a fearful act of vengeance. Benjamin was practically exterminated (Judges 20:47).

One turns from this chapter with a sad consciousness that it is a leaf out of the chronicles of human history which has had, and is having, many counterparts. The story of the extermination of native races, the mowing down of tens of thousands by the introduction of spirits and of opium, may read as darkly in the annals of eternity. Well may creation travail, and the saints cry, Lord! how long! (F. B. Meyer. CHOICE NOTES ON JOSHUA THROUGH 2 KINGS)


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