The Levite, in a general assembly, declares the wrong done to him, 1-7. The decree of the assembly, 8-11. The Benjaminites, being cited, make head against the Israelites, 12-17. The Israelites in two battles lose forty thousand, 18-25. They destroy by a stratagem all the Benjaminites, except six hundred, 26-48.
1 Then all the children of Israel went out, and the congregation was assembled as one man, from Dan even to Beer-sheba, with the land of Gilead, to the LORD in Mizpeh. 2 And the chief of all the people, even of all the tribes of Israel, presented themselves in the assembly of the people of God, four hundred thousand footmen who drew sword. 3 (Now the children of Benjamin heard that the children of Israel had gone up to Mizpeh.) Then the children of Israel said, "Tell us, how did this wickedness happen?" 4 And the Levite, the husband of the woman who was slain, answered and said, "I came into Gibeah that belongs to Benjamin—I and my concubine—to lodge. 5 And the men of Gibeah rose against me and surrounded the house upon me by night. They wished to slay me, and they have forced my concubine so that she is dead. 6 And I took my concubine, cut her in pieces, and sent her throughout all the country of the inheritance of Israel, for they have committed lewdness and folly in Israel. 7 Behold, you are all children of Israel. Give your advice and counsel here."
8 And all the people arose as one man, saying, "Not one of us will go to his tent, neither will any of us turn into his house. 9 But now this shall be the thing which we will do to Gibeah: we will go up by lot against it, 10 And we will take ten men for one hundred throughout all the tribes of Israel, and one hundred for one thousand, and one thousand for ten thousand, to fetch provisions for the people, so that when they come to Gibeah of Benjamin, they may do according to all the folly that they have wrought in Israel." 11 So all the men of Israel were gathered against the city, knit together as one man.
12 And the tribes of Israel sent men through all the tribe of Benjamin, saying, "What wickedness is this that is done among you? 13 Now therefore, deliver us the men, the children of Belial, who are in Gibeah, so that we may put them to death and banish evil from Israel." But the children of Benjamin would not listen to the voice of their brothers, the children of Israel. 14 But the children of Benjamin assembled out of the cities to Gibeah to go out to battle against the children of Israel. 15 And the children of Benjamin were numbered at that time out of the cities twenty-six thousand men who drew sword, besides the inhabitants of Gibeah, who were numbered seven hundred chosen men. 16 Among all this people there were seven hundred chosen men left-handed. Each could sling stones to a hair-breadth and not miss.
17 And the men of Israel, besides Benjamin, were numbered four hundred thousand men who drew sword. All these were men of war.
18 And the children of Israel arose and went up to the house of God and asked counsel of God, and said, "Which of us shall go up first to the battle against the children of Benjamin?" And the LORD said, "Judah shall go up first."
19 And the children of Israel rose in the morning and encamped against Gibeah. 20 And the men of Israel went out to battle against Benjamin, and the men of Israel put themselves in array to fight against them at Gibeah. 21 And the children of Benjamin came forth from Gibeah and destroyed down to the ground of the Israelites that day twenty-two thousand men. 22 And the people, the men of Israel, encouraged themselves and set their battle again in array in the place where they put themselves in array the first day. 23 (And the children of Israel went up and wept before the LORD until evening and asked counsel of the LORD, saying, "Shall I go up again to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother?" And the LORD said, "Go up against him.")
24 And the children of Israel came near against the children of Benjamin the second day. 25 And Benjamin went forth against them out of Gibeah the second day and destroyed down to the ground of the children of Israel again eighteen thousand men. All these drew the sword. 26 Then all the children of Israel and all the people went up, came to the house of God, and wept, and sat there before the LORD. They fasted that day until evening and offered burnt-offerings and peace-offerings before the LORD. 27 And the children of Israel inquired of the LORD (for the ark of the covenant of God was there in those days, 28 And Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, stood before it in those days), saying, "Shall I yet again go out to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother, or shall I cease?" And the LORD said, "Go up, for tomorrow I will deliver them into your hand."
29 And Israel set an ambush around Gibeah. 30 And the children of Israel went up against the children of Benjamin on the third day and put themselves in array against Gibeah, as at other times. 31 And the children of Benjamin went out against the people and were drawn away from the city. And they began to smite and kill the people as at other times, in the highways, of which one goes up to the house of God and the other to Gibeah in the field, about thirty men of Israel. 32 And the children of Benjamin said, "They are smitten down before us, as at the first." But the children of Israel said, "Let us flee and draw them from the city to the highways." 33 And all the men of Israel rose out of their place and put themselves in array at Baal-tamar, and the ambushers of Israel came forth out of their places, even out of the meadows of Gibeah. 34 And there came against Gibeah ten thousand chosen men out of all Israel, and the battle was severe, but they did not know that evil was near them. 35 And the LORD smote Benjamin before Israel. And the children of Israel destroyed of the Benjaminites that day twenty-five thousand and one hundred men. All these drew the sword.
36 So the children of Benjamin saw that they were smitten, for the men of Israel gave place to the Benjaminites because they trusted in the ambushers which they had set beside Gibeah. 37 And the ambushers hastened and rushed upon Gibeah, and they drew themselves along and smote all the city with the edge of the sword. 38 Now there was an appointed sign between the men of Israel and the ambushers, that they should make a great flame with smoke to rise from the city. 39 And when the men of Israel retired in the battle, Benjamin began to smite and kill of the men of Israel about thirty persons. For they said, "Surely they are smitten down before us, as in the first battle." 40 But when the flame began to rise from the city with a pillar of smoke, the Benjaminites looked behind them, and behold, the flame of the city ascended to heaven. 41 And when the men of Israel turned back, the men of Benjamin were amazed, for they saw that evil had come upon them. 42 Therefore, they turned their backs before the men of Israel to the way of the wilderness, but the battle overtook them. And those who came out of the cities destroyed them in the midst of them. 43 So they enclosed the Benjaminites on all sides and chased them and trod them down with ease over against Gibeah toward the sunrise. 44 And there fell of Benjamin eighteen thousand men. All these were men of valor. 45 And they turned and fled toward the wilderness to the rock of Rimmon. And they gleaned of them in the highways five thousand men, and pursued hard after them to Gidom and slew two thousand men of them. 46 So all who fell that day of Benjamin were twenty-five thousand men who drew the sword. All these were men of valor. 47 But six hundred men turned and fled to the wilderness to the rock Rimmon and stayed at the rock Rimmon four months. 48 And the men of Israel turned back upon the children of Benjamin and smote them with the edge of the sword—the men of every city, as well as the beast, and all that came to hand. They also set all the cities that they came to on fire.
Matthew Henry Commentary - Judges, Chapter 20[➚]