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Judges 20

The tribe of Benjamin nearly extirpated.

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The tribe of Benjamin nearly extirpated

1 Then all the children of Israel went out, and the congregation was gathered together as one man, from Dan even to Beersheba, with the land of Gilead, unto 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 that drew sword.

3 (Now the children of Benjamin heard that the children of Israel were gone up to Mizpeh.) Then said the children of Israel, Tell us, how was this wickedness?

4 And the Levite, the husband of the woman that was slain, answered and said, I came into Gibeah that belongeth to Benjamin, I and my concubine, to lodge.

5 And the men of Gibeah rose against me, and beset the house round about upon me by night, and thought to have slain me: and my concubine have they forced, that she is dead.

6 And I took my concubine, and cut her in pieces, and sent her throughout all the country of the inheritance of Israel: for they have committed lewdness and folly in Israel.

7 Behold, ye are all children of Israel; give here your advice and counsel.

8 And all the people arose as one man, saying, We will not any of us go to his tent, neither will we any of us turn into his house.

9 But now this shall be the thing which we will do to Gibeah; we will go up by lot against it;

10 And we will take ten men of an hundred throughout all the tribes of Israel, and an hundred of a thousand, and a thousand out of ten thousand, to fetch victual for the people, that they may do, when they come to Gibeah of Benjamin, according to all the folly that they have wrought in Israel.

11 So all the men of Israel were gathered against the city, 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, which are in Gibeah, that we may put them to death, and put away evil from Israel. But the children of Benjamin would not hearken to the voice of their brethren the children of Israel.

14 But the children of Benjamin gathered themselves together out of the cities unto Gibeah, to go out to battle against the children of Israel.

15 And the children of Benjamin were numbered at that time out of the cities twenty and six thousand men that drew sword, beside the inhabitants of Gibeah, which were numbered seven hundred chosen men.

16 Among all this people there were seven hundred chosen men lefthanded; every one could sling stones at an hair breadth, and not miss.

17 And the men of Israel, beside Benjamin, were numbered four hundred thousand men that drew sword: all these were men of war.

18 And the children of Israel arose, and went up to 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 up 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 out of Gibeah, and destroyed down to the ground of the Israelites that day twenty and two thousand men.

22 And the people the men of Israel encouraged themselves, and set their battle again in array in the place where they put themselves in array the first day.

23 (And the children of Israel went up and wept before the LORD until even, and asked counsel of the LORD, saying, Shall I go up again to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother? And the LORD said, Go up against him.)

24 And the children of Israel came near against the children of Benjamin the second day.

25 And Benjamin went forth against them out of Gibeah the second day, and destroyed down to the ground of the children of Israel again eighteen thousand men; all these drew the sword.

26 Then all the children of Israel, and all the people, went up, and came unto the house of God, and wept, and sat there before the LORD, and fasted that day until even, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD.

27 And the children of Israel enquired 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 to morrow I will deliver them into thine hand.

29 And Israel set liers in wait round about Gibeah.

30 And the children of Israel went up against the children of Benjamin on the third day, and put themselves in array against Gibeah, as at other times.

31 And the children of Benjamin went out against the people, and were drawn away from the city; and they began to smite of the people, and kill, as at other times, in the highways, of which one goeth up to the house of God, and the other to Gibeah in the field, about thirty men of Israel.

32 And the children of Benjamin said, They are smitten down before us, as at the first. But the children of Israel said, Let us flee, and draw them from the city unto the highways.

33 And all the men of Israel rose up out of their place, and put themselves in array at Baaltamar: and the liers in wait of Israel came forth out of their places, even out of the meadows of Gibeah.

34 And there came against Gibeah ten thousand chosen men out of all Israel, and the battle was sore: but they knew not that evil was near them.

35 And the LORD smote Benjamin before Israel: and the children of Israel destroyed of the Benjamites that day twenty and five thousand and an hundred men: all these drew the sword.

36 So the children of Benjamin saw that they were smitten: for the men of Israel gave place to the Benjamites, because they trusted unto the liers in wait which they had set beside Gibeah.

37 And the liers in wait hasted, and rushed upon Gibeah; and the liers in wait drew themselves along, and smote all the city with the edge of the sword.

38 Now there was an appointed sign between the men of Israel and the liers in wait, that they should make a great flame with smoke rise up out of the city.

39 And when the men of Israel retired in the battle, Benjamin began to smite and kill of the men of Israel about thirty persons: for they said, Surely they are smitten down before us, as in the first battle.

40 But when the flame began to arise up out of the city with a pillar of smoke, the Benjamites looked behind them, and, behold, the flame of the city ascended up to heaven.

41 And when the men of Israel turned again, the men of Benjamin were amazed: for they saw that evil was come upon them.

42 Therefore they turned their backs before the men of Israel unto the way of the wilderness; but the battle overtook them; and them which came out of the cities they destroyed in the midst of them.

43 Thus they inclosed the Benjamites round about, and chased them, and trode them down with ease over against Gibeah toward the sunrising.

44 And there fell of Benjamin eighteen thousand men; all these were men of valour.

45 And they turned and fled toward the wilderness unto the rock of Rimmon: and they gleaned of them in the highways five thousand men; and pursued hard after them unto Gidom, and slew two thousand men of them.

46 So that all which fell that day of Benjamin were twenty and five thousand men that drew the sword; all these were men of valour.

47 But six hundred men turned and fled to the wilderness unto the rock Rimmon, and abode in the rock Rimmon four months.

48 And the men of Israel turned again upon the children of Benjamin, and smote them with the edge of the sword, as well the men of every city, as the beast, and all that came to hand: also they set on fire all the cities that they came to.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. Bersabee, from the northern to the southern extremity of the land, (C.) west of the Jordan, as Galaad denotes that on the east, belonging to Israel. Only the Benjamites and the town of Jabes declined attending. H. — Maspha, on the confines of the tribes of Juda and Benjamin. Here the people frequently assembled; and it was a place of prayer, 1 Mac. iii. 46. It is thought that an altar of the Lord had been erected. C. — Maspha denotes, “a height or watch-tower,” (H.) in Silo. Mas. in Josue xviii. 26.

Ver. 2. Chiefs. Lit. “angles and corner-stones,” whose business it was to keep the people in order; or, all the different ranks of men might be designated. C. — Sept. “the climate,” or country. H. — Syr. and Arab. “the families of all the people.” 1 K. xiv. 38. C.

Ver. 3. Levite. Heb. and Sept. do not say that the discourse was addressed to him; but he was the most interested, and capable of giving a true account. Heb. “The said the children of Israel, Relate (Sept. ye) how this wickedness happened, (4) And the Levite,” &c. answered.

Ver. 5. Kill me. He expressed an abominable crime by another less horrible. Salien. — But he does not say that he brought out his wife. He might conclude, that if he had been exposed to their fury, he would have experienced a similar fate. H. — So determined was he to resist to the last extremity. The outrage would have been more hateful to him than death. C. — We may reasonably conclude that his wife had the same sentiments, and that she died a martyr to her conjugal fidelity, resisting even unto death, and thus making some atonement for her past misconduct.

Ver. 6. Because, &c. Heb. and Sept. “for they have wrought (zimma, a word which the Sept. (Alex. and Vat.) leave untranslated, others render dishonesty) lewdness and folly,” or a most impious act of lust. H. — They do not compare this crime with every other that had been committed, as idolatry, and other sins, which directly attack God, are greater. But this was the most atrocious injustice which could be done to a fellow creature. Salien.

Ver. 9. In common. Heb. “by lot.” C. — They chose one man out of ten to procure provisions, selecting 40,000 for that purpose, or the 10th part of the forces. H.

Ver. 11. With, &c. This is added to explain. C. — Heb. “united as one man.“ H.

Ver. 12. Sent. The law of nations requires that satisfaction be demanded, (C.) before a war commence. M. — The former resolution (v. 9,) was only conditional, if the Benjamites should prefer defending their brethren of Gabaa, before punishing them, as they deserved. C. — Indeed their absenting themselves from this general assembly, implied as much, and the Israelites were determined, at any rate, to see that the guilty were duly punished. H. — Tribe. Heb. “tribes,” denoting the great families of Benjamin. Gen. xlvi. 21. Num. xxvi. 38.

Ver. 15. Men. This number is verified, v. 35. The Benjamites had 25,700 in all, of whom they lost 25,100; so that 600 remained. Heb. reads here 26,000; and some pretend (C.) that 1000 fell in the two victories which they obtained. Grot. &c. — But this is without proof, and the Vulg. is confirmed by Josephus, and by most of the copies of the Sept. though the Vat. copy has only 23,000. C. — Gabaa. Heb. and Sept. add, “which were numbered 700 chosen men.” Grabe repeats in the following verse with the Heb. “Among all this people, 700 chosen men,” which seems to insinuate that these expert archers were selected out of all the army. H. — But the other copies of the Sept. agree with the Vulg. that they were all of Gabaa, (C.) as if they were trained at this city with more particular care, to hit a mark how small soever.

Ver. 16. Right. Sept. “ambidextrous.” Moderns generally translate the Heb. “left-handed.” But we have seen that such a meaning is improbable. C. iii. 15. — Side. The inhabitants of Palestine formerly applied themselves very much to this exercise, and by them it was propagated over other parts of the world. Plin. vii. 56. Strabo (iii.) observes that eh people of the Balearic islands became famous for slinging, only after the PhÅ“nicians had taken possession of their country, which is the present Majorca and Minorca. They could hit the mark without failing, and penetrate every sort of armour. Florus iii. Their bullets of lead were sent with such violence, as sometimes to melt in the air, according to Ovid and Seneca, q. 2. 56. The slingers commonly stood 600 paces from the mark of white, which they seldom missed. Veget. ii. 23. The stones which they used weighted a pound among the Romans. The sling would frequently carry farther than a bow. Xenophon, Anab. v. Yet the exploits of bowmen are not less extraordinary than what is here recorded. Philostorgius (ii. 12,) assures us that the Indians, after they have been drinking, will shoot at a child, and only touch the ends of his hair. Domitian would shoot from a great distance, and make the arrow pass between the extended fingers of a child, and at other times would divest himself with piercing an animal with two arrows, so that they would stick out like horns. Sueton. Soranus could send an arrow into the air, and pierce it with another as it fell. The emperor Hadrian writes of him,

“Emissumque arcu dum pendet in aere telum,

Ac redit ex alto, fixi fregique sagitta.” C.

Ver. 17. Thousand. Their numbers had decreased since they came out fo Egypt, (Num. i. and xxvi.) when they were 600,000 fighting men. M. — But we must reflect, that some would be left to garrison the cities, &c. The Benjamites must surely have been infatuated to encounter so great a force in such a cause. H.

Ver. 18. Silo. Heb. simply “to Bethel,” which the Sept. Syr. Josephus, and others, explain of the city: but others generally understand “the house of God,” at Silo, for which Bethel is placed. C. xxi. 2. 9. and 12. Phinees resided near the tabernacle, and was desired to consult. — Juda is not the name of a man, but of the tribe; (C.) and probably Othoniel would have the chief command. Salien. — The Israelites do not ask whether they ought to make war on their brethren, &c. but only desire to know which tribe shall begin the attack. C. i. 1. and x. 18. They manifest a degree of presumption, which God soon chastised, (C.) as well as the idolatry of Dan, &c. which they had neglected to punish, though they had an express command to do it. Deut. xiii. 12. Salien. — They were full of pride, and only concerned to revenge their own wrongs. H.

Ver. 22. Trusting in their strength. The Lord suffered them to be overthrown, and many of them to be slain, though their cause was just; partly in punishment of the idolatry which they exercised or tolerated in the tribe of Dan, and elsewhere: and partly because they trusted in their own strength: and therefore, though he bid them fight, he would not give them the victory, till they were thoroughly humbled, and had learned to trust in him alone. Ch. — God’s thoughts are often different from ours; and he frequently delays to crown with success the most holy enterprises, that man may learn to be more humble, and to trust wholly in his mercy. C.

Ver. 23. And join battle. This is an explanation of Heb. “against him.” H. — The Israelites still neglected to sue for the divine protection, trusting in their numbers. God sends them again to battle, and suffers them to be routed. Did he deceive them? By no means. He wished them to learn the important lesson of self-diffidence, and he had not promised them the victory. H. — But after they had humbled themselves, He acts like a master. I will deliver, &c. v. 28. C.

Ver. 25. Sword. In each battle the Benjamites kill almost as many as their whole army, in all 40,000 Israelites, without losing a man, v. 15. H.

Ver. 26. Evening. Till then the Jews never eat on fasting days. The Turks still do the like: but they only change day into night, as they sleep till sunset, and then begin to feast and to make merry. C.

Ver. 28. Was over. Heb. “stood before it at that time,” (H.) in the camp, (C.) or perhaps at Silo, which was not so remote; but some, if not the whole army, might go thither to weep, and to consult the Lord. Phinees had formerly displayed his zeal against the impiety of Beelphegor. Num. xxv. 7. He was contemporary with Jonathan, the priest of Michas. Kennicott. — Hence it appears that this took place not long after the death of Eleazar. Jos. xxiv. W.

Ver. 31. To Gabaa, from some other city. H. — This body of men consisted of 10,000, who were designed to draw off the Benjamites from the city into the midst of the forces of Israel, at Baalthamar; while another division, in ambush, on the west of Gabaa, had to enter the city, and having set it on fire, were to prevent the inhabitants from re-entering. C. — They use a similar stratagem to that which Josue (C. viii.) had employed against Hai. (Salien.

Ver. 33. Baalthamar, the plain of Jericho; (Chal.) or rather a village in the vicinity of Gabaa, which Eusebius calls Besthamar.

Ver. 34. West side. Heb. mare, “a cavern,” (C.) “a plain,” (Chal.) “the thickets.” Vat. &c. But the Sept. have read marbe, “the west,” with the Vulge. C. — The Vat. copy leave Maraagabe. M. — Gabaa was situated on a hill, and the ambuscade might be concealed in a cavern, some of which in Palestine are very spacious. C.

Ver. 35. The sword. It seems the slingers also used the sword, v. 16.

Ver. 36. Flee; some towards the city, others to the wilderness, and to Remmon, v. 45. H. — That. Heb. “because they confided in those whom they had place din ambush, near Gabaa.” Hence they were not so eager to prevent their flight, by surrounding them.

Ver. 37. Arose. Heb. “drew along (advanced or sounded the trumpet a long time,”) perhaps for a signal, (C.) though the firing of the city seems to have been designed for this purpose, v. 40. H.

Ver. 39. Saw. Heb. “retired in the battle, Benjamin began to smite and to kill…about thirty men; for they said, surely they are destroyed before us, (or flee) as in the first battle.” It is wonderful that they should thus so easily fall into the very snare laid formerly for the men of Hai. Jos. viii. 5.

Ver. 42. Them. Heb. “and those who came out of the cities, (of Benjamin) they (destroyed, (H.) or the other Israelites) destroyed them who fled in the midst of them.”

Ver. 43. Rest. Heb. “with ease, or at leisure they crushed them,” &c. Others translate, (C.) Monvee, from Nucha, Noua, (Sept. Rom. H.) Menucha,” &c. We read of a place in the tribe of Juda, called Menuchta, 1 Par. ii. 52. C. — The same word may be taken as a proper name, or may signify rest. M.

Ver. 45. In that. Heb. “and they gleaned of them in the highways 5000 men, and pursued them close to Giddom,” of which the Vulg. takes no notice. The Roman Sept. reads “Gedan;” the rest have “Galaad.”

Ver. 46. War. The Scripture, and other authors of the greatest exactitude, sometimes use round numbers. C. — An odd hundred (v. 35, and 15. H.) is here neglected. C.

Ver. 47. Escape. Mercy was shewn to these, as the tribe had been already treated with sufficient severity. S. Jerom says, they were “reserved for the sake of the apostle Paul,” (epit. Paul. M.) who was descended from some of them. H. — Remmon, near Gabaa. Zac. xiv. 10. Eusebius places it fourteen miles north of Jerusalem. C.

Ver. 48. And villages, is not expressed in Heb. &c. But as both cities, and all the inhabitants were destroyed, the villages would share the same fate, (H.) as being under a curse. The Israelites concluded, from the exemplary vengeance which had been taken of Sodom and Gomorra, that they were authorized to treat their brethren in guilt with the utmost severity. C.