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The Oxford Study Bible Study Bible supplemented with commentary from scholars of various religions.

Chapter 20

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1 ALL the Israelites, the whole community from Dan to Beersheba and also from Gilead, left their homes and as one man assembled before the LORD at Mizpah. 2The leaders of the people and a 20:2 and: so Gk; Heb. omits. all the tribes of Israel presented themselves in the assembly of God's people, four hundred thousand foot-soldiers armed with swords. 3That the Israelites had gone up to Mizpah became known to the Benjamites.

The Israelites asked how this wicked crime happened, 4and the Levite, to whom the murdered woman belonged, answered, ‘I and my concubine arrived at Gibeah in Benjamin to spend the night. 5The townsmen of Gibeah rose against me that night and surrounded the house where I was, intending to kill me; and they raped my concubine so that she died. 6I took her and cut her in pieces, and sent the pieces through the length and breadth of Israel, because of the abominable outrage they had committed in Israel. 7It is for you, the whole of Israel, to come to a decision as to what action should be taken.’

8As one man all the people stood up and declared, ‘Not one of us will go back to his tent, not one will return home. 9But this is what we shall do to Gibeah: we shall draw lots for the attack b 20:9 we shall draw…attack: so Gk; Heb. against it by lot. , 10and in all the tribes of Israel we shall take ten men out of every hundred, a hundred out of every thousand, and a thousand out of every ten thousand, and they will collect provisions for the army, for those who have taken the field against Gibeah in Benjamin to avenge c 20:10 who have…to avenge: prob. rdg, cp. Gk; Heb. to do when they come to Geba in Benjamin. the outrage committed in Israel.’ 11Thus all the Israelites, united to a man, were massed against the town.

12The tribes of Israel sent messengers throughout the tribe of Benjamin saying, ‘What crime is this that has taken place among you? 13Hand over to us now those scoundrels in Gibeah; we shall put them to death and purge Israel of this wickedness.’ The Benjamites, however, refused to listen to their fellow-Israelites. 14They flocked from their towns to Gibeah to do battle with the Israelites, 15and that day they mustered out of their towns twenty-six thousand men armed with swords. There were also seven hundred picked men from Gibeah d 20:15 from Gibeah: so Gk; Heb. adds out of all this army there were seven hundred picked men. , 16left-handed men, who could sling a stone and not miss by a hair's breadth. 17The Israelites, without the Benjamites, numbered four hundred thousand men armed with swords, every one a warrior. 18The Israelites at once moved on to Bethel and there sought an oracle from God. ‘Which of us is to lead the attack on the Benjamites?’ they enquired, and the LORD's answer was, ‘Judah is to lead the attack.’

19The Israelites set out at dawn and encamped opposite Gibeah. 20 e 20:22,23 These verses transposed. They advanced to do battle with the Benjamites and drew up their forces before the town. 21The Benjamites sallied out from Gibeah and laid low twenty-two thousand of Israel on the field that day. 23The Israelites went up to Bethel f 20:23 to Bethel: prob. rdg, cp. verses 18,26; Heb. omits. , where they lamented before the LORD until evening, and enquired whether they should again attack their kinsmen the Benjamites. The LORD said, ‘Go up to the attack.’

22The Israelite army took fresh courage and formed up again on the same ground as the first day. 24So on the second day they advanced against the Benjamites, 25who sallied out from Gibeah to meet them and laid low on the field another eighteen thousand armed men.

26The Israelites, the whole army, went back to Bethel, where they sat before the LORD lamenting and fasting until evening, and they offered whole-offerings and shared-offerings before the LORD. 2728In those days the Ark of the Covenant of God was there, and Phinehas son of Eleazar, son of Aaron, served before the LORD. The Israelites enquired of the LORD, ‘Shall we again march out to battle against Benjamin our kin, or shall we desist?’ The LORD answered, ‘Attack! Tomorrow I shall deliver him into your hands.’

29The Israelites posted men in ambush all round Gibeah, 30and on the third day they advanced against the Benjamites and drew up their forces at Gibeah as before. 31The Benjamites sallied out to meet them, and were drawn away from the town. They began the attack as before by killing a few Israelites, about thirty g 20:31 a few…thirty: or about thirty wounded men. , on the highways which led across open country, one to Bethel and the other to Gibeon h Gibeon: prob. rdg; Heb. Gibeah. . 32They thought that once again they were inflicting a defeat, but the Israelites had planned a retreat to draw them out on the highways away from the town. 3334Meanwhile the main body of Israelites left their positions and re-formed at Baal-tamar, while those in ambush, ten thousand picked men all told, burst out from their position in the neighbourhood of Gibeah i 20:33–34 Gibeah: prob. rdg, cp. Gk; Heb. Geba. and came in on the east of the town. There was soon heavy fighting; yet the Benjamites did not suspect the disaster threatening them. 35So the LORD put Benjamin to flight before Israel, and on that day the Israelites killed twenty-five thousand one hundred Benjamites, all armed with swords.

36The men of Benjamin now saw that they had suffered a defeat, for all that the Israelites, trusting in the ambush which they had set by Gibeah, had given ground before them. 37The men in ambush made a sudden dash on Gibeah, fell on the town from all sides, and put all the inhabitants to the sword. 38The agreed signal between the Israelites and those in ambush j 20:38 those in ambush: prob. rdg; Heb. adds an unintelligible word. was to be a column of smoke sent up from the town, 39and the Israelites would then face about in the battle. Benjamin began to cut down the Israelites, killing about thirty of them k 20:39 to cut…of them: or to kill about thirty wounded men among the Israelites. , in the belief that they were defeating the enemy as they had done in the first encounter. 40But as the column of smoke began to go up from the town, the Benjamites looked back and thought the whole town was in flames. 41Then the Israelites faced about, and the Benjamites saw that disaster had overtaken them. They were seized with panic, 42and turned in flight before the Israelites in the direction of the wilderness; but the fighting caught up with them, and soon those from the town l 20:42 town: so Lat.; Heb. towns. were among them, cutting them down. 43They hemmed in the Benjamites, pursuing them without respite m 20:43 without respite: or from Nohah. , and overtook them at a point to the east of Gibeah. 44Eighteen thousand of the Benjamites fell, all of them valiant warriors. 45The survivors turned and fled into the wilderness towards the Rock of Rimmon. The Israelites picked off the stragglers on the roads, five thousand of them, and continued the pursuit until they had cut down two thousand more. 46Twenty-five thousand armed men of Benjamin fell in battle that day, all valiant warriors. 47The six hundred who survived made off into the wilderness as far as the Rock of Rimmon, and there they remained for four months. 48The Israelites then turned back to deal with the other Benjamites, and put to the sword the people in the towns and the cattle, every creature that they found; they also set fire to every town within their reach.

Notes:

a 20:2 and: so Gk; Heb. omits.

b 20:9 we shall draw…attack: so Gk; Heb. against it by lot.

c 20:10 who have…to avenge: prob. rdg, cp. Gk; Heb. to do when they come to Geba in Benjamin.

d 20:15 from Gibeah: so Gk; Heb. adds out of all this army there were seven hundred picked men.

e 20:22,23 These verses transposed.

f 20:23 to Bethel: prob. rdg, cp. verses 18,26; Heb. omits.

g 20:31 a few…thirty: or about thirty wounded men.

h Gibeon: prob. rdg; Heb. Gibeah.

i 20:33–34 Gibeah: prob. rdg, cp. Gk; Heb. Geba.

j 20:38 those in ambush: prob. rdg; Heb. adds an unintelligible word.

k 20:39 to cut…of them: or to kill about thirty wounded men among the Israelites.

l 20:42 town: so Lat.; Heb. towns.

m 20:43 without respite: or from Nohah.

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