20:1 All the Israelites from Dan to Beer Sheba 1 and from the land of Gilead 2 left their homes 3 and assembled together 4 before the Lord at Mizpah. 20:2 The leaders 5 of all the people from all the tribes of Israel took their places in the assembly of God’s people, which numbered 6 four hundred thousand sword-wielding foot soldiers. 20:3 The Benjaminites heard that the Israelites had gone up to Mizpah. Then the Israelites said, “Explain how this wicked thing happened!” 20:4 The Levite, 7 the husband of the murdered woman, spoke up, “I and my concubine stopped in 8 Gibeah in the territory of Benjamin 9 to spend the night. 20:5 The leaders of Gibeah attacked me and at night surrounded the house where I was staying. 10 They wanted to kill me; instead they abused my concubine so badly that she died. 20:6 I grabbed hold of my concubine and carved her up and sent the pieces 11 throughout the territory occupied by Israel, 12 because they committed such an unthinkable atrocity 13 in Israel. 20:7 All you Israelites, 14 make a decision here!” 15
20:8 All Israel rose up in unison 16 and said, “Not one of us will go home! 17 Not one of us will return 18 to his house! 20:9 Now this is what we will do to Gibeah: We will attack the city as the lot dictates. 19 20:10 We will take ten of every group of a hundred men from all the tribes of Israel (and a hundred of every group of a thousand, and a thousand of every group of ten thousand) to get supplies for the army. 20 When they arrive in Gibeah of Benjamin they will punish them for the atrocity which they committed in Israel.” 21 20:11 So all the men of Israel gathered together at the city as allies. 22
20:12 The tribes of Israel sent men throughout the tribe 23 of Benjamin, saying, “How could such a wicked thing take place? 24 20:13 Now, hand over the good-for-nothings 25 in Gibeah so we can execute them and purge Israel of wickedness.” 26 But the Benjaminites refused to listen to their Israelite brothers. 20:14 The Benjaminites came from their cities and assembled at Gibeah 27 to make war against the Israelites. 20:15 That day the Benjaminites mustered from their cities twenty-six thousand sword-wielding soldiers, besides seven hundred well-trained soldiers from Gibeah. 28 20:16 Among this army 29 were seven hundred specially-trained left-handed soldiers. 30 Each one could sling a stone and hit even the smallest target. 31 20:17 The men of Israel (not counting Benjamin) had mustered four hundred thousand sword-wielding soldiers, every one an experienced warrior. 32
20:18 The Israelites went up to Bethel 33 and asked God, 34 “Who should lead the charge against the Benjaminites?” 35 The Lord said, “Judah should lead.” 20:19 The Israelites got up the next morning and moved 36 against Gibeah. 20:20 The men of Israel marched out to fight Benjamin; they 37 arranged their battle lines against Gibeah. 20:21 The Benjaminites attacked from Gibeah and struck down twenty-two thousand Israelites that day. 38
20:22 The Israelite army 39 took heart 40 and once more arranged their battle lines, in the same place where they had taken their positions the day before. 20:23 The Israelites went up and wept before the Lord until evening. They asked the Lord, “Should we 41 again march out to fight 42 the Benjaminites, our brothers?” 43 The Lord said, “Attack them!” 44 20:24 So the Israelites marched toward 45 the Benjaminites the next day. 20:25 The Benjaminites again attacked them from Gibeah and struck down eighteen thousand sword-wielding Israelite soldiers. 46
20:26 So all the Israelites, the whole army, 47 went up to 48 Bethel. 49 They wept and sat there before the Lord; they did not eat anything 50 that day until evening. They offered up burnt sacrifices and tokens of peace 51 to the Lord. 20:27 The Israelites asked the Lord (for the ark of God’s covenant was there in those days; 20:28 Phinehas son of Eleazar, son of Aaron, was serving the Lord 52 in those days), “Should we 53 once more march out to fight the Benjaminites our brothers, 54 or should we 55 quit?” The Lord said, “Attack, for tomorrow I will hand them 56 over to you.”
20:29 So Israel hid men in ambush outside Gibeah. 20:30 The Israelites attacked the Benjaminites the next day; 57 they took their positions against Gibeah just as they had done before. 20:31 The Benjaminites attacked 58 the army, leaving the city unguarded. 59 They began to strike down their enemy 60 just as they had done before. On the main roads (one leads to Bethel, 61 the other to Gibeah) and in the field, they struck down 62 about thirty Israelites. 20:32 Then the Benjaminites said, “They are defeated just as before.” But the Israelites said, “Let’s retreat 63 and lure them 64 away from the city into the main roads.” 20:33 65 All the men of Israel got up from their places and took their positions at Baal Tamar, while the Israelites hiding in ambush jumped out of their places west of Gibeah. 20:34 Ten thousand men, well-trained soldiers from all Israel, then made a frontal assault against Gibeah – the battle was fierce. 66 But the Benjaminites did not realize that disaster was at their doorstep. 67 20:35 The Lord annihilated Benjamin before Israel; the Israelites struck down that day 25,100 sword-wielding Benjaminites. 68 20:36 Then the Benjaminites saw they were defeated.
The Israelites retreated before 69 Benjamin, because they had confidence in the men they had hid in ambush outside Gibeah. 20:37 The men hiding in ambush made a mad dash 70 to Gibeah. They 71 attacked 72 and put the sword to the entire city. 20:38 The Israelites and the men hiding in ambush had arranged a signal. When the men hiding in ambush 73 sent up a smoke signal from the city, 20:39 the Israelites counterattacked. 74 Benjamin had begun to strike down the Israelites; 75 they struck down 76 about thirty men. They said, “There’s no doubt about it! They are totally defeated as in the earlier battle.” 20:40 But when the signal, a pillar of smoke, began to rise up from the city, the Benjaminites turned around and saw the whole city going up in a cloud of smoke that rose high into the sky. 77 20:41 When the Israelites turned around, the Benjaminites panicked 78 because they could see that disaster was on their doorstep. 79 20:42 They retreated before the Israelites, taking the road to the wilderness. But the battle overtook 80 them as men from the surrounding cities struck them down. 81 20:43 They surrounded the Benjaminites, chased them from Nohah, 82 and annihilated 83 them all the way to a spot east of Geba. 84 20:44 Eighteen thousand Benjaminites, all of them capable warriors, fell dead. 20:45 The rest 85 turned and ran toward the wilderness, heading toward the cliff of Rimmon. But the Israelites 86 caught 87 five thousand of them on the main roads. They stayed right on their heels 88 all the way to Gidom and struck down two thousand more. 20:46 That day twenty-five thousand 89 sword-wielding Benjaminites fell in battle, all of them capable warriors. 90 20:47 Six hundred survivors turned and ran away to the wilderness, to the cliff of Rimmon. They stayed there four months. 20:48 The Israelites returned to the Benjaminite towns 91 and put the sword to them. They wiped out the cities, 92 the animals, and everything they could find. They set fire to every city in their path. 93
[20:25] 46 tn Heb “And Benjamin went out to meet them from Gibeah the second day, and they struck down among the sons of Israel eighteen thousand men to the ground, all of these were wielding the sword.”
[20:43] 84 tn Heb “unto the opposite of Gibeah toward the east.” Gibeah cannot be correct here, since the Benjaminites retreated from there toward the desert and Rimmon (see v. 45). A slight emendation yields the reading “Geba.”
[20:46] 89 sn The number given here (twenty-five thousand sword-wielding Benjaminites) is an approximate figure; v. 35 gives the more exact number (25,100). According to v. 15, the Benjaminite army numbered 26,700 (26,000 + 700). The figures in vv. 35 (rounded in vv. 44-46) and 47 add up to 25,700. What happened to the other 1,000 men? The most reasonable explanation is that they were killed during the first two days of fighting. G. F. Moore (Judges [ICC], 429) and C. F. Burney (Judges, 475) reject this proposal, arguing that the narrator is too precise and concerned about details to omit such a fact. However, the account of the first two days’ fighting emphasizes Israel’s humiliating defeat. To speak of Benjaminite casualties would diminish the literary effect. In vv. 35, 44-47 the narrator’s emphasis is the devastating defeat that Benjamin experienced on this final day of battle. To mention the earlier days’ casualties at this point is irrelevant to his literary purpose. He allows readers who happen to be concerned with such details to draw conclusions for themselves.
[20:48] 92 tc The translation is based on the reading מֵעִיר מְתִים (me’ir mÿtim, “from a city of men,” i.e., “an inhabited city”), rather than the reading מֵעִיר מְתֹם (me’ir mÿtom, “from a city of soundness”) found in the Leningrad Codex (L).