Judges 20 – “The Israelites Take Revenge”

Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
The Israelites wage war against Benjamin. After three days of intense battle, the Israelites nearly wipe out the entire tribe of Benjamin. All of the women and children are put to the sword, and only six-hundred men survive.

II. Photo
The Israelites plan their attack: “A time had been agreed upon by the Israelite men with those in ambush: When a huge column of smoke was sent up from the town, the Israelite men were to turn about in battle.” (vv. 38-39a)

III. Important Verses
1-2: Thereupon all the Israelites — from Dan to Beer-sheba and from the land of Gilead — marched forth, and the community assembled to a man before the LORD at Mizpah. All the leaders of the people and all the tribes of Israel presented themselves in the assembly of God’s people, 400,000 fighting men on foot.
12-13: And the tribes of Israel sent men through the whole tribe of Benjamin, saying, “What is this evil thing that has happened among you? Come, hand over those scoundrels in Gibeah so that we may put them to death and stamp out the evil from Israel.” But the Benjaminites would not yield to the demand of their fellow Israelites.
17-18: The men of Israel other than Benjamin mustered 400,000 fighting men, warriors to a man. They proceeded to Bethel and inquired of God; the Israelites asked, “Who of us shall advance first to fight the Benjaminites?” And the LORD replied, “Judah first.”
25-28: But the Benjaminites came out from Gibeah against them on the second day and struck down 18,000 more of the Israelites, all of them fighting men.  Then all the Israelites, all the army, went up and came to Bethel and they sat there, weeping before the LORD. They fasted that day until evening, and presented burnt offerings and offerings of well-being to the LORD. The Israelites inquired of the LORD (for the Ark of God’s Covenant was there in those days, and Phinehas son of Eleazar son of Aaron the priest ministered before Him in those days), “Shall we again take the field against our kinsmen the Benjaminites, or shall we not?” The LORD answered, “Go up, for tomorrow I will deliver them into your hands.”
46-48: Thus the total number of Benjaminites who fell that day came to 25,000 fighting men, all of them brave. But 600 men turned and fled to the wilderness, to the Rock of Rimmon; they remained at the Rock of Rimmon four months. The men of Israel, meanwhile, turned back to the rest of the Benjaminites and put them to the sword — towns, people, cattle — everything that remained. Finally, they set fire to all the towns that were left.

IV. Outline
1-2. The Israelites gather in Mizpah
3-7. The Levite speaks up
8-11. The Israelites decide to wage war on Gibeah
12-13. The entire tribe of Benjamin resists
14-19. Battle preparations
20-21. Day #1: The Benjaminites prevail
22-25. Day #2: The Benjaminites prevail
26-28. The Israelites worship their God
29-37. Day#3: The Israelites vanquish the Benjaminite army
38-47. (Another version of the story)
48. The Israelites destroy the tribe of Benjamin

V. Comment
No comment today. Stay tuned.

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Trent C. Butler, “Judges” (Word Biblical Commentary vol. 8; Nashville: Nelson, 2009).
Collins, John J. “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible,” Word Biblical Commentary vol. 15 (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004).
Photo taken from http://www.idahofireinfo.blm.gov/east/2008_photos/timber_wfu/smoke_column_10012008.gif