Judges 20:18-48 (JDV)
Judges 20:18 They set out, went to Bethel, and inquired of God. The Israelites asked, “Who is to be leading tribe to fight for us against the Benjaminites?” And Yahveh answered, “Judah will be first.”
Judges 20:19 In the morning, the Israelites set out and camped near Gibeah.
Judges 20:20 The men of Israel went out to fight against Benjamin and took their battle positions against Gibeah.
Judges 20:21 The Benjaminites came out of Gibeah and devastated twenty-two thousand men of Israel on the land that day.
Judges 20:22 But the Israelite troops rallied and again took their battle positions in the same place where they positioned themselves on the first day.
Judges 20:23 They went up, wept before Yahveh until evening, and inquired of him: “Should we again attack our brothers the Benjaminites?” And Yahveh answered: “Fight against them.”
Judges 20:24 On the second day the Israelites advanced against the Benjaminites.
Judges 20:25 That same day the Benjaminites came out from Gibeah to meet them and devastated an additional eighteen thousand Israelites on the land; all were armed.
Judges 20:26 The whole Israelite army went to Bethel where they wept and sat before Yahveh. They fasted that day until evening and offered burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to Yahveh.
Judges 20:27 Then the Israelites inquired of Yahveh. In those days, the ark of the covenant of God was there,
Judges 20:28 and Phinehas son of Eleazar, son of Aaron, was serving before it. The Israelites asked: “Should we again fight against our brothers the Benjaminites or should we stop?” Yahveh answered: “Fight, because I will hand them over to you tomorrow.”
Judges 20:29 So Israel set up an ambush around Gibeah.
Judges 20:30 On the third day the Israelites fought against the Benjaminites and took their battle positions against Gibeah as before.
Judges 20:31 Then the Benjaminites came out against the troops and were drawn away from the city. They began to attack the troops as before, striking down about thirty men of Israel on the highways, one of which goes up to Bethel and the other to Gibeah through the open country.
Judges 20:32 The Benjaminites said, “We are defeating them as before.” But the Israelites said, “Let’s run and draw them away from the city to the highways.”
Judges 20:33 So all the men of Israel got up from their places and took their battle positions at Baal-tamar, while the Israelites in ambush charged out of their places west of Geba.
Judges 20:34 Then ten thousand fit young men from all Israel made a frontal assault against Gibeah, and the battle was fierce, but the Benjaminites did not know that disaster was about to strike them.
Judges 20:35 Yahveh defeated Benjamin in the presence of Israel, and on that day the Israelites devastated 25,100 men of Benjamin; all were armed.
Judges 20:36 Then the Benjaminites realized they had been defeated. The men of Israel had retreated before Benjamin, because they were confident in the ambush they had set against Gibeah.
Judges 20:37 The men in ambush had rushed quickly against Gibeah; they advanced and struck down the whole city with the sword.
Judges 20:38 The men of Israel had a prearranged signal with the men in ambush: when they sent up a great cloud of smoke from the city,
Judges 20:39 the men of Israel would return to the battle. When Benjamin had begun to strike them down, struck down about thirty men of Israel, they said, “They’re defeated before us, just as they were in the first battle.”
Judges 20:40 But when the column of smoke began to go up from the city, Benjamin looked behind them, and notice the whole city was going up in smoke.
Judges 20:41 Then the men of Israel returned, and the men of Benjamin were terrified when they realized that disaster had struck them.
Judges 20:42 They retreated before the men of Israel toward the wilderness, but the battle overtook them, and those who came out of the cities devastated those between them.
Judges 20:43 They surrounded the Benjaminites, pursued them, and easily overtook them near Gibeah toward the east.
Judges 20:44 There were eighteen thousand men who died from Benjamin; all capable men.
Judges 20:45 Then Benjamin turned and ran toward the wilderness to Rimmon Rock, and Israel struck down five thousand men on the highways. They overtook them at Gidom and struck two thousand more dead.
Judges 20:46 All the Benjaminites who died that day were twenty-five thousand armed men; all were capable men.
Judges 20:47 But six hundred men escaped into the wilderness to Rimmon Rock and stayed there four months.
Judges 20:48 The men of Israel turned back against the other Benjaminites and struck them down with their swords – the entire city, the animals, and everything that remained. They also burned all the cities that remained.
The word picture the Scriptures use here to describe the destruction of the Benjaminites is elsewhere used for a crop that is entirely spoiled. In fact, it was used metaphorically in Judges 2:19.
- Judges 2:19 Whenever the judge died, the Israelites would act even more spoiled than their fathers, following other gods to serve them and bow in worship to them. They did not turn from their evil practices or their obstinate ways.
A people who are spoiled in this life will be utterly spoiled in judgment. The Benjaminites are an example of those who will suffer final punishment in hell. Their crime is that they defended the sin of the murderer/rapists of Gibeah. It is a serious thing to defend the wholesale sin of others.
The word I use in this translation to connote that outcome is devastated (Judges 6:4, 5; 20:21, 25, 35, 42).
LORD, make us a people quick to cry out when other sin against you and violate the rights of others.