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Judges 20

The Decree of the Assembly

1 Then all the Israelites from Dan to Beersheba and from the land of Gilead came out, and the congregation assembled as one man before the LORD at Mizpah. 2 The leaders of all the people and all the tribes of Israel presented themselves in the assembly of God’s people: 400,000 men on foot, armed with swords. 3 (Meanwhile the Benjamites heard that the Israelites had gone up to Mizpah.) And the Israelites asked, “Tell us, how did this wicked thing happen?”

4 So the Levite, the husband of the murdered woman, answered: “I and my concubine came to Gibeah in Benjamin to spend the night. 5 And during the night, the men of Gibeah rose up against me and surrounded the house. They intended to kill me, but they abused my concubine, and she died. 6 Then I took my concubine, cut her into pieces, and sent her throughout the land of Israel’s inheritance, because they had committed a lewd and disgraceful act in Israel. 7 Behold, all you Israelites, give your advice and verdict here and now.”

8 Then all the people stood as one man and said, “Not one of us will return to his tent or to his house. 9 Now this is what we will do to Gibeah:We will go against it as the lot dictates. 10 We will take ten men out of every hundred from all the tribes of Israel, and a hundred out of every thousand, and a thousand out of every ten thousand, to supply provisions for the army when they go to Gibeah a in Benjamin to punish them for the atrocity they have committed in Israel.”

11 So all the men of Israel gathered as one man, united against the city. 12 And the tribes of Israel sent men throughout the tribe of Benjamin, saying, “What is this wickedness that has occurred among you? 13 Hand over the wicked men of Gibeah so we can put them to death and purge Israel of this evil.”

But the Benjamites refused to heed the voice of their fellow Israelites. 14 And from their cities they came together at Gibeah to go out and fight against the Israelites. 15 On that day the Benjamites mobilized 26,000 swordsmen from their cities, in addition to the 700 select men of Gibeah. 16 Among all these soldiers there were 700 select left-handers, each of whom could sling a stone at a hair without missing.

17 The Israelites, apart from Benjamin, mobilized 400,000 swordsmen, each one an experienced warrior.

Civil War against Benjamin

18 The Israelites set out, went up to Bethel, and inquired of God, “Who of us shall go up first to fight against the Benjamites?”

“Judah will be first,” the LORD replied.

19 The next morning the Israelites set out and camped near Gibeah. 20 And the men of Israel went out to fight against Benjamin and took up their battle positions at Gibeah.

21 And the Benjamites came out of Gibeah and cut down 22,000 Israelites on the battlefield that day.

22 But the Israelite army took courage and again took their battle positions in the same place where they had arrayed themselves on the first day. 23 They went up and wept before the LORD until evening, inquiring of Him, “Should we again draw near for battle against our brothers the Benjamites?”

And the LORD answered, “Go up against them.”

24 On the second day the Israelites advanced against the Benjamites. 25 That same day the Benjamites came out against them from Gibeah and cut down another 18,000 Israelites, all of them armed with swords.

26 Then the Israelites, all the people, went up to Bethel, where they sat weeping before the LORD. That day they fasted until evening and presented burnt offerings and peace offerings to the LORD. 27 And the Israelites inquired of the LORD. (In those days the ark of the covenant of God was there, 28 and Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, served before it.) The Israelites asked, “Should we again go out to battle against our brothers the Benjamites, or should we stop?”

The LORD answered, “Fight, for tomorrow I will deliver them into your hand.”

29 So Israel set up an ambush around Gibeah. 30 On the third day the Israelites went up against the Benjamites and arrayed themselves against Gibeah as they had done before. 31 The Benjamites came out against them and were drawn away from the city. They began to attack the people as before, killing about thirty men of Israel in the fields and on the roads, one of which led up to Bethel and the other to Gibeah.

32 “We are defeating them as before,” said the Benjamites.

But the Israelites said, “Let us retreat and draw them away from the city onto the roads.”

33 So all the men of Israel got up from their places and arrayed themselves at Baal-tamar, and the Israelites in ambush charged from their positions west of Gibeah. b  34 Then 10,000 select men from all Israel made a frontal assault against Gibeah, and the battle was fierce. But the Benjamites did not realize that disaster was upon them. 35 The LORD defeated Benjamin in the presence of Israel, and on that day the Israelites slaughtered 25,100 Benjamites, all armed with swords. 36 Then the Benjamites realized they had been defeated.

Now the men of Israel had retreated before Benjamin because they were relying on the ambush they had set against Gibeah. 37 The men in ambush rushed suddenly against Gibeah; they advanced and put the whole city to the sword.

38 The men of Israel had arranged a signal with the men in ambush: When they sent up a great cloud of smoke from the city, 39 the men of Israel would turn in the battle.

When the Benjamites had begun to strike them down, killing about thirty men of Israel, they said, “They are defeated before us as in the first battle.” 40 But when the column of smoke began to go up from the city, the Benjamites looked behind them and saw the whole city going up in smoke.

41 Then the men of Israel turned back on them, and the men of Benjamin were terrified when they realized that disaster had come upon them. 42 So they fled before the men of Israel toward the wilderness, but the battle overtook them, and the men coming out of the cities struck them down there. 43 They surrounded the Benjamites, pursued them, and easily overtook them in the vicinity of Gibeah on the east. 44 And 18,000 Benjamites fell, all men of valor.

45 Then the Benjamites turned and fled toward the wilderness to the rock of Rimmon, and Israel cut down 5,000 men on the roads. And they overtook them at Gidom and struck down 2,000 more.

46 That day 25,000 Benjamite swordsmen fell, all men of valor. 47 But 600 men turned and fled into the wilderness to the rock of Rimmon, where they stayed four months. 48 And the men of Israel turned back against the other Benjamites and put to the sword all the cities, including the animals and everything else they found. And they burned down all the cities in their path.



10 a One Hebrew manuscript; most Hebrew manuscripts Geba , a variant of Gibeah
33 b Some LXX manuscripts and Vulgate;Hebrew charged from their positions in Maareh-geba or charged from their positions into the open space of Geba

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