Judges 20

Israel punishes the Benjamites

1 Then all the Israelites from the north to the south of Israel came together. They met at Mizpah, to find out what the Lord wanted. 2 The leaders of all the tribes of Israel stood with the people of God. There were 400,000 men ready to fight. 3 (The Benjamites had heard that the Israelites had gone to Mizpah.) Then the Israelites said, ‘Tell us how this bad thing happened’.

4 So the Levite, the husband of the dead woman, spoke to them. He said, ‘My woman and I came to Gibeah of Benjamin, to stay the night. 5 The men of Gibeah came and stood round the house. They wanted to kill me. They made my woman have sex with them, and she died. 6 I took her body and cut it into pieces. I sent one piece to each part of Israel. I did this because of the bad thing that they had done. 7 Now, people of Israel, tell us what you think’.

8 All the people of Israel stood together. They said, ‘None of us will go home. No, not one of us will return to his house. 9 But this is what we will do to Gibeah. We will use “the lot” to decide how we should go. 10 We will take 10 men of each 100 from each of the tribes of Israel. We will take 100 from each 1,000, and 1,000 from each 10,000. They will get everything that the army needs. Then, when the army reaches Gibeah, they will punish the men there. The men of Gibeah have done a great wrong. This is the right thing to do to them’. 11 So all the men of Israel met and stood together outside the city.

12 The tribes of Israel sent men to all the places in Benjamin. They said, ‘This murder was done by some of your tribe. 13 Send out to us the bad men of Gibeah. Then we can kill them. This will make our people clean from the wrong that the men of Gibeah have done’.

But the Benjamites would not listen to the other Israelites. 14 They came from their towns and met at Gibeah to fight them. 15 They had 26,000 fighting men from their towns. And they had 700 chosen men from Gibeah. 16 Among all these soldiers were 700 men who used their left hands. They could use a leather rope to throw a stone. They could use it to hit a chosen place. They hit it every time.

17 Israel, without Benjamin, had an army of 400,000 fighting men.

18 The Israelites went to Bethel. They asked God which tribe should lead the soldiers against Benjamin. The Lord replied, ‘Judah must go first’.

20:18Bethel was then the place where Israel met with God. The ephod was a beautiful bag that the most important priest wore. It held things to help him decide what God wanted. When he did this, it was sometimes called ‘throwing the lot’.

19 The next morning, the Israelites got up and put their tents near to Gibeah. 20 The Israelites prepared to fight the Benjamites at Gibeah. 21 The Benjamites came out of Gibeah. They killed 22,000 Israelites that day, in the fight. 22 The men of Israel decided to stand where they had stood the day before. 23 They went and cried to the Lord until the evening. They asked him, ‘Must we go out again to fight the Benjamites, our brothers?’

The Lord answered, ‘Go and fight them’.

24 The Israelites went near to Benjamin on the second day. 25 This time, when the Benjamites came out to fight, they killed another 18,000 Israelites.

26 Then all the Israelites went up to Bethel. They sat there, crying to the Lord. They ate no food that day. They offered gifts to the Lord, peace offerings and burnt offerings.

27 They wanted to ask the Lord what to do. (The Covenant Box was there then. Phinehas, son of Eleazar, son of Aaron was the priest who served there.) 28 They asked, ‘Should we go up again to fight Benjamin, our brother, or not?’ The Lord said, ‘Go, for tomorrow you will win the fight’.

29 Then Israel had a good idea. 30 On the third day they went out to fight Benjamin as before. 31 The Benjamites came out of Gibeah to meet them. But the Israelites led them away from the city. The Benjamites began to kill the Israelites again. They killed about 30 men in the fields and on the roads. These were the roads to Bethel and to Gibeah.

32 The Benjamites were saying, ‘We are winning the fight again’. But the Israelites were saying, ‘We will run away so that the Benjamites will follow us away from the city’.

33 The men of Israel all moved to Baal Tamar. Men hid to the west of Gibeah and attacked Benjamin. 34 Then 10,000 of Israel's best soldiers attacked the front of Gibeah. The fighting was very strong. Benjamin did not know that the end of the fight was so near. 35 The Lord helped Israel to win the fight with Benjamin. That day Israel killed 25,000 Benjamite fighting men. 36 Then Benjamin saw that Israel had won.

Now the men of Israel had run away from Benjamin. They were waiting for their men to take Gibeah. 37 The men who were hiding ran into Gibeah and went through the whole city. They killed all the people. 38 The leaders had told them to make a big cloud of smoke in the city. 39 Then the other Israelites would turn back to the city.

The Benjamites had begun to kill the Israelites, about 30 (thirty) of them. They said, ‘We are winning, as we did in the first fight’. 40 Then they turned and saw the smoke rising from their city to the sky. 41 The men of Israel turned towards them. Then the men of Benjamin were very afraid. They knew that they would soon die. 42 So they ran towards the desert. But they could not get away from the fighting. The men of Israel came from their town and killed them. 43 They were all round the Benjamites and they caught them east of Gibeah. 44 18,000 strong Benjamite fighting men died there. 45 Other men ran through the desert to the rock of Rimmon. The Israelites killed 5,000 men along the roads. They continued to run after the Benjamites as far as Gidom. And they killed 2,000 more.

46 On that day, 25,000 Benjamite soldiers died. They were all strong fighting men. 47 But 600 men turned and ran to the rock of Rimmon. They stayed there for 4 months. 48 The Israelites went back to Benjamin. They killed the people and animals in all the towns. They burnt all the towns that they could find.

20:48The men of Gibeah had done the worst thing that any Israelite could remember. Israel had to punish them, or the Lord God would punish all Israel. The Benjamites would not let Israel kill their brothers in Gibeah. So Israel punished all the Benjamites. Only 600 Benjamite men did not die.
20:48This must have happened soon after Joshua died. We know that Phinehas was priest when Joshua was alive. And in the early days of the judges, all the tribes of Israel met together. They did this to fight their enemies. Later, all the tribes did not fight together. The Covenant Box was at Bethel at that time.