Judges 20:1-48

War against Benjamin's tribe

1 Then all the Israelites agreed to come together. They came from everywhere in Israel, from Dan in the north as far as Beersheba in the south. They also came from the Gilead region on the east side of the Jordan River. They all came together at Mizpah, to meet with the Lord. 2 The leaders of all Israel's tribes stood there with the people of God. There were 400,000 Israelite men who had their weapons, ready to fight. 3 By this time, the people of Benjamin's tribe had heard the news that the other tribes were meeting in Mizpah.

Then the Israelites asked, ‘Tell us how this evil thing happened.’

4 So the Levite, the husband of the dead woman, told them. He said, ‘My slave wife and I arrived in Gibeah to sleep there for the night. It is a town that belongs to the people of Benjamin's tribe. 5 That night some important men of Gibeah came to the house to attack me. They stood all around the house. They wanted to kill me, but they took hold of my wife instead. They made her have sex with them, and she died. 6 I took her body home and I cut it into 12 pieces. I sent the pieces everywhere in the land of Israel. I did this to show what a terrible thing these men had done. 7 So now all you people of Israel must decide what you will do about it.’

8 All the people stood up together. They all promised, ‘None of us will go home. Not one of us will return to his house. 9 Instead, this is what we will do to the people of Gibeah. We will use lots to decide who should attack the city. 10 We will take ten men from every 100 men in each tribe. We will take 100 men from every 1,000 men, and 1,000 men from every 10,000 men. Those men will find food for the other soldiers. That will be their job. Then the other soldiers will be able to attack Gibeah. They will punish Gibeah's people as they deserve for the terrible thing that they have done.’ 11 So all the Israelites agreed together that they would attack Gibeah, in the land of Benjamin.

12 The Israelite tribes sent men with a message to all the places in Benjamin. They said, ‘You must know that some of your men have done an evil thing. 13 Send those wicked men of Gibeah out to us. We must punish them with death. Only that will remove this terrible sin from Israel.’

But the people of Benjamin did not agree to do that. 14 Instead, they came from all their towns and they met together at Gibeah to fight against the other Israelites. 15 26,000 soldiers came to Gibeah with their weapons, ready to fight. There were also 700 brave soldiers already in Gibeah. 16 In Benjamin's army there were 700 men who used their left hands to fight. Each of them could use a sling to throw a stone at a very small thing. They could even hit a hair!

17 The other Israelite tribes, without Benjamin, had an army of 400,000 soldiers who knew how to use their weapons. 18 They went to Bethel. They asked God which tribe should go first to attack Benjamin's army. The Lord replied, ‘Judah must go first.’

20:18Bethel was then the place where the Israelites met with God at that time. The priest there would use the Urim and Thummim to find out what God was saying to them.

19 The next morning, the Israelites got up and they prepared to attack Gibeah. 20 The Israelite army marched forward to fight against Benjamin's army. They stood in their places around the city. 21 Benjamin's soldiers came out of Gibeah to attack. They killed 22,000 Israelites in the battle that day.

22-23 The Israelite soldiers told each other to be brave. They went to meet with the Lord and they wept until the evening. They asked the Lord, ‘Should we march out again to fight against our relatives, the men of Benjamin?’ The Lord said, ‘Yes, attack them.’ So they went to stand in the same places around the city as they had done the day before.

24 The Israelites went to fight against Benjamin's army on the second day. 25 This time, when the soldiers of Benjamin came out of Gibeah to attack them, they killed another 18,000 Israelite soldiers in the battle.

26 Then the whole Israelite army went back to Bethel to meet with the Lord. They sat there and they wept. They did not eat any food that day until evening. They offered burnt offerings and peace offerings to the Lord.

27-28 The Covenant Box was in Bethel at that time. Phinehas, son of Eleazar and grandson of Aaron, was the priest who served the Lord there. The Israelites asked the Lord, ‘Should we march out to fight against our relatives, the men of Benjamin, again? Or should we leave them?’ The Lord said, ‘Attack them. Tomorrow I will put them under your power.’

29 This time, the Israelites made some of their soldiers hide in places around Gibeah. 30 On the third day, their other soldiers stood in the same places as before. They were ready to fight. 31 The soldiers of Benjamin came out of Gibeah to attack them. But the Israelites moved away from the city so that Benjamin's soldiers chased after them. The men of Benjamin began to kill the Israelites, as they had done before. They killed about 30 Israelites in the fields and on the roads that went to Bethel and Gibeah.

32 The soldiers of Benjamin were saying, ‘We are winning against them, as we have done before!’ But the Israelites were saying, ‘We will continue to run away so that their soldiers chase us. We will lead them away from the city onto the roads.’

33 When the men of Israel reached Baal Tamar, they stopped there. They stood in their places, ready to fight. At the same time, the Israelite soldiers who had hidden themselves on the west side of Gibeah ran out of their places. 34 10,000 Israelite soldiers who knew how to fight well attacked Gibeah. There was a big battle. The men of Benjamin did not realize that they were in a lot of trouble.

35 The Lord destroyed Benjamin's army as the Israelites attacked them. Israel's soldiers killed more than 25,000 soldiers of Benjamin's army that day. 36 Finally, the men of Benjamin realized that they had lost the battle.

This is how it happened: Israel's soldiers let Benjamin's army chase after them. They trusted the soldiers who were hiding around Gibeah to attack the city. 37-38 The Israelites had agreed a sign with their men who were hiding. When those men ran into Gibeah and they destroyed everything there, they would make the sign. They would light a big fire so that the smoke went up into the sky. 39 Then the other Israelite soldiers would turn round to attack the soldiers who were chasing them.

Benjamin's soldiers had begun to kill the Israelites. When they had killed about 30 of them, they said, ‘Look! We are winning again, as we always do!’ 40 Then they turned and they saw the tall pillar of smoke. It was rising from their city up to the sky. 41 The Israelite soldiers saw the sign and they attacked the soldiers of Benjamin. The men of Benjamin suddenly became very afraid. They realized that they were in a lot of trouble. 42 So they ran away on the road towards the desert while the Israelites chased after them. But they could not escape from the Israelites. Israelite men came out from their towns and killed them in the battle. 43 They attacked Benjamin's soldiers from all sides and they continued to chase them. They were killing them all the way to a place on the east of Gibeah.

44 They killed 18,000 strong soldiers of Benjamin's tribe. 45 The rest of Benjamin's soldiers ran towards the desert, as far as the rock of Rimmon. The Israelites killed 5,000 of them as they ran along the roads. They chased them to Gidom, and they killed 2,000 more of Benjamin's soldiers there.

46 On that day, 25,000 soldiers of Benjamin's tribe died. They were all brave men who knew how to fight well. 47 But 600 soldiers turned and ran away to the rock of Rimmon. They stayed there for four months.

48 The Israelites returned to the land that belonged to Benjamin's tribe. They killed the people and animals in all the towns there. As they came to each town, they destroyed it with fire.