Judges 20

Civil War Breaks Out

20:1 All the Israelites from Dan to Beer Sheba1 and from the land of Gilead2 left their homes3 and assembled together4 before the Lord at Mizpah. 20:2 The leaders5 of all the people from all the tribes of Israel took their places in the assembly of God’s people, which numbered6 four hundred thousand sword-wielding foot soldiers. 20:3 The Benjaminites heard that the Israelites had gone up to Mizpah. Then the Israelites said, “Explain how this wicked thing happened!” 20:4 The Levite,7 the husband of the murdered woman, spoke up, “I and my concubine stopped in8 Gibeah in the territory of Benjamin9 to spend the night. 20:5 The leaders of Gibeah attacked me and at night surrounded the house where I was staying.10 They wanted to kill me; instead they abused my concubine so badly that she died. 20:6 I grabbed hold of my concubine and carved her up and sent the pieces11 throughout the territory occupied by Israel,12 because they committed such an unthinkable atrocity13 in Israel. 20:7 All you Israelites,14 make a decision here!”15

20:8 All Israel rose up in unison16 and said, “Not one of us will go home!17 Not one of us will return18 to his house! 20:9 Now this is what we will do to Gibeah: We will attack the city as the lot dictates.19 20:10 We will take ten of every group of a hundred men from all the tribes of Israel (and a hundred of every group of a thousand, and a thousand of every group of ten thousand) to get supplies for the army.20 When they arrive in Gibeah of Benjamin they will punish them for the atrocity which they committed in Israel.”21 20:11 So all the men of Israel gathered together at the city as allies.22

20:12 The tribes of Israel sent men throughout the tribe23 of Benjamin, saying, “How could such a wicked thing take place?24 20:13 Now, hand over the good-for-nothings25 in Gibeah so we can execute them and purge Israel of wickedness.”26 But the Benjaminites refused to listen to their Israelite brothers. 20:14 The Benjaminites came from their cities and assembled at Gibeah27 to make war against the Israelites. 20:15 That day the Benjaminites mustered from their cities twenty-six thousand sword-wielding soldiers, besides seven hundred well-trained soldiers from Gibeah.28 20:16 Among this army29 were seven hundred specially-trained left-handed soldiers.30 Each one could sling a stone and hit even the smallest target.31 20:17 The men of Israel (not counting Benjamin) had mustered four hundred thousand sword-wielding soldiers, every one an experienced warrior.32

20:18 The Israelites went up to Bethel33 and asked God,34 “Who should lead the charge against the Benjaminites?”35 The Lord said, “Judah should lead.” 20:19 The Israelites got up the next morning and moved36 against Gibeah. 20:20 The men of Israel marched out to fight Benjamin; they37 arranged their battle lines against Gibeah. 20:21 The Benjaminites attacked from Gibeah and struck down twenty-two thousand Israelites that day.38

20:22 The Israelite army39 took heart40 and once more arranged their battle lines, in the same place where they had taken their positions the day before. 20:23 The Israelites went up and wept before the Lord until evening. They asked the Lord, “Should we41 again march out to fight42 the Benjaminites, our brothers?”43 The Lord said, “Attack them!”44 20:24 So the Israelites marched toward45 the Benjaminites the next day. 20:25 The Benjaminites again attacked them from Gibeah and struck down eighteen thousand sword-wielding Israelite soldiers.46

20:26 So all the Israelites, the whole army,47 went up to48 Bethel.49 They wept and sat there before the Lord; they did not eat anything50 that day until evening. They offered up burnt sacrifices and tokens of peace51 to the Lord. 20:27 The Israelites asked the Lord (for the ark of God’s covenant was there in those days; 20:28 Phinehas son of Eleazar, son of Aaron, was serving the Lord52 in those days), “Should we53 once more march out to fight the Benjaminites our brothers,54 or should we55 quit?” The Lord said, “Attack, for tomorrow I will hand them56 over to you.”

20:29 So Israel hid men in ambush outside Gibeah. 20:30 The Israelites attacked the Benjaminites the next day;57 they took their positions against Gibeah just as they had done before. 20:31 The Benjaminites attacked58 the army, leaving the city unguarded.59 They began to strike down their enemy60 just as they had done before. On the main roads (one leads to Bethel,61 the other to Gibeah) and in the field, they struck down62 about thirty Israelites. 20:32 Then the Benjaminites said, “They are defeated just as before.” But the Israelites said, “Let’s retreat63 and lure them64 away from the city into the main roads.” 20:3365 All the men of Israel got up from their places and took their positions at Baal Tamar, while the Israelites hiding in ambush jumped out of their places west of Gibeah. 20:34 Ten thousand men, well-trained soldiers from all Israel, then made a frontal assault against Gibeah – the battle was fierce.66 But the Benjaminites did not realize that disaster was at their doorstep.67 20:35 The Lord annihilated Benjamin before Israel; the Israelites struck down that day 25,100 sword-wielding Benjaminites.68 20:36 Then the Benjaminites saw they were defeated.

The Israelites retreated before69 Benjamin, because they had confidence in the men they had hid in ambush outside Gibeah. 20:37 The men hiding in ambush made a mad dash70 to Gibeah. They71 attacked72 and put the sword to the entire city. 20:38 The Israelites and the men hiding in ambush had arranged a signal. When the men hiding in ambush73 sent up a smoke signal from the city, 20:39 the Israelites counterattacked.74 Benjamin had begun to strike down the Israelites;75 they struck down76 about thirty men. They said, “There’s no doubt about it! They are totally defeated as in the earlier battle.” 20:40 But when the signal, a pillar of smoke, began to rise up from the city, the Benjaminites turned around and saw the whole city going up in a cloud of smoke that rose high into the sky.77 20:41 When the Israelites turned around, the Benjaminites panicked78 because they could see that disaster was on their doorstep.79 20:42 They retreated before the Israelites, taking the road to the wilderness. But the battle overtook80 them as men from the surrounding cities struck them down.81 20:43 They surrounded the Benjaminites, chased them from Nohah,82 and annihilated83 them all the way to a spot east of Geba.84 20:44 Eighteen thousand Benjaminites, all of them capable warriors, fell dead. 20:45 The rest85 turned and ran toward the wilderness, heading toward the cliff of Rimmon. But the Israelites86 caught87 five thousand of them on the main roads. They stayed right on their heels88 all the way to Gidom and struck down two thousand more. 20:46 That day twenty-five thousand89 sword-wielding Benjaminites fell in battle, all of them capable warriors.90 20:47 Six hundred survivors turned and ran away to the wilderness, to the cliff of Rimmon. They stayed there four months. 20:48 The Israelites returned to the Benjaminite towns91 and put the sword to them. They wiped out the cities,92 the animals, and everything they could find. They set fire to every city in their path.93

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