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  • Judges 20

    Civil war between the Benjaminites and the Israelites

    20 Then all the Israelites from Dan to Beer-sheba, as well as from the area of Gilead, marched out, and the group assembled as one body in the Lord’s presence at Mizpah. The commanders of the people and of all the tribes of Israel took their place in the assembly of God’s people, four hundred thousand foot soldiers armed with swords. And the Benjaminites got word that the Israelites had marched up to Mizpah.

    The Israelites inquired, “Tell us how this evil act happened.”

    So the Levite, the husband of the murdered woman, answered, “My secondary wife and I came to Gibeah of Benjamin to spend the night, and the leading citizens of Gibeah tried to attack me. They surrounded me in the house at night and were determined to kill me. They abused my secondary wife until she died. I took her, chopped her up, and sent her pieces into every part of Israel’s territory, because they had committed a disgraceful act in Israel. All you Israelites, say what you think should be done here and now!”

    At this, all the people stood as one to say, “Not a single one of us is going home or returning to our house! This is what we’re now going to do to Gibeah: We’ll march up against it as the lot determines. 10 From all the tribes of Israel, we’ll get ten men for every hundred, one hundred for every thousand, and one thousand for every ten thousand to take supplies for the troops who are going to pay back Gibeah of Benjamin for the disgraceful act they’ve done in Israel.” 11 So all the Israelites joined together and were united as one against the city.

    12 The Israelite tribes sent men throughout the whole tribe of Benjamin with this message: “What about this evil act that happened among you? 13 Now hand over those perverse men in Gibeah so that we can execute them and remove the evil from Israel.” But the Benjaminites refused to comply with the demand of their own relatives the Israelites. 14 Instead, the Benjaminites from all the cities came together at Gibeah to march out for battle against the Israelites. 15 On that day, the Benjaminites called up from their cities twenty-six thousand men armed with swords, not counting those living in Gibeah. 16 Out of this entire army, seven hundred specially chosen men were left-handed, and every one of them could sling a stone at a hair and not miss. 17 Not counting Benjamin, the Israelites called up four hundred thousand men armed with swords, and every one of them was a trained warrior.

    18 Then the Israelites marched up to Bethel to ask for direction from God. They inquired, “Who should go up first to fight against the Benjaminites for us?”

    And the Lord said, “Let the tribe of Judah be first.”

    19 So the next morning, the Israelites got up and camped near Gibeah. 20 They marched out to fight against the Benjaminites, lining up in battle formation against them at Gibeah. 21 But the Benjaminites marched out from Gibeah and cut down twenty-two thousand Israelite men that day.

    23  So the Israelites went back up and wept before the Lord until evening. They asked the Lord, “Should we move in again to fight our relatives the Benjaminites?”

    And the Lord replied, “March out against them.”

    22 The Israelite troops regrouped and lined up in battle formation again in the same place they had lined up the first day. 24 The Israelites moved in against the Benjaminites the second day. 25 But the Benjaminites marched out of Gibeah to meet them on that second day and cut down another eighteen thousand Israelite men, all of whom were armed with swords.

    26 Then all the Israelite troops went back up to Bethel and wept, just sitting there in the Lord’s presence. They fasted that whole day until evening. Then they offered entirely burned offerings and well-being sacrifices to the Lord. 27 Now in those days the chest containing God’s covenant was there, 28 and Phinehas, Eleazar’s son and Aaron’s grandson, was in charge of ministering before it. The Israelites asked the Lord, “Should we march out once again to fight our relatives the Benjaminites or should we give up?”

    And the Lord replied, “March up, for I’ll hand them to you tomorrow.”

    29 So the Israelites set ambushes around Gibeah. 30 Three days later, the Israelites marched out against the Benjaminites. They lined up for battle against Gibeah as before. 31 When the Benjaminites came out to meet them, they were drawn away from the city. They began to strike down some of the troops just like the last time, about thirty Israelites along the main roads, one of which goes up to Bethel and one to Gibeah, as well as in the open fields. 32 The Benjaminites thought, They’re being wiped out before us like the first time. But the Israelites had planned, We’ll retreat and draw them away from the city toward the main roads. 33 The Israelites moved from their position and reformed their battle lines at Baal-tamar. Then the Israelites who had been set in ambush charged out from their positions west of Gibeah. 34 Ten thousand specially chosen men from all the Israelites came against Gibeah. The fighting was fierce, and the Benjaminites didn’t realize that disaster was almost on them. 35 The Lord wiped out the Benjaminites before Israel. The Israelites slaughtered twenty-five thousand one hundred Benjaminite men that day, all of them armed with swords. 36 Then the Benjaminites saw that they had been defeated.

    The Israelites had given ground to the Benjaminites because they relied on the ambush that they had set around Gibeah. 37 Indeed, those in the ambush had dashed swiftly into Gibeah and killed all the people in the city with their swords. 38 The plan between the main force of the Israelites and those in the ambush was that when they sent up a big cloud of smoke from the city, 39 the Israelites would turn around in battle. The Benjaminites had begun to defeat some of the Israelites and had killed about thirty men, thinking, They are definitely going to be wiped out before us, as in the first battle! 40 But then the column of smoke began to rise from the city. When the Benjaminites looked back, there was the entire city going up in smoke to the sky. 41 The main force of the Israelites turned around, and the Benjaminites lost heart, because they recognized that disaster had fallen on them. 42 They turned back before the Israelites in the direction of the desert, but the fighting caught up with them, and those from the towns were slaughtering them there. 43 They encircled the Benjaminites, chased them from Nohah, and trampled them to the east of Gibeah. 44 Eighteen thousand Benjaminites fell, all of whom were strong warriors. 45 When they turned back and fled toward the desert to the rock of Rimmon, the Israelites picked off another five thousand men on the main roads. And when they caught up with them at Gidom, they struck down two thousand more.

    46 All in all, the total number of Benjaminites who fell that day was twenty-five thousand men, all of whom were armed with swords and were strong warriors. 47 Six hundred men turned back and fled toward the desert to the rock of Rimmon. They stayed at the rock of Rimmon for four months. 48 But the Israelites turned their attention to the rest of the Benjaminites and massacred them entirely—the city, the people, even the animals, and everything else they found. They also burned down every city they came across.