Judges 20:13-21:25

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016

THE BENJAMITE WAR

INTRODUCTION:

 

I remind you of last week’s message in which we saw homosexuals in Gibeah, located in the tribe of Benjamin, rape a Levite’s concubine throughout the night. As a result of what they had done, the woman died. The Levite then cut her body into twelve parts and sent them to each of the twelve tribes of Israel. As a result the whole nation was outraged. We pick up the story in Judges 20:13 b, but I want to re-read verses 11-13a to give us a running start.

 

Judges 20:11 So all the men of Israel were gathered against the city [i.e. against Gibeah], knit together [i.e. united together] as one man.

 

Judges 20:12 And the tribes of Israel sent men through all the tribe of Benjamin, saying, What wickedness is this that is done among you?

 

Judges 20:13 a – Now therefore deliver us the men, the children of Belial [i.e. the worthless men], which are in Gibeah, that we may put them to death, and put away evil from Israel. . . .

 

20:13 – (RSB) They only wanted those directly guilty of the crime.

We continue our study of –

B.  The Benjamite War, 19:1 - 21:25 (continued)

 

Remember that God could have prevented the whole episode which led up to the Benjamite War had He chosen to do so, and He could have prevented the actual war; but He didn’t.

 

            2.   The execution of the war, 20:13b-48

 

Judges 20:13 b – . . . But the children of Benjamin would not hearken to [i.e. listen to] the voice of their brethren the children of Israel:

 

As a result of their refusal, more than 65,000 men would die in the war which followed. This was in addition to the deaths of all but 400 virgin girls from the town of Jabeshgilead in Judges 21:8-11 and the many non-soldiers in Gibeah.

 

Judges 20:14 But the children of Benjamin gathered themselves together out of the cities unto Gibeah, to go out to battle against the children of Israel.

 

Judges 20:15 And the children of Benjamin were numbered at that time out of the cities twenty and six thousand men that drew sword, beside the inhabitants of Gibeah, which were numbered seven hundred chosen men.

 

Judges 20:16 Among all this people there were seven hundred chosen men lefthanded; every one could sling stones at an hair breadth, and not miss.

 

20:16 – (RSB) Stones weighing around one lb could be hurled with uncanny accuracy at 90 mph.

 

Judges 20:17 And the men of Israel, beside Benjamin, were numbered four hundred thousand men that drew sword: all these were men of war.

 

Judges 20:18 And the children of Israel arose, and went up to the house of God [i.e. to Beth-el], and asked counsel of God, and said, Which of us shall go up first to the battle against the children of Benjamin? And the LORD said, Judah shall go up first.

 

Judges 20:19 And the children of Israel rose up in the morning, and encamped against Gibeah.

 

Judges 20:20 And the men of Israel went out to battle against Benjamin; and the men of Israel put themselves in array to fight against them at Gibeah.

 

Judges 20:21 And the children of Benjamin came forth out of Gibeah, and destroyed down to the ground of the Israelites that day twenty and two thousand men.

 

Yet, they had prayed for direction and got the direction they prayed for.

 

Judges 20:22 And the people the men of Israel encouraged themselves, and set their battle again in array in the place where they put themselves in array the first day.

 

Judges 20:23 (And the children of Israel went up and wept before the LORD until even, and asked counsel of the LORD, saying, Shall I go up again to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother? And the LORD said, Go up against him.)

 

Again, they were directed by the Lord.

 

Judges 20:24 And the children of Israel came near against the children of Benjamin the second day.

 

Judges 20:25 And Benjamin went forth against them out of Gibeah the second day, and destroyed down to the ground of the children of Israel again eighteen thousand men; all these drew the sword.

 

This happened in spite of their having been directed by the Lord to fight against the Benjamites the second day.

 

Judges 20:26 Then all the children of Israel, and all the people, went up, and came unto the house of God [i.e. to Beth-el], and wept, and sat there before the LORD, and fasted that day until even, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD.

 

Judges 20:27 And the children of Israel enquired of the LORD, (for the ark of the covenant of God was there [i.e. in Beth-el] in those days,

 

Judges 20:28 And Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, stood before it in those days,) saying, Shall I yet again go out to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother, or shall I cease? And the LORD said, Go up; for to morrow I will deliver them into thine hand.

 

20:26-28 – (RSB) The presence of the ark at Beth-el (according to verse 27) (before its more permanent location at Shiloh) and the mention of Phinehas (verse 28; He is mentioned in Josh. 22:13) indicate that these events happened early in the period of the judges.

 

Phinehas was an adult during the last years of Joshua.

 

Joshua 22:1-5 , 9-13 – 1 Then Joshua called the Reubenites, and the Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh, 2 And said unto them, Ye have kept all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, and have obeyed my voice in all that I commanded you: 3 Ye have not left your brethren these many days unto this day, but have kept the charge of the commandment of the LORD your God. 4 And now the LORD your God hath given rest unto your brethren, as he promised them: therefore now return ye, and get you unto your tents, and unto the land of your possession, which Moses the servant of the LORD gave you on the other side Jordan.

 

9 And the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh returned, and departed from the children of Israel out of Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan, to go unto the country of Gilead, to the land of their possession, whereof they were possessed, according to the word of the LORD by the hand of Moses. 10 And when they came unto the borders of Jordan, that are in the land of Canaan, the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh built there an altar by Jordan, a great altar to see to. 11 And the children of Israel heard say, Behold, the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh have built an altar over against the land of Canaan, in the borders of Jordan, at the passage of the children of Israel. 12 And when the children of Israel heard of it, the whole congregation of the children of Israel gathered themselves together at Shiloh, to go up to war against them. 13 And the children of Israel sent unto the children of Reuben, and to the children of Gad, and to the half tribe of Manasseh, into the land of Gilead, Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest.

 

Other leaders were also sent.

 

Back to Judges 20:29

Judges 20:29 And Israel set liers in wait [i.e. set men in ambush] round about Gibeah.

 

Judges 20:30 And the children of Israel went up against the children of Benjamin on the third day, and put themselves in array [i.e. put themselves in battle array, took up positions] against Gibeah, as at other times.

 

Judges 20:31 And the children of Benjamin went out against the people, and were drawn away from the city; and they [i.e. the Benjamites] began to smite of the people, and kill, as at other times, in the highways, of which one goeth up to the house of God [i.e. to Beth-el], and the other to Gibeah in the field, about thirty men of Israel.

 

20:31 – (RSB) drawn away from the city. Joshua used this same strategy in conquering Ai.

 

Judges 20:32 And the children of Benjamin said, They are smitten down before us, as at the first. But the children of Israel said, Let us flee, and draw them from the city unto the highways.

 

Judges 20:33 And all the men of Israel rose up out of their place, and put themselves in array at Baaltamar: and the liers in wait of Israel [i.e. the men of Israel who were set in ambush] came forth out of their places, even out of the meadows of Gibeah.

 

Judges 20:34 And there came against Gibeah ten thousand chosen men out of all Israel, and the battle was sore [i.e. fierce]: but they [i.e. the Benjamites] knew not that evil was near them.

 

Judges 20:35 And the LORD smote [i.e. struck, defeated] Benjamin before Israel: and the children of Israel destroyed of the Benjamites that day twenty and five thousand and an hundred men: all these drew the sword.

 

Judges 20:36 So the children of Benjamin saw that they were smitten: for the men of Israel gave place to the Benjamites, because they trusted unto the liers in wait [i.e. they relied on the men in ambush] which they had set beside Gibeah.

 

20:37-42 – (RSB) As Joshua had done at Ai (Josh. 8:4-29), the Israelites here set an ambush. Gibeah was taken when its army, pursuing the main body of the Israelites as they feigned (i.e. pretended;) retreat, left the city undefended. Upon seeing the city ablaze, the main Israelite army knew that the ambush had been a success.

 

Judges 20:37 And the liers in wait hasted [i.e. and the men in ambush hurried], and rushed upon Gibeah; and the liers in wait drew themselves along [i.e. the men in ambush spread out], and smote [i.e. struck] all the city with the edge of the sword.

 

Judges 20:38 Now there was an appointed sign between the men of Israel and the liers in wait [i.e. the men in ambush], that they should make a great flame with smoke rise up out of the city.

 

Judges 20:39 And when the men of Israel retired in the battle [i.e. would turn in the battle], Benjamin began to smite [i.e. to strike] and kill of the men of Israel about thirty persons: for they said, Surely they are smitten down before us, as in the first battle.

 

Judges 20:40 But when the flame began to arise up out of the city with a pillar of smoke, the Benjamites looked behind them, and, behold, the flame of the city ascended up to heaven.

 

Judges 20:41 And when the men of Israel turned again, the men of Benjamin were amazed: for they saw that evil was come upon them.

 

Judges 20:42 Therefore they turned their backs before the men of Israel unto the way of the wilderness; but the battle overtook them; and them which came out of the cities they destroyed in the midst of them.

 

Judges 20:43 Thus they inclosed the Benjamites round about [i.e. they surrounded the Benjamites], and chased them, and trode [i.e. trampled] them down with ease over against Gibeah toward the sunrising [i.e. toward the east].

 

Judges 20:44 And there fell of Benjamin eighteen thousand men; all these were men of valour.

 

Judges 20:45 And they turned and fled toward the wilderness unto the rock of Rimmon: and they gleaned of them [i.e. cut down, caught] in the highways five thousand men; and pursued hard after them unto Gidom, and slew two thousand men of them.

 

Judges 20:46 So that all which fell that day of Benjamin were twenty and five thousand men that drew the sword; all these were men of valour.

 

Judges 20:47 But six hundred men turned and fled to the wilderness unto the rock Rimmon, and abode [i.e. remained, stayed] in the rock Rimmon four months.

 

20:47 – (RSB) These six hundred who escaped and hid for four months until there was a peace treaty (21:13-14) were the only survivors of the entire tribe of Benjamin.

 

Judges 20:48 And the men of Israel turned again upon the children of Benjamin, and smote them with the edge of the sword, as well the men of every city, as the beast [as well as all the animals], and all that came to hand [i.e. all that they found]: also they set on fire all the cities that they came to.

 

                        3.   The results of the war, 21:1-25

 

21:1-7 – (RSB) Since almost all the men of Benjamin had been killed (cf. 20:47), and since the other tribes had sworn not to let any of their girls marry a Benjamite, this tribe faced the challenge of preserving themselves from total extinction.

 

Judges 21:1 Now the men of Israel had sworn in Mizpeh, saying, There shall not any of us give his daughter unto Benjamin to wife.

 

Judges 21:2 And the people came to the house of God [i.e. to Beth-el], and abode there till even before God, and lifted up their voices, and wept sore [i.e. wept bitterly];

 

Judges 21:3 And said, O LORD God of Israel, why is this come to pass in Israel, that there should be to day one tribe lacking in Israel?

 

Judges 21:4 And it came to pass on the morrow [i.e. on the next day], that the people rose early, and built there an altar, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings.

 

Judges 21:5 And the children of Israel said, Who is there among all the tribes of Israel that came not up with the congregation unto the LORD? For they had made a great oath concerning him that came not up to the LORD to Mizpeh, saying, He shall surely be put to death.

 

Judges 21:6 And the children of Israel repented them for Benjamin their brother, and said, There is one tribe cut off from Israel this day.

 

Judges 21:7 How shall we do for wives for them that remain, seeing we have sworn by the LORD that we will not give them of our daughters to wives [i.e. any of our daughters as wives]?

 

Judges 21:8 And they said, What one is there of the tribes of Israel that came not up to Mizpeh to the LORD? And, behold, there came none to the camp from Jabeshgilead to the assembly.

 

21:8 – (RSB) Jabesh-gilead. Since this town, on the E side of the Jordan, had sent no troops (cf. 20:1), all its inhabitants were destroyed except 400 virgins, who were given to the Benjamite men who remained (v. 12).

 

Judges 21:9 For the people were numbered, and, behold, there were none of the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead there.

 

Judges 21:10 And the congregation sent thither twelve thousand men of the valiantest, and commanded them, saying, Go and smite [i.e. strike] the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead with the edge of the sword, with the women and the children.

 

Judges 21:11 And this is the thing that ye shall do, Ye shall utterly destroy every male, and every woman that hath lain by man [i.e. who is not a virgin].

 

Judges 21:12 And they found among the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead four hundred young virgins, that had known no man by lying with any male: and they brought them unto the camp to Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan.

 

Judges 21:13 And the whole congregation sent some to speak to the children of Benjamin that were in the rock Rimmon, and to call peaceably [i.e. proclaimed peace, announced peace] unto them.

 

Judges 21:14 And Benjamin came again at that time; and they gave them wives which they had saved alive of the women of Jabeshgilead: and yet so they sufficed them not [i.e. yet they had not found enough for them].

 

Judges 21:15 And the people repented them [i.e. were sorry, grieved] for Benjamin, because that the LORD had made a breach [i.e. a void] in the tribes of Israel.

 

Judges 21:16 Then the elders of the congregation said, How shall we do for wives for them that remain, seeing the women are destroyed out of Benjamin?

 

Judges 21:17 And they said, There must be an inheritance for them that be escaped of Benjamin, that a tribe be not destroyed out of Israel.

 

Judges 21:18 Howbeit we may not give them wives of our daughters: for the children of Israel have sworn, saying, Cursed be he that giveth a wife to Benjamin.

 

Judges 21:19 Then they said, Behold, there is a feast of the LORD in Shiloh yearly in a place which is on the north side of Bethel, on the east side of the highway that goeth up from Bethel to Shechem, and on the south of Lebonah.

 

21:19 – (RSB) a feast. Probably (the Feast of) Tabernacles at the time of grape harvest.

 

Judges 21:20 Therefore they commanded the children of Benjamin, saying, Go and lie in wait in the vineyards;

 

Judges 21:21 And see, and, behold, if the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in dances, then come ye out of the vineyards, and catch you every man his wife of the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin.

 

Judges 21:22 And it shall be, when their fathers or their brethren come unto us to complain, that we will say unto them, Be favourable unto them for our sakes: because we reserved not to each man his wife in the war: for ye did not give unto them at this time, that ye should be guilty [i.e. for it is not as though you have given the women to them at this time, making yourselves guilty of your oath].

 

21:21-22 – (RSB) The 200 male Benjamites still left without wives were told to “take” wives from among the maidens of Shiloh who danced at the annual festival. This action allowed the men of Shiloh to keep their oath not to “give” (voluntarily) their girls to the Benjamites.

 

Judges 21:23 And the children of Benjamin did so, and took them wives, according to their number, of them that danced, whom they caught: and they went and returned unto their inheritance, and repaired the cities, and dwelt in them.

 

Judges 21:24 And the children of Israel departed thence [i.e. from there] at that time, every man to his tribe and to his family, and they went out from thence [i.e. from there] every man to his inheritance.

 

Judges 21:25 In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.

 

21:25 – (RSB) The verse appropriately summarizes the events of this book!