Napsal(a) Rev. Julian Duckworth
Israel’s war with the tribe of Benjamin
The events of the previous chapter carry over into the last two chapters of the book of Judges, this one and the final one. The overall content of this chapter is about the division between Israel and the tribe of Benjamin (where the town of Gibeah was situated) and the eventual long war in which thousands on both sides died.
All Israel gathered together at Mizpah, four hundred thousand foot soldiers with swords, from every tribe, except the tribe of Benjamin who heard about the gathering. The reason for coming together, prompted by the dismembered parts of the concubine, was to decide what to do. The Levite told the story of the events. The men of Israel heard and decided that they would all immediately go up against the tribe of Benjamin, for them to hand over the perverted men of Gibeah for justice to be done and for Israel to be redeemed. They agreed to take one man out of every ten to go and, if necessary, to fight.
The spiritual meaning in this opening and gathering of Israel at Mizpah is mostly about its incompleteness. The tribe of Benjamin was not present even though Mizpah was in Benjamin’s territory. Spiritual incompleteness in us is to leave something out of our love and faithfulness to the Lord which makes each one of us a whole being. The twelve tribes of Israel stand for all the qualities which come together to form our spiritual life and purpose. (True Christian Religion 38)
The men of Israel go up and ask the Lord who should go to fight first. The reply is that Judah go first. The men of Benjamin refuse to hand the men of Gibeah over and they form an army to fight Israel. In the fighting, the men of Benjamin cut down twenty-two thousand men of Israel. Israel goes and weeps to the Lord and asks if they should go up again against their brother Benjamin. The Lord says they are to go up again.
The spiritual meaning of the tribe of Benjamin is that it stands for the ‘medium’ or the vital connection between what is internal or celestial and what is external or natural. If this connection is absent there is no passage or mutual link between these two and they are separated. This removes the completeness of our spiritual life as a whole. (See Arcana Caelestia 5822.)
Israel goes up against Benjamin on the second day and eighteen thousand men of Israel are cut down by the army of Benjamin. Israel goes to the house of the Lord and weeps, and asks if they should yet go out to fight their brother Benjamin. The Lord says that they are to fight a third time, and the He will deliver them into their hand.
Israel weeps. Weeping or crying stands for mourning the loss of something which is no longer present. In a good sense ‘weeping’ can be for the sense of loss of what is loved and what is part of us, here represented by ‘to battle the children of my brother Benjamin’.
The Lord wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-44). (Arcana Caelestia 4293.3)
Israel fights on three consecutive day, and on the third day they defeat the tribe of Benjamin. ‘On the third day’ (see verse 30) stands for the need for conflict and personal states in our spiritual temptations and battles to be worked through until they are brought to an end and we can be brought out of temptation, into a new state. (Arcana Caelestia 5159)
The men of Israel laid an ambush and then went as before to fight the men of Benjamin. They moved away from them and Benjamin followed them and killed some men of Israel. The men in ambush arose and went to Gibeah and by arrangement made a great column of smoke after killing the men of the city. (Arcana Caelestia 9144) The men of Benjamin saw this and panicked, and twenty three thousand of them were slain. Six hundred men escaped and hid, and Israel went all around and destroyed men of Benjamin wherever they were found.
The spiritual meaning of this final battle is in the extent of the numbers killed and the aftermath of the victory with further killing. To ‘kill’ (or destroy) when it is used in the Word is to work completely towards the full expulsion of states, thoughts and intentions in us which are in opposition to the way of the Word and its wholeness and healing. (Arcana Caelestia 9320) This is the meaning of the term ‘vastation’ in which things which are opposed to the Lord need to be worked through and brought to an end so that a new state can come.