Judges 20



1 And all the children of Israel went forth, and the assembly gathered together as one man, from Dan to Beer-sheba, and the land of Gilead, unto Jehovah at Mizpah.

2 And the heads of all the people, of all the tribes of Israel, presented themselves in the congregation of the people of God, four hundred thousand footmen that drew sword.

3 And the children of Benjamin heard that the children of Israel had gone up to Mizpah. And the children of Israel said, Tell [us], how was this wickedness?

4 Then the Levite, the husband of the woman that was murdered, answered and said, I came to Gibeah that [belongs] to Benjamin, I and my concubine, to lodge.

5 And the citizens of Gibeah rose against me, and surrounded the house because of me, by night; they thought to slay me, and my concubine have they humbled so that she died.

6 Then I took my concubine, and cut her in pieces, and sent her throughout the country of the inheritance of Israel; for they have committed lewdness and villany in Israel.

7 Behold, all ye, children of Israel, deliberate and give here [your] counsel.

8 And all the people rose up as one man, saying, We will not any one go to his tent, neither will we any one turn into his house.

9 But now this is the thing which we will do to Gibeah: [we go] by lot against it;

10 and we will take ten men of a hundred throughout all the tribes of Israel, and a hundred of a thousand, and a thousand of ten thousand, to fetch victuals for the people, that they may do, when they come to Gibeah of Benjamin, according to all the villany that they have wrought in Israel.

11 And all the men of Israel were gathered against the city, knit together as one man.

12 And the tribes of Israel sent men to all the families of Benjamin, saying, What wickedness is this that has been done among you?

13 And now give up the men, the sons of Belial, who are in Gibeah, that we may put them to death, and put away evil from Israel. But [the children of] Benjamin would not hearken to the voice of their brethren the children of Israel.

14 And the children of Benjamin gathered themselves together out of the cities of Gibeah, to go out to battle against the children of Israel.

15 And the children of Benjamin were numbered at that time out of the cities, twenty-six thousand men that drew sword, besides the inhabitants of Gibeah, who were numbered seven hundred chosen men.

16 Among all this people there were seven hundred chosen men left-handed; all these slang stones at a hair [breadth], and missed not.

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

18 And the children of Israel arose and went up to Bethel, and inquired of God, and said, Which of us shall go up first to the battle against the children of Benjamin? And Jehovah said, Judah first.

19 And the children of Israel rose up in the morning and encamped against Gibeah.

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.

21 And the children of Benjamin went forth out of Gibeah, and destroyed to the ground of the Israelites that day twenty-two thousand men.

22 And the people, the men of Israel, took courage, and set the battle again in array in the place where they put themselves in array the first day.

23 And the children of Israel went up and wept before Jehovah until even, and inquired of Jehovah, saying, Shall I go up again to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother? And Jehovah said, go up against him.

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

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

26 Then all the children of Israel, and all the people, went up and came to Bethel, and wept, and abode there before Jehovah, and fasted that day until even, and offered up burnt-offerings and peace-offerings before Jehovah.

27 And the children of Israel inquired of Jehovah (and the ark of the covenant of God was there in those days,

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 Jehovah said, Go up; for to-morrow I will give them into thy hand.

29 And Israel set liers in wait against Gibeah, round about.

30 And the children of Israel went up against the children of Benjamin on the third day, and put themselves in array against Gibeah, as at the other times.

31 And the children of Benjamin went out against the people, and were drawn away from the city, and began to smite of the people, slaying as at the former times, in the highways, of which one leads to Bethel and the other to Gibeah in the field, about thirty men of Israel.

32 And the children of Benjamin said, They are smitten down before us, as at the first. And the children of Israel said, Let us flee, that we may draw them from the city to the highways.

33 And all the men of Israel rose up out of their place, and put themselves in array at Baal-Tamar; and the ambush of Israel rushed forth out of their place, out of the meadows of Geba.

34 And there came from opposite Gibeah ten thousand chosen men out of all Israel, and the battle was severe; but they knew not that disaster was coming upon them.

35 And Jehovah smote Benjamin before Israel; and the children of Israel destroyed of the Benjaminites that day twenty-five thousand one hundred men: all these drew the sword.

36 And the children of Benjamin saw that they were smitten. -- And the men of Israel gave place to Benjamin, because they trusted to the ambush that they had set against Gibeah.

37 And the ambush hasted, and fell upon Gibeah; and the ambush drew along, and smote the whole city with the edge of the sword.

38 Now there was an appointed sign between the men of Israel and the ambush, that they should make a thick column of smoke rise up out of the city.

39 And when the men of Israel turned back in the battle, Benjamin began to smite, slaying of the men of Israel about thirty men; for they said, Surely they are quite routed before us as in the first battle.

40 And when the burning began to rise up out of the city as a pillar of smoke, Benjamin looked behind, and behold, the whole city ascended [in smoke] to the heavens.

41 Then the men of Israel turned back, and the men of Benjamin were amazed, for they saw that disaster was come upon them.

42 And they turned before the men of Israel to the way of the wilderness; but the battle overtook them; and those who came out of the cities destroyed them in their midst.

43 They encompassed the Benjaminites, chased them, trode them down at the resting-place over against Gibeah toward the sun-rising.

44 And there fell of Benjamin eighteen thousand men: all these, men of valour.

45 And they turned and fled towards the wilderness to the cliff of Rimmon, and they gleaned of them in the highways five thousand men; and pursued hard after them to Gidom, and slew two thousand men of them.

46 So that all who fell that day of Benjamin were twenty-five thousand men that drew the sword: all these, men of valour.

47 And six hundred men turned and fled to the wilderness to the cliff of Rimmon, and abode at the cliff of Rimmon four months.

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 cattle, and all that was found; even all the cities that were found did they set on fire.


Exploring the Meaning of Judges 20      

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.

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