Judges 20



1 And all the sons of Israel went·​·out, and the congregation was assembled as one man, from Dan and even·​·to Beer-sheba and the land of Gilead, to Jehovah at Mizpah.

2 And the corners of all the people*, all the tribes of Israel, stood·​·forth in the assembly of the people of God, four hundred thousand men on·​·foot that drew sword.

3 And the sons of Benjamin heard that the sons of Israel had gone·​·up to Mizpah. And the sons of Israel said, Speak, how was this evil?

4 And the man, the Levite, the husband of the woman who was murdered, answered and said, I came in to Gibeah that is of Benjamin, I and my concubine, to pass·​·the·​·night.

5 And the citizens of Gibeah rose·​·up against me, and surrounded the house against me by night; they considered to kill me, and my concubine they afflicted, and she is·​·dead.

6 And I seized the body of my concubine and sectioned her, and sent her into all the field of the inheritance of Israel; for they have done crime and folly in Israel.

7 Behold, all of you are sons of Israel; give hither your word and counsel.

8 And all the people rose·​·up as one man, saying, Not a man of us will go to his tent, and not a man of us will turn·​·aside unto his house.

9 But now this shall be the thing which we will do to Gibeah, against it by lot.

10 And we will take ten men of a hundred for all the tribes of Israel, and a hundred of a thousand, and a thousand of a myriad, to take provisions for the people, that they may do, when they come to Gibea* of Benjamin, according·​·to all the folly which they have done in Israel.

11 And every man of Israel was gathered against the city, friends as one man.

12 And the tribes of Israel sent men into all the tribe of Benjamin, saying, What is this evil which has come·​·to·​·pass 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 sons of Benjamin were· not ·willing to obey the voice of their brothers, the sons of Israel.

14 But the sons of Benjamin gathered· themselves ·together from the cities unto Gibeah, to go·​·out to battle with the sons of Israel.

15 And the sons of Benjamin were mustered on that day from the cities, twenty and six thousand men that drew sword, besides the seven hundred chosen men who were mustered from the inhabitants of Gibeah.

16 Of all this people there were seven hundred chosen men, left-handed*; every one could sling with a stone at a hair and not miss*.

17 And the men of Israel were mustered, apart from Benjamin, four hundred thousand men that drew sword; all these were men of war,

18 and they rose·​·up and went·​·up·​·to Bethel, and asked of God; and the sons of Israel said, Who shall go·​·up for us in the beginning, to the battle with the sons of Benjamin? And Jehovah said, Judah, in the beginning.

19 And the sons of Israel rose·​·up in the morning, and encamped against Gibeah.

20 And the men of Israel went·​·out to battle with Benjamin; and the men of Israel set· themselves ·in·​·array to fight against Gibeah.

21 And the sons of Benjamin came·​·out from Gibeah, and destroyed among Israel on that day, two and twenty thousand men to the earth.

22 And the people, the men of Israel, made· themselves ·firm, and set· the battle ·in·​·array again, in the place where they set· themselves ·in·​·array on the first day.

23 And the sons of Israel went·​·up and wept before Jehovah until evening; and they asked of Jehovah, saying, Shall I again approach to battle with the sons of Benjamin my brother? And Jehovah said, Go·​·up against him.

24 And the sons of Israel came·​·near unto the sons of Benjamin on the second day.

25 And Benjamin went·​·out from Gibeah to meet them on the second day, and they destroyed to the earth of the sons of Israel yet·​·again, eighteen thousand men; all these drew the sword.

26 And all the sons of Israel and all the people went·​·up, and came unto Bethel and wept, and sat there before Jehovah, and fasted that day until evening, and offered·​·up burnt·​·offerings and peace·​·offerings before Jehovah.

27 And the sons of Israel asked 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 the battle with the sons of Benjamin my brother, or shall I desist? And Jehovah said, Go·​·up; for tomorrow I will give him into thy hand.

29 And Israel set·​·an·​·ambush all around Gibeah.

30 And the sons of Israel went·​·up against the sons of Benjamin on the third day, and set· themselves ·in·​·array against Gibeah this time as at other times.

31 And the sons of Benjamin went·​·out to meet the people, and were pulled·​·away from the city; and they began to smite of the people, and they were·​·slain as at other times in the highways, of which one goes·​·up to Bethel and one to Gibeah in the field, about thirty men in Israel.

32 And the sons of Benjamin said, They are struck down before us as at first. And the sons of Israel said, Let us flee and pull· them ·away from the city unto the highways.

33 And every man of Israel rose·​·up from his place, and they set· themselves ·in·​·array at Baal-tamar; and the ambusher of Israel came·​·out from his place, from the outpouring of Gibea.

34 And there came from over against Gibeah ten thousand chosen men from all Israel, and the battle was·​·heavy; and they knew not that the evil was reaching them.

35 And Jehovah struck Benjamin before Israel, and the sons of Israel destroyed of Benjamin on that day, twenty and five thousand and a hundred men; all these drew the sword.

36 And the sons of Benjamin saw that they were stricken; and the men of Israel gave place to the Benjaminites, for they trusted to those setting·​·an·​·ambush which they set against Gibeah.

37 And the ambushers hurried and attacked Gibeah, and the ambushers drew·​·out and smote all the city with the mouth of the sword.

38 And the men of Israel had an appointed·​·time with those who would set·​·an·​·ambush to make much lifting·​·up of the smoke go·​·up from the city.

39 And the men of Israel turned about in the battle, and Benjamin began to smite and slay of the men of Israel about thirty men; for they said, Struck, they are Struck down before us as in the first battle.

40 But the conflagration began to go·​·up from the city as a pillar of smoke. And Benjamin faced about behind him, and, behold, all the city went·​·up towards the skies.

41 And the man of Israel turned, and the man of Benjamin was vexed, for he saw that the evil had reached him.

42 And they faced about before the men of Israel to the way of the wilderness; and the battle stuck* to them; and they destroyed them from the cities in the midst of them.

43 They closed·​·around Benjamin, they pursued him, they trod upon him from Nuchah until opposite Gibeah, from the rising of the sun.

44 And there fell of Benjamin eighteen thousand men; all these were men of valor.

45 And they faced about and fled toward the wilderness, to the rock Rimmon; and they gleaned of them in the highways five thousand men, and stuck close after them until Gidom, and smote from among them two·​·thousand men.

46 And all the fallen of Benjamin on that day were twenty and five thousand men that drew sword; all of these were men of valor.

47 And six hundred men faced about and fled toward the wilderness, to the rock Rimmon, and they dwelt at the rock Rimmon four months.

48 And the men of Israel turned·​·back to the sons of Benjamin, and smote them with the mouth of the sword, from the entire city even·​·to a beast, even·​·to all that was·​·found; even all the cities that they found, they sent into the 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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Thanks to the Kempton Project for the permission to use this New Church translation of the Word.