Judges 20

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1 And all the sons of Israel go out, and the company is assembled as one man, from Dan even unto Beer-Sheba, and the land of Gilead, unto Jehovah, at Mizpeh.

2 And the chiefs of all the people, of all the tribes of Israel, station themselves in the assembly of the people of God, four hundred thousand footmen drawing sword.

3 And the sons of Benjamin hear that the sons of Israel have gone up to Mizpeh. And the sons of Israel say, `Speak ye, how hath this evil been?'

4 And the man, the Levite, husband of the woman who hath been murdered, answereth and saith, `Into Gibeah (which [is] to Benjamin) I have come, I and my concubine, to lodge;

5 and rise against me do the masters of Gibeah -- and they go round the house against me by night -- me they thought to slay, and my concubine they have humbled, and she dieth;

6 and I lay hold on my concubine, and cut her in pieces, and send her into all the country of the inheritance of Israel; for they have done wickedness and folly in Israel;

7 lo, ye [are] all sons of Israel; give for you a word and counsel here.'

8 And all the people rise as one man, saying, `None of us doth go to his tent, and None of us doth turn aside to his house;

9 and now, this [is] the thing which we do to Gibeah -- against it by lot!

10 and we have taken ten men of a hundred, of all the tribes of Israel, and a hundred of a thousand, and a thousand of a myriad, to receive provision for the people, to do, at their coming to Gibeah of Benjamin, according to all the folly which it hath done in Israel.'

11 And every man of Israel is gathered unto the city, as one man -- companions.

12 And the tribes of Israel send men among all the tribes of Benjamin, saying, `What [is] this evil which hath been among you?

13 And now, give up the men -- sons of worthlessness -- which [are] in Gibeah, and we put them to death, and we put away evil from Israel.' And [the sons of] Benjamin have not been willing to hearken to the voice of their brethren, the sons of Israel;

14 and the sons of Benjamin are gathered out of the cities to Gibeah, to go out to battle with the sons of Israel.

15 And the sons of Benjamin number themselves on that day; out of the cities [are] twenty and six thousand men drawing sword, apart from the inhabitants of Gibeah, [who] numbered themselves, seven hundred chosen men;

16 among all this people [are] seven hundred chosen men, bound of their right hand, each of these slinging with a stone at the hair, and he doth not err.

17 And the men of Israel numbered themselves, apart from Benjamin, four hundred thousand men, drawing sword, each of these a man of war.

18 And they rise and go up to Beth-El, and ask of God, and the sons of Israel say, `Who doth go up for us at the commencement to battle with the sons of Benjamin?' and Jehovah saith, `Judah -- at the commencement.'

19 And the sons of Israel rise in the morning, and encamp against Gibeah,

20 and the men of Israel go out to battle with Benjamin, and the men of Israel set themselves in array with them, [for] battle against Gibeah,

21 and the sons of Benjamin come out from Gibeah, and destroy in Israel on that day two and twenty thousand men -- to the earth.

22 And the people, the men of Israel, strengthen themselves, and add to set the battle in array in the place where they arranged themselves on the first day.

23 And the sons of Israel go up and weep before Jehovah till the evening, and ask of Jehovah, saying, `Do I add to draw nigh to battle with the sons of Benjamin, my brother?' And Jehovah saith, `go up against him.'

24 And the sons of Israel draw near unto the sons of Benjamin on the second day,

25 and Benjamin cometh out to meet them from Gibeah on the second day, and destroy among the sons of Israel again eighteen thousand men -- to the earth; all these are drawing sword.

26 And all the sons of Israel go up, even all the people, and come in to Beth-El, and weep, and sit there before Jehovah, and fast on that day till the evening, and cause to ascend burnt-offerings and peace-offerings before Jehovah.

27 And the sons of Israel ask of Jehovah, -- and there [is] the ark of the covenant of God in those days,

28 and Phinehas son of Eleazar, son of Aaron, is standing before it in those days -- saying, `Do I add again to go out to battle with the sons of Benjamin, my brother, or do I cease?' And Jehovah saith, `Go up, for to-morrow I give him into thy hand.'

29 And Israel setteth liers in wait against Gibeah, round about,

30 and the sons of Israel go up against the sons of Benjamin, on the third day, and arrange themselves against Gibeah, as time by time.

31 And the sons of Benjamin come out to meet the people; they have been drawn away out of the city, and begin to smite [some] of the people -- wounded as time by time, in the highways (of which one is going up to Beth-El, and the other to Gibeah in the field), [are] about thirty men of Israel.

32 And the sons of Benjamin say, `They are smitten before us as at the beginning;' but the sons of Israel said, `Let us flee, and draw them away out of the city, unto the highways.'

33 And all the men of Israel have risen from their place, and arrange themselves at Baal-Tamar, and the ambush of Israel is coming forth out of its place, out of the meadow of Gibeah.

34 And they come in over against Gibeah -- ten thousand chosen men out of all Israel -- and the battle [is] grievous, and they have not known that the evil is striking against them.

35 And Jehovah smiteth Benjamin before Israel, and the sons of Israel destroy in Benjamin, on that day, twenty and five thousand, and a hundred men; all these [are] drawing sword.

36 And the sons of Benjamin see that they have been smitten -- and the men of Israel give place to Benjamin, for they have trusted unto the ambush which they had set against Gibeah,

37 and the ambush have hasted, and push against Gibeah, and the ambush draweth itself out, and smiteth the whole of the city by the mouth of the sword.

38 And there was the appointed sign to the men of Israel with the ambush -- their causing to go up a great volume of smoke from the city.

39 And the men of Israel turn in battle, and Benjamin hath begun to smite the wounded among the men of Israel, about thirty men, for they said, `Surely they are utterly smitten before us, as [at] the first battle;

40 and the volume hath begun to go up from the city -- a pillar of smoke -- and Benjamin turneth behind, and lo, gone up hath the perfection of the city toward the heavens.

41 And the men of Israel have turned, and the men of Benjamin are troubled, for they have seen that the evil hath stricken against them --

42 and they turn before the men of Israel unto the way of the wilderness, and the battle hath followed them; and those who [are] from the city are destroying them in their midst;

43 they have compassed the Benjamites -- they have pursued them -- with ease they have trodden them down till over-against Gibeah, at the sun-rising.

44 And there fall of Benjamin eighteen thousand men -- the whole of these [are] men of valour;

45 and they turn and flee toward the wilderness, unto the rock of Rimmon; and they glean of them in the highways five thousand men, and follow after them unto Gidom, and smite of them two thousand men.

46 And all those falling of Benjamin are twenty and five thousand men drawing sword, on that day -- the whole of these [are] men of valour;

47 and there turn and flee into the wilderness, unto the rock of Rimmon six hundred men, and they dwell in the rock Rimmon four months.

48 And the men of Israel have turned back unto the sons of Benjamin, and smite them by the mouth of the sword out of the city, -- men unto cattle, unto all that is found; also all the cities which are found they have sent into 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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