Judges 20:1-21:25

20:1 All the Israelites from Dan to Beer Sheba and from the land of Gilead left their homes and assembled together before the Lord at Mizpah. 2 The leaders of all the people from all the tribes of Israel took their places in the assembly of God’s people, which numbered 400,000 sword-wielding foot soldiers. 3 The Benjaminites heard that the Israelites had gone up to Mizpah. Then the Israelites said, “Explain how this wicked thing happened!” 4 The Levite, the husband of the murdered woman, spoke up, “I and my concubine stopped in Gibeah in the territory of Benjamin to spend the night. 5 The leaders of Gibeah attacked me and at night surrounded the house where I was staying. They wanted to kill me; instead they abused my concubine so badly that she died. 6 I took hold of my concubine and carved her up and sent the pieces throughout the territory occupied by Israel because they committed such an unthinkable atrocity in Israel. 7 All you Israelites, make a decision here!”

8 All Israel rose up in unison and said, “Not one of us will go home! Not one of us will return to his house! 9 Now this is what we will do to Gibeah: We will attack the city as the lot dictates. 10 We will take ten of every group of a hundred men from all the tribes of Israel (and a hundred of every group of a thousand, and a thousand of every group of ten thousand) to get supplies for the army. When they arrive in Gibeah of Benjamin, they will punish them for the atrocity that they committed in Israel.” 11 So all the men of Israel gathered together at the city as allies.

12 The tribes of Israel sent men throughout the tribe of Benjamin, saying, “How could such a wicked thing take place? 13 Now, hand over the good-for-nothings in Gibeah, so we can execute them and purge Israel of wickedness.” But the Benjaminites refused to listen to their Israelite brothers. 14 The Benjaminites came from their cities and assembled at Gibeah to make war against the Israelites. 15 That day the Benjaminites mustered from their cities 26,000 sword-wielding soldiers, besides 700 well-trained soldiers from Gibeah. 16 Among this army were 700 specially trained left-handed soldiers. Each one could sling a stone and hit even the smallest target. 17 The men of Israel (not counting Benjamin) had mustered 400,000 sword-wielding soldiers, every one an experienced warrior.

18 The Israelites went up to Bethel and asked God, “Who should lead the charge against the Benjaminites?” The Lord said, “Judah should lead.” 19 The Israelites got up the next morning and moved against Gibeah. 20 The men of Israel marched out to fight Benjamin; they arranged their battle lines against Gibeah. 21 The Benjaminites attacked from Gibeah and struck down 22,000 Israelites that day.

22 The Israelite army took heart and once more arranged their battle lines, in the same place where they had taken their positions the day before. 23 The Israelites went up and wept before the Lord until evening. They asked the Lord, “Should we again march out to fight the Benjaminites, our brothers?” The Lord said, “Attack them.” 24 So the Israelites marched toward the Benjaminites the next day. 25 The Benjaminites again attacked them from Gibeah and struck down 18,000 sword-wielding Israelite soldiers.

26 So all the Israelites, the whole army, went up to Bethel. They wept and sat there before the Lord; they did not eat anything that day until evening. They offered up burnt sacrifices and tokens of peace to the Lord. 27 The Israelites asked the Lord (for the ark of God’s covenant was there in those days; 28 Phinehas son of Eleazar, son of Aaron, was serving the Lord in those days), “Should we once more march out to fight the Benjaminites our brothers, or should we quit?” The Lord said, “Attack, for tomorrow I will hand them over to you.”

29 So Israel hid men in ambush outside Gibeah. 30 The Israelites attacked the Benjaminites the next day; they took their positions against Gibeah just as they had done before. 31 The Benjaminites attacked the army, leaving the city unguarded. They began to strike down their enemy just as they had done before. On the main roads (one leads to Bethel, the other to Gibeah) and in the field, they struck down about 30 Israelites. 32 Then the Benjaminites said, “They are defeated just as before.” But the Israelites said, “Let’s retreat and lure them away from the city into the main roads.” 33 All the men of Israel got up from their places and took their positions at Baal Tamar, while the Israelites hiding in ambush jumped out of their places west of Gibeah. 34 Then 10,000 men, well-trained soldiers from all Israel, made a frontal assault against Gibeah; the battle was fierce. But the Benjaminites did not realize that disaster was at their doorstep. 35 The Lord annihilated Benjamin before Israel; the Israelites struck down that day 25,100 sword-wielding Benjaminites. 36 Then the Benjaminites saw they were defeated.

The Israelites retreated before Benjamin because they had confidence in the men they had hidden in ambush outside Gibeah. 37 The men hiding in ambush made a mad dash to Gibeah. They attacked and put the sword to the entire city. 38 The Israelites and the men hiding in ambush had arranged a signal. When the men hiding in ambush sent up a smoke signal from the city, 39 the Israelites counterattacked. Benjamin had begun to strike down the Israelites; they struck down about 30 men. They said, “There’s no doubt about it! They are totally defeated as in the earlier battle.” 40 But when the signal, a pillar of smoke, began to rise up from the city, the Benjaminites turned around and saw the whole city going up in a cloud of smoke that rose high into the sky. 41 When the Israelites turned around, the Benjaminites panicked because they could see that disaster was on their doorstep. 42 They retreated before the Israelites, taking the road to the wilderness. But the battle overtook them as men from the surrounding cities struck them down. 43 They surrounded the Benjaminites, chased them from Nohah, and annihilated them all the way to a spot east of Geba. 44 So 18,000 Benjaminites, all of them capable warriors, fell dead. 45 The rest turned and ran toward the wilderness, heading toward the cliff of Rimmon. But the Israelites caught 5,000 of them on the main roads. They stayed right on their heels all the way to Gidom and struck down 2,000 more. 46 That day 25,000 sword-wielding Benjaminites fell in battle, all of them capable warriors. 47 But 600 survivors turned and ran away to the wilderness, to the cliff of Rimmon. They stayed there four months. 48 The Israelites returned to the Benjaminite towns and put the sword to them. They wiped out the cities, the animals, and everything they could find. They set fire to every city in their path.

21:1 The Israelites had taken an oath in Mizpah, saying, “Not one of us will allow his daughter to marry a Benjaminite.” 2 So the people came to Bethel and sat there before God until evening, weeping loudly and uncontrollably. 3 They said, “Why, O Lord God of Israel, has this happened in Israel? An entire tribe has disappeared from Israel today!”

4 The next morning the people got up early and built an altar there. They offered up burnt sacrifices and tokens of peace. 5 The Israelites asked, “Who from all the Israelite tribes has not assembled before the Lord?” They had made a solemn oath that whoever did not assemble before the Lord at Mizpah must certainly be executed. 6 The Israelites regretted what had happened to their brother Benjamin. They said, “Today we cut off an entire tribe from Israel! 7 How can we find wives for those who are left? After all, we took an oath in the Lord’s name not to give them our daughters as wives.” 8 So they asked, “Who from all the Israelite tribes did not assemble before the Lord at Mizpah?” Now it just so happened no one from Jabesh Gilead had come to the gathering. 9 When they took roll call, they noticed none of the inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead were there. 10 So the assembly sent 12,000 capable warriors against Jabesh Gilead. They commanded them, “Go and kill with your swords the inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead, including the women and little children. 11 Do this: Exterminate every male, as well as every woman who has experienced a man’s bed. But spare the lives of any virgins.” So they did as instructed. 12 They found among the inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead 400 young girls who were virgins who had never been intimate with a man in bed. They brought them back to the camp at Shiloh in the land of Canaan.

13 The entire assembly sent messengers to the Benjaminites at the cliff of Rimmon and assured them they would not be harmed. 14 The Benjaminites returned at that time, and the Israelites gave to them the women they had spared from Jabesh Gilead. But there were not enough to go around.

15 The people regretted what had happened to Benjamin because the Lord had weakened the Israelite tribes. 16 The leaders of the assembly said, “How can we find wives for those who are left? After all, the Benjaminite women have been wiped out. 17 The remnant of Benjamin must be preserved. An entire Israelite tribe should not be wiped out. 18 But we can’t allow our daughters to marry them, for the Israelites took an oath, saying, ‘Whoever gives a woman to a Benjaminite will be destroyed.’ 19 However, there is an annual festival to the Lord in Shiloh, which is north of Bethel (east of the main road that goes up from Bethel to Shechem) and south of Lebonah.” 20 So they commanded the Benjaminites, “Go hide in the vineyards, 21 and keep your eyes open. When you see the daughters of Shiloh coming out to dance in the celebration, jump out from the vineyards. Each one of you, catch yourself a wife from among the daughters of Shiloh and then go home to the land of Benjamin. 22 When their fathers or brothers come and protest to us, we’ll say to them, ‘Do us a favor and let them be, for we could not get each one a wife through battle. Don’t worry about breaking your oath! You would only be guilty if you had voluntarily given them wives.’”

23 The Benjaminites did as instructed. They abducted 200 of the dancing girls to be their wives. They went home to their own territory, rebuilt their cities, and settled down. 24 Then the Israelites dispersed from there to their respective tribal and clan territories. Each went from there to his own property. 25 In those days Israel had no king. Each man did what he considered to be right.