Judges 20:2 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Judges 20:2, NIV: The leaders of all the people of the tribes of Israel took their places in the assembly of God's people, four hundred thousand men armed with swords.

Judges 20:2, ESV: And the chiefs of all the people, of all the tribes of Israel, presented themselves in the assembly of the people of God, 400,000 men on foot that drew the sword.

Judges 20:2, KJV: And the chief of all the people, even of all the tribes of Israel, presented themselves in the assembly of the people of God, four hundred thousand footmen that drew sword.

Judges 20:2, NASB: And the leaders of all the people, all the tribes of Israel, took their stand in the assembly of the people of God, four hundred thousand foot soldiers who drew the sword.

Judges 20:2, NLT: The leaders of all the people and all the tribes of Israel--400,000 warriors armed with swords--took their positions in the assembly of the people of God.

Judges 20:2, CSB: The leaders of all the people and of all the tribes of Israel presented themselves in the assembly of God's people: four hundred thousand armed foot soldiers.

What does Judges 20:2 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Israel's response to the gruesome packages sent by the Levite (Judges 19:29–30) must have been greater than he imagined. The Levite cut the body of his murdered concubine into twelve pieces, sending them throughout Israel. This was almost certainly accompanied by an account of her rape and murder at the hands of the men of Gibeah (Judges 19:22–28).

Leaders of the other eleven tribes of Israel are shocked and outraged at the evil perpetrated by these men of the tribe of Benjamin (Judges 19:14). Clearly, events had been discussed enough that Israel's response was already decided. What's described here is not merely a meeting, it is a mustering of troops in massive numbers.

The total number of troops is subject to debate among scholars. The Hebrew term 'eleph can mean "thousands," but it is also used for "clans" and "divisions" (Judges 6:15). For context, a force of 400,000 would have exceeded the size of the greatest armies of ancient history. This figure does not include the 26 'eleph which Benjamin will rally as an opposing force. Scripture notes explicitly that Israel was never expected to take Canaan through overwhelming numbers (Deuteronomy 7:1). All the same, the exact number is not especially important to the story. What's clear is that every tribe—other than Benjamin (Judges 20:3)—is prepared for a fight.

The encouraging aspect of this passage is the rare moment of unity. At least for now, Israel sees themselves as a single nation belonging to the Lord and are willing to follow His direction.