Judges 20:39 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Judges 20:39, NIV: and then the Israelites would counterattack. The Benjamites had begun to inflict casualties on the Israelites (about thirty), and they said, 'We are defeating them as in the first battle.'

Judges 20:39, ESV: the men of Israel should turn in battle. Now Benjamin had begun to strike and kill about thirty men of Israel. They said, “Surely they are defeated before us, as in the first battle.”

Judges 20:39, KJV: And when the men of Israel retired in the battle, Benjamin began to smite and kill of the men of Israel about thirty persons: for they said, Surely they are smitten down before us, as in the first battle.

Judges 20:39, NASB: Then the men of Israel turned in the battle, and Benjamin began to strike and kill about thirty men of Israel, for they said, 'Undoubtedly they are defeated before us, as in the first battle.'

Judges 20:39, NLT: When the Israelites saw the smoke, they turned and attacked Benjamin's warriors. By that time Benjamin's warriors had killed about thirty Israelites, and they shouted, 'We're defeating them as we did in the first battle!'

Judges 20:39, CSB: the men of Israel would return to the battle. When Benjamin had begun to strike them down, killing about thirty men of Israel, they said, "They're defeated before us, just as they were in the first battle."

What does Judges 20:39 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Israel's renewed battle plan has worked out extremely well (Judges 20:29–31). Instead of continuing to assail the city of Gibeah by direct attack (Judges 20:20–28), the Israelites have drawn Benjamin's army out from the city with a false retreat. When they were far enough away, a separate contingent of Israel's army attacked and defeated the city, killing all inside (Judges 20:29–38).

As Gibeah falls, the soldiers of Benjamin are confident they are routing the Israelites: chasing them down to finish them off. This verse repeats the previous statement that Benjamin has only killed about thirty Israelite fighters in this chase, adding to the illusion they have them on the run. The Benjaminites assume this battle is going the same way as the previous two and will end once again in Israel's defeat.

The retreating Israelites, however, are just waiting until they see the smoke of Gibeah's defeat appear in the sky. That's the designated signal to halt the false retreat, turn, and strike down Benjamin's army. When that smoke appears, even the Benjaminite army will realize what has happened (Judges 20:40–41).