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Judges 20:40

ESV But when the signal began to rise out of the city in a column of smoke, the Benjaminites looked behind them, and behold, the whole of the city went up in smoke to heaven.
NIV But when the column of smoke began to rise from the city, the Benjamites turned and saw the whole city going up in smoke.
NASB But when the cloud began to rise from the city in a column of smoke, Benjamin looked behind them; and behold, the entire city was going up in smoke to heaven.
CSB But when the column of smoke began to go up from the city, Benjamin looked behind them, and the whole city was going up in smoke.
NLT But when the warriors of Benjamin looked behind them and saw the smoke rising into the sky from every part of the town,
KJV But when the flame began to arise up out of the city with a pillar of smoke, the Benjamites looked behind them, and, behold, the flame of the city ascended up to heaven.

What does Judges 20:40 mean?

This is the moment when any confidence felt by Benjamin's army vanishes, quite literally with a puff of smoke. The Israelite soldiers who ambushed Gibeah (Judges 20:29) have conquered it and set it on fire (Judges 20:37–38). A thick column of smoke rises into the sky above the town. This is the signal for which the main body of the Israelite army has been waiting. At this notice, their false retreat—the reason for Benjamin's confidence (Judges 20:39)—will turn into an all-out counterattack. Benjamin's army will be pinned between the Israelites they have been chasing and those who have taken up positions behind them.

The men of Benjamin turn and notice the smoke, as well. They instantly realize they have been duped. Their city is lost. The battle cannot be won, and they are doomed (Judges 20:41).
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