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Judges chapter 20

New International Version

1 Then all Israel from Dan to Beersheba and from the land of Gilead came together as one and assembled before the LORD in Mizpah. 2 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. 3 (The Benjamites heard that the Israelites had gone up to Mizpah.) Then the Israelites said, 'Tell us how this awful thing happened.'
4 So the Levite, the husband of the murdered woman, said, 'I and my concubine came to Gibeah in Benjamin to spend the night. 5 During the night the men of Gibeah came after me and surrounded the house, intending to kill me. They raped my concubine, and she died. 6 I took my concubine, cut her into pieces and sent one piece to each region of Israel's inheritance, because they committed this lewd and outrageous act in Israel. 7 Now, all you Israelites, speak up and tell me what you have decided to do.'
8 All the men rose up together as one, saying, 'None of us will go home. No, not one of us will return to his house. 9 But now this is what we'll do to Gibeah: We'll go up against it in the order decided by casting lots. 10 We'll take ten men out of every hundred from all the tribes of Israel, and a hundred from a thousand, and a thousand from ten thousand, to get provisions for the army. Then, when the army arrives at Gibeah in Benjamin, it can give them what they deserve for all this vileness done in Israel." 11 So all the Israelites got together and united as one against the city.
12 The tribes of Israel sent messengers throughout the tribe of Benjamin, saying, 'What about this awful crime that was committed among you?
13 Now turn those wicked men of Gibeah over to us so that we may put them to death and purge the evil from Israel.' But the Benjamites would not listen to their fellow Israelites. 14 From their towns they came together at Gibeah to fight against the Israelites. 15 At once the Benjamites mobilized twenty-six thousand swordsmen from their towns, in addition to seven hundred able young men from those living in Gibeah. 16 Among all these soldiers there were seven hundred select troops who were left-handed, each of whom could sling a stone at a hair and not miss.
17 Israel, apart from Benjamin, mustered four hundred thousand swordsmen, all of them fit for battle.
18 The Israelites went up to Bethel and inquired of God. They said, 'Who of us is to go up first to fight against the Benjamites?' The LORD replied, 'Judah shall go first.'
19 The next morning the Israelites got up and pitched camp near Gibeah. 20 The Israelites went out to fight the Benjamites and took up battle positions against them at Gibeah. 21 The Benjamites came out of Gibeah and cut down twenty-two thousand Israelites on the battlefield that day. 22 But the Israelites encouraged one another and again took up their positions where they had stationed themselves the first day.
23 The Israelites went up and wept before the LORD until evening, and they inquired of the LORD. They said, 'Shall we go up again to fight against the Benjamites, our fellow Israelites?' The LORD answered, 'Go up against them.'
24 Then the Israelites drew near to Benjamin the second day. 25 This time, when the Benjamites came out from Gibeah to oppose them, they cut down another eighteen thousand Israelites, all of them armed with swords.
26 Then all the Israelites, the whole army, went up to Bethel, and there they sat weeping before the LORD. They fasted that day until evening and presented burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to the LORD. 27 And the Israelites inquired of the LORD. (In those days the ark of the covenant of God was there,
28 with Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, ministering before it.) They asked, 'Shall we go up again to fight against the Benjamites, our fellow Israelites, or not?' The LORD responded, 'Go, for tomorrow I will give them into your hands.'
29 Then Israel set an ambush around Gibeah. 30 They went up against the Benjamites on the third day and took up positions against Gibeah as they had done before. 31 The Benjamites came out to meet them and were drawn away from the city. They began to inflict casualties on the Israelites as before, so that about thirty men fell in the open field and on the roads--the one leading to Bethel and the other to Gibeah. 32 While the Benjamites were saying, 'We are defeating them as before,' the Israelites were saying, 'Let's retreat and draw them away from the city to the roads.'
33 All the men of Israel moved from their places and took up positions at Baal Tamar, and the Israelite ambush charged out of its place on the west of Gibeah. 34 Then ten thousand of Israel's able young men made a frontal attack on Gibeah. The fighting was so heavy that the Benjamites did not realize how near disaster was. 35 The LORD defeated Benjamin before Israel, and on that day the Israelites struck down 25,100 Benjamites, all armed with swords.
36 Then the Benjamites saw that they were beaten. Now the men of Israel had given way before Benjamin, because they relied on the ambush they had set near Gibeah. 37 Those who had been in ambush made a sudden dash into Gibeah, spread out and put the whole city to the sword. 38 The Israelites had arranged with the ambush that they should send up a great cloud of smoke from the city,
39 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.' 40 But when the column of smoke began to rise from the city, the Benjamites turned and saw the whole city going up in smoke. 41 Then the Israelites counterattacked, and the Benjamites were terrified, because they realized that disaster had come on them. 42 So they fled before the Israelites in the direction of the wilderness, but they could not escape the battle. And the Israelites who came out of the towns cut them down there. 43 They surrounded the Benjamites, chased them and easily overran them in the vicinity of Gibeah on the east. 44 Eighteen thousand Benjamites fell, all of them valiant fighters. 45 As they turned and fled toward the wilderness to the rock of Rimmon, the Israelites cut down five thousand men along the roads. They kept pressing after the Benjamites as far as Gidom and struck down two thousand more.
46 On that day twenty-five thousand Benjamite swordsmen fell, all of them valiant fighters. 47 But six hundred of them turned and fled into the wilderness to the rock of Rimmon, where they stayed four months. 48 The men of Israel went back to Benjamin and put all the towns to the sword, including the animals and everything else they found. All the towns they came across they set on fire.
English Standard Version

1 Then all the people of Israel came out, from Dan to Beersheba, including the land of Gilead, and the congregation assembled as one man to the LORD at Mizpah. 2 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. 3 (Now the people of Benjamin heard that the people of Israel had gone up to Mizpah.) And the people of Israel said, “Tell us, how did this evil happen?” 4 And the Levite, the husband of the woman who was murdered, answered and said, “I came to Gibeah that belongs to Benjamin, I and my concubine, to spend the night. 5 And the leaders of Gibeah rose against me and surrounded the house against me by night. They meant to kill me, and they violated my concubine, and she is dead. 6 So I took hold of my concubine and cut her in pieces and sent her throughout all the country of the inheritance of Israel, for they have committed abomination and outrage in Israel. 7 Behold, you people of Israel, all of you, give your advice and counsel here.”
8 And all the people arose as one man, saying, “None of us will go to his tent, and none of us will return to his house. 9 But now this is what we will do to Gibeah: we will go up against it by lot, 10 and we will take ten men of a hundred throughout all the tribes of Israel, and a hundred of a thousand, and a thousand of ten thousand, to bring provisions for the people, that when they come they may repay Gibeah of Benjamin for all the outrage that they have committed in Israel.” 11 So all the men of Israel gathered against the city, united as one man.
12 And the tribes of Israel sent men through all the tribe of Benjamin, saying, “What evil is this that has taken place among you? 13 Now therefore give up the men, the worthless fellows in Gibeah, that we may put them to death and purge evil from Israel.” But the Benjaminites would not listen to the voice of their brothers, the people of Israel. 14 Then the people of Benjamin came together out of the cities to Gibeah to go out to battle against the people of Israel. 15 And the people of Benjamin mustered out of their cities on that day 26,000 men who drew the sword, besides the inhabitants of Gibeah, who mustered 700 chosen men. 16 Among all these were 700 chosen men who were left-handed; every one could sling a stone at a hair and not miss. 17 And the men of Israel, apart from Benjamin, mustered 400,000 men who drew the sword; all these were men of war.
18 The people of Israel arose and went up to Bethel and inquired of God, “Who shall go up first for us to fight against the people of Benjamin?” And the LORD said, “Judah shall go up first.”
19 Then the people of Israel rose in the morning and encamped against Gibeah. 20 And the men of Israel went out to fight against Benjamin, and the men of Israel drew up the battle line against them at Gibeah. 21 The people of Benjamin came out of Gibeah and destroyed on that day 22,000 men of the Israelites. 22 But the people, the men of Israel, took courage, and again formed the battle line in the same place where they had formed it on the first day. 23 And the people of Israel went up and wept before the LORD until the evening. And they inquired of the LORD, “Shall we again draw near to fight against our brothers, the people of Benjamin?” And the LORD said, “Go up against them.”
24 So the people of Israel came near against the people of Benjamin the second day. 25 And Benjamin went against them out of Gibeah the second day, and destroyed 18,000 men of the people of Israel. All these were men who drew the sword. 26 Then all the people of Israel, the whole army, went up and came to Bethel and wept. They sat there before the LORD and fasted that day until evening, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD. 27 And the people of Israel inquired of the LORD (for the ark of the covenant of God was there in those days, 28 and Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron, ministered before it in those days), saying, “Shall we go out once more to battle against our brothers, the people of Benjamin, or shall we cease?” And the LORD said, “Go up, for tomorrow I will give them into your hand.”
29 So Israel set men in ambush around Gibeah. 30 And the people of Israel went up against the people of Benjamin on the third day and set themselves in array against Gibeah, as at other times. 31 And the people of Benjamin went out against the people and were drawn away from the city. And as at other times they began to strike and kill some of the people in the highways, one of which goes up to Bethel and the other to Gibeah, and in the open country, about thirty men of Israel. 32 And the people of Benjamin said, “They are routed before us, as at the first.” But the people of Israel said, “Let us flee and draw them away from the city to the highways.” 33 And all the men of Israel rose up out of their place and set themselves in array at Baal-tamar, and the men of Israel who were in ambush rushed out of their place from Maareh-geba. 34 And there came against Gibeah 10,000 chosen men out of all Israel, and the battle was hard, but the Benjaminites did not know that disaster was close upon them. 35 And the LORD defeated Benjamin before Israel, and the people of Israel destroyed 25,100 men of Benjamin that day. All these were men who drew the sword. 36 So the people of Benjamin saw that they were defeated. The men of Israel gave ground to Benjamin, because they trusted the men in ambush whom they had set against Gibeah.
37 Then the men in ambush hurried and rushed against Gibeah; the men in ambush moved out and struck all the city with the edge of the sword. 38 Now the appointed signal between the men of Israel and the men in the main ambush was that when they made a great cloud of smoke rise up out of the city 39 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.” 40 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. 41 Then the men of Israel turned, and the men of Benjamin were dismayed, for they saw that disaster was close upon them. 42 Therefore they turned their backs before the men of Israel in the direction of the wilderness, but the battle overtook them. And those who came out of the cities were destroying them in their midst. 43 Surrounding the Benjaminites, they pursued them and trod them down from Nohah as far as opposite Gibeah on the east. 44 Eighteen thousand men of Benjamin fell, all of them men of valor. 45 And they turned and fled toward the wilderness to the rock of Rimmon. Five thousand men of them were cut down in the highways. And they were pursued hard to Gidom, and 2,000 men of them were struck down. 46 So all who fell that day of Benjamin were 25,000 men who drew the sword, all of them men of valor. 47 But 600 men turned and fled toward the wilderness to the rock of Rimmon and remained at the rock of Rimmon four months. 48 And the men of Israel turned back against the people of Benjamin and struck them with the edge of the sword, the city, men and beasts and all that they found. And all the towns that they found they set on fire.
King James Version

1 Then all the children of Israel went out, and the congregation was gathered together as one man, from Dan even to Beersheba, with the land of Gilead, unto the LORD in Mizpeh. 2 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. 3 (Now the children of Benjamin heard that the children of Israel were gone up to Mizpeh.) Then said the children of Israel, Tell us, how was this wickedness? 4 And the Levite, the husband of the woman that was slain, answered and said, I came into Gibeah that belongeth to Benjamin, I and my concubine, to lodge. 5 And the men of Gibeah rose against me, and beset the house round about upon me by night, and thought to have slain me: and my concubine have they forced, that she is dead. 6 And I took my concubine, and cut her in pieces, and sent her throughout all the country of the inheritance of Israel: for they have committed lewdness and folly in Israel. 7 Behold, ye are all children of Israel; give here your advice and counsel. 8 And all the people arose as one man, saying, We will not any of us go to his tent, neither will we any of us turn into his house. 9 But now this shall be the thing which we will do to Gibeah; we will go up by lot against it; 10 And we will take ten men of an hundred throughout all the tribes of Israel, and an hundred of a thousand, and a thousand out of ten thousand, to fetch victual for the people, that they may do, when they come to Gibeah of Benjamin, according to all the folly that they have wrought in Israel. 11 So all the men of Israel were gathered against the city, knit together as one man.
12 And the tribes of Israel sent men through all the tribe of Benjamin, saying, What wickedness is this that is done among you? 13 Now therefore deliver us the men, the children of Belial, which are in Gibeah, that we may put them to death, and put away evil from Israel. But the children of Benjamin would not hearken to the voice of their brethren the children of Israel. 14 But the children of Benjamin gathered themselves together out of the cities unto Gibeah, to go out to battle against the children of Israel. 15 And the children of Benjamin were numbered at that time out of the cities twenty and six thousand men that drew sword, beside the inhabitants of Gibeah, which were numbered seven hundred chosen men. 16 Among all this people there were seven hundred chosen men lefthanded; every one could sling stones at an hair breadth, and not miss. 17 And the men of Israel, beside Benjamin, were numbered four hundred thousand men that drew sword: all these were men of war.
18 And the children of Israel arose, and went up to the house of God, and asked counsel of God, and said, Which of us shall go up first to the battle against the children of Benjamin? And the LORD said, Judah shall go up first. 19 And the children of Israel rose up in the morning, and encamped against Gibeah. 20 And the men of Israel went out to battle against Benjamin; and the men of Israel put themselves in array to fight against them at Gibeah. 21 And the children of Benjamin came forth out of Gibeah, and destroyed down to the ground of the Israelites that day twenty and two thousand men. 22 And the people the men of Israel encouraged themselves, and set their battle again in array in the place where they put themselves in array the first day. 23 (And the children of Israel went up and wept before the LORD until even, and asked counsel of the LORD, saying, Shall I go up again to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother? And the LORD said, Go up against him.) 24 And the children of Israel came near against the children of Benjamin the second day. 25 And Benjamin went forth against them out of Gibeah the second day, and destroyed down to the ground of the children of Israel again eighteen thousand men; all these drew the sword.
26 Then all the children of Israel, and all the people, went up, and came unto the house of God, and wept, and sat there before the LORD, and fasted that day until even, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD. 27 And the children of Israel inquired of the LORD, (for the ark of the covenant of God was there in those days, 28 And Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, stood before it in those days,) saying, Shall I yet again go out to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother, or shall I cease? And the LORD said, Go up; for to morrow I will deliver them into thine hand. 29 And Israel set liers in wait round about Gibeah. 30 And the children of Israel went up against the children of Benjamin on the third day, and put themselves in array against Gibeah, as at other times. 31 And the children of Benjamin went out against the people, and were drawn away from the city; and they began to smite of the people, and kill, as at other times, in the highways, of which one goeth up to the house of God, and the other to Gibeah in the field, about thirty men of Israel. 32 And the children of Benjamin said, They are smitten down before us, as at the first. But the children of Israel said, Let us flee, and draw them from the city unto the highways. 33 And all the men of Israel rose up out of their place, and put themselves in array at Baaltamar: and the liers in wait of Israel came forth out of their places, even out of the meadows of Gibeah. 34 And there came against Gibeah ten thousand chosen men out of all Israel, and the battle was sore: but they knew not that evil was near them. 35 And the LORD smote Benjamin before Israel: and the children of Israel destroyed of the Benjamites that day twenty and five thousand and an hundred men: all these drew the sword. 36 So the children of Benjamin saw that they were smitten: for the men of Israel gave place to the Benjamites, because they trusted unto the liers in wait which they had set beside Gibeah. 37 And the liers in wait hasted, and rushed upon Gibeah; and the liers in wait drew themselves along, and smote all the city with the edge of the sword. 38 Now there was an appointed sign between the men of Israel and the liers in wait, that they should make a great flame with smoke rise up out of the city. 39 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. 40 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. 41 And when the men of Israel turned again, the men of Benjamin were amazed: for they saw that evil was come upon them. 42 Therefore they turned their backs before the men of Israel unto the way of the wilderness; but the battle overtook them; and them which came out of the cities they destroyed in the midst of them. 43 Thus they inclosed the Benjamites round about, and chased them, and trode them down with ease over against Gibeah toward the sunrising. 44 And there fell of Benjamin eighteen thousand men; all these were men of valour. 45 And they turned and fled toward the wilderness unto the rock of Rimmon: and they gleaned of them in the highways five thousand men; and pursued hard after them unto Gidom, and slew two thousand men of them. 46 So that all which fell that day of Benjamin were twenty and five thousand men that drew the sword; all these were men of valour. 47 But six hundred men turned and fled to the wilderness unto the rock Rimmon, and abode in the rock Rimmon four months. 48 And the men of Israel turned again upon the children of Benjamin, and smote them with the edge of the sword, as well the men of every city, as the beast, and all that came to hand: also they set on fire all the cities that they came to.
New American Standard Bible

1 Then all the sons of Israel from Dan to Beersheba, including the land of Gilead, came out, and the congregation assembled as one person to the LORD at Mizpah. 2 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. 3 (Now the sons of Benjamin heard that the sons of Israel had gone up to Mizpah.) And the sons of Israel said, 'Tell us, how did this wickedness take place?' 4 So the Levite, the husband of the woman who was murdered, answered and said, 'I came with my concubine to spend the night at Gibeah which belongs to Benjamin. 5 But the citizens of Gibeah rose up against me and surrounded the house at night, threatening me. They intended to kill me; instead, they raped my concubine so that she died. 6 And I took hold of my concubine and cut her in pieces, and sent her throughout the land of Israel’s inheritance; for they have committed an outrageous sin and vile act in Israel. 7 Behold, all you sons of Israel, give your response and advice here.'
8 Then all the people rose up as one person, saying, 'Not one of us will go to his tent, nor will any of us go home. 9 But now this is the thing which we will do to Gibeah; we will go up against it by lot. 10 And we will take ten men out of a hundred throughout the tribes of Israel, and a hundred out of a thousand, and a thousand out of ten thousand to supply provisions for the people, so that when they come to Gibeah of Benjamin, they may punish them for all the vile sin that they have committed in Israel.' 11 So all the men of Israel were gathered against the city, united as one man.
12 Then the tribes of Israel sent men through the entire tribe of Benjamin, saying, 'What is this wickedness that has taken place among you? 13 Now then, turn over the men, the worthless men who are in Gibeah, so that we may put them to death and remove this wickedness from Israel.' But the sons of Benjamin would not listen to the voice of their brothers, the sons of Israel. 14 Instead, the sons of Benjamin gathered from the cities to Gibeah, to go out to battle against the sons of Israel. 15 From the cities on that day the sons of Benjamin were counted, twenty-six thousand men who drew the sword, besides the inhabitants of Gibeah who were counted, seven hundred choice men. 16 Out of all these people seven hundred choice men were left-handed; each one could sling a stone at a hair and not miss.
17 Then the men of Israel besides Benjamin were counted, four hundred thousand men who drew the sword; all of these were men of war.
18 Now the sons of Israel set out, went up to Bethel, and inquired of God and said, 'Who shall go up first for us to battle against the sons of Benjamin?' Then the LORD said, 'Judah shall go up first.'
19 So the sons of Israel got up in the morning and camped against Gibeah. 20 The men of Israel went to battle against Benjamin, and the men of Israel lined up for battle against them at Gibeah. 21 Then the sons of Benjamin came out of Gibeah and struck to the ground on that day twenty-two thousand men of Israel. 22 But the people, the men of Israel, showed themselves courageous and lined up for battle again in the place where they had lined themselves up on the first day. 23 And the sons of Israel went up and wept before the LORD until evening, and inquired of the LORD, saying, 'Shall we again advance for battle against the sons of my brother Benjamin?' And the LORD said, 'Go up against him.'
24 So the sons of Israel came against the sons of Benjamin on the second day. 25 And Benjamin went out against them from Gibeah the second day and struck to the ground again eighteen thousand men of the sons of Israel; all of these drew the sword. 26 Then all the sons of Israel and all the people went up and came to Bethel, and they wept and remained there before the LORD, and fasted that day until evening. And they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD. 27 And the sons of Israel inquired of the LORD (for the ark of the covenant of God was there in those days, 28 and Phinehas the son of Eleazar, Aaron’s son, stood before it to minister in those days), saying, 'Shall I yet again go out to battle against the sons of my brother Benjamin, or shall I stop?' And the LORD said, 'Go up, for tomorrow I will hand them over to you.'
29 So Israel set men in ambush around Gibeah. 30 And the sons of Israel went up against the sons of Benjamin on the third day and lined up against Gibeah as at other times. 31 When the sons of Benjamin went out against the people, they were lured away from the city, and they began to strike and kill some of the people as at other times, on the roads (one of which goes up to Bethel, and the other to Gibeah), and in the field, about thirty men of Israel. 32 And the sons of Benjamin said, 'They are defeated before us, like the first time.' But the sons of Israel said, 'Let’s flee, so that we may draw them away from the city to the roads.' 33 Then all the men of Israel rose from their place and lined up at Baal-tamar; and the men of Israel in ambush charged from their place, from Maareh-geba. 34 When ten thousand choice men from all Israel came against Gibeah, the battle became fierce; but Benjamin did not know that disaster was close to them. 35 And the LORD struck Benjamin before Israel, so that the sons of Israel destroyed 25,100 men of Benjamin that day, all who drew the sword.
36 So the sons of Benjamin saw that they were defeated. When the men of Israel gave ground to Benjamin because they relied on the men in ambush whom they had set against Gibeah, 37 the men in ambush hurried and rushed against Gibeah; the men in ambush also deployed and struck all the city with the edge of the sword. 38 Now the agreed sign between the men of Israel and the men in ambush was that they would make a great cloud of smoke rise from the city. 39 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.' 40 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. 41 Then the men of Israel turned, and the men of Benjamin were terrified; for they saw that disaster was close to them. 42 Therefore, they turned their backs before the men of Israel to flee in the direction of the wilderness, but the battle overtook them while those who attacked from the cities were annihilating them in the midst of them. 43 They surrounded Benjamin, pursued them without rest, and trampled them down opposite Gibeah toward the east. 44 So eighteen thousand men of Benjamin fell; all of these were valiant men. 45 The rest turned and fled toward the wilderness to the rock of Rimmon, but they caught five thousand of them on the roads and overtook them at Gidom, and killed two thousand of them. 46 So all those of Benjamin who fell that day were twenty-five thousand men who drew the sword; all of these were valiant men. 47 But six hundred men turned and fled toward the wilderness to the rock of Rimmon; and they remained at the rock of Rimmon for four months. 48 The men of Israel then turned back against the sons of Benjamin and struck them with the edge of the sword, both the entire city with the cattle and all that they found; they also set on fire all the cities which they found.
New Living Translation

1 Then all the Israelites were united as one man, from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south, including those from across the Jordan in the land of Gilead. The entire community assembled in the presence of the LORD at Mizpah. 2 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. 3 (Word soon reached the land of Benjamin that the other tribes had gone up to Mizpah.) The Israelites then asked how this terrible crime had happened.
4 The Levite, the husband of the woman who had been murdered, said, 'My concubine and I came to spend the night in Gibeah, a town that belongs to the people of Benjamin. 5 That night some of the leading citizens of Gibeah surrounded the house, planning to kill me, and they raped my concubine until she was dead. 6 So I cut her body into twelve pieces and sent the pieces throughout the territory assigned to Israel, for these men have committed a terrible and shameful crime. 7 Now then, all of you--the entire community of Israel--must decide here and now what should be done about this!'
8 And all the people rose to their feet in unison and declared, 'None of us will return home! No, not even one of us! 9 Instead, this is what we will do to Gibeah; we will draw lots to decide who will attack it. 10 One tenth of the men from each tribe will be chosen to supply the warriors with food, and the rest of us will take revenge on Gibeah of Benjamin for this shameful thing they have done in Israel.' 11 So all the Israelites were completely united, and they gathered together to attack the town.
12 The Israelites sent messengers to the tribe of Benjamin, saying, 'What a terrible thing has been done among you!
13 Give up those evil men, those troublemakers from Gibeah, so we can execute them and purge Israel of this evil.' But the people of Benjamin would not listen. 14 Instead, they came from their towns and gathered at Gibeah to fight the Israelites. 15 In all, 26,000 of their warriors armed with swords arrived in Gibeah to join the 700 elite troops who lived there. 16 Among Benjamin's elite troops, 700 were left-handed, and each of them could sling a rock and hit a target within a hairsbreadth without missing. 17 Israel had 400,000 experienced soldiers armed with swords, not counting Benjamin's warriors.
18 Before the battle the Israelites went to Bethel and asked God, 'Which tribe should go first to attack the people of Benjamin?' The LORD answered, 'Judah is to go first.'
19 So the Israelites left early the next morning and camped near Gibeah. 20 Then they advanced toward Gibeah to attack the men of Benjamin. 21 But Benjamin's warriors, who were defending the town, came out and killed 22,000 Israelites on the battlefield that day.
22 But the Israelites encouraged each other and took their positions again at the same place they had fought the previous day.
23 For they had gone up to Bethel and wept in the presence of the LORD until evening. They had asked the LORD, 'Should we fight against our relatives from Benjamin again?' And the LORD had said, 'Go out and fight against them.'
24 So the next day they went out again to fight against the men of Benjamin, 25 but the men of Benjamin killed another 18,000 Israelites, all of whom were experienced with the sword.
26 Then all the Israelites went up to Bethel and wept in the presence of the LORD and fasted until evening. They also brought burnt offerings and peace offerings to the LORD. 27 The Israelites went up seeking direction from the LORD. (In those days the Ark of the Covenant of God was in Bethel,
28 and Phinehas son of Eleazar and grandson of Aaron was the priest.) The Israelites asked the LORD, 'Should we fight against our relatives from Benjamin again, or should we stop?' The LORD said, 'Go! Tomorrow I will hand them over to you.'
29 So the Israelites set an ambush all around Gibeah. 30 They went out on the third day and took their positions at the same place as before. 31 When the men of Benjamin came out to attack, they were drawn away from the town. And as they had done before, they began to kill the Israelites. About thirty Israelites died in the open fields and along the roads, one leading to Bethel and the other leading back to Gibeah.
32 Then the warriors of Benjamin shouted, 'We're defeating them as we did before!' But the Israelites had planned in advance to run away so that the men of Benjamin would chase them along the roads and be drawn away from the town.
33 When the main group of Israelite warriors reached Baal-tamar, they turned and took up their positions. Meanwhile, the Israelites hiding in ambush to the west of Gibeah jumped up to fight. 34 There were 10,000 elite Israelite troops who advanced against Gibeah. The fighting was so heavy that Benjamin didn't realize the impending disaster. 35 So the LORD helped Israel defeat Benjamin, and that day the Israelites killed 25,100 of Benjamin's warriors, all of whom were experienced swordsmen.
36 Then the men of Benjamin saw that they were beaten. The Israelites had retreated from Benjamin's warriors in order to give those hiding in ambush more room to maneuver against Gibeah. 37 Then those who were hiding rushed in from all sides and killed everyone in the town. 38 They had arranged to send up a large cloud of smoke from the town as a signal.
39 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!' 40 But when the warriors of Benjamin looked behind them and saw the smoke rising into the sky from every part of the town, 41 the men of Israel turned and attacked. At this point the men of Benjamin became terrified, because they realized disaster was close at hand. 42 So they turned around and fled before the Israelites toward the wilderness. But they couldn't escape the battle, and the people who came out of the nearby towns were also killed. 43 The Israelites surrounded the men of Benjamin and chased them relentlessly, finally overtaking them east of Gibeah. 44 That day 18,000 of Benjamin's strongest warriors died in battle. 45 The survivors fled into the wilderness toward the rock of Rimmon, but Israel killed 5,000 of them along the road. They continued the chase until they had killed another 2,000 near Gidom.
46 So that day the tribe of Benjamin lost 25,000 strong warriors armed with swords, 47 leaving only 600 men who escaped to the rock of Rimmon, where they lived for four months. 48 And the Israelites returned and slaughtered every living thing in all the towns--the people, the livestock, and everything they found. They also burned down all the towns they came to.
Christian Standard Bible

1 All the Israelites from Dan to Beer-sheba and from the land of Gilead came out, and the community assembled as one body before the Lord at Mizpah. 2 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.
3 The Benjaminites heard that the Israelites had gone up to Mizpah.The Israelites asked, "Tell us, how did this evil act happen? "
4 The Levite, the husband of the murdered woman, answered, "I went to Gibeah in Benjamin with my concubine to spend the night. 5 Citizens of Gibeah came to attack me and surrounded the house at night. They intended to kill me, but they raped my concubine, and she died. 6 Then I took my concubine and cut her in pieces, and sent her throughout Israel's territory, because they have committed a wicked outrage in Israel. 7 Look, all of you are Israelites. Give your judgment and verdict here and now."
8 Then all the people stood united and said, "None of us will go to his tent or return to his house. 9 Now this is what we will do to Gibeah: we will attack it. By lot 10 we will take ten men out of every hundred from all the tribes of Israel, and one hundred out of every thousand, and one thousand out of every ten thousand to get provisions for the troops when they go to Gibeah in Benjamin to punish them for all the outrage they committed in Israel."
11 So all the men of Israel gathered united against the city. 12 Then the tribes of Israel sent men throughout the tribe of Benjamin, saying, "What is this evil act that has happened among you? 13 Hand over the wicked men in Gibeah so we can put them to death and purge evil from Israel." But the Benjaminites would not listen to their fellow Israelites. 14 Instead, the Benjaminites gathered together from their cities to Gibeah to go out and fight against the Israelites. 15 On that day the Benjaminites mobilized twenty-six thousand armed men from their cities, besides seven hundred fit young men rallied by the inhabitants of Gibeah. 16 There were seven hundred fit young men who were left-handed among all these troops; all could sling a stone at a hair and not miss.
17 The Israelites, apart from Benjamin, mobilized four hundred thousand armed men, every one an experienced warrior.
18 They set out, went to Bethel, and inquired of God. The Israelites asked, "Who is to go first to fight for us against the Benjaminites? "And the Lord answered, "Judah will be first."
19 In the morning, the Israelites set out and camped near Gibeah. 20 The men of Israel went out to fight against Benjamin and took their battle positions against Gibeah. 21 The Benjaminites came out of Gibeah and slaughtered twenty-two thousand men of Israel on the field that day. 22 But the Israelite troops rallied and again took their battle positions in the same place where they positioned themselves on the first day.
23 They went up, wept before the Lord until evening, and inquired of him, "Should we again attack our brothers the Benjaminites? "And the Lord answered, "Fight against them."
24 On the second day the Israelites advanced against the Benjaminites. 25 That same day the Benjaminites came out from Gibeah to meet them and slaughtered an additional eighteen thousand Israelites on the field; all were armed.
26 The whole Israelite army went to Bethel where they wept and sat before the Lord. They fasted that day until evening and offered burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to the Lord. 27 Then the Israelites inquired of the Lord. In those days, the ark of the covenant of God was there,
28 and Phinehas son of Eleazar, son of Aaron, was serving before it. The Israelites asked, "Should we again fight against our brothers the Benjaminites or should we stop? "The Lord answered, "Fight, because I will hand them over to you tomorrow." 29 So Israel set up an ambush around Gibeah. 30 On the third day the Israelites fought against the Benjaminites and took their battle positions against Gibeah as before. 31 Then the Benjaminites came out against the troops and were drawn away from the city. They began to attack the troops as before, killing about thirty men of Israel on the highways, one of which goes up to Bethel and the other to Gibeah through the open country.
32 The Benjaminites said, "We are defeating them as before."But the Israelites said, "Let's flee and draw them away from the city to the highways." 33 So all the men of Israel got up from their places and took their battle positions at Baal-tamar, while the Israelites in ambush charged out of their places west of Geba. 34 Then ten thousand fit young men from all Israel made a frontal assault against Gibeah, and the battle was fierce, but the Benjaminites did not know that disaster was about to strike them. 35 The Lord defeated Benjamin in the presence of Israel, and on that day the Israelites slaughtered 25,100 men of Benjamin; all were armed.
36 Then the Benjaminites realized they had been defeated.The men of Israel had retreated before Benjamin, because they were confident in the ambush they had set against Gibeah. 37 The men in ambush had rushed quickly against Gibeah; they advanced and put the whole city to the sword. 38 The men of Israel had a prearranged signal with the men in ambush: when they sent up a great cloud of smoke from the city, 39 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." 40 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. 41 Then the men of Israel returned, and the men of Benjamin were terrified when they realized that disaster had struck them. 42 They retreated before the men of Israel toward the wilderness, but the battle overtook them, and those who came out of the cities slaughtered those between them. 43 They surrounded the Benjaminites, pursued them, and easily overtook them near Gibeah toward the east. 44 There were eighteen thousand men who died from Benjamin; all were warriors. 45 Then Benjamin turned and fled toward the wilderness to Rimmon Rock, and Israel killed five thousand men on the highways. They overtook them at Gidom and struck two thousand more dead.
46 All the Benjaminites who died that day were twenty-five thousand armed men; all were warriors. 47 But six hundred men escaped into the wilderness to Rimmon Rock and stayed there four months. 48 The men of Israel turned back against the other Benjaminites and killed them with their swords--the entire city, the animals, and everything that remained. They also burned all the cities that remained.

What does Judges chapter 20 mean?

In this chapter, the people of Israel respond to the outrageous events described in chapter 19. A Levite man's concubine was brutally abused and murdered by men from Gibeah, a city in the territory of the tribe of Benjamin (Judges 19:22–28). The Levite dismembered her corpse and sent pieces throughout Israel along with the story of what had happened. Israel's leaders react in shock and anger, resolving to meet to settle the issue (Judges 19:29–30).

Representatives from eleven tribes—every tribe except for Benjamin—gather at a town called Mizpah. There were several locations with this name, but the one in question is not far from Gibeah (Judges 19:14). There, they hear the Levite reiterate what happened to his concubine. It's almost certain that this meeting is a formality. Israel's leaders have likely discussed what happened and resolved how to respond: the meeting depicted here involves major troop movements. The Hebrew word 'eleph can refer to "thousands" or to "divisions," and Israel sends four hundred to Mizpah. Benjamin's tribe notices what is happening but does not attend the meeting (Judges 20:1–7).

The eleven tribes of Israel agree they will not disband their gathering until Gibeah is held accountable. Supply systems are arranged in anticipation of a siege. Before attacking, however, Israel invites the tribe of Benjamin to join their cause. Gibeah is a Benjaminite city, and the purpose of this summit is to punish those who are guilty. They hope the tribe of Benjamin will agree to bring justice. Instead, the Benjaminites assemble their own forces. Despite being about one-fifteenth the size of their attackers, they resolve to protect Gibeah (Judges 20:8–17).

Before their first attempt to take Gibeah, Israelite leaders travel to Bethel. At that time, the ark of the covenant was there (Judges 20:27). The people ask for God's guidance, but only to know which tribe should take the lead. The Lord answers that Judah should go first. The next day, Israel's army forms battle lines and attacks Gibeah. The soldiers of Benjamin emerge from the city and counterattack. The natural terrain of Gibeah probably made it difficult to assault. The people are also fighting on their home soil, so they know it well. Benjamin's well-prepared and motivated soldiers kill about one in twenty of the invading Israelite fighters (Judges 20:18–21).

After that humiliating defeat, representatives of Israel travel to Bethel once again. Mourning their struggle, the Israelites bring to God the question they likely should have asked in the first place: whether they should be attacking their fellow Israelites at all. The Lord tells them to keep attacking. The second attempt, however, fails as badly as did the first. A total of one in every eleven Israeli troops has been killed outright. This is more than the total number of soldiers in Benjamin's entire army. In response, the entire group, including soldiers, travels to Bethel. They appeal to God's will through tears and sacrifices. They once again ask the Lord if they should attack. The Lord tells them to continue—and this time, He promises victory (Judges 20:22–28).

The Israelites use a new strategy for their third attempt on the city. They position part of the army in hiding nearby, then reform the same battle lines used previously. They attack Gibeah as before, but as soon as the fighters of Benjamin emerge from the city, Israel's army falls back. Benjamin's army falls for the trap, being drawn out of the city in pursuit of the false retreat. Only a remnant is left behind in Gibeah. Once the city is vulnerable, Israelite soldiers in hiding emerge and attack the city (Judges 20:29–34).

The final portion of the chapter begins with a summary: that Benjamin was defeated, losing almost all the tribe's fighting men. After Israel's false retreat draws out Gibeah's defenders, a group ambushes the city, conquers it, and sets everything on fire. The retreating Israelite army from the prior passage sees the smoke, which is their signal to turn and fight the Benjaminite army. The tribe of Benjamin instantly realizes they are defeated; they attempt to run. Israel's forces surround them, cut off escape, and slaughter nearly the entire army. Rather than stopping there, Israel's forces sweep through the territory of Benjamin, devastating animals, buildings, and people in a terrible storm of destruction. The tribe is almost completely exterminated, with only a small number of soldiers left in hiding (Judges 20:35–48).

The consequences of these actions are dire: the tribe of Benjamin has been virtually annihilated. Israel now must decide what to do to prevent an entire tribe from disappearing. The following chapter explains the process of establishing peace and restoring Benjamin's future.