1727.) Judges 20

The American Civil War (1861-1865) was and still is America’s deadliest war, with over 620,000 soldiers killed.  (That is about the population of Milwaukee.)  The moral degradation in Israel was so intense that the resulting civil war nearly wiped out one of the twelve tribes.

Judges 20 (New International Version)

Israelites Fight the Benjamites

1 Then all the Israelites from Dan to Beersheba and from the land of Gilead

from Dan to Beersheba . . .

. . . meant from the farthest north to the farthest south in the country.  Together like this, they refer to the entire nation.  Gilead was the land on the east of the Jordan River, where the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half Manasseh were.

came out as one man 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 the people of God, four hundred thousand soldiers 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.”

It seems that the crime of Gibeah shocked the conscience of Israel.

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 disgraceful act in Israel. 7 Now, all you Israelites, speak up and give your verdict.”

Funny how he neglects to mention that HE shoved her out the door to the men.

8 All the people rose as one man, 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 as the lot directs. 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.”

from John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes:

In Israel — This is added as an aggravation, that they should do that in Israel, or among God’s peculiar people, which was esteemed abominable even among the Heathen.

11 So all the men of Israel got together and united as one man against the city.

12 The tribes of Israel sent men throughout the tribe of Benjamin, saying, “What about this awful crime that was committed among you? 13 Now surrender those wicked men of Gibeah so that we may put them to death and purge the evil from Israel.”

But the Benjamites would not listen to their fellow Israelites.

The other tribes of Israel did the right thing in asking the tribe of Benjamin to deliver up the men who committed this crime. They sought to justly resolve the crisis without full war. But the tribe of Benjamin committed a great sin by putting loyalty to their tribe before obedience to God’s Law.

–David Guzik

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 chosen men from those living in Gibeah. 16 Among all these soldiers there were seven hundred chosen men who were left-handed, each of whom could sling a stone at a hair and not miss.

(And all the women were strong, and all their children were above average!)

home-made sling for a stone

17 Israel, apart from Benjamin, mustered four hundred thousand swordsmen, all of them fighting men.

18 The Israelites went up to Bethel and inquired of God. They said, “Who of us shall go first to fight against the Benjamites?”

The LORD replied, “Judah shall go first.”

_________________________

Music:

HERE  is a poignant Civil War song:  “Just Before the Battle, Mother,” written by George F. Root.

Just before the battle, mother,
I am thinking most of you,
While upon the field we’re watching
With the enemy in view.
Comrades brave are ’round me lying,
Filled with thoughts of home and God
For well they know that on the morrow,
Some will sleep beneath the sod.

CHORUS:
Farewell, mother, you may never
Press me to your heart again,
But, oh, you’ll not forget me, mother,
If I’m numbered with the slain.

Hark! I hear the bugles sounding,
‘Tis the signal for the fight,
Now, may God protect us, mother,
As He ever does the right.
Hear the “Battle-Cry of Freedom,”
How it swells upon the air,
Oh, yes, we’ll rally ’round the standard,
Or we’ll perish nobly there.

CHORUS:
Farewell, mother, you may never
Press me to your heart again,
But, oh, you’ll not forget me, mother,
If I’m numbered with the slain.

_________________________

19 The next morning the Israelites got up and pitched camp near Gibeah. 20 The men of Israel 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 men of Israel encouraged one another and again took up their positions where they had stationed themselves the first day.

The cost of war: 22,000 Israelite dead.  So far.

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 battle against the Benjamites, our brothers?”

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.

Now, add another 18,00 = 40,000 Israelites dead so far.

26 Then the Israelites, all the people, 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 battle with Benjamin our brother, 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 finest 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.

It is costing everyone.  Now 25,100 Benjamites dead.

Death upon death . . .

Now the men of Israel had given way before Benjamin, because they relied on the ambush they had set near Gibeah. 37 The men who had been in ambush made a sudden dash into Gibeah, spread out and put the whole city to the sword. 38 The men of Israel had arranged with the ambush that they should send up a great cloud of smoke from the city, 39 and then the men of Israel would turn in the battle.

The Benjamites had begun to inflict casualties on the men of Israel (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 smoke of the whole city going up into the sky. 41 Then the men of Israel turned on them, and the men of Benjamin were terrified, because they realized that disaster had come upon them. 42 So they fled before the Israelites in the direction of the desert, but they could not escape the battle. And the men of Israel 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 desert 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.

Psalm 68:27 (New International Version)

There is the little tribe of Benjamin. . .

All these thousands and thousands of men dead — a terrible blow to the tribe of Benjamin.  Yet it survived!  Saul, the first king of Israel, was from this tribe (1 Samuel 9:21).  So were Queen Esther (Esther 2:5-7) and the apostle Paul (Romans 11:1).

47 But six hundred men turned and fled into the desert 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.

What a dreadful scene — brother against brother in relentless battle, exterminating thousands of soldiers plus many more women and children.  There is no justice here, but cruelty and brutality.  It is indeed a picture of what happens when there is no effective civil government to curb the mob mentality as “everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

_________________________

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica

Images courtesy of:
American Civil War artifacts.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/20-civil-war-uniforms.jpg
map:  Dan to Beersheba.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/danbeersheba.gif
old manuscripts illustration, chopping.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2015/12/fffea-thelevitesconcubine.jpg
Star of David.    http://www.tribulationinstitute.com/Star_of_David.jpg.png
sling.    http://slinging.org/forum/yabbfiles/Attachments/SANY0120.jpg
old manuscripts illustration, battle.  https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/20-battle1.jpg
tribe of Benjamin.    http://wpcontent.answers.com/wikipedia/commons/3/3b/Benjamin2.JPG
cemetery.    http://media-cdn.tripadvisor.com/media/photo-s/01/22/be/56/american-soldiers-graveyard.jpg
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