The Israelites punish the Benjaminites
1Then all Israel from Dan to Beersheba and from the land of Gilead came together as one and assembled before the Lord in Mizpah. 2The 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 Benjaminites heard that the Israelites had gone up to Mizpah.) Then the Israelites said, ‘Tell us how this awful thing happened.’
4So the Levite, the husband of the murdered woman, said, ‘I and my concubine came to Gibeah in Benjamin to spend the night. 5During the night the men of Gibeah came after me and surrounded the house, intending to kill me. They raped my concubine, and she died. 6I 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. 7Now, all you Israelites, speak up and tell me what you have decided to do.’
8All the men rose up together as one, saying, ‘None of us will go home. No, not one of us will return to his house. 9But now this is what we’ll do to Gibeah: we’ll go up against it in the order decided by casting lots. 10We’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#20:10 One Hebrew manuscript; most Hebrew manuscripts Geba, a variant of Gibeah in Benjamin, it can give them what they deserve for this outrageous act done in Israel.’ 11So all the Israelites got together and united as one against the city.
12The tribes of Israel sent messengers throughout the tribe of Benjamin, saying, ‘What about this awful crime that was committed among you? 13Now 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 Benjaminites would not listen to their fellow Israelites. 14From their towns they came together at Gibeah to fight against the Israelites. 15At once the Benjaminites mobilised twenty-six thousand swordsmen from their towns, in addition to seven hundred able young men from those living in Gibeah. 16Among 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.
17Israel, apart from Benjamin, mustered four hundred thousand swordsmen, all of them fit for battle.
18The Israelites went up to Bethel#20:18 Or to the house of God; also in verse 26 and enquired of God. They said, ‘Who of us is to go up first to fight against the Benjaminites?’
The Lord replied, ‘Judah shall go first.’
19The next morning the Israelites got up and pitched camp near Gibeah. 20The Israelites went out to fight the Benjaminites and took up battle positions against them at Gibeah. 21The Benjaminites came out of Gibeah and cut down twenty-two thousand Israelites on the battlefield that day. 22But the Israelites encouraged one another and again took up their positions where they had stationed themselves the first day. 23The Israelites went up and wept before the Lord until evening, and they enquired of the Lord. They said, ‘Shall we go up again to fight against the Benjaminites, our fellow Israelites?’
The Lord answered, ‘Go up against them.’
24Then the Israelites drew near to Benjamin the second day. 25This time, when the Benjaminites came out from Gibeah to oppose them, they cut down another eighteen thousand Israelites, all of them armed with swords.
26Then 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. 27And the Israelites enquired of the Lord. (In those days the ark of the covenant of God was there, 28with Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, ministering before it.) They asked, ‘Shall we go up again to fight against the Benjaminites, our fellow Israelites, or not?’
The Lord responded, ‘Go, for tomorrow I will give them into your hands.’
29Then Israel set an ambush around Gibeah. 30They went up against the Benjaminites on the third day and took up positions against Gibeah as they had done before. 31The Benjaminites 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. 32While the Benjaminites 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.’
33All 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#20:33 Some Septuagint manuscripts and Vulgate; the meaning of the Hebrew for this word is uncertain. of Gibeah.#20:33 Hebrew Geba, a variant of Gibeah 34Then ten thousand of Israel’s able young men made a frontal attack on Gibeah. The fighting was so heavy that the Benjaminites did not realise how near disaster was. 35The Lord defeated Benjamin before Israel, and on that day the Israelites struck down 25,100 Benjaminites, all armed with swords. 36Then the Benjaminites 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. 37Those who had been in ambush made a sudden dash into Gibeah, spread out and put the whole city to the sword. 38The Israelites had arranged with the ambush that they should send up a great cloud of smoke from the city, 39and then the Israelites would counterattack.
The Benjaminites had begun to inflict casualties on the Israelites (about thirty), and they said, ‘We are defeating them as in the first battle.’ 40But when the column of smoke began to rise from the city, the Benjaminites turned and saw the whole city going up in smoke. 41Then the Israelites counterattacked, and the Benjaminites were terrified, because they realised that disaster had come on them. 42So 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. 43They surrounded the Benjaminites, chased them and easily#20:43 The meaning of the Hebrew for this word is uncertain. overran them in the vicinity of Gibeah on the east. 44Eighteen thousand Benjaminites fell, all of them valiant fighters. 45As they turned and fled towards the wilderness to the rock of Rimmon, the Israelites cut down five thousand men along the roads. They kept pressing after the Benjaminites as far as Gidom and struck down two thousand more.
46On that day twenty-five thousand Benjaminite swordsmen fell, all of them valiant fighters. 47But six hundred of them turned and fled into the wilderness to the rock of Rimmon, where they stayed for four months. 48The 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.