Reading 74/341, Judges 20-21

Today we finish Judges. In the end, the Israelites have proven that they are just as bad as any other people.


Then all the children of Israel went out, and the congregation was assembled as one man to the Lord at Mizpah, from Dan to Beersheba, along with the land of Gilead. The chiefs of all the people, of all the tribes of Israel, presented themselves in the assembly of the people of God, 400,000 footmen who drew sword. Now the children of Benjamin heard that the children of Israel had gone up to Mizpah. The children of Israel said, “Tell us, how was this wickedness brought to pass?” The Levite, the husband of the woman who was murdered, answered, “I came into Gibeah that belongs to Benjamin, I and my concubine, to lodge. The men of Gibeah rose against me, and beset the house round about me by night. They would have killed me, and they did rape my concubine, and she is dead. 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 abomination and outrage in Israel. Behold, you children of Israel, all of you, give here your advice and counsel.” All the people arose as one man, saying, “We will not any of us go to his tent, nor will any of us turn to his house. But now this is the thing which we will do to Gibeah: we will go up against it by lot, and we will take ten men of one hundred throughout all the tribes of Israel, and one hundred of one thousand, and a thousand out of ten thousand, to get food for the people, that they may do, when they come to Gibeah of Benjamin, according to all the outrage that they have worked in Israel.” So all the men of Israel were gathered against the city, knit together as one man.

The tribes of Israel sent men through all the tribe of Benjamin, saying, “What wickedness is this that has happened among you? Now therefore deliver up the men, the base fellows, who are in Gibeah, that we may put them to death, and put away evil from Israel.” But Benjamin would not listen to the voice of their brothers the children of Israel. The children of Benjamin gathered themselves together from the cities to Gibeah, to go out to battle against the children of Israel. The children of Benjamin were numbered on that day out of the cities 26,000 men who drew the sword, besides the inhabitants of Gibeah, who were numbered seven hundred chosen men. Among all this people there were seven hundred chosen left-handed men, each of whom could sling stones at a hair-width, and not miss. The men of Israel, besides Benjamin, were numbered four hundred thousand men who drew the sword, all these were men of war. The children of Israel arose, and went up to Bethel, and asked counsel of God, and they said, “Who shall go up for us first to battle against the children of Benjamin?” The Lord said, “Judah first.” The children of Israel rose up in the morning, and encamped against Gibeah. The men of Israel went out to battle against Benjamin, and the men of Israel set the battle in array against them at Gibeah. The children of Benjamin came forth out of Gibeah, and destroyed down to the ground of the Israelites on that day 22,000 men. The people, the men of Israel, encouraged themselves, and set the battle again in array in the place where they set themselves in array the first day. The children of Israel went up and wept before the Lord until evening, and they asked of the Lord, saying, “Shall I again draw near to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother?” The Lord said, “Go up against him.” The children of Israel came near against the children of Benjamin the second day. Benjamin went forth against them out of Gibeah the second day, and destroyed down to the ground of the children of Israel again 18,000 men; all these drew the sword.

Then all the children of Israel, and all the people, went up, and came to Bethel, and wept, and sat there before the Lord, and fasted that day until evening, and they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord. The children of Israel asked of the Lord (for the ark of the covenant of God was there in those days, 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?” The Lord said, “Go up; for tomorrow I will deliver him into your hand.” Israel set ambushes all around Gibeah. The children of Israel went up against the children of Benjamin on the third day, and set themselves in array against Gibeah, as at other times. The children of Benjamin went out against the people, and were drawn away from the city, and they began to strike and kill of the people, as at other times, in the highways, of which one goes up to Bethel, and the other to Gibeah, in the field, about thirty men of Israel. The children of Benjamin said, “They are struck down before us, as at first.” But the children of Israel said, “Let us flee, and draw them away from the city to the highways.” All the men of Israel rose up out of their place, and set themselves in array at Baal-tamar, and the ambushers of Israel broke forth out of their place, out of Maareh-geba. There came over against Gibeah 10,000 chosen men out of all Israel, and the battle was serious, but they did not know that evil was close on them. The Lord struck Benjamin before Israel, and the children of Israel destroyed of Benjamin that day 25,100 men, all these drew the sword.

So the children of Benjamin saw that they were struck, for the men of Israel gave ground to Benjamin, because they trusted the ambushers whom they had set against Gibeah. The ambushers hurried, and rushed on Gibeah, and the ambushers drew themselves along, and struck all the city with the edge of the sword. Now the appointed sign between the men of Israel and the ambushers was that they should make a great cloud of smoke rise up out of the city. The men of Israel turned in the battle, and Benjamin began to strike and kill of the men of Israel about thirty persons; for they said, “Surely they are struck down before us, as in the first battle.” But when the cloud began to arise up out of the city in a pillar of smoke, the Benjamites looked behind them, and behold, the whole of the city went up in smoke to the sky. The men of Israel turned, and the men of Benjamin were dismayed; for they saw that evil had come on them. Therefore they turned their backs before the men of Israel to the way of the desert, but the battle followed hard after them, and those who came out of the cities destroyed them in the midst of it. They enclosed the Benjamites round about, chased them, and trod them down at their resting place, as far as over against Gibeah toward the sunrise. There fell of Benjamin 18,000 men, all of whom were men of valor. They turned and fled toward the desert to the rock of Rimmon, and they gleaned of them in the highways five thousand men, and followed hard after them to Gidom, and struck 2000 of them. So that, all who fell that day of Benjamin were 25,000 men who drew the sword. All these were men of valor. But six hundred men turned and fled toward the desert to the rock of Rimmon, and abode in the rock of Rimmon four months. The men of Israel turned again on the children of Benjamin, and struck them with the edge of the sword, both the entire city, and the livestock, and all that they found, moreover all the cities which they found they set on fire.

Now the men of Israel had sworn in Mizpah, saying, “None of us shall give his daughter to Benjamin as wife.” The people came to Bethel, an sat there until evening before God, and lifted up their voices, and wept bitterly. They said, “O Lord, the God of Israel, why has this happened in Israel, that there should be today one tribe lacking in Israel?” It happened on the next day that the people rose early, and built there an altar, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. The children of Israel said, “Who is there among all the tribes of Israel who did not come up in the assembly to the Lord?” For they had made a great oath concerning him who did not come up to the Lord at Mizpah, saying, “He shall surely be put to death.” The children of Israel grieved for Benjamin their brother, and said, “There is one tribe cut off from Israel this day. How shall we do for wives for those who remain, seeing we have sworn by the Lord that we will not give them of our daughters to wives?” They said, “Who of the tribes of Israel did not come up to the Lord to Mizpah?” Behold, there came no one to the camp from Jabesh-gilead to the assembly. For when the people were numbered, behold, there were not any of the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead there. The congregation sent there 12,000 men of the most valiant, and commanded them, saying, “Go and strike the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead with the edge of the sword, with the women and the little ones. This is the thing that you shall do, you shall utterly destroy every male, and every woman who has lain by man.” They found among the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead four hundred young virgins, who had not known man by lying with him, and they brought them to the camp to Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan. The whole congregation sent and spoke to the children of Benjamin who were in the rock of Rimmon, and proclaimed peace to them. Benjamin returned at that time, and they gave them the women whom they had saved alive of the women of Jabesh-gilead, and yet so they were not enough for them.

The people grieved for Benjamin, because the Lord had made a breach in the tribes of Israel. Then the elders of the congregation said, “How shall we do for wives for those who remain, seeing the women are destroyed out of Benjamin?” They said, “There must be an inheritance for those who are escaped of Benjamin, that a tribe not be blotted out from Israel. However we may not give them wives of our daughters, for the children of Israel had sworn, saying, “Cursed be he who gives a wife to Benjamin.” They said, “Behold, there is a feast of the Lord from year to year in Shiloh, which is on the north of Bethel, on the east side of the highway that goes up from Bethel to Shechem, and on the south of Lebonah. They commanded the children of Benjamin, saying, “Go and lie in wait in the vineyards, and see, and behold, if the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in the dances, then come out of the vineyards, and each man catches his wife of the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin. It shall be, when their fathers or their brothers come to complain to us, that we will say to them, Grant them graciously to us, because we did not take for each man his wife in battle, nor did you give them to them, else would you now be guilty. The children of Benjamin did so, and took wives for themselves, according to their number, of those who danced, whom they carried off, and they went and returned to their inheritance, and built the cities, and lived in them. The children of Israel departed there at that time, every man to his tribe and to his family, and they went out from there every man to his inheritance. In those days there was no king in Israel, every man did what was right in his own eyes.

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