Judges 20


The heads of the eleven tribes come before the Lord in Mizpeh,

and examine the Levite relative to the murder of his wife, who

gives a simple narrative of the whole affair, 1-7.

They unanimously resolve to avenge the wrong, and make provision

for a campaign against the Benjamites, 8-11.

They desire the Benjamites to deliver up the murderers; they

refuse, and prepare for battle, having assembled an army of

twenty-six thousand seven hundred men, 12-16.

The rest of the Israelites amount to four hundred thousand, who,

taking counsel of God, agree to send the tribe of Judah against

the Benjamites, 17, 18.

They attack the Benjamites, and are routed with the loss of

twenty-two thousand men, 19-21.

They renew the battle next day, and are discomfited with the

loss of eighteen thousand men, 22-25.

They weep, fast, and pray, and offer sacrifices; and again

inquire of the Lord, who promises to deliver Benjamin into

their hands, 26-28.

They concert plans, attack the Benjamites, and rout them,

killing twenty-five thousand one hundred men, and destroy the

city of Gibeah, 29-37.

A recapitulation of the different actions in which they were

killed, 38-46.

Six hundred men escape to the rock Rimmon, 47.

The Israelites destroy all the cities of the Benjamites, 48.


Verse 1. Unto the Lord in Mizpeh.] This city was situated on the

confines of Judah and Benjamin, and is sometimes attributed to the

one, sometimes to the other. It seems that there was a place here

in which the Lord was consulted, as well as at Shiloh; in

1Mac 3:46, we read, In Maspha was the place where they prayed

aforetime in Israel. These two passages cast light on each other.

Some think that Shiloh is meant, because the ark was there; but

the phrase before the Lord may signify no more than meeting in the

name of God to consult him, and make prayer and supplication.

Wherever God's people are, there is God himself; and it ever was

true, that wherever two or three were assembled in his name, he

was in the midst of them.

Verse 2. The chief of all the people] The corners

pinnoth; for as the corner-stones are the strength of the

walls, so are the chiefs the strength of the people. Hence Christ

is called the chief corner-stone.

In the assembly of the people of God] The Septuagint translate,

And all the tribes of Israel stood up before the face of the

Lord, ενεκκλησιατουλαουτουθεου, in the Church of the people

of God. Here was a Church, though there was no priest; for, as

Tertullian says, Ubi tres, ecclesia est, licet laici;

"Wheresoever three are gathered together in the name of the Lord,

there is a Church, although there be none but the laity."

Verse 3. Tell us, how was this wickedness?] They had heard

before, by the messengers he sent with the fragments of his wife's

body; but they wish to hear it, in full council, from himself.

Verse 8. We will not any of us go to his tent] We will have

satisfaction for this wickedness before we return home.

Verse 10. Ten men of a hundred] Expecting that they might have a

long contest, they provide suttlers for the camp; and it is

probable that they chose these tenths by lot.

Verse 13. Deliver us the men] Nothing could be fairer than this.

They wish only to make the murderers answerable for their guilt.

Benjamin would not hearken] Thus making their whole tribe

partakers of the guilt of the men of Gibeah. By not delivering up

those bad men, they in effect said: "We will stand by them in what

they have done, and would have acted the same part had we been

present." This proves that the whole tribe was excessively


Verse 15. Twenty and six thousand] Some copies of the Septuagint

have twenty-three thousand, others twenty-five thousand. The

Vulgate has this latter number; the Complutensian Polyglot and

Josephus have the same.

Verse 16. Left-handed] They were ambidexters-could use the right

hand and the left with equal ease and effect.

See Clarke on Jud 3:15.

Could sling stones at a hair-and not miss] velo

yachati, and not sin: καιουκεξαμαρτανοντες; Sept. Here we have

the true import of the term sin; it signifies simply to miss the

mark, and is well translated in the New Testament by αμαρτανω,

from α, negative, and μαρπτω, to hit the mark. Men miss the

mark of true happiness in aiming at sensual gratifications; which

happiness is to be found only in the possession and enjoyment of

the favour of God, from whom their passions continually lead them.

He alone hits the mark, and ceases from sin, who attains to God

through Christ Jesus.

It is worthy of remark that the Persian [Persian] khuta kerden,

which literally signifies to sin or mistake, is used by the

Mohammedans to express to miss the mark.

The sling was a very ancient warlike instrument, and, in the

hands of those who were skilled in the use of it, it produced

astonishing effects. The inhabitants of the isles called Baleares,

now Majorca and Minorca, were the most celebrated slingers of

antiquity. They did not permit their children to break their fast

till they had struck down the bread they were to eat from the top

of a pole, or some distant eminence. They had their name Baleares

from the Greek word βαλλειν to dart, cast, or throw.

Concerning the velocity of the ball out of the sling, there are

strange and almost incredible things told by the ancients. The

leaden ball, when thus projected, is said to have melted in its

course. So OVID, Met. lib. ii.. ver. 726.

Obstupuit forma Jove natus: et aethere pendens

Non secus exarsit, quam cum balearica plumbum

Funda jacit; volat illud, et incandescit eundo;

Et, quos non habuit, sub nubibus invenit ignes.

Hermes was fired as in the clouds he hung;

So the cold bullet that, with fury slung

From Balearic engines, mounts on high,

Glows in the whirl, and burns along the sky.


This is not a poetic fiction; SENECA, the philosopher, in lib.

iii. Quaest. Natural., c. 57, says the same thing: Sic liquescit

excussa glans funda, et adtritu aeris velut igne distillat; "Thus

the ball projected from the sling melts, and is liquefied by the

friction of the air, as if it were exposed to the action of fire."

I have often, by the sudden and violent compression of the air,

produced fire; and by this alone inflamed tinder, and lighted a


Vegetius de Re Militari, lib. ii., cap. 23, tells us that

slingers could in general hit the mark at six hundred feet

distance. Funditores scopas-pro signo ponebant; ita ut SEXCENTOS

PEDES removerentur a signo-signum saepius tangerent. These things

render credible what is spoken here of the Benjamite slingers.

Verse 18. Went up to the house of God] Some think that a

deputation was sent from Shiloh, where Phinehas the high priest

was, to inquire, not concerning the expediency of the war, nor of

its success, but which of the tribes should begin the attack.

Having so much right on their side, they had no doubt of the

justice of their cause. Having such a superiority of numbers,

they had no doubt of success. See Clarke on Jud 20:1.

And the Lord said, Judah] But he did not say that they should


Verse 21. Destroyed down to the ground-twenty-two thousand men.]

That is, so many were left dead on the field of battle.

Verse 23. Go up against him.] It appears most evident that the

Israelites did not seek the protection of God. They trusted in the

goodness of their cause and in the multitude of their army. God

humbled them, and delivered them into the hands of their enemies,

and showed them that the race was not to the swift, nor the battle

to the strong.

Verse 26. And wept] Had they humbled themselves, fasted, and

prayed, and offered sacrifices at first, they had not been


And fasted that day until even] This is the first place where

fasting is mentioned as a religious ceremony, or as a means of

obtaining help from God. And in this case, and many since, it has

been powerfully effectual. At present it is but little used; a

strong proof that self-denial is wearing out of fashion.

Verse 28. Phinehas, the son of Eleazar] This was the same

Phinehas who is mentioned Nu 25:7, and consequently these

transactions must have taken place shortly after the death of


Verse 29. Israel set liers in wait] Though God had promised them

success, they knew they could expect it only in the use of the

proper means. They used all prudent precaution, and employed all

their military skill.

Verse 32. Let us-draw them from the city] They had two reasons

for this: 1. They had placed an ambuscade behind Gibeah, which was

to enter and burn the city as soon as the Benjamites had left it.

2. It would seem that the slingers, by being within the city and

its fortifications, had great advantage against the Israelites by

their slings, whom they could not annoy with their swords, unless

they got them to the plain country.

Verse 33. Put themselves in array at Baal-tamar] The Israelites

seem to have divided their army into three divisions; one was at

Baal-tamar, a second behind the city in ambush, and the third

skirmished with the Benjamites before Gibeah.

Verse 35. Twenty and five thousand and a hundred] As the

Benjamites consisted only of twenty-six thousand and seven hundred

slingers; or, as the Vulgate, Septuagint, and others read,

twenty-five thousand, which is most probably the true reading;

then the whole of the Benjamites were cut to pieces, except six

hundred men, who we are informed fled to the rock Rimmon, where

they fortified themselves.

Verse 38. Now there was an appointed sign] From this verse to

the end of the chapter we have the details of the same operations

which are mentioned, in a general way, in the preceding part of

the chapter.

Verse 45. Unto the rock of Rimmon] This was some strong place,

but where situated is not known. Here they maintained themselves

four months, and it was by these alone that the tribe of Benjamin

was preserved from utter extermination. See the following chapter.

IT is scarcely possible to imagine any thing more horrid than

the indiscriminate and relentless slaughter of both innocent and

guilty mentioned in this chapter. The crime of the men of Gibeah

was great, but there was no adequate cause for this relentless

extermination of a whole tribe. There was neither justice nor

judgment in this case; they were on all sides brutal, cruel, and

ferocious: and no wonder; there was no king in Israel-no effective

civil government, and every man did what was right in his own

eyes. There was no proper leader; no man that had authority and

influence to repress the disorderly workings of the pell-mell mob.

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