The Levite, in a General Assembly, Declares His
1, 2. all … the congregation was gathered as
one man—In consequence of the immense sensation the horrid
tragedy of Gibeah had produced, a national assembly was convened, at
which "the chief of all the people" from all parts of the land,
including the eastern tribes, appeared as delegates.
Mizpeh—the place of convention (for
there were other Mizpehs), was in a town situated on the confines of
Judah and Benjamin (Jos 15:38; 18:26). Assemblies were frequently held there
afterwards (1Sa 7:11; 10:17); and it was but a short distance from
Shiloh. The phrase, "unto the Lord," may be taken in its usual sense,
as denoting consultation of the oracle. This circumstance, together
with the convention being called "the assembly of the people of God,"
seems to indicate, that amid the excited passions of the nation, those
present felt the profound gravity of the occasion and adopted the best
means of maintaining a becoming deportment.
3. Now the children of Benjamin heard that the
children of Israel were gone up to Mizpeh—Some suppose that
Benjamin had been passed over, the crime having been perpetrated within
the territory of that tribe [Jud 19:16]; and that, as the concubine's corpse
had been divided into twelve pieces [Jud 19:29]—two had been sent to Manasseh,
one respectively to the western and eastern divisions. It is more
probable that Benjamin had received a formal summons like the other
tribes, but chose to treat it with indifference, or haughty
4-7. the Levite, the husband of the woman that was
slain, answered and said—The injured husband gave a brief and
unvarnished recital of the tragic outrage, from which it appears that
force was used, which he could not resist. His testimony was doubtless
corroborated by those of his servant and the old Ephraimite. There was
no need of strong or highly colored description to work upon the
feelings of the audience. The facts spoke for themselves and produced
one common sentiment of detestation and vengeance.
Jud 20:8-17. Their
8-13. all the people arose as one
man—The extraordinary unanimity that prevailed shows, that
notwithstanding great disorders had broken out in many parts, the
people were sound at the core; and remembering their national covenant
with God, they now felt the necessity of wiping out so foul a stain on
their character as a people. It was resolved that the inhabitants of
Gibeah should be subjected to condign punishment. But the resolutions
were conditional. For as the common law of nature and nations requires
that an inquiry should be made and satisfaction demanded, before
committing an act of hostility or vengeance, messengers were despatched
through the whole territory of Benjamin, demanding the immediate
surrender or execution of the delinquents. The request was just and
reasonable; and by refusing it the Benjamites virtually made themselves
a party in the quarrel. It must not be supposed that the people of this
tribe were insensible or indifferent to the atrocious character of the
crime that had been committed on their soil. But their patriotism or
their pride was offended by the hostile demonstration of the other
tribes. The passions were inflamed on both sides; but certainly the
Benjamites incurred an awful responsibility by the attitude of
resistance they assumed.
14-17. the children of Benjamin gathered
themselves together out of the cities unto Gibeah—Allowing
their valor to be ever so great, nothing but blind passion and
unbending obstinacy could have impelled them to take the field against
their brethren with such a disparity of numbers.
16. left-handed; every one could sling stones at
an hair-breadth, and not miss—The sling was one of the
earliest weapons used in war. The Hebrew sling was probably similar to
that of the Egyptian, consisting of a leather thong, broad in the
middle, with a loop at one end, by which it was firmly held with the
hand; the other end terminated in a lash, which was let slip when the
stone was thrown. Those skilled in the use of it, as the Benjamites
were, could hit the mark with unerring certainty. A good sling could
carry its full force to the distance of two hundred yards.
Jud 20:18-28. The Israelites
Lose Forty Thousand.
18-28. the children of Israel arose, and went up
to the house of God—This consultation at Shiloh was right.
But they ought to have done it at the commencement of their
proceedings. Instead of this, all their plans were formed, and never
doubting, it would seem, that the war was just and inevitable, the only
subject of their inquiry related to the precedency of the
tribes—a point which it is likely was discussed in the assembly.
Had they asked counsel of God sooner, their expedition would have been
conducted on a different principle—most probably by reducing the
number of fighting men, as in the case of Gideon's army. As it was, the
vast number of volunteers formed an excessive and unwieldy force, unfit
for strenuous and united action against a small, compact, and
well-directed army. A panic ensued, and the confederate tribes, in two
successive engagements, sustained great losses. These repeated
disasters (notwithstanding their attack on Benjamin had been divinely
authorized) overwhelmed them with shame and sorrow. Led to reflection,
they became sensible of their guilt in not repressing their national
idolatries, as well as in too proudly relying on their superior numbers
and the precipitate rashness of this expedition. Having humbled
themselves by prayer and fasting, as well as observed the appointed
method of expiating their sins, they were assured of acceptance as well
as of victory. The presence and services of Phinehas on this occasion
help us to ascertain the chronology thus far, that the date of the
occurrence must be fixed shortly after the death of Joshua.
Jud 20:29-48. They Destroy
All the Benjamites, Except Six Hundred.
29-48. And Israel set liers-in-wait round about
Gibeah—A plan was formed of taking that city by stratagem,
similar to that employed in the capture of Ai [Jos 8:9].
33. Baal-tamar—a palm-grove, where Baal
was worshipped. The main army of the confederate tribes was drawn up
out of the meadows of
Gibeah—Hebrew, "the caves of Gibeah"; a hill in which
the ambuscades lay hid.
34. there came against Gibeah ten thousand chosen
men—This was a third division, different both from the
ambuscade and the army, who were fighting at Baal-tamar. The general
account stated in Jud 20:35 is
followed by a detailed narrative of the battle, which is continued to
the end of the chapter.
45. they turned and fled toward the wilderness
unto the rock of Rimmon—Many of the fugitives found refuge in
the caves of this rocky mountain, which is situated to the northeast of
Beth-el. Such places are still sought as secure retreats in times of
danger; and until the method of blowing up rocks by gunpowder became
known, a few men could in such caves sustain a siege for months.
46. all which fell that day of Benjamin were
twenty and five thousand men—On comparing this with Jud 20:35, it will be seen that the loss is
stated here in round numbers and is confined only to that of the third
day. We must conclude that a thousand had fallen during the two
previous engagements, in order to make the aggregate amount given
48. the men of Israel turned again upon the
children of Benjamin, and smote them with the edge of the
sword—This frightful vengeance, extending from Gibeah to the
whole territory of Benjamin, was executed under the impetuous impulse
of highly excited passions. But doubtless the Israelites were only the
agents of inflicting the righteous retributions of God; and the memory
of this terrible crisis, which led almost to the extermination of a
whole tribe, was conducive to the future good of the whole nation.