The War Between Israel and Benjamin
1 So all the Israelites joined together. They all came together to stand before the LORD in the city of Mizpah. People came from everywhere in Israel.* from everywhere in Israel Literally, “from Dan to Beersheba.” Even the Israelites from Gilead† Gilead This area was east of the Jordan River. were there. 2 The leaders of all the tribes of Israel were there. They took their places in the public meeting of God’s people. There were 400,000 soldiers with swords in that place. 3 The people from the tribe of Benjamin heard that the Israelites were meeting together in Mizpah. The Israelites said, “Tell us how this terrible thing happened.”
4 So the Levite, the husband of the woman who had been murdered, told them the story. He said, “My slave woman and I came to the city of Gibeah in the area of Benjamin. We spent the night there. 5 But during the night the men of the city of Gibeah came to the house where I was staying. They surrounded the house, and they wanted to kill me. They raped my slave woman, and she died. 6 So I took her and cut her into pieces. Then I sent one piece to each of the tribes of Israel. I sent the 12 pieces to the lands we have received. I did that because the people of Benjamin have done this terrible thing in Israel. 7 Now, all you men of Israel, speak up. Give your decision about what we should do.”
8 Then all the people stood up at the same time. They said together, “None of us will go home. No, not one of us will go back to his house. 9 Now this is what we will do to the city of Gibeah. We will throw lots to let God show us who will lead the attack. 10 We will choose ten men from every 100 from all the tribes of Israel. And we will choose 100 men from every 1000. We will choose 1000 men from every 10,000. These men we have chosen will get supplies for the army. Then the army will go to the city of Gibeah in the area of Benjamin. The army will punish those people for the terrible thing they did among the Israelites.”
11 So all the men of Israel gathered together at the city of Gibeah, united together and in agreement as to what they were doing. 12 The tribes of Israel sent men to the tribe of Benjamin with this message: “What about this terrible thing that some of your men have done? 13 Send the bad men from the city of Gibeah to us so that we can put them to death. We must remove the evil from among the Israelites.”
But the people from the tribe of Benjamin would not listen to the messengers from their relatives, the other Israelites. 14 The people from the tribe of Benjamin left their cities and went to the city of Gibeah. They went to Gibeah to fight against the other tribes of Israel. 15 The people from the tribe of Benjamin got 26,000 soldiers together who were trained for war. They also had 700 trained soldiers from the city of Gibeah. 16 There were also 700 trained soldiers who were trained to fight with their left hand.‡ trained … left hand Literally, “restrained in their right hand.” Each one of them could use a sling with great skill. They all could use a sling to throw a stone at a hair and not miss!
17 All the tribes of Israel, except Benjamin, gathered together 400,000 fighting men with swords. Each one was a trained soldier. 18 The Israelites went up to the city of Bethel. At Bethel they asked God, “Which tribe will be first to attack the tribe of Benjamin?”
The LORD answered, “The tribe of Judah will go first.”
19 The next morning the Israelites got up. They made a camp near the city of Gibeah. 20 Then the army of Israel took their positions for battle against the army of Benjamin at the city of Gibeah. 21 Then the army of Benjamin came out of the city of Gibeah. The army of Benjamin killed 22,000 men in the army of Israel during the battle that day.
22-23 The Israelites went to the LORD and cried until evening. They asked the LORD, “Should we go to fight the people of Benjamin again? They are our relatives.”
The LORD answered, “Go fight against them.” The men of Israel encouraged each other. So they again went out to fight, as they had done the first day.
24 Then the army of Israel came near the army of Benjamin. This was the second day of the war. 25 The army of Benjamin came out of the city of Gibeah to attack the army of Israel on the second day. This time, the army of Benjamin killed another 18,000 men from the army of Israel. All the men in the army of Israel were trained soldiers.
26 Then all the Israelites went up to the city of Bethel. There they sat down and cried to the LORD. They did not eat anything all day, until evening. They also offered burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to the LORD. 27 The men of Israel asked the LORD a question. (In those days God’s Box of the Agreement was there at Bethel. 28 Phinehas was the priest who served God there. Phinehas was the son of Eleazar. Eleazar was the son of Aaron.) The Israelites asked, “The people of Benjamin are our relatives. Should we again go to fight against them? Or should we stop fighting?”
The LORD answered, “Go. Tomorrow I will help you defeat them.”
29 Then the army of Israel hid some men all around the city of Gibeah. 30 The army of Israel went to fight against the city of Gibeah on the third day. They got ready for battle as they had done before. 31 The army of Benjamin came out of the city of Gibeah to fight the army of Israel. The army of Israel backed up and let the army of Benjamin chase them. In this way the army of Benjamin was tricked into leaving the city far behind them.
The army of Benjamin began to kill some of the men in the army of Israel, as they had done before. They killed about 30 men from Israel. They killed some of them in the fields, and they killed some of them on the roads. One road led to the city of Bethel. The other road led to the city of Gibeah. 32 The men of Benjamin said, “We are winning as before!”
The men of Israel were running away, but it was a trick. They wanted to lead the men of Benjamin away from their city and onto the roads. 33 So all the men ran away. They stopped at a place named Baal Tamar. Some of the men of Israel were hiding west of Gibeah. They ran from their hiding places. 34 10,000 of Israel’s best-trained soldiers attacked the city of Gibeah. The fighting was very heavy. But the army of Benjamin did not know that a terrible thing was about to happen to them.
35 The LORD used the army of Israel and defeated the army of Benjamin. On that day the army of Israel killed 25,100 soldiers from Benjamin. All of them had been trained for war. 36 So the people of Benjamin saw that they were defeated.
The army of Israel had moved back because they were depending on the surprise attack. They had men hiding near Gibeah. 37 The men who were hiding rushed into the city of Gibeah. They spread out and killed everyone in the city with their swords. 38 Now the men of Israel had made a plan with the men who were hiding. The men who were hiding were supposed to send a special signal. They were supposed to make a big cloud of smoke.
39-41 The army of Benjamin had killed about 30 Israelite soldiers. So the men of Benjamin were saying, “We are winning, as before.” But then a big cloud of smoke began to rise from the city. The men of Benjamin turned around and saw the smoke. The whole city was on fire. Then the army of Israel stopped running away. They turned around and began to fight. The men of Benjamin were afraid because they knew that a terrible thing had happened to them.
42 So the army of Benjamin ran away from the army of Israel. They ran toward the desert. But they could not escape the fighting. And the men of Israel came out of the cities and killed them. 43 The men of Israel surrounded the men of Benjamin and began chasing them. They did not let them rest. They defeated them in the area east of Gibeah. 44 So 18,000 brave and strong fighters from the army of Benjamin were killed.
45 The army of Benjamin turned around and ran toward the desert. They ran to a place called the Rock of Rimmon, but the army of Israel killed 5000 soldiers from Benjamin along the roads. They kept chasing the men of Benjamin. They chased them as far as a place named Gidom. The army of Israel killed 2000 more men from Benjamin in that place.
46 On that day 25,000 men of the army of Benjamin were killed. All of them fought bravely with their swords. 47 But 600 men from Benjamin ran into the desert to the place called the Rock of Rimmon and stayed there for four months. 48 The men of Israel went back to the land of Benjamin. They killed the people and all the animals in every city. They destroyed everything they could find and burned every city they came to.
*20:1 from everywhere in Israel Literally, “from Dan to Beersheba.”
†20:1 Gilead This area was east of the Jordan River.
‡20:16 trained … left hand Literally, “restrained in their right hand.”