Judges 20. The second appendix: The Benjamite War.
Title: Judges 19. The second appendix: The Benjamite War.
The tribes war against Benjamin, Jdg 20.
Jdg 20:1 Then all the sons of Israel from Dan to Beersheba, including the land of Gilead, came out, and the congregation assembled as one man to the Lord at Mizpah.
Jdg 20:2 And the chiefs of all the people, even of all the tribes of Israel, took their stand in the assembly of the people of God, 400,000 foot soldiers who drew the sword.
Unity is a major emphasis in both Testaments. It is based on spirituality and maturity in love that sets aside pettiness concerning personality, racial, and cultural differences.
The people gathered for holy war. "Congregation" - kahal, which is used in the Torah for gathering to worship God.
This shows that it was out of love for the spiritual that so many men of all eleven tribes gathered to enact justice upon the tribe of Benjamin, who did nothing to prevent the attack and seems also to have done nothing to punish the criminals, who deserved the death penalty.
A gathering of 400,000 men could not be hidden and the leaders in Benjamin soon heard of it.
Benjamin hears of the gathering, but doesn't join. They side with the perpetrators.
If the people of Benjamin heard about the gathering, why didn't they arrest the perpetrators and join them in fidelity? They must have sided with the criminals.
Jdg 20:3 (Now the sons of Benjamin heard that the sons of Israel had gone up to Mizpah.) And the sons of Israel said, "Tell us, how did this wickedness take place?"
Jdg 20:4 So the Levite, the husband of the woman who was murdered, answered and said, "I came with my concubine to spend the night at Gibeah which belongs to Benjamin.
Jdg 20:5 But the men of Gibeah rose up against me and surrounded the house at night because of me. They intended to kill me; instead, they ravished my concubine so that she died.
He conveniently leaves out the fact that he threw her out to them and shut the door.
Jdg 20:6 And I took hold of my concubine and cut her in pieces and sent her throughout the land of Israel's inheritance; for they have committed a lewd and disgraceful act in Israel.
Jdg 20:7 Behold, all you sons of Israel, give your advice and counsel here."
Israel unites to make war against Gibeah.
Jdg 20:8 Then all the people arose as one man, saying, "Not one of us will go to his tent, nor will any of us return to his house.
Jdg 20:9 But now this is the thing which we will do to Gibeah; we will go up against it by lot.
Jdg 20:10 And we will take 10 men out of 100 throughout the tribes of Israel, and 100 out of 1,000, and 1,000 out of 10,000 to supply food for the people, that when they come to Gibeah of Benjamin, they may punish them for all the disgraceful acts that they have committed in Israel."
Jdg 20:11 Thus all the men of Israel were gathered against the city, united as one man.
A tenth of the army was chosen by lot to be in charge of supply lines to the fighting force.
Jdg 20:12 Then the tribes of Israel sent men through the entire tribe of Benjamin, saying, "What is this wickedness that has taken place among you?
Jdg 20:13 "Now then, deliver up the men, the worthless fellows in Gibeah, that we may put them to death and remove this wickedness from Israel." But the sons of Benjamin would not listen to the voice of their brothers, the sons of Israel.
A delegation was selected and sent to the leaders of Benjamin to give them an option to avoid war. They have to turn over the criminals. Unbelievably, they refuse.
Not only is Benjamin greatly outnumbered, making any hope of defending themselves futile, the criminals are obviously deserving of death. The "worthless fellows" should have been executed without the threat of the rest of Israel, but this is written in order to reveal the depth of depravity that the tribe of Benjamin had plummeted to.
Misplaced pride occurs when one cannot or will not discern between good and evil. There is nothing wrong with having pride in a family or nation, but if they are evil, such pride is obviously misplaced.
Also is shown the spirituality of the rest of Israel, which shows again that this occurred in the early years of Judges.
It is early in the age of the Judges. Israel still has a spiritual footprint in that they know that they must "remove wickedness from Israel."
By command in the Mosaic Law, they are to remove the wickedness and purge the evil from their midst. They do so for spiritual reasons which is refreshing to read.
When enough people in a nation demand adherence to moral law and freedom, then the nation will prosper. In the church age, the only influence for this good is the church.
Israel's influence should come directly by the law. Due to their forgetfulness, they were sent many oppressions by God as well as prophets. In the church there are no prophets, nor are there theocracies. The only influence for good during this age is the church. The church influences the people in a nation. Even unbelievers are influenced in the way of moral good or divine establishment, which laws were in the law in Codex 1 and 3. The Ten Commandments used to be in every courthouse in this land and now they are absent, being deemed as religious by an immature and ignorant populace.
Jdg 20:14 And the sons of Benjamin gathered from the cities to Gibeah, to go out to battle against the sons of Israel.
Jdg 20:15 And from the cities on that day the sons of Benjamin were numbered, 26,000 men who draw the sword, besides the inhabitants of Gibeah who were numbered, 700 choice men.
Jdg 20:16 Out of all these people 700 choice men were left-handed; each one could sling a stone at a hair and not miss.
Jdg 20:17 Then the men of Israel besides Benjamin were numbered, 400,000 men who draw the sword; all these were men of war.
All the fighting men of Benjamin gathered outside the city where the terrible crime occurred. They not only protect the worthless men but also the very ground where they committed their atrocity.
The fight will take place here. Benjamin is outnumbered 15 to 1. We would think the defeat of Benjamin to be easy, but this would not be the case. It would take three specific battles to conclude the conflict.
The sling was a weapon of warfare used by the Egyptians, the Assyrians, and the Babylonians. The stone would weigh as much as a pound, and could be slung with great accuracy, with a speed of as much as 90 mph. There were 700 of their number who were experts with this weapon.
Jdg 20:18 Now the sons of Israel arose, went up to Bethel, and inquired of God, and said, "Who shall go up first for us to battle against the sons of Benjamin?" Then the Lord said, "Judah shall go up first."
It would seem that the high priest attended and with the Urim and Thummim.
Jdg 20:19 So the sons of Israel arose in the morning and camped against Gibeah.
Jdg 20:20 And the men of Israel went out to battle against Benjamin, and the men of Israel arrayed for battle against them at Gibeah.
Jdg 20:21 Then the sons of Benjamin came out of Gibeah and felled to the ground on that day 22,000 men of Israel.
Thus, the first battle was a defeat for Israel. The tribe of Judah came up short.
The second battle is a second loss for Israel.
Jdg 20:22 But the people, the men of Israel, encouraged themselves and arrayed for battle again in the place where they had arrayed themselves the first day.
Jdg 20:23 And the sons of Israel went up and wept before the Lord until evening, and inquired of the Lord, saying, "Shall we again draw near for battle against the sons of my brother Benjamin?" And the Lord said, "Go up against him."
Jdg 20:24 Then the sons of Israel came against the sons of Benjamin the second day.
Jdg 20:25 And Benjamin went out against them from Gibeah the second day and felled to the ground again 18,000 men of the sons of Israel; all these drew the sword.
God says to go and they are again defeated.
Jdg 20:26 Then all the sons of Israel and all the people went up and came to Bethel and wept; thus they remained there before the Lord and fasted that day until evening. And they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord.
Jdg 20:27 And the sons of Israel inquired of the Lord (for the ark of the covenant of God was there in those days,
Jdg 20:28 and Phinehas the son of Eleazar, Aaron's son, stood before it to minister in those days), saying, "Shall I yet again go out to battle against the sons of my brother Benjamin, or shall I cease?" And the Lord said, "Go up, for tomorrow I will deliver them into your hand."
Those of us who have studied the entire book of Judges as well as Joshua can understand why God would allow them to be defeated soundly in the first two battles.
We know beyond a doubt that the victory belongs to the Lord. Only the Lord delivers. Israel can no longer attribute victory to their overwhelming numbers.
It will be the Lord who strikes Benjamin down.
I would venture to say that all of us have something in our lives that we want to conquer. The means of victory is right in this passage.
Are we fully trusting in God for the victory over the sin and evil in our lives or are we going about it while still holding on to some of our own expectations and assumptions?
Israel expects to win in a certain way and assumes victory in a certain way. We will only overcome when it is in a way that is unmistakenly God’s doing.
They went into the first battle confidently. After a surprising loss they regrouped and encouraged themselves. They probably thought it a fluke. "Crazy things happen, and so why let it bother us." They then inquire of the Lord and He says to go.
After the first defeat they resolved upon the continuance of the war, in the full consciousness of their superior power and numerical strength. They had yet to humble themselves before the Lord. They inquired as to whether they should go up against the Benjamites, but they did not inquire as to whether they would be successful. They only assumed success.
A second defeat is no fluke and they know it. The people are distraught and they finally inquire of the Lord as to whether they should do this or cease from it.
It enters their mind that it might not be the Lord's will to do this, and therein lies the goodness of the inquiry. They give complete deference to the Lord's will in humility.
In verse 26 the people, the civilians, went up to Bethel and wept.
Not only had the people not bowed before God's revealed will, but they did not humble themselves in weeping for Benjamin's sin.
The thing is that all events point to attacking Benjamin. It is a no-brainer that they should attack and defeat the tribe and they have the backing of the law. But this is not the punishment only of the wicked men who raped the concubine. This is a war against an entire tribe. Might it be that God has another way of dealing with it?
In God’s infinite genius, He always knows the perfect method for teaching each of us humility. He is bringing us to a place where we will always humbly seek His will above our own. In some cases, in something that is clearly of His will, because we did not submit to Him fully, He will not allow us victory.
With a lesser understanding, this looks like works, that God is asking us to do something first before He gives us deliverance, but with a deeper understanding we realize that all God is doing is teaching us a deeper lesson of humility. God’s desire is to make us people of a certain character, and it is not that everything we face comes out in our favor.
God's will should be given heed in complete humility. If a situation is not directly addressed in scripture, then we should not be hasty in action but deferential and sensitive to God's guidance.
The bottom line is that God's will should be given heed in complete humility and also that there should be love for their neighbor resulting in sorrow for their demise.
If we are seeking to do what we are sure is God's will and we find that we are clearly stopped from doing so, we need to inquire of Him in prayer.
If God then opens the door to do the very thing that we had already sought to do, then we might wonder why He didn't open the door before. He was teaching us that we must always give heed to His will and when we did, we were ready to go ahead.
We should also have sorrow for the judgment or demise of others. Love … bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, 1Co 13:7.
Now, in verse 26 it says that the people fasted. We should note the reality of fasting, which is addressed in our upcoming book on the Sermon on the Mount.
Fasting until evening would mean they denied themselves food as an open display of bending the heart before God accompanied by offerings.
This subject is the entirety of chapter 11 in the book.
The reality of fasting.
Mat 6:16 "And whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance in order to be seen fasting by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.
Mat 6:17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head, and wash your face
Mat 6:18 so that you may not be seen fasting by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you."
It is interesting to know that no periodical fast is commanded by God in the Old Testament nor in the New.
We read of fasts by certain people and in Zechariah 7 and 8 we read of fasts on the fourth, fifth, seventh, and tenth months that will be turned to joy in the Millennium, but without specifics and no actual command by God to fast.
However, God does mention the fasts of the people being done without the proper attitude.
Zec 7:5 'When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months these seventy years, was it actually for Me that you fasted?'
The motivation or reason we do something determines its worth.
Isa 58:3 'Why have we fasted and Thou