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Judges Chapter 20


      Last week we read the story of the Levite whose concubine ran away from him. He chased her down to her father's house, where he stayed with them for several days eating and drinking.  When they began their journey home, the Levite, his servant, and the concubine got to Gibeah where they stopped to spend the night.   It turned out to be a horrible night, and the story closed with the sons of Belial abusing the concubine all night causing her death.  The Levite took her home, divided her body into 12 parts, and sent a portion of the body to each of the 12 tribes of Israel to make them aware of the evil done.   While this did get their attention, we found many things the man did were not honoring to the Lord.    We pickup the story at Mizpeh where the people of Israel are very upset.


I.    The Gathering of Israel at Mizpeh 

Judg 20:1  Then all the children of Israel went out, and the congregation was gathered together as one man, from Dan even to Beersheba, with the land of Gilead, unto the LORD in Mizpeh.

Judg 20:2  And the chief of all the people, even of all the tribes of Israel, presented themselves in the assembly of the people of God, four hundred thousand footmen that drew sword.

Judg 20:3  (Now the children of Benjamin heard that the children of Israel were gone up to Mizpeh.) Then said the children of Israel, Tell us, how was this wickedness? 

The circulation of the Levite's concubine and his story about her death aroused all the people of Israel.  A call went out for all of Israel to gather at Mizpeh, a city which was on the border of Benjamin.  It says in verse 2 that there were 400,000 men all able to bear the sword in battle.  This was a large force, and we know that when God was in the midst of the battle, it only took a few to win with the Lord on their side.  The verse says "If God be for us, who can be against us?"  When God fought the battles in these days, none could stand against His chosen people.  It says that all the tribes were represented, even those east of the Jordan river.  So they ask for the Levite to retell the story, that they might be sure they understood exactly what happened.


Judg 20:4  And the Levite, the husband of the woman that was slain, answered and said, I came into Gibeah that belongeth to Benjamin, I and my concubine, to lodge. 

We don't see the Levite mentioning how he had been drinking with the old man n his house that night.  When we do wrong, it is certainly easy to overlook some of the fine details when bad things befall us.  I'm afraid that many times the bad things come due to us not always doing things right.  Whatever God brings into our lives, when we are saved, it is for our own good in the end.  We may not understand the trial when it happens, but it works to our good. 

Judg 20:5  And the men of Gibeah rose against me, and beset the house round about upon me by night, and thought to have slain me: and my concubine have they forced, that she is dead.

Judg 20:6  And 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 lewdness and folly in Israel. 

His story shows him very innocent in the whole affair.   It sounds as if he was a victim of attempted murder and that the concubine was torn from him by the Benjamites.  If you remember, they gave the woman out to the men.  The Levite says that he cut the body into 12 pieces and sent it out so they might see the lewdness and folly that had been committed in Israel.


II.        The Levite Asked for Counsel and Advice 

Judg 20:7  Behold, ye are all children of Israel; give here your advice and counsel.

Judg 20:8  And all the people arose as one man, saying, We will not any of us go to his tent, neither will we any of us turn into his house.

Judg 20:9  But now this shall be the thing which we will do to Gibeah; we will go up by lot against it; 

The Israelites give their advice and make plans to go up against Gibeah.   It says in verse 8 that all rose up as one man.  This is very pleasing to God for his people to agree on issues.  Remember when Paul instructed the church at Corinth to be of one mind, and that mind was to be the mind of Christ. 

1 Cor 1:10  Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. 

Mark 3:24  And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.

Mark 3:25  And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 

Jesus said that a kingdom divided against itself can not stand.  We need to be of a common mind, and our mind needs to be thinking like Jesus.

1 Cor 2:16  For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ. 

Rom 15:5  Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus:

Rom 15:6  That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

It appears from the verses we have read that they had pretty much decided to destroy Gibeah for the wrong that had been done.  Yet, they had not even requested that the guilty be turned over to them.   Not everyone in the city was at fault. 

Judg 20:10  And we will take ten men of an hundred throughout all the tribes of Israel, and an hundred of a thousand, and a thousand out of ten thousand, to fetch victual for the people, that they may do, when they come to Gibeah of Benjamin, according to all the folly that they have wrought in Israel. 

They intended to take 1/10th of the people of each tribe to supply the fighting men with food so that the battle would not be hindered.  You know that in war, if you can sever the supply lines to the troops, it is just a matter of time until the victory is yours.  Keeping the food coming to those that are in battle is very important, and we find they had a good plan. 

Judg 20:11  So all the men of Israel were gathered against the city, knit together as one man.

Judg 20:12  And the tribes of Israel sent men through all the tribe of Benjamin, saying, What wickedness is this that is done among you? 

The 11 tribes were in agreement.  (Without Benjamin.)  They decide to punish the tribe of Benjamin (Gibeah) for the deed done to the concubine.  In verse12 it says that they sent out messengers to all the tribe of Benjamin demanding that the guilty be surrendered.  It is amazing how a few people doing wrong can affect thousands.  It is very important that all serve God properly, and follow His commands.


III.       Israel Demands the Surrender of the Guilty Men

Judg 20:13  Now therefore deliver us the men, the children of Belial, which are in Gibeah, that we may put them to death, and put away evil from Israel. But the children of Benjamin would not hearken to the voice of their brethren the children of Israel: 

The Benjamites refused to deliver the guilty men.   We know that if they had followed the Lord's command, the guilty parties would have been brought forth. 

Judg 20:14  But the children of Benjamin gathered themselves together out of the cities unto Gibeah, to go out to battle against the children of Israel.

Judg 20:15  And the children of Benjamin were numbered at that time out of the cities twenty and six thousand men that drew sword, beside the inhabitants of Gibeah, which were numbered seven hundred chosen men. 

Instead of turning over the guilty men, Benjamin gathers their army to go to battle.  It says they had 26,000 troops plus 700 men who were very proficient in using a sling. 

Judg 20:16  Among all this people there were seven hundred chosen men lefthanded; every one could sling stones at an hair breadth, and not miss.

Judg 20:17  And the men of Israel, beside Benjamin, were numbered four hundred thousand men that drew sword: all these were men of war. 

But 26,000 was no match for 400,000 which were against them.  All of Israel's chosen men go up to war against the tribe of Benjamin.    Note how accurate it says these men were with sling shots. 

J. Vernon McGee had an interesting comment about young David when he took on Goliath with a slingshot. 

I heard a liberal speak for fifteen minutes one time on the fact that David could not have been accurate enough to hit Goliath on the forehead. Consider this verse. These men were as accurate in that day with their slings as we are today with our missiles. If they could get in the range of a slingshot, it would be fatal for anyone. These left-handed men could split a hair!

This same liberal said that the reason David picked up five stones was so that he would have a reserve supply in case he missed with the first stone. Well, that liberal was wrong. Goliath had four sons in the army of the Philistines, and David had a stone for each one of them. David knew how accurate he was.

Now the men of Benjamin were overcome by sheer numbers. In fact, the tribe of Benjamin was almost destroyed.   [1] 


IV.       Israel Goes to the House of God and asks Counsel 

Judg 20:18  And the children of Israel arose, and went up to the house of God, and asked counsel of God, and said, Which of us shall go up first to the battle against the children of Benjamin? And the LORD said, Judah shall go up first. 

There is wisdom in the children seeking the Lord's guidance.  In all things that we do, we should seek the will of God in our plans.  One thing that seems unusual about this is that there is no record that they sought the Lord as to whether they should go to war against Benjamin in the first place.  This is an indication of a weak spiritual condition at this time.  It shows they did not ask if they should go up to battle, but rather which tribe should lead them.   Sometimes that is how you and I are.  We get ourselves into a jam, and then we sort of skip asking the Lord how He would get us out of the trouble, but go on and ask for something specific that may or may not be in God's Will for our lives.  The Lord allows them to go on to war, for they were in need of chastisement.  God designates that Judah was to lead in battle.  Always remember that there are two wills of God for our lives.  His perfect will, and then there is the permissive will of God.   That means that we are not in the perfect will, but he allows us to go on in our stubborn position.  But normally, if we continue, we will be chastised in time. 

Judg 20:19  And the children of Israel rose up in the morning, and encamped against Gibeah.

Judg 20:20  And the men of Israel went out to battle against Benjamin; and the men of Israel put themselves in array to fight against them at Gibeah.

Judg 20:21  And the children of Benjamin came forth out of Gibeah, and destroyed down to the ground of the Israelites that day twenty and two thousand men. 

On day one, Israel suffers a tremendous defeat in the first battle.  It says in verse 19 that they rose up and encamped against Benjamin.  And at the end of the battle, 22,000 of the 11 tribes of Israel were slain. 

Judg 20:22  And the people the men of Israel encouraged themselves, and set their battle again in array in the place where they put themselves in array the first day. 

On the second day, they come out against Benjamin the same way as in day one.  In verse 23, it says that they went up and wept before the Lord until evening. 

Judg 20:23  (And the children of Israel went up and wept before the LORD until even, and asked counsel of the LORD, saying, Shall I go up again to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother? And the LORD said, Go up against him.)

Judg 20:24  And the children of Israel came near against the children of Benjamin the second day. 

This time they ask if they should go up to battle against Benjamin, not just who should lead in the battle.  So God tells them to go forth. 

Judg 20:25  And Benjamin went forth against them out of Gibeah the second day, and destroyed down to the ground of the children of Israel again eighteen thousand men; all these drew the sword. 

The results were almost the same.  They lose 18,000 men in the second battle.

Now 1/10th of their forces had been destroyed in just two battles. 

Judg 20:26  Then all the children of Israel, and all the people, went up, and came unto the house of God, and wept, and sat there before the LORD, and fasted that day until even, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD.

Judg 20:27  And the children of Israel inquired of the LORD, (for the ark of the covenant of God was there in those days,

Judg 20:28  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? And the LORD said, Go up; for to morrow I will deliver them into thine hand. 

Again, the children of Israel go up to the tabernacle and seek counsel of the Lord.  They are very serious about this, and they come the proper way with Phinehas, a descendant of Aaron, going before them and asking if they should try again in the battle or cease.  The entire camp had came and wept bitterly before the Lord and had fasted all the day.  They were serious about finding the true will of the Lord.  This time, not only does God say to go, but he says he will deliver them into their hands in the upcoming battle.


V.  Israel is Given Victory over Benjamin 

Judg 20:29  And Israel set liers in wait round about Gibeah.

Judg 20:30  And the children of Israel went up against the children of Benjamin on the third day, and put themselves in array against Gibeah, as at other times.

Judg 20:31  And the children of Benjamin went out against the people, and were drawn away from the city; and they began to smite of the people, and kill, as at other times, in the highways, of which one goeth up to the house of God, and the other to Gibeah in the field, about thirty men of Israel. 

They pulled a surprise attack by hiding men round about Gibeah.  The men of Israel went out as before in array, and then fled as if being defeated to get the Benjamites to chase after them.  They then closed the entrance of the city. 

Judg 20:32  And the children of Benjamin said, They are smitten down before us, as at the first. But the children of Israel said, Let us flee, and draw them from the city unto the highways.

Judg 20:33  And all the men of Israel rose up out of their place, and put themselves in array at Baaltamar: and the liers in wait of Israel came forth out of their places, even out of the meadows of Gibeah.

Judg 20:34  And there came against Gibeah ten thousand chosen men out of all Israel, and the battle was sore: but they knew not that evil was near them.

Judg 20:35  And the LORD smote Benjamin before Israel: and the children of Israel destroyed of the Benjamites that day twenty and five thousand and an hundred men: all these drew the sword. 

The battle was of the Lord, and he smote Benjamin before Israel.  It says that they destroyed 25,100 men in that third battle.   That means that there were only 900 men remaining if none of them were killed in the first two battles.  When they saw they were cut off from the city, they tried to escape by going east toward the wilderness. 

Judg 20:36  So the children of Benjamin saw that they were smitten: for the men of Israel gave place to the Benjamites, because they trusted unto the liers in wait which they had set beside Gibeah.

Judg 20:37  And the liers in wait hasted, and rushed upon Gibeah; and the liers in wait drew themselves along, and smote all the city with the edge of the sword.

Judg 20:38  Now there was an appointed sign between the men of Israel and the liers in wait, that they should make a great flame with smoke rise up out of the city.

Judg 20:39  And when the men of Israel retired in the battle, Benjamin began to smite and kill of the men of Israel about thirty persons: for they said, Surely they are smitten down before us, as in the first battle.

Judg 20:40  But when the flame began to arise up out of the city with a pillar of smoke, the Benjamites looked behind them, and, behold, the flame of the city ascended up to heaven.

Judg 20:41  And when the men of Israel turned again, the men of Benjamin were amazed: for they saw that evil was come upon them.

Judg 20:42  Therefore they turned their backs before the men of Israel unto the way of the wilderness; but the battle overtook them; and them which came out of the cities they destroyed in the midst of them.

Judg 20:43  Thus they enclosed the Benjamites round about, and chased them, and trode them down with ease over against Gibeah toward the sunrising.

Judg 20:44  And there fell of Benjamin eighteen thousand men; all these were men of valour.

Judg 20:45  And they turned and fled toward the wilderness unto the rock of Rimmon: and they gleaned of them in the highways five thousand men; and pursued hard after them unto Gidom, and slew two thousand men of them.

Judg 20:46  So that all which fell that day of Benjamin were twenty and five thousand men that drew the sword; all these were men of valour. 

So 18,000 of the Benjamites were killed on the battleground, and another 5,000 were slain in flight toward the rock of Rimmon. Then another 2,000 fell on the road to Gidom.


VI.       Benjamin Almost Destroyed 

Judg 20:47  But six hundred men turned and fled to the wilderness unto the rock Rimmon, and abode in the rock Rimmon four months. 

Only 600 men survived the battle.  It says they took refuge in the rugged country around the Rock Rimmon.  This was a large limestone mountain rising up from the Jordan valley on the ascent toward the mountains of Bethel.   They found security here for 4 months from the fury of their tribesmen.  

Judg 20:48  And the men of Israel turned again upon the children of Benjamin, and smote them with the edge of the sword, as well the men of every city, as the beast, and all that came to hand: also they set on fire all the cities that they came upon. 

During this time, the rest of the tribes went through Benjamin, killing all the men and beasts in every town.  They burned the cities with fire, and virtually exterminated the tribe of Benjamin.  All of this loss of life, over the fact that they would not bring forth the guilty men who had committed the sin.  Protecting those in sin is never a wise decision.  We should care for them, and try our best to reach them for the Lord, but we should hate their sin just like the Lord hates sin.  Love the sinner, hate the sin.


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Prov 4:18  But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.





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[1]J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible commentary [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1981 by J. Vernon McGee.