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Judges - Chapter 20

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1 The Israelites then all turned out and, as one man, the entire community from Dan to Beersheba, including Gilead, assembled in Yahweh's presence at Mizpah.

2 The leaders of the entire people, of all the tribes of Israel, were present at this assembly of God's people, four hundred thousand trained infantry.

3 The Benjaminites heard that the Israelites had gone up to Mizpah. The Israelites then said, 'Tell us how this crime was committed.'

4 The Levite, husband of the murdered woman, spoke in reply and said,

5 'The men of Gibeah ganged up against me and, during the night, surrounded the house where I was lodging. They intended to murder me. They raped my concubine to death.

6 I then took my concubine, cut her up and sent her throughout the entire territory of the heritage of Israel, since these men had committed a shameful act, an infamy, in Israel.

7 Now, all you Israelites, discuss the matter and give your decision here and now.'

8 The whole people stood up as one man and said, 'None of us will go home, none of us will go back to his house!

9 And this is what we are now going to do to Gibeah. We shall draw lots

10 and, throughout the tribes of Israel, select ten men out of a hundred, a hundred out of a thousand and a thousand out of ten thousand to collect food for the people, so that, on their arrival, the latter may treat Gibeah in Benjamin as this infamy perpetrated in Israel deserves.'

11 Thus, as one man, all the men of Israel mustered against the town.

12 The tribes of Israel sent messengers throughout the tribe of Benjamin to say, 'What is this crime which has been committed in your territory?

13 Now, give up these men, these scoundrels, living in Gibeah, so that we can put them to death and wipe out this evil from Israel.' The Benjaminites, however, would not listen to their brother Israelites.

14 The Benjaminites left their towns and mustered at Gibeah to fight the Israelites.

15 At the time, a count was made of the Benjaminites from the various towns: there were twenty-six thousand swordsmen; and the count excluded the inhabitants of Gibeah.

16 In this great army there were seven hundred first-rate left-handers, every man of whom could sling a stone at a hair and not miss it.

17 A count was also held of the men of Israel, excluding Benjamin: there were four hundred thousand men, all experienced swordsmen.

18 They moved off, up to Bethel, to consult God. The Israelites put the question, 'Which of us is to go first into battle against the Benjaminites?' And Yahweh replied, 'Judah is to go first.'

19 In the morning, the Israelites moved off and pitched their camp over against Gibeah.

20 The men of Israel advanced to do battle with Benjamin; they drew up their battle line in front of Gibeah.

21 But the Benjaminites sallied out from Gibeah and that day massacred twenty-two thousand Israelites.

22 The army of the men of Israel then took fresh heart and again drew up their battle line in the same place as the day before.

23 The Israelites went and wept before Yahweh until evening; they then consulted Yahweh; they asked, 'Shall we join battle again with the sons of our brother Benjamin?' Yahweh replied, 'March against him!'

24 This second day, the Israelites advanced against the Benjaminites,

25 and, this second day, Benjamin sallied out from Gibeah to meet them and massacred another eighteen thousand Israelites, all experienced swordsmen.

26 Then all the Israelites and the whole people went off to Bethel; they wept and sat in Yahweh's presence; they fasted all day till the evening and presented burnt offerings and communion sacrifices before Yahweh.

27 The Israelites then consulted Yahweh. In those days, the ark of the covenant of God was there,

28 and Phinehas son of Eleazer, son of Aaron was its minister at the time. They said, 'Ought I to go into battle against the sons of my brother Benjamin again, or should I stop?' Yahweh replied, 'March! For tomorrow I shall deliver him into your hands.'

29 Israel then positioned troops in ambush all round Gibeah.

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30 On the third day the Israelites marched against the Benjaminites and, as before, drew up their line in front of Gibeah.

31 The Benjaminites sallied out to engage the people and let themselves be drawn away from the town. As before, they began by killing those of the people who were on the roads, one of which runs up to Bethel, and the other to Gibeah through open country: some thirty men of Israel.

32 The Benjaminites thought, 'We have beaten them, as we did the first time,' but the Israelites had decided, 'We shall run away and draw them away from the town along the roads.'

33 All the Israelites then retreated and reformed at Baal-Tamar, while the Israelite troops in ambush surged from their positions to the west of Gibeah.

34 Ten thousand picked men, chosen from the whole of Israel, launched their attack on Gibeah. The battle was fierce; and the others knew nothing of the disaster impending.

35 Yahweh defeated Benjamin before Israel and that day the Israelites killed twenty-five thousand one hundred men of Benjamin, all of them trained swordsmen.

36 The Benjaminites saw that they were beaten. The Israelites had given ground to Benjamin, since they were relying on the ambush which they had positioned close to Gibeah.

37 The troops in ambush threw themselves against Gibeah at top speed; fanning out, they put the whole town to the sword.

38 Now it had been agreed between the Israelites and those of the ambush that the latter should raise a smoke signal from the town,

39 whereupon the Israelites in the thick of the battle would turn about. Benjamin began by killing some of the Israelites, about thirty men, and thought, 'We have certainly beaten them, as we did in the first battle.'

40 But the signal, a column of smoke, began to rise from the town, and the Benjaminites looking back saw the whole town going up in flames to the sky.

41 The Israelites then turned about, and the Benjaminites were seized with terror, for they saw that disaster had struck them.

42 They broke before the Israelite onslaught and made for the desert, but the fighters pressed them hard, while the others coming out of the town took and slaughtered them from the rear.

43 They hemmed in the Benjaminites, pursued them relentlessly, crushing them opposite Gibeah on the east.

44 Of Benjamin, eighteen thousand men fell, all of them brave men.

45 They then turned tail and fled into the desert, towards the Rock of Rimmon. Five thousand of them were picked off on the roads, and the rest were relentlessly pursued as far as Gideon, two thousand of them being killed.

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46 The total number of Benjaminites who fell that day was twenty-five thousand swordsmen, all of them brave men.

47 Six hundred men, however, turned tail and escaped into the desert, to the Rock of Rimmon, and there they stayed for four months.

48 The men of Israel then went back to the Benjaminites, and put them to the sword-people, livestock and everything else that came their way in the town. And they fired all the towns involved.

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