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Verses 29-48

The men of Israel recommence hostilities. By feigned flight they draw the Benjamites away from Gibeah, which thereupon falls into their hands and is destroyed, together with nearly the whole tribe.

Judges 20:29-48.

29And Israel set liers in wait round about Gibeah. 30And the children [sons] of Israel went up against the children [sons] of Benjamin on the third day, and put themselves in array against Gibeah, as at other times. 31And the children [sons] of Benjamin went out against the people, and were [thus] drawn away from the city; and they began to smite of the people, and kill,6 as at other times, in the highways, of which one goeth up to the house of God [Beth-el], and the other to Gibeah in the field, about thirty men of Israel. 32And the children [sons] of Benjamin said, They are smitten down [omit: down] before us, as at the first. But the children [sons] of Israel said, Let us flee, and draw them from the city unto the highways. 33And all the men of Israel rose up out of their place, and put themselves in array at Baal-tamar: and the liers in wait of Israel came forth [also] out of their places34[place], even out of the meadows [naked fields]7 of Gibeah. And there [they] came against8 Gibeah ten thousand chosen men out of all Israel, and the battle 35[there] was sore: but they [i. e. the Benjamites] knew not that evil was near them. And the Lord [Jehovah] smote Benjamin before Israel: and the children [sons] of Israel destroyed of the Benjamites that day twenty and five thousand and an hundred men: all these drew the sword.

36So [Now] the children [sons] of Benjamin saw that they [the sons of Israel] were smitten:9 for the men of Israel gave place to the Benjamites, because they trusted unto the liers in wait which they had set beside [against] Gibeah. 37And the liers in wait hasted, and rushed upon Gibeah; and the liers in wait drew themselves along,10 and smote all the city with the edge of the sword. 38Now there was [omit: there was] an [the] appointed sign between the men of Israel and the liers in wait [was], that they should make a great flame [cloud—lit. elevation, rising] with [of] 39smoke rise up11 out of the city. But when [omit: when] the men of Israel retired in the battle, [and] Benjamin began to smite and kill of the men of Israel about thirty persons: for they said, Surely they are smitten down [omit: down] 40before us, as in the first battle. And when the flame [cloud—cf. Judges 20:38] began to arise up out of the city with [omit: with] a pillar of smoke, the Benjamites looked behind them, and behold, the flame [whole] of the city ascended up [in flames, or smoke] 41to heaven. And when [omit: when] the men of Israel turned again, [and] the men of Benjamin were amazed [confounded]: for they saw that evil was come upon them. 42Therefore they turned their backs before the men of Israel unto the way of the wilderness; but the battle overtook [or, pursued after] them; and them 43which came out of the cities they destroyed in the midst of them.12 Thus [omit: Thus] they [They] inclosed the Benjamites round about, and chased them, and trode them down with ease [at their place of rest,] over against [as far as before] Gibeah toward the sun-rising [on the east.]13 44And there fell of Benjamin eighteen thousand men; all these were men of valour. 45And 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 [more] of them. 46So that all which fell that day of Benjamin were twenty and five thousand men that drew the sword; all these were men of valour. 47But six hundred men turned and fled to the wilderness unto the rock Rimmon, and abode in the rock Rimmon four months. 48And the men of Israel turned again upon [returned unto] the children [sons] of Benjamin, and smote them with the edge of the sword, as well the men of every city,14 as the beast [cattle], and all that came to hand [was found]: also they set on fire all the cities that they came to that were found].

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

[1 Judges 20:31.—וַיָּחֵלוּ לְהַכּוֹת מֵהָלָם חֲלָלִים: “and they began to smite of the people, slain;” i. e, they smote so that the smitten became slain. חֲלָלִים is the accusative of closer definition. Dr. Cassel takes it as nomi-native: “They began to smite, (so that,) as at the former times, slain of the people were [i.e., lay] on the highways, of which one,” etc. Similarly in ver 39.—Tr.]

[2 Judges 20:33.—מַעֲרֶה. Dr. Cassel: Blösse, “nakedness”; cf. his remarks below. The Peshito read מְעָרָה, a cave; the LXX. in Cod. Alex., and the Vulgate, מַעֲרָכ, “from the west.” Fürst (in his Lexicon) defines מַעֲרֶה as “forest,” and derives it from a conjectural root עָרָה III., to sprout thickly, to which he also assigns the participle in Psalms 37:35. Keil seeks to remove the difficulty of connecting the ambuscade with an open, treeless plain, by remarking that “the words of the text do not require us to suppose that the forestless region was the place of hiding, but may be so understood as to affirm that the ambuscade, having broken up from its hiding-place, advanced against the city from the forestless region.” But he has failed to notice that the participle מֵגִיתַ speaks precisely of the “breaking forth,” and leaves the idea of “advancing on the city” entirely unexpressed.—Tr.]

[3 Judges 20:34.—וַיָּבֹאוּ מִנֶּגֶר לַגִּבְעָה: “from before Gibeah.” Dr. Cassel, like the E. V., has “against.” Bertheau says: “The ambuscade, consisting of ten thousand chosen men, came ‘from straight before’ Gibeah; whither they came, is not stated, but from the connection it appears that they attacked the Benjamites, who were fighting at some distance from the city, in the rear.” Keil adopts the same explanation. But it is manifest from Judges 20:37-38, and especially Judges 20:40-41, that Bertheau and Keil are wrong, and the E. V. and our author right.”—Tr.]

[4 Judges 20:36.—וַיִּרִאוּ בְנֵי־בִנְיָמִן כִּי נִגָּפוּ. With this verse, a new and more detailed account of the conflict begins. So Bertheau, Keil, and Bunsen, as well as our author. To indicate this to the eye, we have introduced a new paragraph division into the text. Bertheau and Bunsen agree with our author that the subject of נִגָּפוּ is “the sons of Israel.” According to Keil, “the sons of Benjamin saw that they were smitten, and that the men of Israel only gave way before them because they depended on the ambuscade which they had laid against Gibeah. They became aware of this when the ambuscade fell on their rear.” But this is inconsistent with Judges 20:37, and certainly with Judges 20:40. Judges 20:36 is a restatement of Judges 20:32, introductory to the detailed account that now follows.—Tr.]

[5 Judges 20:37.—וַיִּמְשֹׁדְ. Dr. Cassel translates: “and the ambuscade overpowered and smote the whole city;” and adds in a foot-note: “In the sense of Job 24:22 : מָשַׁדְ אַבִּירִים בְּכֹחוּ”. But there the word probably means “to hold fast, to preserve,” cf. Delitzsch in locum. It seems better to take it here in the sense “to march, advance,” cf. Judges 4:6.—Tr.]

[6 Judges 20:38.—הֶרֶב לְהַעֲלוֹתָם. The first of these words being taken as the apocopated hiphil imperative, a mixture of the direct with the indirect address arises from the suffix of the third person in the second word. Dr. Cassel avoids this by declaring הֶרֶכ to be an apocopated infinitive (see below); but it is better to admit the existence of a grammatical inaccuracy.—Tr.]

[7 Judges 20:42.—וַאֲשֶׁר מֵהֶעָרִים מַשְׁחִיתִים אוֹתוֹ בְּתוֹכוֹ. Dr. Cassel translates: “and they of the cities (through which Benjamin came) destroyed them in the midst of them.” Compare the exegetical remarks. Keil: “The words וַאשֶׁר מהֶעִרים can only be an appositional explanation of the suffix in הִרְכִּיקַתְהוּ, in the sense: Benjamin, namely, they who out of the cities of Benjamin had came to the aid of Gibeah (cf. Judges 20:14 f), i.e., all Benjamites The following מַשְׁחִיתּים ויו is a circumstantial clause illustrative of the preceding דֶרֶךְ הַמִּדְבָּר: ‘in that they (the men of Israel) destroyed him (Benjamin) in the midst of it.’ The singular suffix in בִתוֹכוֹ, refers not to Benjamin—for that yields no tolerable sense—but to the preceding דֶרֶךְ הַמִּדְבָּר: ‘in the midst of the way to the desert.’ ”

[8 Judges 20:43.—This verse continues the description begun in Judges 20:42, by means of an animated constructio asyndeta. כִּתְּרוּ אֶת־בִּנְיָמן, they surrounded Benjamin (by throwing out bodies of men on his flanks); הּרְדִיפֻהוּ, pursued after him; מְנוּחָה הִדְרִיכֻהוּ, fell upon and trode him down at his resting-place (that is, when, exhausted, he halted to take breath—מנוּחָה, accusative of place); and this pursuit and slaughter continued until the pursuers, who started from some distance north of Gibeah (Judges 20:31), had come south “as far as before Gibeah on its eastern side.” There the remnant of the pursued found means to turn northward again, Judges 20:45; and were again pursued as far as Gidom (a place evidently somewhere between east of Gibeah and Rimmon). Compare our author’s remarks below, which, however, indicate a slightly different conception on some points.—Tr.]

[9 Judges 20:48.—מֵעִיר מְתֹם. Dr. Cassel renders: “everything of the city, to the cattle and whatever else was found;” and adds the following note: “Many MSS., and the more recent expositors, point מְתִם, men, and yet it cannot be said that with בְּהֵמָה, this forms an altogether suitable antithesis, inasmuch as it still fails to express the idea that everything was put under the ban of destruction. The pointing מְתֹם finds support in Joshua 8:24; Joshua 10:20, where similar instructions עַר־תֻּמָּם are spoken of.”—Tr.]

EXEGETICAL AND DOCTRINAL

Judges 20:29 ff. From the determined purpose of the ten tribes to prosecute the war, Benjamin should have taken occasion to yield. Since Israel continued firm, notwithstanding severe losses, it might have concluded that it was impossible to resist permanently. It might also have observed that another spirit animated this second war, and that Israel had become thoroughly in earnest to complete the work it had taken in hand. Another interval of time had manifestly passed by. After the dissolution of the first army, Israel had to levy a new one (illustrative examples of this may be found in the North American Union war). Accordingly, the first engagements are spoken of together, as the “former” or the “first” war (Judges 20:32; Judges 20:39). The tribes of Israel now first conclude to use strategic arts. This circumstance incidentally affords data which enable us to obtain a somewhat clearer idea of the theatre of the war. Gibeah lay high; the attack of the Israelites came from the direction of Bethel, i.e., from the Northwest. Two highways are mentioned, along which the sons of Benjamin advanced to meet the assailants—one leading to Bethel, the other to “Gibeah-in-the-Field” (a Lower, or Field-Gibeah in contrast with the Higher, or Mountain-Gibeah). The Israelites allure the Benjamites, rendered unwary by former successes, farther and farther away from the heights and the city. It is expressly said that Benjamin went out “to meet them” (לִקְרַאת, Judges 20:31). They offer scarcely any resistance, but retreat, constantly followed by Benjamin, who already sees the triumphs of the first two battle days reenacted (Judges 20:32). Not until they have reached Baal Tamar,15 doubtless at a suitable distance from Gibeah, do they halt, and wait for the prearranged signal from other divisions who lay in ambush, and who were to attack the city as soon as the Benjamites should leave it. The place from which the city is thus suddenly attacked, is called מערה־גכע (Judges 20:33). The Masora has pointed מַעֲרֵה, evidently deriving the word from עָרָה, to be naked, and intending to express by it, as Raschi also explains, the “nakedness” of Gibeah, i.e., its accessible part. The Targum renders it by מֵישַׁר; the same term by which it constantly renders עֲרָכָה, so that possibly it may have read מֵעֲרָבָה.16 It might then be understood of the point where the hill slopes down to the plain, and thus becomes more accessible. The simplest way would be to point so as to read מְעָרָה, a cave, as the Septuagint also seems to do: Μααραγέβα (instead of Μαρααγεβέ). North of the present Jeba, with which our Gibeah is held to be identical, runs the Wady es-Suweinît. It comes from Beitîn and el-Bîreh, to the Northwest, and, after passing Jeba, runs between high precipices, in one of which is a large cavern called Jâihah (Rob. i. 441).

Judges 20:34-35. And they came against Gibeah, ten thousand men. We now first learn the numerical strength of the ambuscade, the placing of which was stated in Judges 20:29. It is scarcely necessary to point out that we have here another fact going to show the improbability of a besieging army of 400,000, who could have surrounded the whole of Gibeah on all sides. Verses 34 and 35, while telling about the ambuscade, take occasion briefly to indicate the result of the whole war, according to what, as Keil justly observes, is a characteristic practice of Hebrew historiography. This is followed, Judges 20:36 ff., by the more detailed account derived from ancient notes. Nor is there any discrepancy between Judges 20:35, which states that there fell 25,100 men of Benjamin, and Judges 20:46, which gives the number at 25,000. The latter is only the sum total of the three round numbers of Judges 20:44-45, namely, 18,000 + 5,000 + 2,000; and the great fidelity of the report shows itself in the fact that since the hundred over 25,000 is not divided between the round sums, it is also not included in the sum total, although according to Judges 20:35 its inclusion was only a matter of course. The artifice employed by the Israelites against the Benjamites, was in a different way also used against Shechem by Abimelech. Similar stratagems, practiced by Scipio, Hannibal, and others, are collected by Frontinus (Stratagematicon, lib. iii. cap. 10). Scipio besieged a city in Sardinia, feigned to take to flight before the besieged, and when they thoughtlessly followed him, per eos, quos in proximo occultaverat, oppidum invasit.

Judges 20:36. For the sons of Benjamin had thought that they were smitten. The “they” of this sentence refers to the Israelites, as appears from the succeeding words. The verse is a recapitulation of verse 32, and is therefore to be rendered by the pluperfect: “they had seen or thought.” They actually had seen, that the sons of Israel allowed themselves to be smitten.

Judges 20:38. And the appointed sign between the men of Israel and the liers in wait was, that they should cause a great cloud of smoke to rise up out of the city. The form &הֶרֶב הֶרב לְהַעֲלוֹתָם) is explained by the phrase כַבְּסֵנִי הַרִבֵּה, Psalms 51:4, where the keri has הֶרֶכ. For not the imperative only, but precisely the infinitive, which forms it (both הַרְכֵּה), is also apocopated into הֶרֶכ, and takes in consequence the adverbial signification, “strongly,” “very,” “fully.” The word is quite essential to the full understanding of the sentence. The men of the ambuscade are to cause a great pillar of smoke, like that of a burning city, to ascend, such as could not fail to be visible at a distance, and could not be mistaken. Bertheau must have overlooked this, when he proposed to remove the word out of the text.17

Judges 20:42 ff.. And the inhabitants of the cities destroyed them in the midst of them. The men of Benjamin fled; and in flight passed through the cities that lay in their course. Thereupon the inhabitants of these cities also arise, and slay the fugitives in their midst. The same thing occurs in all wars, when disorganized, fugitive troops must pass through the enemy’s land.18 Other explanations, such as have been given from time immemorial, do not appear to harmonize with the connection and the language. The clause cannot refer to those who burned the city; for how could they be called “אֲשֶׁר מֵהֶעָרִים”? Equally incomprehensible is the reason for using this expression, and the בְּתוִכוֹ connected with it, if Bertheau’s explanation, which Keil has mostly followed, be adopted; for the pursuit and inclosure are first delineated in Judges 20:43. The explanation of Le Clerc appears to me to come nearest the sense: Cum confugerunt Benjaminitœad urbes aliorum Israelitarum, ab iis occidebantur. Only, this must not be understood of a systematic application for refuge on the part of the Benjamites; but of the natural phenomenon that against a pursued and smitten foe everything rises up. The narrator evidently points in this way to the embittered feelings against Benjamin which everywhere prevailed. In proportion to Benjamin’s former overbearing haughtiness, is his present experience of misery. Not only is the hostile army continually at his heels, but he meets with enemies everywhere. Only the wilderness, which he endeavors to reach by fleeing in an eastern and northeastern direction toward the Jordan, promises safety. But before he arrives there, divisions of his men are cut off and surrounded (כִּתְּרוּ, Judges 20:43). The pursuit is unceasing (this is the sense of הִרְוִיפֻהוּ מְנוּחָה, “they chase his rest,” hence probably the hiphil), he scarcely thinks to be able to take breath for a moment, before they are behind him again: in this way he is driven until he finds himself within the limits of the wilderness east of Gibeah. Finally, still pursued as far as an unknown place called Gidom, a remnant of his shattered hosts finds an asylum in the rock Rimmon, northeast of Gibeah and below Ophra, for the modern Rummôn, lying high, on a rocky Tell, on the north side of the great Wady el-’Asas, is held to be the rock Rimmon of our narrative (Rob. iii. 290; ii. 440).

Six hundred men of the whole tribe saved themselves on that rock. All the rest fell slain by the hands of brethren. They owed their safety to the eagerness of their pursuers to turn back, and destroy everything belonging to Benjamin, cities, houses, and herds. The cities are put under the ban and burned, like Jericho and other cities of the enemy. The Israelites are even more severe in their treatment of Benjamin, than the Pythia was toward the hostile Crissa, which was to be “warred on by day and by night and be made desolate, and whose inhabitants were to become slaves.” But grief and regret did not fail to come.

Footnotes:

[6][Judges 20:31.—וַיָּחֵלוּ לְהַכּוֹת מֵהָלָם חֲלָלִים: “and they began to smite of the people, slain;” i. e, they smote so that the smitten became slain. חֲלָלִים is the accusative of closer definition. Dr. Cassel takes it as nomi-native: “They began to smite, (so that,) as at the former times, slain of the people were [i.e., lay] on the highways, of which one,” etc. Similarly in ver 39.—Tr.]

[7][Judges 20:33.—מַעֲרֶה. Dr. Cassel: Blösse, “nakedness”; cf. his remarks below. The Peshito read מְעָרָה, a cave; the LXX. in Cod. Alex., and the Vulgate, מַעֲרָכ, “from the west.” Fürst (in his Lexicon) defines מַעֲרֶה as “forest,” and derives it from a conjectural root עָרָה III., to sprout thickly, to which he also assigns the participle in Psalms 37:35. Keil seeks to remove the difficulty of connecting the ambuscade with an open, treeless plain, by remarking that “the words of the text do not require us to suppose that the forestless region was the place of hiding, but may be so understood as to affirm that the ambuscade, having broken up from its hiding-place, advanced against the city from the forestless region.” But he has failed to notice that the participle מֵגִיתַ speaks precisely of the “breaking forth,” and leaves the idea of “advancing on the city” entirely unexpressed.—Tr.]

[8][Judges 20:34.—וַיָּבֹאוּ מִנֶּגֶר לַגִּבְעָה: “from before Gibeah.” Dr. Cassel, like the E. V., has “against.” Bertheau says: “The ambuscade, consisting of ten thousand chosen men, came ‘from straight before’ Gibeah; whither they came, is not stated, but from the connection it appears that they attacked the Benjamites, who were fighting at some distance from the city, in the rear.” Keil adopts the same explanation. But it is manifest from Judges 20:37-38, and especially Judges 20:40-41, that Bertheau and Keil are wrong, and the E. V. and our author right.”—Tr.]

[9][Judges 20:36.—וַיִּרִאוּ בְנֵי־בִנְיָמִן כִּי נִגָּפוּ. With this verse, a new and more detailed account of the conflict begins. So Bertheau, Keil, and Bunsen, as well as our author. To indicate this to the eye, we have introduced a new paragraph division into the text. Bertheau and Bunsen agree with our author that the subject of נִגָּפוּ is “the sons of Israel.” According to Keil, “the sons of Benjamin saw that they were smitten, and that the men of Israel only gave way before them because they depended on the ambuscade which they had laid against Gibeah. They became aware of this when the ambuscade fell on their rear.” But this is inconsistent with Judges 20:37, and certainly with Judges 20:40. Judges 20:36 is a restatement of Judges 20:32, introductory to the detailed account that now follows.—Tr.]

[10][Judges 20:37.—וַיִּמְשֹׁדְ. Dr. Cassel translates: “and the ambuscade overpowered and smote the whole city;” and adds in a foot-note: “In the sense of Job 24:22 : מָשַׁדְ אַבִּירִים בְּכֹחוּ”. But there the word probably means “to hold fast, to preserve,” cf. Delitzsch in locum. It seems better to take it here in the sense “to march, advance,” cf. Judges 4:6.—Tr.]

[11][Judges 20:38.—הֶרֶב לְהַעֲלוֹתָם. The first of these words being taken as the apocopated hiphil imperative, a mixture of the direct with the indirect address arises from the suffix of the third person in the second word. Dr. Cassel avoids this by declaring הֶרֶכ to be an apocopated infinitive (see below); but it is better to admit the existence of a grammatical inaccuracy.—Tr.]

[12][Judges 20:42.—וַאֲשֶׁר מֵהֶעָרִים מַשְׁחִיתִים אוֹתוֹ בְּתוֹכוֹ. Dr. Cassel translates: “and they of the cities (through which Benjamin came) destroyed them in the midst of them.” Compare the exegetical remarks. Keil: “The words וַאשֶׁר מהֶעִרים can only be an appositional explanation of the suffix in הִרְכִּיקַתְהוּ, in the sense: Benjamin, namely, they who out of the cities of Benjamin had came to the aid of Gibeah (cf. Judges 20:14 f), i.e., all Benjamites The following מַשְׁחִיתּים ויו is a circumstantial clause illustrative of the preceding דֶרֶךְ הַמִּדְבָּר: ‘in that they (the men of Israel) destroyed him (Benjamin) in the midst of it.’ The singular suffix in בִתוֹכוֹ, refers not to Benjamin—for that yields no tolerable sense—but to the preceding דֶרֶךְ הַמִּדְבָּר: ‘in the midst of the way to the desert.’ ”

[13][Judges 20:43.—This verse continues the description begun in Judges 20:42, by means of an animated constructio asyndeta. כִּתְּרוּ אֶת־בִּנְיָמן, they surrounded Benjamin (by throwing out bodies of men on his flanks); הּרְדִיפֻהוּ, pursued after him; מְנוּחָה הִדְרִיכֻהוּ, fell upon and trode him down at his resting-place (that is, when, exhausted, he halted to take breath—מנוּחָה, accusative of place); and this pursuit and slaughter continued until the pursuers, who started from some distance north of Gibeah (Judges 20:31), had come south “as far as before Gibeah on its eastern side.” There the remnant of the pursued found means to turn northward again, Judges 20:45; and were again pursued as far as Gidom (a place evidently somewhere between east of Gibeah and Rimmon). Compare our author’s remarks below, which, however, indicate a slightly different conception on some points.—Tr.]

[14][Judges 20:48.—מֵעִיר מְתֹם. Dr. Cassel renders: “everything of the city, to the cattle and whatever else was found;” and adds the following note: “Many MSS., and the more recent expositors, point מְתִם, men, and yet it cannot be said that with בְּהֵמָה, this forms an altogether suitable antithesis, inasmuch as it still fails to express the idea that everything was put under the ban of destruction. The pointing מְתֹם finds support in Joshua 8:24; Joshua 10:20, where similar instructions עַר־תֻּמָּם are spoken of.”—Tr.]

[15]Movers (phönizier, i. 661) proposes to explain this name of a place by means of the Phœnician Tamyrus, Zeus Demarus. Raschi, on the other hand, connected it with the district of Jericho.

[16]This is supported by the Syriac-Hexaplar version of Paul of Tella, which has מן מערכא, which gives us a gendering of ἀπὸ δυσμῶν (Rördam, p. 179).

[17]On the very ancient false reading חֶרֶכ, found in some Hebrew MSS. and in the LXX., cf. Keil. Paul of Tella has given a similar rendering in his Syriac version (Rördam, p. 180).

[18][But on this occasion the fugitives do not pass through the enemy’s land. From first to last, whether fighting or fleeing, Benjamin moves on his own soil within his own boundaries; and this fact makes our author’s explanation of the last clause of Judges 20:42 impossible. Cf. note 7 under “Textual and Grammatical.”—Tr.]

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