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Judges Chapter 20 | Parsha:

1Thereupon all the Israelites—from Dan to Beer-sheba and [from] the land of Gilead—marched forth, and the community assembled to a man before the Lord at Mizpah. 2All the leaders of the people [and] all the tribes of Israel presented themselves in the assembly of God’s people, 400,000 fighting men on foot.— 3The Benjaminites heard that the Israelites had come up to Mizpah.—The Israelites said, “Tell us, how did this evil thing happen?” 4And the Levite, the husband of the murdered woman, replied, “My concubine and I came to Gibeah of Benjamin to spend the night. 5The citizens of Gibeah set out to harm me. They gathered against me around the house in the night; they meant to kill me, and they ravished my concubine until she died. 6So I took hold of my concubine and I cut her in pieces and sent them through every part of Israel’s territory. For an outrageous act of depravity had been committed in Israel. 7Now you are all Israelites; produce a plan of action here and now!”

8Then all the people rose, as one man, and declared, “We will not go back to our homes, we will not enter our houses! 9But this is what we will do to Gibeah: [we will wage war] against it according to lot. 10We will take from all the tribes of Israel ten men to the hundred, a hundred to the thousand, and a thousand to the ten thousand to supply provisions for the troops—to prepare for their going to Geba in Benjamin for all the outrage it has committed in Israel.” 11So all the men of Israel, united as one man, massed against the town. 12And the tribes of Israel sent men through the whole tribe of Benjamin, saying, “What is this evil thing that has happened among you? 13Come, hand over those scoundrels in Gibeah so that we may put them to death and stamp out the evil from Israel.” But the Benjaminites would not yield to the demand of their fellow Israelites.

14So the Benjaminites gathered from their towns to Gibeah in order to take the field against the Israelites. 15On that day the Benjaminites mustered from the towns 26,000 fighting men, mustered apart from the inhabitants of Gibeah; 700 picked men 16of all this force—700 picked men—were left-handed. Every one of them could sling a stone at a hair and not miss. 17The men of Israel other than Benjamin mustered 400,000 fighting men, warriors to a man. 18They proceeded to Bethel and inquired of God; the Israelites asked, “Who of us shall advance first to fight the Benjaminites?” And the Lord replied, “Judah first.” 19So the Israelites arose in the morning and encamped against Gibeah.

20The men of Israel took the field against the Benjaminites; the men of Israel drew up in battle order against them at Gibeah. 21But the Benjaminites issued from Gibeah, and that day they struck down 22,000 men of Israel.

22Now the army—the men of Israel—rallied and again drew up in battle order at the same place as they had on the first day. 23For the Israelites had gone up and wept before the Lord until evening. They had inquired of the Lord, “Shall we again join battle with our kinsmen the Benjaminites?” And the Lord had replied, “March against them.” 24The Israelites advanced against the Benjaminites on the second day. 25But the Benjaminites came out from Gibeah against them on the second day and struck down 18,000 more of the Israelites, all of them fighting men.

26Then all the Israelites, all the army, went up and came to Bethel and they sat there, weeping before the Lord. They fasted that day until evening, and presented burnt offerings and offerings of well-being to the Lord. 27The Israelites inquired of the Lord (for the Ark of God’s Covenant was there in those days, 28and Phinehas son of Eleazar son of Aaron the priest ministered before Him in those days), “Shall we again take the field against our kinsmen the Benjaminites, or shall we not?” The Lord answered, “Go up, for tomorrow I will deliver them into your hands.”

29Israel put men in ambush against Gibeah on all sides. 30And on the third day, the Israelites went up against the Benjaminites, as before, and engaged them in battle at Gibeah. 31The Benjaminites dashed out to meet the army and were drawn away from the town onto the roads, of which one runs to Bethel and the other to Gibeah. As before, they started out by striking some of the men dead in the open field, about 30 men of Israel.

32The Benjaminites thought, “They are being routed before us as previously.” But the Israelites had planned: “We will take to flight and draw them away from the town to the roads.” 33And while the main body of the Israelites had moved away from their positions and had drawn up in battle order at Baal-tamar, the Israelite ambush was rushing out from its position at Maareh-geba. 34Thus 10,000 picked men of all Israel came to a point south of Gibeah, and the battle was furious. Before they realized that disaster was approaching, 35the Lord routed the Benjaminites before Israel. That day the Israelites slew 25,100 men of Benjamin, all of them fighting men. 36Then the Benjaminites realized that they were routed. Now the Israelites had yielded ground to the Benjaminites, for they relied on the ambush which they had laid against Gibeah. 37One ambush quickly deployed against Gibeah, and the other ambush advanced and put the whole town to the sword.

38A time had been agreed upon by the Israelite men with those in ambush: When a huge column of smoke was sent up from the town, 39the Israelite men were to turn about in battle. Benjamin had begun by striking dead about 30 Israelite men, and they thought, “They are being routed before us as in the previous fighting.” 40But when the column, the pillar of smoke, began to rise from the city, the Benjaminites looked behind them, and there was the whole town going up in smoke to the sky! 41And now the Israelites turned about, and the men of Benjamin were thrown into panic, for they realized that disaster had overtaken them. 42They retreated before the men of Israel along the road to the wilderness, where the fighting caught up with them; meanwhile those from the towns were massacring them in it. 43They encircled the Benjaminites, pursued them, and trod them down [from] Menuhah to a point opposite Gibeah on the east. 44That day 18,000 men of Benjamin fell, all of them brave men. 45They turned and fled to the wilderness, to the Rock of Rimmon; but [the Israelites] picked off another 5,000 on the roads and, continuing in hot pursuit of them up to Gidom, they slew 2,000 more. 46Thus the total number of Benjaminites who fell that day came to 25,000 fighting men, all of them brave. 47But 600 men turned and fled to the wilderness, to the Rock of Rimmon; they remained at the Rock of Rimmon four months. 48The men of Israel, meanwhile, turned back to the rest of the Benjaminites and put them to the sword—towns, people, cattle—everything that remained. Finally, they set fire to all the towns that were left.

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