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.
as one man
10:17 11:11 Joshua 15:38 18:26 1 Samuel 7:5,610:17 2 Kings 25:23 It does not appear that the Israelites on this occasion, were summoned by the authority of any one common head, but they came together by the consent and agreement, as it were, of one common heart, fired with a holy zeal for the honour of God and Israel. The place of their meeting was Mizpeh; they gathered together unto the Lord there; for Mizpeh was so very near to Shiloh, that their encampment might very well be supposed to reach from Mizpeh to Shiloh. Shiloh was a small town, and therefore, when there was a general meeting of the people to present themselves before God, they chose Mizpeh for their head quarters, which was the next adjoining city of note; perhaps, because they were not willing to give that trouble to Shiloh, which so great an assembly would occasion; it being the residence of the priests that attended the tabernacle.
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.
(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 children of Benjamin
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.
Heb. the man the Levite. I came.
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.
And the men
and my concubine
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.
folly in Israel
Behold, ye are all children of Israel; give here your advice and counsel.
ye are all
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.
as one man
We will not
But now this shall be the thing which we will do to Gibeah; we will go up by lot against it;
by lot against it
And the tribes of Israel sent men through all the tribe of Benjamin, saying, What wickedness is this that is done among you?
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:
children of Belial
1 Samuel 2:25 2 Chronicles 25:16,20 Proverbs 29:1 Hosea 9:9 10:9 Romans 1:32 Revelation 18:4,5 The conduct of the Israelites was very equitable in this demand; but perhaps the rulers or elders of Gibeah ought previously to have been applied to, to deliver up the criminals to justice. However, the refusal of the Benjamites, and their protection of those who had committed this horrible wickedness, because they were of their own tribe, prove them to have been deeply corrupted, and (all their advantages considered) as ripe for divine vengeance as the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah had been. Confiding in their own valour and military skill, they seen to have first prepared for battle in this unequal contest with such superior numbers.
But the children of Benjamin gathered themselves together out of the cities unto Gibeah, to go out to battle against the children of Israel.
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.
Among all this people there were seven hundred chosen men lefthanded; every one could sling stones at an hair breadth, and not miss.
Itter yad yemeeno, "obstructed in his right hand;" so the Chaldee Targum, gemid beedaih deyammeena, contracted or impeded in his right hand." Le Clerc observes, that the 700 men left-handed seem therefore to have been made slingers, because they could not use the right hand, which is employed in managing heavier arms; and they could discharge the stones from the sling in a direction against which their opponents were not upon their guard, and thus do the greater execution.
The sling was a very ancient warlike instrument; and, in the hands of those who were skilled in the use of it, produced astonishing effects. The inhabitants of the islands of Baleares, now Majorca and Minorca, were the most celebrated slingers of antiquity. They did not permit their children to break their fast, till they had struck down the bread they had to eat from the top of a pole, or some distant eminence. Vegetius tells us, that slingers could in general hit the mark at 600 feet distance.
And the men of Israel, beside Benjamin, were numbered four hundred thousand men that drew sword: all these were men of war.
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.
And the children of Israel rose up in the morning, and encamped against Gibeah.
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.
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.
(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.)
It seems most evident that the Israelites did not seek the protection of God. When they "went to the house of God," (ver. 18,) it was not to enquire concerning the expediency of the war, nor of its success, but which of the tribes should begin the attack: and here the question is, "Shall I go up again to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother?" Having so much right on their side, they had no doubt of the justice of their cause, and the propriety of their conduct; and having such a superiority of numbers, they had no doubt of success. But God humbled them, and delivered them into the hands of their enemies; and shewed them that the race was not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong.
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.
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.
all the children
And the children of Israel enquired of the LORD, (for the ark of the covenant of God was there in those days,
Joshua 18:1 1 Samuel 4:3,4 Psalms 78:60,61 Jeremiah 7:12 The loss of two battles at length brought this stiff-necked people to enquire of the Lord; for all the company at this time met at Shiloh, and kept a day of fasting and prayer with great earnestness and solemnity. "Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear."; Isaiah 59:1
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.
It is evident, from this mention of Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, that these transactions must have taken place not long after the death of Joshua.
Shall I yet
And Israel set liers in wait round about Gibeah.
Though God had promised them success, they knew they could expect it only by the use of proper means. Hence they used all prudent precaution, and employed all their military skill.
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.
smite of the people, and kill, as at
Heb. smite of the people wounded as at, etc. the house of God. or, Beth-el. Gibeah.
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.
Let us flee
This was done, not only because they had placed an ambuscade behind Gibeah, which was to enter and burn the city as soon as the Benjamites left it; but it would seem, that the slingers, by being within the city and its fortifications, had great advantage over the Israelites by their slings, when they could not come among them with their swords, unless they got them in the plain country.
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.
There appear to have been three divisions of the Israelitish army: one at Baal-tamar, (which was situated, says Eusebius, near Gibeah;) a second behind the city in ambush; and a third, who skirmished with the Benjamites before Gibeah.
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.
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.
15,44-46 Job 20:5 Though the numbers of the Israelites were immensely superior to those of Benjamin, though the stratagem was well laid and ingeniously executed, and the battle bravely fought, yet the inspired historian ascribes the victory to the hand of the Lord, as entirely as if he had smitten the Benjamites by a miracle.
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.
for the man
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.
the liers in wait hasted
drew themselves along
or, made a long sound with the trumpets.
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.
From this verse to the end of the chapter, we have the details of the same operations which are mentioned, in a general way, in the preceding verses of this chapter.
Heb. with. flame. Heb. elevation.
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.
smite and kill
Heb. smite the wounded.
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.
Heb. whole consumption.
And when the men of Israel turned again, the men of Benjamin were amazed: for they saw that evil was come upon them.
was come upon them
Heb. touched them.
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.
Thus they inclosed the Benjamites round about, and chased them, and trode them down with ease over against Gibeah toward the sunrising.
or, from Menuchah, etc. over against. Heb. unto over against.
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.
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.
But six hundred men turned and fled to the wilderness unto the rock Rimmon, and abode in the rock Rimmon four months.
rock of Rimmon
The rock Rimmon was doubtless a strong place; but it is uncertain where situated. It is probable however, that it was near, and took its name from, the village of Remmon, mentioned by Eusebius, fifteen miles north from Jerusalem. It appears that rocks are still resorted to in the East, as places of security; and some of them are even capable of sustaining a siege. De La Roque says, that "The Grand Seignior, wishing to seize the person of the emir (Fakr-eddin, prince of the Druses,) gave orders to the pacha to take him prisoner: he accordingly came in search of him, with a new army, in the district of Chouf, which is part of mount Lebanon, wherein is the village of Gesin, and close to it, the rock which served for a retreat to the emir. It is named in Arabic, Magara Gesin, i.e., the cavern of Gessin, by which name it is famous. The pacha pressed the emir so closely, that this unfortunate prince was obliged to shut himself up in the cleft of a great rock, with a small number of his officers. The pacha besieged him there several months; and was going to blow up the rock by a mine, when the emir capitulated."
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 to.
came to hand
Heb. was found. they came to. Heb. were found.