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Bible Commentaries
Judges 20

Trapp's Complete CommentaryTrapp's Commentary

Verse 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.

Unto the Lord in Mizpeh. — Where was, they say, an oratory or synagogue; 1 Maccabees 3:46 and that here was the first beginning of synagogues, which were as chapels of ease to the tabernacle or temple. That meet at Mizpeh, 1 Samuel 7:5 is very famous. Hither they resorted, as being in the heart of the country, when any great business concerning the public was to be transacted. See 1 Samuel 10:17 Jeremiah 40:7-8 .

Verse 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.

And the chief of all the people. — Heb., The corners of all the people: for the chieftains and rulers bear up the people, and hold them together, as the corner stones do the whole building, which else would soon shatter and fall to ruin. Ut anguli in domo, sunt primates in populo. - Vat. See the like in Zephaniah 3:6 . Diodat rendereth it, the cantons.

Verse 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?

Then said the children of Israel, Tell us. — This they said to the Levite, to his servant, and to the old man his host. Janius will have it spoken to the Benjamites, who should have answered by their agents at this meeting: who because they appeared not, the Levite remonstrateth the whole business briefly and plainly, without preface or passions. ανευ προοιμιων και παθων .

Verse 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.

The husband of the woman. — She was not then his harlot, but a secondary wife, as is before noted.

Verse 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.

And the men of Gibeah. — Some certain varlets there; not all the city, as once at Sodom. Genesis 19:4-5 But because these were not punished, but countenanced, all became guilty.

And thought to have slain me. — As they have done my concubine: i.e., Abuti me praepostera libidine usque ad mortem. - Val. and perhaps they threatened to kill him, if he would not come forth, and be abused by them.

And my concubine have they forced. — The monks in Bohemia ravished a sister of that noble warrior, Zisca; in revenge whereof he took arms, overthrew three hundred monasteries, and did many more great exploits against the Papists there, and in other parts of Germany.

Verse 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.

For they have committed lewdness. — Wickedness with a witness: such as may not go unpunished.

Verse 7

Behold, ye [are] all children of Israel; give here your advice and counsel.

Behold, ye are all children of Israel. — This injury reacheth not to me alone, but to the whole community.

Verse 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.

And all the people arose as one man, saying. — For the punishment of foul offences serio et sedulo ineumbendnm est, men must do their utmost; and not as Popish councils, which make a show only of reformation. Luther truly and trimly compared them to a company of foxes, which sweeping a foul room with their tails, raise a great dust, but remove none.

Verse 9

But now this [shall be] the thing which we will do to Gibeah; [we will go up] by lot against it;

We will go up by lot against it. — They do not shake off the plaintiff, or send him to Gibeah for satisfaction, or defer the further hearing and determining of the cause, as the Areopagites dealt by the dame of Smyrna, whom they appointed to appear some hundred years after; but, We will presently go up, say they, and that by lot, that none may think himself wronged.

Verse 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.

To fetch victual for the people. — For, Animantis cuiusque vita in fuga est, saith the philosopher: Were it not for the repair of nutrition, the natural life would soon be extinguished.

Verse 11

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

Knit together as one man. — Heb., Fellows: resolved to live and die together. The strength of an army is in unity: as the strength of a whale consisteth much in the close knitting of his joints together; one member is tied to another; Job 41:7-8 ; Job 41:14 whence also he is called Leviathan, of Lavah, which signifieth to join, to couple, and to stick together.

Verse 12

And the tribes of Israel sent men through all the tribe of Benjamin, saying, What wickedness [is] this that is done among you?

And the tribes of Israel sent men. — They would treat before they would fight, and hear both parties ere they would determine for either, though it were a clear case, according to the old rule -

“ Mητε δικην δικασης πριν αμφοιν μυθον ακουσης .”

Verse 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:

And put away evil from Irsael. — Both the evil of sin and the evil of punishment: for these two are inseparable companions Flagitium et flagellum sunt sicut acus et filum.

Would not hearken to the voice of their brethren. — God had a holy hand in it for the just punishment of both parties. In the text there is a space for "sons of" in the Ben Chayyin text and in the Ben Asher text just the vowel points are given and áðé "sons of" is given as the marginal reading. Hebrew Text Note

Verse 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.

But the children of Benjamin gathered themselves, … — In the defence of those sons of Belial, and out of self-confidence, they venture their lives and fortunes upon a very great disadvantage. What should not we then do for the dear servants of God, and in assurance of his assistance? Queen Elizabeth was famous for this; when she undertook the protection of the Netherlanders against the Spaniard, all princes admired her fortitude: and the king of Sweden said that she had now taken the crown from her head and set it upon the doubtful chance of war, A.D. 1585. Camden’s Elisab.

Verse 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.

Twenty and six thousand men that drew sword. — But were all shortly after devoured by the sword, the whole land becoming like a general slaughter house, or a place of infernal torture. Had they not been so numerous, they had not, likely, been so venturous. "The pride of thy heart hath deceived thee." Obadiah 1:3

Verse 16

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

Lefthanded; every one could sling stones, … — See Judges 3:15 . David had an excellency in slinging: so had Domitian and Commodus the Emperors. The Indians are much commended for their faculty herein by Philostratus and Plutarch. The Boeotians and the Baleares in Spain were bred up to it of children, their mothers allowing them no more meat than they could hit with a sling stone. We have musketeers amongst us that are notable marksmen, as they call them.

Verse 17

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

Four hundred thousand men. — Besides those that supplied the camp when they came out of Egypt, they were six hundred thousand: but then Benjamin also was reckoned with them: and there were not a few cut off in the late conquest of Canaan, …

Verse 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.

Which of us shall go up? — They asked not, Shall we go up? and shall we prosper? for of that they were over confident, because of the equity of their cause and their great strength. They slighted the Benjamites also for their paucity few in numbers and folly, as the Spaniards were wont to do the Portuguese for pocos y locos, that is, few and foolish. Hence they miscarried.

Verse 19

And the children of Israel rose up in the morning, and encamped against Gibeah.

And the men of Israel went out to battle. — They went forth as men do to a lottery, with their heads full of hopes, but they came back with their hearts full of blanks. The Lord had rejected their confidences; therefore they could not prosper in them. Jeremiah 2:37

Verse 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.

See Trapp on " Judges 20:19 "

Verse 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.

And destroyed down to the ground … twenty and two thousand men. — They slew so many upon the turf, as we phrase it, and that with a great deal of eagerness and earnestness; such as Scanderbeg expressed when, in fighting against the Turks, the blood did oftentimes burst out of his lips. Turk. Hist., p. 287.

Verse 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.

Encouraged themselves. — Not in the Lord their God, as David in a distress did, 1 Samuel 30:6 but in the goodness of their cause, and in the multitude of their men. Thus also did the Tigurines in their fight against the Popish cantons, and were defeated and discomfited by them. In that fight fell that famous man of God, Huldericus Zuinglius. And Oecolampadius in an epistle to the divines of Ulm writeth thus thereupon, Non inter minima bona recenseri merentur humiliatio mentium nostrarum, et fiducia non in brachium carnis sed in Deum ipsum: quae duo electi inde discunt. Two good things we have learned by this late defeat: first to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God; and secondly, not to put confidence any more in the arm of flesh, but in God alone.

Verse 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.)

Wept before the Lord until even. — Yet more for their losses than for their offences: at least, they were not yet so thoroughly humbled, their repentance was not so deep and downright, so soaking and souring with the greatness of godly sorrow, as was fitting. David’s heart was leavened. Psalms 73:21 "Peter wept bitterly," Matthew 26:75 and that for sin as it is sin, offensivum Dei, et aversivum a Deo, an offence against God, and an aversion from God.

Go up against him. — Thy brother though he be. They neither prayed for success, nor doth God promise them any; but answereth them according to the idols of their hearts, of which they had not yet repented. They had forgotten, belike, what Joshua had foretold them; Joshua 24:19-20 - "Ye cannot serve the Lord," i.e., unless ye will be thorough in his service, "for he is a holy God, he is a jealous God, he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. If ye fosake the Lord, and serve strange gods, then he will turn and do you hurt, and consume you, after that he hath done you good."

Verse 24

And the children of Israel came near against the children of Benjamin the second day.

And the children of Israel came near. — But because vice came to correct sin, and there were yet many gross offenders in their army, therefore they could not proceed with any good success; as Joshua could not against Ai till Achan was cut off. Besides, God would have the Israelites to be yet by a second loss the more enraged against the Benjamites, for their greater punishment.

Verse 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.

Destroyed down to the ground … eighteen thousand men. — Here a Pompey would have denied a providence; Brutus would have cried out against virtue as a mere name; others against hard fortune, Ecquid hoc infortunii est? … "But God giveth his more grace; wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God Be afflicted," or afflict yourselves with voluntary sorrows for your sins, "and mourn, and weep," … James 4:6-7 ; James 4:9-10 These did so the next time, and had the day. Wit is best when dear bought.

Verse 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.

And wept, and sat there before the Lord, and fasted, … and offered, … — This was a sorrow according to God - these were tears of a right nature. Lachrymas angustiae exprimit crux; lachrymas paenitentiae peccatum. This was the "fast that God had chosen"; for "he saw their works," as once at Nineveh, "that they turned from their evil way." Jonah 3:10 Here was that best of sacririces, "a broken spirit," Psalms 51:17 and peace offerings, to testify their faith and assurance of victory.

Verse 27

And the children of Israel enquired of the LORD, (for the ark of the covenant of God [was] there in those days,

And the children of Israel inquired of the Lord. — Now they could find the way to do everything well, as having paid for their learning. Affliction exciteth devotion; but

Rarae fumant felicibus arae.

Verse 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.

Go up; for tomorrow I will deliver them. — Now they have a promise, which before they had none. Josephus saith Antiq., lib. iii. cap. 3. that when they inquired of God by Urim and Thummim, as here they did, the splendour and brightness of the high priest’s breastplate foreshowed victory. Certain it is that this promise did so.

Verse 29

And Israel set liers in wait round about Gibeah.

And Israel set liers in wait. — See the like strategem used at Ai. Joshua 8:4-5

Verse 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.

And the children of Israel went up. — Though they had a promise, yet they neglected not to use the best means. God, they knew, was to be trusted, but not tempted; and this is the very difference between true faith and vain presumption.

Verse 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.

And they began to smite of the people. — This flushed the Benjamites, and made them cry Victoria; but the scene was soon altered. It is not good to triumph before the victory.

Verse 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.

They are smitten down before us. — This was their επινικιον , which they sang too soon; for their destruction was at next door by. But sorry man knoweth not his time. "As the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare, so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them." Ecclesiastes 9:12

Verse 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.

Out of the meadows. — Or, Dens, as Pagnine and others render it.

Verse 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.

They knew not that evil, … — See Judges 20:31 . As they say of the metal they make glass of, it is nearest melting when it shineth brightest, so are the wicked nearest destruction when at their greatest lustre.

Verse 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.

And the Lord smote Benjamin. — Not the Israelites by their stratagem, but the Lord smote them. Victory is his gift.

Vincere quisquis aves hostilem exereitum, age, ante,

Invictum vincas per tua vota Deum. ”

Verse 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.

Because they trusted unto the liers in wait. — As the instruments; but they trusted in God as the chief agent.

Verse 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.

And the liers in wait hasted. — Here the business is more particularly related by the parts and circumstances, that God may be the more acknowledged, and people instructed that forbearance is no quittance. There will be a later reckoning with sinners, …

Verse 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.

Between the men of Israel. — That they should turn head, and renew the battle.

Obruet hostiles ista ruina domos. ” - Ovid. Fast.

Verse 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.

Benjamin began to smite. — See Judges 20:31 .

Verse 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.

The flame of the city. — To be an example of that rule, that great sins bring great punishments from God, as Herodotus wisely observeth of the destruction of Troy by fire.

Verse 41

Evll was come upon them.] Heb., Touched them; that they were lost.

Evll was come upon them. — Heb., Touched them; that they were lost.

Verse 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.

In flying from death, they fled to it. Una salus victis, …

Verse 43

[Thus] they inclosed the Benjamites round about, [and] chased them, [and] trode them down with ease over against Gibeah toward the sunrising.

And chased them, and trode them. — These things are recorded, that people may see the woe of war, and take heed of sin, the cause of it.

Verse 44

And there fell of Benjamin eighteen thousand men; all these [were] men of valour.

And there fell of Benjamin. — To wit, In the battle.

Verse 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.

Unto Gidom. — Or, Unto their occasion, destruction.

Verse 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.

Twenty and five thousand. — Besides a thousand slain in the two former battles; for war is utrinque triste, sad on both sides.

Verse 47

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

Unto the rock Rimmon. — Wherein there was a sweet providence, that these might be as a seminary, for recruit of that tribe.

Verse 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 to.

And smote them with the edge. — If this were done out of the heat and fury of war only, and not by the command of God, they were to blame. That once flourishing commonwealth of the Lacedemonians was likewise utterly overturned at the battle of Leuctra, by reason of a rape there committed by two noble Spartans upon the two daughters of Scedasus, who complained thereof to the Ephori, but could get no remedy.

Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Judges 20". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jtc/judges-20.html. 1865-1868.
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