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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Judges 20

 

 

Verses 1-13

The tribes of Israel, convened at Mizpah, resolve to punish the outrage committed at Gibeah. They call on the tribe of Benjamin to deliver up the guilty, but are met with a refusal

Judges 20:1-13

1Then all the children [sons] of Israel went out, and the congregation was gathered together as one Prayer of Manasseh, from Dan even to Beer-sheba, with [and] the land of Gilead, unto the Lord [Jehovah] in Mizpeh [Mizpah]. 2And the chief [chiefs] of all the people, even of all the tribes of Israel, presented themselves in the assembly of the people of God, [which assembly numbered] four hundred thousand footmen that drew sword.[FN20] 3(Now the children [sons] of Benjamin heard that the children [sons] of Israel were gone up to Mizpeh). Then said the children [sons] of Israel, 4Tell us, how was [happened] this wickedness? And [the Prayer of Manasseh,] the Levite, the husband of the woman that was slain, answered and said, I came into [unto] Gibeah that belongeth to Benjamin, I and my concubine, to lodge 5 And the men [lords] 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 [humbled], that she is dead [that she died]. 6And I took my concubine, and cut her in pieces, and sent her throughout all the country of the inheritance of Israel: for they have 7 committed lewdness and folly in Israel. Behold, ye are all children [sons] of Israel; give here your advice and counsel 8 And all the people arose as one Prayer of Manasseh, saying, We will not any of us go to his tent, neither will we any of us turn into his house: 9But now this shall be the thing which we will do to Gibeah: we will go up by lot against it;[FN21] 10And 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.[FN22] 11So all the men of Israel were gathered against the city, knit together as one Prayer of Manasseh 12And the tribes of Israel sent men through [into] all the tribe [tribes] of Benjamin, saying, What wickedness is this that is [was] done among you? 13Now therefore deliver us the men, the children of Belial [worthless fellows], which are in Gibeah, that we may put them to death, and put away evil from Israel. But the children [sons] of Benjamin would not hearken to the voice of their brethren the children [sons] of Israel.

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

1 Judges 20:2.—Dr. Cassel renders this verse as follows: “And the heads of the whole people, out of all the tribes of Israel, formed themselves into a Congregation of the People of God, which [sc. people] furnished four hundred thousand men (namely) footmen, practiced with the sword.” The E. V. is better; only, to make it unequivocally clear, it needs some such interpolation as we have suggested in the text.—Tr.]

2 Judges 20:9.—Dr. Cassel translates: “And now in the matter which we do against Gibeah, (proceed we) against it according to the lot.” This does not differ essentially from the E. V, but is noted here as explaining what the author means by saying that the words “which we do against Gibeah” are parenthetical (see below). Bertheau and Keil explain: “This is the thing we will do against Gibeah: against it with the lot!” “The words עָלֶיהָ בְּגוֹרָל,” says Keil, “contain the resolution taken with reference to the sinful city, and are characterized by the enigmatical brevity of judicial sentences, and are to be explained by the proceedings prescribed by the Mosaic law against the Canaanites. The Canaanites were to be destroyed, and their land was then to be divided among the Israelites by lot. Accordingly, to proceed with the lot against Gibeah, is to proceed with it as with the cities of the Canaanites, to conquer and burn it, and to divide its territory by lot.” One argument advanced in favor of this (the view of the Peshito: “we will cast the lot over it!”) and against the current view (that of the LXX.), that the latter leaves the judgment itself unexpressed, and passes at once to a subordinate point which has reference only to the execution of the judgment, has no great force. For is not the judgment sufficiently expressed in עָלֶיה, “against it!”? The other, however, that according to Judges 20:10, as ordinarily understood, the lot decides, not who shall go against Gibeah, but who shall act as purveyors for the army, it is difficult to meet, except by rendering Judges 20:10 as Dr. Cassel does. Compare the next note.—Tr.]

3 Judges 20:10.—Dr. Cassel’s rendering is as follows: ( Judges 20:9 b) “proceed we against it according to the lot; ( Judges 20:10 : and take ten men of a hundred out of all the tribes of Israel, and a hundred of a thousand, and a thousand of ten thousand, to take to themselves provisions for the host, and when they come to Gibeah of Benjamin to do according to all the abomination which it wrought in Israel (i.e., to inflict just retribution).” The only difficulty in this rendering is the expression “to take provisions for the host” (lit. people), which strikes one as an unnatural way of saying, “to take provisions for themselves.” But this difficulty is less serious than that which arises if we adopt the common rendering, and explain (as we must do in that case) Judges 20:9 as Bertheau and Keil do (cf. preceding note). For the fact that before proceeding to extremities, demand is made for the surrender of the guilty, is incompatible with a prior determination to “cast the lot” over Gibeah, to say nothing of the fact that such a confiscation of territory belonging to Benjamin, as this is supposed to imply, would have been in glaring conflict with one of the most important laws of the nation, that which rendered land an inalienable possession, first in the family, then in the tribe. On the other hand, it certainly seems as if40,000 men must have been deemed sufficient to meet the26,700 of Benjamin ( Judges 20:15); and the statement of Judges 20:17, where the400,000 of Israel are set over against the26,700 of Benjamin, may be explained by supposing that the narrator, being about to relate the terrible losses on the national side in the first two engagements, wishes to remind the reader of the reserved strength from which the beaten army could draw reinforcements.—Tr.]

EXEGETICAL AND DOCTRINAL

Judges 20:1-2. And the chiefs of all the people formed themselves into a congregation of the People of God. The consciousness of an organic community is as yet fully alive in Israel. All the tribes were horrified at the crime in Benjamin. The necessity of conferring together is felt everywhere, from the north to the south. The natural representatives of the people (cf. on Judges 1:1) hasten to Mizpah, “to Jehovah,” that is to say, at the invitation of the high-priest in the name of Jehovah, against whose holy law the crime was directed. For it may be assumed that whenever a popular movement, which has Jehovah for its centre, is spoken of, while no human personage as that of a Judges, is named, the priesthood was still the leading spiritual power. An עֵדָה, congregation, assembled itself, וַתִּקּהֵל; or rather, was convoked, for קָהַל is the Greek καλέω, old Latin calare (i.e. curia calabra). It was formed of the heads[FN23] of the people who constituted themselves a “Congregation of the People of God.”[FN24] (יִתְיַצּבוּ, from נָצַב = יָצַב, constituere). It is not by way of tautology that the narrator says: “the whole people, all the tribes;” for the fact is to be made prominent that, except Benjamin, not one tribe was wanting. The addition: “four hundred thousand men,” explains why only the “heads” constitute the “congregation,” namely, because the “People of God,” as a whole, was too numerous. The number is mentioned with reference to Judges 20:10. Israel is still the warlike people which took possession of Canaan. The number of its sword-practiced warriors is the measure of its greatness. Those who assemble themselves here about “Jehovah,” are the heads of a community of warriors (ecclesia militans.)

Judges 20:3. And the sons of Benjamin heard that an assembly of the tribes took place in Mizpah. This Mizpah is probably the same as that which in Samuel’s time also was the national gathering place ( 1 Samuel 7:5), and which is regarded as represented by the Neby Samwîl of the present day,[FN25] in the western part of the Benjamite territory. The Levite, the narrator informed us, divided his unhappy concubine into twelve parts, and sent them throughout all Israel. We must agree, therefore, with the Jewish expositors, who maintain that he sent a part to Benjamin also. It must likewise be assumed that Benjamin was invited to the council at Mizpah, both on account of the sense of national community which characterized the period, and because the assembly was summoned at a place within the borders of Benjamin. The tribe already manifested its partisan feeling in favor of Gibeah, when it “heard,” indeed, of what was going on, but neither sent representatives to the assembly, nor gave any token whatever of indignation at the deed, or of desire to exculpate itself.

Judges 20:4-7. And the Prayer of Manasseh, the Levite, made answer. When the assembly proceeded to investigate the facts, the accuser only appeared; the accused were wanting. The speech of the Levite is remarkable in more respects than one. Of the aged Ephraimite who took him into his house, he makes no mention; for in order to a right judgment of the matter it is not necessary to consider whose guest he was, but that his right to hospitality has been violated. Hence he says, “they rose against me” (עָלי); and, “they surrounded the house, עָלי, on my account.” The men in Gibeah had no designs against his host: he alone was the object of their attack. Nor does he speak of individuals in Gibeah, but of the “lords of Gibeah,” as if the whole city were guilty; which inasmuch as it had not prevented the excess, was indeed true. His accusation, “they thought to murder me,” is not literally in accordance with their intentions, because he is ashamed to speak of the matter by its right name. Moreover, the crime intended was worse than death, and submission to it punishable with disgrace and death. But he does not say that he himself delivered his concubine up into their hands, that they might treat her according to their lusts, instead of himself. And finally, he does not represent the violent deed as directed against an individual, but tells the assembled tribes that he cut the woman in pieces, and sent her throughout the whole country, because, as we already remarked above, it was a crime against all Israel. “Behold, all of you are sons of Israel.” Without delay, he desires, that here and now, they consult, and that they separate not before they have formed a resolve. He fears lest otherwise the impression of the moment might wear off, and the crime be left unpunished.

Judges 20:8 ff.. And all the people arose. The people comprehend this, and unanimously proceed to action. Not one tribe shall be entrusted with the execution of the common resolve, but all shall take part in it, in order that the labor and odium may not fall on any one exclusively. The words אֲשֶׁר נַעֲשֶׂה לַגִּבִעָה, Judges 20:9, are to be regarded as parenthetical. The sense is that the executive army is to be selected out of the tribes, not by votes, but according to the lot. It is thought that the tenth part of Israel, or forty thousand men, will suffice; for these, who belong to all Israel, since they were raised out of the whole, provisions and equipments are to be supplied. This is looked to, in order that Israel may need no sustenance from Benjamin, while desolating its territory in war. The words לָקַחַת צֵדָה לָעם remind us of Judges 7:8, where we have וַיִּקְחוּ אֶת־צדָה הָעָם, and make it probable that there also לָעָם should be read.

The expression, Judges 20:11, “and all the men of Israel were gathered together as one man חֲבֵרִים,” is to be understood of the army, which, forty thousand men strong, was gathered from all Israel as if no tribe distinctions existed. It was precisely in this perfect national unity and unanimity, that Israel sought its right to take the step it had in view. From the consciousness of this national character of the army, proceeded the effort to induce Benjamin to surrender the guilty, before the final resort to extreme measures. In the statement that “they sent into all the tribes of Benjamin,” the expression, “tribes of Benjamin,” forming as it were an antithesis to the “tribes of Israel,” is peculiar. Properly speaking, there could not be “tribes” within a “tribe”; but since Benjamin formed an opposition camp, his “families” might be so named.

Footnotes:

FN#20 - Judges 20:2.—Dr. Cassel renders this verse as follows: “And the heads of the whole people, out of all the tribes of Israel, formed themselves into a Congregation of the People of God, which [sc. people] furnished four hundred thousand men (namely) footmen, practiced with the sword.” The E. V. is better; only, to make it unequivocally clear, it needs some such interpolation as we have suggested in the text.—Tr.]

FN#21 - Judges 20:9.—Dr. Cassel translates: “And now in the matter which we do against Gibeah, (proceed we) against it according to the lot.” This does not differ essentially from the E. V, but is noted here as explaining what the author means by saying that the words “which we do against Gibeah” are parenthetical (see below). Bertheau and Keil explain: “This is the thing we will do against Gibeah: against it with the lot!” “The words עָלֶיהָ בְּגוֹרָל,” says Keil, “contain the resolution taken with reference to the sinful city, and are characterized by the enigmatical brevity of judicial sentences, and are to be explained by the proceedings prescribed by the Mosaic law against the Canaanites. The Canaanites were to be destroyed, and their land was then to be divided among the Israelites by lot. Accordingly, to proceed with the lot against Gibeah, is to proceed with it as with the cities of the Canaanites, to conquer and burn it, and to divide its territory by lot.” One argument advanced in favor of this (the view of the Peshito: “we will cast the lot over it!”) and against the current view (that of the LXX.), that the latter leaves the judgment itself unexpressed, and passes at once to a subordinate point which has reference only to the execution of the judgment, has no great force. For is not the judgment sufficiently expressed in עָלֶיה, “against it!”? The other, however, that according to Judges 20:10, as ordinarily understood, the lot decides, not who shall go against Gibeah, but who shall act as purveyors for the army, it is difficult to meet, except by rendering Judges 20:10 as Dr. Cassel does. Compare the next note.—Tr.]

FN#22 - Judges 20:10.—Dr. Cassel’s rendering is as follows: ( Judges 20:9 b) “proceed we against it according to the lot; ( Judges 20:10 : and take ten men of a hundred out of all the tribes of Israel, and a hundred of a thousand, and a thousand of ten thousand, to take to themselves provisions for the host, and when they come to Gibeah of Benjamin to do according to all the abomination which it wrought in Israel (i.e., to inflict just retribution).” The only difficulty in this rendering is the expression “to take provisions for the host” (lit. people), which strikes one as an unnatural way of saying, “to take provisions for themselves.” But this difficulty is less serious than that which arises if we adopt the common rendering, and explain (as we must do in that case) Judges 20:9 as Bertheau and Keil do (cf. preceding note). For the fact that before proceeding to extremities, demand is made for the surrender of the guilty, is incompatible with a prior determination to “cast the lot” over Gibeah, to say nothing of the fact that such a confiscation of territory belonging to Benjamin, as this is supposed to imply, would have been in glaring conflict with one of the most important laws of the nation, that which rendered land an inalienable possession, first in the family, then in the tribe. On the other hand, it certainly seems as if40,000 men must have been deemed sufficient to meet the26,700 of Benjamin ( Judges 20:15); and the statement of Judges 20:17, where the400,000 of Israel are set over against the26,700 of Benjamin, may be explained by supposing that the narrator, being about to relate the terrible losses on the national side in the first two engagements, wishes to remind the reader of the reserved strength from which the beaten army could draw reinforcements.—Tr.]

FN#23 - פִּנָּה, the pinnacle, or highest point of a building, and thence transferred to the heads of the people, summi. The word is philologically identical with the Latin pinna as saput propugnaculi.

FN#24 - The regular designation, for which modern nations have substituted the less spiritual and noble terms “parliament,” “meeting,” “chamber,” “house.” [How could they otherwise, seeing they are not theocracies?—Tr.]

FN#25 - So Dr. Robinson, B. R. i460. Dean Stanley (Sin. and Pal. p212), claims Nebi-Samuel for the “high place” of Gibeon, and transfers Mizpah to Scopus (p222). The difficulty arising from the fact that in either case the assembly was held within the territorial limits of Benjamin, who nevertheless only “heard” of it, is met by Mr. Grove (Smith’s Bible Dict., s. v. “Mizpah”) by the apparently no less difficult supposition that the Mizpah of the present passage is to be located beyond the Jordan.—Tr.]


Verses 14-28

The war against Benjamin. The armies of Israel are twice smitten. The divine promise of victory.

Judges 20:14-28

14But [And] the children [sons] of Benjamin gathered themselves together out of the cities unto Gibeah, to go out to battle against [with] the children [sons] of Israel 15 And the children [sons] 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 16 Among all this people there were seven hundred chosen men left-handed; every one could sling stones at an hair-breadth, and not miss.[FN1] 17And the men of Israel, beside Benjamin, were numbered four hundred thousand men that drew sword: all these were men of war 18 And the children [sons] of Israel arose, and went up to the house of God [Beth-el], and asked counsel of God, and said, Which of us shall go up[FN2] first to the battle against [with] the children [sons] of Benjamin? And the Lord [Jehovah] said, Judah shall go up first 19 And the children [sons] of Israel rose up in the morning, and encamped against Gibeah 20 And the men of Israel went out to battle against [with] Benjamin; and the men of Israel put themselves in array to fight against [with] them at Gibeah 21 And the children [sons] of Benjamin came [went] forth out of Gibeah, and destroyed [felled] down to the ground of the Israelites 22 that day twenty and two thousand men. And [But] the people, the men of Israel, encouraged themselves [took courage], and set their battle again in array in the place where they put themselves in array the first day23(And the children [sons] of Israel went up and wept before the Lord [Jehovah] until even, and asked counsel of the Lord [Jehovah], saying, Shall I go up [advance] again to battle against [with] the children [sons] of Benjamin my brother? And the Lord24[Jehovah] said, Go up against him.) And the children [sons] of Israel came near against the children [sons] of Benjamin the second day 25 And Benjamin went forth against them out of Gibeah the second day, and destroyed [felled] down to the ground of the children [sons] of Israel again eighteen thousand men; all these drew the sword 26 Then all the children [sons] of Israel, and all the people, went up, and came unto the house of God [Beth-el], and wept, and sat there before the Lord [Jehovah], and fasted that day until even, and offered burnt-offerings and peace-offerings before the Lord [Jehovah]. 27And the children [sons] of Israel inquired of the Lord [Jehovah], (for the ark of the covenant of God was there in those days, 28And 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 [with] the children [sons] of Benjamin my brother, or shall I cease? And the Lord [Jehovah] said, Go up; for to-morrow I will deliver them into thine hand.

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

1 Judges 20:16.—יַחֲטִא, from חָטָא, to miss, whence חַטָּאת, a miss, failure, sin. The Greek ἁμαρτία is explained in a similar way (cf. Ernesti, die Theorie vom Ursprung der Sünde, p10, where the reference to our passage, however must not be suffered to mislead, as if the substantive חַטָּאת were read).

2 Judges 20:18.—מִי יַעֲלֶה־לָּנוּ: “Who shall go up for us.” Compare “Textual and Grammatical,” note2, on Judges 1:1.—Tr.]

EXEGETICAL AND DOCTRINAL

The tribe of Benjamin refuses to confess its guilt, and to surrender the guilty. Defiant and warlike of spirit, it prefers to run the risks of war. It builds its hopes on the unwieldiness of the national organization, on differences of opinion, on partisan sympathies in its favor, and on the lack of inclination to war, especially to a war waged against a brother-tribe. It hopes, therefore, notwithstanding the great preponderance of force on the other side, to maintain its ground. And it is certain that by reason of the divisions of great confederacies (like the German), many a small government has often maintained itself in defiance and resistance. Thus also in antiquity, the Phocian town of Crissa, having injured Delphi and therewith wronged the national sanctuary of the Greeks, and being charged with other moral delinquencies,[FN3] thought nevertheless to be able to defend itself against the executionary army of the Amphictyonic Council. And it succeeded in a degree. The war, waged against the unaided city by the Thessalians, Athenians, and Sicyonians, assisted by the wisdom of Solon, lasted ten years. It was ended at last by an oracular response and a stratagem of war, as in the case of the war with Benjamin (Paus. x37). John Frederick the Intermediate, of Gotha, likewise, expected to be able to maintain himself on his Gibeah, the Grimmenstein, in order to protect Grumbach, despite all his sins, against the ban of the German Empire; but, like Benjamin, he had to succumb before his brethren (of Saxony. Cf. Beck, Gesch. Joh. Fried. des Mittleren, i518). A similar war was that waged by the States of North America, in which the South defended itself like Benjamin, and with even greater success, albeit that the motives of the conflict were less manifest than they were at Gibeah.

Benjamin, however, would certainly have given up all thought of resistance, if the singular exposition were correct, which makes all the400,000 men of Israel to proceed against Gibeah of Benjamin. This tribe numbered26,700 men fit for military service. That the whole of this force is at once brought into the field is a matter easily explained, seeing they are about to enter on a desperate war. But that all the400,000 men of all Israel appeared within the limited district of Gibeah, is both in itself and strategically improbable. The renewed mention of this number in Judges 20:17, is only designed to point out the enormous superiority of Israel in the means of war; just as to indicate the superior strength of Prussia over Denmark, it has doubtless happened that persons have spoken of the500,000 men at the command of the Prussian state. But it surely could not occur that those500,000 should all be sent against Schleswig. Nor is there anything in our narrative to require a different conclusion with reference to the400,000 of Israel. On the contrary, we have, as above explained, the definite statement that40,000 men were chosen for the war against Benjamin, which still left the advantage of numbers with the national army. The expositors, in considering Judges 20:9, have overlooked the fact that the purpose for which the lot was used is fully described in Judges 20:10; that the mere business of procuring provisions was not of such a nature as to demand such exactness of statement; that further, לָקַחַת stands perfectly parallel with לַעֲשוֹת and לְבוֹאָם לְגֶבַע, and that therefore the tenth part was levied for the purpose of executing judgment on Benjamin. It is also well known that the expression “sons of Israel,” in Judges 20:19, stands not only for all the tribes, but is used in all the war narratives we have hitherto considered, of single tribes as well. Should it be objected, that especially according to Biblical narratives, the defeat of great armies by small ones is not an unheard of thing, it must be admitted that this is indeed true. But whenever this occurred in Biblical narratives, the victors had the cause of God and of truth on their side. And whenever that was the case—and it may perhaps be assumed to have been the case in the battle of Marathon also—the victory was of so decisive a character as to admit of no comparison with the ultimately useless successes of Benjamin. Gibeah means “height;” and victory remained with the Benjamites, as long as they kept their position on the elevated points. But what specially proves that the narrator views the army of Israel as composed of40,000 men, is the circumstance that in the first engagement22,000, and in the second, 18,000, together exactly40,000, were put hors de combat. He mentions this to show that the assurance which Israel felt that a tenth part of its forces were enough to settle with Benjamin, was not justified in the event. Properly speaking, they are only ten tribes who confront Benjamin; and40,000 are the tenth part of their available military strength: it costs, therefore, the military capacity of what, in a certain sense, is a tribe, before a tribe like Benjamin succumbs. The losses indicate, as we shall point out farther on, that Israel’s cause in this war was by no means a perfectly pure one.

Judges 20:14-17. And the sons of Benjamin gathered themselves together out of their districts unto Gibeah. Expositors have taken offense here at the word הֶעָרִים, as if the Benjamites had only lived in cities; but the narrator designs to state that the fighting men of Benjamin assembled themselves from all the regions assigned to the tribe at Gibeah, as a fixed point of rendezvous, and at the same time for the purpose of protecting this city, as the special object of attack, against the other tribes. The number, also, here given of the tribe, 26,700, appeared to many not to harmonize with the subsequent enumeration of25,700 men ( Judges 20:35; Judges 20:47). But it would have been surprising, indeed, if after two engagements, in which the enemy lost40,000 men, none of Benjamin’s men had been found wanting. Accordingly, the corrections suggested even as anciently as the Septuagint and Josephus, are less credible than this natural difference between the beginning and the end of the war. Of the26,700, only700 belonged to Gibeah,—a statement which is made for the purpose of testifying to the strong sense of community, through which the whole tribe takes up the cause of these few. The connection of Judges 20:16 with the preceding is perfectly clear. It states expressly that in the entire host (מִכֹּל הָעָם), there were700 left-handed persons (cf. on these at Judges 3:15), who were skillful slingers. This number has nothing to do with the700 of Judges 20:15. Since the Benjamites defended themselves from the heights, the far-throwing slingers were of special value. They were slingers, perhaps, because they were left handed. According to the Cyropœdia, Cyrus caused all who were incapable of bearing other arms to exercise themselves in slinging. The Persians were fond of using slingers (Brisson, p658). The friend of the younger Cyrus, Mithridates, had four hundred slingers, “exceedingly light and active” (Anab. iii3, 6). The Rhodian slingers threw leaden plummets to a great distance. The Achæans struck any part of the body at which they aimed.[FN4] That skill in slinging was not confined to Benjamin, is evident from David’s victory over Goliath. What a terrible weapon the sling could be, is demonstrated by the narrative of Livy concerning the Balearians, who hurled such a quantity of stones, like thickest hail showers, on the approaching Carthaginian fleet, as to prevent them from casting anchor (xxviii37).

Judges 20:18. And the sons of Israel arose, and went up to Bethel, and inquired of God (בֵּאלֹהִים). It is Jehovah who answers, but their inquiry was addressed to Elohim. It is no wonder that they suffered a defeat. For they approach God without sorrow because they are obliged to fight against a brother tribe, without repentance for their own sins, and without sacrifices. It is thus that heathen inquire of their Elohim, just as oracles were consulted from a desire to know the future. Nor do they ask whether they should advance, whether they shall conquer—that they regard as certain—but who shall first attack. The answer was: “Judah shall go up first.” It conforms in scope to their inquiry. They have not inquired concerning victory; hence, the answer contains nothing to inform them on this head. Had any other tribe but Judah been named, that might have been interpreted into an assurance of victory; for Judah always marched at the head (cf. on Judges 1:2). Judah’s leading on the present occasion Isaiah, therefore, only in accordance with the common rule. The divine response abstains from giving any information beyond what the inquiry called for. This circumstance might have been a warning to them, had they been less certain. But does not the inquiry and its answer countenance the opinion that all the troops of all the tribes (400,000 men) were encamped before Gibeah? But in that case, we would have to suppose, in accordance with the analogy of Judges 1:2, that Judah began the conflict alone, which is against the whole narrative. On the contrary, the question rather serves to show that the40,000 represented all Israel on a decimated scale; that they were not chosen according to tribes, but by the lot, out of the whole people. Consequently, the internal relations of this army differed from what they would have been, had the selection been according to tribes. Hence arose the question: Who shall take the lead in this army? God replies: “Judah,—as always”; and leaves every other question undetermined.

Judges 20:19 ff.. And the men of Israel arrayed themselves for battle with them at Gibeah (וַיַעַרְכרּ, they formed a מַעֲרָכָה, an acies, cf. on Judges 6:26), but the untrustworthy character of their generalship demonstrates itself thereby. Without a definite plan of attack and of the war, they dispose themselves before the city, and hope thereby to terrify the threatened tribe. But the latter falls upon them, and institutes a great destruction among them. The text says: וַיּשִׁחִיתוּ כְישְׂרָאֵל. The word שָׁחַת is not only to kill, but also to wound, and to disable for war.

It is to be assumed, as a matter of course, although it is not stated, that after this first engagement, and again after the second, some time elapsed before a renewal of hostilities took place. It was unnecessary to state a fact that lay in the nature of the case. The troops were reinforced after the first defeat, although no thought was as yet entertained of adopting a different battle-plan, by which the enemy might be drawn away from his favorable position on the height. They determined, however, not to await an attack this time, as formerly, but to make one (וַיִּקְרְכוּ Judges 20:24); for this is the meaning of קָרַכ (to advance at a rapid march), when used of movements in war. But, more important still, they begin to lose their self-righteous assurance. They go to Bethel, and weep there. They see how lamentable it Isaiah, to fight against their brethren, and lose thousands of lives in such a war. They begin to doubt whether their cause be a good one; and hence they inquire not now of an Elohim, after the manner of the heathen, but of their Elohim, Jehovah. The answer says: “Go up,” but gives no promise of victory. In this way, the battle is renewed,—not on the next day after the former, but for the second time. They still fail to conquer Gibeah: the attack is repulsed, and the loss, though not as great as before, is yet terribly large.

The divine reply, “Go up,” was not a deception of the people, but was grounded in the sad necessity of chastizing both parts of the warring nation. Had the answer been, “Go not up,” Israel would have abandoned the war, and Benjamin would have been hardened in the pride of successful resistance. Israel, on the other hand, by going up and experiencing defeat, would again be brought nearer to the right spirit, which alone insures victory in Israel. Accordingly, in Judges 20:26 this spirit manifests itself. Proceeding to Bethel, they no longer merely weep there, and lament over the calamity of waging war on their brethren at such fearful sacrifices, but they abide in prayer and fasting. It is a sign of the penitence which they feel on account of their own sins. Hitherto, they had fought against Benjamin under a feeling of their own superior virtue, as if among their opponents there had been only sinners, among themselves none but Israelites without guile. Theirs was an exhibition of Pharisaism, which modern history also carries on all its pages, in which there is much to be read of “moral indignation,” but very little of “righteous self-knowledge” and repentance. Through the command of Leviticus 23:26-32, concerning the day of atonement, on which all nourishment was to be withheld from the body, fasting became in Israel the sign of confession of sin and repentance. The word צוּם occurs here for the first time: in the Books of Samuel it is the ordinary term. The great victory of Samuel over the Philistines is also preceded by a fast ( 1 Samuel 7:6). The signification of the word resembles that of תַּעְנִית, a fast, from עָנָה ( Leviticus 23:27 : וִעִנִּיתֶם) oppressit, domuit, and is etymologically connected with the Sanskrit dam, δαμᾶν, domare, to tame. The Sanskrit prâja, to fast, is in like manner explained as meaning “to restrain one’s self” (cf. Benfey, Gr. Gram. ii202).—Israel now performs what it had formerly neglected: it brings burnt-offerings and peace-offerings—the burnt-offerings as penitential offerings for the past, as in Judges 6:26 ff; the peace-offerings as votive offerings with reference to the future ( Leviticus 7:16). The Jewish expositors have a beautiful explanation. They derive שְׁלָמִים from שָׁלוֹם, peace. The last word of the law concerning sacrifices in Leviticus 7. is שָׁלָמִים ( Judges 20:37); and peace, say they, is the close of every holy life (cf. my Irene, p37.)

In Judges 20:27-28, the words: “for the ark. … those days,” form a parenthetical intercalation, which, as we shall point out below, is of importance in determining the time to which the events belong. After repentance and sacrifices, Israel inquires now for the third time of the Urim and Thummim; and now only, when they who inquire are in the right frame of mind, and receive a full and favorable reply, is the statement inserted that the ark of the covenant was at Bethel,[FN5] and that Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron, was the high-priest. And now the answer is not simply “Go up,” but conveys the assurance, “to-morrow will I give victory into thine hand.”

Footnotes:

FN#1 - Judges 20:16.—יַחֲטִא, from חָטָא, to miss, whence חַטָּאת, a miss, failure, sin. The Greek ἁμαρτία is explained in a similar way (cf. Ernesti, die Theorie vom Ursprung der Sünde, p10, where the reference to our passage, however must not be suffered to mislead, as if the substantive חַטָּאת were read).

FN#2 - Judges 20:18.—מִי יַעֲלֶה־לָּנוּ: “Who shall go up for us.” Compare “Textual and Grammatical,” note2, on Judges 1:1.—Tr.]

FN#3 - Compare Dunker, Gesch. des Alterthums, iv38, who however leans towards the side of Crissa as against the priesthood of Delphi.

FN#4 - Livy (xxxviii29) describes their slingers quite fully: Non capita solum hostium vulnerabant, sed quem locum destinassent cris.

FN#5 - How came the ark to be at Bethel, if the one national sanctuary was at Shiloh? Hengstenberg (Keil also) replies that it was brought from Shiloh to Bethel during the war. For his arguments, see Pentateuch, ii37–39, Ryland’s edition For our author’s explanation, see the “Concluding Note, on p269.—Tr.]


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 30 And 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 31 And 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,[FN6] 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 32 And 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 33 And 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][FN7] of Gibeah. And there [they] came against[FN8] Gibeah ten thousand chosen men out of all Israel, and the battle35[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:[FN9] 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 37 And the liers in wait hasted, and rushed upon Gibeah; and the liers in wait drew themselves along,[FN10] and smote all the city with the edge of the sword 38 Now 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 up[FN11] 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 42 Therefore 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 43 which came out of the cities they destroyed in the midst of them.[FN12] 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.][FN13] 44And there fell of Benjamin eighteen thousand men; all these were men of valour 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 [more] of them 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 47 But six hundred men turned and fled to the wilderness unto the rock Rimmon, and abode in the rock Rimmon four months 48 And 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,[FN14] 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 ver39.—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 Psalm 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 Isaiah, 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,[FN15] 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.[FN16] 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 Esther -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. i441).

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 of400,000, who could have surrounded the whole of Gibeah on all sides. Verses34,35, 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 fell25,100 men of Benjamin, and Judges 20:46, which gives the number at25,000. 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 over25,000 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. cap10). 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 verse32, 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, Psalm 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.[FN17]

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.[FN18] 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. iii290; ii440).

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:

FN#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 ver39.—Tr.]

FN#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 Psalm 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.]

FN#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.]

FN#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.]

FN#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.]

FN#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.]

FN#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.’ ”

FN#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 Isaiah, 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.]

FN#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.]

FN#15 - Movers (phönizier, i661) 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.

FN#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, p179).

FN#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, p180).

FN#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. note7 under “Textual and Grammatical.”—Tr.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Judges 20:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/judges-20.html. 1857-84.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, October 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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