Judges Chapter 20  PDF  MSWord

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Go to Bible: Judges 20
Jdg 20:1(top)
Jdg 20:2

“cornerstones.” Figurative language for the leaders of the people (cp. 1 Sam. 14:38).

Jdg 20:3(top)
Jdg 20:4(top)
Jdg 20:5

“the men of Gibeah.” The word for “men” is “baal,” and so it could be “leaders, lords, notables, landowners,” or it could just refer to men, which is most likely the case here.

“abused.” See commentary on Judges 19:24.

Jdg 20:6(top)
Jdg 20:7

“here.” The man is asking for advice and action “here and now.”

Jdg 20:8(top)
Jdg 20:9

“by lot.” That is, by allowing the High Priest to use his breastplate and draw the Urim or Thummim out of it and thus make decisions. The land of Israel was divided by lot in Joshua. This shows that the people were drawing God into the situation and allowing Him to make battle choices.

Jdg 20:10

“ten men of 100 throughout all the tribes of Israel.” Non-combatant jobs were vital to the success of the mission, but since those jobs involved much less danger, the people in those jobs were assigned by lot.

“come to Gibeah of Benjamin.” This could have the meaning, “come against Gibeah,” as many versions have, or, the Hebrew text reads “Geba,” and not Gibeah. Although most commentators think that in this context Geba means Gibeah, the town of Geba was only 3 miles away (or even a little less) and this verse could be talking about using Geba as a supply town.

Jdg 20:11(top)
Jdg 20:12

“through all the tribe of Benjamin.” This would have taken some effort.

Jdg 20:13

“sons of Belial.” This is a designation of sons of the Devil. [For more on sons of Belial, see commentary on 1 Sam. 2:12. For more on the unforgivable sin and children of the Devil, see commentary on Matt. 12:31].

Jdg 20:14(top)
Jdg 20:15(top)
Jdg 20:16(top)
Jdg 20:17(top)
Jdg 20:18

“went up to Bethel.” The Tabernacle was at Bethel at that time (Judges 20:27).

“Who is to go up first.” That is, who is to be at the front of the battle.”

Jdg 20:19(top)
Jdg 20:20(top)
Jdg 20:21(top)
Jdg 20:22(top)
Jdg 20:23

“Should I.” Israel considers itself as one.

“Go up against him.” The Hebrew is singular, “him,” a collective singular for the tribe of Benjamin.

Jdg 20:24(top)
Jdg 20:25(top)
Jdg 20:26

“the army.” The Hebrew text is just “the people,” but in this context, the people being referred to are the army of Israel (cp. Judges 20:31).

“went up and came to Bethel, and wept.” Even though God told Israel to go against Benjamin, they were unsuccessful twice. The fact that Israel wept, and sat, and fasted, and offered offerings indicates that Israel had some sin in their camp, too, and that prevented them from having a quick, decisive victory.

“and sat there before Yahweh.” The people sat before whatever represented Yahweh, in this case the Ark of the Covenant (Judges 20:27) and therefore the Tabernacle was there at Bethel at that time.

Jdg 20:27

“the ark of the covenant of God.” So at this time the ark was at Bethel. It likely came from Shiloh (Josh. 18:1).

Jdg 20:28

“Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron.” Phinehas was alive when Israel was still in the wilderness, so this record has to be quite early on in the history of Israel in the Promised Land, during the judgeship of Othniel at the latest.

“Should I.” Here, Phinehas the High Preist represents the people of Israel.

Jdg 20:29(top)
Jdg 20:30(top)
Jdg 20:31(top)
Jdg 20:32

“to the highways.” There was more open country around the main roads.

Jdg 20:33

“all the men of Israel rose up out of their place.” This was the main body of the Israelite army.

“Maareh-geba.” The name means “Cave of Geba,” and it might be a cave.

Jdg 20:34

“evil.” Not moral evil, but “evil” in the sense of something bad happening; we might say “disaster.”

“the Benjamites.” The text is literally “they,” but that is confusing in English.

Jdg 20:35(top)
Jdg 20:36

“So the children of Benjamin saw that they were struck.” This sentence would have been better placed as the closing sentence in Judges 20:35.

Jdg 20:37

“the ambushers spread out and struck the whole city.” Upon entering the city, knowing that the fighting men had left, the ambushers spread out and went throughout the whole city killing the people there.

“the mouth of the sword.” Used to show great destruction, as if the sword was eating its victims (see commentary on Josh. 6:21).

Jdg 20:38(top)
Jdg 20:39(top)
Jdg 20:40

“the whole city was going up in smoke to the heavens.” The Hebrew text is literally that the whole city, “went up to heaven” (or “the heavens,” or “the sky”).

Jdg 20:41(top)
Jdg 20:42

“the way of the wilderness.” That is, the road to and through the wilderness toward the east.

“but the battle overtook them.” The Hebrew text is more literally, “but the battle stuck to them.” The Israelites were not letting the Benjamites escape the battle but were chasing them down. The NAB has that the battle “kept pace” with them.

“and those who were from the cities they destroyed in each city.” The Hebrew text can be read as “they destroyed in the midst of it.” The Hebrew text seems to be saying that the battle overtook the Benjamites who had come out of the city to fight, and then the Israelite army killed the rest of the Benjamites in the cities of Benjamin. E. Fox (The Shocken Bible) has, “whoever was from the town, they [the Israelites] brought him to ruin in its midst.” This explains how the tribe of Benjamin was reduced to only 600 men; the women and children had been killed. The Benjamite tribal allotment was small, and so there were not that many cities in Benjamin. Joshua 18:21-28 lists some 26.

Jdg 20:43

“Nohah.” There is scholarly debate about Nohah because it means “resting place.” So, some versions take “Nohah” as the name of a small town, such as the ESV: “Surrounding the Benjaminites, they pursued them and trod them down from Nohah as far as opposite Gibeah on the east.” However, some versions take nohah as “resting place,” such as the JPS: “They inclosed the Benjamites round about, and chased them, and overtook them at their resting-place, as far as over against Gibeah toward the sunrising.” The majority of the translations have Nohah as the name of a town, although a translation like the JPS may be correct. There is no way to tell for certain at this time. Perhaps in the future archaeologists will unearth something that helps us interpret this text. Versions such as the NASB take a different view and say that Israel pursued the Benjamites “without rest,” but although that translation would make sense, the word “without” has to be added to the text and there does not seem to be sufficient reason to make that addition to the Hebrew text.

“Gibeah.” The Hebrew text reads “Gibeah,” and if this is the case, then the Israelites chased the Benjamites to the east from Gibeah. But some scholars feel that “Gibeah” should actually be “Geba,” which is to the east of Gibeah. The NET text note says, “Gibeah cannot be correct here, since the Benjaminites retreated from there toward the desert and Rimmon (see v. 45). A slight emendation yields the reading ‘Geba.’” Evertt Fox (The Schocken Bible) also has “Geba” instead of “Gibeah.” One reason some people prefer Geba to Gibeah, is that if the Benjamites were fleeing to the Rock of Rimmon, Geba is right on the way there. But Gibeah could be correct, and if so, then the verse would be saying something like the Israelites chased them “from Gibeah toward the sunrise,” that is the battle moved eastward from Gibeah.

The Benjamites stopped at the Rock of Rimmon, which is northeast of Gibeah (Judges 21:45).

Jdg 20:44(top)
Jdg 20:45

“they gleaned of them.” This is a powerful metaphor, portraying the stragglers among the Benjamites as grain or fruit that had escaped being harvested when the main crop was harvested. These Benjamites had escaped death in the main battle between Israel and Benjamin, but as they ran away on the road, they were “gleaned” (killed) by the Israelites who were making sure all the crop was harvested, that is, making sure all the Benjamite army was killed.

Jdg 20:46(top)
Jdg 20:47(top)
Jdg 20:48

“the mouth of the sword.” Used to show great destruction, as if the sword was eating its victims (see commentary on Josh. 6:21).

“they sent up in fire.” Burning an idolatrous city was according to the command of Deuteronomy 13:12-18. So the Israelites were keeping some parts of the Torah, but not other parts. Sadly, this is typical of many believers.


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