Judges 19-21 Good News Translation (GNT)
The Levite and His Concubine
19 In those days before Israel had a king, there was a Levite living far back in the hill country of Ephraim. He took a young woman from Bethlehem in Judah to be his concubine. 2 But she became angry with him, went back to her father's house in Bethlehem, and stayed there four months. 3 Then the man decided to go after her and try to persuade her to return to him. He took his servant and two donkeys with him. The woman showed the Levite into the house, and when her father saw him, he gave him a hearty greeting. 4 The father insisted that he stay, and so he stayed for three days. The couple had their meals and spent the nights there. 5 On the morning of the fourth day they woke up early and got ready to go. But the woman's father said to the Levite, “Have something to eat first. You'll feel better. You can go later.”
6 So the two men sat down and ate and drank together. Then the woman's father told him, “Please spend the night and enjoy yourself.”
7 The Levite got up to go, but the father urged him to stay, so he spent another night there. 8 Early in the morning of the fifth day he started to leave, but the woman's father said, “Eat something, please. Wait until later in the day.” So the two men ate together.
9 When the man, his concubine, and the servant once more started to leave, the father said, “Look, it's almost evening now; you might as well stay all night. It will be dark soon; stay here and have a good time. Tomorrow you can get up early for the trip and go home.”
10-11 But the man did not want to spend another night there, so he and his concubine started on their way, with their servant and two donkeys with pack saddles. It was late in the day when they came near Jebus (that is, Jerusalem), so the servant said to his master, “Why don't we stop and spend the night here in this Jebusite city?”
12-13 But his master said, “We're not going to stop in a city where the people are not Israelites. We'll pass on by and go a little farther and spend the night at Gibeah or Ramah.” 14 So they passed by Jebus and continued on their way. It was sunset when they came to Gibeah in the territory of the tribe of Benjamin. 15 They turned off the road to go and spend the night there. They went into town and sat down in the city square, but no one offered to take them home for the night.
16 While they were there, an old man came by at the end of a day's work on the farm. He was originally from the hill country of Ephraim, but he was now living in Gibeah. (The other people there were from the tribe of Benjamin.) 17 The old man noticed the traveler in the city square and asked him, “Where do you come from? Where are you going?”
18 The Levite answered, “We have been in Bethlehem in Judah, and now we are on our way home[a] deep in the hill country of Ephraim. No one will put us up for the night, 19 even though we have fodder and straw for our donkeys, as well as bread and wine for my concubine and me and for my servant. We have everything we need.”
20 The old man said, “You are welcome in my home! I'll take care of you; you don't have to spend the night in the square.” 21 So he took them home with him and fed their donkeys. His guests washed their feet and had a meal.
22 They were enjoying themselves when all of a sudden some sexual perverts from the town surrounded the house and started beating on the door. They said to the old man, “Bring out that man that came home with you! We want to have sex with him!”
23 But the old man went outside and said to them, “No, my friends! Please! Don't do such an evil, immoral thing! This man is my guest. 24 Look! Here is his concubine and my own virgin daughter. I'll bring them out now, and you can have them. Do whatever you want to with them. But don't do such an awful thing to this man!” 25 But the men would not listen to him. So the Levite took his concubine and put her outside with them. They raped her and abused her all night long and didn't stop until morning.
26 At dawn the woman came and fell down at the door of the old man's house, where her husband was. She was still there when daylight came. 27 Her husband got up that morning, and when he opened the door to go on his way, he found his concubine lying in front of the house with her hands reaching for the door. 28 He said, “Get up. Let's go.” But there was no answer. So he put her body across the donkey and started on his way home. 29 When he arrived, he went in the house and got a knife. He took his concubine's body, cut it into twelve pieces, and sent one piece to each of the twelve tribes of Israel. 30 Everyone who saw it said, “We have never heard of such a thing! Nothing like this has ever happened since the Israelites left Egypt! We have to do something about this! What will it be?”
Israel Prepares for War
20 All the people of Israel from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south, as well as from the land of Gilead in the east, answered the call. They gathered in one body in the Lord's presence at Mizpah. 2 The leaders of all the tribes of Israel were present at this gathering of God's people, and there were 400,000 foot soldiers. 3 Meanwhile the people of Benjamin heard that all the other Israelites had gathered at Mizpah.
The Israelites asked, “Tell us, how was this crime committed?” 4 The Levite whose concubine had been murdered answered, “My concubine and I went to Gibeah in the territory of Benjamin to spend the night. 5 The men of Gibeah came to get me and surrounded the house at night. They intended to kill me; instead they raped my concubine, and she died. 6 I took her body, cut it in pieces, and sent one piece to each of the twelve tribes of Israel. These people have committed an evil and immoral act among us. 7 All of you here are Israelites. What are we going to do about this?”
8 All the people stood up together and said, “None of us, whether he lives in a tent or in a house, will go home. 9 This is what we will do: we will draw lots and choose some men to attack Gibeah.[b] 10 One tenth of the men in Israel will provide food for the army, and the others will go and punish Gibeah[c] for this immoral act that they have committed in Israel.” 11 So all the men in Israel assembled with one purpose—to attack the town.
12 The Israelite tribes sent messengers all through the territory of the tribe of Benjamin to say, “What is this crime that you have committed? 13 Now hand over those perverts in Gibeah, so that we can kill them and remove this evil from Israel.” But the people of Benjamin paid no attention to the other Israelites. 14 From all the cities of Benjamin they came to Gibeah to fight the other people of Israel. 15-16 They called out twenty-six thousand soldiers from their cities that day. Besides these, the citizens of Gibeah gathered seven hundred specially chosen men[d] who were left-handed. Every one of them could sling a stone at a strand of hair and never miss. 17 Not counting the tribe of Benjamin, the Israelites gathered 400,000 trained soldiers.
The War against the Benjaminites
18 The Israelites went to the place of worship at Bethel, and there they asked God, “Which tribe should attack the Benjaminites first?”
The Lord answered, “The tribe of Judah.”
19 So the Israelites started out the next morning and camped near the city of Gibeah. 20 They went to attack the army of Benjamin, and placed the soldiers in position facing the city. 21 The army of Benjamin came out of the city, and before the day was over they had killed twenty-two thousand Israelite soldiers. 22-23 Then the Israelites went to the place of worship and mourned in the presence of the Lord until evening. They asked him, “Should we go again into battle against our brothers the Benjaminites?”
The Lord answered, “Yes.”
So the Israelite army was encouraged, and they placed their soldiers in position again, where they had been the day before. 24 They marched against the army of Benjamin a second time. 25 And for the second time the Benjaminites came out of Gibeah, and this time they killed eighteen thousand trained Israelite soldiers. 26 Then all the people of Israel went up to Bethel and mourned. They sat there in the Lord's presence and did not eat until evening. They offered fellowship sacrifices and burned some sacrifices whole—all in the presence of the Lord. 27-28 God's Covenant Box was there at Bethel in those days, and Phinehas, the son of Eleazar and grandson of Aaron, was in charge of it. The people asked the Lord, “Should we go out to fight our brothers the Benjaminites again, or should we give up?”
The Lord answered, “Fight. Tomorrow I will give you victory over them.”
29 So the Israelites put some soldiers in hiding around Gibeah. 30 Then for the third straight day they marched against the army of Benjamin and placed their soldiers in battle position facing Gibeah, as they had done before. 31 The Benjaminites came out to fight and were led away from the city. As they had before, they began killing some Israelites in the open country, on the road to Bethel and on the road to Gibeah. They killed about thirty Israelites. 32 The Benjaminites said, “We've beaten them just as before.”
But the Israelites had planned to retreat and lead them away from the city onto the roads. 33 So when the main army of the Israelites pulled back and regrouped at Baaltamar, the men surrounding Gibeah suddenly rushed out of their hiding places in the rocky country around the city.[e] 34 Ten thousand men, specially chosen out of all Israel, attacked Gibeah, and the fighting was hard. The Benjaminites had not realized that they were about to be destroyed. 35 The Lord gave Israel victory over the army of Benjamin. The Israelites killed 25,100 of the enemy that day, 36 and the Benjaminites realized they were defeated.
How the Israelites Won
The main body of the Israelite army had retreated from the Benjaminites because they were relying on the men that they had put in hiding around Gibeah. 37 These men ran quickly toward Gibeah; they spread out in the city and killed everyone there. 38 The main Israelite army and the men in hiding had arranged a signal. When they saw a big cloud of smoke going up from the town, 39 the Israelites out on the battlefield were to turn around. By this time the Benjaminites had already killed the thirty Israelites. They told themselves, “Yes, we've beaten them just as before.” 40 Then the signal appeared; a cloud of smoke began to go up from the town. The Benjaminites looked behind them and were amazed to see the whole city going up in flames. 41 Then the Israelites turned around, and the Benjaminites were thrown into panic because they realized that they were about to be destroyed. 42 They retreated from the Israelites and ran toward the open country, but they could not escape. They were caught between the main army and the men who were now coming out of the city,[f] and they were destroyed. 43 The Israelites had the enemy trapped, and without stopping they pursued them as far as a point east of Gibeah, killing them as they went.[g] 44 Eighteen thousand of the best Benjaminite soldiers were killed. 45 The others turned and ran toward the open country to Rimmon Rock. Five thousand of them were killed on the roads. The Israelites continued to pursue the rest to Gidom, killing two thousand. 46 In all, twenty-five thousand Benjaminites were killed that day—all of them brave soldiers.
47 But six hundred men were able to escape to the open country to Rimmon Rock, and they stayed there four months. 48 The Israelites turned back against the rest of the Benjaminites and killed them all—men, women, and children, and animals as well. They burned every town in the area.
Wives for the Tribe of Benjamin
21 When the Israelites had gathered at Mizpah, they had made a solemn promise to the Lord: “None of us will allow a Benjaminite to marry a daughter of ours.” 2 So now the people of Israel went to Bethel and sat there in the presence of God until evening. Loudly and bitterly they mourned: 3 “Lord God of Israel, why has this happened? Why is the tribe of Benjamin about to disappear from Israel?”
4 Early the next morning the people got up and built an altar there. They offered fellowship sacrifices and burned some sacrifices whole. 5 They asked, “Is there any group out of all the tribes of Israel that did not go to the gathering in the Lord's presence at Mizpah?” (They had taken a solemn oath that anyone who had not gone to Mizpah would be put to death.) 6 The people of Israel felt sorry for their brothers the Benjaminites and said, “Today Israel has lost one of its tribes. 7 What shall we do to provide wives for the men of Benjamin who are left? We have made a solemn promise to the Lord that we will not give them any of our daughters.”
8 When they asked if there was some group out of the tribes of Israel that had not gone to the gathering at Mizpah, they found out that no one from Jabesh in Gilead had been there; 9 at the roll call of the army no one from Jabesh had responded. 10 So the assembly sent twelve thousand of their bravest men with the orders, “Go and kill everyone in Jabesh, including women and children. 11 Kill all the males, and also every woman who is not a virgin.” 12 They found four hundred young virgins among the people in Jabesh, so they brought them to the camp at Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan.
13 Then the whole assembly sent word to the Benjaminites who were at Rimmon Rock and offered to end the war. 14 The Benjaminites came back, and the other Israelites gave them the young women from Jabesh whom they had not killed. But there were not enough of them.
15 The people felt sorry for the Benjaminites because the Lord had broken the unity of the tribes of Israel. 16 So the leaders of the gathering said, “There are no more women in the tribe of Benjamin. What shall we do to provide wives for the men who are left? 17 Israel must not lose one of its twelve tribes. We must find a way for the tribe of Benjamin to survive, 18 but we cannot allow them to marry our daughters, because we have put a curse on anyone who allows a Benjaminite to marry one of our daughters.”
19 Then they thought, “The yearly festival of the Lord at Shiloh is coming soon.” (Shiloh is north of Bethel, south of Lebonah, and east of the road between Bethel and Shechem.) 20 They told the Benjaminites, “Go and hide in the vineyards 21 and watch. When the young women of Shiloh come out to dance during the festival, you come out of the vineyards. Each of you take a wife by force from among them and take her back to the territory of Benjamin with you. 22 If their fathers or brothers come to you[h] and protest, you[i] can tell them, ‘Please let us keep them, because we did not take them from you in battle to be our wives. And since you did not give them to us, you are not guilty of breaking your promise.’”
23 The Benjaminites did this; each of them chose a wife from the young women who were dancing at Shiloh and carried her away. Then they went back to their own territory, rebuilt their towns, and lived there. 24 At the same time the rest of the Israelites left, and every man went back to his own tribe and family and to his own property.
25 There was no king in Israel at that time. Everyone did whatever they pleased.
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