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Judges 17-21 Common English Bible (CEB)

Micah’s sanctuary and the Levite priest

17 Once there was a man named Micah who lived in the Ephraim highlands. He said to his mother, “The eleven hundred pieces of silver that were taken from you led you to declare a curse and even to repeat it when I could hear. I have that silver. I’m the one who took it, and now I’ll give it back to you.”[a]

His mother replied, “May the Lord bless you, my son!” When he gave the eleven hundred pieces of silver back to his mother, she said, “I wholeheartedly devote this silver to the Lord, to be made into a sculpted image and a molded image for my son.” So he gave the silver back to his mother, and she took two hundred pieces of silver and gave them to a silversmith, who used it for a sculpted image and a molded image. And they were placed in Micah’s house. This man Micah had his own sanctuary.[b] He made a priestly vest[c] and divine images[d] and appointed one of his sons to be his personal priest. In those days there was no king in Israel; each person did what they thought to be right.

Now there was a young man from Bethlehem in Judah, from the area of the Judahite clan. He was a Levite residing there as an immigrant. The man left the town of Bethlehem in Judah to settle as an immigrant wherever he could find a place. He came to Micah’s house in the Ephraim highlands while he was making his way.[e]

“Where are you from?” Micah asked him.

He replied, “I’m a Levite from Bethlehem in Judah, and I’m looking to settle as an immigrant anywhere I can find a place.”

10 So Micah said to him, “Stay with me and be a father and a priest to me, and I’ll give you ten pieces of silver a year, a set of clothes, and your basic needs.”[f] 11 The Levite agreed to stay with him; and the young man became like one of his own sons. 12 Micah appointed the Levite so that the young man became his personal priest and lived in Micah’s sanctuary. 13 And Micah said to himself, Now I know that the Lord will give me good things, because a Levite has become my priest.

Dan’s search for a land

18 In those days there was no king in Israel. Also in those days the tribe of Dan was searching for a territory of their own to live in, since no permanent territory had been assigned to them among the tribes of Israel up to that point. The Danites sent five men from their whole clan, strong men from Zorah and Eshtaol, to spy on the land and explore it. They told them, “Go explore the land.” So they went into the Ephraim highland as far as Micah’s house, and they spent the night there. When they were in the area of Micah’s house, they recognized the accent of the young Levite. They turned in there and said to him, “Who brought you here? What are you doing in these parts? What is there for you here?”

“Micah has done a lot for me,” he replied to them. “He hired me to be his personal priest.”

They said to him, “Ask for an answer from God so we can know whether we’ll be successful on this trip we’ve taken.”

The priest replied to them, “Go in peace. The Lord is watching over you on this trip you’ve taken.”

So the five men journeyed on until they reached Laish. There they saw that its people were living without worry in the same way as the Sidonians, undisturbed and secure. Nobody held back anything in the land, so no one had to hoard.[g] Yet they lived far away from the Sidonians and had no dealings with anyone else.[h]

When the men came back to their relatives at Zorah and Eshtaol, they asked them, “What did you find?”

“Come on,” they replied, “let’s march up against them! Indeed, we’ve seen the land, and it’s very good. Right now you’re doing nothing! Don’t hold back from going and taking possession of the land. 10 When you arrive, you’ll come upon a secure people and a wide-open land, because God has given to you a place where nothing on earth is lacking.” 11 At this, six hundred men from the Danite clan at Zorah and Eshtaol set out armed for battle. 12 They marched up and made camp at Kiriath-jearim in Judah. This is why the place west of Kiriath-jearim is still known as Dan’s Camp today. 13 From there they crossed into the Ephraim highlands and came to Micah’s house.

Dan acquires a levitical priest

14 Then the five men who had gone to spy on the land around Laish reported to their relatives, “Did you know that there is a priestly vest, divine images, a sculpted image, and a molded image in these buildings? Now think about what you should do!” 15 So they turned in there and went to the young Levite’s house in Micah’s compound and greeted him. 16 While the six hundred Danites armed for battle stood at the entrance of the gate, 17 the five men who had gone to spy on the land moved up, went inside, and took the sculpted image, the priestly vest, the divine images, and the molded image. The priest was standing at the entrance of the gate with the six hundred men armed for battle 18 when these five entered Micah’s sanctuary and took the sculpted image, the priestly vest, the divine images, and the molded image.

The priest said to them, “What are you doing?”

19 “Shut up!” they said to him. “Put your hand over your mouth! Come with us and be a father and a priest for us. Would you rather be a priest for one man’s household or a priest for a tribe and a clan in Israel?” 20 The priest was convinced, so he took the priestly vest, the divine images, and the sculpted image and went along with the people.

21 They headed back on their way, but they put the children, the livestock, and the prized possessions in front of them. 22 After they had gone a good distance away from Micah’s house, the men who were in the houses around Micah’s home were summoned for battle and caught up to the Danites. 23 They called out to the Danites, who turned around and said to Micah, “Why have you summoned men for battle?”

24 Micah replied, “You’ve taken my gods that I made, and the priest, and have gone off! What do I have left? How can you ask me what is wrong?”

25 But the Danites said to him, “Don’t raise your voice with us or else hotheaded men will attack you, and you and your household will lose your lives.” 26 Then the Danites went on their way. When Micah realized that they were too strong for him, he turned around and went home.

The Danites take possession of Laish

27 The Danites took along the things that Micah had made, as well as the priest who had been with him, and came to Laish, to a people who were undisturbed and secure. They killed the people and burned down the city. 28 No one was there to rescue them because the city was far away from Sidon and had no dealings with anyone else.[i] It was in the Beth-rehob Valley.

They rebuilt the city and settled in it. 29 They renamed the city Dan, after their ancestor Dan who had been one of Israel’s sons; but in fact, the original name of the city was Laish. 30 The Danites set up the sculpted image for themselves, and Jonathan son of Gershom and grandson of Moses,[j] and his sons became priests for the Danite tribe until the land went into exile. 31 They kept for themselves the sculpted image that Micah had made throughout the whole time that God’s sanctuary was in Shiloh.

A Levite, a woman, and her father

19 In those days when there was no king in Israel, there was a certain Levite living as an immigrant in the far corners of the Ephraim highlands. He married a secondary wife from Bethlehem in Judah. In an act of unfaithfulness toward him, his secondary wife left him and went back to her father’s household at Bethlehem in Judah. She stayed there four full months. Then her husband set out after her to convince her to come back. He had his servant and a couple of donkeys with him. She took him into her father’s house, and when the young woman’s father saw him, he was happy to welcome him. Since his father-in-law, the young woman’s father, insisted, he stayed with him three days, eating, drinking, and spending the night there.

On the fourth day, they got up early in the morning, and he got ready to set out. But the young woman’s father said to his son-in-law, “Eat a little food to give you strength, and then you can go.” So the two of them sat down and ate and drank together. The young woman’s father said to the man, “Why not spend the night and enjoy yourself?” When the man got ready to set out, his father-in-law persuaded him, and he spent the night there again. On the fifth day, he got up early in the morning to set out, and the young woman’s father said, “Have some food for strength.” So the two of them ate, sitting around until late in the day. When the man got ready to set out with his secondary wife and servant, his father-in-law, the young woman’s father, said, “Look, the day has turned to evening, so spend the night. Seriously, the day is over. Spend the night here and enjoy yourself. Then you can get up early tomorrow for your journey, and you can head home.”

10 But the man was unwilling to spend another night. He got up, set out, and went as far as the area of Jebus, that is, Jerusalem. He had a couple of saddled donkeys and his secondary wife with him. 11 When they were near Jebus, the day was totally gone. The servant said to his master, “Come on, let’s turn into this Jebusite city and spend the night in it.”

12 But his master replied to him, “We won’t turn into a city of foreigners who aren’t Israelites. We’ll travel on to Gibeah. 13 “Come on,” he said to his servant, “let’s reach Gibeah or Ramah and spend the night in one of those places.” 14 So they traveled on, and the sun set when they were near Gibeah in Benjamin. 15 They turned in to enter there, so they could spend the night in Gibeah, and he went and sat down in the city square. But no one offered to take them home to spend the night.

Rape and murder at Gibeah

16 Then in the evening, an old man was coming home from his daily work in the fields. This man was from the Ephraim highlands and was an immigrant in Gibeah, the people of that place being Benjaminites. 17 He looked up and saw the traveler in the city square. “Where are you heading and where have you come from?” the old man asked.

18 “We’re traveling from Bethlehem in Judah to the far corners of the Ephraim highlands,” he replied to the old man. “That’s where I’m from. I went to Bethlehem in Judah, and I’m heading to my home.[k] But no one has offered to take me in tonight. 19 We’ve got our own straw and feed for our donkeys, plus food and wine to provide for me, the woman, and my servant with us. We don’t need anything.”

20 The old man answered, “You’re welcome to stay with me,[l] but let me take care of all your needs. Just don’t spend the night in the square.” 21 And he took him into his house. He mixed feed for the donkeys, and they washed their feet, ate, and drank.

22 While they were relaxing, suddenly the men of the city, a perverse bunch, surrounded the house and started pounding on the door. They said to the old man, the owner of the house, “Send out the man who came to your house, so we can have sex with him!”

23 The owner of the house went outside and said to them, “No, my friends, please don’t commit such an evil act, given that this man has come to my home as a guest. Don’t do this disgraceful thing! 24 Here’s my daughter, the young woman, and his secondary wife. Let me send them out, and you can abuse them and do whatever you want to them. But don’t do such a disgraceful thing to this man!” 25 But the men refused to listen to him.

So the Levite grabbed his secondary wife and sent her outside to them. They raped her and abused her all night long until morning. They finally let her go as dawn was breaking.

26 At daybreak, the woman came and collapsed at the door of the man’s house where her husband was staying, where she lay until it was daylight. 27 When her husband got up in the morning, he opened the doors of the house and went outside to set out on his journey. And there was his secondary wife, lying at the entrance of the house, with her hands clutching the doorframe. 28 “Get up,” he said to her, “let’s go.” But there was no response. So he laid her across a donkey, and the man set out for home. 29 When he got home, he picked up a knife, took his secondary wife, and chopped her, limb by limb, into twelve pieces. Then he sent them into all the areas of Israel. 30 Everyone who saw it said, “Has such a thing ever happened or been seen since the time when the Israelites came up from the land of Egypt until today? Think about it, decide what to do, and speak out!”

Civil war between the Benjaminites and the Israelites

20 Then all the Israelites from Dan to Beer-sheba, as well as from the area of Gilead, marched out, and the group assembled as one body in the Lord’s presence at Mizpah. The commanders of the people and of all the tribes of Israel took their place in the assembly of God’s people, four hundred thousand foot soldiers armed with swords. And the Benjaminites got word that the Israelites had marched up to Mizpah.

The Israelites inquired, “Tell us how this evil act happened.”

So the Levite, the husband of the murdered woman, answered, “My secondary wife and I came to Gibeah of Benjamin to spend the night, and the leading citizens of Gibeah tried to attack me. They surrounded me in the house at night and were determined to kill me. They abused my secondary wife until she died. I took her, chopped her up, and sent her pieces into every part of Israel’s territory, because they had committed a disgraceful act in Israel. All you Israelites, say what you think should be done here and now!”

At this, all the people stood as one to say, “Not a single one of us is going home or returning to our house! This is what we’re now going to do to Gibeah: We’ll march up[m] against it as the lot determines. 10 From all the tribes of Israel, we’ll get ten men for every hundred, one hundred for every thousand, and one thousand for every ten thousand to take supplies for the troops who are going to pay back[n] Gibeah of Benjamin for the disgraceful act they’ve done in Israel.” 11 So all the Israelites joined together and were united as one against the city.

12 The Israelite tribes sent men throughout the whole tribe of Benjamin with this message: “What about this evil act that happened among you? 13 Now hand over those perverse men in Gibeah so that we can execute them and remove the evil from Israel.” But the Benjaminites refused to comply with the demand of their own relatives the Israelites. 14 Instead, the Benjaminites from all the cities came together at Gibeah to march out for battle against the Israelites. 15 On that day, the Benjaminites called up from their cities twenty-six thousand men armed with swords, not counting those living in Gibeah.[o] 16 Out of this entire army, seven hundred specially chosen men were left-handed, and every one of them could sling a stone at a hair and not miss. 17 Not counting Benjamin, the Israelites called up four hundred thousand men armed with swords, and every one of them was a trained warrior.

18 Then the Israelites marched up to Bethel to ask for direction from God. They inquired, “Who should go up first to fight against the Benjaminites for us?”

And the Lord said, “Let the tribe of Judah be first.”

19 So the next morning, the Israelites got up and camped near Gibeah. 20 They marched out to fight against the Benjaminites, lining up in battle formation against them at Gibeah. 21 But the Benjaminites marched out from Gibeah and cut down twenty-two thousand Israelite men that day.

23 [p] So the Israelites went back up and wept before the Lord until evening. They asked the Lord, “Should we move in again to fight our relatives the Benjaminites?”

And the Lord replied, “March out against them.”

22 The Israelite troops regrouped and lined up in battle formation again in the same place they had lined up the first day. 24 The Israelites moved in against the Benjaminites the second day. 25 But the Benjaminites marched out of Gibeah to meet them on that second day and cut down another eighteen thousand Israelite men, all of whom were armed with swords.

26 Then all the Israelite troops went back up to Bethel and wept, just sitting there in the Lord’s presence. They fasted that whole day until evening. Then they offered entirely burned offerings and well-being sacrifices to the Lord. 27 Now in those days the chest containing God’s covenant was there, 28 and Phinehas, Eleazar’s son and Aaron’s grandson, was in charge of ministering before it. The Israelites asked the Lord, “Should we march out once again to fight our relatives the Benjaminites or should we give up?”

And the Lord replied, “March up, for I’ll hand them to you tomorrow.”

29 So the Israelites set ambushes around Gibeah. 30 Three days later, the Israelites marched out against the Benjaminites. They lined up for battle against Gibeah as before. 31 When the Benjaminites came out to meet them, they were drawn away from the city. They began to strike down some of the troops just like the last time, about thirty Israelites along the main roads, one of which goes up to Bethel and one to Gibeah, as well as in the open fields. 32 The Benjaminites thought, They’re being wiped out before us like the first time. But the Israelites had planned, We’ll retreat and draw them away from the city toward the main roads. 33 The Israelites moved from their position and reformed their battle lines at Baal-tamar. Then the Israelites who had been set in ambush charged out from their positions west of Gibeah.[q] 34 Ten thousand specially chosen men from all the Israelites came against Gibeah. The fighting was fierce, and the Benjaminites didn’t realize that disaster was almost on them. 35 The Lord wiped out the Benjaminites before Israel. The Israelites slaughtered twenty-five thousand one hundred Benjaminite men that day, all of them armed with swords. 36 Then the Benjaminites saw that they had been defeated.

The Israelites had given ground to the Benjaminites because they relied on the ambush that they had set around Gibeah. 37 Indeed, those in the ambush had dashed swiftly into Gibeah and killed all the people in the city with their swords. 38 The plan between the main force of the Israelites and those in the ambush was that when they sent up a big cloud of smoke from the city, 39 the Israelites would turn around in battle. The Benjaminites had begun to defeat some of the Israelites and had killed about thirty men, thinking, They are definitely going to be wiped out before us, as in the first battle! 40 But then the column of smoke began to rise from the city. When the Benjaminites looked back, there was the entire city going up in smoke to the sky. 41 The main force of the Israelites turned around, and the Benjaminites lost heart, because they recognized that disaster had fallen on them. 42 They turned back before the Israelites in the direction of the desert, but the fighting caught up with them, and those from the towns were slaughtering them there.[r] 43 They encircled the Benjaminites, chased them from Nohah,[s] and trampled them to the east of Gibeah. 44 Eighteen thousand Benjaminites fell, all of whom were strong warriors. 45 When they turned back and fled toward the desert to the rock of Rimmon, the Israelites picked off another five thousand men on the main roads. And when they caught up with them at Gidom, they struck down two thousand more.

46 All in all, the total number of Benjaminites who fell that day was twenty-five thousand men, all of whom were armed with swords and were strong warriors. 47 Six hundred men turned back and fled toward the desert to the rock of Rimmon. They stayed at the rock of Rimmon for four months. 48 But the Israelites turned their attention to the rest of the Benjaminites and massacred them entirely—the city, the people, even the animals, and everything else they found. They also burned down every city they came across.

Wives for the Benjaminites

21 The Israelites had made a pledge at Mizpah, declaring, “None of us will allow his daughter to marry a Benjaminite.” But the people came to Bethel and sat there until evening before God, raising their voices and crying bitterly. Lord, God of Israel,” they said, “why has this happened among us that as of today one tribe will be missing from Israel?” And the next day, the people got up early and built an altar there. They offered entirely burned offerings and well-being sacrifices.

Then the Israelites asked, “Were there any out of all the tribes of Israel who didn’t march up to the assembly before the Lord?” Indeed, they had made a solemn pledge that anyone who didn’t march up before the Lord at Mizpah would be put to death. The Israelites had a change of heart concerning their relatives the Benjaminites. They said, “Today one tribe has been cut off from Israel. What can we do to provide wives for the ones who are left, since we ourselves have made a pledge before the Lord not to allow our daughters to marry them?” So they asked, “Is there anyone from the tribes of Israel who didn’t march up before the Lord at Mizpah?” There was! No one from Jabesh-gilead had come to the assembly at the camp. When the people’s attendance was taken, not one of those who lived in Jabesh-gilead had been there.

10 The community dispatched twelve thousand warriors there with these orders: “Go kill all the people in Jabesh-gilead, including women and children. 11 Here’s what you should do: Exterminate every man and every woman who has slept with a man.” 12 Among the people of Jabesh-gilead, they found four hundred young women who had not known a man intimately or slept with one, and they brought them to the camp at Shiloh in the land of Canaan. 13 The whole community then sent word to the Benjaminites who were at the rock of Rimmon and offered them a truce.[t] 14 So the Benjaminites returned at that time, and they gave them the women from Jabesh-gilead that they had allowed to live. Even so, there weren’t enough for them.

15 Since the people had a change of heart concerning the Benjaminites because the Lord had caused a rupture in the tribes of Israel, 16 the community elders said, “What can we do to provide wives for the ones who are left, seeing that the Benjaminite women have been destroyed? 17 There must be a surviving line for those who remain from Benjamin,” they continued, “so that a tribe won’t be erased from Israel. 18 But we can’t allow our daughters to marry them, for we Israelites have made this pledge: ‘Let anyone who provides a wife for Benjamin be cursed!’ 19 However,” they said, “the annual festival of the Lord is under way in Shiloh, which is north of Bethel, east of the main road that goes up from Bethel to Shechem, and south of Lebonah.” 20 So they instructed the Benjaminites, “Go and hide like an ambush in the vineyards 21 and watch. At the moment the women of Shiloh come out to participate in the dances, rush out from the vineyards. Each one of you, capture a wife for yourself from the women of Shiloh and go back to the land of Benjamin. 22 When their fathers or brothers come to us to object, we’ll tell them, ‘Do us a favor for their sake. We didn’t capture enough women for every man during the battle, and this way you are not guilty because you didn’t give them anything willingly.’” 23 And that is what the Benjaminites did. They took wives for their whole group from the dancers whom they abducted. They returned to their territory, rebuilt the cities, and lived in them. 24 Likewise, the Israelites set out from there at that time, heading home to their respective tribes and clans. They all left there for their own territories.

25 In those days there was no king in Israel; each person did what they thought to be right.


  1. Judges 17:2 The words and now I’ll give it back to you are relocated from the end of 17:3 in Heb.
  2. Judges 17:5 Or god’s house
  3. Judges 17:5 Heb ephod
  4. Judges 17:5 Heb terafim
  5. Judges 17:8 Or to carry on his work
  6. Judges 17:10 Heb adds and the Levite went.
  7. Judges 18:7 Heb uncertain
  8. Judges 18:7 Or with Aram
  9. Judges 18:28 Or with Aram
  10. Judges 18:30 Or Manasseh
  11. Judges 19:18 LXX; MT to the Lord’s house
  12. Judges 19:20 Or Peace be with you
  13. Judges 20:9 LXX; MT lacks We’ll march up.
  14. Judges 20:10 Cf LXX; Heb uncertain
  15. Judges 20:15 LXX, Vulg, Syr; MT adds seven hundred specially chosen men were called up.
  16. Judges 20:23 20:22 and 20:23 are reversed.
  17. Judges 20:33 Heb Geba
  18. Judges 20:42 Heb uncertain
  19. Judges 20:43 LXX; MT to a resting place
  20. Judges 21:13 Or peace
Common English Bible (CEB)

Copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible

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