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Israel Slaughters the Tribe of Benjamin

20 All the people of Israel from Dan to Beersheba and from Gilead came to Mizpah. The congregation stood united in the presence of Yahweh. The leaders of all Israel’s tribes took their places in the congregation of Elohim’s people. There were 400,000 foot soldiers with swords. The people of Benjamin heard that Israel had come to Mizpah.

The people of Israel said, “Tell us how such an evil thing could happen.”

The Levite, the husband of the murdered woman, answered, “My concubine[a] and I went to Gibeah in Benjamin to spend the night. The citizens of Gibeah came to attack me. They surrounded the house where I was staying that night. They intended to kill me, but instead, they raped my concubine until she died. So I took my concubine and cut her into pieces. Then I sent the pieces throughout the territory of Israel. I did this because the citizens of Gibeah did this perverted and godless thing in Israel. All you people of Israel, tell me what you think. Give me your advice right now!”

All the people stood united, saying, “None of us will go to his tent or return to his house. This is what we’ll do to Gibeah. We’ll decide by lot who should attack it.[b] 10 We’ll take one-tenth[c] of all the men from the tribes of Israel to get supplies for the troops. When the troops go to Gibeah in the territory of Benjamin they can punish the citizens of Gibeah for the godless thing they did in Israel.” 11 So all the men of Israel assembled. They stood united against the city.

12 The tribes of Israel sent men throughout the tribe of Benjamin. They asked, “How could such an evil thing happen among you? 13 Now hand over those worthless men in Gibeah. We must put them to death to rid ourselves of this kind of evil in Israel.”

But the men of Benjamin refused to listen to the men of Israel. 14 So the men of Benjamin went from their towns and assembled at Gibeah to go to war with the men of Israel. 15 That day 26,000 men armed with swords came from Benjamin’s cities and organized for battle along with 700 of Gibeah’s best men. 16 Out of all these troops, the best 700 were left-handed. Each could sling a stone at a hair and not miss.

17 The men of Israel (Benjamin not included) totaled 400,000 soldiers armed with swords.

18 The men of Israel went to Bethel. They asked Elohim, “Who will go first to fight Benjamin?”

Yahweh answered, “Judah will go first.”

19 The Israelites got up early in the morning and camped at Gibeah. 20 So the men of Israel went to war with the men of Benjamin. The Israelites formed their battle line facing Gibeah. 21 That day the men of Benjamin came out from Gibeah. They slaughtered 22,000 of Israel’s men.

22 But Israel’s troops got reinforcements. They formed their battle line where they had formed it on the first day. 23 The Israelites went and cried in the presence of Yahweh until evening. They asked Yahweh, “Should we continue to wage war against our close relatives, the men of Benjamin?”

Yahweh answered, “Go fight them!”

24 On the second day the Israelite troops advanced against Benjamin. 25 Benjamin went out from Gibeah to meet them. This time they slaughtered 18,000 men from Israel who were armed with swords. 26 Then all the men of Israel and all the troops went to Bethel. They sat there and cried in the presence of Yahweh and fasted that day until evening. Then they sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to Yahweh.

27 In those days the ark of Elohim’s promise was at Bethel. 28 (Phinehas, son of Eleazar and grandson of Aaron, served in front of it.) So the people of Israel asked Yahweh, “Should we continue to wage war against our close relatives, the men of Benjamin? Or should we stop?”

Yahweh answered, “Go! Tomorrow I will hand them over to you.”

29 Then Israel placed troops in ambush around Gibeah. 30 On the third day the men of Israel went to fight the men of Benjamin. They formed their battle line facing Gibeah as they did before. 31 The men of Benjamin went out to attack Israel’s troops and were led away from the city. They started to inflict casualties as before. They killed about 30 men from Israel in the open country and on the roads to Bethel and Gibeah. 32 The men of Benjamin shouted, “They’re defeated as before!”

But the men of Israel had said, “Let’s flee in order to lead them from the city to the roads.” 33 So the men of Israel left their positions. They formed their battle line at Baal Tamar. Meanwhile, those waiting in ambush rushed from their position to the west of Gibeah. 34 Then 10,000 of Israel’s best men attacked Gibeah. The battle was fierce. But Benjamin’s men didn’t realize their own evil was about to overtake them. 35 So Yahweh defeated them in front of Israel. On that day the Israelites slaughtered 25,100 men from Benjamin who were armed with swords. 36 Then the men of Benjamin realized they were defeated.

The Israelites had allowed the men of Benjamin to take back some ground. The Israelites relied on those waiting in ambush near Gibeah. 37 The men in ambush quickly charged toward Gibeah. They spread out in the city and killed everyone. 38 The men of Israel had arranged with those waiting in ambush that they would make a big column of smoke rise from the city as a signal. 39 Then the men of Israel would turn around in the battle.

The men of Benjamin had already killed about 30 men of Israel. They even said, “Israel is completely defeated, just like in the first battle.”

40 But when the column of smoke started to rise from the city, the men of Benjamin turned around and saw the whole city going up in smoke. 41 Then the men of Israel turned around, and the men of Benjamin panicked. They realized that their evil had overtaken them. 42 They turned in front of Israel toward the road to the desert. But the battle caught up with the men of Benjamin. Israel slaughtered whoever came out of the cities on the road to the desert. 43 They closed in on the men of Benjamin and pursued them without stopping. They overtook them east of Gibeah. 44 There were 18,000 experienced men from Benjamin who died in battle. 45 The others turned and fled into the desert to Rimmon Rock. But the men of Israel killed 5,000 more on the roads. They caught up with another 2,000 and killed them near Gidom. 46 In all, 25,000 men from Benjamin who were armed with swords were killed that day. They were all experienced men.

47 But 600 men turned and fled into the desert to Rimmon Rock. They stayed at Rimmon Rock for four months.

48 Then the men of Israel went back to attack the rest of the territory of Benjamin. They killed all the people and cattle they found in every city. They also burned down every city they came to.


  1. Judges 20:4 A concubine is considered a wife except she has fewer rights under the law.
  2. Judges 20:9 Hebrew meaning uncertain.
  3. Judges 20:10 Or “10 out of every battalion, 100 out of every regiment, and 1,000 out of every company.”