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A Levite and His Woman Servant

19 At that time the Israelites did not have a king.

There was a Levite who lived far back in the hill country of Ephraim. He had taken as a wife a slave woman. She was from the city of Bethlehem in the country of Judah. But his slave woman had an argument with him. She left him and went back to her father’s house in Bethlehem in Judah. She stayed there for four months. Then her husband went after her. He wanted to speak kindly to her so that she would come back to him. He took with him his servant and two donkeys. The Levite came to her father’s house. Her father saw the Levite and came out to greet him. The father was very happy. The woman’s father led the Levite into his house. The Levite’s father-in-law invited him to stay. So he stayed for three days. He ate, drank, and slept in his father-in-law’s house.

On the fourth day, they got up early in the morning. The Levite was getting ready to leave. But the young woman’s father said to his son-in-law, “Eat something first. After you eat, you can go.” So the Levite and his father-in-law sat down to eat and drink together. After that the young woman’s father said to the Levite, “Please stay tonight. Relax and enjoy yourself.” So the two men ate together. The Levite got up to leave, but his father-in-law persuaded him to stay the night again.

Then, on the fifth day, the Levite got up early in the morning. He was ready to leave. But the woman’s father said to his son-in-law, “Eat something first. Relax and stay until this afternoon.” So they both ate together again.

Then the Levite, his slave woman, and his servant got up to leave. But the young woman’s father said, “It is almost dark. The day is almost gone. So stay the night here and enjoy yourself. Tomorrow morning you can get up early and go on your way.”

10 But the Levite did not want to stay another night. He took his two donkeys and his slave woman. He traveled as far as the city of Jebus (that is, Jerusalem). 11 The day was almost over. They were near the city of Jebus. So the servant said to his master, the Levite, “Let’s stop at this Jebusite city. Let’s stay the night here.”

12 But his master, the Levite man, said, “No, we will not go inside a strange city. Those people are not Israelites. We will go to the city of Gibeah.[a] 13 The Levite said, “Come on. Let’s try to make it to Gibeah or Ramah. We can stay the night in one of those cities.”

14 So the Levite and those with him traveled on. The sun was going down just as they entered the city of Gibeah. Gibeah is in the area that belongs to the tribe of Benjamin. 15 They planned to stop there and stay the night. They came to the city square and sat down, but no one invited them home to stay the night.

16 That evening an old man came into the city from the fields. His home was in the hill country of Ephraim, but now he was living in the city of Gibeah. (The men of Gibeah were from the tribe of Benjamin.) 17 The old man saw the traveler in the public square and asked, “Where are you going? Where did you come from?”

18 The Levite answered, “We have come from Bethlehem in Judah, where I went for a visit. Now I am on my way home,[b] which is a long way into the hill country of Ephraim. I expected that someone here would invite us in for the night, but no one has. 19 We already have straw and food for our donkeys. There is also bread and wine for me, the young woman, and my servant. We don’t need anything.”

20 The old man said, “You are welcome to stay at my house. I will give you anything you need, but don’t stay the night in the public square.” 21 Then the old man took the Levite and the people with him to his house. He fed their donkeys. They washed their feet and then had something to eat and drink.

22 While the Levite and those who were with him were enjoying themselves, some very bad men from the city surrounded the house. They began beating on the door. They shouted at the old man who owned the house. They said, “Bring out the man who came to your house. We want to have sex with him.”

23 The old man went outside and said to them, “My friends, don’t do such an evil thing! This man is a guest in my house.[c] Don’t commit this terrible sin. 24 Look, here is my daughter. She has never had sex before. I will bring her out to you now. This man also has a slave woman. You can use them any way you want, but don’t do such a terrible sin against this man.”

25 But those evil men would not listen to the old man. So the Levite took his slave woman and put her outside with them. They hurt her and raped her all night long. Then, at dawn, they let her go. 26 At dawn, the woman came back to the house where her master was staying. She fell down at the front door and lay there until it was daylight.

27 The Levite got up early the next morning. He wanted to go home. He opened the door to go outside, and a hand fell across the threshold of the door. There was his slave woman. She had fallen down against the door. 28 The Levite said to her, “Get up; let’s go.” But there was no answer.

The Levite put her body on his donkey and went home. 29 When he arrived at his house, he took a knife and cut her body into 12 parts. Then he sent the 12 parts of the woman to each of the areas where the Israelites lived. 30 Everyone who saw this said, “Nothing like this has ever happened in Israel before. We haven’t seen anything like this from the time we came out of Egypt. Discuss this and tell us what to do.”

The War Between Israel and Benjamin

20 So all the Israelites joined together. They all came together to stand before the Lord in the city of Mizpah. People came from everywhere in Israel.[d] Even the Israelites from Gilead[e] were there. The leaders of all the tribes of Israel were there. They took their places in the public meeting of God’s people. There were 400,000 soldiers with swords in that place. The people from the tribe of Benjamin heard that the Israelites were meeting together in Mizpah. The Israelites said, “Tell us how this terrible thing happened.”

So the Levite, the husband of the woman who had been murdered, told them the story. He said, “My slave woman and I came to the city of Gibeah in the area of Benjamin. We spent the night there. But during the night the men of the city of Gibeah came to the house where I was staying. They surrounded the house, and they wanted to kill me. They raped my slave woman, and she died. So I took her and cut her into pieces. Then I sent one piece to each of the tribes of Israel. I sent the 12 pieces to the lands we have received. I did that because the people of Benjamin have done this terrible thing in Israel. Now, all you men of Israel, speak up. Give your decision about what we should do.”

Then all the people stood up at the same time. They said together, “None of us will go home. No, not one of us will go back to his house. Now this is what we will do to the city of Gibeah. We will throw lots to let God show us who will lead the attack. 10 We will choose ten men from every 100 from all the tribes of Israel. And we will choose 100 men from every 1000. We will choose 1000 men from every 10,000. These men we have chosen will get supplies for the army. Then the army will go to the city of Gibeah in the area of Benjamin. The army will punish those people for the terrible thing they did among the Israelites.”

11 So all the men of Israel gathered together at the city of Gibeah, united together and in agreement as to what they were doing. 12 The tribes of Israel sent men to the tribe of Benjamin with this message: “What about this terrible thing that some of your men have done? 13 Send the bad men from the city of Gibeah to us so that we can put them to death. We must remove the evil from among the Israelites.”

But the people from the tribe of Benjamin would not listen to the messengers from their relatives, the other Israelites. 14 The people from the tribe of Benjamin left their cities and went to the city of Gibeah. They went to Gibeah to fight against the other tribes of Israel. 15 The people from the tribe of Benjamin got 26,000 soldiers together who were trained for war. They also had 700 trained soldiers from the city of Gibeah. 16 There were also 700 trained soldiers who were trained to fight with their left hand.[f] Each one of them could use a sling with great skill. They all could use a sling to throw a stone at a hair and not miss!

17 All the tribes of Israel, except Benjamin, gathered together 400,000 fighting men with swords. Each one was a trained soldier. 18 The Israelites went up to the city of Bethel. At Bethel they asked God, “Which tribe will be first to attack the tribe of Benjamin?”

The Lord answered, “The tribe of Judah will go first.”

19 The next morning the Israelites got up. They made a camp near the city of Gibeah. 20 Then the army of Israel took their positions for battle against the army of Benjamin at the city of Gibeah. 21 Then the army of Benjamin came out of the city of Gibeah. The army of Benjamin killed 22,000 men in the army of Israel during the battle that day.

22-23 The Israelites went to the Lord and cried until evening. They asked the Lord, “Should we go to fight the people of Benjamin again? They are our relatives.”

The Lord answered, “Go fight against them.” The men of Israel encouraged each other. So they again went out to fight, as they had done the first day.

24 Then the army of Israel came near the army of Benjamin. This was the second day of the war. 25 The army of Benjamin came out of the city of Gibeah to attack the army of Israel on the second day. This time, the army of Benjamin killed another 18,000 men from the army of Israel. All the men in the army of Israel were trained soldiers.

26 Then all the Israelites went up to the city of Bethel. There they sat down and cried to the Lord. They did not eat anything all day, until evening. They also offered burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to the Lord. 27 The men of Israel asked the Lord a question. (In those days God’s Box of the Agreement was there at Bethel. 28 Phinehas was the priest who served God there. Phinehas was the son of Eleazar. Eleazar was the son of Aaron.) The Israelites asked, “The people of Benjamin are our relatives. Should we again go to fight against them? Or should we stop fighting?”

The Lord answered, “Go. Tomorrow I will help you defeat them.”

29 Then the army of Israel hid some men all around the city of Gibeah. 30 The army of Israel went to fight against the city of Gibeah on the third day. They got ready for battle as they had done before. 31 The army of Benjamin came out of the city of Gibeah to fight the army of Israel. The army of Israel backed up and let the army of Benjamin chase them. In this way the army of Benjamin was tricked into leaving the city far behind them.

The army of Benjamin began to kill some of the men in the army of Israel, as they had done before. They killed about 30 men from Israel. They killed some of them in the fields, and they killed some of them on the roads. One road led to the city of Bethel. The other road led to the city of Gibeah. 32 The men of Benjamin said, “We are winning as before!”

The men of Israel were running away, but it was a trick. They wanted to lead the men of Benjamin away from their city and onto the roads. 33 So all the men ran away. They stopped at a place named Baal Tamar. Some of the men of Israel were hiding west of Gibeah. They ran from their hiding places. 34 10,000 of Israel’s best-trained soldiers attacked the city of Gibeah. The fighting was very heavy. But the army of Benjamin did not know that a terrible thing was about to happen to them.

35 The Lord used the army of Israel and defeated the army of Benjamin. On that day the army of Israel killed 25,100 soldiers from Benjamin. All of them had been trained for war. 36 So the people of Benjamin saw that they were defeated.

The army of Israel had moved back because they were depending on the surprise attack. They had men hiding near Gibeah. 37 The men who were hiding rushed into the city of Gibeah. They spread out and killed everyone in the city with their swords. 38 Now the men of Israel had made a plan with the men who were hiding. The men who were hiding were supposed to send a special signal. They were supposed to make a big cloud of smoke.

39-41 The army of Benjamin had killed about 30 Israelite soldiers. So the men of Benjamin were saying, “We are winning, as before.” But then a big cloud of smoke began to rise from the city. The men of Benjamin turned around and saw the smoke. The whole city was on fire. Then the army of Israel stopped running away. They turned around and began to fight. The men of Benjamin were afraid because they knew that a terrible thing had happened to them.

42 So the army of Benjamin ran away from the army of Israel. They ran toward the desert. But they could not escape the fighting. And the men of Israel came out of the cities and killed them. 43 The men of Israel surrounded the men of Benjamin and began chasing them. They did not let them rest. They defeated them in the area east of Gibeah. 44 So 18,000 brave and strong fighters from the army of Benjamin were killed.

45 The army of Benjamin turned around and ran toward the desert. They ran to a place called the Rock of Rimmon, but the army of Israel killed 5000 soldiers from Benjamin along the roads. They kept chasing the men of Benjamin. They chased them as far as a place named Gidom. The army of Israel killed 2000 more men from Benjamin in that place.

46 On that day 25,000 men of the army of Benjamin were killed. All of them fought bravely with their swords. 47 But 600 men from Benjamin ran into the desert to the place called the Rock of Rimmon and stayed there for four months. 48 The men of Israel went back to the land of Benjamin. They killed the people and all the animals in every city. They destroyed everything they could find and burned every city they came to.

Getting Wives for the Men of Benjamin

21 At Mizpah, the men of Israel made a promise. This was their promise: “Not one of us will let his daughter marry a man from the tribe of Benjamin.”

The Israelites went to the city of Bethel. There they sat before God until evening. They cried loudly as they sat there. They said to God, “Lord, you are the God of the Israelites. Why has this terrible thing happened to us? Why has one tribe of the Israelites been taken away?”

Early the next day, the Israelites built an altar. They put burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to God on that altar. Then the Israelites said, “Are there any tribes of Israel who did not come here to meet with us before the Lord?” They asked this question because they had made a serious promise. They had promised that anyone who did not come together with the other tribes at the city of Mizpah would be killed.

Then the Israelites felt sorry for their relatives, the people of Benjamin. They said, “Today, one tribe has been separated from Israel. We made a promise with an oath before the Lord. We promised not to allow our daughters to marry a man from Benjamin. How can we make sure that the men of Benjamin will have wives?”

Then the Israelites asked, “Which one of the tribes of Israel did not come here to Mizpah? We have come together before the Lord. Surely one family was not here!” Then they found that no one from the city of Jabesh Gilead had met together with the other Israelites. The Israelites counted everyone to see who was there and who was not. They found that no one from Jabesh Gilead was there. 10 So the Israelites sent 12,000 soldiers to the city of Jabesh Gilead. They told the soldiers, “Go to Jabesh Gilead, and use your swords to kill everyone who lives there, even the women and children. 11 You must do this! You must kill every man in Jabesh Gilead and every woman who has had sexual relations with a man. But do not kill any woman who has never had sex with a man.” So the soldiers did these things.[g] 12 The 12,000 soldiers found 400 young women in the city of Jabesh Gilead who had never had sex with a man. They brought these women to the camp at Shiloh in the land of Canaan.

13 Then the Israelites sent a message to the men of Benjamin. They offered to make peace with the men of Benjamin. The men of Benjamin were at the place named the Rock of Rimmon. 14 So the men of Benjamin came back to Israel. The Israelites gave them the women from Jabesh Gilead who they had not killed. But there were not enough women for all the men of Benjamin.

15 The Israelites felt sorry for the men of Benjamin. They felt sorry for them because the Lord had separated them from the other tribes of Israel. 16 The elders of the Israelites said, “The women of the tribe of Benjamin have been killed. Where can we get wives for the men of Benjamin who are still alive? 17 The men of Benjamin who are still alive must have children to continue their families. This must be done so that a tribe in Israel will not die out! 18 But we cannot allow our daughters to marry the men of Benjamin. We have made this promise: ‘Bad things will happen to anyone who gives a wife to a man of Benjamin.’ 19 We have an idea! This is the time for the festival of the Lord at the city of Shiloh. This festival is celebrated every year there.” (The city of Shiloh is north of the city of Bethel and east of the road that goes from Bethel to Shechem. And it is also to the south of the city of Lebonah.)

20 So the elders told the men of Benjamin about their idea. They said, “Go and hide in the vineyards. 21 Watch for the time during the festival when the young women from Shiloh come out to join the dancing. Then run out from where you are hiding in the vineyards. Each of you should take one of the young women from the city of Shiloh. Take them to the land of Benjamin and marry them. 22 The fathers or brothers of the young women will come and complain to us. But we will say, ‘Be kind to the men of Benjamin. Let them marry the women. We could not get wives for each of them during the war. And you did not willingly give the women to the men of Benjamin, so you did not break your promise.’”

23 So that is what the men of the tribe of Benjamin did. While the young women were dancing, each man caught one of them. They took them away and married them. Then they went back to their land. The men of Benjamin built cities again in that land, and they lived in them. 24 Then the Israelites went home. They went to their own land and tribe.

25 In those days the Israelites did not have a king, so everyone did whatever they thought was right.


  1. Judges 19:12 Gibeah Gibeah was a few miles north of Jebus. Jebus was the old name for Jerusalem.
  2. Judges 19:18 home This is from the ancient Greek version, which has “to my house.” The standard Hebrew text has “to the Lord’s house.”
  3. Judges 19:23 This man … my house At this time it was a custom that if you invited people to be your guests, you had to protect and care for those people.
  4. Judges 20:1 from everywhere in Israel Literally, “from Dan to Beersheba.”
  5. Judges 20:1 Gilead This area was east of the Jordan River.
  6. Judges 20:16 trained … left hand Literally, “restrained in their right hand.”
  7. Judges 21:11 But do not kill … these things This is from the ancient Greek version.

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