Judges 20:37-48

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, August 28, 2017 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

“Those who had been in ambush made a sudden dash into Gibeah, spread out and put the whole city to the sword. The Israelites had arranged with the ambush that they should send up a great cloud of smoke from the city, and then the Israelites would counterattack.
The Benjamites had begun to inflict casualties on the Israelites (about thirty), and they said, 'We are defeating them as in the first battle.' But when the column of smoke began to rise from the city, the Benjamites turned and saw the whole city going up in smoke. Then the Israelites counterattacked, and the Benjamites were terrified, because they realized that disaster had come on them. So they fled before the Israelites in the direction of the wilderness, but they could not escape the battle. And the Israelites who came out of the towns cut them down there. They surrounded the Benjamites, chased them and easily overran them in the vicinity of Gibeah on the east. Eighteen thousand Benjamites fell, all of them valiant fighters. As they turned and fled toward the wilderness to the rock of Rimmon, the Israelites cut down five thousand men along the roads. They kept pressing after the Benjamites as far as Gidom and struck down two thousand more.
On that day twenty-five thousand Benjamite swordsmen fell, all of them valiant fighters. But six hundred of them turned and fled into the wilderness to the rock of Rimmon, where they stayed four months. The men of Israel went back to Benjamin and put all the towns to the sword, including the animals and everything else they found. All the towns they came across they set on fire.” (Judges 20:37-48)

This passage may seem like a bit of a repeat if you’ve been reading my recent blog posts. This section is essentially a re-telling of the battle that we saw in Judges 20:29-36. This is characteristic in Hebrew writing, so it’s not unusual that we see this. The narrator tells the battle story again, but with some more details added in.

We see in this passage that the town of Gibeah was quickly captured and set on fire to notify the rest of the army that it had been taken. The psychological impact of this on the Benjamites was significant. They had lost their key city! This would definitely shake their confidence, especially after victories on the previous two days.

All the Benjamites could do was try and run away, but the sheer numbers of the Israelite army made that impossible. Other Israelites from nearby towns even joined in to help cut off the Benjamites’ fleeing. Only a few hundred Benjamites (out of their initial 26,000) survived the battle. As the passage notes, they hid in caves in Rimmon for four months.

Israel then went back to the land of Benjamin and methodically destroyed all of the towns with fire. If one town (Gibeah) was immoral, it was likely that immorality had spread to the other nearby towns. Any bit of immorality left in the land could easily spread, so they wanted to destroy it all.

That may seem like a very mean thing to do, but it was actually God’s command. Deuteronomy 13:12-18 says that any city with idolaters was to be burned (people and animals), so that’s what they did. Gibeah’s immorality was very bad (even to the point of killing a concubine who was just passing through), so their punishment was also very bad.

Evil had finally caught up with them for their evil deeds. Gibeah and the tribe of Benjamin were reaping what they had sowed, according to God’s natural law. But this natural law doesn’t just apply to the nation of Israel; it applies to us today as well. If we sow evil in our lives, we will reap bad consequences. If we sow good in our lives, we will reap good consequences. If we are living an immoral life, then we will be punished for that in some way, like the Benjamites. But if we seek God and His ways in our lives like Israel did, then we will be rewarded with victory.

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