The War Between Israel and Benjamin

So all the Israelites from Dan to Beersheba,[a] including the land of Gilead, joined together before the Lord in the city of Mizpah. The leaders of all the tribes of Israel took their places in the meeting of the people of God. There were 400,000 soldiers with swords. (The people of Benjamin heard that the Israelites had gone up to Mizpah.) Then the Israelites said to the Levite, “Tell us how this evil thing happened.”

So the husband of the murdered woman answered, “My slave woman and I came to Gibeah in Benjamin to spend the night. During the night the men of Gibeah came after me. They surrounded the house and wanted to kill me. They forced my slave woman to have sexual relations and she died. I took her and cut her into parts and sent one part to each area of Israel because the people of Benjamin did this wicked and terrible thing in Israel. Now, all you Israelites, speak up. What is your decision?”

Then all the people stood up at the same time, saying, “None of us will go home. Not one of us will go back to his house! Now this is what we will do to Gibeah. We will throw lots. 10 That way we will choose ten men from every hundred men from all the tribes of Israel, and we will choose a hundred men from every thousand, and a thousand men from every ten thousand. These will find supplies for the army. Then the army will go to the city of Gibeah of Benjamin to repay them for the terrible thing they have done in Israel.” 11 So all the men of Israel were united and gathered against the city.

12 The tribes of Israel sent men throughout the tribe of Benjamin demanding, “What is this evil thing some of your men have done? 13 Hand over the wicked men in Gibeah so that we can put them to death. We must remove this evil from Israel.”

But the Benjaminites would not listen to their fellow Israelites. 14 The Benjaminites left their own cities and met at Gibeah to fight the Israelites. 15 In only one day the Benjaminites got 26,000 soldiers together who were trained with swords. They also had 700 chosen men from Gibeah. 16 Seven hundred of these trained soldiers were left-handed, each of whom could sling a stone at a hair and not miss!

17 The Israelites, except for the Benjaminites, gathered 400,000 soldiers with swords.

18 The Israelites went up to the city of Bethel and asked God, “Which tribe shall be first to attack the Benjaminites?”

The Lord answered, “Judah shall go first.”

19 The next morning the Israelites got up and made a camp near Gibeah. 20 The men of Israel went out to fight the Benjaminites and took their battle position at Gibeah. 21 Then the Benjaminites came out of Gibeah and killed 22,000 Israelites during the battle that day. 22-23 The Israelites went before the Lord and cried until evening. They asked the Lord, “Shall we go to fight our relatives, the Benjaminites, again?”

The Lord answered, “Go up and fight them.” The men of Israel encouraged each other. So they took the same battle positions they had taken the first day.

24 The Israelites came to fight the Benjaminites the second day. 25 The Benjaminites came out of Gibeah to attack the Israelites. This time, the Benjaminites killed 18,000 Israelites, all of whom carried swords.

26 Then the Israelites went up to Bethel. There they sat down and cried to the Lord and fasted all day until evening. They also brought burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to the Lord. 27 The Israelites asked the Lord a question. (In those days the Ark of the Agreement with God was there at Bethel. 28 A priest named Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, served before the Ark of the Agreement.) They asked, “Shall we go to fight our relatives, the Benjaminites, again, or shall we stop fighting?”

The Lord answered, “Go, because tomorrow I will hand them over to you.”

29 Then the Israelites set up ambushes all around Gibeah. 30 They went to fight against the Benjaminites at Gibeah on the third day, getting into position for battle as they had done before. 31 When the Benjaminites came out to fight them, the Israelites backed up and led the Benjaminites away from the city. The Benjaminites began to kill some of the Israelites as they had done before. About thirty Israelites were killed—some in the fields and some on the roads leading to Bethel and to Gibeah.

32 The Benjaminites said, “We are winning as before!”

But the Israelites said, “Let’s run. Let’s trick them into going farther away from their city and onto the roads.”

33 All the Israelites moved from their places and got into battle positions at a place named Baal Tamar. Then the Israelites ran out from their hiding places west of Gibeah. 34 Ten thousand of the best trained soldiers from all of Israel attacked Gibeah. The battle was very hard. The Benjaminites did not know disaster was about to come to them. 35 The Lord used the Israelites to defeat the Benjaminites. On that day the Israelites killed 25,100 Benjaminites, all armed with swords. 36 Then the Benjaminites saw that they were defeated.

The Israelites had moved back because they were depending on the surprise attack they had set up near Gibeah. 37 The men in hiding rushed into Gibeah, spread out, and killed everyone in the city with their swords. 38 Now the Israelites had set up a signal with the men in hiding. The men in the surprise attack were to send up a cloud of smoke from the city. 39 Then the army of Israel turned around in the battle.

The Benjaminites had killed about thirty Israelites. They were saying, “We are winning, as in the first battle!” 40 But then a cloud of smoke began to rise from the city. The Benjaminites turned around and saw that the whole city was going up in smoke. 41 Then the Israelites turned and began to fight. The Benjaminites were terrified because they knew that disaster was coming to them. 42 So the Benjaminites ran away from the Israelites toward the desert, but they could not escape the battle. And the Israelites who came out of the cities killed them. 43 They surrounded the Benjaminites and chased them and caught them in the area east of Gibeah. 44 So 18,000 brave Benjaminite fighters were killed. 45 The Benjaminites ran toward the desert to the rock of Rimmon, but the Israelites killed 5,000 Benjaminites along the roads. They chased them as far as Gidom and killed 2,000 more Benjaminites there.

46 On that day 25,000 Benjaminites were killed, all of whom had fought bravely with swords. 47 But 600 Benjaminites ran to the rock of Rimmon in the desert, where they stayed for four months. 48 Then the Israelites went back to the land of Benjamin and killed the people in every city and also the animals and everything they could find. And they burned every city they found.


  1. 20:1 Dan . . . Beersheba Dan was the city farthest north in Israel. Beersheba was the city farthest south. So this means all the people of Israel.