Into the book of the wars of the Lord the story of this chapter must be
brought, but it looks as sad and uncomfortable as any article in all
that history; for there is nothing in it that looks in the least bright
or pleasant but the pious zeal of Israel against the wickedness of the
men of Gibeah, which made it on their side a just and holy war; but
otherwise the obstinacy of the Benjamites in protecting their
criminals, which was the foundation of the war, the vast loss which the
Israelites sustained in carrying on the war, and (though the righteous
cause was victorious at last) the issuing of the war in the almost
utter extirpation of the tribe of Benjamin, make it, from first to
last, melancholy. And yet this happened soon after the glorious
settlement of Israel in the land of promise, upon which one would have
expected every thing to be prosperous and serene. In this chapter we
I. The Levite's cause heard in a general convention of the tribes,
II. A unanimous resolve to avenge his quarrel upon the men of Gibeah,
III. The Benjamites appearing in defence of the criminals,
IV. The defeat of Israel in the first and second day's battle,
V. Their humbling themselves before God upon that occasion,
VI. The total rout they gave the Benjamites in the third engagement, by
a stratagem, by which they were all cut off, except 600 men,
And all this the effect of the indignities done to one poor Levite and
his wife; so little do those that do iniquity consider what will be the
|The Combination Against Gibeah.
||B. C. 1410.|
1 Then all the children of Israel went out, and the
congregation was gathered together as one man, from Dan even to
Beer-sheba, with the land of Gilead, unto the LORD in Mizpeh.
2 And the chief of all the people, even of all the tribes of
Israel, presented themselves in the assembly of the people of
God, four hundred thousand footmen that drew sword.
3 (Now the children of Benjamin heard that the children of
Israel were gone up to Mizpeh.) Then said the children of Israel,
Tell us, how was this wickedness?
4 And the Levite, the husband of the woman that was slain,
answered and said, I came into Gibeah that belongeth to
Benjamin, I and my concubine, to lodge.
5 And the men of Gibeah rose against me, and beset the house
round about upon me by night, and thought to have slain me: and
my concubine have they forced, that she is dead.
6 And I took my concubine, and cut her in pieces, and sent her
throughout all the country of the inheritance of Israel: for they
have committed lewdness and folly in Israel.
7 Behold, ye are all children of Israel; give here your
advice and counsel.
8 And all the people arose as one man, saying, We will not any
of us go to his tent, neither will we any of us turn into his
9 But now this shall be the thing which we will do to Gibeah;
we will go up by lot against it;
10 And we will take ten men of a hundred throughout all the
tribes of Israel, and a hundred of a thousand, and a thousand
out of ten thousand, to fetch victual for the people, that they
may do, when they come to Gibeah of Benjamin, according to all
the folly that they have wrought in Israel.
11 So all the men of Israel were gathered against the city,
knit together as one man.
I. A general meeting of all the congregation of Israel to examine the
matter concerning the Levite's concubine, and to consider what was to
be done upon it,
It does not appear that they were summoned by the authority of any one
common head, but they came together by the consent and agreement, as it
were, of one common heart, fired with a holy zeal for the honour of God
1. The place of their meeting was Mizpeh; they gathered together
unto the Lord there, for Mizpeh was so very near to Shiloh that their
encampment might very well be supposed to reach from Mizpeh to Shiloh.
Shiloh was a small town, and therefore, when there was a general
meeting of the people to represent themselves before God, they chose
Mizpeh for their head-quarters, which was the next adjoining city of
note, perhaps because they were not willing to give that trouble to
Shiloh which so great an assembly would occasion, it being the resident
of the priests that attended the tabernacle.
2. The persons that met were all Israel, from Dan (the city very lately
in the north to Beersheba in the south, with the land of Gilead (that
is, the tribes on the other side Jordan), all as one man, so
unanimous were they in their concern for the public good. Here was an
assembly of the people of God, not a convocation of the Levites and
priests, though a Levite was the person principally concerned in the
cause, but an assembly of the people, to whom the Levite referred
himself with an Appello populum--I appeal to the people. The
people of God were 400,000 footmen that drew the sword,
that is, were armed and disciplined, and fit for service, and some of
them perhaps such as had known the wars of Canaan,
In this assembly of all Israel, the chief (or corners) of the people
(for rulers are the corner-stones of the people, that keep all
together) presented themselves as the representatives of the rest. They
rendered themselves at their respective posts, at the head of the
thousands and hundreds, the fifties and tens, over which they presided;
for so much order and government, we may suppose, at least, they had
among them, though they had no general or commander-in-chief. So that
(1.) A general congress of the states for counsel. The chief of the
people presented themselves, to lead and direct in this affair.
(2.) A general rendezvous of the militia for action, all that drew
sword and were men of war
not hirelings nor pressed men, but the best freeholders, that went at
their own charge. Israel were above 600,000 when they came into Canaan,
and we have reason to think they were at this time much increased,
rather than diminished; but then all between twenty and sixty were
military men, now we may suppose more than the one half exempted from
bearing arms to cultivate the land; so that these were as the trained
bands. The militia of the two tribes and a half were 40,000
but the tribes were many more.
II. Notice given to the tribe of Benjamin of this meeting
They heard that the children of Israel had gone up to Mizpeh.
Probably they had a legal summons sent them to appear with their
brethren, that the cause might be fairly debated, before any
resolutions were taken up upon it, and so the mischiefs that followed
would have been happily prevented; but the notice they had of this
meeting rather hardened and exasperated them than awakened them to
think of the things that belonged to their peace and honour.
III. A solemn examination of the crime charged upon the men of Gibeah.
A very horrid representation of it had been made by the report of the
messengers that were sent to call them together, but it was fit it
should be more closely enquired into, because such things are often
made worse than really they were; a committee therefore was appointed
to examine the witnesses (upon oath, no doubt) and to report the
matter. It is only the testimony of the Levite himself that is here
recorded, but it is probable his servant, and the old man, were
examined, and gave in their testimony, for that more than one were
examined appears by the original
which is, Tell you us; and the law was that none should be put
to death, much less so many, upon the testimony of one witness only.
The Levite gives a particular account of the matter: that he came into
Gibeah only as a traveller to lodge there, not giving the least shadow
of suspicion that he designed them any ill turn
and that the men of Gibeah, even those that were of substance among
them, that should have been a protection to the stranger within their
gates, riotously set upon the house where he lodged, and thought to
slay him; he could not, for shame relate the demand which they,
without shame, made,
They declared their sin as Sodom, even the sin of Sodom, but his
modesty would not suffer him to repeat it; it was sufficient to say
they would have slain him, for he would rather have been slain than
have submitted to their villany; and, if they had got him into their
hands, they would have abused him to death, witness what they had done
to his concubine: They have forced her that she is dead,
And, to excite in his countrymen an indignation at this wickedness, he
had sent pieces of the mangled body to all the tribes, which had
fetched them together to bear their testimony against the lewdness
and folly committed in Israel,
All lewdness is folly, but especially lewdness in Israel. For those to
defile their own bodies who have the honourable seal of the covenant in
their flesh, for those to defy the divine vengeance to whom it is so
clearly revealed from heaven--Nabal is their name, and folly is with
them. He concludes his declaration with an appeal to the judgment of
You are all children of Israel, and therefore you know law
"You are a holy people to God, and have a dread of every thing which
will dishonour God and defile the land; you are of the same community,
members of the same body, and therefore likely to feel from the
distempers of it; you are children of Israel, that ought to take
particular care of the Levites, God's tribe, among you, and therefore
give your advice and counsel what is to be done."
IV. The resolution they came to hereupon, which was that, being now
together, they would not disperse till they had seen vengeance taken
upon this wicked city, which was the reproach and scandal of their
1. Their zeal against the lewdness that was committed. They would not
return to their houses, how much soever their families and their
affairs at home wanted them, till they had vindicated the honour of God
and Israel, and recovered with their swords, if it could not be had
otherwise, that satisfaction for the crime which the justice of the
nation called for,
By this they showed themselves children of Israel indeed, that they
preferred the public interest before their private concerns.
2. Their prudence in sending out a considerable body of their forces to
fetch provisions for the rest,
One of ten, and he chosen by lot, 40,000 in all, must go to their
respective countries, whence they came, to fetch bread and other
necessaries for the subsistence of this great army; for when they came
from home they took with them provisions only for a journey to Mizpeh,
not for an encampment (which might prove long) before Gibeah. This was
to prevent their scattering to forage for themselves, for, if they had
done this, it would have been hard to get them all together again,
especially all in so good a mind. Note, When there appears in people a
pious zeal for any good work it is best to strike while the iron is
hot, for such zeal is apt to cool quickly if the prosecution of the
work be delayed. Let it never be said that we left that good work to be
done to-morrow which we could as well have done to-day.
3. Their unanimity in these counsels, and the execution of them. The
resolution was voted, Nemine contradicente--Without a dissenting
it was one and all; and, when it was put in execution, they were
knit together as one man,
This was their glory and strength, that the several tribes had no
separate interests when the common good was concerned.
|The War with the Benjamites.
||B. C. 1410.|
12 And the tribes of Israel sent men through all the tribe of
Benjamin, saying, What wickedness is this that is done among
13 Now therefore deliver us the men, the children of Belial,
which are in Gibeah, that we may put them to death, and put
away evil from Israel. But the children of Benjamin would not
hearken to the voice of their brethren the children of Israel:
14 But the children of Benjamin gathered themselves together
out of the cities unto Gibeah, to go out to battle against the
children of Israel.
15 And the children of Benjamin were numbered at that time out
of the cities twenty and six thousand men that drew sword, beside
the inhabitants of Gibeah, which were numbered seven hundred
16 Among all this people there were seven hundred chosen men
lefthanded; every one could sling stones at a hair breadth,
and not miss.
17 And the men of Israel, beside Benjamin, were numbered four
hundred thousand men that drew sword: all these were men of
I. The fair and just demand which the tribes of Israel, now encamped,
sent to the tribe of Benjamin, to deliver up the malefactors of Gibeah
If the tribe of Benjamin had come up, as they ought to have done, to
the assembly, and agreed with them in their resolution, there would
have been none to deal with but the men of Gibeah only, but they, by
their absence, taking part with the criminals, application must be made
to them all. The Israelites were zealous against the wickedness that
was committed, yet they were discreet in their zeal, and did not think
it would justify them in falling upon the whole tribe of Benjamin
unless they, by refusing to give up the criminals, and protecting them
against justice, should make themselves guilty, ex post
facto--as accessaries after the fact. They desire them to
consider how great the wickedness was that was committed
and that it was done among them: and how necessary it was therefore
that they should either punish the malefactors with death themselves,
according to the law of Moses, or deliver them up to the general
assembly, to be so much the more publicly and solemnly punished, that
evil might be put away from Israel, the national guilt removed, the
infection stopped by cutting off the gangrened part, and national
judgments prevented; for the sin was so very like that of the Sodomites
that they might justly fear, if they did not punish it, God would rain
hail from heaven upon them, as he did, not only upon Sodom, but the
neighbouring cities. If the Israelites had not made this reasonable
demand, they would have had much more reason to lament the following
desolations of Benjamin. All methods of accommodation must be used
before we go to war or go to law. The demand was like that of Joab's
2 Samuel 20:20,21.
"Only deliver up the traitor, and we will lay down our arms." On these
terms, and no other, God will be at peace with us, that we part with
our sins, that we mortify and crucify our lusts, and then all shall be
well; his anger will be turned away.
II. The wretched obstinacy and perverseness of the men of Benjamin, who
seem to have been as unanimous and zealous in their resolutions to
stand by the criminals as the rest of the tribes were to punish them,
so little sense had they of their honour, duty, and interest.
1. They were so prodigiously vile as to patronise the wickedness that
was committed: They would not hearken to the voice of their
either because those of that tribe were generally more vicious and
debauched at this time than the rest of the tribes, and therefore would
not bear to have that punished in others of which they knew themselves
guilty (some of the most fruitful and pleasant parts of Canaan fell to
the lot of this tribe; their land, like that of Sodom, was as the
garden of the Lord, which perhaps helped to make the inhabitants,
like the men of Sodom, wicked, and sinners before the Lord
or because (as bishop Patrick suggests) they took it ill that the other
tribes should meddle with their concerns; they would not do that which
they knew was their duty because they were reminded of it by their
brethren, by whom they scorned to be taught and controlled. If there
were any wise men among them that would have complied with the demand
made, yet they were overpowered by the majority, who thus made the
crime of the men of Gibeah their own. Thus we have fellowship with
the unfruitful works of darkness if we say A confederacy
with those that have, and make ourselves guilty of other men's sins by
countenancing and defending them. It seems there is no cause so bad but
it will find some patrons, some advocates, to appear for it; but woe
be to those by whom such offences come. Those will have a great
deal to answer for that obstruct the course of necessary justice, and
strengthen the hands of the wicked, by saying, O wicked man! thou
shalt not die.
2. They were so prodigiously vain and presumptuous as to make head
against the united force of all Israel. Never, surely, were men so
wretchedly infatuated as they were when they took up arms in
(1.) To so good a cause as Israel had. How could they expect to prosper
when they fought against justice, and consequently against the just God
himself, against those that had the high priest and the divine oracle
on their side, and so acted in downright rebellion against the sacred
and supreme authority of the nation.
(2.) To so great a force as Israel had. The disproportion of their
numbers was much greater than that,
where he that had but 10,000 durst not meet him that came against him
with 20,000, and therefore desired conditions of peace. There the enemy
was but two to one, here above fifteen to one; yet they despised
conditions of peace. All the forces they could bring into the field
were but 26,000 men, besides 700 men of Gibeah
yet with these they will dare to face 400,000 men of Israel,
Thus sinners are infatuated to their own ruin, and provoke him to
jealousy who is infinitely stronger than they,
1 Corinthians 10:22.
But it should seem they depended upon the skill of their men to make up
what was wanting in numbers, especially a regiment of slingers, 700
men, who, though left-handed, were so dexterous at slinging stones that
they would not be a hair's breadth beside their mark,
But these good marksmen were very much out in their aim when they
espoused this bad cause. Benjamin signifies the son of the
right hand, yet we find his posterity left-handed.
18 And the children of Israel arose, and went up to the house
of God, and asked counsel of God, and said, Which of us shall go
up first to the battle against the children of Benjamin? And the
LORD said, Judah shall go up first.
19 And the children of Israel rose up in the morning, and
encamped against Gibeah.
20 And the men of Israel went out to battle against Benjamin;
and the men of Israel put themselves in array to fight against
them at Gibeah.
21 And the children of Benjamin came forth out of Gibeah, and
destroyed down to the ground of the Israelites that day twenty
and two thousand men.
22 And the people the men of Israel encouraged themselves, and
set their battle again in array in the place where they put
themselves in array the first day.
23 (And the children of Israel went up and wept before the LORD
until even, and asked counsel of the LORD, saying, Shall I go up
again to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother? And
the LORD said, Go up against him.)
24 And the children of Israel came near against the children of
Benjamin the second day.
25 And Benjamin went forth against them out of Gibeah the
second day, and destroyed down to the ground of the children of
Israel again eighteen thousand men; all these drew the sword.
We have here the defeat of the men of Israel in their first and second
battle with the Benjamites.
I. Before their first engagement they asked counsel of God concerning
the order of their battle and were directed, and yet they were sorely
beaten. They did not think it was proper to ask of God whether they
should go up at all against Benjamin (the case was plain enough, the
men of Gibeah must be punished for their wickedness, and Israel must
inflict the punishment or it will not be done), but "Who shall go
that is, "Who shall be general of our army?" for, which soever tribe
was appointed to go first, the prince of that tribe must be looked upon
as commander-in-chief of the whole body. For, if they had meant it of
the order of their march only, it would have been proper to ask, "Who
shall go next?" and then, "Who next?" But, if they know that Judah must
go first, they know they must all observe the orders of the prince of
that tribe. This honour was done to Judah because our Lord Jesus was to
spring from that tribe, who was in all things to have the pre-eminence.
The tribe that went up first had the most honourable post, but withal
the most dangerous, and probably lost most in the engagement. Who would
strive for precedency that sees the peril of it? Yet though Judah, that
strong and valiant tribe, goes up first, and all the tribes of Israel
attend them, little Benjamin (so he is called,
is too hard for them all. The whole army lays siege to Gibeah,
The Benjamites advance to raise the siege, and the army prepares to
give them a warm reception,
But between the Benjamites that attacked them in the front with
incredible fury, and the men of Gibeah that sallied out upon their
rear, they were put into confusion and lost 22,000 men,
Here were no prisoners taken, for there was no quarter given, but all
put to the sword.
II. Before their second engagement they again asked counsel of
God, and more solemnly than before; for they wept before the
Lord until evening
lamenting the loss of so many brave men, especially as it was a token
of God's displeasure and would give occasion to the Benjamites to
triumph in the success of their wickedness. Also at this time they did
not ask who should go up first, but whether they should go up at all.
The intimate a reason why they should scruple to do it, especially now
that Providence had frowned upon them, because Benjamin was their
brother, and a readiness to lay down their arms if God should so order
them. God bade them go up; he allowed the attempt, for, though Benjamin
was their brother, he was a gangrened member of their body and must be
cut off. Upon this they encouraged themselves, perhaps more in their
own strength than in the divine commission, and made a second attempt
upon the forces of the rebels, in the same place where the former
battle was fought
with the hope of retrieving their credit upon the same spot of ground
where they had lost it, which they would not superstitiously change, as
if there were any thing unlucky in the place. But they were this second
time repulsed, with the loss of 18,000 men,
The former day's loss and this amounted to 40,000, which was just a
tenth part of the whole army, and the same number that they had drawn
out by lot to fetch victuals,
They decimated themselves for that service, and now God again decimated
them for the slaughter. But what shall we say to these things, that so
just and honourable a cause should thus be put to the worst once and
again? Were they not fighting God's battle against sin? Had they not
his commission? What, and yet miscarry thus!
1. God's judgments are a great deep, and his way is in the sea.
Clouds and darkness are often round about him, but
judgment and justice are always the habitation of his
throne. We may be sure of the righteousness, when we cannot see the
reasons, of God's proceedings.
2. God would hereby show them, and us in them, that the race is not
to the swift nor the battle to the strong, that we are not to
confide in numbers, which perhaps the Israelites did with too much
assurance. We must never lay the weight on an arm of flesh, which only
the Rock of ages will bear.
3. God designed hereby to correct Israel for their sins. They did well
to show such a zeal against the wickedness of Gibeah: but were there
not with them, even with them, sins against the Lord their God?
Those must be made to know their own iniquity that are forward in
condemning the iniquity of others. Some think it was a rebuke to them
for not witnessing against the idolatry of Micah and the Danites, by
which their religion was corrupted, as they now did against the
lewdness of Gibeah and the Benjamites, by which the public peace was
disturbed, though God had particularly ordered them to levy war upon
4. God would hereby teach us not to think it strange if a good cause
should suffer defeat fore a while, nor to judge of the merits of it by
the success of it. The interest of grace in the heart, and of religion
in the world, may be foiled, and suffer great loss, and seem to be
quite run down, but judgment will be brought forth to victory at last.
Vincimur in prælio, sed non in bello--We are foiled in a battle, but
not in the whole campaign. Right may fall, but it shall arise.
|The Defeat of the Benjamites.
||B. C. 1410.|
26 Then all the children of Israel, and all the people, went
up, and came unto the house of God, and wept, and sat there
before the LORD, and fasted that day until even, and offered
burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD.
27 And the children of Israel enquired of the LORD, (for the
ark of the covenant of God was there in those days,
28 And Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, stood
before it in those days,) saying, Shall I yet again go out to
battle against the children of Benjamin my brother, or shall I
cease? And the LORD said, Go up; for to morrow I will deliver
them into thine hand.
29 And Israel set liers in wait round about Gibeah.
30 And the children of Israel went up against the children of
Benjamin on the third day, and put themselves in array against
Gibeah, as at other times.
31 And the children of Benjamin went out against the people,
and were drawn away from the city; and they began to smite of
the people, and kill, as at other times, in the highways, of
which one goeth up to the house of God, and the other to Gibeah
in the field, about thirty men of Israel.
32 And the children of Benjamin said, They are smitten down
before us, as at the first. But the children of Israel said, Let
us flee, and draw them from the city unto the highways.
33 And all the men of Israel rose up out of their place, and
put themselves in array at Baal-tamar: and the liers in wait of
Israel came forth out of their places, even out of the meadows
34 And there came against Gibeah ten thousand chosen men out of
all Israel, and the battle was sore: but they knew not that evil
was near them.
35 And the LORD smote Benjamin before Israel: and the children
of Israel destroyed of the Benjamites that day twenty and five
thousand and a hundred men: all these drew the sword.
36 So the children of Benjamin saw that they were smitten: for
the men of Israel gave place to the Benjamites, because they
trusted unto the liers in wait which they had set beside Gibeah.
37 And the liers in wait hasted, and rushed upon Gibeah; and
the liers in wait drew themselves along, and smote all the city
with the edge of the sword.
38 Now there was an appointed sign between the men of Israel
and the liers in wait, that they should make a great flame with
smoke rise up out of the city.
39 And when the men of Israel retired in the battle, Benjamin
began to smite and kill of the men of Israel about thirty
persons: for they said, Surely they are smitten down before us,
as in the first battle.
40 But when the flame began to arise up out of the city with a
pillar of smoke, the Benjamites looked behind them, and, behold,
the flame of the city ascended up to heaven.
41 And when the men of Israel turned again, the men of Benjamin
were amazed: for they saw that evil was come upon them.
42 Therefore they turned their backs before the men of Israel
unto the way of the wilderness; but the battle overtook them; and
them which came out of the cities they destroyed in the midst
43 Thus they inclosed the Benjamites round about, and
chased them, and trode them down with ease over against Gibeah
toward the sunrising.
44 And there fell of Benjamin eighteen thousand men; all these
were men of valour.
45 And they turned and fled toward the wilderness unto the rock
of Rimmon: and they gleaned of them in the highways five thousand
men; and pursued hard after them unto Gidom, and slew two
thousand men of them.
46 So that all which fell that day of Benjamin were twenty and
five thousand men that drew the sword; all these were men of
47 But six hundred men turned and fled to the wilderness unto
the rock Rimmon, and abode in the rock Rimmon four months.
48 And the men of Israel turned again upon the children of
Benjamin, and smote them with the edge of the sword, as well the
men of every city, as the beast, and all that came to hand:
also they set on fire all the cities that they came to.
We have here a full account of the complete victory which the
Israelites obtained over the Benjamites in the third engagement: the
righteous cause was victorious at last, when the managers of it amended
what had been amiss; for, when a good cause suffers, it is for want of
good management. Observe then how the victory was obtained, and how it
I. How the victory was obtained. Two things they had trusted too much
to in the former engagements--the goodness of their cause and the
superiority of their numbers. It was true that they had both right and
strength on their side, which were great advantages; but they depended
too much upon them, to the neglect of those duties to which now, this
third time, when they see their error, they apply themselves.
1. They were previously so confident of the goodness of their cause
that they thought it needless to address themselves to God for his
presence and blessing. They took it for granted that God would bless
them, nay, perhaps they concluded that he owed them his favour, and
could not in justice withhold it, since it was in defence of virtue
that they appeared and took up arms. But God having shown them that he
was under no obligation to prosper their enterprise, that he neither
needed them nor was tied to them, that they were more indebted to him
for the honour of being ministers of his justice than he to them for
the service, now they became humble petitioners for success. Before
they only consulted God's oracle, Who shall go up first? And,
Shall we go up? But now they implored his favour, fasted and
prayed, and offered burnt-offerings and peace-offerings
to make an atonement for sin and an acknowledgment of their dependence
upon God, and as an expression of their desire towards him. We cannot
expect the presence of God with us, unless we thus seek it in the way
he has appointed. And when they were in this frame, and thus sought the
Lord, then he not only ordered them to go up against the Benjamites the
third time, but gave them a promise of victory: Tomorrow I will
deliver them into thy hand,
2. They were previously so confident of the greatness of their strength
that they thought it needless to use any art, to lay any ambush, or
form a stratagem, not doubting but to conquer purely by a strong hand;
but now they saw it was requisite to use some policy, as if they had an
enemy to deal with them that had been superior in number; accordingly,
they set liers in wait
and gained their point, as their fathers did before Ai
stratagems of that kind being most likely to take effect after a
previous defeat, which has flushed the enemy, and made the pretended
flight the less suspected. The management of this artifice is here very
largely described. The assurance God had given them of success in this
day's action, instead of making them remiss and presumptuous, set all
heads and hands on work for the effecting of what God had promised.
(1.) Observe the method they took. The body of the army faced the city
of Gibeah, as they had done before, advancing towards the gates,
The Benjamites, the body of whose army was now quartered at Gibeah,
sallied out upon them, and charged them with great bravery. The
besiegers gave back, retired with precipitation, as if their hearts
failed them upon the sight of the Benjamites, which they were willing
to believe, proudly imagining that by their former success they had
made themselves very formidable. Some loss the Israelites sustained in
this counterfeit flight, about thirty men being cut off in their rear,
But, when the Benjamites were all drawn out of the city, the ambush
seized the city
gave a signal to the body of the army
which immediately turned upon them
and, it should seem, another considerable party that was posted at
Baal-tamar came upon them at the same time
so that the Benjamites were quite surrounded, which put them into the
greatest consternation that could be. A sense of guilt now disheartened
them, and the higher their hopes had been raised the more grievous was
this confusion. At first the battle was sore
the Benjamites fought with fury; but, when they saw what a snare they
were drawn into, they thought one pair of heels (as we say) was worth
two pair of hands, and they made the best of their way towards the
but in vain: the battle overtook them, and, to complete their
distress, those who came out of the cities of Israel, that
waited to see the event of the battle, joined with their pursuers, and
helped to cut them off. Every man's hand was against them.
(2.) Observe in this story,
[1.] That the Benjamites, in the beginning of the battle, were
confident that the day was their own: They are smitten down before
Sometimes God suffers wicked men to be lifted up in successes and
hopes, that their fall may be the sorer. See how short their joy is,
and their triumphing but for a moment. Let not him that girdeth on
the harness boast, except he has reason to boast in God.
[2.] Evil was near them and they did not know it,
they saw, when it was too late to prevent it, that evil had come
upon them. What evils may at any time be near us we cannot tell,
but the less they are feared the heavier they fall. Sinners will not be
persuaded to see evil near them, but how dreadful will it be when it
comes and there is no escaping!
1 Thessalonians 5:3.
[3.] Though the men of Israel played their parts so well in this
engagement, yet the victory is ascribed to God
The Lord smote Benjamin before Israel. The battle was his, and
so was the success.
[4.] They trode down the men of Benjamin with ease when God
fought against them,
It is an easy thing to trample upon those who have made God their
II. How the victory was prosecuted and improved in a military execution
done upon these sinners against their own souls.
1. Gibeah itself, that nest of lewdness, was destroyed in the first
place. The ambush that entered the city by surprise drew themselves
along, that is, dispersed themselves into the several parts of it,
which they might easily do, now that all the men of war had sallied out
and very presumptuously left it defenceless; and they smote all they
found, even women and children, with the sword
and set fire to the city,
Sin brings ruin upon cities.
2. The army in the field was quite routed and cut off: 18,000 men of
valour lay dead upon the spot,
3. Those that escaped from the field were pursued, and cut off in their
flight, to the number of 7000,
It is to no purpose to think of out-running divine vengeance. Evil
pursues sinners, and it will overtake them.
4. Even those that tarried at home were involved in the ruin. They
let their sword devour for ever, not considering that it
would be bitterness in the latter end, as Abner pleads long after,
when he was at the head of an army of Benjamites, probably with an eye
to this very story,
2 Samuel 2:25,26.
They put to the sword all that breathed, and set fire to all the
So that of all the tribe of Benjamin, for aught that appears, there
remained none alive but 600 men that took shelter in the rock Rimmon,
and lay close there four months,
(1.) It is difficult to justify this severity as it was Israel's act.
The whole tribe of Benjamin was culpable; but must they therefore be
treated as devoted Canaanites? That it was done in the heat of war,
that this was the way of prosecuting victories which the sword of
Israel had been accustomed to, that the Israelites were extremely
exasperated against the Benjamites for the slaughter they had made
among them in the two former engagements, will go but a little way to
excuse the cruelty of this execution. It is true they had sworn that
whosoever did not come up to Mizpeh should be put to death,
But that, if it was a justifiable oath, yet extended only to the men of
war; the rest were not expected to come. Yet,
(2.) It is easy to justify the hand of God in it. Benjamin had sinner
against him, and God had threatened that, if they forgot him, they
should perish as the nations that were before them perished
who were all in this manner cut off.
(3.) It is easy likewise to improve it for warning against the
beginnings of sin: they are like the letting forth of water,
therefore leave it off before it be meddled with, for we know not
what will be in the end thereof. The eternal ruin of souls will
be worse, and more fearful, than all these desolations of a tribe. This
affair of Gibeah is twice spoken of by the prophet Hosea as the
beginning of the corruption of Israel and a pattern to all that
They have deeply corrupted themselves as in the days of Gibeah;
Thou hast sinned from the days of Gibeah; and it is added that
the battle in Gibeah against the children of iniquity did not
(that is, did not at first) overtake them.