- The Levite's case heard in a general convention of the tribes, verse 1-7.
- They resolve to avenge his quarrel, verse 8-11.
- The Benjamites assemble in defence of the criminals, verse 12-17.
- The defeat of Israel in the two first battles, verse 18-25.
- They humble themselves before God, verse 26-28.
- The total rout of the Benjamites, verse 29-48.
All - That is, a great number, and especially the rulers of all the tribes, except Benjamin, verse 3,12. One man - That is, with one consent. Dan, &c. - Dan was the northern border of the land, near Lebanon; and Beersheba the southern border. Gilead - Beyond Jordan, where Reuben, Gad, and half Manasseh were. To the Lord - As to the Lord's tribunal: for God was not only present in the place where the ark and tabernacle was, but also in the assemblies of the gods, or judges, Psalms 82:1, and in all places where God's name is recorded, Exodus 20:24, and where two or three are met together in his name. Mizpeh - A place on the borders of Judah and Benjamin. This they chose, as a place they used to meet in upon solemn occasions, for its convenient situation for all the tribes within and without Jordan; and the being near the place where the fact was done, that it might be more throughly examined; and not far from Shiloh, where the tabernacle was, whither they might go or send.
Four hundred thousand - The number is here set down, to shew their zeal and forwardness in punishing such a villainy; the strange blindness of the Benjamites that durst oppose so great and united a Body; and that the success of battles depends not upon great numbers, seeing this great host was twice defeated by the Benjamites.
Heard - Like persons unconcerned and resolved, they neither went nor sent thither: partly for their own pride, and stubbornness; partly because as they were loth to give up any of their brethren to justice, so they presumed the other tribes would never proceed to war against them; and partly, from a Divine infatuation hardening that wicked tribe to their own destruction. Tell us - They speak to the Levite, and his servant, and his host, who doubtless were present upon this occasion.
Slain me - Except I would either submit to their unnatural lust, which I was resolved to withstand even unto death: or deliver up my concubine to them, which I was forced to do.
Folly - That is, a lewd folly; most ignominious and impudent wickedness.
Ye are - The sons of that holy man, who for one filthy action left an eternal brand upon one of his own sons: a people in covenant with the holy God, whose honour you are obliged to vindicate, and who hath expressly commanded you to punish all such notorious enormities.
His tent - That is, his habitation, until we have revenged this injury.
According, &c. - That we may punish them as such a wickedness deserves. In Israel - This is added as an aggravation, that they should do that in Israel, or among God's peculiar people, which was esteemed abominable even among the Heathen.
All the tribe - They take a wise and a just course, in sending to all the parts of the tribe, to separate the innocent from the guilty, and to give them a fair opportunity of preventing their ruin, by doing what their duty, honour, and interest obliged them to; by delivering up those vile malefactors, whom they could not keep without bringing the curse of God upon themselves.
Evil - Both the guilt and the punishment, wherein all Israel will be involved, if they do not punish it. Would not hearken - From the pride of their hearts, which made them scorn to submit to their brethren; from a conceit of their own valour; and from God's just judgment.
Were numbered - "How does this agree with the following numbers? For all that were slain of Benjamin were twenty-five thousand and one hundred men, verse 35, and there were only six hundred that survived, verse 47, which make only twenty-five thousand and seven hundred." The other thousand men were either left in some of their cities, where they were slain, verse 48, or were cut off in the two first battles, wherein it is unreasonable to think they had an unbloody victory: and as for these twenty-five thousand and one hundred men, they were all slain in the third battle.
Not miss - An hyperbolical expression, signifying, that they could do this with great exactness. And this was very considerable and one ground of the Benjamites confidence.
Men of Israel - Such as were here present, for it is probable they had a far greater number of men, being six hundred thousand before their entrance into Canaan.
Children of Israel - Some sent in the name of all. House of God - To Shiloh, which was not far from Mizpeh. Which - This was asked to prevent emulations and contentions: but they do not ask whether they should go against them, or no, for that they knew they ought to do by the will of God already revealed: nor yet do they seek to God for his help by prayer, and fasting, and sacrifice, as in all reason they ought to have done; but were confident of success, because of their great numbers, and righteous cause.
Destroyed, &c. - Why would God suffer them to have so great a loss in so good a cause? Because they had many and great sins reigning among themselves, and they should not have come to so great a work of God, with polluted hands, but should have pulled the beam out of their own eye, before they attempted to take that out of their brother Benjamin's eye: which because they did not, God doth it for them, bringing them through the fire, that they might he purged from their dross; it being probable that the great God who governs every stroke in battle, did so order things, that their worst members should be cut off, which was a great blessing to the whole common - wealth. And God would hereby shew, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong. We must never lay that weight on an arm of flesh, which only the Rock of Ages will bear.
Encouraged - Heb. strengthened themselves, supporting themselves with the consciousness of the justice of their cause, and putting themselves in better order for defending themselves, and annoying their enemies.
Wept - Not so much for their sins, as for their defeat and loss. My brother-They impute their ill success, not to their own sins, but to their taking up arms against their brethren. But still they persist in their former neglect of seeking God's assistance in the way which he had appointed, as they themselves acknowledged presently, by doing those very things which now they neglected.
Fasted - Sensible of their not being truly humbled for their sins, which now they discover to be the cause of their ill success. Burnt, &c. - To make atonement to God for their own sins. Peace-offerings - To bless God for sparing so many of them, whereas he might justly have cut off all of them when their brethren were slain: to implore his assistance, yea and to give thanks for the victory, which now they were confident he would give them.
Phinehas - This is added to give us light about the time of this history, and to shew it was not done in the order in which it is here placed, after Samson's death, but long before. Stood - That is ministered as high-priest. The Lord said - When they sought God after the due order, and truly humbled themselves for their sins, he gives them a satisfactory answer.
Liers in wait - Though they were assured of the success, by a particular promise, yet they do not neglect the use of means; as well knowing that the certainty of God's promises doth not excuse, but rather require man's diligent use of all fit means for the accomplishment of them.
The children of Israel - That is, a considerable part of them, who were ordered to give the first onset, and then to counterfeit flight, to draw the Benjamites forth from their strong-hold. See verse 32.
Chosen men - Selected out of the main body, which was at Baal-tamar; and these were to march directly to Gibeah on the one side, whilst the liers in wait stormed it on the other side, and whilst the great body of the army laboured to intercept the Benjamites, who having pursued the Israelites that pretended to flee, now endeavoured to retreat to Gibeah.
Drew along - Or, extended themselves; whereas before they lay close and contracted into a narrow compass, now they spread themselves, and marched in rank and file as armies do.
There fell - Namely, in the field, of battle.
Gleaned - That is, a metaphor from those who gather grapes or corn so clearly and fully, that they leave no relicks for those who come after them.
Twenty and five thousand - Besides the odd hundred expressed verse 35, but here only the great number is mentioned, the less being omitted, as inconsiderable. Here are also a thousand more omitted, because he speaks only of them who fell in that third day of battle.
Turned again - Having destroyed those that came to Gibeah, and into the field, now they follow them home to their several habitations. Men - Comprehensively taken, so as to include women and children. If this seem harsh and bloody, either it may be ascribed to military fury; or perhaps it may be partly justified, from that command of God in a parallel case, Deuteronomy 13:15, and from that solemn oath by which they had devoted to death all that came not up to Mizpeh, chap. 21:5, which none of the Benjamites did.