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War with Benjamin. 20 The men of Israel marched out to do battle with Benjamin and drew up in battle array against them at Gibeah. 21 The Benjaminites marched out of Gibeah that day and felled twenty-two thousand men of Israel. 22 [a]But the army of the men of Israel took courage and again drew up for battle in the place where they had drawn up on the previous day. 23 Then the Israelites went up and wept before the Lord until evening. “Shall I again engage my brother Benjamin in battle?” they asked the Lord; and the Lord answered: Attack! 24 When the Israelites drew near to the Benjaminites on the second day, 25 Benjamin marched out of Gibeah against them again and felled eighteen thousand Israelites, all of them swordsmen. 26 So the entire Israelite army went up and entered Bethel, where they sat weeping before the Lord. They fasted that day until evening and presented burnt offerings and communion offerings before the Lord. 27 The Israelites consulted the Lord (for the ark of the covenant of the Lord was there in those days, 28 and Phinehas, son of Eleazar, son of Aaron,[b] was standing in his presence in those days), and asked, “Shall I again go out to battle with my brother Benjamin, or shall I stop?” The Lord said: Attack! For tomorrow I will deliver him into your power. 29 [c](A)So Israel set men in ambush around Gibeah.

30 When the Israelites went up against the Benjaminites on the third day, they drew up against Gibeah as on other occasions. 31 When the Benjaminites marched out to meet the army, they began, as on other occasions, to strike down some of the troops along the highways, one of which goes up to Bethel and one to Gibeah in the open country; about thirty Israelites were slain. 32 The Benjaminites thought, “They are routed before us as previously.” The Israelites, however, were thinking, “We will flee and draw them out from the city onto the highways.” 33 And then all the men of Israel rose from their places, forming up at Baal-tamar, and the Israelites in ambush rushed from their place west of Gibeah 34 and advanced against Gibeah with ten thousand picked men from all Israel. The fighting was severe, but no one knew that a disaster was closing in. 35 The Lord defeated Benjamin before Israel; and on that day the Israelites killed twenty-five thousand one hundred men of Benjamin, all of them swordsmen.

36 Then the Benjaminites saw that they were defeated. The men of Israel gave ground to Benjamin, trusting in the ambush they had set at Gibeah. 37 Then the men in ambush, having made a sudden dash against Gibeah, marched in and put the whole city to the sword. 38 The arrangement the men of Israel had with the men in ambush was that they would send up a smoke signal from the city,

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  1. 20:22–23 These two verses seem to be transposed. The day of supplication described in v. 23 must have preceded the assembly for battle reported in v. 22.
  2. 20:28 Phinehas, son of Eleazar, son of Aaron: the main line of the priesthood was traced through a grandson of Aaron by this name; see Ex 6:25 and Nm 25:10–13. Whether the priest identified here is the same man or his lineal descendant, the mention of his name adds authority to the sanctuary at Bethel. The reference to the ark of the covenant in the preceding verse has the same effect.
  3. 20:29–46 The Israelites are successful in their third attempt to defeat Benjamin. Leaving an ambush behind, they decoy the enemy troops out of the city by pretending to be routed as on the two previous occasions. The stratagem is strongly reminiscent of that employed in the conquest of Ai (Jos 8). Two accounts of the present battle against Gibeah are preserved, one in 20:29–36a and another in 20:36b–46.

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