Judges 20 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)

Judges 20
Pulpit Commentary
Then all the children of Israel went out, and the congregation was gathered together as one man, from Dan even to Beersheba, with the land of Gilead, unto the LORD in Mizpeh.
Verse 1. - Went out, i.e. from their several homes to the place of meeting. The congregation. The technical term (not, however, found in Samuel and Kings, except in 1 Kings 12:20) for the whole Israelitish people (Exodus 12:3; Exodus 16:1, 2, 9; Leviticus 4:15; Joshua 18:1, etc.). From Dan to Beersheba. Dan, or Laish (Judges 18:29), being the northernmost point, and Beersheba (now Bir-es-saba, the springs so called) in the south of Judah the southernmost. It cannot be inferred with certainty from this expression that the Danite occupation of Laish had taken place at this time, though it may have done so, because we do not know when this narrative was written, and the phrase is only used as a proverbial expression familiar in the writer's time. The land of Gilead. In its widest sense, meaning the whole of trans-Jordanic Israel (see Judges 10:8; Judges 11:1, etc.). Mizpeh, or, as it is always written in Hebrew, ham-Mizpeh, with the article (see Judges 21:1). The Mizpeh here mentioned is not the same as the Mizpeh of Judges 10:17; Judges 11:11, 29, 34, which was in Gilead, but was situated in the tribe of Benjamin (Joshua 18:26). That it was a national place of meeting in the time of Samuel is clear from 1 Samuel 7:5-12, and we learn from ver. 16 of that same chapter that it was one of the places to which Samuel went on circuit. We find it a place of national meeting also in 1 Samuel 10:17, and even so late as 2 Kings 25:23, and in the time of the Maccabees (1 Macc. 3:46). Its vicinity to Shiloh, where the tabernacle was, was probably one reason why it was made a centre to the whole congregation (see especially 1 Samuel 10:17, 22, 25). Its exact site is not known with certainty, but it is thought to be that of Nebi Samuil, from which Jerusalem is seen at about two hours' distance to the south-east. Unto the Lord, i.e. in the presence of the tabernacle, which was doubtless brought there, on so solemn an occasion, from Shiloh (cf. Exodus 34:34; Leviticus 1:3; Judges 11:11; Judges 21:2, and ver. 26 of this chapter).
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.
Verse 2. - The chief. The word here used means the corner-stones of a building. Hence it is applied to the chief men, who, as it were, bind and keep together the whole people. Their presence at this great meeting is mentioned to show that it was a regularly constituted assembly of all Israel. The same phrase occurs 1 Samuel 14:38, and Isaiah 19:13 (the stay of the tribes, A.V.). The numbers (400,000) are of course those of the whole congregation. The assembly of the people of God. So, Numbers 16:3; Numbers 20:4, Israel is called the congregation of the Lord; and Nehemiah 13:1, the congregation of God. Not dissimilar was the first great council of the Church, consisting of the Church (ἡ ἐκελησια) i.e. the assembly of disciples) and the apostles and elders (who were the cornerstones, the lapides angulares, thereof). See Acts 15:4, 6, 12. Four hundred thousand. See ver. 17. The enumeration in the wilderness gave 603,550 (Numbers 2:32; Numbers 11:21), and at the second numbering 601,730 (Numbers 26:51). In 1 Samuel 11:8 a general assembly of the whole people, summoned by sending a piece of the flesh of a yoke of oxen "throughout all the coasts of Israel," amounted to 330,000. David's numbering gave of Israel 800,000, and of Judah 500,000, in all 1,300,000; but these were not assembled together, but numbered at their own homes. Jehoshaphat's men of war amounted to 1,160,000 according to 2 Chronicles 17:14-18. In the time of Amaziah there were of Judah alone 300,000 men able to go forth to war (2 Chronicles 24:6).
(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?
Verse 3. - The children of Benjamin heard, etc. This seems to be mentioned to show that the absence of the Benjamites from the national council was not from ignorance, but from contumacy. Tell as, etc. This was addressed to all whom it might concern. The Levite answered.
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.
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.
Verse 5. - And thought to have slain me. This was so far true that it is likely he was in fear of his life; but he doubtless shaped his narrative so as to conceal his own cowardice in the transaction. We have a similar example of an unfaithful narration of facts in the letter of Claudius Lysias to Felix (Acts 23:27). The men of Gibeah. The masters, as in Judges 9:2, meaning the citizens.
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.
Behold, ye are all children of Israel; give here your advice and counsel.
Verse 7. - Ye are all children of Israel. He appeals to them as men bound to wipe away the shame and disgrace of their common country. He speaks with force and dignity under the sense of a grievous wrong and a crushing sorrow.
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 house.
Verse 8. - The people - with the emphatic meaning of the whole people of Israel, the assembly of the people of God, as in ver. 2. As one man. There was but one resolve, and one sentiment, and one expression of opinion, in that vast multitude. Not one would go home till due punishment had been inflicted upon Gibeah of Benjamin. To his tent, i.e. home, as in Judges 19:9.
But now this shall be the thing which we will do to Gibeah; we will go up by lot against it;
Verse 9. - We will go up by lot against it. The words we will go up are not in the Hebrew, but are supplied by the Septuagint, who very likely found in their Hebrew copy the word na'aleh, we will go up, which has since (perchance) fallen out of the Hebrew text from its resemblance to the following word 'aleha against it. The sense will then be, Not one of us will shrink from the dangers of the war; but we will cast lots who shall go up against Gibeah, and who shall be employed in collecting victuals for the army, 40,000 having to be told off for the latter service. And exactly in the same spirit (if indeed the answer was not actually given by lot) they inquired of the Lord who should go up first (in ver. 18), and, we may presume also, who should follow in the subsequent attacks, though this is omitted for brevity. Others, however, think the words against it by lot are purposely abrupt, and that the meaning is that Israel would deal with Gibeah as they had done with the Canaanites, viz., destroy their city, and divide its territory by lot among the other tribes, after the analogy of Joshua 18:8-10. But this interpretation is not borne out by what actually happened, nor is the phrase a likely one to have been used.
And we will take ten men of an hundred throughout all the tribes of Israel, and an 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.
So all the men of Israel were gathered against the city, knit together as one man.
And the tribes of Israel sent men through all the tribe of Benjamin, saying, What wickedness is this that is done among you?
Verse 12. - Tribe of Benjamin. The Hebrew has tribes, meaning probably families, as the word is used Numbers 4:18. Vice versa, family is used for tribe, Judges 17:7; Judges 18:11. What wickedness, etc. The message was perhaps toe sharp and peremptory to be successful. It roused the pride and tribal independence of the Benjamites to resist. We must suppose the message to have preceded in point of time the hostile gathering recorded in ver. 11. It was probably sent before the council broke up (see above, Judges 7:25; Judges 8:4, and note).
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:
Verse 13. - Children of Belial. See Judges 19:22, note. There seems to be a reference here to Deuteronomy 13:12-15.
But the children of Benjamin gathered themselves together out of the cities unto Gibeah, to go out to battle against the children of Israel.
Verse 14. - But the children of Benjamin. It should be And the children, etc. It is not dependent upon the preceding verse, but begins a new head of the narrative. From the cities, i.e. the different cities of the tribe of Benjamin, enumerated in Joshua 18:21-28, twenty-six in number.
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 chosen men.
Verse 15. - Twenty and six thousand. The numbers of Benjamin in the wilderness were at the first numbering 35,400, and at the second 45,600 (Numbers 1:36; Numbers 2:23; Numbers 26:41). It is impossible to account with certainty for the falling off in the numbers by so many as near 20,000; but perhaps many were slain in the wars of Canaan, and the unsettled times were unfavourable to early marriages. For the whole of Israel there was, as appeared by ver. 2, note, a falling off of nearly 200,000 men, or, to speak exactly (601,730-400,000 +26,700), of 175,030. Which were numbered. There is some obscurity in this latter clause; but, in spite of the accents being opposed to it, the A.V. seems certainly right. The rendering acording to the accents, "they (the Benjamites) were numbered, besides the inhabitants of Gibeah, seven hundred chosen men," makes no sense, and does not explain who the 700 were. The population of Gibeah would be about 5 × 700, i.e. 3500, according to this statement.
Among all this people there were seven hundred chosen men lefthanded; every one could sling stones at an hair breadth, and not miss.
Verse 16. - Seven hundred... men left-handed. It is curious that the tribe of Benjamin, which means son of the right hand, should have this peculiar institution of a corps of left-handed men. Ehud the Benjamite was a man left-handed (Judges 3:15; see also 1 Chronicles 12:2). The Roman name Scaexola means left-handed. For the use of the sling see 1 Samuel 17:40, 49. Diodorus Siculus (quoted by Rosenmuller) mentions the remarkable skill of the inhabitants of the Balearic Islands in the use of the sling, adding, in terms very similar to those of the text, that they seldom miss their aim.
And the men of Israel, beside Benjamin, were numbered four hundred thousand men that drew sword: all these were men of war.
Verse 17. - A repetition of the statement in ver. 2.

CHAPTER 20:18-48
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.
Verse 18. - The house of God. In this rendering the A.V. follows the Vulgate, which has in demure Dei, hoc est, in Silo. But the Septuagint has Βαιθὴλ, and all the ancient authorities, as well as modern commentators, generally agree in rendering it Bethel. The reason, which seems a conclusive one, for so doing is that the Hebrew בית אל invariably means Bethel, and that the house of God is always expressed in Hebrew by בית האלהים (beth-ha-elohim). The conclusion is that at this time the ark of God, with the tabernacle, was at Bethel, which was only seven or eight miles from Shiloh. Bethel would be eight or ten miles from Gibeah, i.e. about half way between Shiloh and Gibeah. Asked counsel. The same phrase as Judges 1:1, where it is rendered simply asked (see note to Judges 1:1, and vers. 23, 47). In following this precedent the Israelites put the men of Gibeah on the footing of the Canaanite inhabitants of the land. With reference to ver. 9, it is worth considering whether this is not the fulfilment of the purpose there expressed by the Israelites, to go up against Gibeah by lot; either by understanding that the answer asked was given by a Divinely-directed lot, according to which Judah's turn came first (see Joshua 7:14-18; 1 Samuel 14:41; Acts 1:24-26; etc.), or by taking the expression by lot in a wider sense, as meaning generally Divine direction.
And the children of Israel rose up in the morning, and encamped against Gibeah.
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.
Verse 20. - The men of Israel - meaning here of course the men of Judah.
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.
Verse 21. - Came forth out of Gibeah, etc. Gibeah (sometimes called Geba, literally, the hill) was doubtless very difficult to assault, and the steep approach greatly favoured the defenders. The men of Judah probably came up carelessly, and with an overweening confidence, and so met with a terrible disaster. The word destroyed here used is the same as is applied to the destroying angel (Exodus 12:23; 2 Samuel 24:16; see also 2 Chronicles 24:23).
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.
(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.)
Verse 23. - And the children of Israel went up and wept, etc. This verse must precede chronologically ver. 22, and explains the circumstances under which the battle referred to in ver. 22 took place. The unexpected repulse they had met with had begun to produce its intended effect. There was a humbling of themselves before God, a brokenness of spirit, a deepened sense of dependence upon God, and a softening of their feelings towards their brother Benjamin. All this was shown as they again went to the tabernacle at Bethel to ask the Lord (ver. 18).
And the children of Israel came near against the children of Benjamin the second day.
Verse 24. - And, or so, repeating what had been said in ver. 22, but giving it this time as the result of God's answer recorded in ver. 23. The second day. Not necessarily, or probably, the next day, but the day of the second battle.
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.
Verse 25. - Of the children of Israel. We are not told upon which tribe the lot fell, or the answer was given, that they should go up the second day.
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.
Verse 26. - Then all the children of Israel, and all the people, etc. Observe the word all, twice repeated, as showing how the whole congregation was roused and stirred to a man by this second reverse. The people, as distinguished from the men of Israel, the army, probably means the non-fighting people, the aged, the infirm, women, etc. The house of God. Render, as in ver. 18 (see note), Bethel. Sat there. Sitting with the Jews, especially on the ground, was the attitude of grief and mourning (Job 2:13; Isaiah 47:1, 5; Lamentations 2:10, etc.). The Jews at the present day often sit on the ground at the place of wailing in Jerusalem. Before the Lord, i.e. before the tabernacle (see Judges 11:11, note), Fasted until evening. The usual time for terminating a fast among the Jews, as at the present day among Mahomedans. For similar fasts on solemn occasions of national guilt or grief, see 1 Samuel 7:6; 2 Samuel 1:12; Jeremiah 36:9; Nehemiah 9:1; Joel 1:14, etc. Peace offerings. Usually thank offerings (Leviticus 3; Leviticus 7:11, 12), but applicable to any voluntary sacrifice of which the flesh might be eaten the same day, or the day following, by the offerer (Leviticus 7:15, 16). Doubtless the people at the close of their fast ate the flesh of these peace offerings.
And the children of Israel inquired of the LORD, (for the ark of the covenant of God was there in those days,
Verse 27. - Enquired of the Lord. In the Hebrew, Asked the Lord, as in vers. 18, 23. For the ark of the covenant, etc. A most important statement, defining the time of these occurrences, within the lifetime of Phinehas, and also giving a strong intimation that the writer of these words lived after the tabernacle had been removed from Shiloh and its neighbourhood to Jerusalem. Was there. Where? The natural answer to be given is, At Bethel; for Bethel is the only place that has been named. But it is not in accordance with the other intimations given us concerning the tabernacle, that Bethel should be its resting-place under the high priesthood of Phinehas. In Joshua 18:1 we have the formal pitching of the tabernacle of the congregation at Shiloh; in Joshua 22:12 we find it there, and Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest before it; in 1 Samuel 1:3; 1 Samuel 2:14; 1 Samuel 3:21; 1 Samuel 4:3, we find it settled there till taken by the Philistines; and in Psalm 78:60 we find Shiloh described as the abode of the tabernacle till its capture by the Philistines, and there is no hint anywhere of Bethel or any other place having been the resting-place of the ark before it fell into the hands of the Philistines. Neither, again, is the explanation of some commentators, that the words the ark... was there in those days implies "that the ark of the covenant was only temporarily at Bethel," at all satisfactory. In those days has naturally a much wider and broader application, like the expression (Judges 17:6; Judges 18:1), In those days there was no king in Israel, and contrasts the time of Phinehas and the judges with the times of the monarchy, when the ark and the high priest were at Jerusalem. Unless, therefore, we understand Bethel in vers. 18, 26, 31 to mean the house of God, which seems quite impossible, we must interpret the word there to mean Shiloh, and suppose that the writer took no count of the temporary removal to Bethel for the convenience of consultation, but considered that it was at Shiloh in one sense, though momentarily it was a few miles off. Possibly too in the fuller narrative, of which we have here the abridgment, the name of Shiloh was mentioned as that to which there referred.
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.
And Israel set liers in wait round about Gibeah.
Verse 29. - Set liers in wait. Made wiser by misfortune, they now act cautiously.
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.
Verse 30. - As at other times, or, this time as the other times (see the same phrase, ver. 31, Judges 16:20; Numbers 24:20).
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.
Verse 31. - The house of God. Here manifestly Bethel, as in the margin. Gibeah in the field. The A.V. is the natural rendering of the Hebrew words, which imply a Gibeah in the field different from Gibeah, as the Septuagint seems to have understood them (Γαβαὰ ἐν ἀγρῷ). It is a happy conjecture, borne out by the existing roads, that this Gibeah-in-the-field is the same as Gobs, now Jeba. Indeed it is almost impossible to conceive how the pursuers, coming out of Gibeah, could be described as coming to two highways, of which one led to Bethel and the other to the very place they had come from. The latest explorers of the district fully concur in this identification of Gibeah-in-the-field with Jeba.
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.
Verse 32. - And the children of Benjamin, etc. This verse is parenthetical, being explanatory of the conduct of both parties. The Benjamites pursued recklessly, because they thought the fight was going as on the two previous days; the Israelites fled in order to draw them to the highways, and so to enable the ambushment to get between the Benjamite army and the city.
And all the men of Israel rose up out of their place, and put themselves in array at Baaltamar: and the liers in wait of Israel came forth out of their places, even out of the meadows of Gibeah.
Verse 33. - Rose up out of their place. The narrative is singularly obscure and broken, and difficult to follow. But the meaning seems to be, that when the Israelite army had reached Baal-tamar in their flight, they suddenly stopped and formed to give battle to the pursuing Benjamites. And at the same time the liers in wait came out from their ambushment and placed themselves in the rear of the Benjamites on the direct road to Gibeah. Baal-tamar, a place of palm trees. The site has not been identified, but may possibly, or probably, be the same as the palm tree of Deborah, between Ramah and Bethel (Judges 4:5). The meadows of Gibeah, Hebrew, Maareh-Geba, may very likely have been, as the Septuagint takes it, a proper name, denoting some locality outside Gibeah (here called Geba) where the ambush was concealed. The meaning of the word maareh is thought to be a bare tract of ground without trees - something like a heath or common. It may have had pits, or deep depressions, where the ambush would be hid both from the city itself and from the high road, or other facilities for concealment.
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.
Verse 34. - Against Gibeah, i.e. against the army of Gibeah. The sense seems to be that the 10,000 Israelites who had been fleeing before Benjamin, and drawing them away from the city, now faced them, and commenced a resolute attack upon them, which at first the Benjamites, not knowing of the ambushment in their rear met with equal resolution, so that "the battle was sore." But the result, the details of which are given at length in vers. 36-46, was that 25,100 Benjamites fell that day (see ver. 46).
And the LORD smote Benjamin before Israel: and the children of Israel destroyed of the Benjamites that day twenty and five thousand and an hundred men: all these drew the sword.
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.
Verses 36-41. - The children of Benjamin saw that they were smitten. Not of course after 25,000 of them had been smitten, but at that period of the battle more fully described in vers. 40, 41, when the Benjamites, looking behind them, saw Gibeah in flames, and immediately broke and fled towards the wilderness. In the latter half of this verse and in the following verses to ver. 41 the writer recapitulates all the preceding circumstances, some of which have been already mentioned, which led to the particular incident mentioned in the beginning of the verse, that "Benjamin saw that they were smitten;" viz., the feigned flight of the Israelites, the seizing and burning of Gibeah by the liers in wait, the signal of a great smoke, and the turning again of the flying Israelites. It was then that "the men of Benjamin saw that evil was come upon them," and turned their backs and fled. Thus vers. 36 (latter half)-41 bring us back through the details to the identical point already reached at the beginning of ver. 36. In vers. 39, 40 there is another retrograde movement in the narrative, in which the statement of vers. 31, 32 is repeated in order to bring into close juxtaposition Benjamin's keen pursuit of the enemy with his terror when he saw the smoke rising in his rear. Hasted (ver. 37). This is an amplification with further particulars of ver. 33. The liers in wait not only came forth out of their place, but they made a dash to get into Gibeah before the men of Gibeah, who were pursuing the flying Israelites, could be aware of their intention. Rushed upon. Perhaps better rendered fell upon. It is exactly the same phrase as 2 Samuel 27:8, there rather tamely rendered invaded and in ver. 10 made a road. Drew themselves along. Some take the word in the common sense of blowing the trumpet, but it rather means spread themselves out (ἐξεχὺθη, LXX.) through the defenceless city, so as to slay and burn in all parts simultaneously. That they should make a great flame with smoke, etc. (ver. 38). The Hebrew of this verse is difficult to construe, but the A.V. gives substantially the right sense. They seem to be the very orders given to the leader of the ambush. "Make them (the ambush) multiply to send up (i.e. send up in great quantities) the column of smoke from the city." It seems that the appearance of the smoke was the signal for the Israelites to turn (ver. 41). The flame, etc. (ver. 40). Rather, the column began to go up in (or as) a pillar of smoke. The flame of the city. Literally, the whole of the city, meaning of course the whole city in flames.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And when the men of Israel turned again, the men of Benjamin were amazed: for they saw that evil was come upon them.
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 of them.
Verse 42. - Therefore they turned their backs, etc. The narrative now at length advances one step. The result of the Benjamites finding themselves between the ambushment and the army of Israel was that they took to flight in an easterly direction (ver. 43) toward the wilderness, i.e. the wilderness described in Joshua 16:1 as "the wilderness that goeth up from Jericho throughout Mount Bethel," where the direction of the wilderness relative to Ephraim is also described as being "on the east." In like manner Zedekiah fled towards the plain (arabah) or plains of Jericho - a term nearly synonymous with wilderness (2 Kings 25:4, 5). Them which came out of the cities, etc. This is a very obscure passage, and is very variously explained. Those which came out of the cities must be the same as are so described in ver. 15, and designates the Benjamites who were not inhabitants of Gibeah. The simplest way, therefore, to understand the passage is to render it without reference to the accents: "And the battle overtook him and those that were from the cities (i.e. the men of Gibeah and the rest of the Benjamites), destroying him (the whole Benjamite army) in the midst of him," i.e. going right into the midst of them, and destroying right and left. Some, however, render it in the midst of it, i.e. of the wilderness. The plural participle destroying agrees with the singular noun of multitude, the battle or war, meaning all the men of war.
Thus they inclosed the Benjamites round about, and chased them, and trode them down with ease over against Gibeah toward the sunrising.
Verse 43. - Thus they inclosed, etc. Another difficult passage, having all the appearance of being a quotation from some poetical description of the battle. The tenses of the verbs and the absence of any conjunctions in the Hebrew makes the diction like that of Judges 5:19. The italic words thus and the two ands ought to be omitted, to give the stately march of the original. "They inclosed, etc.; they chased them; they trod them down," etc. They inclosed seems to refer to the stratagem by which the Benjamites were surrounded by the ambush in their rear and the Israelites in front. Then came the pursuit - "they chased them;" then the massacre - "they trod them down." The three verbs describe the three stages of the battle. With ease. It does not seem possible that the Hebrew word menuchah can have this meaning. It means sometimes a place of rest, and sometimes a state of rest. Taking the latter meaning, the words they trod them into rest may mean they quieted them by crushing them to death under their feet, or in rest may mean unresisting. Some render it unto Menuchah, as if Menuchah was the name of a place, or from Nochah, as the Septuagint does. Others, at the place of rest, i.e. at every place where they halted to rest the enemy was upon them.
And there fell of Benjamin eighteen thousand men; all these were men of valour.
Verses 44-46. - And there fell, etc. The account in ver. 35, anticipating the details of the battle, had already given the gross number of casualties in the Benjamite army on this disastrous day as 25,100. We now have the items of the account, viz., 18,000 in the pursuit, in the open plain; 5000 in the highways, i.e. either the highways mentioned in ver. 31, or, as the expression gleaning rather intimates, the highways by which straggling bodies tried to reach any neighbouring cities after the great slaughter had taken place; and 2000 more who were making from Gidom; in all 25,000, which is only 100 men short of the reckoning in ver. 35. The rock of Rimmon. See ver. 47, note. Gidom. Not elsewhere mentioned, nor identified with any modern name.
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.
So that all which fell that day of Benjamin were twenty and five thousand men that drew the sword; all these were men of valour.
But six hundred men turned and fled to the wilderness unto the rock Rimmon, and abode in the rock Rimmon four months.
Verse 47. - But six hundred men turned. If these 600 survivors are added to the 25,000, or 25,100, enumerated as slain (vers. '35, 44), it gives a total of 25,700. But the total number of Benjamites, as given in ver. 15, was 26,700. There remain, therefore, 1000 men unaccounted for. These may, have been killed partly in the two first days successful battles (vers. 21, 25), and partly in the different cities into which they had escaped, when the general massacre recorded in ver. 48 took place. The rock Rimmon. There are two proposed identifications of this place. One makes it the same as Rummon, "a village perched on the summit of a conical chalky hill," "rising on the south side to a height of several hundred feet from the Wady Muti-yah," and defended on the west side "by a cross valley of great depth," which lies three miles east of Bethel, and seven miles northeast of Gibeah (Tulell el-Ful), and is situated in the wilderness between the highlands of Benjamin and the Jordan. This is advocated by Robinson ('Biblical Researches,' 1:440), by Mr. Grove in the 'Dictionary of the Bible,' and by Lt. Conder ('Quart. State. for July 1880,' P. 173). The other is advocated by Mr. W. F. Birch ('Pal. Expl., Quart. State. for April 1880'). This identifies it with the Wady er-Rummon, discovered by Mr. Rawnsley, where there is a vast cave, Mugharet el Jai, about a mile and a half from Geba, capable, according to the local tradition, of holding 600 men, and used to the present day by the villagers as a place of refuge from the government persecutions According to this view, the statement that they abode in the rock Rimmon is strictly correct.
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.
Verse 48. - Turned again, not the same word as the turned of vers. 45, 47, but turned back, came again by the way by which they had gone in pursuit of the Benjamites, and on their return towards Bethel (Judges 21:2) entered into all the Benjamlte cities, which lay thick together east and north of Gibeah, and ruthlessly put all the remaining population to the sword; burning all the cities, and treating the whole tribe of Benjamin, with all that belonged to them, as a 'herem, a thing devoted to utter destruction, like Jericho.

Courtesy of Open Bible