Judges 20:12
And the tribes of Israel sent men through all the tribe of Benjamin, saying, What wickedness is this that is done among you?
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(12) Through all the tribe of Benjamin.—It was equitable to send this embassy, although the Benjamites had not come to the sacred gathering at Mizpeh. The word for “tribe” is in the plural, so that it is, “the tribes of Israel sent men through all the tribes of Benjamin.” Clearly, in the latter instance shebet means a family. (See Note on Judges 18:19, and Numbers 4:18 : “the tribe of the families of Kohath.) There were ten families in the tribe of Benjamin (Genesis 46:21).

Jdg 20:12. The tribes of Israel sent men, &c. — Before they marched forward they sent an embassy to the Benjamites, to complain of the wickedness that had been committed, and the injury that had been done by some of their tribe, and to demand that the offenders might be delivered up to justice. This was a wise and just course, that the innocent might be separated from the guilty, and a fair opportunity given them of preventing their own ruin by doing what their duty, honour, and interest laid them under an indispensable obligation to do; by delivering up those vile malefactors, whom they could not keep without bringing the curse of God upon themselves. But why did not these tribes of Israel show equal zeal against the conduct of the idolatrous Danites, which, as the last-mentioned author observes, “though less destructive to the peace of society, more immediately struck at the honour of God and the interests of religion?” Could this be owing to any thing else than the very low state of religion among them, and their indifference and unconcern about the honour of God? And yet idolatry was the only crime on account of which they were commanded to levy war against their brethren.17:7-13 Micah thought it was a sign of God's favour to him and his images, that a Levite should come to his door. Thus those who please themselves with their own delusions, if Providence unexpectedly bring any thing to their hands that further them in their evil way, are apt from thence to think that God is pleased with them.In order to make it possible for the force of Israel to keep the field, and do to the men of Gibeah what their wickedness deserved, every tenth man (40,000 in all) was appointed to find provisions for the whole army. Jud 20:8-17. Their Decree.

8-13. all the people arose as one man—The extraordinary unanimity that prevailed shows, that notwithstanding great disorders had broken out in many parts, the people were sound at the core; and remembering their national covenant with God, they now felt the necessity of wiping out so foul a stain on their character as a people. It was resolved that the inhabitants of Gibeah should be subjected to condign punishment. But the resolutions were conditional. For as the common law of nature and nations requires that an inquiry should be made and satisfaction demanded, before committing an act of hostility or vengeance, messengers were despatched through the whole territory of Benjamin, demanding the immediate surrender or execution of the delinquents. The request was just and reasonable; and by refusing it the Benjamites virtually made themselves a party in the quarrel. It must not be supposed that the people of this tribe were insensible or indifferent to the atrocious character of the crime that had been committed on their soil. But their patriotism or their pride was offended by the hostile demonstration of the other tribes. The passions were inflamed on both sides; but certainly the Benjamites incurred an awful responsibility by the attitude of resistance they assumed.

The tribe, Heb. tribes; either the plural number for the singular; or rather tribe is put for family, as was noted before, as families are elsewhere put for tribes. They take a wise and a just course, in sending to all the parts and families of the tribe, to separate the innocent from the guilty, and to give them a fair opportunity of preventing their ruin, by doing nothing but what their duty, honour, and interest obliged them to, even by delivering up those vile malefactors, whom they could not keep without horrid guilt and shame, and bringing the curse of God upon themselves. And the tribes of Israel sent men through all the tribes of Benjamin,.... Meaning the families of Benjamin; for as sometimes a tribe is called a family, Joshua 7:17 so a family is called a tribe; and there were ten families in the tribe of Benjamin, according to the number of his sons, the fathers of these families. Genesis 46:21, which being numerous and powerful, and consisting of men of courage, and expert in war, thought themselves a match for the ten tribes of Israel now assembled, who sent one out of each tribe, very probably ten in all, upon this errand; for they judged it most advisable, before they went to war with them, to try to get the offenders, delivered up to justice, and so prevent the shedding of blood of either side; and the rather, as there were none of the tribe of Benjamin at this assembly, and which indeed might give them reason to suspect they meant not to join with them in an amicable manner in this affair: however, they were willing to try peaceable methods first:

saying, what wickedness is this that is done among you? not that they were sent to inquire what the crime was that was committed, that was fully known; but by putting the question in this manner, their design was to aggravate it, and to put the men of Benjamin on considering how great it was, what an enormous sin it was that was committed, and that among them; and therefore it lay upon them, either to punish the perpetrators of it themselves or deliver them up to them to be punished according to the common law of Israel.

And the tribes of Israel sent men through all the {h} tribe of Benjamin, saying, What wickedness is this that is done among you?

(h) That is, every family of the tribe.

12. the tribe of Benjamin] So the Versions, reading the singular. The plural (see marg.) is probably due to a mistaken repetition of the plur. form of the word in the preceding sentence.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). Then the Levite, the husband of the murdered woman, described the whole affair. הגּבעה בּעלי, the owners or citizens of Gibeah (see at Judges 9:2). "Me they intended to kill:" the Levite draws this conclusion from what had happened to his wife; the men of Gibeah had not expressed any such intention in Judges 19:22. "All the country (lit. field) of the inheritance of Israel," i.e., all the land of the Israelites. זמּה is applied to the vice of lewdness, as in Leviticus 18:17, which was to be punished with death. וגו לכם הבוּ, "give yourselves (לכם as dat. comm.) word and counsel here," i.e., make up your minds and pass sentence (vid., 2 Samuel 16:20). הלם, here, where you are all assembled together.
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