Judges 20:16
Among all this people there were seven hundred chosen men left handed; every one could sling stones at an hair breadth, and not miss.
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(16) Seven hundred chosen men.—These words are omitted in the LXX. and Vulg.

Left handed.—The same phrase as that employed in Judges 3:15.

Could sling stones at an hair breadth, and not miss.—The expression is perfectly simple, and merely implies extreme accuracy of aim. Bochart’s attempt (Hieroz. Ii. 162) to explain it by a passage in Quintus Smyrnœus, which says that archers used to contend which should be able to shoot off the horsehair crest of a helmet, is a mere specimen of learning fantastically misapplied. Skill with the sling was not confined to the Benjamites, as we see from the case of David (1Samuel 17:49). The sling is the natural weapon of a people which is poor and imperfectly armed. Cyrus valued his force of 400 slingers (Xen. Anab. iii. 3-6). The inhabitants of the Balearic Isles were as skilful as the Benjamites, and children were trained to sling their breakfasts down from the top of high poles. They once prevented the Carthaginian fleet from coming to anchor by showers of stones (liv. xxviii. 37, solo eo telo utebantur). Practice made them so expert that the stones they slung came with as much force as though hurled by a catapult, and pierced shields and helmets (Diod. Sic. Bibl. v. 18). Exactly similar tales are told of the trained skill of our English archers. The advantage of slinging with the left hand was very obvious, for it enabled the slinger to strike his enemy on the right, i.e., the undefended side.

Jdg 20:16. Could sling stones at a hair’s breadth, and not miss — A hyperbolical expression, signifying that they could do this with great exactness. This extraordinary skill in their arms (for it is likely they handled other weapons with the like dexterity) and their natural courage, imboldened the Benjamites with such a small number to undertake a war against such a vast multitude of their brethren, the other Israelites; which warlike disposition of theirs was foretold by Jacob, for he said of them, when he spake of the character and fortune of each tribe, (Genesis 49:27,) Benjamin shall raven as a wolf, which is an undaunted, fearless creature. 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.See Judges 3:15, and note. In the Septuagint and Vulgate the 700 chosen men of Gibeah are represented as the seven hundred left-handed slingers. 16. left-handed; every one could sling stones at an hair-breadth, and not miss—The sling was one of the earliest weapons used in war. The Hebrew sling was probably similar to that of the Egyptian, consisting of a leather thong, broad in the middle, with a loop at one end, by which it was firmly held with the hand; the other end terminated in a lash, which was let slip when the stone was thrown. Those skilled in the use of it, as the Benjamites were, could hit the mark with unerring certainty. A good sling could carry its full force to the distance of two hundred yards. Left-handed, Heb. shut up on their right hand, i.e. using their left hand instead of their right.

Every one could sling stones at an hair breadth, and not miss; an hyperbolical expression, signifying that they could do this with great exactness. There are many parallel instances in historians of persons that could throw stones or shoot arrows with great certainty, so as seldom or never to miss; of which see my Latin Synopsis. And this was very considerable, and one ground of the Benjamites’ confidence, because in those times they had no guns. Among all this people there were seven hundred chosen men lefthanded,.... According to Ben Gersom, these were the seven hundred men of Gibeah; but this does not appear from the text, but, on the contrary, that these were among all the people; or there were so many to be selected out of them all, who were lefthanded men; nor is it likely that all the inhabitants of one place should be such. Benjamin signifies a son of the right hand, yet this tribe had a great number of lefthanded men in it, see Judges 3:15. Josephus (h) wrongly reduces the number to five hundred:

everyone could sling stones at an hair's breadth, and not miss: the mark they slung the stone at, so very expert were they at it; and perhaps their having such a number of skilful men in this art made them more confident of success, and emboldened them in this daring undertaking, to point to which this circumstance seems to be mentioned. There were a people that inhabited the islands, now called Majorca and Minorca, anciently Baleares, from their skilfulness in slinging stones, to which they brought up from their childhood, as it is related various writers, Strabo (i), Diodorus Siculus (k), Floras (l) and others (m); that their mothers used to set their breakfast on a beam or post, or some such thing, at a distance, which they were not to have, unless they could strike it off; and the first of these writers says, that they exercised this art from the time that the Phoenicians held these islands; and, according to Pliny (n), the Phoenicians, the old inhabitants of Canaan, were the first inventors of slings, and from these the Benjaminites might learn it. The Indians are said (o) to be very expert in slinging stones to an hair's breadth.

(h) Antiqu. l. 5. c. 2. sect. 10. (i) Geograph l. 3. p. 116. (k) Bibliothec. l. 5. p. 298. (l) Roman Cost. l. 3. c. 8. (m) Vid. Barthii Ammadv. ad Claudian. in 3 Consul. Honor. ver. 50. (n) Nat. Hist. l. 7. c. 56. (o) Philoetrat. Vit. Apollon. l. 2. c. 12.

Among all this people there were seven hundred chosen men lefthanded; every one could sling stones at an hair breadth, and not miss.
16. Then, keeping the text of this v. as it stands, we are told that the Benjamite host included a company of 700 left-handed and exceptionally skilful warriors, just as David’s army was strengthened by a similar band, 1 Chronicles 12:2. Josephus understood the narrative in this way, Ant. Jdg 20:2; Jdg 20:10. The alternative is to omit the first half of this verse, and make the 700 chosen men refer to the inhabitants of Gibeah, and every one (rather, all this army) could sling … and not miss refer to the entire host. But this does not seem natural, and to cut out left-handed as merely borrowed from Jdg 3:15 is to remove a feature which has the appearance of originality.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. Then all the people rose up as one man, saying, "We will not any of us go into his tent, neither will we any of us return to his house," sc., till this crime is punished. The sentence follows in Judges 20:9 : "This is the thing that we will do," i.e., this is the way in which we will treat Gibeah: "against it by lot" (sc., we will act). The Syriac gives the sense correctly - We will cast lots upon it; but the lxx quite erroneously supply ἀναβησόμεθα (we will go up); and in accordance with this, many expositors connect the words with Judges 20:10 in the following sense: "We will choose one man out of every ten by lot, to supply the army with the necessary provision during the expedition." This is quite a mistake, because in this way a subordinate point, which only comes into consideration in connection with the execution of the sentence, would be made the chief point, and the sentence itself would not be given at all. The words "against it by lot" contain the resolution that was formed concerning the sinful town, and have all the enigmatical brevity of judicial sentences, and are to be explained from the course laid down in the Mosaic law with regard to the Canaanites, who were to be exterminated, and their land divided by lot among the Israelites. Consequently the meaning is simply this: "Let us proceed with the lot against Gibeah," i.e., let us deal with it as with the towns of the Canaanites, conquer it, lay it in ashes, and distribute its territory by lot. In Judges 20:10 a subordinate circumstance is mentioned, which was necessary to enable them to carry out the resolution that had been made. As the assembled congregation had determined to keep together for the purpose of carrying on war (Judges 20:8), it was absolutely necessary that resources should be provided for those who were actively engaged in the war. For this purpose they chose one man in every ten "to fetch provision for the people," לבואם לעשׁות, "that they might do on their coming to Gibeah of Benjamin according to all the folly which had been done in Israel," i.e., might punish the wickedness in Gibeah as it deserved.
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