Judges 20:23
(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.)
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(23) And the children of Israel.—This verse is parenthetical and retrospective. The whole narrative is arranged in a very simple manner, and shows an unformed archaic style.

Against the children of Benjamin my brother.—The words “my brother” show a sort of compunction, an uneasy sense that possibly, in spite of the first answer by Urim, God did not approve of a fratricidal war.

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.Gibeah, being on a hill, was difficult of access to an attacking army, and gave great advantage to the defenders, who fought from higher ground, and probably defended a narrow pass, while their companions on the walls could gall the assailants with their slingstones. Jud 20:18-28. The Israelites Lose Forty Thousand.

18-28. the children of Israel arose, and went up to the house of God—This consultation at Shiloh was right. But they ought to have done it at the commencement of their proceedings. Instead of this, all their plans were formed, and never doubting, it would seem, that the war was just and inevitable, the only subject of their inquiry related to the precedency of the tribes—a point which it is likely was discussed in the assembly. Had they asked counsel of God sooner, their expedition would have been conducted on a different principle—most probably by reducing the number of fighting men, as in the case of Gideon's army. As it was, the vast number of volunteers formed an excessive and unwieldy force, unfit for strenuous and united action against a small, compact, and well-directed army. A panic ensued, and the confederate tribes, in two successive engagements, sustained great losses. These repeated disasters (notwithstanding their attack on Benjamin had been divinely authorized) overwhelmed them with shame and sorrow. Led to reflection, they became sensible of their guilt in not repressing their national idolatries, as well as in too proudly relying on their superior numbers and the precipitate rashness of this expedition. Having humbled themselves by prayer and fasting, as well as observed the appointed method of expiating their sins, they were assured of acceptance as well as of victory. The presence and services of Phinehas on this occasion help us to ascertain the chronology thus far, that the date of the occurrence must be fixed shortly after the death of Joshua.

Went up and wept; not so much for their sins as for their defeat and loss, as appears by the sequel.

Against the children of Benjamin my brother; they impute their ill success not to their own sins, as they had great reason to do, but to their taking up arms against their brethren, the lawfulness whereof they now begin to doubt of. But still they persist in their former neglect of seeking God’s assistance in the way which he had appointed, as they themselves acknowledge presently, by doing those very things which now they sinfully neglected, Judges 20:26, and therefore are again justly punished.

Go up against him: God answers to their question; but as they did not desire his assistance and success, so he doth not promise it. And the children of Israel went up and wept before the Lord until even,.... The evening of the day in which the battle was fought; not that the whole army went up to Shiloh to the house of God there, but a deputation of them, who lamented their defeat, and the loss of so many lives, but not their sins and transgressions, and particularly the idolatry they had been guilty of:

and asked counsel of the Lord, saying, shall we go up again to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother? they seemed to have some doubt, by the loss they sustained, whether they were right in going to war with Benjamin, especially as he was their brother; and therefore the question now is, not who should go up first, which was already determined, but whether they should go at all; and still they do not ask any help of God in battle, nor success, but were depending on their numbers, and the justness of their cause, and therefore neither is promised to them, only they have an answer to their question:

and the Lord said, go up against him; for Benjamin was certainly in the wrong, and therefore the Israelites are directed to go against him, and they also were not sufficiently chastised, nor thoroughly humbled.

(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.)
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
23. wept before the Lord] Cf. Jdg 20:26, Jdg 2:4, Jdg 21:2. After went up we should supply to Beth-el, as in Jdg 20:26.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). The forces of the other tribes amounted when numbered to 400,000 men. These numbers (26,000 Benjaminites and 400,000 Israelites) will not appear too great if we consider that the whole of the congregation of Israel took part in the war, with the simple exception of Jabesh in Gilead (Judges 21:8), and that in the time of Moses the twelve tribes numbered more than 600,000 men of twenty years old and upwards (Numbers 26), so that not much more than two-thirds of the whole of the fighting men went out to the war.
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