Judges 20:34
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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(34) Ten thousand chosen men.—Though the verse is obscurely expressed, the meaning probably is that this was the number of the ambuscade of picked warriors. If it means that this was the Israelite force left after the slaughter of 40,000, we are not told the number of the ambush.

The battle was sore.—It would be a battle in which the Benjamites were now attacked both in front and rear.

But.—Rather, and.

They knew not that evil was near themi.e., as we should say, “that the hour of their ruin had come,” or, as the Vulg. has it, quod ex omni parte illis instaret interitus, “that destruction was threatening them on every side.” (Comp. Isaiah 47:10.)

Jdg 20:34. Ten thousand chosen men — These seem to have been a detachment from the main body, which was at Baal-tamar, and marched to attack Gibeah on one side, while the liers in wait assaulted it on the other, and while the great body of the army laboured to intercept the Benjamites, who, having pursued the Israelites that pretended to flee, now endeavoured to retreat to Gibeah. The battle was sore; but they knew not, &c. — The Benjamites fought stoutly; but were not sensible of the danger they were in to be destroyed.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.Baal-tamar is only mentioned here. It took its name from some palm-tree that grew there; perhaps the same as the "palm-tree of Deborah, between Ramah and Bethel" Judges 4:5, the exact locality here indicated, since "the highway" Judges 20:31 along which the Israelites enticed the Benjamites to pursue them, leads straight to Ramah, which lay only a mile beyond the point where the two ways branch off.

The meadows of Gibeah - The word rendered "meadow" is only found here. According to its etymology, it ought to mean a "bare open place", which is particularly unsuitable for an ambush. However, by a change in the vowel-points, without any alteration in the letters, it becomes the common word for "a cavern".

34. there came against Gibeah ten thousand chosen men—This was a third division, different both from the ambuscade and the army, who were fighting at Baal-tamar. The general account stated in Jud 20:35 is followed by a detailed narrative of the battle, which is continued to the end of the chapter. Chosen men out of all Israel; selected out of the main body, which was at Baal-tamar; and these were to march directly to Gibeah on the one side, whilst the liers in wait stormed it on the other side, and whilst the great body of the army laboured to intercept these Benjamites, who, having pursued the Israelites that pretended to flee, now endeavoured to retreat to Gibeah.

They knew not that evil was near them; they were so puffed up with their former successes, that they were insensible of their danger. And there came against Gibeah ten thousand chosen men out of all Israel,.... Which, according to Ben Gersom, were the liers in wait; and came from the south, as the Targum says:

and the battle was sore; not between those liers in wait, and the Benjaminites, but between those at Baaltamar, and them who set themselves in battle array against them, and they fought stoutly on both sides:

but they knew not that evil was near them; that there was an ambush laid, by which they were in great danger; they knew nothing of the 10,000 men that were now come out against Gibeah, and were between them and that.

And there came against Gibeah ten thousand chosen men out of all Israel, and the battle was sore: but they knew not that {q} evil was near them.

(q) They did not know that God's judgment was at hand to destroy them.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
34. ten thousand chosen men] Apparently the men who had formed the ambush: they now moved from their place of concealment, and posted themselves between the city and the Benjamites, who were chasing the men of Israel, so as to cut off the possibility of retreat.

evil was close upon them] lit. was about to touch them; cf. Jdg 20:41 evil had touched them. Cf. Joshua 8:14. The recurrence of the words in Jdg 20:41 has led to the suggestion (made by Torrey) that Jdg 20:35-36 a once stood after Jdg 20:41, and that a scribe, glancing from the similar endings of Jdg 20:41; Jdg 20:34, accidentally transposed Jdg 20:35-36 a to their present position, where they destroy the natural order of events. The composition of this chapter is so entangled that we may readily assume a disturbance of the text here as in other places (e.g. Jdg 20:22 f.).

An alternative reconstruction is proposed by Budde, who assigns the passage to A: ‘And Israel set liers in wait against Gibeah round about (Jdg 20:29), while all the men of Israel rose up out of their place, and set themselves in array at Baal-tamar (Jdg 20:33 a). And there came over against Gibeah 10,000 chosen men out of all Israel, and the battle was sore (Jdg 20:34 a). Thereupon the liers in wait of Israel brake forth out of their place west of Geba (Jdg 20:33 b); but they knew not that evil was close upon them’ (Jdg 20:34 b); then follow Jdg 20:36 b–38. This gives a fairly lucid order; but it is based upon a rather different treatment of the chapter from that which is being followed.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). Having made these preparations, they inquired of the Lord whether they should continue the war, and received this reply: "Go up (against Benjamin); for to-morrow I will give it unto thy hand" (ידך, the hand of the congregation carrying on the war). To this the supplementary remark is appended, that the ark of the covenant was at Bethel in those days, and the high priest served before it. The expression "in those days" implies that the ark of the covenant was only temporarily at Bethel, and therefore had been brought thither from the tabernacle at Shiloh during this war.
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