Judges 20:40
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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(40) When the flame began to arise up.—Rather, when the column (of smoke), as in Judges 20:38.

The flame of the city.—Literally, the whole of the city—i.e., the universal conflagration—a very powerful expression. (LXX., συντέλεια τῆς πόλεως.)

Jdg 20:40. The Benjamites looked behind them — It is likely the Israelites shouted when they turned about to fall upon the Benjamites, which made them look back to see what unexpected supplies they had received. Then they saw their city on fire, which, with the sudden turning of the Israelites from flight to attack them, quite put them in confusion.

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. No text from Poole on this verse.

But when the flame began to arise up out of the city with a pillar of smoke,.... Fire being set to it by the liers in wait, who had entered it, and who made a large fire, which caused a vast pillar of flame and smoke to arise, which might be seen a great way off:

the Benjamites looked behind them; perhaps at hearing the blowing of the trumpet, and the long sound of that:

and, behold, the flame of the city ascended up to heaven; went upwards, and reached to a great height.

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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
40. looked behind them] Cf. Joshua 8:20. It almost seems as if the account of the capture of Ai by a similar stratagem had influenced the present narrative.

the whole of the city] Cf. Deuteronomy 13:16 ‘and thou shalt burn the city with fire as a whole offering unto Jehovah thy God’; but perhaps the word is hardly intended to bear its technical sense of holocaust here.

Judges 20:40"And the men of Israel turned in the battle:" that is to say, as is afterwards more fully explained in Judges 20:39, Judges 20:40, in the form of a long new circumstantial clause, whilst Benjamin had begun to smite, etc. (repeated from Judges 20:31, Judges 20:32), and the cloud (המּשׂאת equals העשׁן משׂאת, Judges 20:38) had begun to ascend out of the city as a pillar of smoke, and Benjamin turned back, and behold the whole city ascended towards heaven (in smoke), Israel turned (fighting) and Benjamin was terrified, for it saw that misfortune had come upon it (see Judges 20:34). In Judges 20:41, the thread of the narrative, which was interrupted by the long circumstantial clause, is again resumed by the repetition of "and the men of Israel turned."
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