Judges 20:48
And the men of Israel turned again on the children of Benjamin, and smote them with the edge of the sword, as well the men of every city, as the beast, and all that came to hand: also they set on fire all the cities that they came to.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(48) As well the men of every city, as the beast.—The phrase is literally, from the city, men down to beast, reading methim, “men,” for methom, “entire.” The dreadful meaning which lies beyond these short and simple words is the absolute extermination of a whole tribe of Israel, MEN, WOMEN, AND CHILDREN, CITIES AND CATTLE, with the exception of 600 fugitives. There is something almost inconceivably horrible and appalling in the thought of thousands of poor women and innocent children ruthlessly butchered in cold blood in this internecine war between brother Israelites. The whole tribe were placed under the ban of extirpation, as though they had been Canaanites, just as mercilessly as Sihon and his people had been extirpated (Deuteronomy 2:34; Deuteronomy 13:15-16), or Jericho (Joshua 6:17; Joshua 6:21), or Ai (Joshua 8:25-26). Their feelings were doubtless exasperated by the fearful destruction which Benjamin had inflicted upon them, as well as by religious horror at the conduct of the tribe; and for the rest, we can only say that the times of this ignorance God winked at.” The good side of the deed lies in its motive: it expressed an intense horror against moral pollution. The evil side lay in its ruthless savagery. In both aspects it agrees both with the recorded and the traditional character of Phinehas (Numbers 25:8; Numbers 31:6). (See Note on Judges 11:39.)

Jdg 20:48. The men of Israel turned again, &c. — Left their pursuit of the Benjamites in the wilderness, and turned toward the country of Benjamin. Those that came to Gibeah and into the field, whom the Israelites had already destroyed, were men that drew the sword, that is, soldiers. But there were a great many husbandmen, shepherds, and others, whom, in their fury, they now slew. And all that came to hand — Even women and children. For they had devoted to destruction all that came not up to Mizpeh, when they were summoned, (Jdg 21:5,) which none of the Benjamites did; for which reason they slew also the men, women, and children of Jabesh-gilead, Jdg 21:10. But this was certainly a most inhuman barbarity, expressly contrary to the laws of God, which had forbidden the innocent to be punished with the guilty, Deuteronomy 24:16. 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.They treated Benjamin as devoted to utter destruction, as Jericho had been Joshua 6:17, Joshua 6:21, and the whole tribe was all but actually extirpated. We see in the punishment inflicted the same ferocity which marked both the crime and the Levite's mode of requiring vengeance. 48. the men of Israel turned again upon the children of Benjamin, and smote them with the edge of the sword—This frightful vengeance, extending from Gibeah to the whole territory of Benjamin, was executed under the impetuous impulse of highly excited passions. But doubtless the Israelites were only the agents of inflicting the righteous retributions of God; and the memory of this terrible crisis, which led almost to the extermination of a whole tribe, was conducive to the future good of the whole nation. Having destroyed those that came to Gibeah, and into the field, now they follow them home to their several habitations.

The men of every city; comprehensively taken, so as to include women and children. If this seem harsh and bloody, either it may be ascribed to military fury; or rather, it may be justified; partly, from that high guilt brought upon the whole tribe, in which it is no wonder if their infants suffered, which was not unusual in such cases, as Numbers 31:17 1 Samuel 15:3 Joshua 7:15; partly, from that command of God in a parallel case, Deu 13:15; and partly, from that solemn oath by which they had anathematized or devoted to death all that came not up to Mizpeh, Judges 21:5, which none of the Benjamites did; for which cause also they destroyed all the men, women, and children of Jabesh-gilead, Judges 21:10. And the men of Israel turned again upon the children of Benjamin,.... After they had destroyed their army, the city of Gibeah, and the inhabitants of it: not content with this, in their wrath and fury, turned and went:

and smote them with the edge of the sword, as well the men of every city; even men, women, and children, in every city of Benjamin, at least all that lay in their way; and which they might do to be avenged on them, for sending out their militia against them, which had made such a slaughter among them to the loss of 40,000 men, or to fulfil their oath, that such who came not to Mizpeh should be put to death; for which reason also the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead, as well as of the cities of Benjamin, were put to death, men, women, and children, dealing in the same severity with them as with the Canaanitish nations, or as with a city given to idolatry:

as the beast, and all that came to hand; spared no living creature, herds and flocks:

also they set on fire all the cities that they came unto; which belonged to the tribe of Benjamin, so exceedingly wroth were they with them, for protecting such that had been the authors of such abominable wickedness, and for the loss of the lives of so many valuable men.

And the men of Israel turned again upon the children of Benjamin, and smote them with the edge of the sword, as well the men of every city, as the beast, and all that came to hand: also they set on fire all the {z} cities that they came to.

(z) If they belonged to the Benjamites.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
48. This v. (from B) records the destruction of the Benjamites who had not taken part in the conflict.

the entire city] The marg. is to be preferred, lit. the city of men, a phrase only found again in Deuteronomy 2:34; Deuteronomy 3:6, and there, as here, in connexion with devoting a city or people to destruction. The Israelites were determined to make the tribe of Benjamin a ḥérem: cf. Jdg 21:10-11, Jdg 1:17 n.

Verse 48. - Turned again, not the same word as the turned of vers. 45, 47, but turned back, came again by the way by which they had gone in pursuit of the Benjamites, and on their return towards Bethel (Judges 21:2) entered into all the Benjamlte cities, which lay thick together east and north of Gibeah, and ruthlessly put all the remaining population to the sword; burning all the cities, and treating the whole tribe of Benjamin, with all that belonged to them, as a 'herem, a thing devoted to utter destruction, like Jericho.



The Benjaminites "now turned (flying) before the Israelites to the way of the desert," i.e., no doubt the desert which rises from Jericho to the mountains of Bethel (Joshua 16:1). They fled therefore towards the north-east; but the battle had overtaken (reached or seized) them, and those out of the towns (had perished). The difficult expression מהערים ואשׁר, of which very different, and for the most part arbitrary, explanations have been given, can only be in apposition to the suffix attached to the verb: "Benjamin, and in fact those who had come to the help of Gibeah out of the towns of Benjamin" (see Judges 20:14, Judges 20:15), i.e., all the Benjaminites. The following words, וגו משׁחיתים, are a circumstantial clause explanatory of the previous clause, הדב המּלחמה: "since they (the men of Israel) destroyed him (Benjamin) in the midst of it." The singular suffix בּתוכו does not refer to Benjamin, as this would yield no sense at all, but to the preceding words, "the way of the desert" (see Judges 20:45). - In Judges 20:43 the account is continued by three perfects attached to one another without a copula: "they enclosed (hedged round) Benjamin, pursued him; at the place of rest they trod him down to before Gibeah eastwards." מנוּחה is not used adverbially in the sense of "quietly," which would not give any fitting meaning, but is an accus. loci, and signifies place of rest, as in Numbers 10:33. The notice "to before Gibeah" refers to all three verbs.
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