The Period Of The Judges

 Chapter 98
Flight of the Benjamite Survivors [Judges 20.45-20.48]


Scripture (KJV) Judges 20.45-48

45 And they turned and fled toward the wilderness unto the rock of Rimmon: and they gleaned of them in the highways five thousand men; and pursued hard after them unto Gidom, and slew two thousand men of them.
46 So that all which fell that day of Benjamin were twenty and five thousand men that drew the sword; all these were men of valour.
47 But six hundred men turned and fled to the wilderness unto the rock Rimmon, and abode in the rock Rimmon four months.
48 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 cities that they came to.


Commentary


45 And they turned and fled toward the wilderness unto the rock of Rimmon: and they gleaned of them in the highways five thousand men; and pursued hard after them unto Gidom, and slew two thousand men of them.—Judges 20.45 (KJV) 
45 The survivors fled into the wilderness toward the rock of Rimmon, but Israel killed 5,000 of them along the road. They continued the chase until they had killed another 2,000 near Gidom.
—Judges 20:45 (NLT)

IT is nearly impossible to imagine anything more horrible than the indiscriminate and relentless slaughter of both innocent and guilty men, women and children mentioned in this chapter. The crime of the men of Gibeah was great, but there was no adequate cause for this relentless extermination of a whole tribe. There was neither justice nor judgment in this case. Both sides were brutal, cruel, and ferocious: and no wonder; there was no king in Israel-no effective civil government, and every man did what was right in his own eyes. There was no proper leader; no man that had authority and influences to suppress the disorderly workings of the fanatical soldiers on both sides of the dispute.

And they turned and fled toward the wilderness, unto the rock of Rimmon:
Those Benjamites that were not killed by the men of Israel in the pursuit on the open plain and on the highways, as they  fled toward the wilderness (desert), didn’t stop until they reached the rock of Rimmon. The rock of Rimmon was known as a stronghold; there they were able to sustain themselves for four months (until they received terms of peace from the Israelites; Judges 21.13, 14[20]), and it was only because of this place of safety that the tribe of Benjamin was saved from total extermination. Many of the fugitives found refuge in the caves of this rocky mountain. Such places are still sought as secure retreats in times of danger; and until the method of blowing up rocks with gunpowder became known, a few men could in such caves sustain a siege for months.

Rimmon (Joshua 15:3[21]; 1 Chronicles 6:77[2]; Zechariah 14:10[3]) means pomegranate; perhaps it was in the shape of one, and it may be the same as the place mentioned in 1 Samuel 14:2[4], where Saul is said to be under a pomegranate tree, or under Rimmon, the rock of Rimmon, given that it is said to be near Gibeah, which it was. It lies fifteen miles north of Jerusalem and four miles east of Bethel and is one of three `Rimmons' in Israel, another being in south Judah (Joshua 15:3[21]), and another in Zebulun (Joshua 19:13, 14[1]). This is now the modern Rummon, a village which stands upon and around the summit of a conical limestone mountain, and is visible in all directions.

[21]Josh 15:3 (KJV) And Lebaoth, and Shilhim, and Ain, and Rimmon: all the cities are twenty and nine, with their villages:

[2] Chron 6:77 (NLT) The remaining descendants of Merari received the towns of Jokneam, Kartah, Rimmon, and Tabor from the territory of Zebulun, each with its pasturelands.

[3]Zech 14:10 (NLT) All the land from Geba, north of Judah, to Rimmon, south of Jerusalem, will become one vast plain. But Jerusalem will be raised up in its original place and will be inhabited all the way from the Benjamin Gate over to the site of the old gate, then to the Corner Gate, and from the Tower of Hananel to the king’s winepresses.

[4]1 Sam 14:2 (KJV) And Saul tarried in the uttermost part of Gibeah under a pomegranate tree which is in Migron: and the people that were with him were about six hundred men; Under a pomegranate tree—Under Rimmon, which not only signifies a pomegranate tree, but also a strong rock, in which six hundred Benjamites took shelter, Judges 20:45. Probably it was in this very rock that Saul and his six hundred men lay hidden.—Adam Clarke's Commentary

[20]Judges 21:13-14 (NKJV) Then the whole congregation sent word to the children of Benjamin who were at the rock of Rimmon, and announced peace to them. So Benjamin came back at that time, and they gave them the women whom they had saved alive of the women of Jabesh Gilead; and yet they had not found enough for them. And to call peaceably unto them—To proclaim peace to them; to assure them that the enmity was all over, and that they might with safety leave their strong hold. Yet so they sufficed them not—There were six hundred men at Rimmon, and all the young women they saved from Jabesh were only four hundred; therefore, there were two hundred still wanting.—Adam Clarke's Commentary

[1]Josh 19:13-14 (NKJV) And from there it passed along on the east of Gath Hepher, toward Eth Kazin, and extended to Rimmon, which borders on Neah. Then the border went around it on the north side of Hannathon, and it ended in the Valley of Jiphthah El.

and they gleaned of them in the highways five thousand men;
 Gleaned is a metaphor from those who harvest the produce of the fields and vineyards. It refers to God’s welfare system; Leviticus 23:22[5]. The pickers don’t pick along the edges of the fields and anything that is dropped must be left on the ground. The gleaners would come along later and collect all that remained; picking everything clean.

Here, the reference is to the fighting (the slaughter of Benjamin by Israel) that took place along the highways, where the men of Benjamin were scattered and fleeing from the Israelites, who slew them one-by-one.

[5]Leviticus 23:22 (NLT) “When you harvest the crops of your land, do not harvest the grain along the edges of your fields, and do not pick up what the harvesters drop. Leave it for the poor and the foreigners living among you. I am the LORD your God.” This was food free for the taking and those who owned the field needed to insure that those that worked for him followed the directions God had given to Israel.

and pursued hard after them unto Gidom;
Gidom is not mentioned in any other place in Scripture, and it has not been identified with any modern city. It must have been close to Rimmon, because verse 47 says that they found safety at Rimmon. But two thousand Benjaminites were killed at Gidom according to the next line, besides the five thousand killed along the highways

and slew two thousand men of them;
The account in verse 35[6], anticipated the details of the battle, and had already given the gross number of casualties in the Benjamite army on this disastrous day as 25,100. We now have the detail items of the account, which is 18,000 in the pursuit, in the open plain; 5000 in the highways, which is either the highways mentioned in verse 31[7], or, as the expression gleaning implies, the highways by which straggling bodies tried to reach any neighboring cities after the great slaughter had taken place; and 2000 more who were killed in flight from Gidom; in all 25,000, which is only 100 men short of the reckoning in verse 35[6]

[6]Judges 20:35 (KJV)  And the LORD smote Benjamin before Israel: and the children of Israel destroyed of the Benjamites that day twenty and five thousand and an hundred men: all these drew the sword.

[7]Judges 20:31 (KJV) And the children of Benjamin went out against the people, and were drawn away from the city; and they began to smite of the people, and kill, as at other times, in the highways, of which one goeth up to the house of God, and the other to Gibeah in the field, about thirty men of Israel.

 

46 So that all which fell that day of Benjamin were twenty and five thousand men that drew the sword; all these were men of valour.—Judges 20.46 (KJV)  
46 So that day the tribe of Benjamin lost 25,000 strong warriors armed with swords,—Judges 20:46 (NLT)

So that all which fell that day of Benjamin were twenty and five thousand men
It was said before that 25,100 (Judges 20:35[6]) Benjamites were killed by the forces of Israel on the third day of battle; here the one hundred have been omitted, and the round number of thousands is given, which is not an unusual way of speaking and writing. The whole army of Benjamin consisted of 26,700 (Judges 20.15[8]) of which 18,000 were slain in the field of battle, 5000 in the highways, and 2000 at Gidom, in all 25,000; which only includes those killed in the third battle. That leaves 1,700 Benjamites unaccounted for. Verse 47 tells us that 600 of them found safety at the Rock of Rimmon, that is, until the occurrence described in Judges 21:13[9]. Now, there are 1,100 that we must account for, and we can do that by what follows.
1. We may suppose that one hundred were stragglers who were killed on the road.  Or they are not mentioned with either of the thousands for the sake of publishing a round number.
2.1 As for the remaining 1,000, it is highly probable, they fell in the first two battles, as Ben Gersom and Abarbinel rightly suppose, because it is not plausible, that although they won such amazing victories, it was without the loss of men, and 1,000 is a reasonable number for two fierce battles. Evidentially, there was no count made of those who fell in these battles.
2.2 Jarchi thinks these thousand fled to the cities of Benjamin, and were slain when the Israelites entered them, which is revealed in Judges 20:48, and this explanation is much more plausible than a tradition they have, that they went into the land of Romania, and dwelt there.

[8]Judges 20:15 (KJV) And the children of Benjamin were numbered at that time out of the cities twenty and six thousand men that drew sword, beside the inhabitants of Gibeah, which were numbered seven hundred chosen men.

[9]Judges 21:13 (KJV) And the whole congregation sent some to speak to the children of Benjamin that were in the rock Rimmon, and to call peaceably unto them. to call peaceably unto them. To assure them that the enmity was all over, and that they might with safety leave their strong hold.

that drew the sword;
soldiers, not farmers or craftsmen, but armed men.

all these were men of valour;
Those killed on both sides, even those that fled were brave men.

 

47 But six hundred men turned and fled to the wilderness unto the rock Rimmon, and abode in the rock Rimmon four months.—Judges 20.47 (KJV) 
47 leaving only 600 men who escaped to the rock of Rimmon, where they lived for four months.
—Judges 20:47 (NLT)

But six hundred men
Who were all that were left of 26,700 Benjamite soldiers that took the field in the first battle. (Six hundred is also the number of men that were with Saul in a cave at Engedi; 1 Samuel 14:2[10]).  From the Rock of Rimmon, these six hundred men might send out from their number, squads of soldiers to fetch provisions for them from the surrounding vicinity, after the heat of the action was over, and the rage and fury of the Israelites subsided.

It is not rational to think of out-running divine vengeance. Evil pursues sinners, and it will overtake them, which is what happened to the men of Benjamin. Now, all that tribe was gone; all except for 600 men that took shelter in the rock Rimmon, and stayed there for four months.

[10]1 Sam 14:2 (KJV) And Saul tarried in the uttermost part of Gibeah under a pomegranate tree which is in Migron: and the people that were with him were about six hundred men; Under a pomegranate tree—Under Rimmon, which not only signifies a pomegranate tree, but also a strong rock, in which six hundred Benjamites took shelter, Judges 20:45. Probably it was in this very rock that Saul and his six hundred men now lay hidden.—Adam Clarke's Commentary

turned and fled to the wilderness;

These are those that left the highway or common road, and ran for their lives. They made it to a wilderness; but it is not known what wilderness it was.

Unto the rock Rimmon, and abode in the rock Rimmon four months.
The wilderness (desert) was probably very near to it or included the rock Rimmon. The 600 took refuge in the caves that nature carved in the rock. These were the only Benjamites to escape.

There are two proposed identifications of this place. One makes it the same as Rummon, “a village perched on the summit of a conical chalky hill,” “rising on the south side to a height of several hundred feet above the Wady Muti-yah,” and defended on the west side “by a cross valley of great depth,” which lies three miles east of Bethel, and seven miles northeast of Gibeah, and is situated in the wilderness between the highlands of Benjamin and the Jordan. This is advocated by Robinson (‘Biblical Researches,’1:440), by Mr. Grove in the ‘Dictionary of the Bible,’ and by Lt. Conder (‘Quart. State. for July 1880,’ P. 173). The other is advocated by Mr. W. F. Birch (‘Pal. Expl., Quart. State. for April 1880’). According to him, it is identified with the Wady er-Rummon, discovered by Mr. Rawnsley, where there is a vast cave, Mugharet el Jai. According to this view, the statement that they abode in the rock Rimmon is strictly correct.

 

 

48 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 cities that they came to.—Judges 20.48 (KJV) 
48 And the Israelites returned and slaughtered every living thing in all the towns—the people, the livestock, and everything they found. They also burned down all the towns they came to.
—Judges 20:48 (NLT)

And the men of Israel turned again upon the children of Benjamin
This happened after the associated tribes of Israel defeated Benjamin by destroying their army, burning the city of Gibeah to the ground, and killing its inhabitants. But they were not content with this, and still being full of wrath and fury, they turned again, not the same word as the turned in verses 45 and 47, but here the meaning is “turned back.”  They turned around and went back the way they had come when they were in pursuit of the Benjamites. And on their return towards Bethel (Judges 21:2, 3[11]) they went into all the Benjamite cities, which were close together, and east and north of Gibeah; and ruthlessly put all the remaining population to the sword (men, women, and children); burning all the cities, and treating the entire tribe of Benjamin, and all that belonged to them, as a ‘herem[12], a thing devoted to utter destruction, like Jericho.

This awful vengeance, extending from Gibeah to the whole territory of Benjamin, was executed under the hotheaded impulse of highly excited passions. But without a doubt 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 an entire tribe, was conducive to the future good of the whole nation.

If this seems harsh and bloody, either it may be ascribed to military fury; or perhaps it may be partly justified, from that solemn oath by which they had assigned to death all that did not come up to Mizpeh, chap. 21:5[13], which none of the Benjamites did. However, there was no need for the complete slaughter as described in this verse; this severe judgment against the tribe of Benjamin would be regretted by Israel. The tribe of Benjamin was not being guided by God; but neither was the other tribes fighting against them. There was plenty of sin to go around for everyone.

[11]Judges 21:2-3 (KJV) And the people came to the house of God, and abode there till even before God, and lifted up their voices, and wept sore; And said, O LORD God of Israel, why is this come to pass in Israel, that there should be to day one tribe lacking in Israel?

[12]Herem (or Chērem חרם), is the highest ecclesiastical censure in the Jewish community. It is the total exclusion of a person from the Jewish community. It is a form of shunning, and is similar to excommunication in the Catholic Church. Cognate terms in other Semitic languages include the Arabic term ḥarām (forbidden, taboo, off-limits, sacred or immoral), and the Ethiopic `irm (meaning accursed).
The most famous case of a herem is that of Spinoza, the seventeenth century philosopher. Also, Leon Trotsky and Grigory Zinoviev became subject of herem. Sometime in 1918, while Ukraine was under German occupation, the rabbis of Odessa pronounced herem against Trotsky, Zinoviev, and other Jewish Bolshevik leaders in the synagogue.

13Judges 21:5 (KJV) And the children of Israel said, Who is there among all the tribes of Israel that came not up with the congregation unto the LORD? For they had made a great oath concerning him that came not up to the LORD to Mizpeh, saying, He shall surely be put to death.

and smote them with the edge of the sword, as well the men of every city;
In the meantime, the enraged Israelite army turned on all the cities of Benjamin, or at least those cities they came across while chasing the Benjamite army, and they slaughtered the women, children, elderly and infirmed until no one remained (21:1614). Wood (p. 151) correctly comments that the slaughter was entirely unreasonable. The enraged Israelites had obviously overreacted to the situation. They were undoubtedly upset by the atrocity committed on the concubine that led to the initial skirmish, and then they were even more enraged by the heavy losses that had been inflicted on them by the Benjamites, having suffered the loss of 40,000 men; and finally they were angry at those cities that sent out their militia to fight against them. However, when the slaughter was finished, they finally realized that they had virtually annihilated one of the tribes of God’s people. They treated the Benjamites and their cities with the same severity as they had treated the Canaanitish nations, or as Jericho had been destroyed by the tribes of Israel (Joshua 6:17, 2115).

14Judges 21:16 (KJV) Then the elders of the congregation said, How shall we do for wives for them that remain, seeing the women are destroyed out of Benjamin? Though the young women of Jabesh-gilead had been carefully spared, the supply was found inadequate, and some other expedient must be resorted to.—Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

15Josh 6:17, 21 (KJV) And the city shall be accursed, even it, and all that are therein, to the LORD: only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all that are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent…  And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword. The city shall be accursed—That is, it shall be devoted to destruction; ye shall take no spoils, and put all that resist to the sword. What is implied here is the total destruction of all the inhabitants; but it is likely that peace was offered to this city, and that the extermination of the inhabitants was in consequence of the rejection of this offer. They utterly destroyed—man, and woman, etc.—As this act was ordered by God himself, who is the Maker and Judge of all men, it must be right: for the Judge of all the earth cannot do wrong. Nothing that breathed was permitted to live; hence the oxen, sheep, and asses, were destroyed, as well as the inhabitants.

as the beast, and all that came to hand;
No living creature was spared; no people, animals, herds or flocks.

also they set on fire all the cities that they came unto;
The men of Israel wanted to avenge the deaths of their brothers-in-arms, so they assaulted all the cities they came to that belonged to the tribe of Benjamin. They were so livid and fierce that they killed everything that breathed and burnt the cities to the ground, because even those who stayed at home were guilty of supplying and supporting the militias they sent out.

Now, it is difficult to justify the severity of Israel’s act. The whole tribe of Benjamin was culpable; but did they have to be treated as devoted Canaanites? It is true that they had lost many men during the two previous days of fighting, but that was something they were accustomed to. Men died during the heat of war, but the Israelites were extremely exasperated against the Benjamites for the slaughter they had made among them in the two former engagements; 40,000 lost.

As we mentioned at the beginning of this verse, a case could be made for the slaughter of the Benjamites and the total destruction of their cities; however, we are more likely to accept it if the hand of God can be seen in it. Benjamin had sinned against him, and God had threatened that, if they forgot him, they would perish as the nations that were before them perished (Deu. 8:2016). Their sin was bad enough to evoke the wrath of the Almighty; however, the eternal ruin of souls will be worse, and more fearful, than all these desolations of a tribe.

16Deut 8:20 (NKJV) As the nations which the LORD destroys before you, so you shall perish, because you would not be obedient to the voice of the LORD your God.

 

Summary

This chapter is a good illustration of James 3:13–1817. When we operate on the basis of human wisdom, we create one problem after another, but when we pause to pray and seek the mind of the Lord, He shows us what to do.

The Benjamites did not seek the Lord, admit their guilt, or repent of their sins. There can be no peace unless sin is put away, but the people of Benjamin would not judge their own people in Gibeah. “So shall you put away the evil person from among you” is repeated nine times in Deuteronomy, and God expected His people to obey.

God’s people today need to deal with sin in their lives (2 Cor. 7:118) and in the church family (1 Cor. 519). Unconfessed sin is like uncontrolled disease: it spreads and it kills. Charles Spurgeon said, “Sin is the mother and nurse of all evil, the egg of all mischief, the fountain of all bitterness, the root of misery.”

17James 3:13-18 (NKJV) Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth.  This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic.  For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.  But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

182 Cor 7:1 (NKJV) Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

191 Cor 5:1 (NLT) I can hardly believe the report about the sexual immorality going on among you—something that even pagans don’t do. I am told that a man in your church is living in sin with his stepmother

 

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