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Judges 20:1, 2: Israel's Great Assembly against Benjamin

Verse 1:[1] Then (Deut. 13:12; Josh. 22:12; Judg. 21:5; 1 Sam. 11:7) all the children of Israel went out, and the congregation was gathered together as one man, from (Judg. 18:29; 1 Sam. 3:20; 2 Sam. 3:10; 24:2) Dan even to Beer-sheba, with the land of Gilead, unto the LORD (Judg. 10:17; 11:11; 1 Sam. 7:5; 10:17) in Mizpeh.

[All went out] With the Benjamites excepted, as it is evident from verse 12 (Piscator).

All the children of Israel, that is, a great number, and especially the rulers of all the tribes, except Benjamin, Judges 20:3, 12. Went out, from their several habitations.

[As one man] A Hebraism: With unanimous consent (Vatablus). Thus Hippocrates, in his epistle to Abdera concerning Democritus,[2] περὶ ἑνὸς ἀνθρώπου ὡς εἷς ἄνθρωπος ἡ πόλις θορυβεῖσθε, that is, For one man, ye, the whole city, as one man, make an uproar (Gataker).

As one man, that is, with one consent.

[From Dan, לְמִדָּן] Verbatim: from to Dan (Malvenda), or, to out of Dan (Jonathan), from Dan (Septuagint, Syriac, Munster, Pagnine, Tigurinus, Montanus), with the particles doubled, the same as מִן/from. There are such things in Latin, inante, in before, depost, from after, exante, from before, etc. This is the Northern Border of the land (Drusius).

[Unto Beer-sheba] It was a city in the tribe of Judah, or Simeon, towards the Philistines and the South. This was the southern border, Genesis 21:33 (Junius).

From Dan even to Beer-sheba; Dan was the northern border of the land, near Lebanon; and Beer-sheba the southern border, Genesis 21:33. Compare 1 Kings 4:25.

[And the land of Gilead (thus Jonathan, Osiander)] Here, the Trans-jordanians are indicated, whose land was called the land of Gilead from the adjacent mountain (Bonfrerius).

[וְאֶ֖רֶץ הַגִּלְעָ֑ד] Unto the land of Gilead (Septuagint, Munster, Pagnine, Tigurinus, Montanus, Vatablus), understanding, from the Mediterranean Sea (Vatablus). And the land of Gilead (Junius and Tremellius), the border on the East (Junius). Or, and from the land of Gilead (Pagnine, Vatablus). The preposition מִן/from is to be understood from what precedes. It describes the length of the Holy Land, from the North to the South, and the breadth, from Gilead to the Mediterranean Sea (Vatablus).

The land of Gilead, beyond Jordan, where Reuben, Gad, and half Manasseh were.

[Unto the Lord at Mizpeh] Question 1: What Mizpeh? and where? Responses: 1. Some understand Shiloh, thus called because it was situated in an elevated place; now, מִצְפָּה/Mizpeh is a lookout[3] (Masius on Joshua 18, thus Josephus in Malvenda). 2. There were four cities in Judea called Mizpeh (Tostatus in Lapide). But this Mizpeh was in the confines of Judah and Benjamin (Lapide). And so it is ascribed both to Judah, Joshua 15:38, and to Benjamin, Joshua 18:26. Yet it is rather to be believed that it was inhabited by the tribe of Judah, because that Tribe was more honored and more numerous (Bonfrerius). They assembled here, either, 1. because it was near to Gibeah, which they were desiring to punish, and equally also to Shiloh, where the Tabernacle, etc., was (Lapide). 2. Because the Israelites were wont to assemble here when something was to be decided (Vatablus, Munster, Drusius, Malvenda). Here sacred assemblies were celebrated, and the public prayers of the people, 1 Samuel 7:6; 1 Maccabees 3:46[4] (Malvenda); Jeremiah 40 (Lapide). Now, they were assembling here, because here the Lord had granted a great salvation in the time of Joshua[5] (Munster, Vatablus); and because there was a house of prayer here (Drusius, Bonfrerius, Martyr). They had only one Temple, but many Synagogues and proseuchæ;[6] and there was some certain celebrated and principal one in this place, from which the Rabbis trace the origin of the synagogues (Bonfrerius, Lapide). Question 2: Why are they said to assemble here unto the Lord? Responses: 1. Because Mizpeh was in an elevated location, and from there Shiloh was able to be seen: thus they are gathered toward the Lord, residing at some distance in the Tabernacle (Lapide, Menochius). 2. Because wherever there are multiple pious people, there the Lord is present (Martyr out of Kimchi, Drusius). 3. Because in that place was an altar (or a table [Vatablus]) of the Lord, and a house of prayer (Drusius, Vatablus). 4. They gathered to the Lord, that is, to ask counsel of the Lord, out of verse 18 (Piscator).

Unto the Lord; as to the Lord’s tribunal; for God was not only present in the place where the ark and tabernacle was, but also in the assemblies of the gods, or judges, Psalm 82:1, and in all the places where God’s name is recorded, Exodus 20:24, and where two or three are met together in his name, Matthew 18:20, for his service, and to seek for counsel and mercy from him: compare Judges 11:11. In Mizpeh; a place in the borders of Judah and Benjamin, and therefore ascribed to both of them, Joshua 15:38; 18:26. This they chose, as a place most fit and proper in many respects. First, As a place they used to meet in upon solemn occasions: see Judges 10:17; 11:11; 1 Samuel 7:5, 16; 10:17. Secondly, For its convenient situation for all the tribes within and without Jordan. Thirdly, As being near the place where the fact was done, that it might be more thoroughly examined; and not far from Shiloh, where the tabernacle was, whither they might go or send, if need were.

Verse 2:[7] And the chief of all the people, even of all the tribes of Israel, presented themselves in the assembly of the people of God, four hundred thousand footmen (Judg. 8:10) that drew sword.

[And all the corners of the people…assembled, וַיִּֽתְיַצְּב֞וּ פִּנּ֣וֹת כָּל־הָעָ֗ם] And stood the corners of all the people (Pagnine, Montanus, Piscator, Drusius, Junius, Tigurinus), that is, the nobles, magnates, chiefs (Vatablus, Drusius, Lapide). For, as corners are principal in a house, so primates among a people (Vatablus). The corners are those that are superior in authority, and support, as it were, the mass of the republic; 1 Samuel 14:38;[8] Isaiah 19:13;[9] Zephaniah 3:6[10] (Drusius). These, after the likeness of cornerstones (which, when they are larger and stronger, uphold and strengthen the entire edifice), uphold the Republic, and keep it strong (Bonfrerius). Or thus they are called, because פִּנָּה also signifies a hill, or the summit of a mountain, which ends at an angle/apex, Zephaniah 1:16, in which the Chaldean renders it, the exalted mountains[11] (Bochart’s Sacred Geography “Canaan” 1:42:753). Junius and Tremellius thus translate it, they came together from the extremities of the entire people. They understand מִן/from without any necessity (Drusius). Or, all the angles, that is, all the people dwelling in their places, corners, as it were. But I prefer the former sense (Lapide). The families of all the people (Syriac), or, of the tribes, etc. (Arabic).

The chief; Hebrew, the corners, that is, the nobles and rulers, which are oft so called, because, like cornerstones, they both unite, and support, and adorn the whole building.

[And all the tribes] Or, of all the tribes, so that it is referred to the corners, the corners of the tribes, as in Isaiah 19:13 (Drusius).

[Unto the assembly/church of the people of God] קָהָל and ἐκκλησία mean the same thing here as the Greek σύνοδος/assembly, and the Latin conventus/ gathering, or concilium/meeting (Grotius).

[Four hundred thousand of footmen, רַגְלִי] Of footman (Montanus), of footmen (Septuagint, Jonathan, Syriace, Munster, Junius and Tremellius). [So that it is an Enallage of number.]

Four hundred thousand, or, and four hundred thousand. It is an ellipsis of the particle [and,] of which examples have been given before: for the chief of the people were not so many; but the common soldiers, and these were all footmen; whereas many of the rulers rode upon horses, or asses, Judges 5:10; 10:4; 12:14. The number is here set down, to show both their zeal and forwardness in punishing such a villany; and the strange blindness of the Benjamites that durst oppose so great and united body; and that the success of battles depends not upon great numbers, seeing this great host was twice defeated by the Benjamites, but wholly upon God’s blessing. Footmen; for horsemen they had few or none in their armies.

[1] Hebrew: וַיֵּצְאוּ֮ כָּל־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵל֒ וַתִּקָּהֵ֙ל הָעֵדָ֜ה כְּאִ֣ישׁ אֶחָ֗ד לְמִדָּן֙ וְעַד־בְּאֵ֣ר שֶׁ֔בַע וְאֶ֖רֶץ הַגִּלְעָ֑ד אֶל־יְהוָ֖ה הַמִּצְפָּֽה׃

[2] Democritus of Abdera (c. 460-c. 370 BC) was an Greek philosopher. He was an atomist, and intensely interested in the natural sciences.

[3] צָפָה signifies to look out or about, or to keep watch.

[4] 1 Maccabees 3:46: “Wherefore the Israelites assembled themselves together, and came to Maspha, over against Jerusalem; for in Maspha was the place where they prayed aforetime in Israel.”

[5] Joshua 11.

[6] Or, houses of prayer.

[7] Hebrew: וַיִּֽתְיַצְּב֞וּ פִּנּ֣וֹת כָּל־הָעָ֗ם כֹּ֚ל שִׁבְטֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל בִּקְהַ֖ל עַ֣ם הָאֱלֹהִ֑ים אַרְבַּ֙ע מֵא֥וֹת אֶ֛לֶף אִ֥ישׁ רַגְלִ֖י שֹׁ֥לֵֽף חָֽרֶב׃

[8] 1 Samuel 14:38: “And Saul said, Draw ye near hither, all the chief of the people ( כֹּ֖ל פִּנּ֣וֹת הָעָ֑ם, all the corners of the people): and know and see wherein this sin hath been this day.”

[9] Isaiah 19:13: “The princes of Zoan are become fools, the princes of Noph are deceived; they have also seduced Egypt, even they that are the stay of the tribes thereof (פִּנַּ֥ת שְׁבָטֶֽיהָ׃).”

[10] Zephaniah 3:6: “I have cut off the nations: their towers are desolate (נָשַׁ֙מּוּ֙ פִּנּוֹתָ֔ם, their corners are desolate); I made their streets waste, that none passeth by: t heir cities are destroyed, so that there is no man, that there is none inhabitant.”

[11] Zephaniah 1:16: “A day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high towers (הַפִּנּ֥וֹת הַגְּבֹהֽוֹת׃; רָמָתָא מְנֻטְלָתָא, in the Chaldean).”

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Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday
May 03, 2019

Matthew Henry: 'Here is...A general meeting of all the congregation of Israel to examine the matter concerning the Levite's concubine, and to consider what was to be done upon it, Judges 20:1-2. It does not appear that they were summoned by the authority of any one common head, but they came together by the consent and agreement, as it were, of one common heart, fired with a holy zeal for the honour of God and Israel. 1. The place of their meeting was Mizpeh; they gathered together unto the Lord there, for Mizpeh was so very near to Shiloh that their encampment might very well be supposed to reach from Mizpeh to Shiloh. Shiloh was a small town, and therefore…


Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday
May 03, 2019

Hebrew Highlights:

1. Note the terms of relative geography, so important in understanding Old Testament historical narrative.

2. How do you understand וַיִּֽתְיַצְּב֞וּ פִּנּ֣וֹת כָּל־הָעָ֗ם?

3. Note the language of קָהָל.

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