Judges 20:42-46: The Third Battle at Gibeah: Benjamin's Defeat, Part 3

Verse 42:[1] Therefore they turned their backs before the men of Israel unto the way of the wilderness; but the battle overtook them; and them which came out of the cities they destroyed in the midst of them.


[With their enemies pursuing, וְהַמִּלְחָמָ֖ה הִדְבִּיקָ֑תְהוּ] And the battle pursued them (Pagnine, Junius, similarly Montanus, Piscator), that is, the men of battle pursued (Piscator, thus Munster, Vatablus, Drusius). A Metonymy of subject. Thus in Romans 11:7, the election hath obtained, in the place of, the elect have obtained: a Metonymy of adjunct (Piscator).


The battle, that is, the men of battle or war; the abstract for the concrete, as poverty, 2 Kings 24:14,[2] pride, Psalm 36:11, deceit, Proverbs 12:5, dreams, Jeremiah 27:9,[3] election, Romans 11:7, are put for persons that are poor, proud, deceitful, dreamers, elect.



[These that were setting fire to the city, וַאֲשֶׁר֙ מֵהֶ֣עָרִ֔ים מַשְׁחִיתִ֥ים אוֹת֖וֹ בְּתוֹכֽוֹ׃] This was spoken with greater obscurity, so that you might not know whether it ought to be referred to these liers in wait (Bonfrerius). And who from the cities (understanding, were going out [Vatablus, Munster, Tigurinus]) were slaughtering them in the midst of themselves (Pagnine), that is, between the slaughtered of the field and the slaughtered of the city. They, namely, those that had been placed in ambush, were slaughtering them (Vatablus). The men of the ambush arose from their cities, killing in them on this side and on that (Jonathan). Others: and who were coming forth from other cities, etc.; that is, all the remaining Israelites, who were ready in the neighboring cities, and were awaiting the outcome of this battle; they enclosed the scattered Benjamites, and intercepted them on every side. Thus, surrounded on every side in the midst, they were slaughtered (Junius). Others thus: and those who from the cities, that is, the remaining cities of the Benjamites, were in Gibeah; these they, namely, who had been in ambush, and had occupied the city, were destroying in the midst of it. Meanwhile, in the city of Gibeah they were also raging with slaughters against the dregs of the men that had come together there from the remaining cities of Benjamin (Osiander).


Them which came out of the cities they destroyed in the midst of them: so the sense may seem to be this, That the Israelites did not only kill the inhabitants of Gibeah, and all the Benjamites that came into the field against them, six hundred excepted; but in the midst of them, or together with them, they killed also the rest of the Benjamites, who, when they saw their army was wholly destroyed, made haste to flee out of their several cities or towns, that so they might escape the sword, which was coming towards them. But the words may be rendered thus: And them who were of the other cities, to wit, of Benjamin, that is, who abode in their own cities and did not go up to Gibeah, they destroyed in the midst of them, that is, in their several cities; or, in the midst of it, that is, of every city; for so it is said, verse 48, where it is said that they smote the men of every city. But this I submit to the learned.


Verse 43:[4] Thus they inclosed the Benjamites round about, and chased them, and trode them down with ease (or, from Menuchah,[5] etc.) over against (Heb. unto over against[6]) Gibeah toward the sunrising.



[That they were slaughtered on both sides, etc., כִּתְּר֤וּ אֶת־בִּנְיָמִן֙] And they surrounded Benjamin (Montanus, Tigurinus). They inclosed, that is, after the manner of a crown (Hebrews in Vatablus). For כֶּתֶר is a diadem, a crown (Drusius).


[And there was not rest, הִרְדִיפֻ֔הוּ מְנוּחָ֖ה הִדְרִיכֻ֑הוּ] They pursued them, from the house of their rest they crushed them (Jonathan). Vigorously pursuing them, and seizing the road before them, lest they should find a safe place (Tigurinus). Diligently, or vigorously, they pursued them in the place of quiet, that is, in which they formerly enjoyed quiet, and were thinking themselves to be able to be quiet. Certain interpreters: they mutually encouraged each other to pursue them, lest there should be rest, so that מִן/from might be understood, or, so that there might be no rest (Vatablus). It is able to be read, from the place of quiet they led them away (Tigurinus Notes). They made to pursue him; some exhorted others to pursue him who was in quiet, that is, had remained at home, and had not taken up arms. Some understand אִישׁ/man, so that it might say, a man of quiet. Thus wine is taken for a drunk man, and deceit for a deceitful man, etc. (Drusius). Others: they trampled, or slaughtered, everyone easily (Syriac, English), quietly, in the place of in, that is, with, quiet (Piscator), without great labor (Junius and Tremellius). To others Menuchah is the proper name of a place. Thus Forster, Mercerus, and the Spanish translator. See on 1 Chronicles 2:52; Jeremiah 51:59[7] (Malvenda). They trampled them from Menuchah (Munster, English); they pursued them even unto Menuchah (Osiander).


With ease; without great difficulty. Now that God gave them his presence and assistance, they easily did that which before they found too hard for them. Or, unto Menuchah; or, as far as Menuchah; a place so called. See 1 Chronicles 2:52; Jeremiah 51:59.



[Unto the eastern quarter of the city of Gibeah, עַ֛ד נֹ֥כַח הַגִּבְעָ֖ה] Unto over against Gibeah (Montanus), or, over against Gibeah (Pagnine, English), that is, unto a place that was over against Gibeah (Vatablus). Even unto Gibeah itself (Munster), that is, even unto the borders of Benjamin toward Jerusalem (Malvenda out of Junius).


Verse 44:[8] And there fell of Benjamin eighteen thousand men; all these were men of valour.

[They were killed] In the heat of the battle. For it is ἐπάνοδος, a recapitulation. And so you may rightly translate it, they had been killed (Grotius).


There fell, to wit, in the field, or battle.


Verse 45:[9] And they turned and fled toward the wilderness unto the rock of (Josh. 15:32) 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.


[Scattering in flight, וַיְעֹלְלֻהוּ[10]] And they gleaned him (Pagnine, Montanus); as if by gleaning they cut him down (Munster, similarly Tigurinus). A transference from vines (Drusius). They slaughtered them, scattering and heading into diverse places. They did not let clusters of them go, but all that were found they slaughtered in the way (Vatablus). They also killed the remnants of them (Munster).


They gleaned, that is, they cut off the remainders in the pursuit, and spared none; a metaphor from those who gather grapes or corn so clearly and fitly, that they leave no relics for those who come after them.


Verse 46:[11] 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.



[Twenty-five thousand] And what exceeds. See verse 35. It is common to all nations to express larger numbers, and to leave smaller numbers unmentioned, where they add little to the sum (Grotius). An ellipsis is commonly used in the rounding of numbers: as when the Septuagint Translators are called the Seventy, instead of Seventy-two; or in the Roman Republic the centumviri,[12] instead of the one hundred and five. So also in Judges 11:26 and 2 Samuel 5:5 (Junius, Piscator). It omits the one hundred in Judges 20:35 (Piscator, Vatablus, Malvenda): likewise a thousand that were enumerated in the levy itself, who had fallen in the two former battles (Vatablus). [Concerning whom see our collections on verse 15.]


Twenty and five thousand, besides the odd hundred expressed verse 35; but here only the great number is expressed, the less being omitted, as inconsiderable; which way of numbering is frequent in Scripture, as Judges 11:26; 2 Samuel 5:5, and in other authors, and in vulgar use; as when they are called the seventy interpreters, who in truth and exactness were seventy-two. Here are also a thousand more omitted, because here he speaks only of them who fell in that third day of battle. See on Judges 20:15.

[1] Hebrew: וַיִּפְנ֞וּ לִפְנֵ֙י אִ֤ישׁ יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ אֶל־דֶּ֣רֶךְ הַמִּדְבָּ֔ר וְהַמִּלְחָמָ֖ה הִדְבִּיקָ֑תְהוּ וַאֲשֶׁר֙ מֵהֶ֣עָרִ֔ים מַשְׁחִיתִ֥ים אוֹת֖וֹ בְּתוֹכֽוֹ׃


[2] 2 Kings 24:14: “And he carried away all Jerusalem, and all the princes, and all the mighty men of valour, even ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and smiths: none remained, save the poverty (דַּלַּת) of the people of the land.”


[3] Jeremiah 27:9: “Therefore hearken not ye to your prophets, nor to your diviners, nor to your dreamers (חֲלֹמֹתֵיכֶם, your dreams), nor to your enchanters, nor to your sorcerers, which speak unto you, saying, Ye shall not serve the king of Babylon…”


[4] Hebrew: כִּתְּר֤וּ אֶת־בִּנְיָמִן֙ הִרְדִיפֻ֔הוּ מְנוּחָ֖ה הִדְרִיכֻ֑הוּ עַ֛ד נֹ֥כַח הַגִּבְעָ֖ה מִמִּזְרַח־שָֽׁמֶשׁ׃


[5] Hebrew: מְנוּחָה.


[6] Hebrew: עַ֛ד נֹ֥כַח.


[7] Jeremiah 51:59: “The word which Jeremiah the prophet commanded Seraiah the son of Neriah, the son of Maaseiah, when he went with Zedekiah the king of Judah into Babylon in the fourth year of his reign. And this Seraiah was a quiet princeשַׂ֥ר) מְנוּחָֽה׃, prince of Menuchah).”


[8] Hebrew: וַֽיִּפְּלוּ֙ מִבִּנְיָמִ֔ן שְׁמֹנָֽה־עָשָׂ֥ר אֶ֖לֶף אִ֑ישׁ אֶת־כָּל־אֵ֖לֶּה אַנְשֵׁי־חָֽיִל׃


[9] Hebrew: וַיִּפְנ֞וּ וַיָּנֻ֤סוּ הַמִּדְבָּ֙רָה֙ אֶל־סֶ֣לַע הָֽרִמּ֔וֹן וַיְעֹֽלְלֻ֙הוּ֙ בַּֽמְסִלּ֔וֹת חֲמֵ֥שֶׁת אֲלָפִ֖ים אִ֑ישׁ וַיַּדְבִּ֤יקוּ אַחֲרָיו֙ עַד־גִּדְעֹ֔ם וַיַּכּ֥וּ מִמֶּ֖נּוּ אַלְפַּ֥יִם אִֽישׁ׃


[10] עָלַל in the Poel signifies to glean.


[11] Hebrew: וַיְהִי֩ כָל־הַנֹּ֙פְלִ֜ים מִבִּנְיָמִ֗ן עֶשְׂרִים֩ וַחֲמִשָּׁ֙ה אֶ֥לֶף אִ֛ישׁ שֹׁ֥לֵֽף חֶ֖רֶב בַּיּ֣וֹם הַה֑וּא אֶֽת־כָּל־אֵ֖לֶּה אַנְשֵׁי־חָֽיִל׃


[12] The Centumviral Court (Court of “One Hundred Men”) dealt with private and estate law.

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Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.

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