Sefer Shoftim-Chapter 20: The vengeance against Binyamin-A civil war begins and Binyamin is decimated

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Chapter 20: The vengeance against Binyamin-A civil war begins and Binyamin is decimated

1. The Jewish people gather to discuss what to do with Binyamin:

  • All the Jewish people went out from their cities and gathered as one nation, from Dan to Beer Sheva, and the land of Gilad [to seek vengeance against the perpetrators of the murder rape]. They gathered in the city of Mitzpah, which was the city where G-d dwelled at that time. All the leaders of the Jewish people from amongst all the tribes were there.
  • The soldiers: There were 400,000 men of the sword present.
  • Binyamin ignores the gathering: The tribe of Binyamin received word of the gathering of the Jewish people in Mitzpah, and they paid no heed to it.

2. The Levite man retells the story to the gathering of the Jewish people:

  • The Jewish people turned to the Levite man and asked him as to how this evil occurred. So, the Levite man, who was the husband of the murdered woman, told over the story as follows:
  • I arrived in the valley of Binyamin, I and my concubine, to sleep for the night. Members of the city got up and surrounded the home where we were staying, at night. They desired to kill me, and oppressed my concubine and she died. I took my concubine and dismembered her body and sent its parts to all parts of Israel, as they performed a great atrocity amongst us.
  • He pleads for their intervention: The man then asked the gathering of Bnei Yisrael to come up with a plan of action to retaliate for the deed.

3. Preparing for battle:

  • The decision: All the Jewish people decided unanimously that no one will return to his home until judgement is passed.
  • Recruiting the soldiers and those who will provide food: They decided to perform a lottery and recruit ten men per every 100 men of the tribes of Israel, and 100 men for every thousand, and 1000 for every 10,000 to bring food to the rest of the camp [who remained]. The food was prepared for the soldiers who would go to the Givah to get vengeance for the abomination they did amongst Israel. All the Jewish people gathered in the city in unison, as one man, who are all friends.

4. A delegation is sent to Binyamin and delivers them an ultimatum:

  • The ultimatum: The tribes of Israel sent a delegation throughout the land of the tribe of Binyamin asking them the following: What is this evil that was performed in your midst? Now, hand over to us the gang of men of the Givah so we can put them to death, and remove the evil from amongst Israel.
  • The reply of Binyamin: The tribe of Binyamin did not choose to listen to the voice of their brothers, the rest of the Jewish people, and refused to hand them over the men that they requested.

5. Binyamin prepares for war against Bnei Yisrael:

  • The tribe of Binyamin gathered on that day from amongst their cities 26,000 men of the sword. In addition, 700 young men from the Givah joined them.
  • These 700 men were all lefties, and were sharpshooters who would not miss a hair when they threw a stone.

6. The Jewish people inquire from G-d and set up camp for battle:

  • The numbers on the side of Bnei Yisrael: The number of soldiers galvanized from amongst the Jewish people, aside from Binyamin, was 400,000 men of the sword, men who were all warriors.
  • Inquiring from G-d who should begin the battle: They got up and encamped by Beis Eil and inquired from G-d as to which tribe should be the first to wage battle against Binyamin. Hashem replied that the tribe of Yehuda should go first.
  • Encamping by the Givah of Binyamin: The Jewish people rose in the morning and encamped by the Givah [of Binyamin].

7. The first battles are unsuccessful:

  • The losses of the first battle: The Jewish people began to wage war against Binyamin by the Givah. The men of Binyamin left the Givah and killed 22,000 men from the side of the Jewish people.
  • Asking G-d if they should continue the battle: The Jewish people strengthened themselves and decided to continue to battle the next day, in the same area they waged war the previous day. However, prior to doing so they went and cried before G-d until the evening, and asked Hashem if they should continue to wage battle against their brother Binyamin. G-d replied that they should go.
  • The second battle: So, the Jewish people approached the tribe of Binyamin on the second day and Binyamin came charging at them from the Givah also on the second day. They managed to kill an additional 18,000 warriors of the Jewish people in that battle.
  • Crying to G-d for their losses and again inquiring if they should continue battle: The entire Jewish people came to Beis Eil and sat and cried before G-d. They fasted that day until the evening, and brought sacrifices of Olos and Shelamim to Hashem. They again inquired before G-d [if they should go to war]. The Aron Habris was located in that area [of Beis Eil] in those days. Pinchas, the son of Elazar, the son of Aaron Hakohen, was the priest who served before the Aron in those times, and he asked Hashem: Shall we continue to wage battle against our brother Binyamin or should we stop? Hashem replied that they should go, as the next day he will hand them to their hands.

8. The third and final battle decimates Binyamin:

  • The start of battle: The Jewish people set up ambush around the Givah. On the third day they renewed the battle against Binyamin and went towards the Givah just as they did the previous days. The men of Binyamin once again came charging at them from outside the city. They left the city deserted [of soldiers].
  • The first fallen soldiers of the side of Israel: At first, Binyamin was again successful in killing thirty men from the side of Israel in the fields outside the Givah. The Jewish people began running away, and Binyamin thought that they were fleeing just like they did by the previous days of battle. However, in truth, they were trying to distance Binyamin from the city to the outskirts.
  • The ambush surrounds Binyamin: All the men of Israel who were waiting in ambush then came out of hiding and surrounded Binyamin from both sides. There were 10,000 young warriors of Israel opposite the Givah. There was a great battle, as Binyamin was not even aware that they were surrounded.
  • Binyamin loses 25,100 soldiers and the Givah is destroyed: Hashem had the Jewish people smite on that day 25,100 warriors from Binyamin. [This is how it happened:] Binyamin saw that they were being chased and surrounded, so they ran back towards the Givah, which was left open by the Jewish men. The ambush then immediately came out from near the Givah and went to greet them in battle. They then entered the city and killed all its inhabitants by the sword, and put the city up in flames. Binyamin turned around and saw the city up in flames. They fell in shock and became all confused, as they finally realized that the tides had turned against them. At first the Jewish people killed 18,000 warriors from Binyamin. Binyamin then fled to the desert and had a further 5,000 soldiers of theirs killed. They then chased them to Gidom, and a further 2,000 men were killed, for a total of 25,000 deaths of soldiers from Binyamin.
  • Six hundred Benjamite men hide in caves: A remaining 600 soldiers of Binyamin went to hide in cave called Sela Rimon for four months.
  • Binyamin is decimated: The Jewish men returned to the land of Binyamin and annihilated all the inhabitants of the land, including the animals. They set all of their cities aflame.

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