Judges – Chapter 20

Perhaps We Over-Reacted

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

Every Tribe sent representatives to the national meeting at Mitzpah. The Levite man told his story and the nation demanded an explanation from the Tribe of Benjamin. Benjamin refused to yield to national authority, insisting that they would deal with the situation as an internal matter. This was unacceptable to the rest of the Tribes, who declared war on Benjamin. Benjamin’s army was 26,700. The rest of the nation had assembled an army of 400,000. (Perhaps Benjamin should have just handed over the offending members of their Tribe.)

In the first battle, Benjamin killed 22,000 Israelites. In the second battle, Benjamin killed another 18,000. Finally the 11 Tribes asked of G-d whether they should go to battle against Benjamin and G-d said yes, adding that they would then be victorious. (They had asked once before, but that was after they prepared for war. In other words, the first time they asked, their actions showed that they had already decided before asking.)

In the third battle, Israel ambushed Benjamin by surprise. Israel killed 25,100 Benjaminites. Benjamin retreated and was pursued. 18,000 soldiers were killed in battle and another 7,000 were killed in flight. 600 escaped to the Rock of Rimon, where they stayed for four months. The cities of Benjamin were eradicated, so that only the 600 refugees at Rimon survived.

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