The Holy Bible – Knox Translation
The Book of Judges
So the whole of Israel, all that dwelt between Dan and Bersabee, and the men of Galaad too, assembled with a common purpose before the Lord at Maspha;
no chief, no clan but took part in this general muster of the Lord’s people. Four hundred thousand foot,
the sons of Benjamin heard, had been sent to Maspha by their fellow-Israelites. And now the Levite, the dead woman’s husband, was asked how such a wrong came to be done,
and told them how he had gone with his wife to lodge at Gabaa, in Benjamin;
how the townsfolk beset the house where he was spending the night, ready to make an attempt on his life, and how their mad lust had indeed brought about his wife’s death.
So I carried off the body, he told them, and cut it in pieces, which I sent round to every quarter of your dominions, to bear witness of such a wrongful and shameful deed as was never yet done in Israel.
Men of Israel, you are met in council; see to it where your duty lies.
And all that stood by answered with one voice, Never will we return to our dwelling-places, our homes shall see us no more,
until we have inflicted a common punishment on Gabaa.
We must set apart ten Israelites in every hundred, a hundred in every thousand, a thousand in every ten thousand, to supply the army with food; then we will go to the attack against Gabaa in Benjamin, and exact retribution for the wrong done.
So, with one mind and one intent, all Israel made common cause against this city.
An embassy was sent to the Benjamites to reproach them with harbouring the guilt of a foul crime,
bidding them hand over the wanton folk at Gabaa that had been the authors of it, so that their death might rid Israel of a disgrace. But the sons of Benjamin would take no orders from their fellow-Israelites;
all the cities which belonged to their domain sent men to Gabaa’s rescue, defying the whole commonwealth of Israel.
Benjamin then counted twenty-five thousand warriors, apart from the citizens of Gabaa;
and these could provide seven hundred champions of their own, men who could fight as well with the left hand as with the right, and could sling a stone without missing their aim by a hair’s breadth.
But Israel, without Benjamin, had four hundred thousand warriors under arms,
and these now mustered at Silo,✻ where they asked divine counsel to know who should lead them into battle against Benjamin; Juda, the Lord told them, is to be your leader.
So next day without more ado, they encamped close to Gabaa,
and offered Benjamin battle, making an assault on the city.
Hereupon the men of Benjamin made a sally, and slew, that day, twenty-two thousand Israelites.
Even then, the Israelites did not alter their plan of attack, such confidence had they in their numbers and their valour.
But first they went up to the Lord’s sanctuary and offered, all the long day, their tearful supplications; were they to fight on against their brethren of Benjamin? Go out to meet them, the Lord said, and offer battle.
This second day, when Israel marched against them,
the Benjamites made a fresh sally from the gates of Gabaa, with such a murderous onslaught that eighteen thousand warriors were left dead on the field.
And now all Israel went into God’s house and sat there in tears; they kept a fast till night-fall, and brought him burnt-sacrifice and welcome-offerings,
consulting him about the plight they were in. At this time, the ark of God rested there,
and there, too, was Phinees, son to Eleazar that was son of Aaron, in charge of God’s house. And now when they asked the Lord whether they should take the field once more against their brethren of Benjamin, the answer was, Go to the attack; I mean to give you the mastery of them to-morrow.
This time, the Israelites hid men in ambush round the city of Gabaa,
and when, once again, they made a frontal attack, such as they had made twice before,
the men of Benjamin sallied out more boldly than ever, ready to pursue their adversaries to any distance. Just as on the two earlier days, they began cutting the Israelites down as they ran, some on the road to Bethel, some on the road to Gabaa itself, and about thirty of them fell.
A fresh rout it seemed, but in truth the men of Israel did but feign flight, so as to lure their pursuers down these roads, far away from the city.
Meanwhile the main body of Israelites had withdrawn from the ground they held, and taken up their stand at a place called Baal-Thamar, but leaving bodies of men in ambush round the city;✻ and these now began to disclose themselves one by one,
and march on the city from the west. The defenders of the city had been lured out of it by the ten thousand Israelites who came to the attack; so that now things went ill with the army of Benjamin; they were surrounded on all sides unawares.
So it was that the Lord struck down Benjamin at the onslaught of the Israelites, who slew that day twenty-five thousand one hundred fighting men, all of them trained to war.
This, then, was the way of it.✻ On ran the men of Benjamin, finding the conflict so uneven, and still the Israelites gave ground to them, so that they should fall into the trap which had been set for them round the city.
Now, on a sudden, while the men of Benjamin thus exposed their rear to attack, the men in ambush rose from their hiding-places, made their way into the city, and put everyone they found there to the sword.
A signal had been agreed upon between them and the rest of the Israelites; when they had taken the city, they were to make a great fire, whose smoke rolling upwards would announce the capture.
And this sight now met the eyes of the Israelites who had been entrusted with the fighting. They were being fiercely pressed by the Benjamites, who thought them routed and had already slain some thirty of them;
but now they saw a column of smoke rising up from the city. The Benjamites, too, looked back and saw it; saw that their city had been taken, and the flames of it were mounting up to heaven.
So now the men who had been feigning flight faced about, and offered fiercer resistance; while the Benjamites, when they saw what was befalling them, turned their backs
and made for the road that leads out into the desert. But, go where they would, the men who were matched against them were at their heels; and by now the men who had been burning down the city came out to meet them as well.
Thus the enemy attacked them from both sides, cutting them down without respite; all over the country-side east of Gabaa men were falling, and lying where they fell.
Eighteen thousand men, all their picked warriors, were killed there and then;
the rest of Benjamin, after witnessing their defeat, escaped into the desert, and made for the rock that is called Remmon. Even in that flight, straggling and scattered, five thousand met their death; and another two thousand were killed by the pursuers as they tried to go further afield.
Thus twenty-five thousand sons of Benjamin perished, some here, some there, all of them warriors trained to battle.
The whole number of Benjamites that made good their escape into the desert was no more than six hundred men; and these spent four whole months on the rock of Remmon.
Meanwhile the Israelites went back and put all that was left in the city, man and beast, to the sword; and busy flames devoured every city and township in the lands of Benjamin.
The Holy Bible