In those days when Israel didn't have a king, there was a Levite who lived in a remote area in the mountains of Ephraim. He took a woman from Bethlehem in Judah to be his concubine.
But she was unfaithful to him. She left him and went to her father's home, to Bethlehem in Judah. When she had been there four months,
her husband went to persuade her to come back home. He took along his servant and two donkeys. She took her husband into her father's house. Her father was thrilled to see him.
He made the Levite stay there with him, celebrating for three days.
On the fourth day they got up early in the morning to leave, but the woman's father told his son-in-law, "Eat something to keep up your strength and then you can go."
So they both sat down and ate and drank together. The woman's father said to his son-in-law, "Why don't you spend the night and enjoy yourself?"
When the Levite started to leave, his father-in-law urged him to stay another night, so he did.
On the morning of the fifth day, the Levite got up early to leave. The woman's father said, "Eat something to keep up your strength!" So they spent the time eating until late afternoon.
The Levite started to leave with his concubine and his servant. But his father-in-law said to him, "It's already evening. Please stay another night. It's too late [to leave] now. Stay here, and enjoy yourself. Tomorrow you can start out early to go home."
But the Levite refused to spend another night. He left and traveled as far as Jebus (now called Jerusalem). He had with him two saddled donkeys and his concubine.
By the time they were near Jebus, it was very late in the day. The Levite's servant said to him, "Let's go spend the night in Jebus."
The Levite told him, "We'll never go into a city of foreigners. They're not Israelites. We'll go on to Gibeah."
He told his servant, "Let's go someplace else. We'll spend the night either at Gibeah or Ramah."
So they went on. It was sunset by the time they arrived at Gibeah. (Gibeah belonged to the tribe of Benjamin.)
They went to spend the night there. The Levite entered Gibeah and sat down in the city square, because no one offered to take them home for the night.
That evening an old man came into the city from his work in the fields. He was from the mountain region of Ephraim but lived in Gibeah. The other people who lived there were from the tribe of Benjamin.
He saw the traveler in the city square. So the old man asked, "Where do you come from? And where are you going?"
The Levite replied, "We're on our way from Bethlehem in Judah to a remote area in the mountains of Ephraim. That's where I'm from. I had gone to Bethlehem in Judah. Now I'm going to the LORD's house, but no one has offered to take me into his home.
We have straw and fodder for our donkeys. I even have bread and wine for myself, the woman, and my servant. We have everything we need."
Then the old man said, "Welcome! Let me take care of your needs. Just don't spend the night in the city square."
So he took the Levite to his house and fed the donkeys. After they washed, they ate and drank.
While they were enjoying themselves, some worthless men from the city surrounded the house and pounded on the door. They told the old man, the owner of the house, "Bring out the man who came to your house so that we can have sex with him."
The owner went out to them. He told them, "No, my friends! Please don't do anything so evil! This man is a guest in my home. Don't do such a godless thing!
Here, let me bring out my virgin daughter and this man's concubine. Rape them, and do with them whatever you want. Just don't do such a godless thing to this man."
But the men refused to listen to him. So the Levite grabbed his concubine and forced her outside. They had sex with her and abused her all night until morning. They let her go when the sun was coming up.
At daybreak, the woman came to the door of the house where her husband was and collapsed. She was still there when it became light.
Her husband got up in the morning, opened the doors of the house, and was about to leave. His wife (that is, his concubine) was lying at the door of the house with her hands on the doorstep.
The Levite said to her, "Get up! Let's go!" But she did not answer. So he put her on the donkey and left for home.
When he arrived home, he got a knife. He took his concubine and cut her limb from limb into 12 pieces. Then he sent the pieces throughout the territories of Israel.
Everyone who saw it said, "Never has such a thing happened or been seen from the time the people of Israel came out of Egypt until today. Think about it! Form a plan, and speak out!"
All the people of Israel from Dan to Beersheba and from Gilead came to Mizpah. The congregation stood united in the presence of the LORD.
The leaders of all Israel's tribes took their places in the congregation of God's people. There were 400,000 foot soldiers with swords.
The people of Benjamin heard that Israel had come to Mizpah. The people of Israel said, "Tell us how such an evil thing could happen."
The Levite, the husband of the murdered woman, answered, "My concubine and I went to Gibeah in Benjamin to spend the night.
The citizens of Gibeah came to attack me. They surrounded the house [where I was staying] that night. They intended to kill me, but instead, they raped my concubine until she died.
So I took my concubine and cut her into pieces. Then I sent the pieces throughout the territory of Israel. I did this because the citizens of Gibeah did this perverted and godless thing in Israel.
All you people of Israel, tell me what you think. Give me your advice right now!"
All the people stood united, saying, "None of us will go to his tent or return to his house.
This is what we'll do to Gibeah. We'll decide by lot who should attack it.
We'll take one-tenth of all the men from the tribes of Israel to get supplies for the troops. When the troops go to Gibeah in the territory of Benjamin they can punish the citizens of Gibeah for the godless thing they did in Israel."
So all the men of Israel assembled. They stood united against the city.
The tribes of Israel sent men throughout the tribe of Benjamin. They asked, "How could such an evil thing happen among you?
Now hand over those worthless men in Gibeah. We must put them to death to rid ourselves of this kind of evil in Israel." But the men of Benjamin refused to listen to the men of Israel.
So the men of Benjamin went from their towns and assembled at Gibeah to go to war with the men of Israel.
That day 26,000 men armed with swords came from Benjamin's cities and organized for battle along with 700 of Gibeah's best men.
Out of all these troops, the best 700 were left-handed. Each could sling a stone at a hair and not miss.
The men of Israel (Benjamin not included) totaled 400,000 soldiers armed with swords.
The men of Israel went to Bethel. They asked God, "Who will go first to fight Benjamin?" The LORD answered, "Judah will go first."
The Israelites got up early in the morning and camped at Gibeah.
So the men of Israel went to war with the men of Benjamin. The Israelites formed their battle line facing Gibeah.
That day the men of Benjamin came out from Gibeah. They slaughtered 22,000 of Israel's men.
But Israel's troops got reinforcements. They formed their battle line where they had formed it on the first day.
The Israelites went and cried in the presence of the LORD until evening. They asked the LORD, "Should we continue to wage war against our close relatives, the men of Benjamin?" The LORD answered, "Go fight them!"
On the second day the Israelite troops advanced against Benjamin.
Benjamin went out from Gibeah to meet them. This time they slaughtered 18,000 men from Israel who were armed with swords.
Then all the men of Israel and all the troops went to Bethel. They sat there and cried in the presence of the LORD and fasted that day until evening. Then they sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to the LORD.
In those days the ark of God's promise was at Bethel.
(Phinehas, son of Eleazar and grandson of Aaron, served in front of it.) So the people of Israel asked the LORD, "Should we continue to wage war against our close relatives, the men of Benjamin? Or should we stop?" The LORD answered, "Go! Tomorrow I will hand them over to you."
Then Israel placed troops in ambush around Gibeah.
On the third day the men of Israel went to fight the men of Benjamin. They formed their battle line facing Gibeah as they did before.
The men of Benjamin went out to attack Israel's troops and were led away from the city. They started to inflict casualties as before. They killed about 30 men from Israel in the open country and on the roads to Bethel and Gibeah.
The men of Benjamin shouted, "They're defeated as before!" But the men of Israel had said, "Let's flee in order to lead them from the city to the roads."
So the men of Israel left their positions. They formed their battle line at Baal Tamar. Meanwhile, those waiting in ambush rushed from their position to the west of Gibeah.
Then 10,000 of Israel's best men attacked Gibeah. The battle was fierce. But Benjamin's men didn't realize their own evil was about to overtake them.
So the LORD defeated them in front of Israel. On that day the Israelites slaughtered 25,100 men from Benjamin who were armed with swords.
Then the men of Benjamin realized they were defeated. The Israelites had allowed the men of Benjamin to take back some ground. The Israelites relied on those waiting in ambush near Gibeah.
The men in ambush quickly charged toward Gibeah. They spread out in the city and killed everyone.
The men of Israel had arranged with those waiting in ambush that they would make a big column of smoke rise from the city as a signal.
Then the men of Israel would turn around in the battle. The men of Benjamin had already killed about 30 men of Israel. They even said, "Israel is completely defeated, just like in the first battle."
But when the column of smoke started to rise from the city, the men of Benjamin turned around and saw the whole city going up in smoke.
Then the men of Israel turned around, and the men of Benjamin panicked. They realized that their evil had overtaken them.
They turned in front of Israel toward the road to the desert. But the battle caught up with the men of Benjamin. Israel slaughtered whoever came out of the cities on the road to the desert.
They closed in on the men of Benjamin and pursued them without stopping. They overtook them east of Gibeah.
There were 18,000 experienced men from Benjamin who died in battle.
The others turned and fled into the desert to Rimmon Rock. But the men of Israel killed 5,000 more on the roads. They caught up with another 2,000 and killed them near Gidom.
In all, 25,000 men from Benjamin who were armed with swords were killed that day. They were all experienced men.
But 600 men turned and fled into the desert to Rimmon Rock. They stayed at Rimmon Rock for four months.
Then the men of Israel went back to attack the rest of the territory of Benjamin. They killed all the people and cattle they found in every city. They also burned down every city they came to.
The men of Israel had taken this oath in Mizpah: "None of us will ever let our daughters marry anyone from Benjamin."
The people went to Bethel and sat there in the presence of God until evening. They cried very loudly,
"LORD God of Israel, why has this happened among us? Why should one tribe be missing today in Israel?"
The next day the people got up early. They built an altar there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings.
The people asked, "Is there any family from Israel that did not take part in the assembly in the presence of the LORD?" They had taken a solemn oath that whoever had not come into the presence of the LORD at Mizpah must be put to death.
The people of Israel felt sorry for their close relatives, the men of Benjamin. They said, "Today one tribe has been excluded from Israel.
What will we do to provide wives for the men who are left? We swore to the LORD that we would not let any of our daughters marry them."
Then they asked, "Is there any family from Israel that did not come into the presence of the LORD at Mizpah?" No one from Jabesh Gilead had come to the assembly in the camp.
So they questioned the people, and there was no one there from Jabesh Gilead.
The congregation sent 12,000 soldiers. They ordered them, "Go and kill the people of Jabesh Gilead, including the women and children.
These are your directions: Claim every female who has gone to bed with a man, and claim every male. Claim them for the LORD by destroying them."
Among the people of Jabesh Gilead they found 400 unmarried women who had never gone to bed with a man. They brought them to the camp at Shiloh in Canaan.
Then the whole congregation sent messengers to the men of Benjamin at Rimmon Rock and offered them peace.
So the men of Benjamin came back at that time. These men were given the women from Jabesh Gilead who had been kept alive. However, the congregation had not found enough women for all of them.
The congregation felt sorry for the people of Benjamin because the LORD had broken the unity of the tribes of Israel.
The leaders of the congregation asked, "What should we do to provide wives for the men who are left, since the women in Benjamin have been killed?"
Some said, "Benjamin's men who survived must be allowed to have families. No tribe of Israel should be wiped out.
However, we can't give them any of our daughters as wives. The people of Israel have taken an oath that whoever gives wives to the men of Benjamin is under a curse."
Others said, "Every year the LORD's festival is held at Shiloh. Shiloh is north of Bethel, east of the highway going from Bethel to Shechem, and south of Lebonah."
So they told the men of Benjamin, "Hide in the vineyards and
watch. When the young women of Shiloh come out to take part in the dances, come out of the vineyards. Each of you catch a woman from Shiloh to be your wife. Then go back to the territory of Benjamin.
When their fathers or brothers come to us to complain, we'll tell them, 'Have pity on them, since we didn't provide a wife for each man in the battle. You won't be guilty because you didn't give them the wives yourselves.'"
The men of Benjamin did just that. They captured the number of wives they needed from the women who were dancing and went home. So they rebuilt their cities and lived in them.
At that time the people of Israel left. Each man went to his tribe and family. They all went home.
In those days Israel didn't have a king. Everyone did whatever he considered right.