Then the Israelites drew near to Benjamin the second day.
This time, when the Benjamites came out from Gibeah to oppose them, they cut down another eighteen thousand Israelites, all of them armed with swords.
Then the Israelites, all the people, went up to Bethel, and there they sat weeping before the LORD. They fasted that day until evening and presented burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to the LORD.
And the Israelites inquired of the LORD. (In those days the ark of the covenant of God was there,
with Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, ministering before it.) They asked, "Shall we go up again to battle with Benjamin our brother, or not?" The LORD responded, "Go, for tomorrow I will give them into your hands."
Then Israel set an ambush around Gibeah.
They went up against the Benjamites on the third day and took up positions against Gibeah as they had done before.
The Benjamites came out to meet them and were drawn away from the city. They began to inflict casualties on the Israelites as before, so that about thirty men fell in the open field and on the roads--the one leading to Bethel and the other to Gibeah.
While the Benjamites were saying, "We are defeating them as before," the Israelites were saying, "Let's retreat and draw them away from the city to the roads."
All the men of Israel moved from their places and took up positions at Baal Tamar, and the Israelite ambush charged out of its place on the west of Gibeah.
Then ten thousand of Israel's finest men made a frontal attack on Gibeah. The fighting was so heavy that the Benjamites did not realize how near disaster was.
The LORD defeated Benjamin before Israel, and on that day the Israelites struck down 25,100 Benjamites, all armed with swords.
Then the Benjamites saw that they were beaten. Now the men of Israel had given way before Benjamin, because they relied on the ambush they had set near Gibeah.
The men who had been in ambush made a sudden dash into Gibeah, spread out and put the whole city to the sword.
The men of Israel had arranged with the ambush that they should send up a great cloud of smoke from the city,
and then the men of Israel would turn in the battle. The Benjamites had begun to inflict casualties on the men of Israel (about thirty), and they said, "We are defeating them as in the first battle."
But when the column of smoke began to rise from the city, the Benjamites turned and saw the smoke of the whole city going up into the sky.
Then the men of Israel turned on them, and the men of Benjamin were terrified, because they realized that disaster had come upon them.
So they fled before the Israelites in the direction of the desert, but they could not escape the battle. And the men of Israel who came out of the towns cut them down there.
They surrounded the Benjamites, chased them and easily overran them in the vicinity of Gibeah on the east.
Eighteen thousand Benjamites fell, all of them valiant fighters.
As they turned and fled toward the desert to the rock of Rimmon, the Israelites cut down five thousand men along the roads. They kept pressing after the Benjamites as far as Gidom and struck down two thousand more.
On that day twenty-five thousand Benjamite swordsmen fell, all of them valiant fighters.
But six hundred men turned and fled into the desert to the rock of Rimmon, where they stayed four months.
The men of Israel went back to Benjamin and put all the towns to the sword, including the animals and everything else they found. All the towns they came across they set on fire.
The men of Israel had taken an oath at Mizpah: "Not one of us will give his daughter in marriage to a Benjamite."
The people went to Bethel, where they sat before God until evening, raising their voices and weeping bitterly.
"O LORD, the God of Israel," they cried, "why has this happened to Israel? Why should one tribe be missing from Israel today?"
Early the next day the people built an altar and presented burnt offerings and fellowship offerings.
Then the Israelites asked, "Who from all the tribes of Israel has failed to assemble before the LORD?" For they had taken a solemn oath that anyone who failed to assemble before the LORD at Mizpah should certainly be put to death.
Now the Israelites grieved for their brothers, the Benjamites. "Today one tribe is cut off from Israel," they said.
"How can we provide wives for those who are left, since we have taken an oath by the LORD not to give them any of our daughters in marriage?"
Then they asked, "Which one of the tribes of Israel failed to assemble before the LORD at Mizpah?" They discovered that no one from Jabesh Gilead had come to the camp for the assembly.
For when they counted the people, they found that none of the people of Jabesh Gilead were there.
So the assembly sent twelve thousand fighting men with instructions to go to Jabesh Gilead and put to the sword those living there, including the women and children.
"This is what you are to do," they said. "Kill every male and every woman who is not a virgin."
They found among the people living in Jabesh Gilead four hundred young women who had never slept with a man, and they took them to the camp at Shiloh in Canaan.
Then the whole assembly sent an offer of peace to the Benjamites at the rock of Rimmon.
So the Benjamites returned at that time and were given the women of Jabesh Gilead who had been spared. But there were not enough for all of them.
The people grieved for Benjamin, because the LORD had made a gap in the tribes of Israel.