Judges 20

[18]Now the sons of Israel arose, went up to Bethel, and inquired of God and said, "Who shall go up first for us to battle against the sons of Benjamin?" Then the Lord said, "Judah shall go up first."

Judges 20

[21]Then the sons of Benjamin came out of Gibeah and felled to the ground on that day 22,000 men of Israel.

Judges 20

[23]The sons of Israel went up and wept before the Lord until evening, and inquired of the Lord, saying, "Shall we again draw near for battle against the sons of my brother Benjamin?" And the Lord said, "Go up against him."

Judges 20:24-25

[24]Then the sons of Israel came against the sons of Benjamin the second day.

[25]Benjamin went out against them from Gibeah the second day and felled to the ground again 18,000 men of the sons of Israel; all these drew the sword.

Why did God allow the children of Israel to be defeated the first two times when it seems that they were justifed & had consulted the Lord?


According to Keil-Delitzsch (Commentary on the Old Testament), the Israelites didn't have the correct attitude before the first two battles.

Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament: Joshua, Judges, Ruth By Carl Friedrich Keil, Franz Delitzsch (1865) - pp. 452-453 (Google Books)


"They had inquired of God (Elohim) who should open the conflict; but they had neglected to humble themselves before Jehovah the covenant God,in the consciousness not only of their own weakness and sinfulness but also of grief at the moral corruption of their brother-tribe."

"In v.18, "they asked God" i.e. they simply desired a supreme or divine decision as to the question who should lead the van in the war; whereas after the first defeat, they wept before Jehovah, and inquired of Jehovah (v.23).... But even then they were still wanting of humility and penitence."

"The congregation now discovered, from this repeated defeat, that the Lord had withdrawn His grace, and was punishing them. Their sin, however, did not consist in the fact that they had begun the war itself,--for the law in Deut. 22:22, to which they themselves had referred in v. 13, really required this,--but rather in the state of mind with which they had entered upon the war, their strong self-consciousness, and great confidence in their own might and power."

"It was not until after the second severe defeat...that they humbled themselves before the Lord. They not only wept..., but fasted--the fasting being the manifest expression of the bending the heart before God,-- and offered burnt-offerings and peace-offerings."

The Lord's 3rd reply was, "Go up (against Benjamin); for to-morrow I will give it unto thy hand."

  • This quote is from Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament: Joshua, Judges, Ruth By Carl Friedrich Keil, Franz Delitzsch pages 452-453. You should include this information in your answer.
    – David42
    Aug 30 '17 at 19:54

Nachmanides in his commentary to Genesis 19:8 enumerates three reasons:

  1. The tribes of Israel didn't ask god (through the Urim and Thummim) whether they should wage war with their brethren; they had already made up their minds before consulting the priest, they just asked him who should go first!
  2. The other tribes of Israel had no business in punishing those shameful Benjamites, it is the duty of the tribe of Benjamin and their judges to punish those bad people, but to declare war on the Benjamites for that was unwarranted.
  3. Those gangsters were not guilty of murder since their intention was not to kill her, but they asked the benjamites to give them the death penalty which was unfair.

It was to foreshadow the ultimate victory for Israel " on the third day" (judges 20:30) through their Messiah Yahuwshuwa (Jesus). Israel was defeated the first two days, just as it looked like Yahuwshuwa was defeated the first two days in the grave. But victory came on the third day, victory over the enemy death. Many things in the scripture were mysteries concerning the kingdom of God ( Colossians 1:26), but were made known to the apostles by the Holy Spirit. The importance of the third day is a theme throughout the old testament. For example, the tree of life and seeds were created on the third day ( genesis 1:11-13), representing the everlasting life we would recieve through the death on the cross (tree), being buried like a seed and raising up on the third day producing much fruit. We see Jonah being in the fishs belly for 3 days, also representing the death and ressurection. We see the a prophecy from Hosea about raising us up with Christ on the third day ( Hosea 5:11). We see signs done on the third day ( 2 king 20:5-8). And much more.

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