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All who received the message, and saw the severed portion of the body which was sent to them, were horror-struck, and declared that no such deed had ever been done in Israel. The universal cry was for a general council of the nation, to determine upon the course to be pursued. Measures were immediately taken to that effect. The summons went forth in all directions, "and the congregation was gathered together as one man, from Dan even to Beer. sheba, with the land of Gilead, unto the Lord in Mizpeh."
This place was in the borders of Judah and Benjamin, and not far from Shiloh. Here the chiefs and leading men of the various tribes, with an immense concourse of people, among whom were four hundred thousand footmen that were armed for battle, assembled, not in a politi. cal, but a religious capacity, to deliberate on this important matter.
The injured Levite was there, and stood before the multitude. Being requested to do so, he gave them a particular account of the transactions at Gibeah, and the reasons of the course which he had pursued, calling upon them, as Israelites, to say what should be done. But one sentiment prevailed. The decision of the assembly was, that they would not return home until the Gibeahites were punished. In order that the expedition against them might be conducted with energy and success, they resolved that a tenth part of the people among all the tribes should be selected to accompany the army, and provide for them food and forage.
But they first sent an embassy to the tribe of Benjamin, to which Gibeah belonged, to complain of the outrage which had been committed, and to require that those who were guilty of it should be delivered up, to be put to death. It was right that this should be done, but the Benjamites refused absolutely to comply with the demand. They thus made themselves partakers of the guilt of their brethren; and as if ready even to justify them in their wickedness, they assembled an armed force out of their cities to the number of twenty-six thousand men, and marched to the relief of Gibeah. Among these, we are told, there were seven hundred chosen men, left-handed, every one of whom could sling stones with such unerring dexterity as never to fail of hitting the mark.
The course which the Benjamites took, shows that corruption and licentiousness must have made great progress in that tribe. Otherwise they would not have dared to screen the guilty offenders at Gibeah from justice. What a sad exhibition of the degeneracy of public morals, and of the alienation of the people from the love and obedience of God! How rapid and fearful, since the death of Joshua but a few years before, was their progress in wickedness! But such is always the case, when men begin to depart from God and their allegiance to him. The spirit of transgression becomes stronger and stronger, and more and more reckless; and crimes are committed in defiance of all law, human and divine, at the very thoughts of which the perpetrators themselves would once have shuddered. There is no safety but in the imme. diate abandonment of all known sin.
The Benjamites destroyed. The Israelites mourn the deso
lation of that tribe. Wives procured for the survivors.
The refusal of the Benjamites to deliver up the guilty, and their preparations to defend Gibeah, left but one course, in the opinion of the other tribes, for them to pursue, to march immediately against that devoted city. They ought first, however, to have ascertained the will of God in the matter, as he had required them to do. They
did, indeed, seek direction at Shiloh, whither they resorted from Mizpeh for the purpose, to inquire which of the tribes should go up first on the expedition,-prematurely deciding for themselves that it must at all events, and at that time, be undertaken.
The reply was, "Judah shall go up first.” if it had been said, that is the tribe which has already been constituted the leader in such enterprises, and is, of course, to be at the head of this one, if you have yourselves resolved to engage in it. It is to be noticed, however, that there is no assurance that God would go with them, or that their attack upon Gibeah should be successful.
This city was soon invested by the Israelites; and preparations made, by both parties, for the contest. Victory was on the side of the Benjamites; with a loss on that of the assailants of no less than twenty-two thousand men. But the defeat did not deter them from renewing the attack. They encouraged themselves with fresh hopes of success, again arranging their forces for battle, and mistaking still the course of duty, in not first asking counsel of the Lord. It is true they humbled themselves before him, and wept, not the tears of repentance, but of sorrow for their defeat; and concluded, after all things were ready for the second expedition, to inquire if it should be undertaken. They seem, in this, evidently to
have sought a confirmation of a purpose already formed, and not to have placed themselves entirely under the divine direction.
The reply, in this case, was that they should go up against the Benjamites,-not, however, promising success, and rather implying only a permission for them to do it, than the imposing of an express command. Or, if it is to be taken in this latter meaning, it is as if God had said, "Go, then, since you are resolved to do it; go, as you are preparing to go, in your own strength, and abide the consequences.”
They went, and were again defeated, with a loss of eighteen thousand men. This appears to have brought them to consideration. They saw how much they had relied on their numbers and valor for success, while forgetting their depend. ence on an almighty arm. They felt how greatly they had sinned in neglecting to commenc their movements by seeking the divine direction and giving it their implicit obedience. They resolved to retrace their steps, and to come back to the path of duty. They repaired once more to Shiloh, " and came unto the house of God, and wept, and sat there before the Lord and fasted that day until even, and offered burnt-offerings and peace-offerings before the Lord.”
Now, in the spirit of repentance for their past sins, and of reliance on the guidance and blessing