Judges 20:26
Then all the children of Israel, and all the people, went up, and came to 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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(26) And all the people—i.e., the non-combatants as well as the fighting men.

Unto the house of God.—Rather, to Bethel, as in Judges 20:18.

And wept.—These two battles must have caused an almost universal bereavement. (Comp. Lamentations 2:10; Psalm 137:1; Joel 1:8-14; Joel 2:12-17, &c.)

Fasted . . . until even.—As is still common in the East. (Comp. 1Samuel 14:24, &c.)

Burnt offerings and peace offerings.—The former were burnt entire, and therefore could not be used for food; of the latter, only a part was consumed, and the rest might be eaten by the worshippers. The distinction between the two was that the burnt offerings typified absolute self-dedication, whereas the peace offerings were mainly eucharistic.

Jdg 20:26. All the people went up — Not only all the warriors, but other people. And wept, and sat before the Lord — Sensible of their not having been before truly humbled for their sins, which they seem now to discover to have been the cause of their ill success. And fasted that day until even — That they might afflict their souls, and become truly penitent. This they had not done before, at least not with such seriousness as they now did. And offered burnt-offerings — To make atonement to God for their own sins, and to offer to him solemn supplications for the pardon of them. Which things also they had neglected before. And peace-offerings — To bless God for sparing so many of them, whereas he might justly have cut them all off when their brethren were slain: to implore his assistance, yea, and to give thanks for the victory which now they were confident he would give them.17:7-13 Micah thought it was a sign of God's favour to him and his images, that a Levite should come to his door. Thus those who please themselves with their own delusions, if Providence unexpectedly bring any thing to their hands that further them in their evil way, are apt from thence to think that God is pleased with them.Fasted until even - The regular time for ending a fast among the Hebrews was sunset (compare 1 Samuel 14:24; 2 Samuel 1:12). Such national fasts are called by the rabbis "fasts of the congregation," and were enjoined in times of great affliction.

On the offerings, see Lev. i., 3.

Jud 20:18-28. The Israelites Lose Forty Thousand.

18-28. the children of Israel arose, and went up to the house of God—This consultation at Shiloh was right. But they ought to have done it at the commencement of their proceedings. Instead of this, all their plans were formed, and never doubting, it would seem, that the war was just and inevitable, the only subject of their inquiry related to the precedency of the tribes—a point which it is likely was discussed in the assembly. Had they asked counsel of God sooner, their expedition would have been conducted on a different principle—most probably by reducing the number of fighting men, as in the case of Gideon's army. As it was, the vast number of volunteers formed an excessive and unwieldy force, unfit for strenuous and united action against a small, compact, and well-directed army. A panic ensued, and the confederate tribes, in two successive engagements, sustained great losses. These repeated disasters (notwithstanding their attack on Benjamin had been divinely authorized) overwhelmed them with shame and sorrow. Led to reflection, they became sensible of their guilt in not repressing their national idolatries, as well as in too proudly relying on their superior numbers and the precipitate rashness of this expedition. Having humbled themselves by prayer and fasting, as well as observed the appointed method of expiating their sins, they were assured of acceptance as well as of victory. The presence and services of Phinehas on this occasion help us to ascertain the chronology thus far, that the date of the occurrence must be fixed shortly after the death of Joshua.

Sat there before the Lord, and fasted; being now sensible of their former slightness, and now being truly humbled for their sins, which now they discover to be the true cause of their ill success.

Offered burnt-offerings, to make atonement to God for their own sins.

Peace-offerings; partly to bless God for sparing so many of them, whereas he might justly have cut off all of them when their brethren were slain; and partly to implore his assistance for the future, and to give him thanks for the victory, which now they were confident he would give them. Then all the children of Israel and all the people went up, and came unto the house of God,.... This looks as if the whole body of the army, with other people from parts adjacent, went up to the tabernacle of God in Shiloh:

and wept and sat there before the Lord; not only wept, but continued weeping, and that not merely for their defeat, but for their sins, since it follows:

and fasted that day until even; afflicted their bodies with fasting, which was a token of the humiliation of their souls for their sins:

and offered burnt offering's and peace offerings before the Lord, to make atonement for their sins, and to implore success on their arms.

Then all the children of Israel, and all the people, went up, 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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
26. and all the people] Either transl. even all the people, or omit as a doublet of all the children of Israel. Cf. Jdg 20:22.

offered burnt offerings and peace offerings] Similarly under circumstances of distress Jdg 21:4, 1 Samuel 7:9; 1 Samuel 13:9. The significance of the burnt offering lay in its being wholly made over to the Deity upon the altar; the special feature of the peace (or safety, or thank) offering was the sacred meal, shared by the Deity and the worshippers.

27b, 28a. The words in brackets give an interesting specimen of the theoretical treatment of history. To some later editor or scribe it seemed highly irregular that all Israel should offer sacrifices in any other place than the sanctuary of the ark. Accordingly the parenthesis explains that the ark in these days was at Beth-el! i.e. it must have been temporarily removed from Shiloh (Joshua 18 :1 P, 1 Samuel 4): and the sanctuary of the ark must have been served by the only legitimate priesthood (cf. Numbers 25:7; Numbers 31:6 P). For a similar adaptation of ancient practice to later theory cf. 2 Chronicles 1:3-6 with 1 Kings 3:4. If the present passage had come from the author of A, it would have stood earlier in the narrative, when the first enquiry of the oracle is mentioned.

the ark of the covenant of God] So 1 Samuel 4:4, 2 Samuel 15:24, 1 Chronicles 16:6 (all). The phrase ark of the covenant is common in D and Dtc. passages, though occasionally found in J and JE.

stood before it] The usual expression is stood before Him, Jehovah: Deuteronomy 10:8; Deuteronomy 18:7, Ezekiel 44:15, 2 Chronicles 29:11.

to-morrow etc.] Not until the Israelites have made their peace with God (Jdg 20:23; Jdg 20:26) are they to be allowed to win a victory.Verse 26. - Then all the children of Israel, and all the people, etc. Observe the word all, twice repeated, as showing how the whole congregation was roused and stirred to a man by this second reverse. The people, as distinguished from the men of Israel, the army, probably means the non-fighting people, the aged, the infirm, women, etc. The house of God. Render, as in ver. 18 (see note), Bethel. Sat there. Sitting with the Jews, especially on the ground, was the attitude of grief and mourning (Job 2:13; Isaiah 47:1, 5; Lamentations 2:10, etc.). The Jews at the present day often sit on the ground at the place of wailing in Jerusalem. Before the Lord, i.e. before the tabernacle (see Judges 11:11, note), Fasted until evening. The usual time for terminating a fast among the Jews, as at the present day among Mahomedans. For similar fasts on solemn occasions of national guilt or grief, see 1 Samuel 7:6; 2 Samuel 1:12; Jeremiah 36:9; Nehemiah 9:1; Joel 1:14, etc. Peace offerings. Usually thank offerings (Leviticus 3; Leviticus 7:11, 12), but applicable to any voluntary sacrifice of which the flesh might be eaten the same day, or the day following, by the offerer (Leviticus 7:15, 16). Doubtless the people at the close of their fast ate the flesh of these peace offerings. As soon as the Israelites had posted themselves at Gibeah in battle array (מלחמה ערך, to put in a row, or arrange the war or conflict, i.e., to put themselves in battle array, 1 Samuel 4:2; 1 Samuel 17:2, etc.), the Benjaminites came out and destroyed 22,000 men of Israel upon that day. ארצה השׁחית, to destroy to the earth, i.e., to lay dead upon the ground.
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