The Book of Judges

Chapter 21

The people bewail the desolation of Benjamin, 1-7. By the destruction of Jabesh-gilead they provide them four hundred wives, 8-15. They advise the remainder to surprise the virgins that danced at Shiloh, 16-25.

1 Now the men of Israel had sworn in Mizpeh, saying, "Not one of us shall give his daughter to Benjamin for a wife." 2 And the people came to the house of God and stayed there until evening before God, and lifted up their voices and wept bitterly, 3 And said, "O LORD God of Israel, why has this come to pass in Israel, that there should be today one tribe lacking in Israel?" 4 And it came to pass on the next day, that the people rose early, built an altar there, and offered burnt-offerings and peace-offerings.

5 And the children of Israel said, "Who is there among all the tribes of Israel who did not come up with the congregation to the LORD?" For they had made a great oath concerning him who did not come up to the LORD to Mizpeh, saying, "He shall surely be put to death." 6 And the children of Israel repented for Benjamin their brother, and said, "There is one tribe cut off from Israel this day. 7 What shall we do for wives for those who remain, seeing we have sworn by the LORD that we will not give them any of our daughters for wives?"

8 And they said, "What one is there of the tribes of Israel who did not come up to Mizpeh to the LORD?" And behold, no one came to the camp from Jabesh-gilead to the assembly. 9 For the people were numbered, and behold, there were none of the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead there. 10 And the congregation sent there twelve thousand men of the most valiant, and commanded them, saying, "Go and smite the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead with the edge of the sword, with the women and the children. 11 And this is the thing that you shall do: you shall utterly destroy every male and every woman who has lain by man." 12 And they found among the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead four hundred young virgins who had known no man by lying with any male, and they brought them to the camp to Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan.

13 And the whole congregation sent some to speak to the children of Benjamin who were in the rock Rimmon and to call peaceably to them. 14 And Benjamin came back at that time. And they gave them the women which they had saved alive of the women of Jabesh-gilead, yet they did not suffice them. 15 And the people repented for Benjamin, because the LORD had made a breach in the tribes of Israel.

16 Then the elders of the congregation said, "What shall we do for wives for those who remain, seeing the women are destroyed out of Benjamin?" 17 And they said, "There must be an inheritance for those who have escaped of Benjamin so that a tribe is not destroyed out of Israel. 18 However, we may not give them wives from our daughters, for the children of Israel have sworn, saying, 'Cursed is he who gives a wife to Benjamin.'"

19 Then they said, "Behold, there is a yearly feast of the LORD in Shiloh in a place which is on the north side of Beth-el, on the east side of the highway that goes up from Beth-el to Shechem, and on the south of Lebonah." 20 Therefore, they commanded the children of Benjamin, saying, "Go, lie in wait in the vineyards, 21 And when you see the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in dances, come out of the vineyards and each of you catch his wife of the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin. 22 And it shall be, when their fathers or their brothers come to us to complain, that we will say to them, 'Be favorable to them for our sakes, because we did not reserve to each man his wife in the war, neither did you give them to them; otherwise, you would now be guilty.'" 23 And the children of Benjamin did so, and took wives, according to their number, of those who danced, whom they caught. And they went and returned to their inheritance and repaired the cities and dwelt in them. 24 And the children of Israel departed from there at that time, every man to his tribe and to his family, and they went from there each to his inheritance.

25 In those days there was no king in Israel. Every man did that which was right in his own eyes.


Matthew Henry Commentary - Judges, Chapter 21[➚]


[v.18] - Reference, verse 1.

[v.22] - From John Gill's Exposition: "...the meaning is, that if they had any uneasiness upon their minds about the oath which they had taken, not to give any of their daughters in marriage to Benjamin, they need not be disturbed at that, since they did not 'give' them to them, but these 'took' them by force; which was the scheme these elders contrived to secure from the violation of the oath."