Bible Commentaries

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Judges 21

Verse 2

To the house of God - It should be, “to Bethel.” See Judges 20:18.

Verse 3

The repetition of the name of Israel is very striking in connection with the title of Yahweh as “God of Israel.” It contains a very forcible pleading of the covenant, and memorial of the promises. The very name “Israel” comprehended all the twelve tribes; with one of them blotted out, the remnant would not be Israel.

Verse 4

It is not certain whether the brass altar was at Bethel at this time, or whether it may not have been elsewhere, e. g., at Shiloh with the tabernacle. Some, however, think that the altar here mentioned was “additional” to the brass altar, in consequence of the unusual number of sacrifices caused by the presence of the whole congregation (compare 1 Kings 8:64 note).

Verse 8

Jabesh-Galead - Is here mentioned for the first time. (See marginal references.) The name of Jabesh survives only in the Wady Yabes (running down to the east bank of the Jordan), near the head of which are situated the ruins called Ed-Deir, which are identified with Jabesh-Gilead.

Verse 10

And the congregation sent 12,000 men - A thousand from each tribe; they followed the precedent of Numbers 31:4.

Verse 11

Ye shall utterly destroy - More exactly, “Ye shall devote to utter destruction,” or “cherem” (Leviticus 27:28 note).

Verse 12

To Shiloh - Whither, as the usual place of meeting for the national assembly, the Israelites had moved from Bethel (a distance of about 10 miles), during the expedition of the 12,000 to Jabesh-Gilead.

Verse 18

For the children of Israel have sworn - See Judges 21:1. Compare Saul‘s rash oath 1 Samuel 14:24, and his breach of the oath made to the Gideonites 2 Samuel 21:2. For the guilt of a broken oath, see Ezekiel 17:15-20; Exodus 20:7.

Verse 19

The Feast was probably the Passover, or one of the three great Jewish Feasts. In these unsettled times men went up to Shiloh (Seilun) only once a year 1 Samuel 1:3 instead of thrice; only the males kept the Feasts, and therefore the virgins of Shiloh would naturally be the only maidens present, and the public festival would be a likely occasion for their festive dances. It is, however, possible that some particular feast unique to Shiloh is meant, like the yearly sacrifice of David‘s family in Bethlehem 1 Samuel 20:29.

Verse 22

Ye did not give … - i. e., they had not broken the oath mentioned in Judges 21:1, so as to be guilty of taking the Lord‘s name in vain. They did not give their daughters to Benjamin: the Benjamites had taken them by force. Such casuistry as this condemns the system of oaths, and illustrates the wisdom of our Lord‘s precept Matthew 5:33-37.

Verse 23

Compare the very similar account of the rape of the Sabine women by the Romero youths at the festival of the Consualia, as related by Livy.

Verse 25

The repetition of this characteristic phrase (compare Judges 17:6; Judges 18:1; Judges 19:1) is probably intended to impress upon us the idea that these disorders arose from the want of a sufficient authority to suppress them. The preservation of such a story, of which the Israelites must have been ashamed, is a striking evidence of the divine superintendence and direction as regards the Holy Scriptures.

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Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Judges 21". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/judges-21.html. 1870.