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Bible Commentaries
Judges 21

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-7

Judges - Chapter 21

Belated Repentance, vs. 1-7

How often deeds done in vengeful wrath return to one in irreparable regret! So it was with Israel when they came to themselves to realize that they had all but exterminated the tribe of Benjamin, not under the leadership of God, but of their own fleshly zeal. The whole affair, from the runaway concubine to the slaughter of the last Benjamite soldier, there had been too little seeking after the Lord’s counsel, (Galatians 6:7). The two terrible slaughters of the Israelites by the Benjamites, in which 40,000 men had been killed, was surely the Lord’s judgment on disobedient and careless people. Then when they had finally sought the Lord in bitter tears, and with burnt and peace offerings, and had been assured of final victory over Benjamin they issued forth to the battle intent on vengeance.

In their anger they had sworn to a man never to allow his daughter to marry a Benjamite man. Though six hundred of the Benjamite men survived, sheltered in the rock of Rimmon, they dared not break their foolish oath to allow their daughters to marry a Benjamite and save the tribe from extinction. They returned to the house of God for another day of mourning over the situation, which was now beyond changing, (cf; Esau, Hebrews 12:17). They asked a pertinent question of God, "Why is it come to pass that a tribe is missing in Israel?" Why, indeed? The answer was, Sin; not merely the sin of the Levite, or of the men of Belial in Gibeah. Sin in the tribe of Benjamin allowed the street gang to exist contrary to the law (Leviticus 18:22; De 23:17). This implied that the tribe was guilty concerning all the law. Carelessness in the other tribes allowed the Levite, who was supposed to represent the law of God and to interpret and judge concerning it in their cities, to live loosely and immorally. It made them see nothing wrong in what he had done with his concubine and to uphold him in it. So it follows that all the law of God was lightly esteemed in Israel, so the Lord had judged all.

Yet they still will not seek the right answer. They had made another foolish oath, that whoever did not answer the call to fight in behalf of the Levite should be put to death. So they began to investigate this oath for a way whereby they could secure wives for the Benjamite survivors. They were sorry that they had allowed their wrath to do to Benjamin what they had, but never do they seem to have asked the Lord to tell them what to do for the remnant. They go right back to their own decisions when they might have considered whether the Lord wished them to respect their hasty and seemingly foolish oath.

Verses 8-15

Jabesh-gilead Assaulted, vs. 8-15

The Israelites, lamenting over the destruction of Benjamin, now seized on their oath to exterminate any town or region which did not come to the war as a possible way to secure wives for the surviving Benjamites. It is little short of amazing that those lamenting over a foolish deed of over-zealous blood-letting could turn to such an inhumane solution of their difficulty. They seem to have called the roll of Israelite places till they found one across the Jordan, Jabesh, in Gilead, which had no representative in the infamous war.

Twelve thousand armed men were sent out from Shiloh, the most valiant, with orders to exterminate the town, killing all males of whatever age, and all married women. Only the virgins were to be spared. By what measurement of logic they could believe this was less reprehensible than what they had done to Benjamin, save in scope, it is impossible to imagine. An unwise oath was more important to them than obedience to God’s... law. For even if the men were guilty, the law forbade the extermination of their families (De 24:16).

Four hundred marriageable girls were saved out of the slaughter of Jabesh-gilead. Messengers then went to the survivors of Benjamin in the rock of Rimmon and offered them peaceable return to their tribal inheritance. The four hundred virgins were given to them, and they did return to their lands. However, there were still two hundred men who had no wives, so the people repented some more,.

Verse 15 states that they repented because "the Lord made a breach in the tribes of Israel," as though the Lord wanted the tribe exterminated. The meaning, obviously, is that the Lord let the breach occur because of the sin of all the tribe and to emphasize their sins and disobedience to His law. It was of the will of the bloodthirsty men of Israel that the tribe of Benjamin was slaughtered, (Matthew 24:22).

Verses 16-25

Hypocritical Solution, vs. 16-25

The culmination of the whole affair of the Levite and his concubine has now been reached. The men of Israel had gathered at the tabernacle in Shiloh to settle their problem. They surely must not have consulted the Lord sincerely, for the solution they finally reached appears actually ludicrous. The record is silent as to any address of the Lord at all to resolve the situation. It is hard to imagine that the elders who issued the decision had consulted with the high priest, Phinehas, who had shown such zeal and wisdom when dealing with the long-ago problem at Baal-peor (Numbers 25:6-8).

The Israelites dared not violate their oaths in swearing against giving any of their daughters to be wives of the Benjamites. They decided to advise the Benjamite men who were still without wives to steal themselves a wife at Shiloh at the time of the yearly feast. They were to hide in the vineyards alongside the road where the young girls of the surrounding area would come to dance and celebrate the feast. They should then rise up and each one catch a wife as he could, and run off to the land of Benjamin with her. Then when the girl’s father or brothers came to protest the elders would tell them to let the matter go, for they had failed to save their wives alive during the war. After all, they had not given the girl of their own will; she had been stolen and no oath had been violated.

The remaining Benjamites agreed and got them wives in this manner. The manner in which the Israelite men safeguarded their oath is hypocritical at the least, but it satisfied them. They now disbanded their army and returned to their homes. The last verse again emphasizes the whole reason for these things, There was no king in Israel, and every man did what he considered to be right. When God does not reign in the lives of His people, their decisions as to what is right will be like those of the Israelites, a series of repeated error.

The lessons of this last chapter of Judges include these: 1) It is foolish to try to undo one wrong deed with another; 2) we are never justified in setting aside God’s law for any purpose; 3) cruelty against the innocent because they reside with the guilty is contrary to God’s Word; 4) acting without seeking God’s will never begets the right solution.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Judges 21". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/judges-21.html. 1985.
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