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Jdg 21:1 Now the men of Israel had sworn in Mizpeh, saying, There shall not any of us give his daughter unto Benjamin to wife.
Ver. 1. Now the men of Israel had sworn. ] Rashly and uncharitably, out of rage rather than right zeal The fiery spirited man hath mettle in him, but base and reprobate, that never received the image and impress of God’s Spirit. Men must swear in judgment; Jer 4:2 and as Minerva is said to put a golden bridle upon Pegasus, that he should not fly too fast, in like sort our Minerva, that is, our Christian discretion, must put a golden bridle on our earnest zeal, lest it make us follow too fast.
Jdg 21:2 And the people came to the house of God, and abode there till even before God, and lifted up their voices, and wept sore;
Ver. 2. And the people came to the house of God. ] That is, To Shiloh, for that was now their Bethel, there to praise God for their recent ctory; and to seek direction what to do, and how to wind out of that labyrinth whereinto they had inconsiderately cast themselves.
“ … qui non moderabitur irae,
Infectum velit esse dolor quod suaserit et mens. ” - Horat.
And abode there till even before God. ] To the shame of such as, held but a while longer than ordinary at holy meetings, cry out, as Malachi 1:13 , "Behold, what a weariness it is! and snuff." They sit in the stocks when they are at prayers, and come out of the church, when the tedious sermon runs somewhat beyond the hour, like prisoners out of a jail.
And lifted up their voices, and wept sore. ] Notwithstanding their recent victory, which now they met to praise God for, Adeo nihil est ex omni parte beatum. It is seldom seen that God alloweth men here a perfect contentment. Something they must have to complain of, that they may not set up their rest on this side heaven.
Jdg 21:3 And said, O LORD God of Israel, why is this come to pass in Israel, that there should be to day one tribe lacking in Israel?
Ver. 3. Why is this come to pass in Israel? ] q.d., Alas, Lord, that it should be so! Oh, show us some expedient for prevention of such a mischief. Oh, the sad effects of our rage and rashness, which now in cold blood we repent us off, but know not which way to remedy!
Jdg 21:4 And it came to pass on the morrow, that the people rose early, and built there an altar, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings.
Ver. 4. And built there an altar. ] Either for a monument and memorial of the victory, a as Jos 8:30 Judges 6:24 , or else by reason of the multitude of their sacrifices, b as 1 Kings 8:64 .
Jdg 21:5 And the children of Israel said, Who [is there] among all the tribes of Israel that came not up with the congregation unto the LORD? For they had made a great oath concerning him that came not up to the LORD to Mizpeh, saying, He shall surely be put to death.
Ver. 5. Who is there among all the tribes of Israel? ] i.e., What city or country is there that did not send in their help? This inquisition was made, likely, by God’s appointment, in answer to that compassionate expostulation and request of theirs, Jdg 21:3 for the just punishment of those neutrals of Jabeshgilead. Neutrality was banishment by Solon’s laws, death by God’s. a
For they had made a great oath. ] An oath seconded with a curse, as Judges 21:18 .
a Agell., lib. ii., cap. 12.
Jdg 21:6 And the children of Israel repented them for Benjamin their brother, and said, There is one tribe cut off from Israel this day.
Ver. 6. And the children of Israel repented them for Benjamin. ] But why did they not repent of their unlawful oath, which now they might as lawfully have broken? Howsoever, it was well done of them to put off their arms and their anger against Benjamin together. Claudian saith in commendation of Theodosius,
“ Post acies odiis idem qui terminus armis. ”
Jdg 21:7 How shall we do for wives for them that remain, seeing we have sworn by the LORD that we will not give them of our daughters to wives?
Ver. 7. How shall we do for wives? &c. ] All this difficulty, say our interpreters, did arise from their gross ignorance in those dark times: for they had no other cause to perplex themselves about their oath, but to stop the outcry of a superstitious conscience: since their oath being wicked, they were not bound at all to keep it, &c.
Jdg 21:8 And they said, What one [is there] of the tribes of Israel that came not up to Mizpeh to the LORD? And, behold, there came none to the camp from Jabeshgilead to the assembly.
Ver. 8. There came none to the camp from Jabeshgilead. ] They came not up to help the Lord, as Judges 5:23 ; they contributed nothing toward the just punishment of those sons of Belial, and therefore seemed to like well of their wickedness. These inhabitants of Jabeshgilead lay far out beyond Jordan, toward the Lake of Gennesaret, and therefore, haply, held themselves less concerned. There is none so wise as the sluggard, Pro 26:16 for self-love teacheth him a great many excuses, which he thinks will go for wisdom, because by them he thinks to sleep in a whole skin. But in fine his cunning deceiveth him, and he smoketh for it.
Jdg 21:9 For the people were numbered, and, behold, [there were] none of the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead there.
Ver. 9. For the people were numbered, and, behold, &c. ] God will one day send out summonses for sleepers; he will make strict inquisition for such as affect an indifferency and neutrality in religion, as halt between two, as are neither hot nor cold, as redeem their peace with the loss of truth. The Lord that could not endure miscellane-seed nor linsey-woolsey in Israel, can less endure that his people should be as a "speckled bird," Jer 12:9 here of one colour, and there of another; or as a doughy baked cake. Hos 7:4-8 None so loathsome to him, as those that are of a Laodicean temper.
Jdg 21:10 And the congregation sent thither twelve thousand men of the valiantest, and commanded them, saying, Go and smite the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead with the edge of the sword, with the women and the children.
Ver. 10. Of the valiantest. ] Heb., Of the sons of valour; such as were those duo fulmina belli, the two Scipios.
With the women and the children. ] Why, what had those poor sheep done, that they must be slaughtered? a This is surely Exemplum nimiae severitatis saevientis in innocentes, as Piscator noteth: an excess of severity, raging against innocents that could not resist. Egregiam vero laudem! Surely, if these men had rightly repented of their cruelty toward the Benjamites, as they even now pretended, those of Jabeshgilead had found more mercy. David had not yet recovered his foul fall, when he dealt so cruelly with the Ammonites. 2Sa 12:31
a Here again rash zeal outruns right reason.
Jdg 21:11 And this [is] the thing that ye shall do, Ye shall utterly destroy every male, and every woman that hath lain by man.
Ver. 11. Ye shall utterly destroy every male. ] This also was a barbarous and bloody decree, Eze 18:20 not unlike Draco’s laws, whereof Aristotle giveth this commendation, that they are not worth remembrance, but only for their severity.
Jdg 21:12 And they found among the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead four hundred young virgins, that had known no man by lying with any male: and they brought them unto the camp to Shiloh, which [is] in the land of Canaan.
Ver. 12. That had known no man by lying with any male. ] At least that any one else knew of: for many pass for virgins that are not so. See Proverbs 30:18-20 . But what a base slander is that of Sylvester Petrasancta the Jesuit, who saith that among the Protestants few maids are married that have not been first lain with by other men! a Jesuits of all others may hold their tongues with shame enough, as being noted for Connubi, sanctifugae, commeretricitegae.
Unto the camp to Shiloh, which is. ] Which lieth within the land of Canaan, and not beyond Jordan, as Jabeshgilead did. Or thus it may be rendered, Unto Shiloh to the camp, which abode in the land of Canaan, and went not over Jordan to fight against Jabeshgilead.
a Rivetti Jesuita Vapulans, p. 146.
Jdg 21:13 And the whole congregation sent [some] to speak to the children of Benjamin that [were] in the rock Rimmon, and to call peaceably unto them.
Ver. 13. And to call peaceably unto them. ] God retaineth not his anger forever; - he here graciously provideth for these sinners against their own souls, the remaining Benjamites; - no more must men. The Athenians are justly blamed for this, that their anger was αειμνηστος , long-lasting; memor ira, as Virgil hath it. They hated all barbarians for the Persians’ sake, and forbade them their sacrifices, as they used to do murderers. It is a grievous sin to be implacable, irreconcilable. Romans 1:31 2Ti 3:3 Men should piece again, and not be as broken glass, that cannot be made whole any more.
Jdg 21:14 And Benjamin came again at that time; and they gave them wives which they had saved alive of the women of Jabeshgilead: and yet so they sufficed them not.
Ver. 14. And Benjamin came again at that time. ] They believed their brethren, and obeyed their voice. Had they done so at first, and not tried it out with them, they had redeemed their own sorrows, and been much happier. But bought wit, they say, is best.
Jdg 21:15 And the people repented them for Benjamin, because that the LORD had made a breach in the tribes of Israel.
Ver. 15. And the people repented them for Benjamin. ] Being very sorry that they were constrained to execute justice so sharply. Non nisi coactus, said that Emperor, when he passed sentence of death upon one who had well deserved; that is, I do it not but unwillingly. Utinam nescirem literas, said another: I would I could not write, when he was to sign a writ of execution.
“ Ille dolet quoties cogitur esse ferox. ” - Ovid.
Justice should be done, but not without much compassion. The sword of justice must be bathed in the oil of mercy.
Jdg 21:16 Then the elders of the congregation said, How shall we do for wives for them that remain, seeing the women are destroyed out of Benjamin?
Ver. 16. How shall we do for wives? &c. ] Now all their care was for a recruit for Benjamin. A public person should be public spirited; and as Cato did, Toti genitum se credere genti. Selfish people are like those envious Athenians, who sacrificed for none but themselves and their neighbours of Chios.
Jdg 21:17 And they said, [There must be] an inheritance for them that be escaped of Benjamin, that a tribe be not destroyed out of Israel.
Ver. 17. There must be an inheritance for them that be escaped. ] Else our state will be dismembered. But why was not this thought of before now? Anger is an evil counsellor; and cannot do, but it must over do. Wherefore,
“ Vince animos, iramque tuam. ”
That a tribe be not destroyed. ] St Paul and many other good men were afterwards of this tribe. The whole "twelve tribes served God instantly day and night." Act 26:7
Jdg 21:18 Howbeit we may not give them wives of our daughters: for the children of Israel have sworn, saying, Cursed [be] he that giveth a wife to Benjamin.
Ver. 18. Howbeit we may not give them wives of our daughters. ] And unless those daughters were given them by their parents, they would not marry with the Benjamites, though it were to be made mistresses of such large inheritances. It is of the law of nature, that parents have the dispose of their children in marriage. But the Pope taketh upon him to dispense in that case. Potest de iniustitia facere iustitiam, saith Bellarmine a out of the Canonists. Ex nihilo aliquid, ex virtute vitium. Papae!
Cursed be he that giveth a wife to Benjamin. ] They had backed their oath with an imprecation. This was to be too hot in a cold matter. They will not break their unlawful oath; but they devise how to elude it, which was worse. Dum vitant stulti vitium, &c.
a De Pontif. Rom., lib. iv.
Jdg 21:19 Then they said, Behold, [there is] a feast of the LORD in Shiloh yearly [in a place] which [is] on the north side of Bethel, on the east side of the highway that goeth up from Bethel to Shechem, and on the south of Lebonah.
Ver. 19. Behold, there is a feast of the Lord in Shiloh. ] What feast this was is much controverted; some say, the feast of tabernacles; others, the feast of blowing trumpets, the seventh of the first month. Numbers 10:10 ; Num 29:1 Others again, that it was some singular feast kept in Shiloh only to the honour of God in way of thankfulness for choosing it to set his tabernacle there; and that, haply, upon the day that it was first set up there, from year to year. Such a feast as is yet kept in Switzerland for joy of the Reformation: or as Bugenhagius kept yearly on the day that Luther and other divines finished the translation of the Holy Scriptures into the Dutch, calling it, The feast of the translation of the Bible.
Jdg 21:20 Therefore they commanded the children of Benjamin, saying, Go and lie in wait in the vineyards;
Ver. 20. Therefore they commanded the children of Benjamin. ] Who should first have examined the commands of their superiors, before they had obeyed them. Obediemus Artridis honesta mandantibus, saith the tragedian a
a Eurip., in Iphig.
Jdg 21:21 And see, and, behold, if the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in dances, then come ye out of the vineyards, and catch you every man his wife of the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin.
Ver. 21. If the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in dances. ] This was not a mixed dancing of men and women together, which is a slippery slope to much sin, but of virgins only among themselves, and that in honour of God, according to the manner of those times at their solemnities, in due time and place, as our best interpreters are of opinion. This, then, no whit maketh for the mixed dancing of our days; much less for the mad practice of those in the isle of Sardinia, where after service done, they fall to dancing in the midst of the church, singing in the meantime songs too immodest for an ale house, and turning diem Dominicum in daemoniacum, the Lord’s day into the devil’s day, as Alstedius a complaineth of his Germans.
Jdg 21:22 And it shall be, when their fathers or their brethren come unto us to complain, that we will say unto them, Be favourable unto them for our sakes: because we reserved not to each man his wife in the war: for ye did not give unto them at this time, [that] ye should be guilty.
Ver. 22. Come unto us to complain. ] As they had just cause to do for such a plagium. Children are a chief part of their parents’ goods; and Jacob took it very heavily to be robbed of his Dinah. The civil law punisheth it with death.
Be favourable unto them for our sakes. ] Or, Gratify us in them: Non illis sed nobis datae reputantur.
For ye did not give unto them at this time. ] And so, sacramento soluti estis, ye are free from the breach of your oath. True: but neither were they free from the sin of man stealing, Deu 24:7 nor their counsellors from crimen stellionatus.
Jdg 21:23 And the children of Benjamin did so, and took [them] wives, according to their number, of them that danced, whom they caught: and they went and returned unto their inheritance, and repaired the cities, and dwelt in them.
Ver. 23. And took them wives. ] Without consent of parents or parties, to the great grief of both no doubt. Much mischief hath followed upon such rapes, and many bloody wars: as between the Grecians and Trojans, the Romans and Sabines, the Emperor Maximilian and Charles VIII king of France, about Anne the only daughter of the Duke of Britanny, espoused to Maximilian, but violently taken away by Charles. The Britons, or Welsh, that, being driven out by the Saxons, first came into that dukedom, and gave the name to it, taking wives of that country, and finding them troublesome, are said to have cut out their tongues. It is likely there was somewhat to do, ere these couples could agree that came together so ungainly: but necessity, which is a hard weapon, and a later consent might heal all, and the women keep their tongues in their heads.
Jdg 21:24 And the children of Israel departed thence at that time, every man to his tribe and to his family, and they went out from thence every man to his inheritance.
Ver. 24. And the children of Israel departed. ] To their tribes by troops, to their families and several possessions man by man; but not without the loss of many a man lost in the war, and much lamented by their relations, who cried out
“ Omega nostrorum Mors est, Mars Alpha malorum. ”
Jdg 21:25 In those days [there was] no king in Israel: every man did [that which was] right in his own eyes.
Ver. 25. In those days, &c. ] See Judges 17:6 .
Every man did that which was right. ] Quod sibi placebat, id solebat facere. a Had the Israelites been, as some say the Thracians were, αυτονομοι , every man a law to himself, it might have been better with them. But although they lived in God’s good land, yet because not by God’s good laws, nor had at this time any supreme magistrate, therefore all was out of order, and their anarchy begat a general ataxy.
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Judges 21". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25