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The Expedition Against Jabesh-Gilead
v. 1. Now the men of Israel had sworn in Mizpeh, at the time of the great assembly, Judges 20:1, when the embittered feeling against Benjamin ran high, saying, There shall not any of us give his daughter unto Benjamin, to any member of that tribe, to wife, man for man they had promised that.
v. 2. And the people, after the close of the war of vengeance, came to the house of God, to Bethel, where the Ark of the Covenant remained till the end of the campaign, and abode there till even before God, and lifted up their voices, and wept sore, realizing the extent of their passionate outburst and its effects, for it had been to punish the guilty, not to destroy a tribe, that Israel had taken the field;
v. 3. and said, O Lord God of Israel, why is this come to pass in Israel, that there should be today one tribe lacking in Israel? The fierceness of civil war had had its usual consequences, but the complaint of the people included, at the same time, the prayer that God might show them ways and means of averting the entire destruction of the tribe of Benjamin.
v. 4. And it came to pass on the morrow that the people rose early, and built there an altar, large enough for their purpose, and offered burnt offerings and peace-offerings, for they realized that the plans which they had could not be realized without a full reconciliation with the Lord, which meant, of course, a full return to the fellowship of His mercy.
v. 5. And the children of Israel said, realizing that there might be a way out of their difficulty, Who is there among all the tribes of Israel that came not up with the congregation unto the Lord, to take part in this campaign of vengeance? For they had made a great oath, which included the threat of death upon every one that did not appear, concerning him that came not up to the Lord at Mizpeh, saying, He shall surely be put to death.
v. 6. And the children of Israel (had) repented them, they had been filled with deep sympathy and care for the rebuilding of the tribe of Benjamin, for Benjamin, their brother, and said, There is one tribe cut off from Israel this day.
v. 7. How shall we do for wives for them that remain, whence and how could wives be provided for them, seeing we have sworn by the Lord that we will not give them of our daughters to wives? These two factors, that of the oath and that of the possible non-appearance of some part of the tribes, having been set forth, the author continues his narrative.
v. 8. And they said, What one is there of the tribes of Israel that come not up to Mizpeh to the Lord? And, behold, when they made careful inquiry, a thing which they had neglected to do in their first indignation and zeal, there came, had come, none to the camp from Jabesh-gilead, a city of the valley east of Jordan, about midway between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea, to the assembly.
v. 9. For the people were numbered, to make sure that this report was true, and, behold, there were none of the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead there.
v. 10. And the congregation sent thither twelve thousand men of the valiantest, especially renowned among men known for their valor, and commanded them, saying, Go and smite the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead with the edge of the sword, as a punishment for their neglect in joining the congregation of the Lord in this important enterprise, with the women and the children.
v. 11. And this is the thing that ye shall do, Ye shall utterly destroy every male, and every woman that hath lain by man, in carnal intercourse.
v. 12. And they, the men of the expedition, found among the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead four hundred young virgins, that had known no man by lying with any male; and they brought them unto the camp to Shiloh, where it had been removed, now that the campaign had been brought to a close, which is in the land of Canaan, to distinguish it from Jabesh in Gilead.
v. 13. And the whole congregation sent some, envoys, to speak to the children of Benjamin that were in the rock Rimmon, and to call peaceably unto them, to assure them of their peaceful intentions.
v. 14. And Benjamin came again at that time, the six hundred men that had escaped returned to the land of their inheritance; and they, the congregation gave them wives which they had saved alive of the women of Jabesh-gilead, the four hundred virgins; and yet so they sufficed them not, for there were still two hundred men to be supplied. One step had been taken for the restoration of the tribe, but there was still more to be done.
Wives for the Remaining Benjamites from the Daughters of Shiloh
v. 15. And the people repented them, they were again filled with anxious care, for Benjamin, because that the Lord had made a breach in the tribes of Israel, since this one tribe had been almost exterminated.
v. 16. Then the elders of the congregation said, in discussing other possibilities of securing wives for the remaining Benjamites, How shall we do for wives for them that remain, seeing the women are destroyed out of Benjamin? So far as the members of their tribe were concerned, there were no women for them.
v. 17. And they said, There must be an inheritance for them that be escaped of Benjamin, ways and means had to be found to that end, that a tribe be not destroyed out of Israel.
v. 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.
v. 19. Then they said, as an expedient was finally suggested to them, Behold, there is a feast of the Lord in Shiloh yearly, year after year, 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, this detailed description being added for the sake of the Benjamites, who might thus reach the designated locality without attracting attention.
v. 20. Therefore they commanded the children of Benjamin, saying, Go and lie in wait in the vineyards;
v. 21. and see, and, behold, if the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in dances, at the designated time, probably the festival of the Passover, then come ye out of the vineyards, and catch you every man his wife of the daughters of Shiloh, the virgin which he intended to make his wife, and go to the land of Benjamin.
v. 22. And it shall be, when their fathers or their brethren come unto us to complain, to make this robbery of the virgins a court case, that we will say unto them, Be favorable 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. This has been transcribed as follows: "Be quiet and gentle; give the maidens kindly to us. You know that we did not take them in war, as booty, as, for instance, at Jabesh. We have indeed allowed them to betaken (for which no grudge is to be held against Benjamin); but in peace, not for injury; and as you did not give them, no guilt attaches to you. " (Lange. )
v. 23. And the children of Benjamin did so, and took them wives, according to their number, of them that danced, whom they caught, a total of two hundred virgins; and they went and returned unto their inheritance, and repaired the cities, which had been burned down, and dwelt in them.
v. 24. And the children of Israel, all those who had been engaged in the campaign of punishment against Benjamin, 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.
v. 25. In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did that which was right in his own eyes, a notice once more inserted by the author, in order to intimate that such things would probably not have happened if there had been a strong central government dispensing justice in the entire nation. Just as the congregation of Israel accepted the remaining Benjamites after they had been punished and acknowledged their wrong, so a Christian congregation will remit the sins of the penitent sinners when they apply for readmission to the Lord's assembly.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Judges 21". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19