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Bible Commentaries
Judges 21

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy BiblePoole's Annotations



The people bewail the desolation of Benjamin, Judges 21:1-7.

The inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead, for not coming up to this battle, are all destroyed, excepting four hundred damsels, whom the Israelites bestow for wives on the remaining Benjamites, Judges 21:8-15.

They advise the rest to seize on the dancing maidens at the feast in Shiloh; and to carry away as many as they had need of Judges 21:16-21.

The answer wherewith they should pacify their relations, Judges 21:22.

Verse 1

The men of Israel had sworn; in the beginning of this war, after the whole tribe had espoused the quarrel of the men of Gibeah, Judges 21:13,Judges 21:14. They do not (as some suppose) here swear the utter extirpation of the tribe, which fell out beyond their expectation, Judges 21:3,Judges 21:6, but only not to give their daughters to those men who should survive; justly esteeming them for their barbarous villany to be as bad as the worst of heathens, with whom they were forbidden to marry. In this case the Benjamites might have married among themselves, if any of their men and women were left alive.

Verse 2

The people came to the house of God; partly to mourn for the common loss, and partly to ask counsel from God about the repairing of it.

Verse 3

Why hast thou given them up to such wickedness, and us to such rage, that the whole tribe should be in a manner lost? Hence it appears that they did not swear to root them all out, as is further manifest from the different matter and words of this oath, Judges 21:1, which only denied them their daughters in marriage; and that concerning the people of other tribes who joined not with them in this business, which was, that they should be put to death, Judges 21:5. And their sparing of those six hundred men in the rock Rimmon, Judges 21:13,Judges 21:14, plainly shows that they were not obliged by any oath or vow to extirpate them.

Verse 4

Built there an altar; not for a monument of the victory, as some say, but for sacrifices, as the next words show.

Quest. What need was there of this, when the ordinary altar was there, to which also they seem to be restrained, Deuteronomy 16:2?

Answ. They are not there restrained to one altar, but to one place of worship, as is expressed; and therefore there might be in that place more altars than one, when the multitude of sacrifices so required, which was the case 1 Kings 8:61; and probably at this time, when all the tribes being met, they had many sacrifices to offer, some in common for all, and some peculiar to every tribe. Nay, other altars might be, and ofttimes were, erected in other places, by David, direction or dispensation; as Judges 6:21,Judges 6:26; 1 Samuel 7:9,1 Samuel 7:17; 1 Samuel 11:15; 1 Samuel 16:2,1 Samuel 16:5.

Verse 5

A great oath. i.e. a solemn oath, joined with some terrible execration against the offenders herein.

He shall surely be put to death; because by refusing to execute the vengeance due to such malefactors, they were justly presumed guilty of the crime, and therefore liable to the same punishment, as was the case of that city that would not deliver up an idolater dwelling among them to justice.

Verse 6

Children of Israel repented them; not for the war, which was just, and necessary, and good; but for their immoderate severity in the execution of it, and for thee dreadful consequences of it.

Verse 8

A city in Gilead, and in the tribe of Manasseh; of which see 1 Samuel 11:1,1 Samuel 11:3,1 Samuel 11:9, &c.; 1 Samuel 31:11, &c.

Verse 10

Who in such public and scandalous crimes were, for the greater terror of such transgressors, and prevention of the like sins, oft involved in the same punishment with the men, as Deuteronomy 13:15; Joshua 7:24, &c.

Verse 11

But not the virgins, as appears from the next verses. It is questionable whether they were not obliged to destroy these also by virtue of their oath, and of God’s express command concerning devoted persons, such as these certainly were, that they should surely be put to death. Leviticus 27:29, which was also particularly enjoined and practised in such cases, as Deuteronomy 13:0; Joshua 7:0, &c. But the natural and necessary duty of preserving a tribe from total ruin, might seem to render the case difficult and doubtful, and incline their opinions, as well as their affections, to the more favourable side. And it may be, the Lord, whom they were here consulting with upon all their occasions, gave them a dispensation thus to do, though that be not expressed; which is the case of many other things which were done, though not recorded; as this very oath was omitted in its proper place, and had not been recorded if this extraordinary occasion had not been offered.

Verse 12

Young virgins; not married, yet marriageable. It is probable there were other and younger virgins; but whether they were slain or spared Scripture determines not, and the learned do not agree. But these could not serve the present and urgent occasion, and therefore he takes notice only of these four hundred which were of riper age.

Verse 14

Benjamin; the poor remainders of the tribe of Benjamin.

Verse 15

The people repented them for Benjamin; were yet more grieved upon this unhappy disappointment, for they supposed here would have been wives sufficient for them. The Lord had made a breach; the Benjamites were the only authors of the sin, but God was the chief author of the punishment, and the Israelites were but his executioners.

Verse 16

For them that remain; for the two hundred who are yet unprovided of wives.

Verse 17

The inheritance promised by Jacob and Moses, and given by Joshua to the tribe of Benjamin, doth all of it belong to those few which remain of that tribe, and cannot be possessed by any other tribe; and therefore we are obliged to procure wives for them all, that they may make up this breach, and be capable of possessing and managing all their land, that this tribe and their inheritance may not be confounded with or swallowed up by any of the rest. Heb. the inheritance (to wit, belonging to the whole tribe of Benjamin) is or belongs

to them that be escaped of Benjamin.

Verse 18

i.e. To this generation of Benjamites who have made themselves guilty of this foul wickedness; but this oath did not extend to their posterity. And some think it had another exception, to wit, unless the surviving Benjamites could not otherwise be supplied with wives.

Verse 19

Yearly; on the three solemn feasts, in which they used some honest and holy recreations; among which dancing was one, Exodus 15:20; 1 Samuel 18:6; 2 Samuel 6:14; and probably it was the feast of tabernacles, which they did celebrate with more than ordinary joy, Deuteronomy 16:13-15.

Which is on the north side of Beth-el, Heb. which is on the north of Beth-el. Which doth not relate to

Shiloh, which was so known a place, that it was frivolous to describe it by such circumstances, even by places much less known than itself; but to the

feast, which as to that part or exercise of the feast here especially concerned and mentioned, to wit, the dancing of the virgins, was not celebrated in Shiloh, but in a neighboring place more convenient for that purpose.

Verse 21

The daughters of Shiloh; by whom he may possibly understand not those only who were born or settled inhabitants there, (as many conceive,) but all those who were come thither upon this occasion, and for a time sojourned there; for although only the males were obliged to go up to the three solemn feasts, yet it is apparent that the women had liberty to go, and those who were most devout did usually go, and others, upon special reasons or occasions: see 1 Samuel 1:7,1 Samuel 1:21,1 Samuel 1:22 1 Samuel 1:2:1; Luke 2:22,Luke 2:23,Luke 2:41-43. And it may be justly presumed, especially concerning those women that lived at no great distance from the place of public worship, that they came thither in great numbers. Moreover, the daughters of Shiloh, strictly so called, are not only they that lived in that town or city, but in the country belonging to it, which off comes under the name of the city to which it belongs. And these may be here particularly named, because though others might come, yet they were under great obligations to come, because of their nearness to the place.

The vineyards were near to their dancing-place.

Catch ye every man his wife; take them away by force or violence; which they might the better do, because mixed dances were not used by the people of God in their solemnities, but the women danced by themselves, and therefore were more liable to this rape.

Verse 22

Be favourable unto them; pass by their offence, if not for their sakes, whom necessity forced to this course; yet for our sakes, and indeed for your own sakes; for both you and we have done them a great injury in prosecuting them with so much fury, as to endanger the utter extinction of the whole tribe; and therefore this is the least we can do by way of reparation.

In the war; either, first, In the war with Jabesh-gilead, wherein they should have taken care to reserve a sufficient number, which they might have done, by sparing either so many of the married women as were necessary, who, their former husbands being slain, might have been married to those Benjamites; or as many of the younger virgins, who, within a little time, might have been married to them, whom many suppose that they slew. Or, secondly, In the war with the Benjamites, in which they acknowledge their cruelty in destroying the women with such fury, as not to leave a competent number for the men which were left. See Judges 20:48. Ye

did not give unto them at this time, that ye should be guilty.

Quest. Whether this did really discharge them from their oath?

Answ. First, It seems to excuse those parents of these virgins who were not acquainted with the plot, and did neither directly nor indirectly give their daughters to them, but they were taken away by force, without their knowledge and consent. If it be said those parents might and should have retaken their daughters from them; it may be replied, that they could not do so before they were corrupted, and the rulers of Israel would not assist them with their power to recover them. And it is a maxim, That many things which ought not to be done, when once they are done, should not be undone. And for those parents who were conscious of the design, it is probable they kept their daughters at home to avoid this. Secondly, Either the oath was made with an exception of the case of the total extirpation of a tribe, or it was a rash oath to do what was out of their power, or what they could not lawfully do, to wit, utterly to destroy a tribe out of Israel, which therefore they here speak of with horror, Judges 21:3,Judges 21:6; and if so, as they sinned in making it, so they were not obliged to keep it; it being an acknowledged truth, that rash and sinful oaths are better broken than kept. Thirdly. Yet they cannot be wholly excused from sin in this matter; for as it was folly to take such an oath as it is expressed, so the manner of freeing themselves from their own snare is fraudulent and injurious to the parents, in disposing of their children without their consent.

Verse 23

According to their number, i.e. each man his wife, as is said, Judges 21:22. By which we may see they had no very favourable opinion of polygamy, because they did not allow it is this case, when it might seem most necessary for the reparation of a lost tribe.

Returned into their inheritance; which being very near the place, they could speedily do before the parents could obtain redress.

Repaired the cities,

and dwelt in them; not at that instant, which could not be; but by degrees, increasing their buildings as their number increased.

Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Judges 21". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mpc/judges-21.html. 1685.
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