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The people bewail the desolation of Benjamin: they send to Jabesh-gilead, and destroy the inhabitants, except four hundred virgins, who are married to so many of the remaining Benjamites; the rest of whom afterwards carry off two hundred virgins from Shiloh, and marry them.
Before Christ 1426.
Judges 21:5. For they had made a great oath— See what has been said of this oath or anathema in the last note on the 19th chapter.
Judges 21:11. Every woman that hath lien by man— This exception for the preservation of virgins was received in all nations, and was in time the source of the many prerogatives wherewith virgins were honoured; those which they received among the Romans were extraordinary. See Martin's Explication des Textes, p. 130.
REFLECTIONS.—Their zeal for the destruction of Benjamin was scarcely so great as is their anguish now that their warmth has subsided. What increases their grief is, that, at Mizpeh, they bound themselves by a solemn oath, not only to destroy every city that should neglect their summons, but also never to give their daughters in marriage to a Benjamite; so that, having slain all the women, and being by their oath disabled from giving them others, while it was forbidden them to marry with the nations around them, though the six hundred men have escaped, the tribe is in danger of being extinct: Note; (1.) Even true zeal may be carried too far. (2.) When our spirits are exasperated, we too often speak and do what, in cooler moments, we wish unsaid and undone. On this mournful occasion,
1. They wept before God in bitterness of soul. More affected with Benjamin's destruction, than pleased with their own victory, they spread their complaints before the sanctuary, and offer up their sacrifices in such abundance, that they built a temporary altar for that service. Note; (1.) Our distresses should drive us to God. (2.) Under all our griefs, the blood of atonement will afford us relief. (3.) They, who pour out their complaints to the God of all grace, will usually find a way to extricate themselves from their difficulties.
2. The method which they took to prevent the ruin of the tribe. On reviewing the troops, the men of Jabesh-gilead were found absent. As bound by their oath, they immediately detach twelve thousand of their most valiant troops to smite men, women, and children, except such as had not known man; these are to be reserved for their distressed brethren. Having performed this service in the utter ruin of Jabesh-gilead, they returned with four hundred young virgins to the camp in Shiloh. Messengers are now dispatched to the men who remained in the rock Rimmon; they, glad to embrace the offer of peace, come down to their brethren, and thankfully receive the wives provided for them, though there yet remained a great deficiency. Note; (1.) The quarrels of brethren are usually bitter, and seldom end thus in bands of firmer friendship. (2.) They who make rash vows have only themselves to blame for the difficulties in which they may afterwards be involved.
Judges 21:19. Behold, there is a feast of the Lord in Shiloh yearly— The three great festivals were always to be held in the place where God fixed his habitation, which was now at Shiloh. Some have supposed, that this festival was that of the passover; but, from the festivity attending it, it is much more reasonable to suppose, that it was that of tabernacles. "Kane-laban," says Mr. Maundrell, "stands on the east side of a delicious vale, having a village of the same name standing opposite to it on the other side of the vale. One of these places, either the Kane or the village, is supposed to have been the Lebonah here mentioned; to which both the name and situation seem to agree." Voyage to Aleppo, p. 63. Concerning the solemn oath of the Israelites, and their manner of dispensing with it, related at the close of this chapter, see Grotius de Bell. et Pace, lib. 2: cap. 13 sect. 5.
Judges 21:25. In those days there was no king in Israel, &c.— The sacred writer, no doubt, repeats this observation to account for the disorders and enormities mentioned in the four preceding chapters, which, as they exhibit a most depraved state of things, so are they, we apprehend, by no means to be justified. It is a natural inference, that men ought to be extremely thankful for lawful authority: and, if they would preserve their happiness, ought to be zealous to support that authority, as well as to discourage all licentious approaches toward its dissolution. The Persians have a custom which justifies this reflection. When any of their kings die, they suffer the people to do as they please for five days; that, by the disorders then committed, they may see the necessity of legal government, and learn submission to it. In general, the four chapters which conclude this book shew us to what a degree the Israelites were degenerated, in the short space from the death of Caleb to the election of his younger brother to be their judge: we discover the true cause of the chastisements wherewith God punished them from time to time, though he delivered them from their enemies, under whose yoke they must infallibly have fallen, if God had not beheld them with compassion, and raised them up judges to save them from ruin. We just remark, in conclusion, that it would be unreasonable to draw any inference from the tumultuous and irregular actions of a tribe or people to the lessening of the authority of the writer of any history. The writer of the present book ought rather to be admired for the impartiality with which he relates facts so little to the credit of his nation.
REFLECTIONS.—We have here the expedient used to provide wives for the remaining two hundred men of Benjamin without violation of their oaths. A bad expedient, it is true; but better than none.
1. At one of the annual feasts, probably the feast of tabernacles, the daughters of Shiloh used to meet, in a place at some distance from the city, to rejoice before the Lord, as David afterwards did, with sacred music and dancing. It was not a mixed company or lewd assembly; all men were excluded, which made the following scheme more easily put in execution. Note; They who plead Scripture to countenance the modern mixed assemblies, neither consider the manner nor the end of the precedents they quote.
2. The elders advise the two hundred men to lie in wait near the place where this solemnity was kept, and, when the virgins came thither, to rush in, take each a wife, and retire; promising to be their advocates with the enraged fathers of the damsels, whose oath was not broken, because they were forcibly taken; and who need not think their daughters ill disposed of, when among these few survivors the whole inheritance of Benjamin must now be divided. Note; (1.) One rash step draws on a train of bad consequences. Had they been more considerate in their vow, they had not been reduced to so disagreeable an expedient. (2.) Though a stolen match is both sinful before God, and unjust towards man, parents must not be implacable in their resentments, but, on proper submission, receive their children into favour again.
3. The men of Benjamin followed the advice, and succeeded; and thus the survivors of the tribe are again settled, and in a way to repair its desolations. The children of Israel disband; every man returns to his inheritance; and it is again repeated, that there was no king in Israel, as the cause of all the evil and confusions related in the foregoing chapters. Note; Next to a good ministry, we have reason to esteem magistracy among the chief of earthly blessings; and if we know our own mercies, we have much reason to be thankful to God, that there is not only a king in England, but such a King!
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Judges 21". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20