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Bible Commentaries
Judges 21

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary

Verse 1


1. Israel had sworn This fact, not recorded before, shows up the impetuous zeal and fury with which Israel had been inspired, and during the whole conflict feelings of personal revenge held too much sway on both sides.

Not… give his daughter unto Benjamin They meant to treat Benjamin as one of the heathen nations among whom they were forbidden to marry. Deuteronomy 7:3.

Verse 2

2. House of God Rather, Beth-el; see notes on Judges 20:18; Judges 20:26-27.

Abode… before God In solemn penitence and humiliation before the ark of the covenant which was there.

Wept sore Not so much over their sins, as over the calamities of Benjamin.

Verse 3

3. One tribe lacking in Israel A fearful thought thus came over them after the hour of bitterness and passion had gone, and calm reflection returned, “God had taken care of every tribe,” remarks Henry; “their number twelve was that which they were known by; every tribe had his station appointed in the camp, and his stone in the high priest’s breastplate; every tribe had his blessing, both from Jacob and Moses, and it would be an intolerable reproach to them if they should drop any out of this illustrious jury, and lose one out of twelve; especially Benjamin, the youngest, who was particularly dear to Jacob, their common ancestor. Benjamin is not; what then will become of Jacob? Benjamin become a Benoni! the son of the right hand a son of sorrow!” Genesis 35:18.

Verse 4

4. Built there an altar The altar on which they had sacrificed a few days before (Judges 20:26) was perhaps not large enough for the purposes of the present occasion, or there may have been thought something meritorious in the building of a new altar there.

Verse 5

5. A great oath Here is the record of another oath, of which nothing was said in the account of the council at Mizpeh given in Judges 20:1-11. According to Henry, this oath was taken “while the general convention of the states was gathering together, and was waiting for a full house before they would proceed.” But all the tribes felt bound by it. It was an age of fearful oaths and vows, and when such vows were once uttered it was not thought possible or honourable to be released from them. Witness the case of Jephthah.

Verse 8

8. Came none… from Jabesh-gilead This was the chief city of the mountainous land of Gilead on the east of the Jordan, and its name is still preserved in the valley in which it was situated Wady Yabis. Its exact site has not been positively ascertained, but there remains hardly a doubt that it was identical with the modern ruin ed-Deir, which lies on a hill on the south side of the wady Yabis, some six or seven miles east of the Jordan. “The name ed-Deir,” says Dr. Robinson. “is often given to ruins of which the Arabs can make nothing else; while the existence of columns, and the position upon the road from Beisan to Jerash, are circumstances of great weight. The distance too, of six miles from Pella, as specified by Eusebius and Jerome, seems entirely applicable to ed-Deir.” The fact that none came from this city to fight against Benjamin has led some writers, with reason, to suspect that a secret alliance existed between this city and Benjamin.

Verse 10

10. Go and smite They attempt to help one calamity by causing another. It is noticeable that in all this action it is not said that they asked counsel of Jehovah.

Verse 12

12. Brought them unto the camp to Shiloh Shiloh was the seat of the tabernacle, and lay ten miles north of Beth-el, and hither, after sending the twelve thousand to smite Jabesh-gilead, the rest of the people seem to have removed their camp. The ark and Phinehas the high priest probably accompanied them on this occasion.

Verse 13

13. Call peaceably unto them That is, proclaim to them a proclamation of peace, and invite them to their homes again.

Verse 16

16. Wives for them that remain Two hundred were yet destitute of wives, for the virgins of Jabesh numbered but four hundred, and the remnant of Benjamin were six hundred.

Verse 19

19. A feast of the Lord in Shiloh One of the great yearly festivals, which, notwithstanding the irregularities of the age, were still observed at the seat of the tabernacle. Compare 1 Samuel 1:3, note. The context shows that the festival occurred about this time.

Lebonah Identical with the modern village Lubban, about three miles northwest of Shiloh. The particular description here given of the location of Shiloh seems to have been given to the men sent to capture the dancing maidens there, and make off with them without hinderance.

Verse 21

21. To dance in dances As did the women of the exodus under the leadership of Miriam, (Exodus 15:20;) only they danced for triumph, these for pleasure. “There are not in eastern towns places where assemblies can be held for such festivities. It is, therefore, usual to assemble in such pleasant spots as may be in the neighbourhood in any small valley through which a stream flows, near some secluded fountain, in gardens or plantations. The women especially affect this mode of enjoyment, which agreeably diversifies their somewhat monotonous existence. A few years ago the ladies of Aleppo bribed an astrologer to predict a coming plague, for no other reason than that they might as they knew to be usual in such cases be sent out of the way into the suburban gardens. That these festivities are held by the different sexes apart explains that there were no men present to oppose the Benjamites in carrying off their daughters and their sisters.” Kitto.

Verse 22

22. Come unto us to complain Unto us, the elders and warriors of the nation. It seems that for four months or more (compare Judges 20:47) the elders and the larger part of the army of Israel remained encamped at Beth-el and at Shiloh in order to settle the affairs of Benjamin, and provide against the utter ruin of that tribe. While thus encamped the fathers and brothers of the captured maidens would naturally appeal to them, especially as the children of Benjamin did this act by their command. Judges 21:20.

Be favourable unto them for our sakes That is, for the sake of our common nation and kindred do not seek to recover the captive maidens, or injure their captors, but be favourable unto them. Literally the Hebrew is, Favour us as regards them. Keil thinks that the elders proposed to speak these words in the name of Benjamin, in which case us refers to the Benjamites, and them to the maidens. But this is less natural than to understand that the elders speak in behalf of the common interests of Israel, and with special allusion, perhaps, to the fact that they themselves were personally involved in the seizure of the maidens, having counselled and commanded it.

Because we reserved not Rather, because we did not take each man his wife in the war. That is, in the war with Jabesh-gilead we did not succeed in capturing virgins enough to supply each man of the six hundred Benjamites with a wife.

For ye did not give unto them They were taken stealthily and by force; ye did not give your daughters and sisters unto them, so ye have not broken the oath which we all took that we would not give our daughters unto Benjamin to wife. Judges 21:1.

At this time… ye should be guilty Thus these words should be construed, and not according to the punctuation of our common version. The words might be better rendered, as at the time ye would have been guilty. More is implied than is said. The sense is, If ye had given these maidens freely, ye would have been guilty of violating your oath by which at the time ye were bound. This decision probably satisfied the people of Shiloh.

Verse 23

23. Repaired the cities A great work for six hundred men to do, for all the cities of their tribe had been destroyed. Judges 20:48.

Verse 24

24. Israel departed thence at that time As remarked in note on Judges 21:22, the great body of the army remained encamped with the elders until these affairs of Benjamin were settled. So great a civil war demanded for a time afterwards a standing army.

Verse 25

25. In those days there was no king in Israel With this familiar text, in part or in whole so frequently repeated in this book, the historian of the Dark Ages of Israel appropriately closes his narrative. And thus, says Wordsworth, “he prepares the way for the record of a better condition of things under David, the king of Judah and Israel, whose genealogy and history are described in the next following books of Ruth and Samuel, and who was the ancestor and type of the Divine King of Israel, JESUS CHRIST, to whom, with the FATHER and the HOLY GHOST, be ascribed all honour and glory, now and forever. Amen.”

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Judges 21". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/judges-21.html. 1874-1909.
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