The Period Of The Judges

 Chapter 102
Maidens From Shiloh [Judges 21.16-21.25]


Scripture (KJV) Judges 21.16-25

They advise them to surprise the virgins who dance at Shiloh

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?
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.
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.
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.
20 Therefore they commanded the children of Benjamin, saying, Go and lie in wait in the vineyards;
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.
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.
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.
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.
25 In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.

 

Introduction

A hideous murder (see Judg. 19:25–29[1]) provoked a bloody civil war from which only 600 men of the tribe of Benjamin survived (see Judg. 20:47[2]). The question then was how to save this tribe from extinction. In the wake of this crime, the opposing tribes swore an oath not to allow their daughters to marry Benjamites; however, to preserve Benjamin’s future, the men could choose wives from Jabesh-gilead from among the 400 young virgins who had survived the onslaught (Judg. 21:10–12[3]). From Shiloh were gathered 200 additional virgins who could become wives of the remaining Benjamites (vv. 19–23). Because the people of this city had not participated in the oath, these women would be chosen as they danced in a religious feast (v. 23). The men then returned to their homes to rebuild. Their wives had opportunity to influence their husbands away from evil.

[1]Judges 19:25-29 (KJV) But the men would not hearken to him: so the man took his concubine, and brought her forth unto them; and they knew her, and abused her all the night until the morning: and when the day began to spring, they let her go. Then came the woman in the dawning of the day, and fell down at the door of the man's house where her lord was, till it was light. And her lord rose up in the morning, and opened the doors of the house, and went out to go his way: and, behold, the woman his concubine was fallen down at the door of the house, and her hands were upon the threshold. And he said unto her, Up, and let us be going. But none answered. Then the man took her up upon an ass, and the man rose up, and gat him unto his place. And when he was come into his house, he took a knife, and laid hold on his concubine, and divided her, together with her bones, into twelve pieces, and sent her into all the coasts of Israel.

[2]Judges 20:47 (KJV) But six hundred men turned and fled to the wilderness unto the rock Rimmon, and abode in the rock Rimmon four months.

[3]Judges 21:10-12 (KJV) 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. And this is the thing that ye shall do, Ye shall utterly destroy every male, and every woman that hath lain by man. 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.

 

Commentary


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?—Judges 21.16 (KJV) 
16 So the elders of the assembly asked, “How can we find wives for the few who remain, since the women of the tribe of Benjamin are dead?—Judges 21.16 (NLT)

Then the elders of the congregation said,
The elders (both in years and office) of the people of Israel; were overwhelming in favor of continuing the tribe of Benjamin; therefore, they needed a way to provide wives for the two hundred Benjaminites who did not obtain a wife from the virgins spared when Jabesh was destroyed.

how shall we do for wives for them that remain,
The elders needed a solution, but there was none that would not violate God’s Law or the oath that all Israel had taken, where they swore that they would not allow their daughters to marry any Benjamites. Whatever was decided to do, it would have to circumvent the Law and their oath in ways that did not conflict with them.

seeing the women are destroyed out of Benjamin?
Here, in a nutshell, is the dilemma faced by these Elders:
First, all the Benjamite women had been killed except for 400 virgins, which were given to the men of Benjamin. But that was not enough; 200 more women were needed if every Benjamite was to have a wife.
Second, the congregation of Israel swore an oath that said they would not give any of their daughters to them, and so there were no wives to be had there.
Third, it was against God’s law for any Israelite to marry outside of his nation. Therefore it was going to be a very difficult thing to provide wives for 200 Benjamites.

 

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.—Judges 21.17 (KJV)  
17 There must be heirs for the survivors so that an entire tribe of Israel is not wiped out.—Judges 21.17 (NLT)

And they said, there must be an inheritance for them that be escaped of Benjamin,
The escaped are the six hundred men in the rock Rimmon; four hundred of them were supplied with wives, the other two were not.

Each of the twelve tribes received an inheritance in the Promised Land, as determined by lot. Benjamin had an inheritance that would now be divided between the six hundred Benjamites that remained; therefore, there must be a provision made to increase their number, so that they may occupy the inheritance they have a right to, rebuild their cities, till their land, cultivate their vineyards and oliveyards, and enjoy all the advantages of their possessions.  They would need help, and that meant they must increase their number and that would require finding wives for the two hundred Benjamites that were still without them. The solution they came up with involved a new act of violence (v. 19); the opportunity for which was provided by the approaching festival—a feast, generally supposed to be the feast of tabernacles. This, like the other annual feasts, was held in Shiloh, and its celebration was attended with more social hilarity and holiday rejoicings than the other feasts.

An inheritance—Here, the inheritance is that promised by Jacob and Moses, and given by Joshua to the tribe of Benjamin, and all of it belong to those few who remain of that tribe, and cannot be possessed by any other tribe; and therefore they are obliged to procure wives for them all, so that they may make up this breach, and be capable of possessing and managing all their land: this tribe, and their inheritance may not be swallowed up by any of the rest.

If we change inheritance to succession the line is easier to understand and it does better at conveying the concept that there must be a succession for the escaped Benjamites, that is, there must be heirs if an inheritance is to be maintained, and therefore wives must be found for all the remaining Benjamites.

that a tribe be not destroyed out of Israel.
The elders said “Benjamin must be preserved as a tribe; therefore, the tribal-land of Benjamin shall remain an independent possession for the Benjaminites who have escaped the massacre, so that a tribe may not be destroyed out of Israel.” It was necessary therefore, that they should take steps to help the remaining Benjaminites to obtain wives.

 
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.—Judges 21.18 (KJV) 
18 But we cannot give them our own daughters in marriage because we have sworn with a solemn oath that anyone who does this will fall under God’s curse.”—Judges 21.18 (NLT)

Howbeit we may not give them wives of our daughters:
Now, they wished they had not made that vow, because now they would have gladly given their daughters to Benjamin for their wives.

for the children of Israel have sworn, saying, cursed be he that giveth a wife to Benjamin.
They couldn’t give a wife to a Benjamite (Judges 21:11), without violating their oath; therefore some other way must be devised to help them.

Their evil oath in this particular case was an acute embarrassment to the whole congregation. In all generations, men have struggled with the problem of how to deal with a rash, thoughtless or unwise promise. An example of this is seen in the solemn vows that some parents make with regard to rearing any children they may have in the precepts and teachings of some particular religion, which they later find to be contrary to God's Word. Such vows or promises, of course, should be fearlessly renounced. The only proof of this that is needed is the fact that God approved of the manner in which Israel avoided complying with the foolish oath mentioned here.

Compare the oath in this situation (Judges 21.1[1]) with Saul's rash oath in 1 Samuel 14:24[2]. Saul was afraid, if they waited to refresh themselves, the Philistines would escape out of their hands, and therefore he made the taking of any food till sunset a capital crime. This was the very means of defeating his own intention; because the people were exhausted for lack of food, and they could not continue the pursuit of their enemies: had it not been for this foolish curse, his army would have made a greater slaughter of the Philistines, 1 Samuel 14:30[3].

The children of Israel have sworn not to give their daughters as wives for the Benjamites. Their vow could not be broken. Practically speaking, however, they achieved a technical compliance with their vow while arranging a method whereby the Benjamites could “steal” wives from a feast; which is the next verse.

[1]Judges 21:1 (KJV) Now the men of Israel had sworn in Mizpeh, saying, There shall not any of us give his daughter unto Benjamin to wife.

[2]1 Sam 14:24 (KJV) And the men of Israel were distressed that day: for Saul had adjured the people, saying, Cursed be the man that eateth any food until evening, that I may be avenged on mine enemies. So none of the people tasted any food.

[3]1 Sam 14:30 (NLT)  If the men had been allowed to eat freely from the food they found among our enemies, think how many more Philistines we could have killed!

 


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. —Judges 21.19 (KJV) 
19 Then they thought of the annual festival of the LORD held in Shiloh, south of Lebonah and north of Bethel, along the east side of the road that goes from Bethel to Shechem.
—Judges 21.19 (NLT)

Then they said
“They”
are those elders that sat in council debating this matter, and considering ways and means to assist their brethren, the Benjaminites, and preserve their tribe from being lost from the confederation of twelve tribes, which was the design of the GOD OF HEAVEN AND EARTH.

The other tribes could not give them their daughters, on account of the oath which has already been mentioned in Judges 21:11 and Judges 21:7[4] and is repeated here (v. 18). Consequently there was hardly any other course open, than to let the Benjaminites steal wives for themselves. At this point they needed once-and-for-all to solve the problem of the inequity of only four hundred women being available to marry the six hundred Benjamites. The elders of the congregation decided that there must be an inheritance for the Benjamites, and that a tribe could not be destroyed out of Israel

[4]Judges 21:7 (KJV) 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?

Behold, there is a feast of the Lord in Shiloh yearly (from year to year)
Shiloh is where the tabernacle was, and before which the males of Israel were obliged to appear three times during the year; and this was one of those times, which is obvious since the feast is called a feast of the Lord. Some have thought it was the feast of the Passover, but it is most likely to be the feast of tabernacles, which is what Abarbinel believes it to be; in Jewish writings it is emphatically called "the feast." The time of year when the feast of tabernacles was kept was a time of great rejoicing, on account of the fruits of the earth being gathered in, and the reading of the law and especially at the custom of drawing water at this feast; insomuch that it is said that he who never saw the rejoicing at drawing of water never saw rejoicing in his life, which was accompanied with music, and dancing, and singing.

Commentators seem to be in total disagreement concerning what feast is mentioned here. "Hengstenberg, Keil, and Delitzsch think it was the Passover. Bishop Patrick and others think it was the Feast of the Tabernacles, a more joyous feast." Others believe it to have been a local festival peculiar to Shiloh. Moore said that, "This feast with its dances among the vineyards was doubtless, like that of Shechem (Judges 9:27[7]), a local vintage festival at Shiloh." Finally, it is pretty strange what Kimchi notes, that this may be either one of the above feasts, or the day of atonement, at which, he says, the daughters of Israel used to go and dance in the vineyards, but it was a fast, not a feast, (Acts 27:9[5]) and all tokens of festivity and joy were forbidden.

It is this writer's conclusion that the Feast of Tabernacles is the one meant, for the following reasons.
1. Josephus tells us that when the people came together to discuss the situation, being very fearful to violate their oath, a certain man stood up and told them how to get around the problem. He said: "Three times in the year, when we meet in Shiloh, our wives and daughters accompany us. Let the Benjamites be allowed to steal away and marry such women as they can catch." The significance of this is that the "festival" intended was definitely one of the three annual festivals of Israel at the central shrine, namely, Passover, Pentecost, and Feast of the Tabernacles, which was celebrated with more than ordinary joy.
2. The problem of which one of those festivals is meant is clarified by the fact that, "The Feast of Tabernacles was the only feast at which Jewish maidens were permitted to dance." But even this was not mixed dancing. No men danced with these daughters of Shiloh. Also, married women were not allowed to join with them in the dancing. In fact, only men could attend the festivals, so only the young maidens would be able to dance there.
3. Also, Moore's opinion that it was held at the time of the grape harvest also supports the view that the Feast of Tabernacles was meant, for it was the harvest festival. "It was at the Feast of Tabernacles that the grape harvest was celebrated in the vineyards with dancing and feasting."

Observe: Shiloh had been totally under the control of the Israelites (see Josh 18), but it is now referred to as being in the land of Canaan (see Judges 21.12[6]). Therefore, it is certain that Israelites were still living there and that the worship of Yahweh was still recognized there; yet it was under the influence and control of the Canaanites.

[5]Acts 27:9 (KJV) Now when much time was spent, and when sailing was now dangerous, because the fast was now already past, Paul admonished them. It was  the day of atonement, which was held at the end of September and beginning of October.

[6]Judges 21:12 (KJV) 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.

[7]Judges 9:27 (KJV) And they went out into the fields, and gathered their vineyards, and trode the grapes, and made merry, and went into the house of their god, and did eat and drink, and cursed Abimelech.

in a place which is on the north side of Bethel,
The words in a place are not in the Hebrew, and do not seem to be implied by the context; but I believe it was right to add "in a place": because the intention is not to describe the location of Shiloh, which was well known, but a place not far from it, where a yearly festival is held and the daughters of Shiloh used to dance, and sing psalms and songs of Gods works among them, which was the custom at that time.

on the east side of the highway that goeth up from Bethel to Shechem,
This place was on the east side of a public road that led from Bethel to Shechem.

Evidently, the exact location of the place was described for the benefit of the Benjamites.
There is at least one school of thought that says: “I can see no reason for this minute description, unless it implies that this feast was to be held this year in a different place: and, as the Benjamites had been shut up in their strong hold in Rimmon, they might not have heard of this change; and it was necessary, in such a case, to give them detailed information as to its location, so that they might succeed in their enterprise without being discovered.”

and on the south of Lebonah.
To the detailed description above, now is added and on the south of Lebonah which Mr. Maundrell takes to be a place now called Kane Leban, which stands on the east side of a delightful vale, having a village of the same name standing opposite to it on the other side of the vale; one of these places, either that Kane or the village, is supposed to be the Lebonah mentioned, to which both the name and location seem to agree. This place was particularly fitted for carrying out of the advice given to the Benjaminites; since, as soon as they had left their hiding-places in the vineyards at Shiloh, and seized the dancing virgins, they could easily escape to their own land by the neighboring high-road which led from Bethel to Shechem, without being arrested by the citizens of Shiloh.

 

 

20 Therefore they commanded the children of Benjamin, saying, Go and lie in wait in the vineyards;—Judges 21.20 (KJV) 
20 They told the men of Benjamin who still needed wives, “Go and hide in the vineyards.—Judges 21.20 (NLT)

Therefore they commanded the children of Benjamin,
They ordered the two hundred men of Benjamin that wanted wives, as follows; and they spoke with authority, since they were the elders of the congregation.

saying, go and lie in wait in the vineyards;
These vineyards might belong to Shiloh, or Lebonah, which perhaps is the same as Kane Leban, a place famous for its wine. Now, this is the time of year when the grape harvest had just recently ended, and the vines were full of branches and leaves, under which the men might hide themselves; and seeing that the grapes had been gathered, there were no men in the vineyards, and so two hundred men might lie in wait safely, and under cover.

 

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.—Judges 21.21 (KJV) 
21 When you see the young women of Shiloh come out for their dances, rush out from the vineyards, and each of you can take one of them home to the land of Benjamin to be your wife!—Judges 21.21 (NLT)

And see, and, behold, if the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in dances,
Dance was a part of the ancient religious observances. It was done on festive occasions, as it still is in the Middle East, not in town, but in the open air, in some adjoining field, and the women are by themselves. In this instance, the young women would have been alone indulging their joyful and carefree spirits; they wouldn’t have been worried about some danger to their freedom, and all this facilitated the execution of the scheme to kidnap them. Only males were obligated to appear from all parts of Israel at this feast, yet females could come if they wanted to; and, no doubt, they did come from neighboring places, at least many did; however, the daughters of Shiloh, who dwelt where the tabernacle was, always attended the feast and engaged in dance and other demonstrations of joy, as in the case of Miriam, and the Israelite women, (Exodus 15:20[8]). The holiday was said to be a feast of the Lord, which was probably the feast of tabernacles (v. 19) that lasted seven days, since that feast (Bishop Patrick says) was the only one where the Jewish virgins were allowed to dance.

We could pause here and point out the pros and cons of including dancing in religious services, but we will save that subject for our studies in the NT. But I will point out that dancing was a very popular form of worshipping Jehovah with the OT saints: see Judges 11:34; Exodus 15:20; 1 Samuel 18:6; 2 Samuel 6:14,21; Psalms 149:3; 150:4; Ecclesiastes 3:4; Jeremiah 31:13; Matthew 10:17; Luke 17:25.

Afterwards (after the actual kidnapping) the elders took upon themselves the job of reconciling the families to the forced abduction of their daughters. And thus the expression of their public endorsement of this deed of violence provided new evidence of the evils and difficulties into which the unhappy participation of the Israelites in this crisis had involved them.

Let me expand on this; the elders of Israel gave authority to the Benjamites to do this, to lie in wait in the vineyards which surrounded the field they used to dance on, and, when they were in the midst of their activity, to come out of hiding, and catch a wife for himself, and take them immediately away to their own country. If you are as old as I am, this scene may remind you of the Little Abner comic strip on Sadie Hawkins Day, but with the roles reversed.

The elders knew that none of their own daughters would be there, consequently the parents of these virgins could not be said to give them away, since they knew nothing about it. It was a sorry thing to do, but to these elders it was better than doing nothing to keep from breaking their oath. Here was a very preposterous way of match-making, when both the mutual affection of the young people and the consent of the parents must be presumed to come after marriage; the case was extraordinary, and should by no means be thought to set a precedent. Often hasty marriages become the occasion for regret; how then can anything but awful consequences be expected from a match made either by force or fraud? The virgins of Jabesh-gilead were taken out of the midst of blood and slaughter, but these virgins of Shiloh were taken out of the midst of laughter and joy; the former had reason to be thankful that their lives were spared, and the latter, we hope, had no cause to complain, because after a while, when they found themselves not married to men who are broken and desperate, as they seemed to be, but to men with the best and largest estates in the nation. That must be true, since the land belonging to the whole tribe of Benjamin, which consisted of 45,600 men (Num. 26:41[9]), came to be divided again among 600, who had it all by the rite of survivorship.

Daughters of Shiloh - By this we mean not only those who were born or settled inhabitants there, but all those who went there on this occasion, and stayed there for a while.

vineyards - Which were near the place where they danced.

Catch - Take them away by force.

[8]Ex 15:20 (KJV) And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances.

[9]Num 26:41 (KJV) These are the sons of Benjamin after their families: and they that were numbered of them were forty and five thousand and six hundred.

then come ye out of the yards, and catch you every man his wife of the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin;

The elders lent them a helping hand by offering them this advice concerning the next yearly festival at Shiloh, at which time the daughters of Shiloh danced outside the town: they directed them to rush out, while they are dancing, and grab the woman you want, but only one, and take them as swiftly as possible to your own tribe and home. The close vicinity of the high road leading from Shechem to Bethel on the border of Benjamin would facilitate their flight.

We have here the method that was employed to provide the 200 Benjamites that remained with wives. And, though the tribe was reduced to a small number, they were only concerned with providing each man with one wife, not with more under the pretence of produce children faster.

Again, rather than go through this little charade, it would have been better for Israel to have confessed their sin of making a foolish oath, and done what was right instead of trying to make two wrongs equal a right.

 

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.—Judges 21.22 (KJV) 
22 And when their fathers and brothers come to us in protest, we will tell them, ‘Please be sympathetic. Let them have your daughters, for we didn’t find wives for all of them when we destroyed Jabesh-gilead. And you are not guilty of breaking the vow since you did not actually give your daughters to them in marriage.’”—Judges 21.22 (NLT)

And it shall be, when their fathers or their brethren come unto us to complain,
They expected that the fathers and brothers of these daughters of Israel would want an explanation of what happened and would insist that armed men go after the culprits and bring them to justice and rescue their daughters and sisters. We can assume that they believed these young virgins would be raped, if they hadn’t been already. Their complaint was probably spoken with anger and desperation.

The elders placed themselves in a dangerous position by their part in the abduction, and they may have feared their fathers and their brethren; that their compliance in the affair might be discovered, and they may be tried by them for the rape of their daughters or sisters, and judged according to law for what they had done.

Though they attempted to convince man that they had kept their oath, it was broken before God.

that we will say unto them, be favourable unto them for our sakes:
When their fathers and their brethren come to complain, and they seem sure they will, they will say to them: “be kind to us or grant us this favor, because we advised them to do what they did for the sake of us Israelites, your sake and ours. We had to do it because we were too brutal when we made war on them; killing their wives and children. If we had not done what we did, we would have lost a tribe in Israel.”

because we reserved not to each man his wife in the war:
The reading of the Vulgate is very remarkable: Miseremini eorum, non enim rapuerunt eas jure bellantium atque victorum, sed rogantibus ut acciperent non dedistis, et a vestra parte peccatum est.—"Pardon them, for they have not taken them as victors take captives in war; but when they requested you to give them you did not; therefore the fault is your own." Here it is implied that the request had been made to the people of Shiloh to furnish these two hundred Benjamites with wives, and that they had refused; and it was this refusal that induced the Benjamites to seize and carry them off. Houbigant translates the Hebrew thus: Veniam quaeso illis date; non enim ad bellum duxerant suam quisque uxorem; et nisi eas illis nunc concedetis, delicti rei eritis.-"Pardon them, I beseech you, for they have not each taken his wife to the war; and unless you now give these to them, you will sin." This insinuates that, since the Benjamites had not taken their wives with them when they went to war, where some, if not all, of them might have escaped; and since the Israelites found them in the cities, and put them all to the sword; therefore the people of Shiloh should give up those two hundred young women to them for wives; and if they did not, it would be a sin, considering the circumstances of the case.

Our translation seems to give as a reason for why the men of Shiloh should be pardoned for this kidnapping and rape, that they had not permitted the Benjamite women to live in their war with Benjamin, therefore these men are now destitute; and the concession which they wish them to make to them, may be considered as more of an obligation to the Israelites than a blessing to the Benjamites. It is an ambiguous sentence; and the reader, if he is not pleased with one translation, may attempt to satisfy himself with others which he may find in different Bible versions and commentaries. The Vulgate gives a good sense to the passage; but probably Houbigant comes nearest to the meaning.

for ye did not give unto them at this time, that you should be guilty.
The meaning is, that if they had any uneasiness about the oath which they had taken, not to give any of their daughters in marriage to Benjamin, they don’t need not be disturbed at that, since they did not "give" them to Benjamin, but these Benjamites "took" them by force; which was the scheme that these elders contrived to insure that they don’t violate their oath. This is how they thought they would gloss-over their complaints, and they might even add some other things such as; that these men they were married to were their brethren, and not strangers, and they were not poor men, but men with large estates, because now they have the whole inheritance of the tribe of Benjamin passed on to them; and their daughters would be the original mothers of the descendents of that tribe in succeeding generations. Some of the fathers may be more satisfied with this explanation than others, because their consciences were still tender.

This is what the Lord Jesus Christ said on the subject of oaths: “Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil. (Matt 5:33-37; KJV).

 

 

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.—Judges 21.23 (KJV) 
23 So the men of Benjamin did as they were told. Each man caught one of the women as she danced in the celebration and carried her off to be his wife. They returned to their own land, and they rebuilt their towns and lived in them.—Judges 21.23 (NLT)

And the children of Benjamin did so,
Two hundred Benjamites went to the vineyards, where they laid in wait for the daughters of Shiloh to come out to dance, and then they rushed upon them. Did the maidens run and scream in terror, thinking they were going to be killed, raped or kidnapped; or all three.

and took them wives, according to their number,
Each man took a wife, two hundred in total, and no more; because even though polygamy was in style in those times, and could be excused; yet it was not indulged in, by the elders, or by the children of Benjamin in this case, when it might seem most necessary for the compensation of a lost tribe.

of them that danced, whom they caught:
Remember, the maidens were alone; men could not watch, so the Benjaminites had a free hand, because there was nothing and no one to prevent them from capturing a wife

and they went and returned unto their inheritance,
It appears that the Benjamites acted in the most honorable way by the women whom they had violently carried off; and we may rest assured they took them to an inheritance at least equal to their own, for it does not appear that any part of the lands of the Benjamites was kept from them, and the six hundred men in question shared, for the present, the inheritance of many thousands.

While it is overlooked in most commentaries, the term inheritance seems to be crucial to the understanding of the final verses of this book. In the first section, the Danites gave up their inheritance and by ungodly means took another. In this account, the Benjamites nearly lost their inheritance at the hands of their own brothers. The recurring theme, then, in the book of Judges has to do with Israel’s inheritance, which she is in danger of losing because of her violation of God’s law. In the Law of Moses, the inheritance was apportioned by God Himself and then determined by lot under the leadership of Joshua. However, after the total victory under Joshua, Israel had now fallen into spiritual decline and was, therefore, in danger of losing her inheritance. The theological concept underlying the proper understanding of the book of Judges is that the land belonged to Jehovah and that He had the right to apportion it to the people as He chose. The subsequent invasion of Israel’s enemies, the resulting oppressions, and the threatened annihilation which culminated in the activities of the Philistines, were also God’s means of challenging Israel’s inheritance. Just because He had given her the land did not mean that she had an unconditional right to its blessings if she chose to live in rebellion to His laws.

and repaired the cities, and dwelt in them.
In time they rebuilt the cities the Israelites had burnt in the late war, and repeopled them as their posterity increased. And the Jewish writers say, that in later times they were allowed to marry with other tribes as before, since the oath only bound those present at Mizpeh.

 

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.—Judges 21.24 (KJV) 
24 Then the people of Israel departed by tribes and families, and they returned to their own homes.
—Judges 21.24 (NLT)

And the children of Israel departed thence at that time, every man to his tribe and to his family,
This must have been four months after the war was over (Judges 20:47[10]), and things had been settled, as well as circumstances would allow, to insure the preservation of the tribe of Benjamin, who had caused the war, and suffered greatly because of it. The Israelites that had met at Mizpeh and survived the war, returned to their respective tribes, to their wives and children, and to their various occupations.

[10]Judges 20:47 (KJV) But six hundred men turned and fled to the wilderness unto the rock Rimmon, and abode in the rock Rimmon four months.

and they went out from thence every man to his inheritance.
Israel did not maintain a standing army, moreover this war did not cause any alterations in the government; but when the war was over and the six hundred Benjamites provided with wives, the army was dissolved and the men quietly departed in God’s peace, and every man returned to his family.

Observe; our occupations/jobs, whether in the private sector or public service, must not make us think we can ignore the duty of providing for our families. God is #1, but family is next.

In Judges 21:24 and Judges 21:25, the account of this event is brought to a close with a two important remarks: (1) that the children of Israel, i.e., the representatives of the congregation who were assembled at Shiloh, disbanded and every man returned to his inheritance, his tribe, and his family (v. 24); (2) that at that time there was no king in Israel, and every man was accustomed to do what was right in his own eyes (v.25).
The writer of Judges does not state whether the fathers or brothers of the virgins who had been carried off brought any complaint before the congregation concerning the raid that had been committed, simply because this was of no importance, as far as history was concerned. (Note: "No doubt the fathers and brothers of the virgins demanded both from the Benjaminites themselves, and also from the elders of Israel, that the Benjaminites might be punished: but the elders replied as they had said they would; and the persons concerned were satisfied with the answer, and so the affair was brought to a peaceable termination." - Seb. Schmidt.)

Compare this discharge of Israel with the breaking up of the national assembly in the days of Joshua (Joshua 24:28[11]).

[11]Josh 24:28 (KJV) So Joshua let the people depart, every man unto his inheritance.


 

25 In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.—Judges 21.25 (KJV) 
25 In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.
—Judges 21.25 (NLT)

In those days there was no king in Israel:
There was no supreme magistrate; Joshua was dead, and as of yet no judge in Israel had risen up to lead them; because everything related in the last five chapters of this book were done between the death of Joshua and the time of the judges.

No one should presume that the sacred writer, by relating the atrocities in this and the preceding chapters, justifies the actions themselves. Indeed, they cannot be justified; and the writer by relating them gives the strongest proof of the authenticity of scripture, by such an impartial reporting of facts that were extremely damaging to the reputation of his country.

The writer says, In those days there was no king in Israel; but to the discerning eye of faith it is apparent that in those days there was a King in Israel—invisible, yet sovereign over the hearts and wills of his people.

every man did that which was right in his own eyes.
There was no one to restrain any man, or punish him for doing it; and this accounts for the many evil things related in the twenty-one chapters of Judges; things like the idolatry of Micah and the Danites, the vile usage of the Levite's concubine, the extreme thoroughness and severity with which the Israelites treated their brethren the Benjaminites, the slaughter of the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead, and the rape of the daughters of Shiloh. Though God was their King, every man would be his own master, as if there was no king. BUT WE SHOULD NOT BE SHOCKED BY THESE ATROCITIES, SINCE EVERY MAN IS BORN WITH A SINFUL NATURE THAT WILL RULE HIS ACTIONS, THOUGHTS AND SPEECH UNLESS JESUS CHRIST CHANGES HIM.

Thus ends the book of Judges; a work which, while it introduces the history of Samuel and that of the kings of Judah and Israel, forms in some sort a supplement to the book of Joshua, and furnishes the only account we have of those times of anarchy and confusion, which extended nearly from the times of the elders who survived Joshua, to the establishment of the Jewish monarchy under Saul, David, and their successors.


THE FINAL COMMENT

All commentators agree that this is an editorial comment by the author of the Book of Judges and that the purpose of it, repeated several times, was to establish the theological proposition that Israel should have a king. What many of the commentators seem to overlook is that there is an implied assertion in every one of the uses of this comment that, IF Israel had a king, all such disasters as those recorded in Judges would have been avoided.

These facts almost amount to a statement that SAMUEL wrote Judges. It is utterly inconceivable to this writer that any person, who might have lived at any of the "later periods" assigned to the writing of Judges could possibly have entertained such a foolish and erroneous notion. It was only in the times of Samuel, before the monarchy had been experienced, that these comments would have been written. Furthermore, they could not have come from the earlier part of Samuel's life, because, at first, he was opposed to the establishment of the monarchy. This restricts the probability of the time when Judges was written to the "honeymoon phase" of the reign of Saul. Who can believe that any Israelite living after God's chosen people had witnessed the conduct of any of their reprobate kings could have entertained for a single moment the naive notion in evidence here that, IF Israel had had a king, none of these shameful things would have happened?

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