Mourning the Fate of Benjamin [Judges 21.1-21.7]
Scripture (KJV) Judges 21.1-7
The people bewail the desolation of Benjamin
1 Now the men of Israel had sworn in Mizpeh, saying, There shall not any of us give his daughter unto Benjamin to wife.
2 And the people came to the house of God, and abode there till even before God, and lifted up their voices, and wept sore;
3 And said, O LORD God of Israel, why is this come to pass in Israel, that there should be to day one tribe lacking in Israel?
4 And it came to pass on the morrow, that the people rose early, and built there an altar, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings.
5 And the children of Israel said, Who is there among all the tribes of Israel that came not up with the congregation unto the LORD? For they had made a great oath concerning him that came not up to the LORD to Mizpeh, saying, He shall surely be put to death.
6 And the children of Israel repented them for Benjamin their brother, and said, There is one tribe cut off from Israel this day.
7 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?
Through the extraordinary severity with which the tribes of Israel had carried on the war against Benjamin, this tribe had been reduced to 600 men, and brought very near to extermination. Such a conclusion to the bloody conflict went to the heart of the congregation. When forming the resolution to punish the unparalleled wickedness of the inhabitants of Gibeah with all the severity of the law, they had been urged on by nothing else than the sacred duty that was binding upon them to root out the evil from their midst; if only they would have acted with the same fierceness when God ordered them to kill all the inhabitants of the Promised Land. And although the war against the whole tribe of Benjamin was justified by the fact that they had taken the side of the culprits, and that the consolidated tribes had received the approval of the Lord; there is no doubt that in the execution of the war, feelings of personal revenge had replaced the righteous indignation that was present at the beginning, because of the defeat which they had twice sustained at the hands of the Benjaminites. They had engaged in a war of extermination which was not commanded by the law or justified by the circumstances, and had brought about the destruction of an entire tribe; one of the twelve tribes of the covenant nation with the exception of a small vanishing remnant. When the impulsive deed was done, the congregation began to bitterly repent. And with repentance there was awakened the feeling of brotherly love, and also a sense of duty to provide for the continuation of the tribe, which had been brought so near to destruction, by finding wives for those who remained, in order that the small remnant might grow into a vigorous tribe again.
The leaders of Israel are to be commented, because they became peacemakers (v. 13), and the tribes began working together to solve the problem. Their solution was a matter of semantics: Israel had vowed not to give them wives, but that did not prevent the men of Benjamin from going out and taking wives.
The apostle Paul came from the tribe of Benjamin. No doubt he was grateful for those four hundred women from Jabesh Gilead (v. 12) and the two hundred women who were kidnapped at Shiloh, since they kept the tribe alive.
1 Now the men of Israel had sworn in Mizpeh, saying, There shall not any of us give his daughter unto Benjamin to wife.—Judges 21.1 (KJV)
1 The Israelites had vowed at Mizpeh, “We will never give our daughters in marriage to a man from the tribe of Benjamin.”—Judges 21.1 (NLT)
Now the men of Israel had sworn in Mizpeh
Mizpeh was the assembly site and command headquarters for the combined tribes of Israel. There they bivouacked by tribe and prepared for war. Before the war began, they heard the account the Levite gave of the affair, which brought them there. After that they sent messengers to Benjamin with orders for them to hand over the men of Gibeah, that had committed the wickedness; and finally they perceived that Benjamin did not intend to hand over anyone and would not heed their demand, but instead prepared to make war against them. Then, they made an oath to destroy Gibeah, and all the cities that sent out men against them, all the inhabitants of them, men, women, and children. And finally they joined together in another oath, declaring that they would treat those men that remained as heathens, and not intermarry with them, as stated in the next line.
Now, the tribe of Benjamin was in danger of extinction. There were six hundred men remaining, but they had no wives and no children. The Israelites, in anger, had vowed never to give their daughters in marriage to the tribe of Benjamin, and God had said they couldn’t marry with a woman from outside the nation Israel.
saying, there shall not any of us give his daughter unto Benjamin to wife;
This is the first time we have heard about this oath; but it appears they had began this war with a determination to totally destroy the Benjamites, and that if any of them escaped the sword no man would be permitted to give him his daughter for a wife. By the means these two ridiculous oaths the remnant of the tribe would soon have been annihilated. Let’s take a moment to review these oaths that Israel swore at Mizpeh:
• there shall not any of us give his daughter unto Benjamin to wife. A curse is laid on anyone who gives their daughter as a wife for the tribe of Benjamin. At the time, considering their anger against Benjamin, this probably seemed like the right thing to do, seeing that they used the wife of the Levite in such a vile manner, and those that protected and defended them, did not deserve to have wives. For their villainy, they were to be treated as bad as heathens, with whom they were forbidden to marry. But the foolish oath had unforeseen consequences. When they realized that a whole tribe faced extinction, they found themselves in a dilemma. On the one hand, once a vow had been made it must be carried out. On the other hand, in a culture where even the cessation of a single family line, due to lack of children, was considered a great tragedy, the realization that a whole tribe could cease to exist was a national catastrophe. God Himself had forbidden Israel to intermarry with the Canaanites, and this meant that no source whatsoever remained for procuring wives for the Benjamite survivors of the war.
The enormity of the disaster of that civil war finally sank into the minds and hearts of the leaders of Israel. Oh yes, they had done it all, they claimed, according to the will of God, but as Matthew Henry remarked: "They who had spared the Canaanites in many places, who were devoted to their destruction by Divine command (finding countless excuses for doing so), could not find in their hearts the willingness to spare their own brothers who had been devoted to destruction, not by God's command, but by their own rash and irresponsible oath. Men are commonly more enthusiastic to support their own authority than that of God."
• And the children of Israel said, Who is there among all the tribes of Israel that came not up with the congregation unto the LORD? For they had made a great oath concerning him that came not up to the LORD to Mizpeh, saying, He shall surely be put to death. And the children of Israel repented them for Benjamin their brother, and said, There is one tribe cut off from Israel this day (Judges 21:5-6;KJV). Of course Benjamin had refused to turn over the men of Gibeah and did not respond to the invitation they received to join the other tribes at Mizpeh. Hence, they fell under the curse that said “concerning him that came not up to the LORD to Mizpeh, …He shall surely be put to death. The men of Israel used this oath to take revenge on Benjamin; they destroyed all the cities that belonged to Benjamin, all the inhabitants of them, men, women, and children.
The tribe of Benjamin had almost been exterminated, only 600 escapees to the rock of Rimmon remained. Those two stupid and ridiculous oaths which they had sworn at Mizpeh must bare most of the blame.
2 And the people came to the house of God, and abode there till even before God, and lifted up their voices, and wept sore;—Judges 21.2 (KJV)
2 Now the people went to Bethel and sat in the presence of God until evening, weeping loudly and bitterly.—Judges 21.2 (NLT)
And the people came to the house of God,
Where was the house of God at this time? Commentators differ when answering this question: The Targum and Septuagint, and other versions, hold the opinion that it was not at the city of Bethel, but at Shiloh (Judges 21.12). I have already stated that the Arc was brought from Shiloh to Bethel, for convenience to the men of Israel (Judges 20.23), which the Chaldee, Syriac, Arabic agree; but with victory assured, it could have been returned to Shiloh by this time.
And the people means the Israelite army. They went to Bethel to consult with God before the first battle (Judges 20.18) and after they lost the first (judges 20.23) and second (Judges20.26, 27) battles; and then, they returned to Bethel after they finished the work of destruction in the cities of Benjamin, and before the Arc of the Covenant was returned to its permanent location at Shiloh. They came not so much to rejoice, and be glad, and to return thanks for the victory they had at last obtained, as they did to grieve over the unhappy case of the tribe of Benjamin, and to obtain advice about ways and means to repair the loss of one of their tribes.
Judges 20:23 (NLT) For they had gone up to Bethel and wept in the presence of the Lord until evening. They had asked the Lord, “Should we fight against our relatives from Benjamin again?” And the Lord had said, “Go out and fight against them.”Judges 21:12 (NLT) Among the residents of Jabesh-gilead they found 400 young virgins who had never slept with a man, and they brought them to the camp at Shiloh in the land of Canaan.
Judges 20:18 (NLT) Before the battle the Israelites went to Bethel and asked God, “Which tribe should go first to attack the people of Benjamin?” The LORD answered, “Judah is to go first.”
Judges 20:23 (KJV) (And the children of Israel went up and wept before the LORD until even, and asked counsel of the LORD, saying, Shall I go up again to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother? And the LORD said, Go up against him.)
Judges 20:26, 27 (NLT) Then all the Israelites went up to Bethel and wept in the presence of the LORD and fasted until evening. They also brought burnt offerings and peace offerings to the LORD. The Israelites went up seeking direction from the LORD. (In those days the Ark of the Covenant of God was in Bethel,
and abode there till even before God,
fasting and praying, instead of feasting and rejoicing. With passionate Oriental feelings they passed the whole day weeping, and probably fasting (Judges 20:26), before the tabernacle.
Judges 20:26 (NKJV) Then all the children of Israel, that is, all the people, went up and came to the house of God and wept. They sat there before the LORD and fasted that day until evening; and they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD.
and lifted up their voices, and wept sore;
not so much for the 40,000 whom they had lost (these would not be missed as much out of eleven tribes), but for the entire destruction of one whole tribe.
The widespread slaughter that had resulted from this civil war was so serious that the people came before God, and lifted up their voices, and wept sore. When the anger and emotion of battle had passed, the Israelites realized what had happened to them. The confederation of twelve tribes who were supposed to be the people of God had so degenerated spiritually from the time of their enormous victories under Joshua that they were now in danger of annihilating one another. The spiritual decline of this period was paralleled by a political decline that had weakened the very foundation of the theocracy. If we are correct in assuming that this incident occurred early during the time of the judges, it is no wonder that Israel was so easily overrun by her enemies throughout that period. The enormity of this slaughter must have certainly weakened Israel for many generations to come.
It did not take long for the characteristic fickleness of the Israelites to surface; scarcely had they cooled from the fierceness of their bloodthirsty vengeance, than they began to take a softer line and rushed to the opposite extreme of self-accusation and grief at the desolation which their rash enthusiasm had produced. Their victory saddened and humbled them. Their feelings on this occasion were expressed by a public and solemn service of contrition at the house of God. And yet, this extraordinary observance, though it enabled them to find vent for their painful emotions, did not afford them full relief, because they were tainted by the obligation of a religious vow, which was made worse by the addition of a solemn decree of death on every violator of the oath. There is no previous record of this oath; but the outcome of it was, that they would treat the perpetrators of this Gibeah atrocity in the same way as the Canaanites, who were doomed to destruction; and when they entered into this solemn union, it was just another piece of their inconsiderate conduct in this whole affair.
The expression lifted up their voices shows that it was a loud wailing and weeping; their rage having now subsided, gave way to violent grief on account of the destruction of Benjamin their brother.
And wept sore (Hebrew, wept a great weeping)
Their revenge was satisfied, and now reflection brings them to contrition for what they had done; all Israel engaged in this expression of grief which was carried on with loud wails and cries of sorrow.
3 And said, O LORD God of Israel, why is this come to pass in Israel, that there should be to day one tribe lacking in Israel?—Judges 21.3 (KJV)
3 “O LORD, God of Israel,” they cried out, “why has this happened in Israel? Now one of our tribes is missing from Israel!”—Judges 21.3 (NLT)
And said, O Lord God of Israel,
Jehovah, the only living and true God, the Being of beings, eternal, immutable, omnipotent and omnipresent, the God of all Israel, of the twelve tribes of Israel, their covenant God and Father; who had favored them in such an unusual and gracious manner, which He had not done for the other nations, and therefore, they hoped He would still treat them kindly, and allow them to confer with Him in the case of their brother Benjamin.
And said. Better, And they said.
why is this come to pass in Israel,
After the war ended, the people, that is, the people who had assembled together for the war, went to Bethel (see Judges 20:18[3[, Judges 20:26), to weep there for a day before God at the serious loss which the war had brought upon the congregation. Then they uttered this expression of grief: “O LORD God of Israel, why is this come to pass in Israel, that there should be to day one tribe lacking in Israel?”—This lamentation involved the wish that God would show them the way to avert the threatened destruction of the missing tribe, and build up the six hundred who remained. To give a practical expression to this wish, they built an altar the next morning, and offered burnt-offerings and peace-offerings upon it (Judges 20:26), knowing from past experience that their proposal would not succeed without reconciliation to the Lord, and a return to the fellowship of His grace.
Why is this come to pass is a very impertinent question. They knew well enough how it came to pass. It was right that the men of Gibeah should be punished, and it was right that those who defended them should share in that punishment; but they carried their revenge too far; they attempted to exterminate both man and beast; Judges 20:48. They had gone far beyond the Word of God. God indeed had commanded that the offenders of Gibeah should be destroyed, but there was no Divine order to destroy one of the tribes of Israel. Their rash oaths full of sin and bitterness were the source of the calamity, not God.
You may think that they would show more concern for the 40,000 men of Israel which fell in the first two battles; but all their distress seems to be over the loss of their brother Benjamin.
7Judges 20:48 (NLT) And the Israelites returned and slaughtered every living thing in all the towns—the people, the livestock, and everything they found. They also burned down all the towns they came to.
that there should be today one tribe lacking in Israel?
Of course, it is talking about the tribe of Benjamin, which was destroyed, except for six hundred men, and these men had no wives with which to repopulate the tribe; and therefore, unless some provision could be made for that, the tribe of Benjamin will be extinct in a short time. The people of Israel expressed great concern for Benjamin, because it was not their intention when they made this oath—“there shall not any of us give his daughter unto Benjamin to wife,” to annihilate them; but as the circumstances now stand, Benjamin will slowly die and no one will be left to carry-on their name, unless some way could be found to get wives for the six-hundred at the Rock of Rimmon.
This was the complaint they poured out before God: There is one tribe lacking. God had taken care of every tribe; their number twelve was one of those things they were known by; every tribe had his station appointed in the camp, and his stone in the high priest’s breast-plate; every tribe had his blessing both from Jacob and Moses; and the criticism they would receive would be intolerable if they would drop any tribe out of this illustrious panel of tribes, especially Benjamin, the youngest, who was particularly dear to Jacob their common ancestor.
Observe, there is no mourning for sin, no humbling because of the national transgression, no return to Jehovah. Accordingly, no word from Jehovah comes to them. They act entirely in self-will (Judges 21:10). The deep concern which the Israelites expressed over the destruction of the tribe of Benjamin far exceeded the anger they expressed at Benjamin’s crime. They repented for Benjamin their brother, (see verse 6, and verse 15); but they did not repent of their zeal against the sin of Benjamin and Gibeah; there is a holy indignation against sin, which is the fruit of godly sorrow, and leads to salvation, that is not to be repented of, (2 Co. 7:10, 11). But they repented of the sad consequences of what they had done, since they had carried the matter further than was either just or necessary. It would have been enough to destroy all those they found with weapons; they did not have to kill the farmers and shepherds, the shop keepers and carpenters, the women and children. Note, (1.) There may be some over-doing in well-doing; therefore, great care must be taken in the management of our zeal. (2.) Even necessary justice is to be done with compassion. God does not punish with delight, and neither should men. (3.) Strong passions produce work for repentance. What we say and do in anger, our calmer thoughts generally wish they could be undone. (4.) In a civil war (according to the Romans) no victories ought to be celebrated, because, whichever side wins, the community loses, and that’s what happened here; there is a tribe cut off from Israel.
Judges 21:10 (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. God did not tell them to do this; the idea came from their minds, and they acted selfishly when they took vengeance on Jabeshgilead.
Judges 21:15 (KJV) And the people repented them for Benjamin, because that the LORD had made a breach in the tribes of Israel.
2 Cor 7:10-11 (KJV) For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.
4 And it came to pass on the morrow, that the people rose early, and built there an altar, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings.—Judges 21.4 (KJV)
4 Early the next morning the people built an altar and presented their burnt offerings and peace offerings on it.—Judges 21.4 (NLT)
And it came to pass on the morrow, that the people rose early,
The day after their fasting and prayer, and when their minds were deeply impressed with the seriousness and tragedy of Benjamin’s circumstances, they rose early in the morning—which was according to their custom, when they would consult the Lord—to do acts of devotion (Ps. 78.34, 35), and religious exercises, hoping that by doing their duty to their God, the difficulties which now overwhelmed them would be removed.
(Psalm 78.34, 35; NLT) When God began killing them, they finally sought him. They repented and took God seriously. Then they remembered that God was their rock, that God Most High was their redeemer. When God began killing them —While his judgments were upon them, then they began to humble themselves, and deprecate his wrath. When they saw some fall, the rest began to tremble. That God was their rock—They recollected in their affliction that Jehovah was their Creator, and their Father; the Rock, the Source, not only of their being, but of all their blessings; or, that he was their sole Protector. that God Most High was their redeemer.—ואל עליון גאלם veel elyon goalam, "And the strong God the Most High, their kinsman." That one who possessed the right of redemption; the nearest akin to him who had forfeited his inheritance; so the word originally means, and hence it is often used for a redeemer. The Hebrew word גאל goel answers to the Greek σωτηρ, a savior; and is given to the Lord Jesus Christ, the strong God, the Most High, the Redeemer of a lost world.
and built there an altar;
Back in the previous chapter (ch. 20), it is recorded that the Israelites had offered burnt-offerings and peace-offerings at Bethel, so why did they build another altar? There are three possible reasons:
1. If this place was Bethel, as Kimchi reasons, Jacob had built an altar there; but it might have been demolished over time; and the great bronze altar that had been at Bethel had already been carried back to Shiloh, preparatory to the removal of the ark also. What’s more, it is highly probable that the large number of sacrifices required that another alter be built, which was the case at the dedication of the temple, (1 Kings 8:64). The large number of sacrifices was due to the fact that some sacrifices were for the nation and some for the individual tribes. Note: It was not lawful for them to build an alter, which may be seen in several places of the Pentateuch. But there was neither king nor law among them, and they did whatever appeared right in their own eyes.
2. If it was Shiloh, the tabernacle was there, and so was the altar of the Lord; therefore this either signifies that the original alter was in ruins and needed to be repaired, which is not likely, since it was recently used, (Judges 20:26) or a new alter was built, but it wasn’t lawful to build it in the tabernacle. As mentioned before, the number of the burnt-offerings and peace-offerings might have been so great that an additional altar (or alters) was required.
3. At least one writer thinks, that building an altar signifies, as it does in many places, only seeking the Lord; but the use for which it was built is expressed.
We prefer the first of these reasons, and, if that is correct, the Israelites again violated God's law by building an altar to replace the true one. But, there is something apparently strange in the erection of an altar at Bethel, since sacrifices had already been offered there during the war itself (Judges 20:26), and this could not have taken place without an altar. Why it was erected again, or another one built, is a question which cannot be answered with absolute certainty.
1 Kings 8:64 (KJV) The same day did the king hallow the middle of the court that was before the house of the LORD: for there he offered burnt offerings, and meat offerings, and the fat of the peace offerings: because the brasen altar that was before the LORD was too little to receive the burnt offerings, and meat offerings, and the fat of the peace offerings. The great altar of burnt-offerings was not sufficient for the number of sacrifices which were to be made; therefore the middle of the court was set apart, and an altar erected there for the same purpose.
and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings;
both to atone for the sins they had been guilty of in the prosecution of the war, and to return thanks for the victory they were given, and to implore the LORD to supply them with fresh blessings.
Benjamin has become a Benoni, the son of the right hand and a son of sorrow! In their grief, they built an altar, because the only one available was not large enough to contain all the sacrifices they planned for; they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings, to give thanks for their victory, and to atone for their own foolishness in the pursuit of it, and to implore the divine favour in the restoration of Benjamin.
Everything that grieves us should bring us to God
5 And the children of Israel said, Who is there among all the tribes of Israel that came not up with the congregation unto the LORD? For they had made a great oath concerning him that came not up to the LORD to Mizpeh, saying, He shall surely be put to death.—Judges 21.5 (KJV)
5 Then they said, “Who among the tribes of Israel did not join us at Mizpeh when we held our assembly in the presence of the LORD?” At that time they had taken a solemn oath in the LORD’s presence, vowing that anyone who refused to come would be put to death.—Judges 21.5 (NLT)
And the children of Israel said,
They said what follows to one to another, after they had offered their sacrifices, and while they were together at Bethel.
The idea evidently occurred to them that they might supply wives to the 600 Benjamites in the way that actually came to pass, and they asked the question, Who is there among all the tribes, etc., with this view.
who is there among all the tribes of Israel, that came not up with the congregation unto the Lord?
This question refers to the time when they were summoned to Mizpeh, to consult together about the affair of the Levite's concubine.
At this assembly, which was after the war and the destruction of the Benjaminites, the congregation decided upon a plan that would secure a number of wives for the Benjaminites. They determined that they would carry out the great oath, which had been uttered at Mizpeh, when the national assembly was called-out. This oath was against any that did not appear there, of which Benjamin was one. The deliberations upon this point were opened with the question, who is there among all the tribes of Israel, that came not up with the congregation unto the Lord?
The great oath was spoken against those that didn’t come to Jehovah at Mizpeh: he shall be put to death. We learn from this supplementary remark, that when important meetings of the congregation were called, all the members were bound by an oath to appear. The meeting at Mizpeh is the one mentioned in Judges 20:1. The "great oath" included the threat of death in the case of any that were disobedient. To this explanation of the above question, the further explanation is added in Judges 21:6 and Judges 21:7, that the Israelites felt compassion for Benjamin, and wished to avert its entire destruction by procuring wives for those that remained.
Judges 20:1 (KJV) Then all the children of Israel went out, and the congregation was gathered together as one man, from Dan even to Beersheba, with the land of Gilead, unto the LORD in Mizpeh.
for they had made a great oath;
“For they had made a great oath concerning him that came not up ... that he should surely be put to death.” This is the second foolish oath of which Israel was guilty. It was, by no means, a Divine order for "all Israel" to come to Mizpeh. That command rested solely upon the human authority of the elders of the congregation. How convenient that oath seemed to be here. By killing all of the Jabesh-Gileadites, except the virgin maidens, they might be able to get wives for Benjamin. The stupidity of this action demonstrates how foolish it is for people to solve their problems by their own fallible wisdom, instead of seeking the counsel of God. There is no record whatsoever of their asking God what they should have done.
Great oath—That is a solemn oath joined with some terrible curse against the offenders; which in this case was him that came not up. It was Benjamin, and we learn later that Jabesh-gilead was another that didn’t join with their brethren at Mizpeh.
Put to death—Israel had a plan for providing wives for the remnant of the tribe of Benjamin; they would kill the citizens of Jabesh-gilead except for the young virgin women, who would be given to the six-hundred Benjamites at Rimmon. They would justify this terrible deed by giving the following reason: Because Jabesh-gilead refused to take vengeance on the evildoers of Gibeah by refusing to execute the vengeance due to such criminals, they were justly presumed guilty of the crime, and therefore liable to the same punishment that Gibeah received.
concerning him that came not up to the Lord to Mizpeh,
This line doesn’t apply to those who did not go out to battle against Benjamin, or to every individual that did not go to Mizpeh to join themselves to the men assembled there; but instead, it concerns every city that did not send their proper representatives or quota to assist in that affair.
he shall surely be put to death.
This warning was sent along with the original summons, in order to get their attention and encourage them to make haste to Mizpeh.
6 And the children of Israel repented them for Benjamin their brother, and said, There is one tribe cut off from Israel this day.—Judges 21.6 (KJV)
6 The Israelites felt sorry for their brother Benjamin and said, “Today one of the tribes of Israel has been cut off.—Judges 21.6 (NLT)
And the children of Israel repented them for Benjamin their brother,
It is not clear what the meaning of this line is, because they could be sorry that they went to war with Benjamin, but that would make it seem like they didn’t have a good cause. It is more likely that they were sorry for the severity of their tactics, and especially because they destroyed their women and children, and for the fatal consequences of the war; the near termination of the entire tribe of Benjamin (Judges 21.1514).
The children of Israel had shown compassionate feelings towards their brother Benjamin, and said, “A tribe is cut off from Israel to-day; what shall we do for those that remain with regard to wives, since we have sworn not to give them wives from the tribes of Israel?” (Judges 21:1).
These two thoughts may have occurred to them at this time:
1. There was the oath that those who had not come to Mizpeh should be punished with death (Judges 21:5). This would certainly explain why such a large number (four hundred thousand) responded to the call!
2. There is the anxiety for the preservation of this tribe which sprang from their compassion towards Benjamin, and was shown in their great desire to provide those that remained with wives, without violating the oath that none of them would give them their own daughters as wives.
These the two factors would determine the course to be adopted by the congregation. After the statement of these two circumstances, the question of Judges 21:5, Who is there among all the tribes of Israel that came not up with the congregation unto the LORD? is answered: “Behold, there came no one into the camp from Jabesh in Gilead,” (Judges 21:8). To get to this point, they must apply the question asked in Judges 21:5, in a more general sense, by including the several subdivisions of the tribes along with the twelve tribes.
When the tribal rolls were checked for each tribe it was found that no one had come from Jabesh-gilead. This is the first time that Jabesh-gilead is mentioned in Scripture. It comes up twice afterwards. First in 1 Samuel 11., on the occasion of its being besieged by the Ammonites and rescued by Saul; and secondly in 1 Samuel 31:11-13, when the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead took down the bodies of Saul and his sons from the wall of Beth-shah, and buried them at Jabesh, and for this brave and pious act David thanked them (2 Samuel 2:5).
14Judges 21:15 (NKJV) And the people grieved for Benjamin, because the LORD had made a void in the tribes of Israel.
15Judges 21:1 (NKJV) Now the men of Israel had sworn an oath at Mizpah, saying, "None of us shall give his daughter to Benjamin as a wife."
16Judges 21:5 (NKJV) The children of Israel said, "Who is there among all the tribes of Israel who did not come up with the assembly to the LORD?" For they had made a great oath concerning anyone who had not come up to the LORD at Mizpah, saying, "He shall surely be put to death."
17Judges 21:8 (NKJV) And they said, "What one is there from the tribes of Israel who did not come up to Mizpah to the LORD?" And, in fact, no one had come to the camp from Jabesh Gilead.
and said, there is one tribe cut off from Israel this day.
That is, there is a likelihood or great danger of it. Benjamin was in danger of becoming extinct; because, as it appears from Judges 21:7 they had massacred all the women and children of Benjamin, and six hundred men alone survived of the entire tribe. The prospect of such a blank in the catalogue of the twelve tribes was too painful to contemplate, and immediate measures must be taken to prevent this great catastrophe.
7 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?—Judges 21.7 (KJV)
7 How can we find wives for the few who remain, since we have sworn by the LORD not to give them our daughters in marriage?”
—Judges 21.7 (NLT)
How shall we do for wives for them that remain,
By what is related here, as well as what is related afterwards, it seems that they knew about the six-hundred Benjaminites hold up at the Rock Rimmon.
Once again they ask, How shall we do for wives for them. They had destroyed all the Benjamitish women and children! They had set out with the purpose of exterminating the whole tribe, and therefore they massacred the women on purpose, so that if any of the men escaped, they would not be able to find a wife or daughter; and they bound themselves under an oath not to give any of their females to any of the remnant of this tribe, with the intent that the entire tribe might absolutely perish.
seeing we have sworn by the Lord
They swore an oath by the Word of the Lord, as the Targum has it; and an oath was a sacred thing with them, and was to be kept unbreakable, even if it caused them suffering and hurt.
that we will not give them of our daughters to wives?
The dilemma they faced was this (Judges 21:1); the remaining Benjaminites must either marry with the Heathens, which was forbidden, or they must make void their oath; otherwise, the tribe would be extinct in a little time; they didn’t know how to surmount these difficulties, and this was the reason for their inquiry.
All the women and children of Benjamin were slain: they had sworn not to let their daughters marry any of them; it was against the divine law that they marry with the Canaanites. What to do? How are they going to get wives for them? Should they encourage them to go and serve other gods? What must they do then for wives for them?
It is obvious from this passage that the Israelites were already on the way to what they hoped would be a means of getting wives for Benjamin.
Any Questions or comments
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http://harmonyofthegospels.yolasite.com (Life of Christ)
http://theepistlesofpaul.yolasite.com (Titus and Jude)
Please review them and use them as the Lord leads you.
May God bless His precious word!!