Judges 21:21 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Judges 21:21, NIV: and watch. When the young women of Shiloh come out to join in the dancing, rush from the vineyards and each of you seize one of them to be your wife. Then return to the land of Benjamin.

Judges 21:21, ESV: and watch. If the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in the dances, then come out of the vineyards and snatch each man his wife from the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin.

Judges 21:21, KJV: 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, NASB: and watch; and behold, if the daughters of Shiloh come out to take part in the dances, then you shall come out of the vineyards, and each of you shall seize his wife from the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin.

Judges 21:21, NLT: 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, CSB: Watch, and when you see the young women of Shiloh come out to perform the dances, each of you leave the vineyards and catch a wife for yourself from the young women of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin.

What does Judges 21:21 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Scripture gives no details about the festival being held in Shiloh (Judges 21:19). The Israelite leaders called it a yearly feast of the Lord. It may be one of the three annual feasts commanded to be held by the Lord in Exodus 23 and Deuteronomy 16. The law required every male of Israel to be in attendance. That this festival is known to feature dancing women, however, leads commentators to speculate. Perhaps Canaan's influence on the Israelites has changed the nature of this spiritual feast into more of regional celebration of food, wine, and dancing. It appears to be held near a vineyard, as well.

In any case, the Israelite leaders expect the daughters of Shiloh to come out during the festival and participate in the dances. Referring to them as the "daughters of Shiloh" may suggest that these young, unmarried women are part of a specific group of regional girls and not simply any daughters of any Israelites who attend the festival. They were a large group, apparently, since the Israelite leaders expected there to be enough for each of the two hundred unmarried Benjaminite men (Judges 21:12–14).

Israel commanded the men of Benjamin to wait in ambush. Each was to take a young lady while she is dancing and then carry her back to their territory in Benjamin as a wife. The Hebrew word translated "snatch" or "catch" literally means "to seize," and is sometimes translated as "abduct." The term implies force and violence, which of course this is. At the same time, Israel already plans to legitimize these as they would other arranged marriages—but after the women are "taken," so they can claim they did not "give" wives in violation of their senseless promise (Judges 21:1).

Part of the irony in this moment is that the tribe of Benjamin was judged for the gang rape of an unwilling young woman (Judges 19:22–28; 20:11–13). Now Israel is solving the problem created by their excessive application of judgment (Judges 20:47–48) through forced abduction of young women. These women will be made legitimate wives, and physical violation is not part of what's described here. However, the relationship begins without their consent or that of their fathers and families. That permission will be obtained after they are "seized," as a loophole in Israel's earlier vow (Judges 21:22).