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Judges 21:22

ESV And when their fathers or their brothers come to complain to us, we will say to them, ‘Grant them graciously to us, because we did not take for each man of them his wife in battle, neither did you give them to them, else you would now be guilty.’”
NIV When their fathers or brothers complain to us, we will say to them, 'Do us the favor of helping them, because we did not get wives for them during the war. You will not be guilty of breaking your oath because you did not give your daughters to them.''
NASB And when their fathers or their brothers come to complain to us, we shall say to them, ‘ Give them to us voluntarily, because we did not take for each man of Benjamin a wife in battle, nor did you give them to them, otherwise you would now be guilty.’?'
CSB When their fathers or brothers come to us and protest, we will tell them, 'Show favor to them, since we did not get enough wives for each of them in the battle. You didn't actually give the women to them, so you are not guilty of breaking your oath.' "
NLT 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.’'
KJV 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.

What does Judges 21:22 mean?

The leaders of Israel (Judges 21:16) have produced a plan to secure two hundred Israelite wives for the remaining unwed survivors of the tribe of Benjamin (Judges 20:47–48). The goal is to save the tribe from extinction without violating a hasty oath that any who gives a wife to Benjamin will be cursed (Judges 21:1, 18).

Using blatantly legalistic arguments, the Israelite leaders have suggested there is a difference between "giving" a daughter to a Benjaminite, as opposed to a Benjaminite "taking" a daughter as a wife. Their plan is to have the remaining Benjaminite men capture unsuspecting women at a festival, then formalize their marriages among the families. The intent, of course, is the same. Rhetoric aside, this is a plan to "give" wives to these men (Judges 21:19–21).

Here, Scripture records the logic which will be presented to the fathers and brothers of these girls. The Israelites will ask the men of Shiloh to let the Benjaminites have their daughters as wives. They will explain how this serves as an escape from the nation's oath. "Giving" wives would break the vow. Since they were "taken," this solves the current problem.

It's true that these women might well have been betrothed to the same men, in other circumstances. Marrying a man she had never meant was nothing scandalous or unusual for a woman in that culture. What's bizarre—and unsettling—about this is that women aren't being told what is happening. For all they know, they're being kidnapped outright. It's hard to imagine any father or brother accepting the Israelite's defense. Even if everything is legitimized, their daughters will have been taken, traumatically and against their will, to become the wives of strange men.

This was not the Lord's will for Israel, as nothing in the passage indicates He has commanded these actions. Rather, this is another example of Israel continuing to do whatever is convenient for them, at any given moment. At the very end of the book (Judges 21:26), the writer will again emphasize that such events were typical in the time before Israel had kings (Judges 17:6; 18:1; 19:1).
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