1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21

Judges chapter 21

English Standard Version

16Then the elders of the congregation said, “What shall we do for wives for those who are left, since the women are destroyed out of Benjamin?” 17And they said, “There must be an inheritance for the survivors of Benjamin, that a tribe not be blotted out from Israel. 18Yet we cannot give them wives from our daughters.” For the people of Israel had sworn, “Cursed be he who gives a wife to Benjamin.” 19So they said, “Behold, there is the yearly feast of the LORD at Shiloh, which is north of Bethel, on the east of the highway that goes up from Bethel to Shechem, and south of Lebonah.” 20And they commanded the people of Benjamin, saying, “Go and lie in ambush in the vineyards 21and 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. 22And 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.’” 23And the people of Benjamin did so and took their wives, according to their number, from the dancers whom they carried off. Then they went and returned to their inheritance and rebuilt the towns and lived in them. 24And the people of Israel departed from there at that time, every man to his tribe and family, and they went out from there every man to his inheritance.
New International Version

New American Standard Bible

Christian Standard Bible

New Living Translation

King James Version

1Now the men of Israel had sworn in Mizpeh, saying, There shall not any of us give his daughter unto Benjamin to wife. 2And the people came to the house of God, and abode there till even before God, and lifted up their voices, and wept sore; 3And 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? 4And it came to pass on the morrow, that the people rose early, and built there an altar, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. 5And 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. 6And the children of Israel repented them for Benjamin their brother, and said, There is one tribe cut off from Israel this day. 7How 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? 8And they said, What one is there of the tribes of Israel that came not up to Mizpeh to the LORD? And, behold, there came none to the camp from Jabeshgilead to the assembly. 9For the people were numbered, and, behold, there were none of the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead there. 10And 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. 11And this is the thing that ye shall do, Ye shall utterly destroy every male, and every woman that hath lain by man. 12And 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. 13And the whole congregation sent some to speak to the children of Benjamin that were in the rock Rimmon, and to call peaceably unto them. 14And Benjamin came again at that time; and they gave them wives which they had saved alive of the women of Jabeshgilead: and yet so they sufficed them not. 15And the people repented them for Benjamin, because that the LORD had made a breach in the tribes of Israel.
16Then the elders of the congregation said, How shall we do for wives for them that remain, seeing the women are destroyed out of Benjamin? 17And they said, There must be an inheritance for them that be escaped of Benjamin, that a tribe be not destroyed out of Israel. 18Howbeit 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. 19Then 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. 20Therefore they commanded the children of Benjamin, saying, Go and lie in wait in the vineyards; 21And 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. 22And 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. 23And 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. 24And 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. 25In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.

What does Judges chapter 21 mean?

Immediately after Israel slaughters nearly the entire population of the tribe of Benjamin (Judges 20:47–48), the people seem to realize they have gone too far. This results in grief and threatens the extinction of the Benjaminites. The Lord instructed Israel to attack Benjamin at Gibeah (Judges 20:28), bringing judgment on that city for its heinous sins (Judges 20:11–13). Yet there is no hint that God commanded Israel to completely wipe out the entire tribe. Israel, acting on its own, seems to have gone beyond God's judgment to, once again, do what was right in their own eyes (Judges 17:6).

Only six hundred men of the tribe of Benjamin remain alive. Women, children, and even cities have been destroyed. The tribe will quickly die out unless wives can be found for the surviving men. This is major problem, however, since the Israelites who gathered for battle took a hasty oath. They vowed to God they would not give their daughters as wives to the Benjaminites. Now that no women remain, however, the oath seems to guarantee than no more Benjaminites will ever be born. Marrying Canaanite women is not an option (Deuteronomy 7:1–5). The people mourn and offer sacrifices to God, but He seems prepared to let them suffer the consequences of their actions (Judges 21:1–4).

First, the leaders investigate to see if any clan did not send a representative to aid in the civil war. Israel had taken an oath to put any such clan to death. They soon identify that nobody from Jabesh-gilead in Manasseh came to the assembly. Israel sends soldiers to kill every man, married woman, and child in the clan. Unmarried young women are spared to give to the Benjaminite men as wives. This echoes the methods sometimes used against the depraved, evil Canaanites (Joshua 6:17), but not God's own people. The other eleven tribes find the surviving men of Benjamin hiding in caves, fearful for their lives after the slaughter of the battle. Israel proclaims peace and gives to them the four hundred young women from Jabesh-gilead. Of course, two hundred more wives are needed to restore the tribe (Judges 21:5–15).

The leaders of Israel hatch another scheme that will allow them to keep their oath not to provide wives for Benjamin, while still allowing Benjamin to acquire Israelite wives. This plot involves twisting their vow, warping the intent of the promise by creating a loophole in its literal words. In short, Israel decides that women "taken" are not women "given," so they stage a kidnapping and hasty negotiation. Israelite leaders tell the remaining unmarried men of Benjamin to hide near an upcoming feast. A group of young women are expected to participate in the dances there. The Benjaminites are to each grab one young woman to carry back to their territory as a wife. When the fathers and brothers of these young women object, the Israelites will assure them these young women are needed to save the tribe of Benjamin, convincing them to agree to the marriages (Judges 21:16–22).

In this way, the men of Benjamin begin to produce a new generation. They rebuild their towns and continue as one of the twelve tribes of Israel. The author makes a point of repeating the fact that Israel was without a king during this era (Judges 17:6; 18:1; 19:1). The final echo of this point comes after stories of moral failure, violence, and chaos. Israel is not merely without a central government; the people are not following their Creator God, and the result has been death and misery (Judges 21:23–25).

The next major phase of Israel's history will begin with the ministry of the judge-and-prophet Samuel. He will complete the work begun by judges like Samson (Judges 13:5; 1 Samuel 7:14–15) and oversee the nation's transition into a monarchy (1 Samuel 8:19–22).
What is the Gospel?
Download the app: