Now the men of Israel had sworn in Mizpeh, saying, There shall not any of us give his daughter unto Benjamin to wife.
And the people came to the house of God, and abode there till even before God, and lifted up their voices, and wept sore;To the house of God - It should be, "to Bethel." See Judges 20:18.
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?The repetition of the name of Israel is very striking in connection with the title of Yahweh as "God of Israel." It contains a very forcible pleading of the covenant, and memorial of the promises. The very name "Israel" comprehended all the twelve tribes; with one of them blotted out, the remnant would not be Israel.
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.It is not certain whether the brass altar was at Bethel at this time, or whether it may not have been elsewhere, e. g., at Shiloh with the tabernacle. Some, however, think that the altar here mentioned was "additional" to the brass altar, in consequence of the unusual number of sacrifices caused by the presence of the whole congregation (compare 1 Kings 8:64 note).
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.
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?
And 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.Jabesh-Galead - Is here mentioned for the first time. (See marginal references.) The name of Jabesh survives only in the Wady Yabes (running down to the east bank of the Jordan), near the head of which are situated the ruins called Ed-Deir, which are identified with Jabesh-Gilead.
For the people were numbered, and, behold, there were none of the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead there.
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 the congregation sent 12,000 men - A thousand from each tribe; they followed the precedent of Numbers 31:4.
And this is the thing that ye shall do, Ye shall utterly destroy every male, and every woman that hath lain by man.Ye shall utterly destroy - More exactly, "Ye shall devote to utter destruction," or "cherem" (Leviticus 27:28 note).
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.To Shiloh - Whither, as the usual place of meeting for the national assembly, the Israelites had moved from Bethel (a distance of about 10 miles), during the expedition of the 12,000 to Jabesh-Gilead.
And the whole congregation sent some to speak to the children of Benjamin that were in the rock Rimmon, and to call peaceably unto them.
And 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.
And the people repented them for Benjamin, because that the LORD had made a breach in the tribes of Israel.
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?
And they said, There must be an inheritance for them that be escaped of Benjamin, that a tribe be not destroyed out of Israel.
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.For the children of Israel have sworn - See Judges 21:1. Compare Saul's rash oath 1 Samuel 14:24, and his breach of the oath made to the Gideonites 2 Samuel 21:2. For the guilt of a broken oath, see Ezekiel 17:15-20; Exodus 20:7.
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.The Feast was probably the Passover, or one of the three great Jewish Feasts. In these unsettled times men went up to Shiloh (Seilun) only once a year 1 Samuel 1:3 instead of thrice; only the males kept the Feasts, and therefore the virgins of Shiloh would naturally be the only maidens present, and the public festival would be a likely occasion for their festive dances. It is, however, possible that some particular feast unique to Shiloh is meant, like the yearly sacrifice of David's family in Bethlehem 1 Samuel 20:29.
Therefore they commanded the children of Benjamin, saying, Go and lie in wait in the vineyards;
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.
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.Ye did not give ... - i. e., they had not broken the oath mentioned in Judges 21:1, so as to be guilty of taking the Lord's name in vain. They did not give their daughters to Benjamin: the Benjamites had taken them by force. Such casuistry as this condemns the system of oaths, and illustrates the wisdom of our Lord's precept Matthew 5:33-37.
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.Compare the very similar account of the rape of the Sabine women by the Romero youths at the festival of the Consualia, as related by Livy.
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.
In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.The repetition of this characteristic phrase (compare Judges 17:6; Judges 18:1; Judges 19:1) is probably intended to impress upon us the idea that these disorders arose from the want of a sufficient authority to suppress them. The preservation of such a story, of which the Israelites must have been ashamed, is a striking evidence of the divine superintendence and direction as regards the Holy Scriptures.