Brides for Benjamin
1 The men of Israel had sworn an oath at Mizpah: “None of us will give his daughter to a Benjaminite in marriage.”(A) 2 So the people went to Bethel and sat there before God(B) until evening. They wept loudly and bitterly, 3 and cried out, “Why, Lord God of Israel, has it occurred(a) that one tribe is missing in Israel today?” 4 The next day the people got up early, built an altar there,(C) and offered burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. 5 The Israelites asked, “Who of all the tribes of Israel didn’t come to the Lord with the assembly?” For a great oath had been taken that anyone who had not come to the Lord at Mizpah would certainly be put to death.
6 But the Israelites had compassion on their brothers, the Benjaminites, and said, “Today a tribe has been cut off from Israel. 7 What should we do about wives for the survivors? We’ve sworn to the Lord not to give them any of our daughters as wives.” 8 They asked, “Which city among the tribes of Israel didn’t come to the Lord at Mizpah?” It turned out that no one from Jabesh-gilead had come to the camp and the assembly. 9 For when the people were counted, no one was there from the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead.
10 The congregation sent 12,000 brave warriors(b) there and commanded them: “Go and kill the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead with the sword,(D) including women and children. 11 This is what you should do: Completely destroy every male, as well as every female who has slept with a man.” 12 They found among the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead 400 young women, who had not had sexual relations with a man, and they brought them to the camp at Shiloh in the land of Canaan.
13 The whole congregation sent a message of peace(E) to the Benjaminites who were at the rock of Rimmon. 14 Benjamin returned at that time, and Israel gave them the women they had kept alive from Jabesh-gilead. But there were not enough for them.
15 The people had compassion on Benjamin, because the Lord had made this gap in the tribes of Israel. 16 The elders of the congregation said, “What should we do about wives for those who are left, since the women of Benjamin have been destroyed?” 17 They said, “There must be heirs for the survivors of Benjamin, so that a tribe of Israel will not be wiped out. 18 But we can’t give them our daughters as wives.” For the Israelites had sworn, “Anyone who gives a wife to a Benjaminite is cursed.” 19 They also said, “Look, there’s an annual festival to the Lord in Shiloh,(F) which is north of Bethel, east of the highway that goes up from Bethel to Shechem, and south of Lebonah.”
20 Then they commanded the Benjaminites: “Go and hide in the vineyards. 21 Watch, and when you see the young women of Shiloh come out to perform the dances,(G) 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. 22 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(c) you are not guilty of breaking your oath.’”
23 The Benjaminites did this and took the number of women they needed from the dancers they caught. They went back to their own inheritance, rebuilt their cities,(H) and lived in them. 24 At that time, each of the Israelites returned from there to his own tribe and family. Each returned from there to his own inheritance.
a. Judges 21:3: Lit has this occurred in Israel
b. Judges 21:10: Lit 12,000 of their sons of valor
c. Judges 21:22: Lit at this time
d. Judges 21:25: Lit did what was right in his eyes