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New American Bible

2002 11 11
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Chapter 21


1 Now the men of Israel had sworn at Mizpah that none of them would give his daughter in marriage to anyone from Benjamin.


So the people went to Bethel and remained there before God until evening, raising their voices in bitter lament.


They said, "LORD, God of Israel, why has it come to pass in Israel that today one tribe of Israel should be lacking?"


Early the next day the people built an altar there and offered holocausts and peace offerings.


Then the Israelites asked, "Are there any among all the tribes of Israel who did not come up to the LORD for the assembly?" For they had taken a solemn oath that anyone who did not go up to the LORD at Mizpah should be put to death without fail.


2 The Israelites were disconsolate over their brother Benjamin and said, "Today one of the tribes of Israel has been cut off.


What can we do about wives for the survivors, since we have sworn by the LORD not to give them any of our daughters in marriage?"


And when they asked whether anyone among the tribes of Israel had not come up to the LORD in Mizpah, they found that none of the men of Jabesh-gilead had come to the encampment for the assembly.


A roll call of the army established that none of the inhabitants of that city were present.


The community, therefore, sent twelve thousand warriors with orders to go to Jabesh-gilead and put those who lived there to the sword, including the women and children.


3 They were told to include under the ban all males and every woman who was not still a virgin.


Finding among the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead four hundred young virgins, who had had no relations with men, they brought them to the camp at Shiloh in the land of Canaan.


Then the whole community sent a message to the Benjaminites at the rock Rimmon, offering them peace.


When Benjamin returned at that time, they gave them as wives the women of Jabesh-gilead whom they had spared; but these proved to be not enough for them.


4 The people were still disconsolate over Benjamin because the LORD had made a breach among the tribes of Israel.


And the elders of the community said, "What shall we do for wives for the survivors? For every woman in Benjamin has been put to death."


They said, "Those of Benjamin who survive must have heirs, else one of the Israelite tribes will be wiped out.


5 Yet we cannot give them any of our daughters in marriage, because the Israelites have sworn, 'Cursed be he who gives a woman to Benjamin!'"


Then they thought of the yearly feast of the LORD at Shiloh, north of Bethel, east of the highway that goes up from Bethel to Shechem, and south of Lebonah.


And they instructed the Benjaminites, "Go and lie in wait in the vineyards.


When you see the girls of Shiloh come out to do their dancing, leave the vineyards and each of you seize one of the girls of Shiloh for a wife, and go to the land of Benjamin.


When their fathers or their brothers come to complain to us, we shall say to them, 'Release them to us as a kindness, since we did not take a woman apiece in the war. Had you yourselves given them these wives, you would now be guilty.'"


The Benjaminites did this; they carried off a wife for each of them from their raid on the dancers, and went back to their own territory, where they rebuilt and occupied the cities.


Also at that time the Israelites dispersed; each of them left for his own heritage in his own clan and tribe.


6 In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what he thought best.




1 [1-3] The anger of the Israelites led them to destroy their brethren, the Benjaminites. Having realized their goal, however, they were soon filled with dismay, and sought to restore the tribe they had all but exterminated.

2 [6-9] This account is summarized in the parallel passage in Judges 21:2-5.

3 [11] Under the ban: see note on Numbers 21:3.

4 [15] Had made a breach: what is here attributed to God was in reality the free and deliberate act of the Israelites and happened only by the permissive will of God. The ancients attributed to the first primary cause what is more directly due to secondary causes.

5 [18] Regardless of the serious consequences of their vow, the Israelites considered themselves obliged to fulfill it; cf Judges 11:31, 35-36, 39.

6 [25] Cf Judges 17:6; 18:1; 19:1. The verse gives the reason why the lawlessness of the period of judges, and the events described herein, were possible.

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