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Series Theme: FRAMEWORKS: Judges

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FRAMEWORKS: Judges 21: A Future for Benjamin

 

v.1-4 Israel refusing Wives for the Benjamites causes a problem

v.5-7 They wonder who had not been there

v.8-10 They discover the men of Jabesh Gilead had not come

v.11-12 They thus execute all their men

v.13-18 They give the women to Benjamin yet there still remains a problem

v.19-25 They give them the young woman of Shiloh

 

 

v.1-4 Israel refusing Wives for the Benjamites causes a problem

 

v.1 The men of Israel had taken an oath at Mizpah: “Not one of us will give his daughter in marriage to a Benjamite.”

v.2 The people went to Bethel, where they sat before God until evening, raising their voices and weeping bitterly.

v.3 Lord, God of Israel,” they cried, “why has this happened to Israel? Why should one tribe be missing from Israel today?”

v.4 Early the next day the people built an altar and presented burnt offerings and fellowship offerings.

 

[Notes: In the course of the whole affair Israel, at their gathering at Mizpah, had vowed to be separate from Benjamin and certainly not mix marriages with them. Having executed a somewhat hasty judgement on them, they then have time to reflect on the outcome – one of their tribes has no future, they have lost a tribe from the family of Israel. They seek God with tears and offerings.]

 

 

v.5-7 They wonder who had not been there

 

v.5 Then the Israelites asked, “Who from all the tribes of Israel has failed to assemble before the Lord ?” For they had taken a solemn oath that anyone who failed to assemble before the Lord at Mizpah was to be put to death.

v.6 Now the Israelites grieved for the tribe of Benjamin, their fellow Israelites. “Today one tribe is cut off from Israel,” they said.

v.7 “How can we provide wives for those who are left, since we have taken an oath by the Lord not to give them any of our daughters in marriage?”

 

[Notes: They recognise that some Benjamin men had fled so they weren't completely extinct but all their women had died in the purge. They checked through their numbers to see if anyone was missing – who had not made the oath perhaps.]

 

 

v.8-10 They discover the men of Jabesh Gilead had not come

 

v.8 Then they asked, “Which one of the tribes of Israel failed to assemble before the Lord at Mizpah?” They discovered that no one from Jabesh Gilead had come to the camp for the assembly.

v.9 For when they counted the people, they found that none of the people of Jabesh Gilead were there.

v.10 So the assembly sent twelve thousand fighting men with instructions to go to Jabesh Gilead and put to the sword those living there, including the women and children.

 

[Notes: They realise that no one had come from Jabesh Gilead and those people, having historical close ties with Benjamin, warranted limited judgment.]

 

 

v.11-12 They thus execute all their men

 

v.11 “This is what you are to do,” they said. “Kill every male and every woman who is not a virgin.”

v.12 They found among the people living in Jabesh Gilead four hundred young women who had never slept with a man, and they took them to the camp at Shiloh in Canaan.

 

[Notes: It feels this judgment is a matter of expediency for it doesn't include all their young women who are taken.]

 

 

v.13-18 They give the women to Benjamin yet there still remains a problem

 

v.13 Then the whole assembly sent an offer of peace to the Benjamites at the rock of Rimmon.

v.14 So the Benjamites returned at that time and were given the women of Jabesh Gilead who had been spared. But there were not enough for all of them.

v.15 The people grieved for Benjamin, because the Lord had made a gap in the tribes of Israel.

v.16 And the elders of the assembly said, “With the women of Benjamin destroyed, how shall we provide wives for the men who are left?

v.17 The Benjamite survivors must have heirs,” they said, “so that a tribe of Israel will not be wiped out.

v.18 We can't give them our daughters as wives, since we Israelites have taken this oath: ‘Cursed be anyone who gives a wife to a Benjamite.'

 

[Notes: A seeking of reconciliation with the Benjamin survivors follows, with the women taken from Jabesh given to the surviving Benjamite men as wives. However there were not enough women to match the men.]

 

 

v.19-25 They give them the young woman of Shiloh

 

v.19 But look, there is the annual festival of the Lord in Shiloh, which lies north of Bethel, east of the road that goes from Bethel to Shechem, and south of Lebonah.”

v.20 So they instructed the Benjamites, saying, “Go and hide in the vineyards

v.21 and watch. When the young women of Shiloh come out to join in the dancing, rush from the vineyards and each of you seize one of them to be your wife. Then return to the land of Benjamin.

v.22 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.'”

v.23 So that is what the Benjamites did. While the young women were dancing, each man caught one and carried her off to be his wife. Then they returned to their inheritance and rebuilt the towns and settled in them.

v.24 At that time the Israelites left that place and went home to their tribes and clans, each to his own inheritance.

v.25 In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.

 

[Notes: Understanding may have to be put aside for this last section in that the ‘festival' referred to is unclear and why it is that young women would be there and available, even more unclear. v.22 is a demonstration of bending the rules of the vow: “you did not give your daughters” because they took them and for the sake of mercy and grace you are allowing it! Thus the future of Benjamin is ensured.

 

These last chapters demonstrate the moral and administrative chaos that existed during the period of the judges and, as we noted earlier, these latest events probably occurred earlier in that period. The scribe, recorder or author of Judges notes that these events occurred because of the absence of leadership – they had no king like other nations [17:6, 18:1, 19:1, 21:25].

 

Contrary to some commentators we see no reason why this suggests this was written after Israel started having a king; it simply looked at what was common practice in other nations and noted its absence in Israel. The people of Shechem had wanted to make Abimelech king but Jotham's parable showed the folly of that [Judg 9]. Previously Israel had wanted to make Gideon their ruler [8:22] but he insisted that only God should fulfil that role.

 

The closing verse of chapter 21, echoing the writers commentary of 17:7, shows the state of the Land – “everyone did as they saw fit,” NOT what God decreed and Moses and the Law had decreed. We have commented previously that one of the reasons for the existence of Israel was to reveal or demonstrate the reality of the sinfulness of mankind. Israel in the period of the Judges does that supremely!]