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21 One thing the people of Israel had sworn in their council at Mizpah was that no tribe would give wives to the men of Benjamin. The people returned to Bethel, house of God, and there they cried out and wept bitterly before the True God until evening.

Israelites: Why, Eternal One, True God of Israel, has this happened? Why do we have one less Israelite tribe today?

The next day, the people rose early and built an altar, and they made sacrifices and presented burnt offerings and peace offerings.

Israelites: What tribe, of all of the tribes of Israel, did not come up to the assembly of the Eternal at Mizpah?

For they had also taken a solemn oath that whoever did not come before the Eternal at Mizpah would be put to death.

The people of Israel were moved with pity toward their kin, the tribe of Benjamin.

Israelites: Look, one tribe of Israel has been cut off from the rest of us. How can the survivors of Benjamin get wives, since we have all sworn by the Eternal not to give them our daughters? Are there any of the tribes of Israel that did not come up before the Eternal at Mizpah?

And it turned out that nobody from Jabesh-gilead had come up to the assembly; when the roll was called throughout the camp, none from Jabesh-gilead were present.

10-11 So those gathered there commissioned 12,000 courageous fighting men to go and destroy Jabesh-gilead. “Kill them all,” they instructed, “every man, every woman who has been with a man, every child.” 12 They found 400 virgins among the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead, and they returned these to the camp of Shiloh in the land of Canaan. 13 Then those gathered sent word to those warriors of Benjamin in exile at the rock of Rimmon and proclaimed a peace. 14 The men of Benjamin returned, and the people of Israel gave them the young women of Jabesh-gilead, but they were not enough for all of them.

15 The people of Israel were filled with pity for the people of Benjamin, since the Eternal had separated them from their brothers of Israel.

Israelite Elders: 16 What can we do to find more wives for the remaining men of Benjamin, since all the other Benjaminite women were destroyed? 17 Benjamin must have heirs and survive, so that not a single tribe may disappear out of Israel. 18 But we cannot give them our daughters, for we have sworn curses on anyone of us who gives wives to the men of Benjamin.

Israelites: 19 Look, there is a yearly festival of the Eternal in Shiloh, north of Bethel, to the east of the road that links Bethel to Shechem and to the south of Lebonah.

20 They told the Benjaminites to go and hide in the vineyards.

Israelites: 21 Watch, and when the young women of Shiloh come out to participate in the dances, dash out, grab yourself a wife, and take her back home to Benjamin. 22 Then if their brothers or fathers come to complain to us, we can say, “Be generous. We weren’t able to capture enough brides for the men of Benjamin, so we needed more women. But none of you suffers the curse, since you didn’t give your daughters of your own free will!”

23 So that is what the men of Benjamin did: they kidnapped wives for themselves from the dancers at the festival and took them back home, where they rebuilt their towns and lived in them again. 24 And the people of Israel went out from their great gathering by their families and tribes, each back to their inheritances.

25 During that period, there was no king in Israel, and everyone did what seemed right to them.

Wives for the Benjamites

21 The men of Israel had taken an oath(A) at Mizpah:(B) “Not one of us will give(C) his daughter in marriage to a Benjamite.”

The people went to Bethel,[a] where they sat before God until evening, raising their voices and weeping bitterly. Lord, God of Israel,” they cried, “why has this happened to Israel? Why should one tribe be missing(D) from Israel today?”

Early the next day the people built an altar and presented burnt offerings and fellowship offerings.(E)

Then the Israelites asked, “Who from all the tribes of Israel(F) 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.

Now the Israelites grieved for the tribe of Benjamin, their fellow Israelites. “Today one tribe is cut off from Israel,” they said. “How can we provide wives for those who are left, since we have taken an oath(G) by the Lord not to give them any of our daughters in marriage?” 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(H) had come to the camp for the assembly. For when they counted the people, they found that none of the people of Jabesh Gilead were there.

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. 11 “This is what you are to do,” they said. “Kill every male(I) and every woman who is not a virgin.(J) 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(K) in Canaan.

13 Then the whole assembly sent an offer of peace(L) to the Benjamites at the rock of Rimmon.(M) 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.

15 The people grieved for Benjamin,(N) because the Lord had made a gap in the tribes of Israel. 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? 17 The Benjamite survivors must have heirs,” they said, “so that a tribe of Israel will not be wiped out.(O) 18 We can’t give them our daughters as wives, since we Israelites have taken this oath:(P) ‘Cursed be anyone who gives(Q) a wife to a Benjamite.’ 19 But look, there is the annual festival of the Lord in Shiloh,(R) which lies north of Bethel(S), east of the road that goes from Bethel to Shechem,(T) and south of Lebonah.”

20 So they instructed the Benjamites, saying, “Go and hide in the vineyards 21 and watch. When the young women of Shiloh come out to join in the dancing,(U) rush from the vineyards and each of you seize one of them to be your wife. Then return to the land of Benjamin. 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(V) your daughters to them.’”

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

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

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

Footnotes

  1. Judges 21:2 Or to the house of God

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