21 The leaders of Israel had vowed at Mizpah never to let their daughters marry a man from the tribe of Benjamin. 2 And now the Israeli leaders met at Bethel and sat before God until evening, weeping bitterly.
3 “O Lord God of Israel,” they cried out, “why has this happened, that now one of our tribes is missing?”
4 The next morning they were up early and built an altar, and offered sacrifices and peace offerings on it. 5 And they said among themselves, “Was any tribe of Israel not represented when we held our council before the Lord at Mizpah?” For at that time it was agreed by solemn oath that anyone who refused to come must die. 6 There was deep sadness throughout all Israel for the loss of their brother tribe, Benjamin.
“Gone,” they kept saying to themselves, “gone—an entire tribe of Israel has been cut off and is gone. 7 And how shall we get wives for the few who remain, since we have sworn by the Lord that we will not give them our daughters?”
8-9 Then they thought again of their oath to kill anyone who refused to come to Mizpah and discovered that no one had attended from Jabesh-gilead. 10-12 So they sent 12,000 of their best soldiers to destroy the people of Jabesh-gilead. All the men, married women, and children were slain, but the young virgins of marriageable age were saved. There were 400 of these, and they were brought to the camp at Shiloh.
13 Then Israel sent a peace delegation to the little remnant of the men of Benjamin at Rimmon Rock. 14 The 400 girls were given to them as wives, and they returned to their homes; but there were not enough of these girls for all of them. 15 (What a sad time it was in Israel in those days because the Lord had made a breach in the tribes of Israel.)
16 “What shall we do for wives for the others, since all the women of the tribe of Benjamin are dead?” the leaders of Israel asked. 17 “There must be some way to get wives for them, so that an entire tribe of Israel will not be lost forever. 18 But we can’t give them our own daughters. We have sworn with a solemn oath that anyone who does this shall be cursed of God.”
19 Suddenly someone thought of the annual religious festival held in the fields of Shiloh, between Lebonah and Bethel, along the east side of the road that goes from Bethel to Shechem.
20 They told the men of Benjamin who still needed wives, “Go and hide in the vineyards, 21 and when the girls of Shiloh come out for their dances, rush out and catch them and take them home with you to be your wives! 22 And when their fathers and brothers come to us in protest, we will tell them, ‘Please be understanding and let them have your daughters, for we didn’t find enough wives for them when we destroyed Jabesh-gilead, and you couldn’t have given your daughters to them without being guilty.’”
23 So the men of Benjamin did as they were told and kidnapped the girls who took part in the celebration, and carried them off to their own land. Then they rebuilt their cities and lived in them. 24 So the people of Israel returned to their homes.
25 (There was no king in Israel in those days, and every man did whatever he thought was right.)