Judges Chapter 21

At some point in the time of judges, the tribes of Israel had gathered together against the tribe of Benjamin, because of wickedness that had occurred among them. Benjamin put up a good fight, but because the Lord was with the Israelite host, the Benjamites were destroyed, along with all of their cities in the land. A handful of the army of Benjamin had escaped and hidden themselves during the destruction. This experience is referenced a number of times later in the scriptures, so I imagine it was a memorable loss to the Israelite nation, and something they spoke about as an example, for many years afterwards. This chapter begins:

1 Now the men of Israel had sworn in Mizpeh, saying, There shall not any of us give his daughter unto Benjamin to wife.
2 And the people came to the house of God, and abode there till even before God, and lifted up their voices, and wept sore;
3 And said, O Lord God of Israel, why is this come to pass in Israel, that there should be to day one tribe lacking in Israel?
4 And it came to pass on the morrow, that the people rose early, and built there an altar, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings.
5 And the children of Israel said, Who is there among all the tribes of Israel that came not up with the congregation unto the Lord? For they had made a great oath concerning him that came not up to the Lord to Mizpeh, saying, He shall surely be put to death.
6 And the children of Israel repented them for Benjamin their brother, and said, There is one tribe cut off from Israel this day.
7 How shall we do for wives for them that remain, seeing we have sworn by the Lord that we will not give them of our daughters to wives?

The men of the Israelite nation, made a covenant at the tabernacle, that they would not allow their daughters to marry any remaining man of Benjamin. The men of Benjamin had lived wickedly and were no longer living as covenant men of Israel. The Israelites gathered at the tabernacle and mourned the loss of one of their tribes, namely Benjamin. They made sacrifices to the Lord and denounced those remaining of the tribe of Benjamin, having been cut off from the Lord and from Israel. They also decided that they would destroy any who had not stood with them against Benjamin.

8 And they said, What one is there of the tribes of Israel that came not up to Mizpeh to the Lord? And, behold, there came none to the camp from Jabesh-gilead to the assembly.
9 For the people were numbered, and, behold, there were none of the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead there.
10 And the congregation sent thither twelve thousand men of the valiantest, and commanded them, saying, Go and smite the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead with the edge of the sword, with the women and the children.
11 And this is the thing that ye shall do, Ye shall utterly destroy every male, and every woman that hath lain by man.
12 And they found among the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead four hundred young virgins, that had known no man by lying with any male: and they brought them unto the camp to Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan.
13 And the whole congregation sent some to speak to the children of Benjamin that were in the rock Rimmon, and to call peaceably unto them.
14 And Benjamin came again at that time; and they gave them wives which they had saved alive of the women of Jabesh-gilead: and yet so they sufficed them not.
15 And the people repented them for Benjamin, because that the Lord had made a breach in the tribes of Israel.

The Israelites knew that no man of the area of Jabesh-gilead, had joined them to fight Benjamin. A portion of the army was sent to destroy the city and the people there, specifically the men and their wives. They found 400 virgins in the city, which were taken to Shiloh. Then, the Israelites sent men to peacefully speak to the remainder of the tribe of Benjamin, who had escaped the destruction and hidden themselves. The Israelites gave the virgins of Jabesh-gilead, to the remaining men of Benjamin. The Israelites were then at peace with the tribe of Benjamin, because the Lord provided a way for them to do so.

16 Then the elders of the congregation said, How shall we do for wives for them that remain, seeing the women are destroyed out of Benjamin?
17 And they said, There must be an inheritance for them that be escaped of Benjamin, that a tribe be not destroyed out of Israel.
18 Howbeit we may not give them wives of our daughters: for the children of Israel have sworn, saying, Cursed be he that giveth a wife to Benjamin.
19 Then they said, Behold, there is a feast of the Lord in Shiloh yearly in a place which is on the north side of Beth-el, on the east side of the highway that goeth up from Beth-el to Shechem, and on the south of Lebonah.
20 Therefore they commanded the children of Benjamin, saying, Go and lie in wait in the vineyards;
21 And see, and, behold, if the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in dances, then come ye out of the vineyards, and catch you every man his wife of the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin.
22 And it shall be, when their fathers or their brethren come unto us to complain, that we will say unto them, Be favourable unto them for our sakes: because we reserved not to each man his wife in the war: for ye did not give unto them at this time, that ye should be guilty.
23 And the children of Benjamin did so, and took them wives, according to their number, of them that danced, whom they caught: and they went and returned unto their inheritance, and repaired the cities, and dwelt in them.
24 And the children of Israel departed thence at that time, every man to his tribe and to his family, and they went out from thence every man to his inheritance.
25 In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.

There were some men of the tribe of Benjamin, who remained without wives. The leaders of Israel did not know what to do for them, but they did not want to entirely lose a tribe of Israel. They knew they could not give their own daughters, because of the covenant they had made against the tribe. They told the men of Benjamin, of a yearly ritual in Shiloh, where the women would go out to dance. Shiloh was also where they had moved the virgins they had captured. The Benjamites were to go and hide themselves while they waited for this ritual. Then, they were to take their wives from the women of Shiloh. They were to return to the land of Benjamin and explain their situation to any who questioned them. The men of Benjamin went and, after taking wives, they returned to the land of Benjamin and repaired it. The host of Israel dispersed back to their own lands, and returned back to their separate lives.

The men of Benjamin were punished for standing against the host of Israel. They had defended wickedness and suffered greatly for it. Likewise, the people of Jabesh-gilead had chosen not to stand with the Lord in their fight, and were punished for it. The Lord has promised that wickedness will be destroyed, and that those who side with it, will also be destroyed. This promise is still a part of the Lord’s plan in our day. We have a choice to make. That choice is whether we will stand on the Lord’s side, or on the side of the world. If we choose the Lord, He will lead us and great blessings will follow. If we choose to side with the world, our eventual destruction will come. We, like the individual cities of Israel, might think that we can choose to sit out of the battle. If we actively stand aside and try to remain a neutral party, we are in effect choosing the world and wickedness. Blessings will only come to those who take courage and join the battle against the enemies of God.

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