Judges 21

Judges 21

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Wives Provided for the Tribe of Benjamin

21 Now the men of Israel had sworn at Mizpah, “No one of us shall give his daughter in marriage to Benjamin.” And the people came to Bethel and sat there till evening before God, and they lifted up their voices and wept bitterly. And they said, “O LORD, the God of Israel, why has this happened in Israel, that today there should be one tribe lacking in Israel?” And the next day the people rose early and built there an altar and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. And the people of Israel said, “Which of all the tribes of Israel did not come up in the assembly to the LORD?” For they had taken a great oath concerning him who did not come up to the LORD to Mizpah, saying, “He shall surely be put to death.” And the people of Israel had compassion for Benjamin their brother and said, “One tribe is cut off from Israel this day. What shall we do for wives for those who are left, since we have sworn by the LORD that we will not give them any of our daughters for wives?”

And they said, “What one is there of the tribes of Israel that did not come up to the LORD to Mizpah?” And behold, no one had come to the camp from Jabesh-gilead, to the assembly. For when the people were mustered, behold, not one of the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead was there. So the congregation sent 12,000 of their bravest men there and commanded them, “Go and strike the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead with the edge of the sword; also the women and the little ones. This is what you shall do: every male and every woman that has lain with a male you shall devote to destruction.” And they found among the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead 400 young virgins who had not known a man by lying with him, and they brought them to the camp at Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan.

Then the whole congregation sent word to the people of Benjamin who were at the rock of Rimmon and proclaimed peace to them. And Benjamin returned at that time. And they gave them the women whom they had saved alive of the women of Jabesh-gilead, but they were not enough for them. And the people had compassion on Benjamin because the LORD had made a breach in the tribes of Israel.

Then the elders of the congregation said, “What shall we do for wives for those who are left, since the women are destroyed out of Benjamin?” And they said, “There must be an inheritance for the survivors of Benjamin, that a tribe not be blotted out from Israel. Yet we cannot give them wives from our daughters.” For the people of Israel had sworn, “Cursed be he who gives a wife to Benjamin.” So they said, “Behold, there is the yearly feast of the LORD at Shiloh, which is north of Bethel, on the east of the highway that goes up from Bethel to Shechem, and south of Lebonah.” And they commanded the people of Benjamin, saying, “Go and lie in ambush in the vineyards and watch. If the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in the dances, then come out of the vineyards and snatch each man his wife from the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin. And when their fathers or their brothers come to complain to us, we will say to them, ‘Grant them graciously to us, because we did not take for each man of them his wife in battle, neither did you give them to them, else you would now be guilty.’” And the people of Benjamin did so and took their wives, according to their number, from the dancers whom they carried off. Then they went and returned to their inheritance and rebuilt the towns and lived in them. And the people of Israel departed from there at that time, every man to his tribe and family, and they went out from there every man to his inheritance.

In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

(ESV)


Judges 21 Commentary

by Hank Workman

The people of Israel went from mess to mess all based upon their own thinking.  From this crazy story there was no forward thought, long term thinking as to how their current decisions could affect their future.  They were moving in the heat of the moment, responding as they saw fit and the problem didn’t shrink but seemingly grew larger.

What compounds to there actions is the spiritualization of their behavior.  In the previous chapter, it appears they repented of not serving God.  In this chapter, they prayed to God, make mention several different times of the Lord but really it seems they did not follow.  The people of Israel made some atrocious decisions wrapped in the verbiage of God.  In the end, they still did what they saw fit.  They justified wrong behavior in hopes of correcting their mistakes.

Over-spiritualization is dangerous ground.  When we rest on the laurels of an experience with God; when we even throw His name around in our conversations or speak of something the Lord has done or is doing without the relationship being genuine and real – we too will do as we see fit.  Simply framing what we’re doing with an aspect of God yet acting on our own thinking the snowball effect of problems escalates.

The Israelites decided to destroy another town.  More than likely they based this on an oath they had taken that anyone who didn’t help them fight the men of Benjamin would be killed.  They held more stock in their oath that was foolish than recanting.  Because their slaughter of the tribe annihilated the women too, the few remaining male survivors had no prospective wives. 

The Israelites literally went into overkill of the tribe in their zeal and only 400 men were left.  This tribe could easily disappear if there were no women for the men.  This was when their hair-brained plan of kidnapping women from Jabesh-Gilead to be given to the survivors happened.  This town resisted the other 11 tribes and consequently, the men and city destroyed.

Throughout the book of Judges, we have read of over 400 years of people who acted on their own wishes, becoming their own authority and determining what was right and wrong.  Over and over again the results were a horror story.  When we selfishly look to satisfy our own wants and needs, everyone pays a price. 

When we are not engaging and bowing before the King of Jesus and His authority; when we are not honoring our own relationship with Him – we too will live the concluding statement of the book and do as we see fit.  That ripple effect from our own selfish behavior circles wide.


Judges 21 Commentary

by Brad Boyles

They said, “Why, O LORD, God of Israel, has this come about in Israel, so that one tribe should be missing today in Israel?”

Judges 21:3 NASB 

The irony surrounding this prayer is both disappointing and offensive. The implication is that this whole thing falls under God’s responsibility when clearly the decisions made by the other tribes of Israel is what led to the near-extinction of the tribe of Benjamin. Notice – the Lord doesn’t answer them. Why has it happened? Well, because man was doing what was right in his own eyes. That’s the truth.

What happens when God allows us (without His Spirit) to make important decisions? We only need to read on through this chapter to find the answer to that question.

If it seems to you like they are contradicting themselves, you are following correctly. All of a sudden, they have second thoughts about their attack on Benjamin, and they are worried that the 600 Benjamin men in hiding will not be able to have any wives for the future. So, they start thinking and decide that since no one had come to join them from Jabesh-Gilead during their war, that town should be punished.

In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

Judges 21:25 NASB

Even though they have second thoughts about what they did to Benjamin, they go kill more of their own people at Jabesh-Gilead. But not all the people. This decision carries the added convenience of sparing 400 virgins from that city they could pair with the Benjamin boys. Uhh… what?

But wait, there’s more. Simple math tells us that 400 women to 600 men won’t work. So, they devise another plan to take an additional 200 women from the daughters of Shiloh. This would be done by force. During a festival.

In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

Judges 21:25 NASB

The moral decline is sickening. The innocent people of Jabesh-Gilead suffered at the hands of their own people because their own people were trying to solve a problem that they created in the first place. Did you catch that? The bottom line: you can’t correct a sin problem with more sinning.

This is man’s way of solving the sin problem. Violence. War. Deception. You could call it the anti-Gospel. What is God’s response to all this hatred and rebellion? Well, I think we all know what we think God *should* have done. These people should have been eliminated. The problem is, that means we should be eliminated as well because even though our sins may not be as obscene or graphic, we still stand guilty before the Father.

And I don’t know about you, but I still tend to make terrible decisions based on what I think is “right.” Especially when I am triggered.

In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

Judges 21:25 NASB

God’s response is to send His own Son as a sacrifice for these people. For them and for us. For you and for me. When we are left to judge what is right in our own eyes, we become the anti-Gospel. But thanks be to Jesus who overcomes our sin by giving Himself!

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