Pastoral Commentary for Judges 21
Author: Pastor Bob Nordlie
At a point in the struggle where the tribe of Benjamin was almost exterminated, the people of Israel came before the Lord and prayed: "O Lord, the God of Israel, why has this happened in Israel, that today there should be one tribe lacking in Israel?" If the tribe of Benjamin was to continue, the surviving men would need wives, but the Israelites had sworn not to give any of their daughters to the men of Benjamin as wives. The people of Jabesh Gilead had not taken part in the campaign against Benjamin, and so an army of 12,000 men was sent to punish them by killing every man and every woman who was not a virgin. 400 young women who were virgins were identified and brought back to the Israelites. At that point, Israel offered terms of peace to the tribe of Benjamin. The surviving men of Benjamin returned, and were given these young women for their wives, however there were not enough. The remaining Benjamite survivors were instructed to hide in the vineyards. When the girls of Shiloh came out to dance during a festival, they were to "take" wives for themselves, so that Israel could say they had not "given" their daughters to the Benajmites as wives. All of this mayhem and madness was seen as a result of the fact that: "In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes." In reality, it was all a result of the fact that Israel had forsaken her true King, the LORD.