Judges 21


‘The men of Israel had taken an oath at Mizpah: “Not one of us will give his daughter in marriage to a Benjamite.” The people went to Bethel, 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 from Israel today?” Early the next day the people built an altar and presented burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then the Israelites asked, “Who from all the tribes of Israel 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 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 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. 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. “This is what you are to do,” they said. “Kill every male and every woman who is not a virgin.” 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 in Canaan.’ Judges 21:1-12

Wives For The Benjamites

In this final chapter, we read about the full effects of civil war. The Israelites realised that they had gone too far in their judgment of their brother, Benjamin.

Except for 600 men, the Israelites have almost destroyed the tribe of Benjamin, and the Israelites vow to put to death anyone that refused to go to war against Benjamin.

As they’re tracking down those who refused to fight, their tempers cool down and Israel starts to feel bad about their anti-Benjamite campaign. But they do more than just feel bad about it, they decide they simply don’t want to wipe an entire tribe off the face of the earth.

Unfortunately, because of what they said, where they all swore an unbreakable oath to never allow any Benjamites to marry their daughters, which in effect meant that the tribe of Benjamin would eventually die out.

And so whilst they’re trying to figure out the mess they’ve got themselves into, they discover that the inhabitants of Jabesh-Gilead didn’t send any soldiers to the war, they sent 12,000 soldiers to kill every male and every non-virgin woman.

The army then brings back 400 virgin captives from Jabesh-Gilead. They found 400 virgins who were brought to be wives for the remaining Benjamites so that no tribe of Israel be lost from the lineage of Abraham.

In all of this, someone must have asked, ‘hey, these virgins, they’re not our daughters, are they? And someone would have replied, ‘no’. And ‘great’ would have been the response, ‘then they can marry the Benjamites and keep their tribe alive’.

‘Then the whole assembly sent an offer of peace to the Benjamites at the rock of Rimmon. 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. The people grieved for Benjamin, because the LORD had made a gap in the tribes of Israel. And the elders of the assembly said, “With the women of Benjamin destroyed, how shall we provide wives for the men who are left? The Benjamite survivors must have heirs,” they said, “so that a tribe of Israel will not be wiped out. We can’t give them our daughters as wives, since we Israelites have taken this oath: ‘Cursed be anyone who gives a wife to a Benjamite.’ But look, there is the annual festival of the LORD in Shiloh, which lies north of Bethel, east of the road that goes from Bethel to Shechem, and south of Lebonah.” So they instructed the Benjamites, saying, “Go and hide in the vineyards and watch. When the young women of Shiloh come out to join in the dancing, rush from the vineyards and each of you seize one of them to be your wife. Then return to the land of Benjamin. When their fathers or brothers complain to us, we will say to them, ‘Do us the favour 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 your daughters to them.’” So that is what the Benjamites did. While the young women were dancing, each man caught one and carried her off to be his wife. Then they returned to their inheritance and rebuilt the towns and settled in them. At that time the Israelites left that place and went home to their tribes and clans, each to his own inheritance. In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.’ Judges 21:13-25

Israel sends an ambassador to the rock of Rimmon, where the last surviving Benjamite men live, and before you can say ‘you may kiss the bride’, 400 of them get married.

Unfortunately, that still leaves a lot of guys without a wife, so what can Israel do for them? The elders of Israel have an idea and so they tell the Benjamites to go to Shiloh.

And what’s in Shiloh? Women, lots of beautiful women. But what else is on Shiloh? Shiloh is the centre of worship, the home of the tabernacle.

But when we read the text, we discover that no one prays, no one considers God’s Word, or consults a priest. They simply do what they think should work, figuring the ends would justify the means.

And so, as they do every year at Shiloh, the people of Shiloh have a feast unto the Lord. And it’s during the feast, that the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance.

Notice Israel’s plan, it’s a very male chauvinistic plan, but it works. When the girl’s dads come to the elders to complain about their kidnapped daughters, the elders more or less say, ‘can’t you just let it slide? These guys need wives, and you weren’t about to give them any anyway right, please’.

And so the dad’s consent and they all lived wickedly ever after, not! The Benjamites act like cavemen, clubbing women over the head and dragging them away.

What a mess this is isn’t it? The rape and murder of one woman was resolved in Israel’s eyes, with the forced marriage and rape of hundreds of other women.

And why did Israel become an immoral mess? ‘In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.’

It does appear that every aspect of Jewish life was affected by Israel’s turning from God. The Land of Promise could have been a kind of paradise restored, but it devolved into sheer anarchy.

And we’re reminded that when there are no standards, all we’re left with is depravity and lawlessness, which are the natural outcomes and consequences of rejecting God’s absolutes.

I don’t want to end the Book of Judges on a depressing note. All the way through the Book of Judges we saw how God raised up judges to deliver his people from oppression.

We saw the involvement of the angel of the Lord, He appeared to Gideon, Judges 6:11-24 and Manoah’s wife, Judges 13:2-25. In everyone one of those texts, we find the angel of the Lord speaking in the first person as God and speaking with authority.

So who is this angel of the Lord? He is none other than God Himself. The ‘angel of the Lord’ is what we call a Christophany, that is, an appearance of the Christ.

The point I’m making is that even though this was Israel’s darkest time in history, God was still very much involved with His people. And even though the world we’re living in today is still as evil and sinful, God is still very much at work among His people.

Let me encourage you to be like Othniel, whom God gave victory in his life because he gave himself to the Lord, first.

Let me encourage you to be like Ehud who was disabled and Shamgar the farmer, both of them allowed themselves to be used for God’s glory.

Let me encourage you to be like Deborah who stepped up to the mark to face the enemy when no other man would and lead your household in joyful song to the Lord.

Let me encourage you to be like Gideon who after struggling to surrender and trust God fully, went on to become a great warrior of God.

Let me encourage you to be like Jephthah who left his past in God’s hands and totally relied on God for the future.

Let me encourage you to be like Samson, who finally came to repentance and totally relied on the Lord’s mighty strength and power.

God chose some of the most unlikely people to do great things for Him during a very dark time. The question is, will we allow God to use us today to do great things for Him?


"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers."