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21 The leaders of Israel had vowed at Mizpah never to let their daughters marry a man from the tribe of Benjamin. And now the Israeli leaders met at Bethel and sat before God until evening, weeping bitterly.

“O Lord God of Israel,” they cried out, “why has this happened, that now one of our tribes is missing?”

The next morning they were up early and built an altar, and offered sacrifices and peace offerings on it. 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. 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. 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.)

Wives for the Benjamites

21 The men of Israel had taken an oath(A) at Mizpah:(B) “Not one of us will give(C) his daughter in marriage to a Benjamite.”

The people went to Bethel,[a] 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(D) from Israel today?”

Early the next day the people built an altar and presented burnt offerings and fellowship offerings.(E)

Then the Israelites asked, “Who from all the tribes of Israel(F) 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(G) 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(H) 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.

10 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. 11 “This is what you are to do,” they said. “Kill every male(I) and every woman who is not a virgin.(J) 12 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(K) in Canaan.

13 Then the whole assembly sent an offer of peace(L) to the Benjamites at the rock of Rimmon.(M) 14 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.

15 The people grieved for Benjamin,(N) because the Lord had made a gap in the tribes of Israel. 16 And the elders of the assembly said, “With the women of Benjamin destroyed, how shall we provide wives for the men who are left? 17 The Benjamite survivors must have heirs,” they said, “so that a tribe of Israel will not be wiped out.(O) 18 We can’t give them our daughters as wives, since we Israelites have taken this oath:(P) ‘Cursed be anyone who gives(Q) a wife to a Benjamite.’ 19 But look, there is the annual festival of the Lord in Shiloh,(R) which lies north of Bethel(S), east of the road that goes from Bethel to Shechem,(T) and south of Lebonah.”

20 So they instructed the Benjamites, saying, “Go and hide in the vineyards 21 and watch. When the young women of Shiloh come out to join in the dancing,(U) rush from the vineyards and each of you seize one of them to be your wife. Then return to the land of Benjamin. 22 When their fathers or brothers complain to us, we will say to them, ‘Do us the favor 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(V) your daughters to them.’”

23 So that is what the Benjamites did. While the young women were dancing,(W) each man caught one and carried her off to be his wife. Then they returned to their inheritance(X) and rebuilt the towns and settled in them.(Y)

24 At that time the Israelites left that place and went home to their tribes and clans, each to his own inheritance.

25 In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.(Z)


  1. Judges 21:2 Or to the house of God