and smote them with the edge of the sword, as well the men of every city; even men, women, and children, in every city of Benjamin, at least all that lay in their way; and which they might do to be avenged on them, for sending out their militia against them, which had made such a slaughter among them to the loss of 40,000 men, or to fulfil their oath, that such who came not to Mizpeh should be put to death; for which reason also the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead, as well as of the cities of Benjamin, were put to death, men, women, and children, dealing in the same severity with them as with the Canaanitish nations, or as with a city given to idolatry:
as the beast, and all that came to hand; spared no living creature, herds and flocks:
also they set on fire all the cities that they came unto; which belonged to the tribe of Benjamin, so exceedingly wroth were they with them, for protecting such that had been the authors of such abominable wickedness, and for the loss of the lives of so many valuable men.
INTRODUCTION TO Judges 21
This chapter relates how that when the Israelites calmed down, and seriously to reflect on what had passed, they were sore grieved, and much lamented the case of Benjamin, and were particularly concerned what they should do for wives for those few men that remained, that the tribe might be built up again, Judges 21:1 and for these they provided wives, partly out of Jabeshgilead, the inhabitants of which came not up to the convention at Mizpeh, and therefore they smote them, men, women, and children, only reserved four hundred virgins, whom they gave to the men of Benjamin, Judges 21:8, and partly from among the daughters of Shiloh, taken at a yearly feast there, the taking of whom was connived at, the other number not being sufficient, Judges 21:16-25.
saying, there shall not any of us give his daughter unto Benjamin to wife; seeing those that used the wife of the Levite in such a base manner, and those that protected and defended them, deserved to have no wives.
and abode there till even before God; fasting and praying, instead of feasting and rejoicing:
and lifted up their voices, and wept sore; not so much, or at least not only for the 40,000 Israelites that were slain, but for the tribe of Benjamin, in danger of being lost, as follows.
why is this come to pass in Israel; expressing, as Abarbinel thinks, a concern for the 40,000 men of Israel which fell in the two first battles; but it manifestly refers to the case in the next words:
that there should be today one tribe lacking in Israel; meaning the tribe of Benjamin, which was all destroyed, excepting six hundred men, and these had no wives to propagate the tribe; and therefore, unless some provision could be made for that, it must in a short time be totally extinct; for which they express great concern, it not being their intention when they made the above oath to extirpate them; but such were now the circumstances of things in Providence, that it must perish unless some way could be found to relieve it, and which their oath seemed to preclude; and this threw them into great perplexity.
and built there an altar; if this place was Bethel, as Kimchi reasons, there Jacob had built an altar; but that in such a course of years might have been demolished: and if it was Shiloh, there was the tabernacle, and so the altar of the Lord there; wherefore this either signifies the repairing of that, being in ruins, which is not likely, since it was but lately used, Judges 20:26 or the building of a new one, which to do in the tabernacle was not unlawful, especially when the number of sacrifices required it, which it is highly probable was the case now, as it was at the dedication of the temple, 1 Kings 8:64 though the above mentioned writer thinks, that building an altar signifies, as in many places, only seeking the Lord; but the use for which it was built is expressed:
and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings; both to atone for the sins they had been guilty of in the prosecution of the war, and to return thanks for victory given, and to implore fresh favours to be bestowed upon them.
who is there among all the tribes of Israel, that came not up with the congregation unto the Lord? when they were summoned to come to Mizpeh, to consult together about the affair of the Levite's concubine, as appears by what follows:
for they had made a great oath; in a very awful and solemn manner, with a curse annexed to it, as that about not giving a wife to Benjamin, Judges 21:18.
concerning him that came not up to the Lord to Mizpeh: not about him who did not go out to battle against Benjamin, nor about every individual that did not come to consult about it; but every city that did not send their proper representatives or quota to assist in that affair:
he shall surely be put to death; this was sent along with the summons, in order to quicken their attention to them.
and said, there is one tribe cut off from Israel this day; that is, there is a likelihood or great danger of it.
seeing we have sworn by the Lord; by the Word of the Lord, as the Targum; and such an oath with them was a sacred thing, and to be kept inviolable, even to their own hurt:
that we will not give them of our daughters to wives; as in Judges 21:1 and therefore they must either marry among the Heathens, which was forbidden, or they must make void their oath, or the tribe in a little time would be extinct; these were difficulties they knew not how to surmount, and this was the object of their inquiry.
and, behold, there came none to the camp from Jabeshgilead to the assembly; this was observed by some upon the question put, which caused an inquiry to be made as after related. This city was in the land of Gilead, from whence it had its name, on the other side Jordan, and is placed by Adrichomius (a) in the half tribe of Manasseh; and Jerom (b) says it was a village in his time six miles from the city Pella, upon a mountain, as you go to Gerasa.
(a) Theatrum Terrae S. p. 90. (b) De loc. Heb. fol. 88. K. & fol. 93. L.
and, behold, there were none of the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead there; for as yet none that came had returned home; all came to Shiloh first, to pay their devotion to the Lord; and as none were found among the living, it did not appear they were among the slain; and very probably the muster roll was taken before they went to battle, and they were not on that.
and commanded them, saying; these were the orders they gave them, when they marched out:
go and smite the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead with the edge of the sword, with the women and the children; which it seems was according to the oath they had made, Judges 21:5.
(c) Ut supra. (Antiqu. l. 5. c. 2. sect. 10.) (d) Travels, &c. p. 121.
ye shall utterly destroy every male; without any reserve, young or old, married or unmarried:
and every woman that hath lain by man; whether lawfully or unlawfully, in a married or unmarried state.
and they brought them unto the camp to Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan; this is observed because that Jabeshgilead was not in the land of Canaan, from whence they were brought, but in the land of Og king of Bashan; only what was on this side Jordan was the land of Canaan, and in that Shiloh was, to which they were brought; and this shows that not the city Bethel, but Shiloh, was the place whither the people or army of Israel came to offer sacrifice after the war was ended.
(e) "puellam viginem", Montanus; "puellas virgines", Pagninus, Tigurine version, Drusius, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator.
that were in the rock Rimmon; the six hundred men who had hid themselves in a cave in it, of which the people of Israel were informed:
and to call peaceably unto them; to proclaim peace to them, and assure them of it, and to let them know that they had no ill design against them, that they might come safely to them, and would be kindly received and protected by them.
and they gave them wives which they had saved alive of the women of Jabeshgilead; in doing which they supposed they had not violated their oath, since though they had sworn that they would not give their own daughters, they had not sworn they would not give the daughters of others; and besides, as the men of Jabeshgilead were not at Mizpeh when the oaths were made, they had taken none, and so their daughters might be given in marriage to the Benjaminites, notwithstanding that oath:
and yet so they sufficed them not; there were not wives enough for them all; for they were six hundred men, whereas the daughters of the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead were but four hundred, so that there were two hundred more wanting. Abarbinel interprets the word we render "so" in a different manner, by "right", as in Numbers 27:7 and gives the sense thus, that it was not a point of justice and judgment to do this to the daughters of Jabeshgilead, namely, to save and give them in marriage; but they did this because the people repented for Benjamin, as follows.
because the Lord had made a breach in the tribes of Israel; by almost destroying one of them; for though this was done by the Israelites, yet by the permission and according to the will of God, and through his overruling providence.
how shall we do for wives for them that remain: the other two hundred, who had none:
seeing the women are destroyed out of Benjamin? and so no wives to be had there; and as for the Israelites which came to Mizpeh, who were of all the tribes of Israel, they had solemnly sworn that they would not give any of their daughters to them, and therefore it was a very difficult thing to provide wives for them.
that a tribe be not destroyed out of Israel; but the full number of the tribes be preserved, and their inheritances belonging to them, according to the predictions of Jacob and Moses, and the assignment of them by lot unto them by Joshua.
for the children of Israel have sworn, saying, cursed be he that giveth a wife to Benjamin, Judges 21:1 and therefore without the violation of their oath could not give any of their daughters in marriage to them: wherefore some other way must be devised to help them.
behold, there is a feast of the Lord in Shiloh yearly; where the tabernacle then was, and before which the males of Israel were obliged to appear three times of the year; and this was one of them, as is clear by its being called a feast of the Lord; and therefore cannot design any civil festival or fair kept for trade and commerce. Some have thought of the feast of the passover, but it is most likely to be the feast of tabernacles, as Abarbinel takes it to be; which in Jewish writings is emphatically called "the feast"; and the time of year when that was kept was a time of great rejoicing, on account of the fruits of the earth being gathered in, and the reading of the law and especially at the tithe of drawing of water at this feast; insomuch that it is said (e) that he who never saw the rejoicing at drawing of water never saw rejoicing in his life, which was attended with piping, and dancing, and singing. It is pretty strange what Kimchi notes, that this may be either one of the above feasts, or the day of atonement, at which, he says, the daughters of Israel used to go and dance in the vineyards, according to the words of the Rabbins; when though that is reckoned among the feasts, Leviticus 23:1 it was properly a fast, as it is called, Acts 27:9 and all tokens of festivity and joy were forbidden on it; and where these words of their Rabbins are to be met with, he says not: in a place
which is on the north side of Bethel; we rightly supply "in a place": for the intention is not to describe the situation of Shiloh, which was well known, but a place not far from it, where at this festival the daughters of Shiloh used to dance:
on the east side of the highway that goeth up from Bethel to Shechem; this place lay to the east of a public road, that led from Bethel to Shechem:
and on the south of Lebonah; which Mr. Maundrell (f) takes to be a place now called Kane Leban, which stands on the east side of a delightful vale, having a village of the same name standing opposite to it on the other side of the vale; one of these places, either that Kane or the village, is supposed to be the Lebonah mentioned Judges 21:19 to which both the name and situation seem to agree.
(e) Misn. Succah, c. 5. sect. 1, 4. Vid. Maimon. Hilchot Lulab, c. 8. sect. 13. (f) Journey from Aleppo, p. 63.
saying, go and lie in wait in the vineyards; which might belong to Shiloh, or it may be to Lebonah, which perhaps is the same with Bethlaban, famous for its wine with the Misnic writers; who say (g) the second places for wine are Bethrimah and Bethlaban; and I suspect that Bethrimah is the same with Bethrimmon, near which was the rock Rimmon these men were in; now this being the time of year when the vintage was just over, the vines were full of branches and leaves, under which the men might the better hide themselves; and the grapes being gathered, there were no men in the vineyards, and so might lie in wait safely, and under cover.
(g) Misn. Menachot, c. 8. sect. 6.
then come ye out of the yards, and catch you every man his wife of the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin; they are directed to rush out at once upon them, as they were dancing, secure, as they thought, from molestation and danger; and they were to take everyone one, not more, and go off directly with them to their own tribe.
that we will say unto them, be favourable unto them for our sakes; for the sake of the elders, who advised them to do what they did; or for the sake of us Israelites, your sake and ours, who were too severe upon them, and prosecuted the war with too much vigour, which made what they have done necessary, or otherwise a tribe must have been lost in Israel:
because we reserved not to each man his wife in the war; either in the war with Benjamin, which they carried on with such wrath and fury as to destroy all the women, so that there were no wives left for the men that remained, which they now repented of; or in the war with Jabeshgilead, they did not reserve enough of the women taken, only four hundred virgins, whereas there were six hundred men: but the first seems best:
for ye did not give unto them at this time, that you should be guilty; the meaning is, that if they had any uneasiness upon their minds about the oath which they had taken, not to give any of their daughters in marriage to Benjamin, they need not be disturbed at that, since they did not "give" them to them, but these "took" them by force; which was the scheme these elders contrived to secure from the violation of the oath. This they proposed to say to quiet them, and make them easy, to which other things might have been added as that these were their brethren, and not strangers they were married to, and not to mean men, but to men of large estates, having the whole inheritance of the tribe of Benjamin devolved upon them; and their daughters would be the original mothers of the posterity of that tribe in succeeding ages.
and took them wives according to their number; two hundred of them, each man a wife, and no more; for though polygamy was in use in those times, and if at any time necessary, and could be excused, it might seem now; yet it was not indulged to, neither by the elders, nor by the children of Benjamin:
of them that danced whom they caught; the rape of the Sabine virgins by Romulus, at the arena plays and shows, mentioned by various authors (h), and the carrying off of fifteen Spartan virgins from the dances by Aristomenes the Messenian (i), are sometimes observed as parallel cases to this, and justified by it, particularly that of Romulus (k):
and they went and returned unto their inheritance; the six hundred Benjaminites, with their wives, returned to their own tribe, which was their inheritance by lot; and these, being the only survivors, had a right to the whole:
and repaired the cities, and dwelt in them: in process of time they rebuilt the cities the Israelites had burnt in the late war, and repeopled them as their posterity increased. And the Jewish writers say, that in later times they were allowed to marry with other tribes as before, since the oath only bound those present at Mizpeh; for they observe, that it ran only:
there shall not any of us, &c. not any of our sons; they might give wives to Benjamin, and so in time they became numerous again.
(h) Liv. Hist. l. 1. p. 7, 8. Flor Hist. Rom. l. 1. c. 1. Aurel. Victor. de Vir Illustr. c. 2. Valer. Maxim. l. 1. c. 4. (i) Hierop adv. Jovinian. l. 1. fol. 17. B, C. (k) Vid. Albericum Gentil. de armis Roman l. 2. p. 114.
and they went out from thence every man to his inheritance; divided by lot to them, to their estates and possessions, which each had a right unto.