y z b 1. Oath. c 2-4. Sorrow. a 5. Absentees. Inquiry. z c 6. Sorrow. b 7. Oath. a 8-12. Absentees. Punishment.
1: Now the men of Israel had sworn in Mizpeh (i.e. before the fighting of ch. 20), saying, “There shall not any of us give his daughter to Benjamin to wife.”
2: And the people came to the house of God (probably Shiloh, cp. v.12 and 18:31), and abode there till even before God (= the true God), and lifted up their voices, and wept sore (Fig. Polyptõton, "wept a great weeping". See Gen.26:28. Benjamin is indeed, now, "a son of sorrow" [Ben-oni, a son of sorrow, Gen.35:18]);
3: And said, “O Lord God of Israel, why is this come to pass in Israel, that there should be today one tribe lacking in Israel?”
4: And it came to pass on the next day, that the People rose early, and built there an altar, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings.
5: And the sons of Israel said, “Who is there among all the tribes of Israel that came not up with the military assembly to the Lord?” For they had made a great oath concerning him that came not up to the Lord to Mizpeh, saying, “He shall surely be put to death.”
6: And the sons of Israel repented them for Benjamin their brother, and said, “There is one tribe cut off from Israel this day.
7: How shall we do for wives for them that remain, seeing we have sworn by Yehovah that we will not give them of our daughters to wives?”
8: And they said, “What one is there of the tribes of Israel that came not up to Mizpeh to the Lord?” And, behold, there came none to the camp from Jabesh-gilead to the assembly.
9: For the People were numbered, and, behold, there were none of the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead there.
10: And the congregation sent to that place twelve thousand men of the valiantest, and commanded them, saying, “Go and smite the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead with the edge of the sword, with the women and the little children (cp. 13:5).
11: And this is the thing that you all shall do, You all shall utterly destroy every male, and every woman that has lain by male.”
12: And they found among the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead four hundred young virgins (Heb. young women, virgins), that had known no man by lying with any male: and they brought them to the camp to Shiloh (see 18:31), which is in the land of Canaan.
13: And the whole congregation sent some to speak to the sons of Benjamin that were in the rock Rimmon, and to proclaim peace to them.
14: And Benjamin came again at that time; and they gave them wives which they had saved alive of the women of Jabesh-gilead: and yet so they sufficed them not.
15: And the People repented them for Benjamin, because that the Lord had made a breach in the tribes of Israel.
y d¹ e 16,17. Deficiency. Inquiry. f 18. Prevention. e 19. Deficiency. Supply. d² g 20,21. Advice given. h 22. Conciliation. g 23-. Advice taken.
16: Then the elders of the congregation said, “How shall we do for wives for them that remain, seeing the women are destroyed out of Benjamin?”
17: And they said, “There must be an inheritance for them that be escaped of Benjamin, that a tribe be not destroyed out of Israel.
18: However we may not give them wives of our daughters: for the sons of Israel have sworn, saying, “Cursed be he that gives a wife to Benjamin.”
19: Then they said, “Behold, there is a feast to the Lord in Shiloh yearly (the 3 feast had come down to 1. Apostasy was the cause of all their internal disorders) in a place which is on the north side of Bethel, on the east side of the highway that goes up from Bethel to Shechem, and on the south of Lebonah” (Shiloh and the house of the Lord were so neglected that these minute instructions were necessary to enable an Israelite to fid it. We have the same difficulty today; and when we find it we too often find, not the sacrifice of praise an thanksgiving, but what answers to that which we find in v.21).
20: Therefore they commanded the sons of Benjamin, saying, “Go and lie in wait in the vineyards;
21: And see, and, behold, if the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in dances (this is what "religion" had come to in those days of apostasy, by which we must judge it), then come you all out of the vineyards, and catch you every man his wife of the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin.
22: And it shall be, when their fathers or their brethren come to us to complain, that we will say to them, ‘Be favorable to them for our sakes: because we reserved not to each man his wife in the war: for you all did not give to them at this time (i.e. "at the time when you all would have incurred guilt by doing so), that you all should be guilty.”
23: And the sons of Benjamin did so, and took them wives, according to their number, of them that danced, whom they caught:
and they went and returned to their inheritance, and rebuilt the cities, and dwelt in them.
24: And the sons of Israel departed from that at that time, every man to his tribe and to his family, and they went out from that place every man to his inheritance.
25: In those days there was no king in Israel (note the structural arrangement of the 4 occurrences of this expression. See note on 18:1): every man did continually that which was right in his own eyes. (This is the Divine summing up of the whole book, by way of Epilogue. All the evil follows as a result of the disobedience in 1:27-36)