Judges 21

Wives for the men of Benjamin's tribe

1 The Israelites had made a promise to the Lord at Mizpah. They agreed together, ‘None of us will allow our daughters to marry a man of Benjamin's tribe.’

2 After the war against Benjamin's army, the people went to Bethel to meet with God. They sat there until evening. They could not stop weeping loudly. 3 They said, ‘Lord, Israel's God, why has this terrible thing happened in Israel? We have lost one whole tribe of Israel.’

4 The next morning, the people got up early. They built an altar. They offered burnt offerings and peace offerings to the Lord there.

5 Then the Israelites asked, ‘Which people from Israel's tribes did not join us when we all met together at Mizpah?’ They asked this because they had made a serious promise at Mizpah. They had said, ‘We must punish with death anyone who does not join us here to meet with the Lord.’

6 The Israelites were very upset about what had happened to Benjamin's tribe. They said, ‘We have destroyed a whole tribe of Israel. They were our relatives. 7 How can we find women to marry the few men who are left? We all made a serious promise to the Lord that we would not let them marry our daughters.’

8 So they asked, ‘When we met with the Lord at Mizpah, which people from all Israel's tribes did not come with us?’ They realized that no one from Jabesh Gilead had come to the meeting. 9 When they had counted the people, there had been no men from Jabesh Gilead among them.

10 So all the Israelites decided to send an army of 12,000 soldiers to attack Jabesh Gilead. They commanded them, ‘Use your swords to kill everyone there, including the women and children. 11 This is what you must do: Kill every male and every woman who has slept with a man. But do not kill the women who have never had sex.’

12 The Israelite army attacked Jabesh Gilead. They found 400 young women who had not had sex with anyone. They took the women back to their camp at Shiloh in Canaan.

13 Then all the Israelites sent a message of peace to the men of Benjamin who were still at the rock of Rimmon. 14 So the men returned from the rock at that time. The Israelites gave the women of Jabesh Gilead that they had not killed to them. But there were not enough women for all the men of Benjamin.

15 The Israelite people were very sad about what had happened to Benjamin's tribe. The Lord had caused their tribe to become very weak. 16 The Israelite leaders asked, ‘How can we find wives for the other men of Benjamin? We killed all their own women. 17 Benjamin's people who are still alive must have children. If they do not, their whole tribe will disappear. 18 But we cannot allow our daughters to marry them. We promised that we would never do that. We said, “God himself will punish anyone who allows his daughter to marry a man of Benjamin.” 19 But every year there is a big feast at Shiloh to give honour to the Lord. That will happen soon.’

Shiloh is north of Bethel and south of Lebonah. It is on the east side of the road from Bethel to Shechem. 20 The Israelites told the men of Benjamin, ‘Go there and hide in the vineyards. 21 Watch carefully. When the young women of Shiloh come out to dance at the feast, run out from the vineyards. Each of you should catch one of the young women of Shiloh. Take them home to the land of Benjamin to be your wives. 22 Their fathers or their brothers may come to us and complain. If they do, we will say, “Please agree to help the men of Benjamin. We could not find a wife for each of them in the war. You did not choose to give your daughters to them, so you will not be guilty. The men of Benjamin caught them and took them away.” ’

23 So that is what the 200 men of Benjamin did. Each of them caught a young woman as she was dancing at the feast. They took them home to their own land to be their wives. They built their towns again and they lived in them.

24 After that, the Israelites left there. They went back home to the places where their tribes and their clans lived.

25 At that time, Israel had no king to rule over them. Everyone did what they thought was right.