Judges 21

Israel gets wives for the Benjamites

1 The men of Israel made a promise to the Lord at Mizpah. They agreed that they would not give their daughters to a Benjamite to marry.

2 The people went to Bethel. They sat there until evening, weeping. They cried to the Lord God, and called out to him. 3 ‘Why has this happened to Israel? Why have we lost one tribe of Israel?’

4 Early next day, the people built an altar. They offered gifts to the Lord there. They burnt some of the gifts, as God had told them.

5 Then the Israelites asked, ‘Which people from the tribes did not join us at Mizpah?’ For they had decided that everyone should meet there. They would kill anyone who did not meet them.

6 Now the Israelites were very sad. They said, ‘Israel has lost one of its tribes. The Benjamites were our brothers. 7 How can we get wives for those who are left? We have promised the Lord that we would not let them marry our daughters’. 8 Then they asked, ‘Which Israelites did not come with us to Mizpah?’ They found that no one from Jabesh Gilead had come with them. 9 When they counted the people, there were no men from Jabesh Gilead among them.

10 So the Israelite army sent 12,000 fighting men to Jabesh Gilead. They told them to kill everyone there, including the women and children. 11 ‘This is what you are to do,’ they said. ‘Kill every male, and every married woman’. 12 They found 400 young women in Jabesh Gilead. These girls had not had sex with anyone. The Israelites took them to their camp at Shiloh in Canaan.

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

15 The people were very sad for Benjamin. This was because the Lord had taken one of the tribes of Israel. 16 The elders of Israel asked, ‘How can we get wives for all the other men of Benjamin? All their women are dead. 17 The men of Benjamin that are alive must have children. If they do not, their tribe will die out. 18 We cannot give them our daughters as wives. We promised that we would not do this. We said, “God will punish anyone who gives a girl as wife to a Benjamite. 19 But there will soon be a big feast at Shiloh. They worship the Lord there every year in this way. The feast is north of Bethel and south of Lebonah. And it is also east of the road from Bethel to Shechem” ’.

20 The Israelites told the Benjamites to hide in the fields, 21 and watch. They said, ‘When the girls of Shiloh come out to dance, run out and catch one each. Take them to the land of Benjamin. 22 When their fathers or brothers get angry, they will come to us. Then we will say, “Please help the Benjamites. We did not get wives for them in the war. You will not be punished, because you did not give your daughters to them.”’

23 So that is what the Benjamites did. Each man caught a girl as she was dancing. Then he carried her off to be his wife. Then they went back to their own land and built their towns again. Then they lived there.

24 Then the Israelites left that place. They went home to their tribes and families in their own lands.

25 In those days, Israel had no king. Everyone did what he thought was right.

21:25The books of Samuel continue the story of Israel. Samuel was their last judge. God used Samuel to make Saul, and then David, kings of Israel.