Israel Provides Wives for Benjamin
1The Israelites had vowed at Mizpah, “We will never give our daughters in marriage to a man from the tribe of Benjamin.” 2Now the people went to Bethel and sat in the presence of God until evening, weeping loudly and bitterly. 3“O lord, God of Israel,” they cried out, “why has this happened in Israel? Now one of our tribes is missing from Israel!”
4Early the next morning the people built an altar and presented their burnt offerings and peace offerings on it. 5Then they said, “Who among the tribes of Israel did not join us at Mizpah when we held our assembly in the presence of the lord?” At that time they had taken a solemn oath in the lord’s presence, vowing that anyone who refused to come would be put to death.
6The Israelites felt sorry for their brother Benjamin and said, “Today one of the tribes of Israel has been cut off. 7How can we find wives for the few who remain, since we have sworn by the lord not to give them our daughters in marriage?”
8So they asked, “Who among the tribes of Israel did not join us at Mizpah when we assembled in the presence of the lord?” And they discovered that no one from Jabesh-gilead had attended the assembly. 9For after they counted all the people, no one from Jabesh-gilead was present.
10So the assembly sent 12,000 of their best warriors to Jabesh-gilead with orders to kill everyone there, including women and children. 11“This is what you are to do,” they said. “Completely destroy# The Hebrew term used here refers to the complete consecration of things or people to the Lord, either by destroying them or by giving them as an offering. all the males and every woman who is not a virgin.” 12Among the residents of Jabesh-gilead they found 400 young virgins who had never slept with a man, and they brought them to the camp at Shiloh in the land of Canaan.
13The Israelite assembly sent a peace delegation to the remaining people of Benjamin who were living at the rock of Rimmon. 14Then the men of Benjamin returned to their homes, and the 400 women of Jabesh-gilead who had been spared were given to them as wives. But there were not enough women for all of them.
15The people felt sorry for Benjamin because the lord had made this gap among the tribes of Israel. 16So the elders of the assembly asked, “How can we find wives for the few who remain, since the women of the tribe of Benjamin are dead? 17There must be heirs for the survivors so that an entire tribe of Israel is not wiped out. 18But we cannot give them our own daughters in marriage because we have sworn with a solemn oath that anyone who does this will fall under God’s curse.”
19Then they thought of the annual festival of the lord held in Shiloh, south of Lebonah and north of Bethel, along the east side of the road that goes from Bethel to Shechem. 20They told the men of Benjamin who still needed wives, “Go and hide in the vineyards. 21When you see the young women of Shiloh come out for their dances, rush out from the vineyards, and each of you can take one of them home to the land of Benjamin to be your wife! 22And when their fathers and brothers come to us in protest, we will tell them, ‘Please be sympathetic. Let them have your daughters, for we didn’t find wives for all of them when we destroyed Jabesh-gilead. And you are not guilty of breaking the vow since you did not actually give your daughters to them in marriage.’”
23So the men of Benjamin did as they were told. Each man caught one of the women as she danced in the celebration and carried her off to be his wife. They returned to their own land, and they rebuilt their towns and lived in them.
24Then the people of Israel departed by tribes and families, and they returned to their own homes.
25In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.