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Judges 21

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600 Brides for 600 Brothers

21:1 The Israelites had taken an oath in Mizpah, saying, “Not one of us will allow his daughter to marry a Benjaminite.” 21:2 So the people came to Bethel 1  and sat there before God until evening, weeping loudly and uncontrollably. 2  21:3 They said, “Why, O Lord God of Israel, has this happened in Israel?” An entire 3  tribe has disappeared from Israel today!”

21:4 The next morning the people got up early and built an altar there. They offered up burnt sacrifices and token of peace. 4  21:5 The Israelites asked, “Who from all the Israelite tribes has not assembled before the Lord?” They had made a solemn oath that whoever did not assemble before the Lord at Mizpah must certainly be executed. 5  21:6 The Israelites regretted what had happened to 6  their brother Benjamin. They said, “Today we cut off an entire 7  tribe from Israel! 21:7 How can we find wives for those who are left? 8  After all, we took an oath in the Lord’s name not to give them our daughters as wives.” 21:8 So they asked, “Who from all the Israelite tribes did not assemble before the Lord at Mizpah?” Now it just so happened no one from Jabesh Gilead had come to the gathering. 9  21:9 When they took roll call, 10  they noticed 11  none of the inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead were there. 21:10 So the assembly sent 12,000 capable warriors 12  against Jabesh Gilead. 13  They commanded them, “Go and kill with your swords 14  the inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead, including the women and little children. 21:11 Do this: 15  exterminate every male, as well as every woman who has had sexual relations with a male. 16  But spare the lives of any virgins.” So they did as instructed. 17  21:12 They found among the inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead four hundred young girls who were virgins – they had never had sexual relations with a male. 18  They brought them back to the camp at Shiloh in the land of Canaan.

21:13 The entire assembly sent messengers to the Benjaminites at the cliff of Rimmon and assured them they would not be harmed. 19  21:14 The Benjaminites returned at that time, and the Israelites 20  gave to them the women they had spared from Jabesh Gilead. But there were not enough to go around. 21 

21:15 The people regretted what had happened to 22  Benjamin because the Lord had weakened 23  the Israelite tribes. 21:16 The leaders 24  of the assembly said, “How can we find wives for those who are left? 25  After all, the Benjaminite women have been wiped out. 21:17 The 26  remnant of Benjamin must be preserved. An entire Israelite tribe should not be wiped out. 27  21:18 But we can’t allow our daughters to marry them, 28  for the Israelites took an oath, saying, ‘Whoever gives a woman to a Benjaminite will be destroyed!’ 29  21:19 However, there is an annual festival to the Lord in Shiloh, which is north of Bethel 30  (east of the main road that goes up from Bethel to Shechem) and south of Lebonah.” 21:20 So they commanded the Benjaminites, “Go hide in the vineyards, 21:21 and keep your eyes open. 31  When you see 32  the daughters of Shiloh coming out to dance in the celebration, 33  jump out from the vineyards. Each one of you, catch yourself a wife from among the daughters of Shiloh and then go home to the land of Benjamin. 21:22 When their fathers or brothers come and protest to us, 34  we’ll say to them, “Do us a favor and let them be, 35  for we could not get each one a wife through battle. 36  Don’t worry about breaking your oath! 37  You would only be guilty if you had voluntarily given them wives.’” 38 

21:23 The Benjaminites did as instructed. 39  They abducted two hundred of the dancing girls to be their wives. 40  They went home 41  to their own territory, 42  rebuilt their cities, and settled down. 43  21:24 Then the Israelites dispersed from there to their respective tribal and clan territories. Each went from there to his own property. 44  21:25 In those days Israel had no king. Each man did what he considered to be right. 45 

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1 map For location see Map4 G4; Map5 C1; Map6 E3; Map7 D1; Map8 G3.

2 tn Heb “and they lifted up their voice[s] and wept with great weeping.” Both the cognate accusative בְּכִי (bekhi, “weeping”) and the attributive adjective גָדוֹל (gadol, “great”) emphasize their degree of sorrow.

3 tn Heb “one.”

4 tn Or “peace offerings.”

5 tn Heb “A great oath there was concerning the one who did not go up before the Lord at Mizpah, saying, ‘He must surely be put to death.’”

6 tn Or “felt sorry for.”

7 tn Heb “cut off one.”

8 tn Heb “What should we do for them, for the remaining ones, concerning wives?”

9 tn Heb “Look, no one had come to the camp from Jabesh Gilead to the assembly.”

10 tn Or “when the people were mustered.”

11 tn Heb “and look.”

12 tn Heb “men, sons of strength.”

13 tn Heb “there.”

14 tn Heb “the edge of the sword.”

15 tn Heb “And this is the thing that you will do.”

16 tn Heb “every woman who is familiar with the bed of a male.”

17 tc Some Greek witnesses (notably Codex Vaticanus [B]) add the words, “‘But the virgins you should keep alive.’ And they did so.” These additional words, which probably represent the original Hebrew text, can be retroverted: וְאֶת־הַבְּתוּלוֹת תְּחַיּוּ וַיַּעֲשׂוּ כֵן (veet-habbÿtulot tÿkhayyu vayyaasu khen). It is likely that a scribe’s eye jumped from the vav (ו) on וְאֶת (vÿet) to the initial vav of v. 11, accidentally leaving out the intervening letters. The present translation is based on this reconstruction.

18 tn Heb “who had not known a man with respect to the bed of a male.”

19 tn Heb “And all the assembly sent and spoke to the sons of Benjamin who were at the cliff of Rimmon and they proclaimed to them peace.”

20 tn Heb “they”; the referent (the Israelites) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

21 tn Heb “but they did not find for them enough.”

22 tn Or “felt sorry for.”

23 tn Heb “had made a gaping hole in.” The narrator uses imagery that compares Israel to a wall that has been breached.

24 tn Or “elders.”

25 tn Heb “What should we do for the remaining ones concerning wives?”

26 tn The Hebrew text has “and they said” at the beginning of the verse. For stylistic reasons the translation treats v. 17 as a continuation of the remarks of the leaders in v. 16.

27 tn Heb “An inheritance for the remnant belonging to Benjamin, and a tribe from Israel will not be wiped away.” The first statement lacks a verb. Some prefer to emend the text to read, “How can an inheritance remain for the remnant of Benjamin?”

28 tn Heb “But we are not able to give to them wives from our daughters.”

29 tn Heb “is cursed.”

30 map For location see Map4 G4; Map5 C1; Map6 E3; Map7 D1; Map8 G3.

31 tn Heb “and look.”

32 tn Heb “and look, when.”

33 tn Heb “in the dances.”

34 tc The (original) LXX and Vulgate read “to you.”

35 tn The words “and let them be” are supplied in the translation for clarification.

36 tn Heb “for we did not take each his wife in battle.”

sn Through battle. This probably refers to the battle against Jabesh Gilead, which only produced four hundred of the six hundred wives needed.

37 tn This sentence is not in the Hebrew text. It is supplied in the translation to clarify the logic of the statement.

38 tc Heb “You did not give to them, now you are guilty.” The MT as it stands makes little sense. It is preferable to emend לֹא (lo’, “not”) to לוּא (lu’, “if”). This particle introduces a purely hypothetical condition, “If you had given to them [but you didn’t].” See G. F. Moore, Judges (ICC), 453-54.

39 tn Heb “did so.”

40 tn Heb “And they took wives according to their number from the dancing girls whom they abducted.”

41 tn Heb “went and returned.”

42 tn Heb “inheritance.”

43 tn Heb “and lived in them.”

44 tn Heb “his inheritance.”

45 tn Heb “Each was doing what was right in his [own] eyes.”

sn Each man did what he considered to be right. The Book of Judges closes with this note, which summarizes the situation of the Israelite tribes during this period.



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