Judges 21:4-24 (JDV)
Judges 21:4 The next day the people got up early, built an altar there, and offered burnt offerings and fellowship offerings.
Judges 21:5 The Israelites asked, “Who of all the tribes of Israel didn’t come to Yahveh in the collection?” Because a great oath had been taken that anyone who had not come to Yahveh at Mizpah would certainly be put to death.
Judges 21:6 But the Israelites had compassion on their brothers, the Benjaminites, and said, “Today a tribe has been removed from Israel.
Judges 21:7 What should we do about wives for the survivors? We’ve sworn to Yahveh not to give them any of our daughters as wives.”
Judges 21:8 They asked, “Which city among the tribes of Israel didn’t come to Yahveh at Mizpah?” It turned out that no one from Jabesh-Gilead had come to the camp and the collection.
Judges 21:9 For when the roll was called, no men were there from the inhabitants of Jabesh-Gilead.
Judges 21:10 The congregation sent twelve thousand capable sons there and commanded them: “Go and strike the inhabitants of Jabesh-Gilead down with the sword, including women and dependents.
Judges 21:11 This is what you should do: Exterminate every male, as well as every woman who has had sex with a man.”
Judges 21:12 They found among the inhabitants of Jabesh-Gilead four hundred young virgins, who had not had sex with a man, and they brought them to the camp at Shiloh in the land of Canaan.
Judges 21:13 The whole congregation sent a message of peace to the Benjaminites who were at Rimmon Rock.
Judges 21:14 Benjamin returned at that time, and Israel gave them the women they had kept alive from Jabesh-Gilead. But there were not enough for them.
Judges 21:15 The people had compassion on Benjamin, because Yahveh had made this gap in the tribes of Israel.
Judges 21:16 The elders of the congregation said, “What should we do about wives for those who are left, since the women of Benjamin have been destroyed?”
Judges 21:17 They said, “There must be heirs for the survivors of Benjamin, so that a tribe of Israel will not be wiped out.
Judges 21:18 But we can’t give them our daughters as wives” because the Israelites had sworn, “Anyone who gives a wife to a Benjaminite is cursed.”
Judges 21:19 They also said, “Notice, there’s an annual festival to Yahveh in Shiloh, which is north of Bethel, east of the highway that goes up from Bethel to Shechem, and south of Lebonah.”
Judges 21:20 Then they commanded the Benjaminites: “Go and hide in the vineyards.
Judges 21:21 Watch, and notice when you see the young women of Shiloh come out to perform the dances, each of you leave the vineyards and catch a wife for yourself from the young women of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin.
Judges 21:22 When their fathers or brothers come to us and protest, we will tell them, ‘Show favor to them, since we did not get enough wives for each of them in the battle. You didn’t actually give the women to them, so you are not guilty of breaking your oath.'”
Judges 21:23 The Benjaminites did this and took the number of women they needed from the dancers they caught. They went back to their own inheritance, rebuilt their cities, and lived in them.
Judges 21:24 At that time, each of the Israelites returned from there to his own tribe and family. Each returned from there to his own inheritance.
Judges 21:25 In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did whatever looked right to his own eyes.
The final story in Judges leaves us with more questions. The logic behind the Israelites’ attack on Jabesh Gilead and the kidnappings at Shiloh are hard to figure out. They were doing what they thought was right — what they thought would bring peace and restore their brother tribe — which they had practically exterminated.
Human failure leads to problems too complicated for us to repair. USA is still trying to repair the damage we have done to ourselves by our greed and abuse of native Americans and African slaves. History shows that our solutions almost always fail to address the problems correctly.
One lesson we learn from Judges is that it is always better to do something God’s way rather than our own. If unaided by divine instruction, we will always make a mess of it, even if we are trying to do what is right.
LORD, we seek what is right in your sight. Our solutions are imperfect.