Judges 21

Chapter 21

Preserving the Tribe of Benjamin. 1 The Israelites had sworn an oath at Mizpah saying, “None of us will give his daughter in marriage to a Benjaminite.” 2 The people went up to Bethel where they sat before God until the evening. They raised up their voices and wept bitterly. 3 They said, “O Lord, God of Israel, why has this happened to Israel, that today there should be one tribe missing from Israel?”

4 Early the next morning the people built an altar there and sacrificed burnt offerings and offered peace offerings. 5 The Israelites said, “Who from all of the tribes did not come up to the assembly of all of the tribes of Israel before the Lord?” (They had made a solemn oath that anyone who did not come before the Lord at Mizpah was to be put to death.) 6 The Israelites grieved for Benjamin, their brother. They said, “Today one tribe is cut off from Israel. 7 How shall we provide wives for those who remain, since we have sworn an oath to the Lord that we would not give them our daughters as their wives?”

8 Then they asked, “Which one of the tribes has not come to the Lord at Mizpah?” They found that no one from Jabesh-gilead had come to the assembly. 9 When they counted the people, they realized that none of the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead were there. 10 The assembly sent twelve thousand brave fighting men there, giving them the command, “Go and put the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead to the sword, including women and children. 11 This is what you are to do. Wipe out every man and every woman who has slept with a man.” 12 They found four hundred young women who had never slept with a man among the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead. They brought them into the camp in Shiloh which is in the land of Canaan. 13 The whole assembly sent a message to the Benjaminites who were at the rock of Rimmon, summoning them in peace. 14 The Benjaminites then returned and they were given wives from the women of Jabesh-gilead who had been kept alive. But there were not enough of them.

15 [a]The people grieved for Benjamin because the Lord had made a breach in the tribes of Israel. 16 The elders in the assembly said, “How are we going to provide wives for the rest of them? For the women of Benjamin have been annihilated.” 17 They said, “The Benjaminite survivors must have an inheritance, so that a tribe of Israel will not be blotted out. 18 We cannot give them our daughters as wives, for the Israelites have sworn an oath saying, ‘Cursed be anyone who gives a wife to Benjamin!’ ” 19 They continued, “But look, there is an annual festival of the Lord in Shiloh, to the north of Bethel and east of the road that runs from Bethel to Shechem and on to the south of Lebonah.” 20 They instructed the Benjaminites, “Go, lie in wait in the vineyards and stay on watch. 21 When the young women of Shiloh come out dancing, rise up out of the vineyards and each man can seize a wife for himself from the young women of Shiloh, and then return to Benjamin. 22 When their fathers and their brothers complain to us, we will say, ‘Please do us this favor, for we did not take a wife for each of them during the war. You are not guilty, for you did not really give your women to them.’ ”

23 This is what the Benjaminites did. Each man took a wife for himself from among the young women who were dancing. They then went and returned to their inheritance, rebuilding the cities and dwelling in them. 24 The Israelites then left that place and each man went to his own tribe, his own clan. Each man returned to his own inheritance. 25 In those days Israel had no king, and everyone did what in his own opinion he thought to be right.


  1. Judges 21:15 Despite their vow to withhold their women in marriage to the Benjaminite survivors, the Israelites seek a resolution to prevent the extinction of the tribe.

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