Brides for Benjamin
1The men of Israel had sworn an oath at Mizpah: “None of us will give his daughter to a Benjaminite in marriage.” 2So the people went to Bethel and sat there before God until evening. They wept loudly and bitterly, 3and cried out, “Why, Lord God of Israel, has it occurred that one tribe is missing in Israel today?” 4The next day the people got up early, built an altar there, and offered burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. 5The Israelites asked, “Who of all the tribes of Israel didn’t come to the Lord with the assembly?” For a great oath had been taken that anyone who had not come to the Lord at Mizpah would certainly be put to death.
6But the Israelites had compassion on their brothers, the Benjaminites, and said, “Today a tribe has been cut off from Israel. 7What should we do about wives for the survivors? We’ve sworn to the Lord not to give them any of our daughters as wives.” 8They asked, “Which city among the tribes of Israel didn’t come to the Lord at Mizpah?” It turned out that no one from Jabesh-gilead had come to the camp and the assembly. 9For when the roll was called, no men were there from the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead.
10The congregation sent twelve thousand brave warriors there and commanded them, “Go and kill the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead with the sword, including women and dependents. 11This is what you should do: Completely destroy every male, as well as every woman who has gone to bed with a man.” 12They found among the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead four hundred young virgins, who had not been intimate with a man, and they brought them to the camp at Shiloh in the land of Canaan.
13The whole congregation sent a message of peace to the Benjaminites who were at Rimmon Rock. 14Benjamin returned at that time, and Israel gave them the women they had kept alive from Jabesh-gilead. But there were not enough for them.
15The people had compassion on Benjamin, because the Lord had made this gap in the tribes of Israel. 16The elders of the congregation said, “What should we do about wives for those who are left, since the women of Benjamin have been destroyed?” 17They said, “There must be heirs for the survivors of Benjamin, so that a tribe of Israel will not be wiped out. 18But we can’t give them our daughters as wives.” For the Israelites had sworn, “Anyone who gives a wife to a Benjaminite is cursed.” 19They also said, “Look, there’s an annual festival to the Lord in Shiloh, which is north of Bethel, east of the highway that goes up from Bethel to Shechem, and south of Lebonah.”
20Then they commanded the Benjaminites, “Go and hide in the vineyards. 21Watch, and 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. 22When 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.’”
23The 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. 24At that time, each of the Israelites returned from there to his own tribe and family. Each returned from there to his own inheritance.
25In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did whatever seemed right to him.