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Wives For Benjamites (ch. 21:1 - 25)


We note that in verse 1 the men of Israel swore an oath not to give any of their daughters to the men of the tribe of Benjamin.  As I've said before, whether in Jewish culture or pagan culture back then, oaths were taken very seriously.  If someone took an oath, you could bet that they would not back out of the oath.  The men of Israel took this oath and now that oath presented a big problem for them. 


In verses 2 and 4 the men of Israel went before the Lord in proper fashion.  They were serious.  They wept.  They asked the Lord what they should do because one of the twelve tribes were now on the road to distinction.  They could not fathom Israel losing one of the twelve tribes, especially through a violent civil war.


This was the problem.  There were 600 men of the tribe of Benjamin still alive.  They had no wives and the rest of Israel had made a vow not to provide wives to Benjamite men.  What should they do?


In verse 5 we see that Israel took another oath.  They were to kill any clan, anyone, who did not come to Mizpah and prepare for the battle against the tribe of Benjamin. 


Verse 6 states that Israel "grieved for their brothers", the Benjamites.  War, especially civil war is never very nice.  In sporting events, people tend to gloat in victory, and even in battle men tend to gloat in victory, but not so here.  Most of their brothers had just been killed in battle and the rest of Israel did not feel very good about that.  I would suggest this is the godly stance to take, even though they had just defeated their brothers in war. 


For those who know and understand the civil war that took place in the United States , you know how horrible, how unsettling, how devastating it can be.  Brothers fought against brothers.  A lot of great heart felt sorrow was experienced in that war.  The same here in Israel. 


In verse 9 to 12 we see the plan the Israelis came up with  to provide wives for the 600 men of Benjamin, and this is where their second oath comes in handy.  To recap; the Israeli men made two oaths.  The first was that they would not give any of their daughters to any surviving men from the tribe of Benjamin.  That created a problem for the 600 Benjamite surviving men that Israel  now felt bad about.  However, the men of Israel also made another oath.  They said before the lord that whoever did not help them fight the Benjamites would be put to death, and wouldn't you know, they discovered one clan that failed to help fight. 


The men of Israel fought against the clan that did not help fight.  They killed all the men and all the women, except for virgin girls, who they would give to the men of the tribe of Benjamin.  There was one more problem.  There were 400 virgins and 600 men.  They needed another 200 women for the Benjamite men.


Concerning the word "clan".  This word is often used in the Biblical history of Israel to denote and extended family within a tribe.  


In verse 13 we see that peace was made between the tribe of Benjamin and the rest of Israel.  The men of the tribe of Benjamin were given the 400 girls.  Now, the Israelis just had to come up with 200 more women for the men of Benjamin.


Note in verse 15 that the Israelis believed that "the Lord had made a gap in Israel".  Clearly, the rest of Israel understood that their victory over the tribe of Benjamin was God's will, and I believe it was.  It was an act of judgment on the tribe of Benjamin.  But now, the rest of Israel wanted to restore the remnant of Benjamin that was left .  They had to find 200 women.


In verse 18 we see the seriousness of making a vow.  Israel was saddened over the prospect of losing a tribe in Israel because the men had no wives, but they had made a vow not to give these men their wives, and they would never break that vow.  Most of us would have simply changed our minds.  Vows are meant to be broken, or so says the culture of our day.


From verse 19 to the end of the chapter we see how the Israelis dealt with this problem.  They were acting much like lawyers do today, or, much like the Pharisees in Jesus' day acted.  They noted that at Shiloh there was a yearly festival where young girls would go out dancing in the vineyards.  The men of Israel told the 200 Benjamite men to hide in the bushes.  When they saw the girls  dancing, they should go out and kidnap them.  So they did just that.  


However, to get around the first oath where no Israeli man should give his daughter to a Benjamite man, it was said that the girls were not given, but stolen.  There's a big difference.  Thus the oath was not broken.  This seems like one very humanistic attempt to solve a problem.


Verse 25 ends the book of Judges.  "In those days Israel had no king.  Everyone did what they thought was right in their own eyes".


As I've said before, the above statement proves that this book was at least edited some time during the period when Israel had a king, which would have been Saul, David, or Solomon.


Israel eventually got their king, but I tend to believe that it wasn't God's will, although some will disagree with this.  I believe them having a king was a concession on the part of God.  Israel wanted a king like their pagan neighbours, and we know that they were not to imitate their pagan nieghbours.  This would have been a form of  imitation.  I "might" think about conceding on this point, thinking that God did want Israel to eventually have a king, but the problem was the kind of king that Israel wanted was not God's kind of king.  It was a pagan style king.  The reason why I would think about changing my mind on this issue is because Jesus is both Lord and Christ.  He is both King and Messiah.  So, in the mind of God, kingship was important. 


The book of Judges is all about the ups and downs of Israeli history.  Some times they followed the Lord and sometimes they didn't.  Israel of old is not much different than the church throughout what theologians call the "church age".  Christians and the church can and should learn a lot from the book of Judges, but sadly, it is one of the most neglected books among Christian Bible teachers.  The book of Judges has the least amount of Bible commentaries.                                



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