Judges 21


The Israelites mourn because of the desolation of Benjamin, and

consult the Lord, 1-4.

They inquire who of Israel had not come to this war, as they had

vowed that those who would not make this a common cause should

be put to death, 5, 6.

They consult how they shall procure wives for the six hundred

men who had fled to the rock Rimmon, 7.

Finding that the men of Jabesh-gilead had not come to the war,

they send twelve thousand men against them, smite them, and

bring off four hundred virgins, which they give for wives to

those who had taken refuge in Rimmon, 8-14.

To provide for the two hundred which remained, they propose to

carry off two hundred virgins of the daughters of Shiloh, who

might come to the annual feast of the Lord, held at that place,


They take this counsel, and each carries away a virgin from the

feast, 23-25.


Verse 1. Now the men of Israel had sworn] Of this oath we had

not heard before; but it appears they had commenced this war with

a determination to destroy the Benjamites utterly, and that if any

of them escaped the sword no man should be permitted to give him

his daughter to wife. By these means the remnant of the tribe must

soon have been annihilated.

Verse 2. The people came to the house of God] Literally, the

people came to Bethel; this is considered as the name of a

place by the Chaldee, Syriac, Arabic, and Septuagint.

And wept sore] Their revenge was satisfied, and now reflection

brings them to contrition for what they had done.

Verse 3. Why is this come to pass] This was a very impertinent

question. They knew well enough how it came to pass. It was right

that the men of Gibeah should be punished, and it was right that

they who vindicated them should share in that punishment; but they

carried their revenge too far, they endeavoured to exterminate

both man and beast, Jud 20:48.

Verse 4. Built there an altar] This affords some evidence that

this was not a regular place of worship, else an altar would have

been found in the place; and their act was not according to the

law, as may be seen in several places of the Pentateuch. But there

was neither king nor law among them, and they did whatever

appeared right in their own eyes.

Verse 7. How shall we do for wives for them] From this it

appears that they had destroyed all the Benjamitish women and

children! They had set out with the purpose of exterminating the

whole tribe, and therefore they massacred the women, that if any

of the men escaped, they might neither find wife nor daughter; and

they bound themselves under an oath not to give any of their

females to any of the remnant of this tribe, that thus the whole

tribe might utterly perish.

Verse 8. There came none to the camp from Jabesh-gilead] As they

had sworn to destroy those who would not assist in this war,

Jud 21:5, they determined to destroy the men of Jabesh, and to

leave none alive except the virgins, and to give these to the six

hundred Benjamites that had escaped to the rock Rimmon. So twelve

thousand men went, smote the city, and killed all the males and

all the married women. The whole account is dreadful; and none

could have been guilty of all these enormities but those who were

abandoned of God. The crime of the men of Gibeah was of the

deepest die; the punishment, involving both the guilty and

innocent, was extended to the most criminal excess; and their mode

or redressing the evil which they had occasioned was equally


Verse 13. And to call peaceably unto them.] To proclaim peace to

them; to assure them that the enmity was all over, and that they

might with safety leave their strong hold.

Verse 14. Yet so they sufficed them not.] There were six hundred

men at Rimmon, and all the young women they saved from Jabesh were

only four hundred; therefore, there were two hundred still


Verse 19. There is a feast of the Lord] What this feast was is

not known: it might be either the passover, pentecost, or the

feast of tabernacles, or indeed some other peculiar to this place.

All the above feasts were celebrated at that time of the year when

the vines were in full leaf; therefore the Benjamites might easily

conceal themselves in the vineyards; and the circumstances will

answer to any of those feasts.

On the east side of the highway, &c.] I can see no reason for

this minute description, unless it intimates that this feast was

to be held this year in rather a different place to that which was

usual: and, as the Benjamites had been shut up in their strong

hold in Rimmon, they might not have heard of this alteration; and

it was necessary, in such a case, to give them the most

circumstantial information, that they might succeed in their

enterprise without being discovered.

Verse 21. And catch you every man his wife] That is, Let each

man of the two hundred Benjamites seize and carry off a woman,

whom he is, from that hour, to consider as his wife.

Verse 22. Be favourable unto them] They promise to use their

influence with the men of Shiloh to induce them to consent to a

connection thus fraudulently obtained, and which the necessity of

the case appeared to them to justify.

We reserved not to each man his wife in the war] The reading of

the Vulgate is very remarkable: Miseremini eorum, non enim

rapuerunt eas jure bellantium atque victorum, sed rogantibus ut

acciperent non dedistis, et a vestra parte peccatum est.-"Pardon

them, for they have not taken them as victors take captives in

war; but when they requested you to give them you did not;

therefore the fault is your own." Here it is intimated that

application had been made to the people of Shiloh to furnish these

two hundred Benjamites with wives, and that they had refused; and

it was this refusal that induced the Benjamites to seize and carry

them off. Does not St. Jerome, the translator, refer to the

history of the rape of the Sabine virgins? See below. Houbigant

translates the Hebrew thus: Veniam quaeso illis date; non enim ad

bellum duxerant suam quisque uxorem; et nisi eas illis nunc

concedetis, delicti rei eritis.-"Pardon them, I beseech you, for

they have not each taken his wife to the war; and unless you now

give these to them, you will sin." This intimates that, as the

Benjamites had not taken their wives with them to the war, where

some, if not all, of them might have escaped; and the Israelites

found them in the cities, and put them all to the sword; therefore

the people of Shiloh should give up those two hundred young women

to them for wives; and if they did not, it would be a sin, the

circumstances of the case being considered.

Our translation seems to give as a reason to the men of Shiloh

why they should pardon this rape, that as they had not permitted

the women to live in their war with Benjamin, therefore these men

are now destitute; and the concession which they wish them to make

may be considered as more of an obligation to the Israelites than

to the Benjamites. It is an obscure sentence; and the reader, if

not pleased with what is laid down, may endeavour to satisfy

himself with others which he may find in different versions and

commentators. The Vulgate gives a good sense to the passage; but

probably Houbigant comes nearest to the meaning.

Verse 23. They went and returned unto their inheritance] It

appears that the Benjamites acted in the most honourable way by

the women whom they had thus violently carried off; and we may

rest assured they took them to an inheritance at least equal to

their own, for it does not appear that any part of the lands of

the Benjamites was alienated from them, and the six hundred men in

question shared, for the present, the inheritance of many


Verse 24. Every man to his tribe] Though this must have been

four months after the war with Benjamin, Jud 20:47; yet it

appears the armies did not disband till they had got the remnant

of Benjamin settled, as is here related.

Verse 25. In those days there was no king in Israel] Let no one

suppose that the sacred writer, by relating the atrocities in this

and the preceding chapters, justifies the actions themselves; by

no means. Indeed, they cannot be justified; and the writer by

relating them gives the strongest proof of the authenticity of the

whole, by such an impartial relation of facts that were highly to

be discredit of his country.

I HAVE already referred to the rape of the Sabine virgins. The

story is told by Livy, Hist. lib. i., cap. 9, the substance of

which is as follows: Romulus having opened an asylum at his

new-built city of Rome for all kinds of persons, the number of men

who flocked to his standard was soon very considerable; but as

they had few women, or, as Livy says, penuria mulierum, a dearth

of women, he sent to all the neighbouring states to invite them to

make inter-marriages with his people. Not one of the tribes around

him received the proposal; and some of them insulted his

ambassador, and said, Ecquod feminis quoque asylum aperuissent? Id

enim demum compar connubium fore? "Why have you not also opened an

asylum for WOMEN, which would have afforded you suitable matches?"

This exasperated Romulus, but he concealed his resentment, and,

having published that he intended a great feast to Neptune

Equester, invited all the neighbouring tribes to come to it: they

did so, and were received by the Romans with the greatest

cordiality and friendship. The Sabines, with their wives and

children, came in great numbers, and each Roman citizen

entertained a stranger. When the games began, and each was intent

on the spectacle before them, at a signal given, the young Romans

rushed in among the Sabine women, and each carried off one, whom

however they used in the kindest manner, marrying them according

to their own rites with due solemnity, and admitting them to all

the rights and privileges of the new commonwealth. The number

carried off on this occasion amounted to near seven hundred; but

this act of violence produced disastrous wars between the Romans

and the Sabines, which were at last happily terminated by the

mediation of the very women whose rape had been the cause of

their commencement. The story may be seen at large in Livy,

Plutarch, and others.

Thus ends the book of Judges; a work which, while it introduces

the history of Samuel and that of the kings of Judah and Israel,

forms in some sort a supplement to the book of Joshua, and

furnishes the only account we have of those times of anarchy and

confusion, which extended nearly from the times of the elders who

survived Joshua, to the establishment of the Jewish monarchy under

Saul, David, and their successors. For other uses of this book,

see the preface.


The number of verses in this book is six hundred and eighteen.

Its Masoretic chapters are fourteen.

And its middle verse is Jud 10:8:

And that year they vexed and oppressed the children of Israel,


Corrected for a new edition, December 1, 1827.-A. C.

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