600 Brides for 600 Brothers1 The Israelites had taken an oath in Mizpah, saying, “Not one of us will allow his daughter to marry a Benjaminite.” 2 So the people came to Bethel ▼ and sat there before God until evening, weeping loudly and uncontrollably. ▼
▼ Heb “and they lifted up their voice[s] and wept with great weeping.” Both the cognate accusative בְּכִי (bekhi, “weeping”) and the attributive adjective גָדוֹל (gadol, “great”) emphasize their degree of sorrow.3 They said, “Why, O Lord God of Israel, has this happened in Israel?” An entire ▼
▼ Heb “one.”tribe has disappeared from Israel today!”
4 The next morning the people got up early and built an altar there. They offered up burnt sacrifices and token of peace. ▼
▼ Or “peace offerings.”5 The Israelites asked, “Who from all the Israelite tribes has not assembled before the Lord?” They had made a solemn oath that whoever did not assemble before the Lord at Mizpah must certainly be executed. ▼
▼ Heb “A great oath there was concerning the one who did not go up before the Lord at Mizpah, saying, ‘He must surely be put to death.’”6 The Israelites regretted what had happened to ▼
▼ Or “felt sorry for.”their brother Benjamin. They said, “Today we cut off an entire ▼
▼ Heb “cut off one.”tribe from Israel! 7 How can we find wives for those who are left? ▼
▼ Heb “What should we do for them, for the remaining ones, concerning wives?”After all, we took an oath in the Lord’s name not to give them our daughters as wives.” 8 So they asked, “Who from all the Israelite tribes did not assemble before the Lord at Mizpah?” Now it just so happened no one from Jabesh Gilead had come to the gathering. ▼
▼ Heb “Look, no one had come to the camp from Jabesh Gilead to the assembly.”9 When they took roll call, ▼
▼ Or “when the people were mustered.”they noticed ▼
▼ Heb “and look.”none of the inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead were there. 10 So the assembly sent 12,000 capable warriors ▼
▼ Heb “men, sons of strength.”against Jabesh Gilead. ▼
▼ Heb “there.”They commanded them, “Go and kill with your swords ▼
▼ Heb “the edge of the sword.”the inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead, including the women and little children. 11 Do this: ▼
▼ Heb “And this is the thing that you will do.”exterminate every male, as well as every woman who has had sexual relations with a male. ▼
▼ Heb “every woman who is familiar with the bed of a male.”But spare the lives of any virgins.” So they did as instructed. ▼
▼ Some Greek witnesses (notably Codex Vaticanus [B]) add the words, “‘But the virgins you should keep alive.’ And they did so.” These additional words, which probably represent the original Hebrew text, can be retroverted: וְאֶת־הַבְּתוּלוֹת תְּחַיּוּ וַיַּעֲשׂוּ כֵן (ve’et-habbetulot tekhayyu vayya’asu khen). It is likely that a scribe’s eye jumped from the vav (ו) on וְאֶת (ve’et) to the initial vav of v. 11, accidentally leaving out the intervening letters. The present translation is based on this reconstruction.12 They found among the inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead four hundred young girls who were virgins – they had never had sexual relations with a male. ▼
▼ Heb “who had not known a man with respect to the bed of a male.”They brought them back to the camp at Shiloh in the land of Canaan.
13 The entire assembly sent messengers to the Benjaminites at the cliff of Rimmon and assured them they would not be harmed. ▼
▼ Heb “And all the assembly sent and spoke to the sons of Benjamin who were at the cliff of Rimmon and they proclaimed to them peace.”14 The Benjaminites returned at that time, and the Israelites ▼
▼ Heb “they”; the referent (the Israelites) has been specified in the translation for clarity.gave to them the women they had spared from Jabesh Gilead. But there were not enough to go around. ▼
▼ Heb “but they did not find for them enough.”
15 The people regretted what had happened to ▼
▼ Or “felt sorry for.”Benjamin because the Lord had weakened ▼
▼ Heb “had made a gaping hole in.” The narrator uses imagery that compares Israel to a wall that has been breached.the Israelite tribes. 16 The leaders ▼
▼ Or “elders.”of the assembly said, “How can we find wives for those who are left? ▼
▼ Heb “What should we do for the remaining ones concerning wives?”After all, the Benjaminite women have been wiped out. 17 The ▼ remnant of Benjamin must be preserved. An entire Israelite tribe should not be wiped out. ▼
▼ Heb “An inheritance for the remnant belonging to Benjamin, and a tribe from Israel will not be wiped away.” The first statement lacks a verb. Some prefer to emend the text to read, “How can an inheritance remain for the remnant of Benjamin?”18 But we can’t allow our daughters to marry them, ▼
▼ Heb “But we are not able to give to them wives from our daughters.”for the Israelites took an oath, saying, ‘Whoever gives a woman to a Benjaminite will be destroyed!’ ▼
▼ Heb “is cursed.”19 However, there is an annual festival to the Lord in Shiloh, which is north of Bethel ▼ (east of the main road that goes up from Bethel to Shechem) and south of Lebonah.” 20 So they commanded the Benjaminites, “Go hide in the vineyards, 21 and keep your eyes open. ▼
▼ Heb “and look.”When you see ▼
▼ Heb “and look, when.”the daughters of Shiloh coming out to dance in the celebration, ▼
▼ Heb “in the dances.”jump out from the vineyards. Each one of you, catch yourself a wife from among the daughters of Shiloh and then go home to the land of Benjamin. 22 When their fathers or brothers come and protest to us, ▼
▼ The (original) LXX and Vulgate read “to you.”we’ll say to them, “Do us a favor and let them be, ▼
▼ The words “and let them be” are supplied in the translation for clarification.for we could not get each one a wife through battle. ▼
▼ Heb “for we did not take each his wife in battle.”▼
▼ Through battle. This probably refers to the battle against Jabesh Gilead, which only produced four hundred of the six hundred wives needed.Don’t worry about breaking your oath! ▼
▼ This sentence is not in the Hebrew text. It is supplied in the translation to clarify the logic of the statement.You would only be guilty if you had voluntarily given them wives.’” ▼
▼ Heb “You did not give to them, now you are guilty.” The MT as it stands makes little sense. It is preferable to emend לֹא (lo’, “not”) to לוּא (lu’, “if”). This particle introduces a purely hypothetical condition, “If you had given to them [but you didn’t].” See G. F. Moore, Judges (ICC), 453–54.
23 The Benjaminites did as instructed. ▼
▼ Heb “did so.”They abducted two hundred of the dancing girls to be their wives. ▼
▼ Heb “And they took wives according to their number from the dancing girls whom they abducted.”They went home ▼
▼ Heb “went and returned.”to their own territory, ▼
▼ Heb “inheritance.”rebuilt their cities, and settled down. ▼
▼ Heb “and lived in them.”24 Then the Israelites dispersed from there to their respective tribal and clan territories. Each went from there to his own property. ▼
▼ Heb “his inheritance.”25 In those days Israel had no king. Each man did what he considered to be right. ▼
▼ Heb “Each was doing what was right in his [own] eyes.”▼
▼ Each man did what he considered to be right. The Book of Judges closes with this note, which summarizes the situation of the Israelite tribes during this period.
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