Jud 21:1-15. The People
Bewail The Desolation of Israel.
2-5. the people came to the house of God, …
and lifted up their voices, and wept sore—The characteristic
fickleness of the Israelites was not long in being displayed; for
scarcely had they cooled from the fierceness of their sanguinary
vengeance, than they began to relent and rushed to the opposite extreme
of self-accusation and grief at the desolation which their impetuous
zeal had produced. Their victory saddened and humbled them. Their
feelings on the occasion were expressed by a public and solemn service
of expiation at the house of God. And yet this extraordinary
observance, though it enabled them to find vent for their painful
emotions, did not afford them full relief, for they were fettered by
the obligation of a religious vow, heightened by the addition of a
solemn anathema on every violator of the oath. There is no previous
record of this oath; but the purport of it was, that they would treat
the perpetrators of this Gibeah atrocity in the same way as the
Canaanites, who were doomed to destruction; and the entering into this
solemn league was of a piece with the rest of their inconsiderate
conduct in this whole affair.
6. There is one tribe cut off from Israel this
day—that is, in danger of becoming extinct; for, as it
appears from Jud 21:7,
they had massacred all the women and children of Benjamin, and six
hundred men alone survived of the whole tribe. The prospect of such a
blank in the catalogue of the twelve tribes, such a gap in the national
arrangements, was too painful to contemplate, and immediate measures
must be taken to prevent this great catastrophe.
8. there came none to the camp from Jabesh-gilead
to the assembly—This city lay within the territory of eastern
Manasseh, about fifteen miles east of the Jordan, and was, according to
Josephus, the capital of Gilead. The ban
which the assembled tribes had pronounced at Mizpeh seemed to impose on
them the necessity of punishing its inhabitants for not joining the
crusade against Benjamin; and thus, with a view of repairing the
consequences of one rash proceeding, they hurriedly rushed to the
perpetration of another, though a smaller tragedy. But it appears
21:11) that, besides acting
in fulfilment of their oath, the Israelites had the additional object
by this raid of supplying wives to the Benjamite remnant. This shows
the intemperate fury of the Israelites in the indiscriminate slaughter
of the women and children.
Jud 21:16-21. The Elders
Consult How to Find Wives for Those That Were Left.
16. the elders of the congregation said, How shall
we do for wives for them that remain—Though the young women
of Jabesh-gilead had been carefully spared, the supply was found
inadequate, and some other expedient must be resorted to.
17. There must be an inheritance for them that be
escaped of Benjamin—As they were the only rightful owners of
the territory, provision must be made for transmitting it to their
legitimate heirs, and a new act of violence was meditated (Jud 21:19); the opportunity for which was afforded
by the approaching festival—a feast generally supposed to be the
feast of tabernacles. This, like the other annual feasts, was held in
Shiloh, and its celebration was attended with more social hilarity and
holiday rejoicings than the other feasts.
19. on the east side of the highway that goeth up
from Beth-el to Shechem—The exact site of the place was
described evidently for the direction of the Benjamites.
21, 22. daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in
dances—The dance was anciently a part of the religious
observance. It was done on festive occasions, as it is still in the
East, not in town, but in the open air, in some adjoining field, the
women being by themselves. The young women being alone indulging their
light and buoyant spirits, and apprehensive of no danger, facilitated
the execution of the scheme of seizing them, which closely resembles
the Sabine rape in Roman history. The elders undertook to reconcile the
families to the forced abduction of their daughters. And thus the
expression of their public sanction to this deed of violence afforded a
new evidence of the evils and difficulties into which the unhappy
precipitancy of the Israelites in this crisis had involved them.