Getting Wives for the Men of Benjamin
1 At Mizpah, the men of Israel made a promise. This was their promise: “Not one of us will let his daughter marry a man from the tribe of Benjamin.”
2 The Israelites went to the city of Bethel. There they sat before God until evening. They cried loudly as they sat there. 3 They said to God, “LORD, you are the God of the Israelites. Why has this terrible thing happened to us? Why has one tribe of the Israelites been taken away?”
4 Early the next day, the Israelites built an altar. They put burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to God on that altar. 5 Then the Israelites said, “Are there any tribes of Israel who did not come here to meet with us before the LORD?” They asked this question because they had made a serious promise. They had promised that anyone who did not come together with the other tribes at the city of Mizpah would be killed.
6 Then the Israelites felt sorry for their relatives, the people of Benjamin. They said, “Today, one tribe has been separated from Israel. 7 We made a promise with an oath before the LORD. We promised not to allow our daughters to marry a man from Benjamin. How can we make sure that the men of Benjamin will have wives?”
8 Then the Israelites asked, “Which one of the tribes of Israel did not come here to Mizpah? We have come together before the LORD. Surely one family was not here!” Then they found that no one from the city of Jabesh Gilead had met together with the other Israelites. 9 The Israelites counted everyone to see who was there and who was not. They found that no one from Jabesh Gilead was there. 10 So the Israelites sent 12,000 soldiers to the city of Jabesh Gilead. They told the soldiers, “Go to Jabesh Gilead, and use your swords to kill everyone who lives there, even the women and children. 11 You must do this! You must kill every man in Jabesh Gilead and every woman who has had sexual relations with a man. But do not kill any woman who has never had sex with a man.” So the soldiers did these things.* But do not kill … these things This is from the ancient Greek version. 12 The 12,000 soldiers found 400 young women in the city of Jabesh Gilead who had never had sex with a man. They brought these women to the camp at Shiloh in the land of Canaan.
13 Then the Israelites sent a message to the men of Benjamin. They offered to make peace with the men of Benjamin. The men of Benjamin were at the place named the Rock of Rimmon. 14 So the men of Benjamin came back to Israel. The Israelites gave them the women from Jabesh Gilead who they had not killed. But there were not enough women for all the men of Benjamin.
15 The Israelites felt sorry for the men of Benjamin. They felt sorry for them because the LORD had separated them from the other tribes of Israel. 16 The elders of the Israelites said, “The women of the tribe of Benjamin have been killed. Where can we get wives for the men of Benjamin who are still alive? 17 The men of Benjamin who are still alive must have children to continue their families. This must be done so that a tribe in Israel will not die out! 18 But we cannot allow our daughters to marry the men of Benjamin. We have made this promise: ‘Bad things will happen to anyone who gives a wife to a man of Benjamin.’ 19 We have an idea! This is the time for the festival of the LORD at the city of Shiloh. This festival is celebrated every year there.” (The city of Shiloh is north of the city of Bethel and east of the road that goes from Bethel to Shechem. And it is also to the south of the city of Lebonah.)
20 So the elders told the men of Benjamin about their idea. They said, “Go and hide in the vineyards. 21 Watch for the time during the festival when the young women from Shiloh come out to join the dancing. Then run out from where you are hiding in the vineyards. Each of you should take one of the young women from the city of Shiloh. Take them to the land of Benjamin and marry them. 22 The fathers or brothers of the young women will come and complain to us. But we will say, ‘Be kind to the men of Benjamin. Let them marry the women. We could not get wives for each of them during the war. And you did not willingly give the women to the men of Benjamin, so you did not break your promise.’ ”
23 So that is what the men of the tribe of Benjamin did. While the young women were dancing, each man caught one of them. They took them away and married them. Then they went back to their land. The men of Benjamin built cities again in that land, and they lived in them. 24 Then the Israelites went home. They went to their own land and tribe.
25 In those days the Israelites did not have a king, so everyone did whatever they thought was right.
*21:11 But do not kill … these things This is from the ancient Greek version.