Understanding the Old Testament

Benjamin Saved

(All quotations are from the New American Standard Bible translation)

After their defeat at Gibeah, not many young men from the tribe of Benjamin remained. Judges 20:47 tells us that only 600 Benjamite warriors survived the battle.

Judges 21 implies that the tribe of Benjamin was close to extinction, which is probably hyperbole. Yet the tribe had been severely weakened, perhaps to the point that they could no longer defend themselves against—much less conquer—the remaining Canaanites within their territory. (Recall that this occurred during the judgeship of Othniel, not long after Joshua had defeated the Canaanite armies, so there were still pockets of resistance in the land.)

To make matters worse, the Israelites had all taken an oath prior to the battle not to give any of their daughters to the Benjamites as wives. (Judges 21:1) So they faced a dilemma: how to repopulate Benjamin without violating their oath.

A partial solution was found in Jabesh-gilead, the one city which had not gone to war against Benjamin. (Jabesh-gilead was located east of the Jordan River.) The Israelites sent 12,000 warriors to destroy the city and its inhabitants, except for 400 young virgins who were brought back as wives for the Benjamites. (Judges 21:12)

But more wives were needed. So the Israelites told the Benjamites to steal wives from the daughters of Shiloh during the annual feast for the Lord. (Judges 21:19-21) In this way, the men of Shiloh did not violate their oath, since they did not “give” their daughters to the Benjamites.

Questions to ponder or discuss: What was the purpose of the Israelites’ oath to deny their daughters to the Benjamites? In retrospect, the Israelites probably regretted their oath because it could have meant the end of one of the tribes of Israel. (See Judges 21:2-7.) Can you think of a time when your actions had unintended consequences?

Copyright 2018 by Don Davidson

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Beyond Blind Faith: Reasons for the Hope We Have (1 Peter 3:15):

Why Reasonable People Should Consider Christianity

Stories of the Faithful (with some church history)

Christmas Stories

Understanding the Old Testament

The Truth About America Star Books


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I am a member of Trinity Arts Writers Workshop, in Bedford, Texas.