Judges 21:12-15: The Israelites Finagle Four Hundred Wives for the Benjamites

Verse 12:[1] And they found among the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead four hundred young virgins (Heb. young women virgins[2]), that had known no man by lying with any male: and they brought them unto the camp to (Josh. 18:1) Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan.

[That had not known the couch of a man, לֹֽא־יָדְעָ֛ה אִ֖ישׁ לְמִשְׁכַּ֣ב זָכָ֑ר] That had not experienced a man by intercourse with a male (Junius and Tremellius). Moreover, that only the virgins that were adult or marriageable, or were soon going to be marriageable, were preserved, I think, with Serarius, to be more probable; although Tostatus thinks that others were also saved: For Scripture indicates that only four hundred were preserved (Lapide).

Young virgins; not married, yet marriageable. It is probable there were other and younger virgins; but whether they were slain or spared Scripture determines not, and the learned do not agree. But these could not serve the present and urgent occasion, and therefore he takes notice only of these four hundred which were of riper age.

[Unto the camp in Shiloh, into the land of Canaan,אֶל־הַֽמַּחֲנֶה֙ שִׁלֹ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֖ר בְּאֶ֥רֶץ כְּנָֽעַן׃] [They vary.] Unto the camp of Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan (Syriac). [Others refer the אֲשֶׁר/which to the camp:] Unto the camp in Shiloh, which camp was (or, which camp remained [Junius and Tremellius, Vatablus]) in the land of Canaan (Pagnine), that is, which had not crossed Jordan to attack Jabesh-Gilead (Junius). Moreover, it is said to have been in Canaan, as a distinction from Jabesh-gilead, which was on the other side of Jordan (Malvenda). The land on this side of Jordan was properly called the land of Canaan, since the Canaanites had always possessed it; but the Idumeans, Ammonites, and Moabites, who had been driven out by the Amorites, formerly inhabited the land on the other side of Jordan (Bonfrerius). Moreover, from this place it is evident that Beth-el and Shiloh are the same place, and that here Beth-el is taken for the house of God,[3] not for a certain place (Munster).

Verse 13:[4] And the whole congregation sent some to speak to the children of Benjamin (Judg. 20:47) that were in the rock Rimmon, and to call (Heb. and spake and called[5]) peaceably (or, proclaim peace,[6] Deut. 20:10[7]) unto them.

[And they instructed them] Hebrew: they spoke,[8] understanding, through their legates, who would speak (Vatablus).

[That they receive them in peace] Hebrew: and they proclaimed (or, called [Malvenda]) peace to them (Junius and Tremellius). שָׁלוֹם, with peace (Pagnine), or, in peace; that is, they addressed them with pacific words. Others: they treated of peace with them (Vatablus).

Verse 14:[9] And Benjamin came again at that time; and they gave them wives which they had saved alive of the women of Jabesh-gilead: and yet so they sufficed them not.

Benjamin; the poor remainders of the tribe of Benjamin.

[And wives were given to them] In which they did not violate their oath. 1. Because they had not given to them their daughters. 2. The inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead could have given their daughters to them, if they had survived, since they had not obliged themselves by that oath (Bonfrerius).

[They received not others, וְלֹֽא־מָצְא֥וּ לָהֶ֖ם כֵּֽן׃] And they did not find for them thus (Montanus, Vatablus, Malvenda), that is, not in this manner, and with this method devised by them, did they find enough wives for them (Vatablus). And they did not suffice for them thus (Jonathan, Syriac, Arabic, Munster, Tigurinus, Drusius, similarly Junius and Tremellius, Piscator). מָצָא here means to suffice; as in Numbers 11:22;[10] Hosea 12:8.[11] Hence הִמְצִיאוּ in Leviticus 9:13, they supplied;[12] in Psalm 21:8, תִּמְצָ֣א יָ֭דְךָ לְכָל־אֹיְבֶ֑יךָ, thine hand is sufficient for all thine enemies (Drusius).

Verse 15:[13] And the people (Judg. 21:6) repented them for Benjamin, because that the LORD had made a breach in the tribes of Israel.

The people repented them for Benjamin; were yet more grieved upon this unhappy disappointment, for they supposed here would have been wives sufficient for them. The Lord had made a breach; the Benjamites were the only authors of the sin, but God was the chief author of the punishment, and the Israelites were but his executioners.

[1] Hebrew: וַֽיִּמְצְא֞וּ מִיּוֹשְׁבֵ֣י׀ יָבֵ֣ישׁ גִּלְעָ֗ד אַרְבַּ֤ע מֵאוֹת֙ נַעֲרָ֣ה בְתוּלָ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֧ר לֹֽא־יָדְעָ֛ה אִ֖ישׁ לְמִשְׁכַּ֣ב זָכָ֑ר וַיָּבִ֙יאוּ אוֹתָ֤ם אֶל־הַֽמַּחֲנֶה֙ שִׁלֹ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֖ר בְּאֶ֥רֶץ כְּנָֽעַן׃

[2] Hebrew: נַעֲרָ֣ה בְתוּלָ֔ה.

[3] Beth-el literally means the house of God, joining בֵּית/Beth/house and אֵל/El/God.

[4] Hebrew: וַֽיִּשְׁלְחוּ֙ כָּל־הָ֣עֵדָ֔ה וַֽיְדַבְּרוּ֙ אֶל־בְּנֵ֣י בִנְיָמִ֔ן אֲשֶׁ֖ר בְּסֶ֣לַע רִמּ֑וֹן וַיִּקְרְא֥וּ לָהֶ֖ם שָׁלֽוֹם׃

[5] Hebrew: וַיְדַבְּרוּ—וַיִּקְרְאוּ.

[6] Hebrew: וַיִּקְרְא֥וּ לָהֶ֖ם שָׁלֽוֹם׃.

[7] Deuteronomy 20:10: “When thou comest nigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace unto it (וְקָרָ֥אתָ אֵלֶ֖יהָ לְשָׁלֽוֹם׃).”

[8] Hebrew: וַיְדַבְּרוּ.

[9] Hebrew: וַיָּ֤שָׁב בִּנְיָמִן֙ בָּעֵ֣ת הַהִ֔יא וַיִּתְּנ֤וּ לָהֶם֙ הַנָּשִׁ֔ים אֲשֶׁ֣ר חִיּ֔וּ מִנְּשֵׁ֖י יָבֵ֣שׁ גִּלְעָ֑ד וְלֹֽא־מָצְא֥וּ לָהֶ֖ם כֵּֽן׃

[10] Numbers 11:22: “Shall the flocks and the herds be slain for them, to suffice them (וּמָצָ֣א לָהֶ֑ם)? or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, to suffice them (וּמָצָ֥א לָהֶֽם׃)?”

[11] Hosea 12:8: “And Ephraim said, Yet I am become rich, I have found me out substance (מָצָ֥אתִי א֖וֹן לִ֑י): in all my labours they shall find none iniquity in meכָּל־יְגִיעַ֕י) לֹ֥א יִמְצְאוּ־לִ֖י עָוֹ֥ן) that were sin.”

[12] Leviticus 9:13: “And they presented (הִמְצִיאוּ, they caused to find, or made to be sufficient) the burnt offering unto him, with the pieces thereof, and the head: and he burnt them upon the altar.”

[13] Hebrew: וְהָעָ֥ם נִחָ֖ם לְבִנְיָמִ֑ן כִּֽי־עָשָׂ֧ה יְהוָ֛ה פֶּ֖רֶץ בְּשִׁבְטֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃

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Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.




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