Judges 21:16-18: A Plan Forming for Supplying the Other Two Hundred Wives

Verse 16:[1] Then the elders of the congregation said, How shall we do for wives for them that remain, seeing the women are destroyed out of Benjamin?



[And they said] These things are said by way of recapitulation concerning all those remaining: and then at the end of verse 18 will be understood what things had been previously said concerning this matter. Or those things are understood of those two hundred alone, who had not wives together with the others: and so here after them that remain is to be understood the two hundred (Vatablus).


[What shall we do for them that remain, who did not receive wives? לְנָשִׁים] Εἰς γυναῖκας, for wives (Septuagint). I prefer, concerning wives (Drusius), with respect to wives (Junius and Tremellius), as far as wives are concerned. Thus elsewhere, לִפְעֻלּוֹת אָדָם, with respect to the deeds of men.[2] Thus ל is often taken (Drusius).


For them that remain; for the two hundred who are yet unprovided of wives.


Verse 17:[3] And they said, There must be an inheritance for them that be escaped of Benjamin, that a tribe be not destroyed out of Israel.



[Provision is to be made, יְרֻשַּׁ֥ת פְּלֵיטָ֖ה לְבִנְיָמִ֑ן] [They vary.] An inheritance of the escape of Benjamin (Montanus), understanding, let there be (Pagnine); or, let there be an inheritance of escape for Benjamin (Tigurinus Notes), that is, It is to be desired, or let us endeavor, that some from the tribe of Benjamin be preserved, who might be in the place of the inheritance for Jacob himself (Vatablus). It is necessary that we leave behind a remnant for Benjamin (Arabic), or, that the rest of Benjamin be preserved (Syriac). A possession of escape to the children of Benjamin (Jonathan). A possession of rescue is Benjamin; that is, God rescued and preserved these for us as a part of the possession or treasure (Osiander). Others thus: It is necessary that there be an inheritance for those that have escaped of Benjamin (English). Others thus: There will be an inheritance of those that have escaped in Benjamin (Tigurinus, similarly Munster). There is going to be for Benjamin a hereditary possession of these that have escaped (Junius and Tremellius). That is, The lot that previously belonged to the Benjamites is always going to be in their tribe. Hebrew: an hereditary possession of the escape of Benjamin (Junius). An inheritance of the escape, that is, of those that have escaped. Thus, the deportation, in the place of, those deported; and, the captivity, in the place of, those taken captive.[4] Thus elsewhere, and there shall be an escape, that is, some that will escape.[5] This inheritance was from the Patriarch Jacob, who willed that there be twelve Tribes in Israel; therefore, this tribe was not to be exterminated (Drusius). No part of their inheritance was to be transferred to another tribe: therefore, wives were to be given to them, so that they might multiply, and occupy their inheritance (Dutch).


An inheritance for them: The inheritance promised by Jacob and Moses, and given by Joshua to the tribe of Benjamin, doth all of it belong to those few which remain of that tribe, and cannot be possessed by any other tribe; and therefore we are obliged to procure wives for them all, that they may make up this breach, and be capable of possessing and managing all their land, that this tribe and their inheritance may not be confounded with or swallowed up by any of the rest. Hebrew: the inheritance (to wit, belonging to the whole tribe of Benjamin) is or belongs to them that be escaped of Benjamin.


Verse 18:[6] Howbeit we may not give them wives of our daughters: (Judg. 21:1; 11:35) for the children of Israel have sworn, saying, Cursed be he that giveth a wife to Benjamin.


[Constrained by oath] Some deny that these were obligated by this oath, because it was made imprudently, and was unlawful, because contrary to charity, namely, contrary to the restoration of the Tribe (certain interpreters in Estius, thus Lyra). But the Tribe was able to be restored in another manner, as what follows shows; and so I think that this oath is to be kept (Estius). This oath was obliging in this case, that provision of wives was able to be made to the remaining Benjamites. But it was not obliging in this case, that one Tribe must perish, or foreign women were to be taken in marriage (Lapide, Menochius). And the Israelites would have sinned, if they had sworn that in such necessity and danger they were not going to give wives to the Benjamites (Lapide). But as far as their erring conscience they were obliged, because from excessive simplicity and ignorance they were supposing themselves to be bounded by it (Serarius, similarly Lapide, Menochius). That oath was taken up rashly and without judgment, and it ought not to be kept in any way. Neither, as it is likely, was it kept by their posterity (Martyr).


To Benjamin: that is, To this generation of Benjamites who have made themselves guilty of this foul wickedness; but this oath did not extend to their posterity. And some think it had another exception, to wit, unless the surviving Benjamites could not otherwise be supplied with wives.

[1] Hebrew: וַיֹּֽאמְר֙וּ זִקְנֵ֣י הָעֵדָ֔ה מַה־נַּעֲשֶׂ֥ה לַנּוֹתָרִ֖ים לְנָשִׁ֑ים כִּֽי־נִשְׁמְדָ֥ה מִבִּנְיָמִ֖ן אִשָּֽׁה׃


[2] Thus Psalm 17:4.


[3] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֣אמְר֔וּ יְרֻשַּׁ֥ת פְּלֵיטָ֖ה לְבִנְיָמִ֑ן וְלֹֽא־יִמָּחֶ֥ה שֵׁ֖בֶט מִיִּשְׂרָאֵֽל׃


[4] See, for example, Jeremiah 30:3.


[5] Obadiah 17: “But upon mount Zion shall be an escape (תִּהְיֶ֥ה פְלֵיטָ֖ה), and there shall be holiness; and the house of Jacob shall possess their possessions.”


[6] Hebrew: וַאֲנַ֗חְנוּ לֹ֥א נוּכַ֛ל לָתֵת־לָהֶ֥ם נָשִׁ֖ים מִבְּנוֹתֵ֑ינוּ כִּֽי־נִשְׁבְּע֤וּ בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר אָר֕וּר נֹתֵ֥ן אִשָּׁ֖ה לְבִנְיָמִֽן׃

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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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