Judges 21:19: The Dancing Girls of Shiloh

Verse 19:[1] Then they said, Behold, there is a feast of the LORD in Shiloh yearly (Heb. from year to year[2]) in a place which is on the north side of Beth-el, on the east side (or, toward the sun-rising[3]) of the highway (or, on the highway[4]) that goeth up from Beth-el to Shechem, and on the south of Lebonah.



[Behold, a solemnity of the Lord] Question: Which solemnity was this? Responses: 1. Some understand this of market-days (thus Tostatus). 2. It was the feast of atonement (Kimchi in Martyr). But this festive dancing does not agree with public fasting (Martyr). Or, 3. it was a different solemnity of a certain feast (Lapide), dedicated to God. For, 1. חַג/feast is not taken in another way: 2. it is called a fest of Jehovah: 3. the place indicates this, namely, Shiloh, where the Tabernacle was (Bonfrerius). [But Osiander contends that this Shiloh was not the one where the Tabernacle was, but another, which was situated to the North of Beth-el.] This appears to have been the feast of Tabernacles (Martyr, Lapide); for then, with the grape-harvest gathered in, the vines abound in leaves and foliage, under which these plunderers were lying hidden, verse 20 (Lapide): also at that time, with the grape-gathering completed, they were all giving themselves to cheerfulness (Bonfrerius).


[Annual, מִיָּמִ֣ים׀ יָמִ֗ימָה] From days to days (Septuagint, Montanus, Tigurinus, Piscator); from time to time (Syriac, Arabic); from year to year (Junius and Tremellius, Munster, Drusius, Pagnine). יָמִים/days is here taken after the Hebraic manner for a year. Jonathan takes it for the time מוֹעֵד, of testifying, that is, of Calends: now, the new moons are the Calends (Montanus).


Yearly; on the three solemn feasts, in which they used some honest and holy recreations; among which dancing was one, Exodus 15:20; 1 Samuel 18:6; 2 Samuel 6:14; and probably it was the feast of tabernacles, which they did celebrate with more than ordinary joy, Deuteronomy 16:13-15.



[Which was situated to the north of the city of Beth-el] [These words some refer to Shiloh, the situation of which is here described (thus the Septuagint, Jonathan, Munster, Tigurinus, Bonfrerius).] Hence it is evident that Shiloh was not in the tribe of Benjamin, as Adrichomius maintains, but in the tribe of Ephraim, as Jerome maintains. For the Tribe of Ephraim was North of the Tribe of Benjamin; moreover, Beth-el was on the border of Ephraim and Benjamin. See Genesis 28:19. Therefore, whatever was to the North of Beth-el was contained within the lot of Ephraim (Bonfrerius). Kimchi wonders why they would describe Shiloh by these signs, the situation of which was very well known (Drusius). [Therefore, others take it otherwise.] They mark and describe for them the place in which the virgins were wont to conduct dances, where they could hide, and seize the virgins; but they are not describing the situation of the city of Shiloh, which all knew. Here אֲשֶׁר/which is put in the place of בַּאֲשֶׁר, in which, and place is understood (Vatablus). Thus the Syriac, it is celebrated in Shiloh, on the north side of Beth-el: or, in a place that is toward the north of Beth-el (Pagnine, similarly the Dutch, English, Junius and Tremellius, Vatablus). In Shiloh, and it will be celebrated from time to time on the left hand of Beth-el (Arabic).


Which is on the north side of Beth-el; Hebrew, which is on the north of Beth-el.[5] Which doth not relate to Shiloh, which was so known a place, that it was frivolous to describe it by such circumstances, even by places much less known than itself; but to the feast, which as to that part or exercise of the feast here especially concerned and mentioned, to wit, the dancing of the virgins, was not celebrated in Shiloh, but in a neighboring place more convenient for that purpose.

[1] Hebrew: וַיֹּאמְר֡וּ הִנֵּה֩ חַג־יְהוָ֙ה בְּשִׁל֜וֹ מִיָּמִ֣ים׀ יָמִ֗ימָה אֲשֶׁ֞ר מִצְּפ֤וֹנָה לְבֵֽית־אֵל֙ מִזְרְחָ֣ה הַשֶּׁ֔מֶשׁ לִמְסִלָּ֔ה הָעֹלָ֥ה מִבֵּֽית־אֵ֖ל שְׁכֶ֑מָה וּמִנֶּ֖גֶב לִלְבוֹנָֽה׃


[2] Hebrew: מִיָּמִ֣ים׀ יָמִ֗ימָה.


[3] Hebrew: מִזְרְחָ֣ה הַשֶּׁ֔מֶשׁ.


[4] Hebrew: לִמְסִלָּה.


[5] Hebrew: אֲשֶׁ֞ר מִצְּפ֤וֹנָה לְבֵֽית־אֵל֙.

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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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