Judges 21 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

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(Read all of Judges 21)

Verse 1

[1] Now the men of Israel had sworn in Mizpeh, saying, There shall not any of us give his daughter unto Benjamin to wife.

Had sworn — In the beginning of this war, after the whole tribe had espoused the quarrel of the men of Gibeah.

Saying — They do not here swear the utter extirpation of the tribe, which fell out beyond their expectation, but only not to give their daughters to those men who should survive; justly esteeming them for their villainy, to be as bad as Heathens, with whom they were forbidden to marry.

Verse 4

[4] And it came to pass on the morrow, that the people rose early, and built there an altar, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings.

An altar — Not for a monument of the victory, but for sacrifices, as the next words shew. There might be in that place more altars than one, when the multitude of sacrifices be required, which was the case, 1 Kings 8:64, and probably at this time, when all the tribes being met, they had many sacrifices to offer, some in common for all, and some peculiar to every tribe.

Verse 5

[5] And the children of Israel said, Who is there among all the tribes of Israel that came not up with the congregation unto the LORD? For they had made a great oath concerning him that came not up to the LORD to Mizpeh, saying, He shall surely be put to death.

Great oath — That is a solemn oath joined with some terrible execration against the offenders herein.

Put to death — Because by refusing to execute the vengeance due to such malefactors, they were justly presumed guilty of the crime, and therefore liable to the same punishment, as was the case of that city that would not deliver up an Idolater dwelling among them, to justice.

Verse 6

[6] And the children of Israel repented them for Benjamin their brother, and said, There is one tribe cut off from Israel this day.

Repented — Not for the war, which was just and necessary, but for their immoderate severity in the execution of it. That is no good divinity which swallows up humanity. Even necessary justice is to be done with compassion.

Verse 15

[15] And the people repented them for Benjamin, because that the LORD had made a breach in the tribes of Israel.

The Lord, … — 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.

Verse 17

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

An inheritance — The inheritance promised by Jacob and Moses, and given by Joshua to the tribe of Benjamin, doth all of it belong to those few who 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.

Verse 19

[19] Then they said, Behold, there is a feast of the LORD in Shiloh yearly in a place which is on the north side of Bethel, on the east side of the highway that goeth up from Bethel to Shechem, and on the south of Lebonah.

A feast — Probably it was the feast of tabernacles, which they celebrated with more than ordinary joy. And that feast was the only season, at which the Jewish virgins were allowed to dance. But even this was not mixed dancing. No men danced with these daughters of Shiloh. Nor did the married women so forget their gravity, as to join with them. However their dancing thus in public, made them an easy prey: whence Bishop Hall observes, "The ambushes of evil spirits carry away many souls from dancing to a fearful desolation."

Verse 21

[21] And see, and, behold, if the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in dances, then come ye out of the vineyards, and catch you every man his wife of the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin.

Daughters of Shiloh — By whom we may understand not those only who were born or settled inhabitants there, but all those who were come thither upon this occasion, and for a time sojourned there: for although only the males were obliged to go up to the three solemn feasts; yet the women had liberty to go, and those who were most devout did usually go.

Vineyards — Which were near to the green where they danced.

Catch — Take them away by force, which they might the better do, because the women danced by themselves.

Verse 23

[23] And the children of Benjamin did so, and took them wives, according to their number, of them that danced, whom they caught: and they went and returned unto their inheritance, and repaired the cities, and dwelt in them.

And took, … — That is, each man his wife. By which we may see, they had no very favourable opinion of polygamy, because they did not allow it in this case, when it might seem most necessary for the reparation of a lost tribe.

Repaired — By degrees, increasing their buildings as their number increased.

Verse 25

[25] In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.

Right in his own eyes — What wonder was it then, if all wickedness overflowed the land? Blessed be God for magistracy!


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