Judges 21

1At Mizpah, the men of Israel made a promise. This was their promise: “Not one of us will let his daughter marry a man from the family group of Benjamin.” 2The people of Israel went to the city of Bethel. There they sat before God until evening. They cried loudly as they sat there. 3They said to God, “Lord, you are the God of the people of Israel. Why has this terrible thing happened to us? Why has one family group of the people of Israel been taken away?” 4Early the next day, the people of Israel built an altar. They put burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to God on that altar. 5Then the people of Israel said, “Are there any family groups of Israel that did not come here to meet with us before the Lord?” They asked this question because they had made a serious promise. They had promised that anyone that did not come together with the other family groups at the city of Mizpah would be killed. 6Then the people of Israel felt sorry for their relatives, the people of Benjamin. They said, “Today, one family group has been separated from Israel. 7We made a promise before the Lord. We promised not to allow our daughters to marry a man from Benjamin. How can we make sure that the men of Benjamin will have wives? 8Then the people of Israel asked, “Which one of the family groups of Israel did not come here to Mizpah? We have come together before the Lord. Surely one family was not here!” Then they found that no one from the city of Jabesh Gilead had met together with the other people of Israel. 9The people of Israel counted everyone to see who was there and who was not. They found that no one from Jabesh Gilead was there. 10So the people of Israel sent 12,000 soldiers to the city of Jabesh Gilead. They told those soldiers, “Go to Jabesh Gilead, and use your swords to kill every person that lives there, even the women and children. 11You must do this! You must kill every man in Jabesh Gilead. Also kill every woman that has had sexual relations with a man. But do not kill any woman that has never had sex with a man.” So the soldiers did those things. 12Those 12,000 soldiers found 400 young women in the city of Jabesh Gilead, that had never had sex with a man. The soldiers brought those women to the camp at Shiloh. Shiloh is in the land of Canaan. 13Then the people of Israel sent a message to the men of Benjamin. They offered to make peace with the men of Benjamin. The men of Benjamin were at the place named the Rock of Rimmon. 14So the men of Benjamin came back to Israel. The people of Israel gave them the women from Jabesh Gilead that they had not killed. But there were not enough women for all the men of Benjamin. 15The people of Israel felt sorry for the men of Benjamin. They felt sorry for them because the Lord had separated them from the other family groups of Israel. 16The elders ˻(leaders)˼ of the people of Israel said, “The women of the family group of Benjamin have been killed. Where can we get wives for the men of Benjamin that are still alive? 17The men of Benjamin that are still alive must have children to continue their families. This must be done so that a family group in Israel will not die out! 18But we cannot allow our daughters to marry the men of Benjamin. We have made this promise: 'Bad things will happen to anyone that gives a wife to a man of Benjamin.’ 19We have an idea! This is the time for the festival of the Lord at the city of Shiloh. This festival is celebrated every year there.” (The city of Shiloh is north of the city of Bethel, and east of the road that goes from Bethel to Shechem. And it is also to the south of the city of Lebonah.) 20So the elders ˻(leaders)˼ told the men of Benjamin about their idea. They said, “Go and hide in the vineyards. 21Watch for the time during the festival when the young women from Shiloh come out to join the dancing. Then run out from where you are hiding in the vineyards. Each of you should take one of the young women from the city of Shiloh. Take those young women to the land of Benjamin and marry them. 22The fathers or brothers of those young women will come and complain to us. But we will say, 'Be kind to the men of Benjamin. Let them marry those women. They took women from you, but they did not make war against you. They took the women, so you didn’t break your promise to God. You promised that you would not give them women to marry—you did not give the women to the men of Benjamin, they took the women from you! So you did not break your promise.’” 23So that is what the men of the family group of Benjamin did. While the young women were dancing, each man caught one of them. They took those young women away and married them. They went back to their land. The men of Benjamin built cities again in that land, and they lived in those cities. 24Then the people of Israel went home. They went to their own land and family group. 25In those days the people of Israel did not have a king. So everyone did whatever he thought was right.

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