Judges 21

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1 Now the men of Israel had sworn in Mizpah, saying, There shall not any of us give his daughter to the Benjaminites as wife.

2 And the people came to Bethel, and abode there till even before God, and lifted up their voices and wept bitterly,

3 and said, Jehovah, God of Israel, why is it come to pass in Israel, that there should be this day one tribe lacking in Israel?

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

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

6 And the children of Israel repented them for Benjamin their brother, and said, To-day is one tribe extirpated from Israel.

7 What shall we do for wives for them that remain? since we have sworn by Jehovah that we will not give them of our daughters for wives.

8 And they said, What one is there of the tribes of Israel that came not up to Mizpah to Jehovah? And behold, there came none to the camp from Jabesh-Gilead, to the congregation;

9 for the people were numbered, and behold, there were none of the inhabitants of Jabesh-Gilead there.

10 And the assembly sent thither twelve thousand men of the most valiant and commanded them, saying, Go and smite the inhabitants of Jabesh-Gilead with the edge of the sword, and the women and the children.

11 And this is the thing which ye shall do: ye shall utterly destroy every male, and every woman that hath lain with man.

12 And they found among the inhabitants of Jabesh-Gilead four hundred young women that were virgins, who had known no man by lying with any male, and they brought them to the camp, to Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan.

13 And the whole assembly sent to speak to the children of Benjamin that were at the cliff of Rimmon, and to proclaim peace to them.

14 And Benjamin came again at that time; and they gave them the wives whom they had saved alive of the women of Jabesh-Gilead; but even so they found not enough for them.

15 And the people repented them for Benjamin, because Jehovah had made a breach in the tribes of Israel.

16 And the elders of the assembly said, What shall we do for wives for them that remain? for the women have been destroyed out of Benjamin.

17 And they said, There must be a possession for those of Benjamin that have escaped, that a tribe be not blotted out of Israel.

18 But we cannot give them wives of our daughters, for the children of Israel have sworn, saying, Cursed be he that giveth a wife to the Benjaminites!

19 And they said, Behold, there is a feast of Jehovah from year to year in Shiloh, which is on the north side of Bethel, toward the sun-rising of the highway that goes up from Bethel to Shechem, and on the south of Lebonah.

20 And they commanded the sons of Benjamin, saying, Go and lie in wait in the vineyards;

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

22 And it shall be, when their fathers or their brethren come to complain to us, that we will say to them, Gratify us with them, because we did not take each man his wife in the war; for ye did not give them to them, that ye should now be guilty.

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

24 And the children of Israel departed thence at that time, every man to his tribe and to his family, and they went out from thence every man to his inheritance.

25 In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.

  

Exploring the Meaning of Judges 21      

Napsal(a) Rev. Julian Duckworth

Wives Provided for the Men of Benjamin

This final chapter of the book of Judges deals with the wish of Israel to provide the remaining men of Benjamin with wives so that the tribe would not die out, since it was one of the twelve tribes of Israel. Yet the men of Israel had made a vow at Mizpah not to give their daughters to any men of Benjamin.

Providing wives means to add either truth or good to a situation. “In the Word, when ‘husband’ is mentioned, then ‘wife’ stands for truth. But when the husband is called ‘the man’, then ‘wife’ stands for good. This is the way it gets continually used in the Word.” (Arcana Caelestia 1468) In this chapter the men are called ‘the men of Benjamin’ or the Benjamites, so wives stand for good being joined to truth.

The men of Israel wondered who had not come to the gathering at Mizpah and recalled that no one from Jabesh Gilead had come. This meant that they were not under the obligation of the vow. The men of Israel told men to go and kill every man in that city and also any woman who was not a virgin. They found four hundred young virgins and brought them up to the camp at Shiloh.

The name Jabesh-Gilead means ‘arid’ and its spiritual meaning is in this city’s non-participation in dealing with the problem of the tribe of Benjamin. It stands for our refusal and disinclination to act to progress the spiritual life of the Word and our obedience to it.
But in it are four hundred young virgins who are not part of this non-participation and they can be taken to be wives for the men of Benjamin, to provide a future and an offspring.

“Virgins stand for the Lord’s kingdom, for everyone who is a kingdom of the Lord or a ‘church’, those who love the Lord, those who are in the affection for good, in charity to their neighbour, and those who love what is true. All of this is from the conjugial love which is there in chaste virgins.” (Arcana Caelestia 3081)

But even so, this is not enough to provide sufficient wives for the men of Benjamin. They recall that there is a yearly feast at Shiloh at which the young daughters of Shiloh dance. They tell the men of Benjamin to go there at the time of the feast and when the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance, to each seize a girl and take her away to Benjamin. And if anyone complains about breaking the vow made at Mizpah, it will be told them that this does not apply to the men of Benjamin and to be kind to this taking of wives.

The spiritual meaning of this is that it is essential that the tribe of Benjamin who stand for the link or connection between internal and external states, should have a full complement of wives so that truth and good can be together in producing and preserving this connection for our spiritual wholeness and its life. (Arcana Caelestia 5411)

The final verse of the book of Judges, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in their own eyes”, very much describes the sequence of the stories in Judges to the point where good and truth, love for the Lord and obedience to the Word, are marginalised, and replaced by one wrong action after another, through to the very end.

The spiritual meaning in these wrong doings can be seen to show their purpose in terms of our spiritual life and regeneration. This is the purpose of them being included in the Word, and while the text is at times harrowing, it contains the basis for giving us the truths which lead to eternal life and the Lord.

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