Judges 21

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1 Now the children of Israel had also sworn in Maspha, saying: None of us shall give of his daughters to the children of Benjamin to wife.

2 And they all came to the house of God in Silo, and abiding before him till the evening, lifted up their voices, and began to lament and weep, saying:

3 O Lord God of Israel, why is so great an evil come to pass in thy people, that this day one tribe should be taken away from among us?

4 And rising early the next day, they built an altar: and offered there holocausts, and victims of peace, and they said:

5 Who is there among all the tribes of Israel that came not up with the army of the Lord? for they had bound themselves with a great oath, when they were in Maspha, that whosoever were wanting should be slain.

6 And the children of Israel being moved with repentance for their brother Benjamin, began to say: One tribe is taken away from Israel.

7 Whence shall they take wives? For we have all in general sworn, not to give our daughters to them.

8 Therefore they said: Who is thereof all the tribes of Israel, that came not up to the Lord to Maspha. And behold the inhabitants of Jabes Galaad were found not to have been in that army.

9 (At that time also when they were in Silo, no one of them was found there.)

10 So they sent ten thousand of the most valiant men, and commanded them, saying: Go and put the inhabitants of Jabes Galaad to the sword, with their wives and their children.

11 And this is what you shall observe: Every male, and all women that have known men, you shall kill, but the virgins you shall save.

12 And there were found of Jabes Galaad four hundred virgins, that had not known the bed of a man, and they brought them to the camp Silo, into the land of Chanaan.

13 And they sent messengers to the children of Benjamin, that were in the rock Remmon, and commanded them to receive them in peace.

14 And the children of Benjamin came at that time, and wives were given them of the daughters of Jabes Galaad: but they found no others, whom they might give in like manner.

15 And all Israel was very sorry, and repented for the destroying of one tribe out of Israel.

16 And the ancients said: What shall we do with the rest, that have not received wives? for all the women in Benjamin are dead.

17 And we must use all care, and provide with great diligence, that one tribe be not destroyed out of Israel.

18 For as to our own daughters we cannot give them, being bound with an oath and a curse, whereby we said: Cursed be he that shall give Benjamin any of his daughters to wife.

19 So they took counsel, and said: Behold there is a yearly solemnity of the Lord in Silo, which is situate on the north of the city of Bethel, and on the east side of the way, that goeth from Bethel to Sichem, and on the south of the town of Lebona.

20 And they commanded the children of Benjamin, and said: Go, and lie hid in the vineyards,

21 And when you shall see the daughters of Silo come out, as the custom is, to dance, come ye on a sudden out of the vineyards, and catch you every man his wife among them, and go into the land of Benjamin.

22 And when their fathers and their brethren shall come, and shall begin to complain against you, and to chide, we will say to them: Have pity on them for they took them not away as by the right of war or conquest, but when they asked to have them, you gave them not, and the fault was committed on your part.

23 And the children of Benjamin did, as they had been commanded: and according to their number, they carried off for themselves every man his wife of them that were dancing: and they went into their possession and built up their cities, and dwelt in them.

24 The children of Israel also returned by their tribes, and families, to their dwellings. In those days there was no king in Israel: but every one did that which seemed right to himself.

  

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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