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 Benjamin as wife."

2 The people came to Bethel, and sat there until evening before God, and lifted up their voices, and wept severely.

3 They said, "Yahweh, the God of Israel, why has this happened in Israel, that there should be today one tribe lacking in Israel?"

4 It happened on the next day that the people rose early, and built there an altar, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings.

5 The children of Israel said, "Who is there among all the tribes of Israel who didn't come up in the assembly to Yahweh?" For they had made a great oath concerning him who didn't come up to Yahweh to Mizpah, saying, "He shall surely be put to death."

6 The children of Israel grieved for Benjamin their brother, and said, "There is one tribe cut off from Israel this day.

7 How shall we provide wives for those who remain, since we have sworn by Yahweh that we will not give them of our daughters to wives?"

8 They said, "What one is there of the tribes of Israel who didn't come up to Yahweh to Mizpah?" Behold, there came none to the camp from Jabesh Gilead to the assembly.

9 For when the people were numbered, behold, there were none of the inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead there.

10 The congregation sent there twelve thousand men of the most valiant, and commanded them, saying, "Go and strike the inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead with the edge of the sword, with the women and the little ones.

11 This is the thing that you shall do: you shall utterly destroy every male, and every woman who has lain with a man."

12 They found among the inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead four hundred young virgins, who had not known man by lying with him; and they brought them to the camp to Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan.

13 The whole congregation sent and spoke to the children of Benjamin who were in the rock of Rimmon, and proclaimed peace to them.

14 Benjamin returned at that time; and they gave them the women whom they had saved alive of the women of Jabesh Gilead: and yet so they weren't enough for them.

15 The people grieved for Benjamin, because that Yahweh had made a breach in the tribes of Israel.

16 Then the elders of the congregation said, "How shall we provide wives for those who remain, since the women are destroyed out of Benjamin?"

17 They said, "There must be an inheritance for those who are escaped of Benjamin, that a tribe not be blotted out from Israel.

18 However we may not give them wives of our daughters, for the children of Israel had sworn, saying, 'Cursed is he who gives a wife to Benjamin.'"

19 They said, "Behold, there is a feast of Yahweh from year to year in Shiloh, which is on the north of Bethel, on the east side of the highway that goes up from Bethel to Shechem, and on the south of Lebonah."

20 They commanded the children 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 each man catch his wife of the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin.

22 It shall be, when their fathers or their brothers come to complain to us, that we will say to them, 'Grant them graciously to us, because we didn't take for each man his wife in battle, neither did you give them to them, otherwise you would now be guilty.'"

23 The children of Benjamin did so, and took them wives, according to their number, of those who danced, whom they carried off. They went and returned to their inheritance, built the cities, and lived in them.

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

25 In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which 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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