Judges 21

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1 And the men of Israel have sworn in Mizpeh, saying, `None of us doth give his daughter to Benjamin for a wife.'

2 And the people come in to Beth-El, and sit there till the evening before God, and lift up their voice, and weep -- a great weeping,

3 and say, `Why, O Jehovah, God of Israel, hath this been in Israel -- to be lacking to-day, from Israel, one tribe?'

4 And it cometh to pass on the morrow, that the people rise early, and build there an altar, and cause to ascend burnt-offerings and peace-offerings.

5 And the sons of Israel say, `Who [is] he that hath not come up in the assembly out of all the tribes of Israel unto Jehovah?' for the great oath hath been concerning him who hath not come up unto Jehovah to Mizpeh, saying, `He is surely put to death.'

6 And the sons of Israel repent concerning Benjamin their brother, and say, `There hath been to-day cut off one tribe from Israel,

7 what do we do for them -- for those who are left -- for wives, and we -- we have sworn by Jehovah not to give to them of our daughters for wives?'

8 And they say, `Who is [that] one out of the tribes of Israel who hath not come up unto Jehovah to Mizpeh?' and lo, none hath come in unto the camp from Jabesh-Gilead -- unto the assembly.

9 And the people numbered themselves, and lo, there is not there a man of the inhabitants of Jabesh-Gilead.

10 And the company send there twelve thousand men of the sons of valour, and command them, saying, `Go -- and ye have smitten the inhabitants of Jabesh-Gilead by the mouth of the sword, even the women and the infants.

11 And this [is] the thing which ye do; every male, and every woman knowing the lying of a male, ye devote.'

12 And they find out of the inhabitants of Jabesh-Gilead four hundred young women, virgins, who have not known man by the lying of a male, and they bring them in unto the camp at Shiloh, which [is] in the land of Canaan.

13 And all the company send, and speak, unto the sons of Benjamin who [are] in the rock Rimmon, and proclaim to them peace;

14 and Benjamin turneth back at that time, and they give to them the women whom they have kept alive of the women of Jabesh-Gilead, and they have not found for [all of] them so.

15 And the people repented concerning Benjamin, for Jehovah had made a breach among the tribes of Israel.

16 And the elders of the company say, `What do we do to the remnant for wives -- for the women have been destroyed out of Benjamin?'

17 And they say, `A possession of an escaped party [is] to Benjamin, and a tribe is not blotted out from Israel;

18 and we -- we are not able to give to them wives out of our daughters, for the sons of Israel have sworn, saying, Cursed [is] he who is giving a wife to Benjamin.'

19 And they say, `Lo, a festival of Jehovah [is] in Shiloh, from time to time, which [is] on the north of Beth-El, at the rising of the sun, by the highway which is going up from Beth-El to Shechem, and on the south of Lebonah.'

20 And they command the sons of Benjamin, saying, `Go -- and ye have laid wait in the vineyards,

21 and have seen, and lo, if the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in dances -- then ye have gone out from the vineyards, and caught for you each his wife out of the daughters of Shiloh, and gone to the land of Benjamin;

22 and it hath been, when their fathers or their brethren come in to plead unto us, that we have said unto them, Favour us [by] them, for we have not taken [to] each his wife in battle, for ye -- ye have not given to them at this time [that] ye are guilty.'

23 And the sons of Benjamin do so, and take women according to their number, out of the dancers whom they have taken violently away; and they go, and turn back unto their inheritance, and build the cities, and dwell in them.

24 And the sons of Israel go up and down thence at that time, each to his tribe, and to his family; and they go out thence each to his inheritance.

25 In those days there is no king in Israel; each doth that which is 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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