When Israel went to war with the tribe of Benjamin, they wiped out all the men, women, and children except for the 600 that escaped into the mountains. Israel began to feel sorry for the Benjamites that were left, though they still thought it was necessary to avenge the death of the Levite’s wife/concubine. Every tribe had vowed not to provide wives for the 600 who were left, but now they felt remorseful for that vow and tried to find a way around it. They met with all the tribes and decided that any city that didn’t show up would be punished. It just so happened that no inhabitants from Jabeshgilead came to the meeting. So they took 12,000 warriors to Jabeshgilead and killed all the people except the women who had never been with a man and gave them to the Benjamites; there were 400. But that wasn’t enough to provide every man with one wife, so they devised another plan. There was a big party in Shiloh every year where the maiden girls would dance in the field praising God, so they told the remaining men of Benjamin to hide in the vineyard near where they were to dance, and when they came out to grab one and take them. It was one of those times when they did what they had to do and asked for forgiveness later. Doing it this way kept the other tribes from breaking their vow of not giving their daughters to the Benjamites.
One lesson I learned in this scripture portion is that the story often goes on into the next chapter, so to get the whole picture, you must check the next chapter to see if there is a continuation. The next thing I learned is that the Israelites knew how to get around a vow and would do anything necessary, good or bad, to get what they wanted without technically breaking it. They didn’t even feel bad for killing one portion of the family to accomplish it! Brutal. Thank you, Jesus, for providing us with a more compassionate way of life where our brains and hearts work together rather than always leaning on harsh human rules that lack love.
And it shall be, when their fathers or their brethren come unto us to complain, that we will say unto them, Be favourable unto them for our sakes: because we reserved not to each man his wife in the war: for ye did not give unto them at this time, that ye should be guilty. Judges 21:22