Judges – Chapter 21

Who Wants to Marry a Benjaminite?

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

Because of the atrocity committed in Gibeah, the other Tribes had sworn at the meeting in Mitzpah not to give their daughters as wives to the Tribe of Benjamin. Now they had a problem: the entire Tribe had been wiped out except for the 600 refugees! What could be done? They couldn’t violate their oath, but they also could not allow a Tribe to become extinct. What to do?

First, they determined that nobody had come to the meeting from the town of Yaveish-Gilad. Therefore, nobody from Yaveish-Gilad was bound by the oath. They struck down the population of Yaveish-Gilad, since attendance at the national assembly was mandatory on pain of death. They kept alive 400 marriageable girls for wives for Benjaminite refugees.

But this left 200 Benjaminite refugees without wives. How could they renew the Tribe without the other Tribes violating their oath? It was decided that the 200 remaining Benjaminites would go to the yearly festival in Shiloh. When the local girls went out to dance, each man would catch himself a wife. This would be done with the girl’s consent, but not the parents’, so there would be no violation of their oath not to give their daughters to the Tribe of Benjamin.

The Book of Judges ends by restating that there was no King in those days, suggesting that with a strong central leader, such tragedies could have been avoided. (That may be true, but we will see when we get to the Book of Kings that the ruler was the problem about as often as he was the solution!)

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