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The people lament over Benjamin; are in difficulty, having
sworn not to give a wife to any of that tribe; and inquire after such as had not joined them, having sworn also to put them to death, 1-7. On that account they destroy the inhabitants of Jabesh-Gilead, except four hundred virgins, whom they give to that number of the remaining Benjamites, 3-15. The elders consult, how to find wives for the rest consistently with their oath; and by their advice they carry off the virgins who
2 And the people came to the house of God, and abode there till even before God, and lifted up their voices, and wept sore;
3 And said, O LORD God of Israel, why is this come to pass in Israel, that
danced at Shiloh, 16-23. The people separate and return there should be to-day one tribe lacking
home, 24, 25.
TOW the men of Israel
in Mizpeh, saying,
had There shall
not any of us give his daughter unto Benjamin to wife.
a 20:8. Jer. 4:2.
b 5. 11:30,31. 1 Sam. 14:24. Ec. c Ex. 34:12-16. Deut. 7:2,3. 5.2. Mark 6:23. Acts 23:12.
"evil pursueth sinners;" their triumphing is short, and increases their hardness and presumption: and how dreadful will be their case, when they shall see destruction coming upon them, without any possibility of escape! Hitherto there is space given for repentance, a refuge provided, mercy proclaimed, and a throne of grace erected; thither let sinners come, and plead the Savior's name, and they shall yet be safe and happy. But "how will they escape, who neglect so great salvation?" All things will combine to hasten and enhance their condemnation; especially that of men who live under the light of the gospel. And all, who patronise and delight in the workers of iniquity, will as accomplices share their awful doom. (Note, || Rom. 1:32.)
sinful propensities, and tenderness toward the persons of others.-If we attempt, however, to execute wrath upon offenders, or even to reprove and reform them, while we are under the guilt of unrepented and allowed sin in our hearts and lives; it is merciful in God to rebuke us sharply for our hypocrisy, and not leave us to be hardened through impunity: nor can we reasonably hope | to be useful to others unless our own sins are pardoned. (Notes, Matt. 7:1-5. Rom. 2:1-3,17— 24.)-We should not judge of the final event of things, unless we can determine it by the divine law. And if we are baffled in our endeavors, though honestly meant and zealously persisted in, to serve the cause of God; we ought not to infer that we should desist, or content ourselves in our ill succes but we are reminded to inquire, whether we have begun our work in the proper manner and spirit; whether our private conduct CHAP. XXI. V. 1. The vehement indignation do not blight our public endeavors: whether we excited by the brutal conduct of the men of Gibhave not been precipitate in our measures; wheth-eah, and the support given them by the tribe er we have duly adverted to our own character as sinners, and are habitually exercising "repent. ance towards God, and faith in our Lord Christ; whether we have not failed of humility and tenderness towards others; and, by self-preference and self-confidence, provoked the Lord || to leave us experimentally to learn what we are in ourselves, and what we can do without him. Many an honest and zealous endeavor, in a good cause, has attained but little success, for such reasons as these. We should therefore strictly examine ourselves, and be deeply humbled for our sins; praying earnestly, that God "would not condemn us, but shew us wherefore he contendeth with us."
of Benjamin, induced the Israelites, without due consideration, to bind themselves by a solemn oath and awful curse, that none of them would give his daughter to wife to any Benjamite. (Notes, 19-21. 11:30,31. 1 Sam. 14:24-46. 25: 21,22,39-42. Matt. 14:8-11.) They deemed those, who were capable of such atrocious con duct towards the wife of another man, or of vin dicating it in others, unworthy to be married to any of the daughters of Israel; and thus they ranked them with the Canaanites, and other idol aters! Had this oath been rigidly adhered to either the whole tribe must have been extirpated, or the survivors must have violated the law by marrying heathen wives. (Note, Acts 23:1222.)
Solemn times set apart for fasting and prayer V. 2, 3. When the anger and resentment of are never more seasonable, than when we are the people began to subside, and they had time constrained to lament the ill success, which has for cool reflection; they bewailed the conseattended our labors to glorify God and promote quences of their victory, with every expression his cause, whether as ministers or private Chris- of vehement sorrow; and they seem even to have tians. When our failures have this effect, they kept a day of fasting and prayer: yet it is evident will promote our success; our very mistakes will that they did not properly repent of their own be over-ruled to teach us wisdom, and our weak- misconduct, or they would not have acted, as they ness will prove an occasion of increasing our spir-afterwards did, to the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilitual strength; Satan, and his most formidable agents will in due time be constrained to give ground; and whatsoever we attempt shall prosper. In the mean time we should thankfully accept of chastisement, and not despair of that success which we at first prematurely expected. -But it is very difficult to temper zeal with tenderness, and boldness with meekness and wisdom: impetuosity hurries us into unwarrantable excesses, or timidity stops short of proper decision. We ought therefore to watch carefully over our own spirits, and to pray continually to be preserved from this "strange fire" in the work of God: and the same considerations should induce is to make candid allowances for those, who are 'betrayed into similar or contrary mistakes.-But VOL. I.
ead. (Note, 9-12.) If it was likely, that "a tribe should be lacking in Israel," it might be justly imputed to their un-commanded and most unreasonable and cruel slaughter of the women, who could not be supposed to approve the conduct of the men of Gibeah, or refuse to give them up to be punished; and of the children, who had committed no fault, and ought not to have been put to death for the crimes of their parents. (Notes, 20: 43-48. Num. 31:14-18. Deut. 24:16.) In respect to the devoted Canaanites, and cities in Israel wholly given up to idolatry, the Lord himself had commanded the women, (who were as prone to idolatry as the men,) and the children also, to be slain: but the case of Benjamin was of a very different nature.
there an altar, and offered burnt-offerings || and every woman that *hath lain by man. and peace-offerings.
5 And the children of Israel said, Who is there among all the tribes of Israel, that came not up with the congregation unto the LORD? for they had made a great oath concerning him that came not up to the LORD to Mizpeh, saying, He shall surely be put to death.
6 And the children of Israel repented them for Benjamin their brother, and said. There is one tribe cut off from Israel this day:
7 How shall we do for wives for them that remain, seeing we have sworn by the LORD, that we will not give them of our daughters to wives?
8 And they said, What one is there of the tribes of Israel that came not up to Mizpeh to the LORD? And, behold, there came none to the camp from m Jabeshgilead to the assembly.
9 For the people were numbered, and, behold, there were none of the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilcad there.
10 And the congregation sent thither twelve thousand men of the valiantest, and commanded them, saying, "Go and smite the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead with the edge of the sword, with the women and the children.
11 And this is the thing that ye shall do, Ye shall utterly destroy every male,
1,18. 5:23. Lev. 27:28,29. 1 m 1 Sam. 11:1,3. 31:11-13. Sam. 11:7. Jer. 48:10. Sam. 2:5,6.
k 15. 20:23. 2 Sam. 2:26. Hos. n 5. 11:8. Luke 19:41,42.
I 1,18. . Sam. 14:28,29,45.
Deut. 13:15. Josh. 7:24. 1 Sam. 15:3.
o Num. 31:17,18. Deut. 2:34.
V. 4. As so great a multitude was assembled, and there were so many occasions for burnt-offerings, thank-offerings, and vows; it is probable that the brazen altar was found insufficient, and this was erected at Shiloh as a temporary addition to it for the present occasion. (Note, 1 Kings 8: 63-65.)
V. 5. They who, when summoned, refused to join on this occasion, were doubtless blameworthy, and deserved punishment; but this did not warrant their brethren to devote them to destruction by "a great oath." (Note, Lev. 27:28, 29.) They were far too backward in attempting to extirpate the Canaanites, the devoted enemies of God; and they neglected to punish the idolatrous Danites: yet without hesitation they consigned to utter destruction, as accursed of God, all such of their brethren as should slight their authority! (Marg. Ref.-Note, 1 Sam. 14:2434.)
V. 9-12. Jabesh-gilead lay at a distance, beyond Jordan, on the borders of Ammon, and perhaps the inhabitants had not heard of the vow which Israel had made. (Note, 1 Sam. 11:1-3.) But if they had been guilty of neglect, or disaffection to the common cause, they had not assisted the Benjamites: and yet when the people were lamenting the desolations of that tribe, they proceeded to treat those, who were incomparably less criminal, with equal rigor! They seem, however, to have considered themselves as engaged by their oath to destroy them 754]
12 And they found among the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead four hundred young + virgins, that had known no man by lying with any male: and they brought them unto the camp to P Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan.
13 And the whole congregation sent some to speak to the children of Benjamin that were in the rock Rimmon, and to call peaceably unto them.
14 And Benjamin came again at that time; and they gave them wives, which they had saved alive of the women of Jabesh-gilead: and yet so they sufficed them not.
15 And the people repented them for Benjamin, because that the LORD had made a breach in the tribes of Israel.
16 Then the elders of the congregation said, How shall we do for wives for them that remain, seeing the women are destroyed out of Benjamin?
17 And they said, There must be tan inheritance for them that be escaped of Benjamin, that a tribe be not destroyed out of Israel.
18 Howbeit, we may not give them wives of our daughters: for the children of Israel have "sworn, saying, Cursed be he that giveth a wife to Benjamin.
* Heb. knoweth the lying with | Or, proclaim peace. Deut. 20:10. Is. 57:19. Luke 10.5. Eph. 2:17.
↑ Heb. women, virgins.
p 20:18,23. Josh. 18:1. Ps. 78: 60. Jer. 7:12.
Heb. and spake and called. q 20:47. Josh. 15:32.
r 12. 20:47. 1 Cor. 7:2. s See on 6,17.
t Num. 26:55. 36:7. I u See on 1. 11:35.
utterly: yet they directed the detachment sent on this service, to spare the virgins, or unmarried women, of good character; probably with reference to the orders given concerning the Midianitish women. (Note, Num. 31:14-18.) But if the vow would admit of this limitation, why could they not spare the other women and children, and innocent persons, and only punish the criminals? The women and children were not required to join the army, and were in no degree accessary to the crime of the men. It does not appear that they asked counsel of the Lord before they proceeded to action: and the habit of military executions, contracted in the wars of Canaan, in obeying the express command of God, had no doubt too great influence on them in this transaction, which was entirely of a different nature. Indeed convenience, rather than justice or piety, seems to to have induced them to spare the virgins, that they might extricate themselves from the difficulties in which their other rash oath had involved them; hoping, perhaps, that a sufficient number would be found.-The four hundred, here mentioned, seem to have been marriageable: and it is not certain, whether the female children were spared or not.-"The land of Canaan" (12) here denotes the country west of Jordan.
V. 16-18. The whole inheritance allotted to the tribe belonged to the survivors, and therefore wives must be procured them, that they migth be replenished to occupy it. Thus the remnant of the Benjamites were unexpectedly advanced
19 Then they said, Behold, there is all feast of the LORD in Shiloh yearly, in a place which is on the north side of Beth-el, on the east side of the highway that goeth up from Beth-el to Shechem, and
on the south of Lebonah.
20 Therefore 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 dances, then come ye out of the vineyards, and catch you every man his wife of the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin.
22 And it shall be, when their fathers or their brethren come unto us to com
x Ex. 23:14-16. Lev. 23:2,4,6,
Heb. from year to year.
to great affluence, by the miserable destruction of their relations; and had it not been for the oath, many in the other tribes, would no doubt have readily contracted affinity with them. Hence it appears that the people acted conscientiously, as reverencing an oath, though they erred in judgment concerning it; being only bound to repent of having rashly entered into such a perplexing and unwarrantable engagement. (Marg. Ref. Note, 1.)
V. 19-21. (Marg. Ref.) Sacred dances formed a part of the religious solemnities under the Mosaic dispensation: and as this feast was observed at Shiloh, it may be supposed that it was a religious festival, perhaps the feast of tabernaclcs. These dances, however, were of young women alone, without either men or married women.-The counsel and implied permission given to the Benjamites, were a mere evasion of the vow; and also gave a direct license to fraud, violence, and the marriage of children without the consent of their parents: and if that might have been dispensed with, the Benjamites could have found themselves wives, without the others them their daughters.
plain, that we will say unto them, Be favorable 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.
23 And the children of Benjamin did so, and took them wives according to their number, of them that danced, whom they caught: and they went and returned unto their inheritance, and repaired the cities, and dwelt in them.
24 And the children of Israel departed thence at that time, every man to his tribe and to his family, and they went out from thence every man to his inheritance.
25 In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was d right in his own eyes.
Or, Gratify us in them. |b 20:48.
c 17:6. 18:1. 19:1.
all contests, public and private; and a good cause often becomes the occasion of great crimes, as the excess of zeal carries men beyond all the bounds of equity and humanity.-Well might the politic Romans refuse a triumph to the commander who conquered in civil war; in which the common interest is weakened, and the common enemies exult, whatever party acquires the ascenden cy. Such unnatural contentions are generally conducted with the most pertinacious fury, and envenomed resentment, through the depravity of the human heart and the subtlety of Satan. (Note, Prov. 18:19.)-But this enemy is most of all gratified, when he can excite divisions and contentions in the church, by which the truth is disgraced, the weak and prejudiced are stumbled, and the enemies of religion alone rejoiced. Yet many persons of apparent godliness use greater asperity against their brethren, who are not exactly of their mind, than against the avowed opposers of all religion! But contests thus managed end in bitterness; and the combatants will ere long weep over the effects of their own success. giving-Nothing can be more absurd, than solemn oaths and vows made in the heat of passion: many have by them entangled themselves in inextricable perplexity; and been thus induced to add one crime to another, or to use the most disingenuous evasions and equivocations. Of all things, such solemn and important engagements require the most cautious reflection on future probable consequences.--Our penitent confessions, and devotional exercises, are too often succeeded by relapses into sin, for want of simply seeking direction from God, and depending on him to uphold us.-Even necessary justice should be executed with deep concern: and men would not be forward in inflicting vengeance on the less guilty, while more atrocious criminals were spared, were they not more ambitious of dominion for themselves, than zealous for the glory of God.-Even lawful employments may induce habits, which will be apt to influence the conduct in concerns of another nature, and with very bad effect: we should therefore seek for selfknowledge, keep a strict watch over our hearts, and daily consult the word of God as the rule of our duty.
V. 22. To each man his wife.] In this diminished state of the tribe, when every Benjamite could have maintained several wives, and when the restoration of it seemed to require this measure, the elders only devised how to procure one for each man; whence it appears, that polygamy, though connived at, was not generally practised or countenanced. (Note, Gen. 7:7.) Neither did any one propose sending them to the neighboring nations to procure wives; by which it is probable, that marriages with them were seldom contracted at that time.
V. 23. Thus the remains of the tribe began to increase; and it is thought by many, that Ehud was raised up from this tribe to be the judge of Israel, after it had been thus diminished.
V. 25. Notes, 17:6. 18:7-10.
When the passions are vehemently excited, those measures appear needful, which are afterwards perceived to be unreasonable and unlawful; and therefore, when we at all suspect this to be our case, we should be sure to proceed with great caution and deliberation, if we would not make work for bitter repentance. This danger attends
When even great offenders are exceedingly cast down, they should be treated with gentleness, and preserved, if possible, from temptations to
despair and total apostacy: (Note, 2 Cor. 2:5-11.) || be so absurd, as to counsel others to acts of and every act of apparent severity should be con- treachery or violence, and to countenance them nected with evident disinterestedness.-Too often in such evils, from a sense of duty, forms a striking the very ordinances of God degenerate into a proof of the blindness of the human mind when mere form, and carnal mirth supplants holy re- left to itself, and of the fatal effects of an ignorant joicing; but those scenes, which the dissipated and or erroneous conscience. Our troubles in this sensual inost delight in, expose them to unthought-world may be succeeded by seasons of comfort, of consequences, and give Satan and designing and end in our advantage; but they who are cut men their utmost advantage against them: all our off in their sins, sink into evil, only evil, and that cheerfulness should therefore be tempered with for ever.-Finally, we should be thankful for good reflection and watchfulness.-Children, who mar- magistrates, to restrain the violence of wicked ry without the consent of their parents, are in men: but the fear and love of God, if we are general very culpable; and those are still more Christians, will deter us from "doing what is right deeply criminal who entice them to do so: yet in our own eyes," except as they are opened to when the mater cannot be remedied, it is com- behold the excellency of his most holy law, and monly the parent's duty and wisdom to be favor- as our hearts are so renewed as to delight in obeyable, and to make the best of it.-That men can ||ing it. 756]
END OF VOL. 1.