The battle with Benjamin is over and the tribe is nearly wiped out. All that remains are 600 men hiding at the rock of Rimmon. Intervention is needed before the 12 tribes become 11.
This has been a bloody and devastating battle. Both sides lost individuals during it but Benjamin lost more than all the other tribes. That was because Benjamin refused to turn over the men who had committed atrocities against the Levite’s concubine and because it was ALL the other tribes were on the opposite side of the battle lines. Benjamin lost 25,000 men of valor plus everyone from the cities of Benjamin, for they were killed and set on fire. Benjamin was down to the escapees from the battle only. I won’t guarantee there were no other survivors but Israel seemed to view it as so.
The rest of the tribes in Israel had made three vows before the battle began. First was that NONE of them would return home until the injustice had been paid in full. The second was that EVERYONE would be part of the campaign to right this wrong. Anyone who didn’t would face dire consequences. The third was that no matter what the outcome, NONE of them would give their daughters to the tribe of Benjamin in marriage. All three vows were made before the Lord so all three had to be honored.
I find it interesting that both these promises got them in a bit of trouble. The first vow was made BEFORE asking the Lord what He would have them do about the issue. The first time they asked for His input it was about who to send first, not if they needed to go at all. Their first two days of fighting wound up with a LOT of casualties on their side and little to no progress in solving the offense.
Their third promise is now causing them concern. The people didn’t go to war with Benjamin because they hated them but because a wrong needed righted. Their original intent was to have them hand over the offenders. But now the whole tribe is teetering on the brink of extinction. Something has to be done to save them. Benjamin can’t go on like it is.
Fortunately their second promise helped them out. They had to do some quick figuring to see who didn’t turn up to help. I wonder if they would even have carried out this promise if they didn’t find themselves in trouble a bind with promise three.
Jabesh-gilead was the answer to promise two and three. This town/clan chose an isolationist policy. “Not my monkeys, not my circus.” It didn’t happen to one of their members so they didn’t feel inclined to do anything about it. Their decision would cost MANY lives but also save the future of many more.
I wonder if God kept one group feeling this way to help Benjamin in the end. He does not cause us to do evil but He knows what we have planned before we carry it out. He also knows what our good works are going to be. I’m CERTAIN He knew of all three vows the people were going to make and what kind of issues they would eventually come up against. Did He inspire a way out for Israel?
After retribution was enacted on the people of Jabesh-gilead 400 of the 600 men of Benjamin had a chance at a future. But that still left 1/3 of the men without wives. There was no one else that could “give” their daughters to the men of Benjamin but there was nothing to stop the men from “taking” a bride.
I see this “dance at Shiloh” as a way to skirt the original promise. The men of Benjamin are told exactly where to wait and what to do. The women are told where and when to dance. And the fathers are “placated” if their daughter is one of the chosen; stolen. I would not be surprised to find that the fathers and/or brothers “went to complain” as part of the plan. This way they could NOT be accused of giving their daughters to Benjamin.
I think the thing I need to take away from our reading today is to watch carefully the promises I make to the Lord. He expects me to keep my word, so when I make a promise it better be something I am willing to follow through on, EVEN IF IT IS HARD OR HURTS. I need to ask God what He would have me do instead of insisting He follow my lead or plans. I have a MUCH better chance of avoiding confusion that way.
Just one more thing before we finish off the book of Judges. It isn’t even specific to this book but our story brings this concept into full view. It is about the treatment of women during this time. Even in this story where women are desperately needed they are still being looked upon as property of the man. The only reason the 400 women given to Benjamin survived is because they were virgins. All others were killed. The daughters “stolen” had no choice in the matter. They were chosen by the men and expected to live with it, no matter their wishes. I’m glad I’m not part of that society.
Father God, thank You for making a way for the men of Benjamin to continue with their tribe without making the rest of Israel break their word. Help me when I stumble into that same kind of trap; making a promise before counting the cost. Sound advice ALL AROUND.
Thank You Holy Spirit for taking me through another one of the books of the bible. I’m looking forward to the more personal story that is coming next. This one is all about a girl who got to make a choice and make a difference.
Thank You Father God for the time in history You placed me in. I don’t know how I would have behaved in the times I have been reading about. I probably would have had to conform or die. I’m glad You gave me another choice.