Now the Israelites grieved for their brothers, the Benjamites. "Today one tribe is cut off from Israel," they said.
"How can we provide wives for those who are left, since we have taken an oath1 by the LORD not to give them any of our daughters in marriage?"
Then they asked, "Which one of the tribes of Israel failed to assemble before the LORD at Mizpah?" They discovered that no one from Jabesh Gilead2 had come to the camp for the assembly.
For when they counted the people, they found that none of the people of Jabesh Gilead were there.
So the assembly sent twelve thousand fighting men with instructions to go to Jabesh Gilead and put to the sword those living there, including the women and children.
"This is what you are to do," they said. "Kill every male3 and every woman who is not a virgin.4"
They found among the people living in Jabesh Gilead four hundred young women who had never slept with a man, and they took them to the camp at Shiloh5 in Canaan.
Then the whole assembly sent an offer of peace6 to the Benjamites at the rock of Rimmon.714
So the Benjamites returned at that time and were given the women of Jabesh Gilead who had been spared. But there were not enough for all of them.
The people grieved for Benjamin,8 because the LORD had made a gap in the tribes of Israel.
And the elders of the assembly said, "With the women of Benjamin destroyed, how shall we provide wives for the men who are left?
The Benjamite survivors must have heirs," they said, "so that a tribe of Israel will not be wiped out.918
We can't give them our daughters as wives, since we Israelites have taken this oath:10 'Cursed be anyone who gives11 a wife to a Benjamite.'
But look, there is the annual festival of the LORD in Shiloh,12 to the north of Bethel13, and east of the road that goes from Bethel to Shechem,14 and to the south of Lebonah."
So they instructed the Benjamites, saying, "Go and hide in the vineyards
and watch. When the girls of Shiloh come out to join in the dancing,15 then rush from the vineyards and each of you seize a wife from the girls of Shiloh and go to the land of Benjamin.
When their fathers or brothers complain to us, we will say to them, 'Do us a kindness by helping them, because we did not get wives for them during the war, and you are innocent, since you did not give16 your daughters to them.' "
So that is what the Benjamites did. While the girls were dancing,17 each man caught one and carried her off to be his wife. Then they returned to their inheritance18 and rebuilt the towns and settled in them.1924
At that time the Israelites left that place and went home to their tribes and clans, each to his own inheritance.
In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.20