The Israelites had made a pledge at Mizpah, declaring, "None of us will allow his daughter to marry a Benjaminite."
But the people came to Bethel and sat there until evening before God, raising their voices and crying bitterly.
"LORD, God of Israel," they said, "why has this happened among us that as of today one tribe will be missing from Israel?"
And the next day, the people got up early and built an altar there. They offered entirely burned offerings and well-being sacrifices.
Then the Israelites asked, "Were there any out of all the tribes of Israel who didn't march up to the assembly before the LORD?" Indeed, they had made a solemn pledge that anyone who didn't march up before the LORD at Mizpah would be put to death.
The Israelites had a change of heart concerning their relatives the Benjaminites. They said, "Today one tribe has been cut off from Israel.
What can we do to provide wives for the ones who are left, since we ourselves have made a pledge before the LORD not to allow our daughters to marry them?"
So they asked, "Is there anyone from the tribes of Israel who didn't march up before the LORD at Mizpah?" There was! No one from Jabesh-gilead had come to the assembly at the camp.
When the people's attendance was taken, not one of those who lived in Jabesh-gilead had been there.
The community dispatched twelve thousand warriors there with these orders: "Go kill all the people in Jabesh-gilead, including women and children.
Here's what you should do: Exterminate every man and every woman who has slept with a man."
Among the people of Jabesh-gilead, they found four hundred young women who had not known a man intimately or slept with one, and they brought them to the camp at Shiloh in the land of Canaan.
The whole community then sent word to the Benjaminites who were at the rock of Rimmon and offered them a truce.a14
So the Benjaminites returned at that time, and they gave them the women from Jabesh-gilead that they had allowed to live. Even so, there weren't enough for them.
Since the people had a change of heart concerning the Benjaminites because the LORD had caused a rupture in the tribes of Israel,
the community elders said, "What can we do to provide wives for the ones who are left, seeing that the Benjaminite women have been destroyed?
There must be a surviving line for those who remain from Benjamin," they continued, "so that a tribe won't be erased from Israel.
But we can't allow our daughters to marry them, for we Israelites have made this pledge: ‘Let anyone who provides a wife for Benjamin be cursed!'
However," they said, "the annual festival of the LORD is under way in Shiloh, which is north of Bethel, east of the main road that goes up from Bethel to Shechem, and south of Lebonah."
So they instructed the Benjaminites, "Go and hide like an ambush in the vineyards
and watch. At the moment the women of Shiloh come out to participate in the dances, rush out from the vineyards. Each one of you, capture a wife for yourself from the women of Shiloh and go back to the land of Benjamin.
When their fathers or brothers come to us to object, we'll tell them, ‘Do us a favor for their sake. We didn't capture enough women for every man during the battle, and this way you are not guilty because you didn't give them anything willingly.'"
And that is what the Benjaminites did. They took wives for their whole group from the dancers whom they abducted. They returned to their territory, rebuilt the cities, and lived in them.
Likewise, the Israelites set out from there at that time, heading home to their respective tribes and clans. They all left there for their own territories.
In those days there was no king in Israel; each person did what they thought to be right.