The men of Israel had taken this oath in Mizpah: "None of us will ever let our daughters marry anyone from Benjamin."
The people went to Bethel and sat there in the presence of God until evening. They cried very loudly,
"LORD God of Israel, why has this happened among us? Why should one tribe be missing today in Israel?"
The next day the people got up early. They built an altar there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings.
The people asked, "Is there any family from Israel that did not take part in the assembly in the presence of the LORD?" They had taken a solemn oath that whoever had not come into the presence of the LORD at Mizpah must be put to death.
The people of Israel felt sorry for their close relatives, the men of Benjamin. They said, "Today one tribe has been excluded from Israel.
What will we do to provide wives for the men who are left? We swore to the LORD that we would not let any of our daughters marry them."
Then they asked, "Is there any family from Israel that did not come into the presence of the LORD at Mizpah?" No one from Jabesh Gilead had come to the assembly in the camp.
So they questioned the people, and there was no one there from Jabesh Gilead.
The congregation sent 12,000 soldiers. They ordered them, "Go and kill the people of Jabesh Gilead, including the women and children.
These are your directions: Claim every female who has gone to bed with a man, and claim every male. Claim them for the LORD by destroying them."
Among the people of Jabesh Gilead they found 400 unmarried women who had never gone to bed with a man. They brought them to the camp at Shiloh in Canaan.
Then the whole congregation sent messengers to the men of Benjamin at Rimmon Rock and offered them peace.
So the men of Benjamin came back at that time. These men were given the women from Jabesh Gilead who had been kept alive. However, the congregation had not found enough women for all of them.
The congregation felt sorry for the people of Benjamin because the LORD had broken the unity of the tribes of Israel.
The leaders of the congregation asked, "What should we do to provide wives for the men who are left, since the women in Benjamin have been killed?"
Some said, "Benjamin's men who survived must be allowed to have families. No tribe of Israel should be wiped out.
However, we can't give them any of our daughters as wives. The people of Israel have taken an oath that whoever gives wives to the men of Benjamin is under a curse."
Others said, "Every year the LORD's festival is held at Shiloh. Shiloh is north of Bethel, east of the highway going from Bethel to Shechem, and south of Lebonah."
So they told the men of Benjamin, "Hide in the vineyards and
watch. When the young women of Shiloh come out to take part in the dances, come out of the vineyards. Each of you catch a woman from Shiloh to be your wife. Then go back to the territory of Benjamin.
When their fathers or brothers come to us to complain, we'll tell them, 'Have pity on them, since we didn't provide a wife for each man in the battle. You won't be guilty because you didn't give them the wives yourselves.'"
The men of Benjamin did just that. They captured the number of wives they needed from the women who were dancing and went home. So they rebuilt their cities and lived in them.
At that time the people of Israel left. Each man went to his tribe and family. They all went home.
In those days Israel didn't have a king. Everyone did whatever he considered right.