The Israelites had vowed at Mizpah never to give their daughters in marriage to a man from the tribe of Benjamin.
And the people went to Bethel and sat in the presence of God until evening, raising their voices and weeping bitterly.
"O LORD, God of Israel," they cried out, "why has this happened? Now one of our tribes is missing!"
Early the next morning the people built an altar and presented their burnt offerings and peace offerings on it.
Then they said, "Was any tribe of Israel not represented when we held our council in the presence of the LORD at Mizpah?" At that time they had taken a solemn oath in the LORD's presence, vowing that anyone who refused to come must die.
The Israelites felt deep sadness for Benjamin and said, "Today we have lost one of the tribes from our family; it is nearly wiped out.
How can we find wives for the few who remain, since we have sworn by the LORD not to give them our daughters in marriage?"
So they asked, "Was anyone absent when we presented ourselves to the LORD at Mizpah?" And they discovered that no one from Jabesh-gilead had attended.
For after they counted all the people, no one from Jabesh-gilead was present.
So they sent twelve thousand warriors to Jabesh-gilead with orders to kill everyone there, including women and children.
"This is what you are to do," they said. "Completely destroy a all the males and every woman who is not a virgin."
Among the residents of Jabesh-gilead they found four hundred young virgins who had never slept with a man, and they brought them to the camp at Shiloh in the land of Canaan.
The Israelite assembly sent a peace delegation to the little remnant of Benjamin who were living at the rock of Rimmon.
Then the men of Benjamin returned to their homes, and the four hundred women of Jabesh-gilead who were spared were given to them as wives. But there were not enough women for all of them.
The people felt sorry for Benjamin because the LORD had left this gap in the tribes of Israel.
So the Israelite leaders asked, "How can we find wives for the few who remain, since all the women of the tribe of Benjamin are dead?
There must be heirs for the survivors so that an entire tribe of Israel will not be lost forever.
But we cannot give them our own daughters in marriage because we have sworn with a solemn oath that anyone who does this will fall under God's curse."
Then they thought of the annual festival of the LORD held in Shiloh, between Lebonah and Bethel, along the east side of the road that goes from Bethel to Shechem.
They told the men of Benjamin who still needed wives, "Go and hide in the vineyards.
When the women of Shiloh come out for their dances, rush out from the vineyards, and each of you can take one of them home to be your wife!
And when their fathers and brothers come to us in protest, we will tell them, 'Please be understanding. Let them have your daughters, for we didn't find enough wives for them when we destroyed Jabesh-gilead. And you are not guilty of breaking the vow since you did not give your daughters in marriage to them.'"
So the men of Benjamin did as they were told. They kidnapped the women who took part in the celebration and carried them off to the land of their own inheritance. Then they rebuilt their towns and lived in them.
So the assembly of Israel departed by tribes and families, and they returned to their own homes.
In those days Israel had no king, so the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.
Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved. (New Living Translation - The Bible Online)