When the Israelites had gathered at Mizpah, they had made a solemn promise to the Lord: "None of us will allow a Benjaminite to marry a daughter of ours."
So now the people of Israel went to Bethel and sat there in the presence of God until evening. Loudly and bitterly they mourned:
"Lord God of Israel, why has this happened? Why is the tribe of Benjamin about to disappear from Israel?"
Early the next morning the people got up and built an altar there. They offered fellowship sacrifices and burned some sacrifices whole.
They asked, "Is there any group out of all the tribes of Israel that did not go to the gathering in the Lord's presence at Mizpah?" (They had taken a solemn oath that anyone who had not gone to Mizpah would be put to death.)
The people of Israel felt sorry for their brothers the Benjaminites and said, "Today Israel has lost one of its tribes.
What shall we do to provide wives for the men of Benjamin who are left? We have made a solemn promise to the Lord that we will not give them any of our daughters."
When they asked if there was some group out of the tribes of Israel that had not gone to the gathering at Mizpah, they found out that no one from Jabesh in Gilead had been there;
at the roll call of the army no one from Jabesh had responded.
So the assembly sent twelve thousand of their bravest men with the orders, "Go and kill everyone in Jabesh, including women and children.
Kill all the males, and also every woman who is not a virgin."
They found four hundred young virgins among the people in Jabesh, so they brought them to the camp at Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan.
Then the whole assembly sent word to the Benjaminites who were at Rimmon Rock and offered to end the war.
The Benjaminites came back, and the other Israelites gave them the young women from Jabesh whom they had not killed. But there were not enough of them.
The people felt sorry for the Benjaminites because the Lord had broken the unity of the tribes of Israel.
So the leaders of the gathering said, "There are no more women in the tribe of Benjamin. What shall we do to provide wives for the men who are left?
Israel must not lose one of its twelve tribes. We must find a way for the tribe of Benjamin to survive,
but we cannot allow them to marry our daughters, because we have put a curse on anyone who allows a Benjaminite to marry one of our daughters."
Then they thought, "The yearly festival of the Lord at Shiloh is coming soon." (Shiloh is north of Bethel, south of Lebonah, and east of the road between Bethel and Shechem.)
They told the Benjaminites, "Go and hide in the vineyards
and watch. When the young women of Shiloh come out to dance during the festival, you come out of the vineyards. Each of you take a wife by force from among them and take her back to the territory of Benjamin with you.
If their fathers or brothers come to you and protest, you can tell them, "Please let us keep them, because we did not take them from you in battle to be our wives. And since you did not give them to us, you are not guilty of breaking your promise.' "
The Benjaminites did this; each of them chose a wife from the young women who were dancing at Shiloh and carried her away. Then they went back to their own territory, rebuilt their towns, and lived there.
At the same time the rest of the Israelites left, and every man went back to his own tribe and family and to his own property.
There was no king in Israel at that time. Everyone did whatever they pleased. 1