The Israelites had vowed at Mizpah, “We will never give our daughters in marriage to a man from the tribe of Benjamin.”
Now the people went to Bethel and sat in the presence of God until evening, weeping loudly and bitterly.
“O LORD, God of Israel,” they cried out, “why has this happened in Israel? Now one of our tribes is missing from Israel!”
Early the next morning the people built an altar and presented their burnt offerings and peace offerings on it.
Then they said, “Who among the tribes of Israel did not join us at Mizpah when we held our assembly in the presence of the LORD ?” At that time they had taken a solemn oath in the LORD ’s presence, vowing that anyone who refused to come would be put to death.
The Israelites felt sorry for their brother Benjamin and said, “Today one of the tribes of Israel has been cut off.
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, “Who among the tribes of Israel did not join us at Mizpah when we assembled in the presence of the LORD ?” And they discovered that no one from Jabesh-gilead had attended the assembly.
For after they counted all the people, no one from Jabesh-gilead was present.
So the assembly sent 12,000 of their best 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 all the males and every woman who is not a virgin.”
Among the residents of Jabesh-gilead they found 400 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 remaining people of Benjamin who were living at the rock of Rimmon.
Then the men of Benjamin returned to their homes, and the 400 women of Jabesh-gilead who had been 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 made this gap among the tribes of Israel.
So the elders of the assembly asked, “How can we find wives for the few who remain, since the women of the tribe of Benjamin are dead?
There must be heirs for the survivors so that an entire tribe of Israel is not wiped out.
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, south of Lebonah and north of 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 you see the young women of Shiloh come out for their dances, rush out from the vineyards, and each of you can take one of them home to the land of Benjamin to be your wife!
And when their fathers and brothers come to us in protest, we will tell them, ‘Please be sympathetic. Let them have your daughters, for we didn’t find wives for all of them when we destroyed Jabesh-gilead. And you are not guilty of breaking the vow since you did not actually give your daughters to them in marriage.’”
So the men of Benjamin did as they were told. Each man caught one of the women as she danced in the celebration and carried her off to be his wife. They returned to their own land, and they rebuilt their towns and lived in them.
Then the people of Israel departed by tribes and families, and they returned to their own homes.
In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.