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The lamentation of Israel over Benjamin, ver. 1 - 7.
They procure wives for the remaining Benjamites of the
virgins of Jabesh - Gilead, ver. 8 - 15.
And of the daughters of Shiloh, ver. 16 - 25.
1: Had sworn - In the beginning of this war, after the whole tribe
had espoused the quarrel of the men of Gibeah. Saying - They do not
here swear the utter extirpation of the tribe, which fell out beyond their
expectation, but only not to give their daughters to those men who should
survive; justly esteeming them for their villainy, to be as bad as Heathens,
with whom they were forbidden to marry.
4: An altar - Not for a monument of the victory, but for sacrifices,
as the next words shew. There might be in that place more altars than one,
when the multitude of sacrifices be required, which was the case,(1Ki 8:64), and probably at this time, when all the tribes being met,
they had many sacrifices to offer, some in common for all, and some peculiar
to every tribe.
5: Great oath - That is a solemn oath joined with some terrible
execration against the offenders herein. Put to death - Because by
refusing to execute the vengeance due to such malefactors, they were justly
presumed guilty of the crime, and therefore liable to the same punishment,
as was the case of that city that would not deliver up an Idolater dwelling
among them, to justice.
6: Repented - Not for the war, which was just and necessary, but for
their immoderate severity in the execution of it. That is no good divinity
which swallows up humanity. Even necessary justice is to be done with
15: The Lord, &c. - The Benjamites were the only authors of the
sin, but God was the chief author of the punishment, and the Israelites
were but his executioners.
17: An inheritance - The inheritance promised by Jacob and
Moses, and given by Joshua to the tribe of Benjamin, doth all of
it belong to those few who remain of that tribe, and cannot be possessed by
any other tribe; and therefore we are obliged to procure wives for them all,
that they may make up this breach, and be capable of possessing and managing
all their land: that this tribe, and their inheritance may not be confounded
with, or swallowed up by any of the rest.
19: A feast - Probably it was the feast of tabernacles, which they
celebrated with more than ordinary joy. And that feast was the only season,
at which the Jewish virgins were allowed to dance. But even this was
not mixed dancing. No men danced with these daughters of Shiloh.
Nor did the married women so forget their gravity, as to join with them.
However their dancing thus in public, made them an easy prey: whence Bishop
Hall observes, "The ambushes of evil spirits carry away many souls from
dancing to a fearful desolation."
21: Daughters of Shiloh - By whom we may understand not those only
who were born or settled inhabitants there, but all those who were come
thither upon this occasion, and for a time sojourned there: for although
only the males were obliged to go up to the three solemn feasts; yet the
women had liberty to go, and those who were most devout did usually go.
Vineyards - Which were near to the green where they danced.
Catch - Take them away by force, which they might the better do, because
the women danced by themselves.
23: And took, &c. - That is, each man his wife. By which we may see,
they had no very favourable opinion of polygamy, because they did not
allow it in this case, when it might seem most necessary for the reparation
of a lost tribe. Repaired - By degrees, increasing their buildings as
their number increased.
25: Right in his own eyes - What wonder was it then, if all
wickedness overflowed the land? Blessed be God for magistracy!