Sefer Shoftim-Chapter 21: The rehabilitation of the tribe of Binyamin

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Chapter 21: The rehabilitation of the tribe of Binyamin

1. The Jewish people gather together and bemoan the loss of Binyamin:

  • The oath not to marry into Binyamin: The Jewish people took an oath by the city of Mitzpah [prior to going to battle] that no man will give their daughter in marriage to a member of Binyamin.
  • Bemoaning the death of Binyamin: They returned from battle to the city of Beis Eil and began to bemoan before G-d until evening. They cried a great cy and wailed before Him saying: Why G-d did this occur amongst Israel for an entire tribe to be decimated.
  • The next day the Jewish people built an altar and offered sacrifices to G-d.
  • The regret: The Jewish people regretted what happened to their brother Binyamin and that an entire tribe would be erased from Israel. They discussed what they could do to give the surviving men wives, as they had taken an oath to G-d that no man will give them his daughters as wives.

2. The people of Yaveish Gilad are annihilated:

  • The oath summoning all the tribes to Mitzpah before the war: The Jewish people had made an announcement [before the war] calling all the tribes of Israel to come to visit G-d in Mitzpah, and that whoever would not come would die.
  • The Jewish people checked to see if there were any members of Israel who did not come to Mitzpah, and they discovered that no man came from the land of Yaveish Gilad. They did a census, and there was not one man present who was from there.
  • Yaveish Gilad is annihilated: So, they sent 12,000 soldiers with instructions to annihilate the city of Yaveish Gilad, both men and women and children. All males, and all females who have been intimate with a man, were to be killed.
  • Four hundred surviving girls: The above was done, and there remained 400 girls who were virgins who survived from Yaveish Gilad. These girls were brought to the camp of Shiloh in Eretz Canaan.

3. The surviving girls are given as wives to the survivors of Binyamin:

  • The congregation sent a delegation to speak with the surviving men of Binyamin who were hiding in the cave of Sela Rimon, and they called upon them in peace. The men of Binyamin returned at that time, and they were given as wives the girls who survived from Yaveish Gilad. However, there were not enough woman to go around for the tribe.
  • Remorse: The nation regretted what had occurred to Binyamin, and that fact that G-d had made a breach within the tribes of Israel.

4. Finding wives for the remining survivors of Binyamin:

  • The elders of the congregation searched for what could be done with the remaining men of Binyamin [who the daughters of Yaveish Gilad did not suffice], as all the woman of the tribe of Binyamin were annihilated. They said that the survivors of Binyamin would be the inheritors of the tribe, so that a tribe will not be erased from amongst Israel.
  • They could not give any of their own daughters as wives to Binyamin, as they made an oath that cursed will be the man who gives his daughter to Binyamin.

5. The festival of Shiloh-Binyamin takes for themselves wives:

  • There was an annual festival for G-d in the [outskirts of the] city of Shilo, which was north of Beis Eil, by the east. The daughters of Shiloh would go out and dance by the festival.
  • The plan: So, they told the [remaining] men of Binyamin [who did not have wives] about the festival. They told them to set up an ambush in the vineyards in the outskirts of Shiloh, and when they see the daughters of Shiloh leaving to the dance, you shall leave the vineyards and capture for yourselves a wife from those daughters, and then return to the land of Binyamin.
  • How to respond to the girls relatives: When the girl’s father or brother then comes to fight over the fact their daughter/sister was taken, we will tell them to have mercy and let them go, as no woman was taken in the war [with Yaveish Gilad, other than the 400 who already married the men of Binyamin]. We will tell them that [they do not need to worry of the oath] as they were not the one’s who gave their daughters to Binyamin, and thus there will be no fault found with them.
  • The girls of Shiloh are taken as wives for the remaining men of Binyamin: So, the tribe of Binyamin did as they were instructed, and they married the woman who they kidnapped from amongst those who came to dance. They then returned to their land of inheritance and rebuilt the cities and dwelled there.

6. The Jewish people return home:

  • The Jewish people left [Mitzpah] and each man returned to his tribe and family, and to his land of inheritance.
  • In those days there was no king amongst Israel, and each man did what was fit in his eyes.

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