Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
2-5. the people came to the house of God, . . . and lifted up their
voices, and wept sore--The characteristic fickleness of the Israelites
was not long in being displayed; for scarcely had they cooled from the
fierceness of their sanguinary vengeance, than they began to relent and
rushed to the opposite extreme of self-accusation and grief at the
desolation which their impetuous zeal had produced. Their victory
saddened and humbled them. Their feelings on the occasion were
expressed by a public and solemn service of expiation at the house of
God. And yet this extraordinary observance, though it enabled them to
find vent for their painful emotions, did not afford them full relief,
for they were fettered by the obligation of a religious vow, heightened
by the addition of a solemn anathema on every violator of the oath.
There is no previous record of this oath; but the purport of it was,
that they would treat the perpetrators of this Gibeah atrocity in the
same way as the Canaanites, who were doomed to destruction; and the
entering into this solemn league was of a piece with the rest of their
inconsiderate conduct in this whole affair.
6. There is one tribe cut off from Israel this day--that is, in danger
of becoming extinct; for, as it appears from
they had massacred all the women and children of Benjamin, and six
hundred men alone survived of the whole tribe. The prospect of such a
blank in the catalogue of the twelve tribes, such a gap in the national
arrangements, was too painful to contemplate, and immediate measures
must be taken to prevent this great catastrophe.
8. there came none to the camp from Jabesh-gilead to the assembly--This
city lay within the territory of eastern Manasseh, about fifteen miles
east of the Jordan, and was, according to JOSEPHUS, the capital of
Gilead. The ban which the assembled tribes had pronounced at Mizpeh
seemed to impose on them the necessity of punishing its inhabitants for
not joining the crusade against Benjamin; and thus, with a view of
repairing the consequences of one rash proceeding, they hurriedly
rushed to the perpetration of another, though a smaller tragedy. But it
that, besides acting in fulfilment of their oath, the Israelites had
the additional object by this raid of supplying wives to the Benjamite
remnant. This shows the intemperate fury of the Israelites in the
indiscriminate slaughter of the women and children.
16. the elders of the congregation said, How shall we do for wives for
them that remain--Though the young women of Jabesh-gilead had been
carefully spared, the supply was found inadequate, and some other
expedient must be resorted to.
17. There must be an inheritance for them that be escaped of
Benjamin--As they were the only rightful owners of the territory,
provision must be made for transmitting it to their legitimate heirs,
and a new act of violence was meditated
the opportunity for which was afforded by the approaching festival--a
feast generally supposed to be the feast of tabernacles. This, like the
other annual feasts, was held in Shiloh, and its celebration was
attended with more social hilarity and holiday rejoicings than the
19. on the east side of the highway that goeth up from Beth-el to
Shechem--The exact site of the place was described evidently for the
direction of the Benjamites.
21, 22. daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in dances--The dance was
anciently a part of the religious observance. It was done on festive
occasions, as it is still in the East, not in town, but in the open
air, in some adjoining field, the women being by themselves. The young
women being alone indulging their light and buoyant spirits, and
apprehensive of no danger, facilitated the execution of the scheme of
seizing them, which closely resembles the Sabine rape in Roman history.
The elders undertook to reconcile the families to the forced abduction
of their daughters. And thus the expression of their public sanction to
this deed of violence afforded a new evidence of the evils and
difficulties into which the unhappy precipitancy of the Israelites in
this crisis had involved them.