Judges 21 wraps up this book in scripture. Remember that the people of Israel had just all but wiped out the tribe of Benjamin because they harbored some evil men in Gilbeah. They had sworn that “No one of us shall give his daughter in marriage to Benjamin”. They were obviously ticked off at them. But now they were having second thoughts. They began to question that and asked if “there should be one tribe lacking in Israel”. Were they really going to wipe this tribe out?
There was a problem though because “they had taken a great oath”. They couldn’t just ignore what they had agreed to earlier. “What shall we do for wives for those who are left, since we have sworn by the Lord that we will not give them any of our daughters for wives”? How would they enable the few men remaining to carry on their tribe? They put their heads together and discovered that “no one had come to the camp from Jabesh-gilead” to the assembly and this was their loophole. They could go and take some women from them to become wives.
So they sent 12,000 of their bravest men and killed off the people and returned with 400 young virgins and then “sent word to the people of Benjamin who were at the rock of Rimmon and proclaimed peace to them”. Seems like a little leadership during this time could have saved a whole lot of lives. People were out of control and just reacting to the situation with little creativity or discussion. Their motive was to be sure “that a tribe not be blotted out from Israel”. That would have been easier to guarantee before wiping out 25K plus men.
The few remaining of the tribe of Benjamin come back and are told “Go and lie in ambush in the vineyards and watch. If the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in the dances, then come out of the vineyards and snatch each man his wife from the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin”. These were the virgins that they had gone and brought back earlier. The message was to go kidnap your future wife. And they did and headed home. The rest of the people who had been gathered departed to their homes. “There was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes”. A formula for disaster. People struggle with strong leadership. Without it, chaos reigns!