Now it's time for the rest of the story.
As you'll recall, God told the Israelites to fight the Benjamites three times. In the first two battles, the Israelites were defeated and 40,000 of their soldiers were killed. But the third time "God smote Benjamin," killing 25,100 of them. But 600 Benjamites survived.
But six hundred [Benjamite] men turned and fled to the wilderness unto the rock Rimmon, and abode in the rock Rimmon four months. Judges 20:48After the battle, the Israelites killed everything (human and animal) in every Benjamite village, town, and city and then burned everything to the ground.
And the men of Israel turned again upon the children of Benjamin, and smote them with the edge of the sword, as well the men of every city, as the beast, and all that came to hand: also they set on fire all the cities that they came to. Judges 20:48But then they remembered the 600 surviving Benjamite soldiers.
Where the heck were these guys going to find wives, since the Israelites had killed all the other Benjamites and they all swore to God at the Mizpeh concubine body part meeting that none of them would "give" their daughters to any Benjamite?
Now the men of Israel had sworn in Mizpeh, saying, There shall not any of us give his daughter unto Benjamin to wife. Judges 21:1Then they thought of a great solution. They'd check the records of the Mizpeh meeting and see who didn't show up when they got a body part in the mail.
And they said, What one is there of the tribes of Israel that came not up to Mizpeh to the LORD? And, behold, there came none to the camp from Jabeshgilead to the assembly. Judges 21:8It turned out that Jabeshgilead was absent. So they sent 12,000 soldiers to Jabeshgilead to kill everyone in town except for the virgin women. That produced 400 virgins, which they delivered to the Benjamite survivors at the rock Rimmon.
And the congregation sent thither twelve thousand men of the valiantest, and commanded them, saying, Go and smite the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead with the edge of the sword, with the women and the children. And they found among the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead four hundred young virgins, that had known no man by lying with any male ... and they gave them wives which they had saved alive of the women of Jabeshgilead: .Judges 21:10-14But shit! There were 600 Benjamites, so they were still 200 virgins short. Where the fuck were they going to find 200 more virgins?
Well, someone heard about this dancing festival that they had at Shiloh. So they had the remaining 200 Benjamite men hide in the bushes and catch the Shiloh virgins when they came out to dance.
Therefore they commanded the children of Benjamin, saying, Go and lie in wait in the vineyards ... And see, and, behold, if the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in dances, then come ye out of the vineyards, and catch you every man his wife of the daughters of Shiloh ... And the children of Benjamin did so, and took them wives, according to their number, of them that danced, whom they caught. Judges 21:20-23So each of the 600 surviving Benjamite soldiers got a virgin and everything worked out according to God's plan.
In the comments, busterggi asks, "So what was Yahweh's plan?"
It's a fair question. Let's see if we can figure it out from the text of Judges 19-21.
There are some things that are clear enough. God approved of the Israelite civil war between the Benjamite tribe and the rest of the Israelites. We know this since God was directly asked three times (Judges 20:18, 23, 28) by the non-Benjamites whether they should attack the Benjamites. In each case, God said yes.
Which side he was on is less clear, however. The first two times that he told the non-Benjamites to attack, they were routed by the Benjamites and lost a total of 40,000 men. But the third time, "the LORD smote Benjamin" and 25,100 Benjamites died (which was nearly all of them). What God had in mind in the first two battles is anyone's guess, but he seems to have favored the non-Benjamites in the overall war.
Which makes you wonder, why did God want the Israelites to fight against each other, and why did he want the non-Benjamites to win?
To answer that we have to go back to the Levite and his concubine. That was, after all, the only justification for the war. The men of Gibeah were Benjamites, the Benjamites refused to hand over the men of Gibeah (all of them, I guess) to the non-Benjamites to be killed, so the non-Benjamites had to go to war with the Benjamites. God must have accepted this justification for war, since no other is even hinted at in the story.
So God approved of the war, but did he approve of the way the Israelites were called to war? That is, did he approve of chopping up the concubine's body into 12 pieces and sending the pieces to the 12 tribes of Israel? (I guess even the Benjamites got a piece.) Well, he certainly never voiced any disapproval. And there is another similar message that he definitely approved. Shortly after Saul became king, "the spirit of God came upon Saul ... and he took a yoke of oxen, and hewed them in pieces, and sent them throughout all the coast of Israel." (1 Samuel 11:6-7). This was a call to war -- and Saul did it under the influence of God's spirit. So chopping up dead bodies and sending them as messages is something that God inspires people to do. So we can be pretty sure that God approved of the rotting concubine body part messages.
OK. So God approved of the war, was rooting for the non-Benjamites, and most likely approved of the call to war message. But how about the genocide after the war?
That is a harder question. But God had plenty of chances to object if he disapproved. And (as readers of this blog well know) he often performed genocide himself and commanded the Israelites to do likewise. So I think he was OK with the genocide of the Benjamites.
But what about after the genocide. Did he think the 600 surviving Benjamites needed wives? Did he approve of the vow (to him) that the non-Benjamites made to not "give" their daughters to Benjamites? Did he think it was OK to kill everyone in Jabeshgilead except the virgin women in order to get 400 wives for the Benjamites? And did he approve of the abduction of the Shiloh girls for the remaining 200 Benjamites?
I would say that the answer to each of these questions is yes. God approved of it all. It was all a part of his plan and everything worked out just the way he wanted it to.
What do you think?