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3. TTT HEN a good work is to be done for the cause of
VV God and righteousness, it should be done immediately, v. 8. Zeal, though it be well grounded and properly regulated, is apt to cool. Delays are dangerous, especially where a multitude is concerned, who are fickle and easily turned, and therefore it is prudent to make a vigorous dispatch.
2. We have here a remarkable illustration of that truth, the battle is not always to the strong. The Israelites were so much under an equal Providence, that had it not been for their iniquities they would not have been disappointed ; but they were vainly confident in their numbers and strength, and the goodness of their cause. They forgot to inquire so seriously and solemnly as they should have done, whether God would go with them? There were with them heinous sins against the Lord, that should have been put away. In affairs of less moment, let us guard against confidence and conceit ; and put away our iniquity, if we expect the blessing of heaven.
3. We may learn that the triumphing of the wicked is short. God suffers them sometimes to be elated with success, that their ruin may be the more remarkable. The Benjamites thought that the Israelites would fall as before, and that the day was their own ; but they were greatly disappointed. Though the wicked may lift up themselves on high, and imagine all is well, and fear no evil, their day shall come to fall ; and it will be the more dreadful, in proportion to the degree in which they thought themselves out of danger, and promised themselves safety.
4. We may observe from the whole story, what great mischief one act of wickedness may produce. What a dreadfal destruction is here made among the tribes of Israel, by the wickedness of the men of Gibeah ! When wickedness is acted, and danger not feared, little do men know what will be in the end thereof; what destruction they may bring on themselves and the community to which they belong. Know then, and see, that it is an evil and a bitter thing to forsake God and commit iniquity ; and that as righteousness exalteth a nation ; so sin is a reproach to any people, and will be the ruin of it.
CHAP. XXI. We have seen the destruction of almost the whole tribe of Benja.
min ; here we read of a strange method taken to repair the deso
lation. INTOW the men of Israel had sworn in Mizpeh, say.
W ing, There shall not any of us give his daughter unto Benjamin to wife ; though there should many of them escape,
yet we will have no dealings nor society with them, but look upon 2 them as heathens, Apd the people came to the house of God at Shiloh, and abode, there till even before God, and lifted up their voices, and wept sore ; mourned over the defeat of their
brethren, and celebrated, the victory with lamentation instead of 3 joy :* And said, O Lord God of Israel, why is this come
to pass in Israel, that there should be today one tribe lacking
in Israel? They expressed great sorrow, and lamented their 4 excessive wrath in killing the women and children. And it
came to pass on the morrow, that the people rose, early, and built there an altar, and offered burnt offerings, and peace
offerings, to atone for their rąshness, and beg direction from 5 God in this important affair. And the children of Israel said,
Who [is there) among all the tribes of Israel that came not up with the congregation unto the LORD ? For they had made a great gath concerning him that came not up to the LORD to Mizpeh, saying, He shall surely be put to death; they had. taken an path to destroy those cities who would not join the exhedition, or send some person to the assembly at Mizpeh ; because
refusing to do it was openly countenancing this great picked. 6 ness of the Benjamites. And the children of Israel repented
them for Benjamin their brother, and said, There is one 1 tribe cut off from Israel this day. How shall we do for wives
for them that remain, seeing we have sworn by the LORD that we will not give them of our daughters to wives? They continue lamenting the case of their brethren, and it was debated in council how they might keep their oath, and yet furnish the Benjamites with wives : and one of the council proposed examine
ing the muster roll. B 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, a city on the other side Jordan in the tribe of Manasseh ; it was
an uncommon instance of zeal, that all the people should stay to9 gether till this affair was settled. For the people were num
bered, and, behold, [there were] none of the inhabitants of 10 Jabeshgilead there. And the congregation sent thither
• The Romans allowed of no triumph in civil wars,
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 ; ordering them to be slain as enemies to the public. This command was too rash; the women and children had not offended :
it would have been sufficient to have obliged them to furnish the 11 remainder of the Benjamites with wives. And this fist the
thing that ye shall do, Ye shall utterly destroy every male, 12 and every woman that hath lain by man, And they found • among the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead four hundred young
virgins, that had known no man by lying with any male :
and they brought them unto the camp to Shiloh, which [is] 13 in the land of Canaan. And the whole congregation sent : [some] to speak to the children of Benjamin that (were] in
the rock Rimmon, and to call peaceably unto them, and give the public faith that they should be secured and return in peace, And Benjamin came again at that time ; and they gave them wives which they had saved alive of the women of Jabeshgilead; this they thought might do, as the oath obliged only those who were at the assembly : and yet so they sufficed them not. And the people repented them for Benjamin, because that the Lord had made a breach in the tribes of Israel ; they lamented that there was not a sufficient number, and held another
consultation what was to be done. 16 Then the elders of the congregation said, How shall we do for
wives for them that remain, seeing the women are destroyed 11 out of Benjamin ? And they said, [There must be] an inherit
ance for them that be escaped of Benjamin, that a tribe be not destroyed out of Israel; they that are escaped must have the whole inheritance which belongs to that tribe ; and therefore all of them had need to have wives. This showed a generous spirit amidst all their wrath ; they would not share the land
among themselves, but restored it to those to whom it fell by lot. 18 Howbeit, we may not give them wives of our daughters : for
the children of Israel have sworn, saying, Cursed [be] he 19 that giveth a wife to Benjamin. Then some of the council · proposed another scheme, which the rest fell in with, and they
said, Behold, (there is) a feast of the Lord in Shiloh yearly [in a place] which [is] on the north side of Bethel, on the east
side of the highway that goeth up from Bethel to Shechem, 20 and on the south of Lebonah.* Therefore they commanded
the children of Benjamin, saying, Go and lie in wait in the 21 vineyards, which surround the place where they dance : And · see, and behold, if the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance
* This was the feast of tabernacles, which was celebrated with rejoicing ; and at this
in dances, then come ye out of the vineyards, and catch you
every man his wife of the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the 22 land of Benjamin.* And it shall be, when their fathers or
their brethren come unto us to complain, that we will say unto them, Be favourable unto them for our sakes : because we reserved not to each man his wife in the war ; give those unhappy persons no disturbance, for the Israelites have been to blame in taking such a severe revenge ; for ye did not give unto them at this time, [that] ye should be guilty ; ye have
not broken your oath ; they took your daughters, and you did not 23 give them away. But, after all, this was a poor evasion. And
the children of Benjamin did so, and took (them) wives, according to their number, of them that danced, whom they
caught :f and they went and returned unto their inheritance, 24 and repaired the cities, and dwelt in them. And the children
of Israel departed thence at that time, every man to his tribe
and to his family, and they went out from thence every man 25 to his inheritance. In those days (there was) no 'king in
Israel : every man did [that which was] right in his own eyes ; they had an high priest and elders, but they had not such authority as Moses and Joshua ; and we see the sad consequences both in this and the foregoing chapters.
1. E see that zeal in a good work may be excessive,
. and degenerate into rashness and revenge. The disa position the Israelites discovered to punish vice, was commend. able, but carried too far, and showed too much of a cruel spirit. Let us guard our żeal even in a good cause : that is not good divinity which swallows up humanity. How much better had those Israelites acted if they had shown some tenderness and compassion ! they would not then have had ground for la. mentation and remorse. But rash vows and actions are generally accompanied with sorrow and distress. Strong passions make work for repentance. Let us, therefore, be careful to rule our own spirits ; look well to the end and consequences of an action before we begin it, lest we wish it undone, when it is too late to remédy the evil consequences.
* This might be easily done, as there were only the young women together, the daugha ters of Shiloh: no men, as is the custom of the present day; nor did the married women so far forget their gravity and regard to their families, as to go with them.
of These were not likely to be happy thatches ; but they had this one advantage, that they were all matched to the most wealthy inen in the country, for the whole land of the tribe of Benjamin was divided among these six hundred men; and if the parents and daughters were like many mothers in the present day, they would think themselves well off that they were allied to men of such large estates. No doubt the step was wrong; they should have acknowledged their sin, repented of their oath, and begged direction from God what to
men are more ready to stop, the voice of conscience with some device of their own, than to acknowledge that they have done wrong,
%. The several stories related in this last chapter, should make us thankful for a good government. Blessed be God, that we have a king in our Israel ; that men are not suffered to do that which is right in their own eyes. Civil government is from God; and to live under one where our lives and liberties, our children and possessions, are secure from violence, is a grea: blessing, and deserves thankfully to be acknowledged. We in this nation are remarkably distinguished in this respect, and it be. comes us to be thankful to God, who hath fixed the bounds of our habitation : and while we enjoy the blessings of a good adminis. tration, let us adore the Providence which has protected and supported it. While we are careful to render unto Cesar the things that are Cæsar's, let us render unto God the things that are God's. Amen,