Women of the Word: Four Hundred Virgins of Jabesh-Gilead and the Young Women of Shiloh

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To understand what takes place with these four hundred virgins and young women in Judges 21, you have to first read what happens in the previous two chapters. Judges 19-20 details the brutal beating, abuse, and gang rape that a Levite’s concubine suffers at the hands of wicked men. When the Levite finds his concubine dead, he cuts her body into twelve pieces and sends the pieces to the twelve tribes of Israel. When the tribes are alerted to this horrible crime, eleven of the tribes judge that the twelfth tribe of Benjamin is responsible for this act, since the men of Gibeah, the place where the concubine was raped and killed, were Benjamites. The tribe of Benjamin is told to hand over the perpetrators so they can be punished, but the Benjamites refuse. Instead, they go out to fight against the other eleven tribes and suffer a terrible defeat. Nearly the whole tribe is wiped out with 18,000 Benjamites being killed.

About 600 Benjamites escape and find refuge at the rock of Rimmon. Now they were faced with the dilemma of keeping their entire tribe from becoming extinct. Because the other eleven tribes had vowed that none of their daughters would marry Benjamites, the remaining men of the tribe of Benjamin are without wives and thus without a way for their line to be preserved. They were only saved from their plight by the four hundred virgins of Jabesh-Gilead. An additional 200 or so more women from the daughters of Shiloh were gathered until every remaining Benjamite had a wife. Continue reading