It was such a mournful season. Because of the horrific evil of the Benjamites, the fellow Israelites had banded together and fought against them, destroying much of their tribe. Most of the women had been killed so that the survivors of the Benjamite tribe had no wives to rebuild the tribe.
It was important that the Israelites tribe survive. That was a core value. Yet in the battle the Israelites swore that they wouldn’t take any Benjamite woman for a wife because of the evil in the tribe. So how do they show compassion for the Benjamite tribe in its efforts to rebuild, while at the same time honoring their oath?
The solution was to invite the Israelites to a celebration service in Shiloh. The Benjamites were to go to the festival and take a wife. When the people protested, they would ask for the favor of the fathers since the fathers wouldn’t have broken their oath by giving the Benjamites wives. And the Benjamites could be provided for.
Remember, marriage was very different during these times. It wasn’t necessarily about love but more about survival, protection and the perpetuation of the tribes.
While it seems strange to us, it was a way for the fellow Israelites to show compassion on a fellow tribe. It was an act of mercy that this tribe not be wiped out as they still had a place in Israel.
So as we come to a horrific end in the book of Judges with the battle against the Benjamites, we still see hope and humanity. And that was show through mercy, but yet with a renewed commitment to keeping oaths.
Even in the darkest hour, there is yet hope.