Be favourable unto them; pass by their offence, if not for their sakes, whom necessity forced to this course; yet for our sakes, and indeed for your own sakes; for both you and we have done them a great injury in prosecuting them with so much fury, as to endanger the utter extinction of the whole tribe; and therefore this is the least we can do by way of reparation.
In the war; either, first, In the war with Jabesh-gilead, wherein they should have taken care to reserve a sufficient number, which they might have done, by sparing either so many of the married women as were necessary, who, their former husbands being slain, might have been married to those Benjamites; or as many of the younger virgins, who, within a little time, might have been married to them, whom many suppose that they slew. Or, secondly, In the war with the Benjamites, in which they acknowledge their cruelty in destroying the women with such fury, as not to leave a competent number for the men which were left. See Jud_20:48. Ye
did not give unto them at this time, that ye should be guilty.
Quest. Whether this did really discharge them from their oath?
Answ. First, It seems to excuse those parents of these virgins who were not acquainted with the plot, and did neither directly nor indirectly give their daughters to them, but they were taken away by force, without their knowledge and consent. If it be said those parents might and should have retaken their daughters from them; it may be replied, that they could not do so before they were corrupted, and the rulers of Israel would not assist them with their power to recover them. And it is a maxim, That many things which ought not to be done, when once they are done, should not be undone. And for those parents who were conscious of the design, it is probable they kept their daughters at home to avoid this. Secondly, Either the oath was made with an exception of the case of the total extirpation of a tribe, or it was a rash oath to do what was out of their power, or what they could not lawfully do, to wit, utterly to destroy a tribe out of Israel, which therefore they here speak of with horror, Jud_21:3,6; and if so, as they sinned in making it, so they were not obliged to keep it; it being an acknowledged truth, that rash and sinful oaths are better broken than kept. Thirdly. Yet they cannot be wholly excused from sin in this matter; for as it was folly to take such an oath as it is expressed, so the manner of freeing themselves from their own snare is fraudulent and injurious to the parents, in disposing of their children without their consent.