Procuring Virgins, Performing Peace: Reconciliation through the Exchange of Women in Judges 21

In: Vetus Testamentum

Abstract

Rather than the commonly understood chaotic ending to Judges which illustrates the need for a king, the exchange of women in Judg 21 mediates the conflict between the Israelite tribes, creating a peaceful resolution to their civil war through the reestablishment of kinship loyalties. By applying anthropological concepts of gift exchange and alternative marriage practices to the final story of Judges (chs. 19-21), especially to the resolution of that story in ch. 21, we can see the rapprochement achieved through the gift of virgin brides which strengthens relations between the tribes. In light of this assessment, the monarchic refrain (Judg 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; and 21:25) was likely added during the latest stages of development to frame the final two stories to emphasize the need for a strong central government—kingship. Only with this refrain does the reconciliation of the warring tribes realized through the traffic of women appear insufficient.

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