In Shoftim (Judges) 21, the tribe of Benjamin was almost eliminated except for 600 men. However, all the other tribes had made an oath stating that no one was allowed to give their daughters to the men of the tribe of Benjamin:

Judges 21:7:

מַה־נַּעֲשֶׂ֥ה לָהֶ֛ם לַנּוֹתָרִ֖ים לְנָשִׁ֑ים וַאֲנַ֙חְנוּ֙ נִשְׁבַּ֣עְנוּ בַֽיהוָ֔ה לְבִלְתִּ֛י תֵּת־לָהֶ֥ם מִבְּנוֹתֵ֖ינוּ לְנָשִֽׁים׃

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?’

Why couldn't the other tribes get their oath / vow annulled?

  • What reason would they have for asking for annulment?
    – Double AA
    Jul 20, 2015 at 19:52

3 Answers 3


In order to annul a vow, there must be a reason to annul it. Usually, that reason is of the form, "If I had known XYZ, I never would have taken that oath!" The 9th perek of Masechet Nedarim discusses annulling vows using the reason that something happened after the oath was taken which, had the person who swore known it would happen, he wouldn't have sworn in the first place. The halacha is that such an oath cannot be annulled for that reason. The XYZ must have been the metzius at the time of the vow, but simply unknown to the oath-taker in order for it to be a valid reason to annul the neder.

Following that reasoning, if the reason the tribes wanted to ask for annulment of their vow was because they did not know that Benjamin would be mostly wiped out in the future, that would be insufficient reason to annul their vow since Benjamin was not decimated at the time of the vow.

  • The Malbim does not agree with you. Jul 20, 2015 at 20:05
  • @MichaelKatz about what? Surely he doesn't disagree about what the halacha is. Maybe he thinks they had another reason to be matir their neder but that's a different issue.
    – Daniel
    Jul 20, 2015 at 20:08
  • According to the Malbim the reason you quote would have worked to win annulment if not for the fact that they had an alternative. Jul 20, 2015 at 21:27
  • @MichaelKatz could you link to where the Malbim says that?
    – Daniel
    Jul 20, 2015 at 21:34
  • @Daniel - I'm trying to follow your 2nd & 3rd sentence and they seem to contradict each other. Am I not following, or did you make an error? The 2nd sent. says, that to annul, he must have reasoned that he wouldn't have vowed had he known something would happen. In 3rd sentence you say this CAN'T be annulled. Did I miss something?
    – DanF
    Jul 20, 2015 at 21:50

The Malbim says that they could not release their oath since they had an alternative solution which was the scenario that they enacted.

  • What is the Malbim's reasoning?
    – Daniel
    Jul 20, 2015 at 22:38
  • @Daniel The justification for nullifying the oath would be that they had not realized at the time of the oath that it would result in the loss of one of the tribes. But, since they had an alternative solution Binyomin would not be lost. Therefore, a nullification is not justified. You can find the Malbim on the relevant verse in Shoftim. Jul 21, 2015 at 20:36

Another reason could also be that whatever bais din that they could choose would have been nogeiah badavar (involved in the matter) and therefore would not have been able to paskin. Since every tribe as a tribe had made the oath, they could not find dayanim to be matir the neder. As a result, they had to find people who were not subject to the vow and follow the method that they did.

Note that @Salomonius2 pointed out that they were also nogeiah bedavar because of the neder included what to do to someone who refused to join in. Also the fear of being included in being considered worthy of being attacked by the rest of Bnei Yisrael.

  • Assuming that this is correct, there were no Dayanim available in Yavesh Gil'ad?
    – DanF
    Jul 20, 2015 at 20:25
  • Why not have Yavesh Gilad sit on the court?
    – Double AA
    Jul 20, 2015 at 20:26
  • Well, one could argue that the members of Yavesh Gilad were also Nogeiah Badavar, as they were sentenced to death for not partaking of the conference... Jul 20, 2015 at 20:29
  • @Salmononius2 Good point! I hadn't considered that.
    – DanF
    Jul 21, 2015 at 13:13

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