Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
To the house of God - It should be, "to Bethel." See Jdg 20:18.
The repetition of the name of Israel is very striking in connection with the title of Yahweh as "God of Israel." It contains a very forcible pleading of the covenant, and memorial of the promises. The very name "Israel" comprehended all the twelve tribes; with one of them blotted out, the remnant would not be Israel.
It is not certain whether the brass altar was at Bethel at this time, or whether it may not have been elsewhere, e. g., at Shiloh with the tabernacle. Some, however, think that the altar here mentioned was "additional" to the brass altar, in consequence of the unusual number of sacrifices caused by the presence of the whole congregation (compare Kg1 8:64 note).
Jabesh-Galead - Is here mentioned for the first time. (See marginal references.) The name of Jabesh survives only in the Wady Yabes (running down to the east bank of the Jordan), near the head of which are situated the ruins called Ed-Deir, which are identified with Jabesh-Gilead.
And the congregation sent 12,000 men - A thousand from each tribe; they followed the precedent of Num 31:4.
Ye shall utterly destroy - More exactly, "Ye shall devote to utter destruction," or "cherem" (Lev 27:28 note).
To Shiloh - Whither, as the usual place of meeting for the national assembly, the Israelites had moved from Bethel (a distance of about 10 miles), during the expedition of the 12,000 to Jabesh-Gilead.
For the children of Israel have sworn - See Jdg 21:1. Compare Saul's rash oath Sa1 14:24, and his breach of the oath made to the Gideonites Sa2 21:2. For the guilt of a broken oath, see Eze 17:15-20; Exo 20:7.
The Feast was probably the Passover, or one of the three great Jewish Feasts. In these unsettled times men went up to Shiloh (Seilun) only once a year Sa1 1:3 instead of thrice; only the males kept the Feasts, and therefore the virgins of Shiloh would naturally be the only maidens present, and the public festival would be a likely occasion for their festive dances. It is, however, possible that some particular feast unique to Shiloh is meant, like the yearly sacrifice of David's family in Bethlehem Sa1 20:29.
Ye did not give ... - i. e., they had not broken the oath mentioned in Jdg 21:1, so as to be guilty of taking the Lord's name in vain. They did not give their daughters to Benjamin: the Benjamites had taken them by force. Such casuistry as this condemns the system of oaths, and illustrates the wisdom of our Lord's precept Mat 5:33-37.
Compare the very similar account of the rape of the Sabine women by the Romero youths at the festival of the Consualia, as related by Livy.
The repetition of this characteristic phrase (compare Jdg 17:6; Jdg 18:1; Jdg 19:1) is probably intended to impress upon us the idea that these disorders arose from the want of a sufficient authority to suppress them. The preservation of such a story, of which the Israelites must have been ashamed, is a striking evidence of the divine superintendence and direction as regards the Holy Scriptures.