Numbers chapter 31

War against Midian. Treatment of the captives. Purification after combat. Dividing the plunder. Gifts of the officers.

 


 

WAR AGAINST MIDIAN

 

VERSE 1. The LORD spoke to Moses, saying,

 

VERSE 2. “Avenge the children of Israel on the Midianites. Afterward you shall be gathered to your people.”

Avenge the children of Israel. Sometimes the LORD God leads his people to defend themselves. But in this case, it was different:

 

VERSE 3. Moses spoke to the people, saying, “Arm men from among you for war, that they may go against Midian, to execute the LORD’s vengeance on Midian.

execute the LORD’s vengeance. They will be an agent of vengeance.

 

VERSE 4. You shall send one thousand out of every tribe, throughout all the tribes of Israel, to the war.”

 

VERSE 5. So there were delivered, out of the thousands of Israel, a thousand from every tribe, twelve thousand armed for war.

twelve thousand armed for war. They will be a formidable military presence.

 

VERSE 6. Moses sent them, one thousand of every tribe, to the war with Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, to the war, with the vessels of the sanctuary and the shofars for the alarm in his hand.

with the vessels of the sanctuary. They are taking the sacred vessels into combat.

the shofars. Or “trumpets.”

 

VERSE 7. They fought against Midian, as the LORD commanded Moses. They killed every male.

They killed every male. This was a massive amount of killing.

 

VERSE 8. They killed the kings of Midian with the rest of their slain: Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba, the five kings of Midian. They also killed Balaam the son of Beor with the sword.

Balaam the son of Beor. He had refused to curse the Israelites. Now they kill him.

 

VERSE 9. The children of Israel took the women of Midian captive with their little ones; and all their livestock, all their flocks, and all their goods, they took as plunder.

took the women of Midian captive. They harvest the women as property.

 

VERSE 10. All their cities in the places in which they lived, and all their encampments, they burned with fire.

they burned with fire. All Midianite property is destroyed.

 

VERSE 11. They took all the captives, and all the plunder, both of man and of animal.

 

VERSE 12. They brought the captives with the prey and the plunder, to Moses, and to Eleazar the priest, and to the congregation of the children of Israel, to the camp at the plains of Moab, which are by the Jordan at Jericho.

at Jericho. In later years, an epic victory will take place at Jericho.

 

TREATMENT OF THE CAPTIVES

 

VERSE 13. Moses and Eleazar the priest, with all the princes of the congregation, went out to meet them outside of the camp.

 

VERSE 14. Moses was angry with the officers of the army, the captains of thousands and the captains of hundreds, who came from the service of the war.

Moses was angry. The army had not done what he expected.

 

VERSE 15. Moses said to them, “Have you saved all the women alive?

Have you saved all the women alive? Moses expected the army to execute everybody in the enemy camp. But they did not.

 

VERSE 16. Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, and so the plague was among the congregation of the LORD.

 

VERSE 17. Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man by lying with him.

kill every male among the little ones. That is, kill all the little boys.

kill every woman who has known man. That is, kill all the female non-virgins.

 

VERSE 18. But all the girls, who have not known man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.

girls, who have not known man by lying with him. That is, allow female virgins to live.

 

PURIFICATION AFTER COMBAT

 

VERSE 19. “Encamp outside of the camp for seven days. Whoever has killed any person, and whoever has touched any slain, purify yourselves on the third day and on the seventh day, you and your captives.

outside of the camp for seven days. This introduces a dichotomy.

On the one hand, Moses says the LORD God commanded them to start this battle and to kill everyone.

On the other hand, because they did as the LORD God commanded, and because they started a battle and killed people, they are now impure and unable to live as a child of the LORD God.

 

VERSE 20. You shall purify every garment, and all that is made of skin, and all work of goats’ hair, and all things made of wood.”

 

VERSE 21. Eleazar the priest said to the men of war who went to the battle, “This is the statute of the law which the LORD has commanded Moses.

 

VERSE 22. However the gold, and the silver, the bronze, the iron, the tin, and the lead,

 

VERSE 23. everything that may withstand the fire, you shall make to go through the fire, and it shall be clean; nevertheless it shall be purified with the water for impurity. All that doesn’t withstand the fire you shall make to go through the water.

The booty they seized must go through two purifications:

  1. make to go through the fire. This is a purification by fire.
  2. purified with the water. This is a purification by water.

 

VERSE 24. You shall wash your clothes on the seventh day, and you shall be clean. Afterward you shall come into the camp.”

 

DIVIDING THE PLUNDER

 

VERSE 25. The LORD spoke to Moses, saying,

 

VERSE 26. “Count the plunder that was taken, both of man and of animal, you, and Eleazar the priest, and the heads of the fathers’ households of the congregation;

Count the plunder. They will take an inventory of the booty they seized.

 

VERSE 27. and divide the plunder into two parts: between the men skilled in war, who went out to battle, and all the congregation.

divide the plunder into two parts. In today’s Christian culture, the only true heroes are doers. They are the only people who merit a reward.

In effect, Christians have crafted for themselves a meritocracy.

But in those days, everybody shared in the rewards: both the men skilled in war, as well as all the congregation.

 

VERSE 28. Levy a tribute to the LORD of the men of war who went out to battle: one soul of five hundred; of the persons, of the cattle, of the donkeys, and of the flocks.

 

VERSE 29. Take it from their half, and give it to Eleazar the priest, for the LORD’s wave offering.

 

VERSE 30. Of the children of Israel’s half, you shall take one drawn out of every fifty, of the persons, of the cattle, of the donkeys, and of the flocks, of all the livestock, and give them to the Levites, who perform the duty of the LORD’s tabernacle.”

 

VERSE 31. Moses and Eleazar the priest did as the LORD commanded Moses.

 

VERSE 32. Now the plunder, over and above the booty which the men of war took, was six hundred seventy-five thousand sheep,

 

VERSE 33. seventy-two thousand head of cattle,

 

VERSE 34. sixty-one thousand donkeys,

 

VERSE 35. and thirty-two thousand persons in all, of the women who had not known man by lying with him.

 

VERSE 36. The half, which was the portion of those who went out to war, was in number three hundred thirty-seven thousand five hundred sheep;

 

VERSE 37. and the LORD’s tribute of the sheep was six hundred seventy-five.

 

VERSE 38. The cattle were thirty-six thousand, of which the LORD’s tribute was seventy-two.

 

VERSE 39. The donkeys were thirty thousand five hundred, of which the LORD’s tribute was sixty-one.

 

VERSE 40. The persons were sixteen thousand, of whom the LORD’s tribute was thirty-two persons.

 

VERSE 41. Moses gave the tribute, which was the LORD’s wave offering, to Eleazar the priest, as the LORD commanded Moses.

 

VERSE 42. Of the children of Israel’s half, which Moses divided off from the men who fought

 

VERSE 43. (now the congregation’s half was three hundred thirty-seven thousand five hundred sheep,

 

VERSE 44. thirty-six thousand head of cattle,

 

VERSE 45. thirty thousand five hundred donkeys,

 

VERSE 46. and sixteen thousand persons),

 

VERSE 47. even of the children of Israel’s half, Moses took one drawn out of every fifty, both of man and of animal, and gave them to the Levites, who performed the duty of the LORD’s tabernacle, as the LORD commanded Moses.

 

GIFTS OF THE OFFICERS

 

VERSE 48. The officers who were over the thousands of the army, the captains of thousands, and the captains of hundreds, came near to Moses.

 

VERSE 49. They said to Moses, “Your servants have taken the sum of the men of war who are under our command, and there lacks not one man of us.

 

VERSE 50. We have brought the LORD’s offering, what every man found: gold ornaments, armlets, bracelets, signet rings, earrings, and necklaces, to make atonement for our souls before the LORD.”

 

VERSE 51. Moses and Eleazar the priest took their gold, even all worked jewels.

 

VERSE 52. All the gold of the wave offering that they offered up to the LORD, of the captains of thousands, and of the captains of hundreds, was sixteen thousand seven hundred fifty shekels.

shekels. A shekel is about 10 grams or about 0.35 ounces, so 16,750 shekels is about 167.5 kilograms or about 368.5 pounds.

 

VERSE 53. The men of war had taken booty, every man for himself.

 

VERSE 54. Moses and Eleazar the priest took the gold of the captains of thousands and of hundreds, and brought it into the Tent of Meeting for a memorial for the children of Israel before the LORD.

 


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