between the father and his daughter; if she is not at age, as the same writer observes; for if she is at age he has nothing to do with her vows:
being yet in her youth; not at age, being not twelve years and one day old:
in her father's house; in his power and jurisdiction, and at his disposal, and so could make her vows void or firm, as he pleased: this power of ratifying or disannulling vows an husband had over his wife, and a father over his daughter, to prevent imprudent and extravagant vows, and the too frequent use of them, the consequences of which might be bad in families.
INTRODUCTION TO Numbers 31
This chapter contains an order to make war upon Midian, which was accordingly done, Numbers 31:1, but Moses was wroth, because they saved the women alive, who, through the counsel of Balaam, had been the cause of sin, and of the plague for it in Israel, and therefore orders them, and the male children, to be slain, Numbers 31:13, and then directs to the purification of the soldiers, their captives and spoil, Numbers 31:19, and by the command of God an account is taken of the prey, and a division of it made between the soldiers and the congregation, and out of each part a tribute is levied for the Lord, Numbers 31:25 and the sum of the whole booty is given, Numbers 31:32 and of the part which belonged to the soldiers, and of the tribute given to the Lord, Numbers 31:36 and of the part which belonged to the children of Israel, Numbers 31:42 and besides the above tribute to the Lord, the officers made a voluntary oblation out of their spoil, both by way of gratitude for sparing their lives, and to make atonement for their souls, Numbers 31:48.
saying; as follows.
afterward shalt thou be gathered unto thy people; or die, see Numbers 27:13, it being some satisfaction to him to see the good land, as he did from Abarim, and the Israelites avenged on their enemies before his death.
arm some of yourselves unto the war: not the whole body of the militia, 600,000 men and upwards, only some of them, and these choice and select men; and, according to the Jewish writers, good men, who, detesting the sins of lewdness and idolatry, would more strictly and severely avenge themselves on the Midianites for drawing their brethren into those sins, whereby they fell; and so Jarchi calls them righteous men:
and let them go against the Midianites, and avenge the Lord of Midian: what the Lord calls the vengeance of the Israelites, Moses calls the vengeance of the Lord, because they were the Lord's people, and his cause and theirs the same: and because the sins they were drawn into by the Midianites were not only against themselves, and to their prejudice, but against the Lord and to the dishonour of his name.
throughout all the tribes of Israel; this is observed, as Jarchi thinks, to comprehend the tribe of Levi, which in some cases was left out of the account:
shall ye send to the war; to fight with Midian.
a thousand of every tribe, twelve thousand armed for war; which was but a small number to go against so considerable a nation and people; but this was done to show that the war was of the Lord, he would fight the battle, and give them victory, it being the same to him to do it with few as with many; and to encourage the people of Israel to believe the Lord would give them success against their many and powerful enemies in the land of Canaan, on the borders of which they now were.
a thousand of every tribe, them and Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest to the war; which looks as if Phinehas was the general of this army; for Moses went not to the war, and no mention is made of Joshua, nor might it be proper for him, he being the successor of Moses, who was quickly to die; but it seems rather that there was no one person that had the command of the whole, but every captain commanded his own company; since, when Moses met them, and was angry with them for sparing the women, he does not address anyone as the chief commander, but all the officers, Numbers 31:14, however, it was very proper and prudent to send Phinehas with them, both on account of his office as a priest, to encourage the people, and because of his extraordinary zeal against the Midianites for what they had done, as appears by his slaying a prince of Simeon and a Midianitish princess in their uncleanness:
and he went with the holy instruments, and the trumpets to blow in his hand; by "the holy instruments", Aben Ezra understands the ark with what appertained to it, which in later times used to be carried out when the Israelites went to war, Joshua 6:4, and Jarchi interprets them of the ark and plate of gold (z) which was upon the forehead of the high priest; but what had Phinehas to do with this, who was but a common priest? though the Targum of Jonathan paraphrases it,"with the Urim and Thummim of holiness, to inquire by them;''and it appears, that sometimes a son of an high priest was intrusted with the ephod, to which the breastplate was fastened, which had the Urim and Thummim on it, and made use thereof to inquire by, as in the times of David, 1 Samuel 23:6, but it is the opinion of some learned men, and they may be in the right, that these instruments are no other than the trumpets, and who suppose the "vau" is not copulative, but explanative, so Ben Gersom, and read the words thus, "with the holy instruments, even", or, "that is, the trumpets" (a), the silver trumpets ordered to be made, Numbers 10:2 one of which was far the journey of the camps, and also to blow an alarm for war, and which was done by the priests; and so the Targum of Jonathan adds here,"to cause the camp of Israel to rest, and to cause it to go;''that is, to direct it when it should stop, and when it should move.
(z) So the Rabbins in Abendana in Miclol Yophi in loc. (a) "erantque tubae", Tigurine version; "id est tubae", Vatablus; "nempe tubae", Piscator; so Ainsworth.
and they slew all the males; which fell into their hands; for, no doubt, there were multitudes that made their escape, since in later times we read of the Midianites, as a very powerful people, and very distressing to Israel, Judges 6:1 these, as Aben Ezra observes, they slew, were such as were grown up, for as for their little ones, them they spared and carried captive, Numbers 31:9.
(b) Hilchot Melacim, c. 6. sect. 7.
Evi, and Rekem, and Zur, and Hur, and Reba, five kings of Midian; the Targum of Jonathan says of Zur, this is Balak, which is not probable; it is more likely, what Aben Ezra observes, that he was the father of Cosbi, whom Phinehas slew, Numbers 25:15.
Balaam also, the son of Beor, they slew with the sword; so that he died not a natural death, but a violent one, not such an one as he desired, the death of the righteous, but of bloody and deceitful men, who do not live out half their days; for if the Jewish writers (c) are to be credited, he was but thirty four years of age when he was slain, which is not quite half the age of man, that being seventy, Psalm 90:10, it appears by this that he was among the Midianites at the time of this war; either he stayed here till this time, when he went from Balak with an intention to go into his own country; or he had returned hither, being either sent for, by the princes of Midian, on this occasion; or, as some say, as Aben Ezra observes, that he came to Midian after he returned to his place, on hearing the plague that came upon Israel through his counsel, to receive the money of the elders of Midian for it; and so Chaskuni.
(c) Shalshalet Hakabala, fol. 7. 2.
and their little ones; both male and female:
and took the spoil of all their cattle, and all their flocks; their oxen and their sheep, and also their asses, as appears by the following account:
and all their goods: in their houses, their wealth and substance, gold, silver, &c.
and all their goodly castles with fire; which were either the palaces of their princes and nobles, or such like great personages; or they were fortified places, for the security of their cities and country: the Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan interpret them of their houses of worship, their temples, and their altars.
unto Moses and Eleazar the priest, and unto the congregation of the children of Israel; that is, they were bringing the above persons things unto them, returning from the war with Midian:
unto the camp at the plains of Moab, which are by Jordan near Jericho: see Numbers 22:1, but they were stopped, and were not admitted into the camp until seven days after.
went forth to meet them without the camp; partly to do honour to them, and to congratulate them on their victory, and partly to hinder them going into the camp directly, until they were purified; see Genesis 14:17.
with the captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, which came from the battle; rather "with" should be left out, not being in the text; and these captains only explain who the officers were, and these were one hundred and thirty two, as Aben Ezra observes; twelve who were captains over thousands, and were more properly the general officers; and one hundred and twenty over so many hundreds, into which the whole were subdivided.
to commit trespass against the Lord in the matter of Peor; by worshipping Baalpeor, the god of the Moabites and Midianites; whereby they transgressed the commandment of God, which forbid them having and worshipping any other gods besides him, and is a sin highly offensive to him, being greatly derogatory to his honour and glory:
and there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord; for that sin; and in that plague died 24,000 persons, Numbers 25:9.
and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him; who might be such, at least many of them, who had lain with Israelitish men; and as the adulterers had been put to death, so now the adulteresses; or they were ordered to, be slain, even all of them, lest they should entice the children of Israel to uncleanness, and so to idolatry again: now these were known to be such, either by conjecture at their age, or rather, through the examination of matrons, unless it can be thought, as it is by some, that it was by divine revelation.
that have not known a man by lying with him; which might be pretty clear, and easily concluded, from their age:
keep for yourselves; either to be handmaids to them, or to be married among them when grown up, and become proselytes, and initiated into their religion.
whosoever hath killed any person; as most of them if not all must have done; all the males of Midian that fell into their hands being slain by them, that were men grown:
and whosoever hath touched any slain; as they must to strip them of their garments, and take their spoil from them:
purify both yourselves and your captives, on the third and on the seventh day; which were the days appointed for the purification of such that were polluted by touching dead bodies, Numbers 19:11 and their captives, which were the female little ones; (for as for the women, and males among the little ones, they were ordered to be slain;) though they were Heathens, yet inasmuch as they were to be for the service of the Israelites, and to be brought up in their religion, they were to be purified also; to which purpose is the note of Jarchi;"not that the Gentiles receive uncleanness and need sprinkling, but as ye are the children of the covenant, so your captives, when they come into the covenant, and are defiled, need sprinkling.''
and all that is made of skins; of any sort of creatures, as the covering of tents, shoes, bottles, &c. see Leviticus 11:32.
and all work of goats' hair; such as the covering of tents was also made of: and this, according to Jarchi and other Jewish writers (e) includes vessels made of the horns, hoofs, and bones of these creatures: and all things made of wood; as beds, cups, dishes, &c. all which might be purified by washing; see Leviticus 15:12.
(d) "purgatote vos", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; Vid. L'Empereur, Not. ad Kimchii p. 130. (e) Maimon. & Bartenora in Misn. Celim, c. 2. sect. 1.
this is the ordinance of the law, which the Lord commanded Moses; concerning the purification of unclean persons and things, hereby confirming what Moses had said.
and it shall be clean; accounted so:
nevertheless, it shall be purified with the water of separation; with the water mixed with the ashes of the red heifer burnt, and sprinkled on it; see Numbers 19:9.
and all that abideth not the fire; without being consumed, as whatsoever is of wood, &c.
ye shall make go through the water; dip them in it, and rinse them there with a quantity sufficient; which the Targum of Jonathan says is forty seahs of water.
and ye shall be clean, and afterward ye shall come into the camp; into the camp of Israel, into the camp of the Levites, and into the camp of God, the tabernacle.
thou, and Eleazar the priest, and the chief fathers of the congregation; who were all men of authority and character, and fit to be employed in such service, and of whose capacity and fidelity there could be no doubt.
between them that took the war upon them, and went out to battle; the soldiers; and by this it appears that they went voluntarily and cheerfully:
and between all the congregation; so that the part of them that went to battle, and of those that stayed in the camp, were alike, and which in process of time became a statute and ordinance, 1 Samuel 30:24.
one soul of five hundred, both "of the persons"; or one woman of five hundred, as the Targum of Jonathan:
and of the beeves, and of the asses, and of the sheep; that is, one out of five hundred, of each of them also.
and give it unto Eleazar the priest for an heave offering of the Lord; by way of thanksgiving for the success and victory, God had given them, by means of which so much booty had fallen into their hands.
of the persons; of the women, as the Targums of Jonathan, one of fifty out of them was to be given to the Levites to be their handmaids, or to be taken in marriage by them, or their sons, when fit for it:
of the beeves, of the asses, and of the sheep, of all manner of beasts; of oxen, asses, sheep, and goats, one out of fifty of each of these sorts were to be taken. Aben Ezra observes, no mention is made of camels, being but few, and no part taken:
and give them unto the Levites, which keep the charge of the tabernacle of the Lord; for these being employed in the service of the tabernacle, came in for their share of the tribute levied unto the Lord.
thy servants have taken the sum of the men of war which are under our charge; since the war with Midian was over, they had mustered the several companies under their command, such as had thousands, and those that had hundreds:
and there lacketh not one man of us; which is a most amazing and unheard of thing, that in waging war with a whole nation, slaying all their males, sacking and burning so many cities, plundering the inhabitants of their substance, taking and carrying off such a vast number of captives, yet not one should fall by the sword of the enemy, or by any disease or accident whatever, but all to a man should return to the camp of Israel again; this is not to be paralleled in any history.
what every man hath gotten: or "found" (f), in the houses, and upon the bodies of the slain, or of such that were taken captives:
of jewels of gold either such as were set in gold; or rather, as the words may be rendered:
vessels of gold (g), as dishes, cups, spoons, and the like:
chains; which were wore about the neck, or upon the arm, as Aben Ezra:
and bracelets; for the hand, as the same writer, see Genesis 24:22,
rings; for the finger:
ear rings; for the ear, as we render it, the word signifies something round:
and tablets; which, according to the Targum of Jonathan, were ornaments that hung down between the breasts:
to make an atonement for our souls before the Lord; not only this offering was brought as a token of gratitude and thankfulness, for sparing of everyone of their lives, and giving them such success and victory, and so large a spoil of the enemy; but also to expiate any sins they had been guilty of in going out, and coming in, and particularly for sparing the women they should have put to death, for which Moses was wroth with them, Numbers 31:14.
(f) "invenit", Pagninus, Montanus. (g) "vas auri", Montanus; "vasa aurea", Vatablus.
even all wrought jewels; or "vessels of work" (h) or wrought vessels, or instruments, "chains, bracelets", &c. which were all of gold, and curiously wrought.
(h) "vas operis", Montanus.
even of the captains of thousands, and the captains of hundreds, and perhaps of every common soldier, who might contribute his part, though it is not mentioned, but included in the oblation of the officers:
was 16,750 shekels; which, according to the calculation of a very learned man (i), were 7,780 ounces, four drachms, two scruples, and thirty five grains.
(i) Scheuchzer. Physica Sacr. vol. 2. p. 399.