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1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

2 Avenge the children of Israel of the Midianites: afterward shalt thou be gathered unto thy people.

3 And Moses spake unto the people, saying, Arm some of yourselves unto the war, and let them go against the Midianites, and avenge the LORD of Midian.

4 Of every tribe a thousand, throughout all the tribes of Israel, shall ye send to the war.

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

6 And Moses sent them to the war, a thousand of every tribe, them and Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, to the war, with the holy instruments, and the trumpets to blow in his hand.

7 And they warred against the Midianites, as the LORD commanded Moses; and they slew all the males.

8 And they slew the kings of Midian, beside the rest of them that were slain; namely, Evi, and Rekem, and Zur, and Hur, and Reba, five kings of Midian: Balaam also the son of Beor they slew with the sword.

9 And the children of Israel took all the women of Midian captives, and their little ones, and took the spoil of all their cattle, and all their flocks, and all their goods.

10 And they burnt all their cities wherein they dwelt, and all their goodly castles, with fire.

11 And they took all the spoil, and all the prey, both of men and of beasts.

12 And they brought the captives, and the prey, and the spoil, unto Moses, and Eleazar the priest, and unto the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the camp at the plains of Moab, which are by Jordan near Jericho.

13 And Moses, and Eleazar the priest, and all the princes of the congregation, went forth to meet them without the camp.

14 And Moses was wroth with the officers of the host, with the captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, which came from the battle.

15 And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive?

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 there was a plague among the congregation of the LORD.

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

18 But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.

19 And do ye abide without the camp seven days: whosoever hath killed any person, and whosoever hath touched any slain, purify both yourselves and your captives on the third day, and on the seventh day.

20 And purify all your raiment, and all that is made of skins, and all work of goats' hair, and all things made of wood.

21 And Eleazar the priest said unto the men of war which went to the battle, This is the ordinance of the law which the LORD commanded Moses;

22 Only the gold, and the silver, the brass, the iron, the tin, and the lead,

23 Every thing that may abide the fire, ye shall make it go through the fire, and it shall be clean: nevertheless it shall be purified with the water of separation: and all that abideth not the fire ye shall make go through the water.

24 And ye shall wash your clothes on the seventh day, and ye shall be clean, and afterward ye shall come into the camp.

25 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

26 Take the sum of the prey that was taken, both of man and of beast, thou, and Eleazar the priest, and the chief fathers of the congregation:

27 And divide the prey into two parts; between them that took the war upon them, who went out to battle, and between all the congregation:

28 And levy a tribute unto the LORD of the men of war which went out to battle: one soul of five hundred, both of the persons, and of the beeves, and of the asses, and of the sheep:

29 Take it of their half, and give it unto Eleazar the priest, for an heave offering of the LORD.

30 And of the children of Israel's half, thou shalt take one portion of fifty, of the persons, of the beeves, of the asses, and of the flocks, of all manner of beasts, and give them unto the Levites, which keep the charge of the tabernacle of the LORD.

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

32 And the booty, being the rest of the prey which the men of war had caught, was six hundred thousand and seventy thousand and five thousand sheep,

33 And threescore and twelve thousand beeves,

34 And threescore and one thousand asses,

35 And thirty and two thousand persons in all, of women that had not known man by lying with him.

36 And the half, which was the portion of them that went out to war, was in number three hundred thousand and seven and thirty thousand and five hundred sheep:

37 And the LORD'S tribute of the sheep was six hundred and threescore and fifteen.

38 And the beeves were thirty and six thousand; of which the LORD'S tribute was threescore and twelve.

39 And the asses were thirty thousand and five hundred; of which the LORD'S tribute was threescore and one.

40 And the persons were sixteen thousand; of which the LORD'S tribute was thirty and two persons.

41 And Moses gave the tribute, which was the LORD'S heave offering, unto Eleazar the priest, as the LORD commanded Moses.

42 And of the children of Israel's half, which Moses divided from the men that warred,

43 (Now the half that pertained unto the congregation was three hundred thousand and thirty thousand and seven thousand and five hundred sheep,

44 And thirty and six thousand beeves,

45 And thirty thousand asses and five hundred,

46 And sixteen thousand persons;)

47 Even of the children of Israel's half, Moses took one portion of fifty, both of man and of beast, and gave them unto the Levites, which kept the charge of the tabernacle of the LORD; as the LORD commanded Moses.

48 And the officers which were over thousands of the host, the captains of thousands, and captains of hundreds, came near unto Moses:

49 And they said unto Moses, Thy servants have taken the sum of the men of war which are under our charge, and there lacketh not one man of us.

50 We have therefore brought an oblation for the LORD, what every man hath gotten, of jewels of gold, chains, and bracelets, rings, earrings, and tablets, to make an atonement for our souls before the LORD.

51 And Moses and Eleazar the priest took the gold of them, even all wrought jewels.

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

53 (For the men of war had taken spoil, every man for himself.)

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

Commentary for Numbers 31

War with Midian. (1-6) Balaam slain. (7-12) Those slain who caused sin. (13-38) Purification of the Israelites. (39-24) Division of the spoil. (25-47) Offerings. (48-54)1-6 All who, without commission from God, dare to execute private revenge, and who, from ambition, covetousness, or resentment, wage war and desolate kingdoms, must one day answer for it. But if God, instead of sending an earthquake, a pestilence, or a famine, be pleased to authorize and command any people to avenge his cause, such a commission surely is just and right. The Israelites could show such a commission, though no persons now can do so. Their wars were begun and carried on expressly by Divine direction, and they were enabled to conquer by miracles. Unless it can be proved that the wicked Canaanites did not deserve their doom, objectors only prove their dislike to God, and their love to his enemies. Man makes light of the evil of sin, but God abhors it. This explains the terrible executions of the nations which had filled the measure of their sins.

7-12 The Israelites slew the Kings of Midian. They slew Balaam. God's overruling providence brought him thither, and their just vengeance found him. Had he himself rightly believed what he had said of the happy state of Israel, he would not have thus herded with the enemies of Israel. The Midianites' wicked wiles were Balaam's projects: it was just that he should perish with them, #Ho 4:5|. They took the women and children captives. They burnt their cities and castles, and returned to the camp.

13-18 The sword of war should spare women and children; but the sword of justice should know no distinction, but that of guilty or not guilty. This war was the execution of a righteous sentence upon a guilty nation, in which the women were the worst criminals. The female children were spared, who, being brought up among the Israelites, would not tempt them to idolatry. The whole history shows the hatefulness of sin, and the guilt of tempting others; it teaches us to avoid all occasions of evil, and to give no quarter to inward lusts. The women and children were not kept for sinful purposes, but for slaves, a custom every where practised in former times, as to captives. In the course of providence, when famine and plagues visit a nation for sin, children suffer in the common calamity. In this case parents are punished in their children; and for children dying before actual sin, full provision is made as to their eternal happiness, by the mercy of God in Christ.

19-24 The Israelites had to purify themselves according to the law, and to abide without the camp seven days, though they had not contracted any moral guilt, the war being just and lawful, and commanded by God. Thus God would preserve in their minds a dread and detestation of shedding blood. The spoil had been used by Midianites, and being now come into the possession of Israelites, it was fit that it should be purified.

25-47 Whatever we have, God justly claims a part. Out of the people's share God required one in fifty, but out of the soldiers' share only one in five hundred. The less opportunity we have of honouring God with personal services, the more should we give in money or value.

48-54 The success of the Israelites had been very remarkable, so small a company overcoming such multitudes, but it was still more wonderful that not one was slain or missing. They presented the gold they found among the spoils, as an offering to the Lord. Thus they confessed, that instead of claiming a reward for their service, they needed forgiveness of much that had been amiss, and desired to be thankful for the preservation of their lives, which might justly have been taken away.

Commentary by Matthew Henry, 1710.

Discussion for Numbers 31

  • Irene Allen on Numbers 31
    Reading the Bible is serious matter, just as taking God at His Word. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to guide and open you heart to the True Understanding As God intended it to be. Number ch.31 is hard and serious implying His nature, attributes and His Righteousness to rid Canaan of SIN and put His People, the Hebrews (Jews) and under His Divine Guidance this people will be a Model for pagan surroundings and all nations Nations.God gave Jews the Bible and Ten Commandments which are used by nations. God will not tolerate Sin, He didn't look at Jesus when He took on the sin of all. We all should take the Free Gift of SALVATION. His shed blood a covering for our sin.
  • Derek Philip - in Reply on Numbers 31:28
    God is love. He does not punish sin. He does not have to. What you sow you reap. Sin brings death all by itself - the second death that is. We all experience the first death which is the bruising of the heel of the seed of the woman (dual application, our experience and Jesus experience). We will be resurrected however. Another story.
  • Stanjett on Numbers 31
    Balaam also the son of Beor they slew with the sword. Why did they kill Balaam? He never cursed them as he was told to do but blessed them every time.
  • Gary Olsen - in Reply on Numbers 31
    Balaam was a seer or prophet. What he told Balak was given him from the LORD -23:3, 24:13. Balaam didn't bless the people. The LORD did -22:12. Then Balaam instructed Balak on how to turn the LORD'S blessing into a curse so that he could make war against the people and defeat them -22:6, 31:16, Rev.2:14.
  • Gene on Numbers 31
    This chaper was informative. This was to cleanse the area of the sin the Midianit's had caused upon the israelites and the area. The women and girls that had been with men were killed because they were unclean. They saved only the innocent.
  • Marcus Lawson on Numbers 31:50
    The people were killed to stop evil from spreading through the Jewish chosen nation.
  • Geraldine wilson on Numbers 31:38
    Did not understand why some women and children were killed, though not questioning God,s actions
  • Samantha on Numbers 31
    I am having a hard time with this chapter. I 'd it possible that we are all looking for a meaning behind this chapter when there may not really be one? It is simply telling us what was going on at that time. However I dint understand why God would tell Moses to have all these people killed especially the children.
  • Derek Philip - in Reply on Numbers 31:28
    The lesson in this chapter is about what happens when we disobey God. To save us form our own weakness and bring us back into harmony with Him after we disobey usually causes heartache. I am sure it was hard for the soldiers to have to kill the women and children but if it were not done worse consequences would have resulted.

    Remember Genesis 3, when man sinned? For man's sake we read that God moved him out of the garden and the earth was "cursed". Man had to eek out a living the hard way... God didn't really curse the earth himself, it was a natural result of the consequences of sin. This is a hard concept for us to understand. God was uttering what he knew would happen, its God's foreknowledge. Not predestination.

    Israel was never to go to was to enter the promised land. God had "appointed" hornets to drive out the people ( natural disaster I interpret it as (Ex. 23:38 And I will send hornets before thee, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite, from before thee and Deuteronomy 7:20

    Moreover, the LORD your God will send the hornet against them until all the survivors and those hiding from you have perished.)..

    The earth itself revolts against us because of our sin. We do things that upsets the balance of nature - like climate change. And all the mining and drilling for oil etc... upsets the equilibrium of the earth and causes problems (which scientist never tell us about).

    So Israel's disobedience disrupted God's plan and set in train a series of unfortunate events that resulted in Israel having to go to war - because they believed that was the only way to conquer. They did not trust God's way.

    In this case, Moses told the men these adult women caused a plague among you before and many die. You want that to happen again? They had to die. The male offspring would become warriors to avenge their fathers who Israel killed - they had to die too (consider Moses himself re killing the Egyptian). The other females would become servants.
  • Hiram Hills on Numbers 31
    Diana re verse 28. It is inconceivable to me that God would condone that which He detested in the heathen cultures. ie human sacrifice. Therefore, the only conclusion is that they were used in His service by the priests. Also note the 32 virgins in verse 40. Another thought, to my knowledge asses were never used for sacrifices, and so the list in verse 28 does not mean these things were used for that only that they were used in the Lords service.. my2cts.


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