Posted by: edhensley | December 15, 2009

Genocide, Slavery and Rape of the Midianites


Numbers 25

Moab Seduces Israel

 1 While Israel was staying in Shittim, the men began to indulge in sexual immorality with Moabite women, 2 who invited them to the sacrifices to their gods. The people ate and bowed down before these gods. 3 So Israel joined in worshiping the Baal of Peor. And the LORD’s anger burned against them. 4 The LORD said to Moses, “Take all the leaders of these people, kill them and expose them in broad daylight before the LORD, so that the LORD’s fierce anger may turn away from Israel.”

 5 So Moses said to Israel’s judges, “Each of you must put to death those of your men who have joined in worshiping the Baal of Peor.”

 6 Then an Israelite man brought to his family a Midianite woman right before the eyes of Moses and the whole assembly of Israel while they were weeping at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. 7 When Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, saw this, he left the assembly, took a spear in his hand 8 and followed the Israelite into the tent. He drove the spear through both of them—through the Israelite and into the woman’s body. Then the plague against the Israelites was stopped; 9 but those who died in the plague numbered 24,000.

 

 14 The name of the Israelite who was killed with the Midianite woman was Zimri son of Salu, the leader of a Simeonite family. 15 And the name of the Midianite woman who was put to death was Cozbi daughter of Zur, a tribal chief of a Midianite family.

 16 The LORD said to Moses, 17 “Treat the Midianites as enemies and kill them, 18 because they treated you as enemies when they deceived you in the affair of Peor and their sister Cozbi, the daughter of a Midianite leader, the woman who was killed when the plague came as a result of Peor.”

Numbers 31

Vengeance on the Midianites

 1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 “Take vengeance on the Midianites for the Israelites. After that, you will be gathered to your people.”

 3 So Moses said to the people, “Arm some of your men to go to war against the Midianites and to carry out the LORD’s vengeance on them. 4 Send into battle a thousand men from each of the tribes of Israel.” 5 So twelve thousand men armed for battle, a thousand from each tribe, were supplied from the clans of Israel. 6 Moses sent them into battle, a thousand from each tribe, along with Phinehas son of Eleazar, the priest, who took with him articles from the sanctuary and the trumpets for signaling.

 7 They fought against Midian, as the LORD commanded Moses, and killed every man. 8 Among their victims were Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur and Reba—the five kings of Midian. They also killed Balaam son of Beor with the sword. 9 The Israelites captured the Midianite women and children and took all the Midianite herds, flocks and goods as plunder. 10 They burned all the towns where the Midianites had settled, as well as all their camps. 11 They took all the plunder and spoils, including the people and animals, 12 and brought the captives, spoils and plunder to Moses and Eleazar the priest and the Israelite assembly at their camp on the plains of Moab, by the Jordan across from Jericho.

 13 Moses, Eleazar the priest and all the leaders of the community went to meet them outside the camp. 14 Moses was angry with the officers of the army—the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds—who returned from the battle.

 15 “Have you allowed all the women to live?” he asked them. 16 “They were the ones who followed Balaam’s advice and were the means of turning the Israelites away from the LORD in what happened at Peor, so that a plague struck the LORD’s people. 17 Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, 18 but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.

 19 “All of you who have killed anyone or touched anyone who was killed must stay outside the camp seven days. On the third and seventh days you must purify yourselves and your captives. 20 Purify every garment as well as everything made of leather, goat hair or wood.”

 21 Then Eleazar the priest said to the soldiers who had gone into battle, “This is the requirement of the law that the LORD gave Moses: 22 Gold, silver, bronze, iron, tin, lead 23 and anything else that can withstand fire must be put through the fire, and then it will be clean. But it must also be purified with the water of cleansing. And whatever cannot withstand fire must be put through that water. 24 On the seventh day wash your clothes and you will be clean. Then you may come into the camp.”

Dividing the Spoils

 25 The LORD said to Moses, 26 “You and Eleazar the priest and the family heads of the community are to count all the people and animals that were captured. 27 Divide the spoils between the soldiers who took part in the battle and the rest of the community. 28 From the soldiers who fought in the battle, set apart as tribute for the LORD one out of every five hundred, whether persons, cattle, donkeys, sheep or goats. 29 Take this tribute from their half share and give it to Eleazar the priest as the LORD’s part. 30 From the Israelites’ half, select one out of every fifty, whether persons, cattle, donkeys, sheep, goats or other animals. Give them to the Levites, who are responsible for the care of the LORD’s tabernacle.” 31 So Moses and Eleazar the priest did as the LORD commanded Moses.

 32 The plunder remaining from the spoils that the soldiers took was 675,000 sheep, 33 72,000 cattle, 34 61,000 donkeys 35 and 32,000 women who had never slept with a man.

 36 The half share of those who fought in the battle was:
       337,500 sheep, 37 of which the tribute for the LORD was 675;

 38 36,000 cattle, of which the tribute for the LORD was 72;

 39 30,500 donkeys, of which the tribute for the LORD was 61;

 40 16,000 people, of which the tribute for the LORD was 32.

 41 Moses gave the tribute to Eleazar the priest as the LORD’s part, as the LORD commanded Moses.

 42 The half belonging to the Israelites, which Moses set apart from that of the fighting men- 43 the community’s half—was 337,500 sheep, 44 36,000 cattle, 45 30,500 donkeys 46 and 16,000 people. 47 From the Israelites’ half, Moses selected one out of every fifty persons and animals, as the LORD commanded him, and gave them to the Levites, who were responsible for the care of the LORD’s tabernacle.

 48 Then the officers who were over the units of the army—the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds—went to Moses 49 and said to him, “Your servants have counted the soldiers under our command, and not one is missing. 50 So we have brought as an offering to the LORD the gold articles each of us acquired—armlets, bracelets, signet rings, earrings and necklaces—to make atonement for ourselves before the LORD.”

 51 Moses and Eleazar the priest accepted from them the gold—all the crafted articles. 52 All the gold from the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds that Moses and Eleazar presented as a gift to the LORD weighed 16,750 shekels.  53 Each soldier had taken plunder for himself. 54 Moses and Eleazar the priest accepted the gold from the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds and brought it into the Tent of Meeting as a memorial for the Israelites before the LORD.

This passage is absolutely repugnant!

First a little background. The Midianites are close relatives of the Israelites, having descended from Abraham via his second wife (Gen 25).   Midianites join with Moabites in trying to get Balaam to curse Israel (Num 22). At the Baal of Peor incident (Num 25 above), only 1 Midianite woman is specifically mentioned as sinning.

However, God becomes really mad at the Midianites! He orders them killed. Killing all the men is not good enough! The bloodthirsty God of the Old Testament wants all the little boys killed! He wants all the women who are not virgins killed!  But the virgin girls are given to the soldiers!

Furthermore, when listing the spoils of war, the Midianites are listed no differently than animals. This is because the ancient Hebrew culture viewed all other people as sub-human (many ancient cultures did this).  Numbers 31:34 – 61,000 donkeys 35 and 32,000 women who had never slept with a man. The virgin girls are listed right after the donkeys! How horrible!

There are many apologies on the internet for this passage. Most note that the little boys had to be killed or they would grow up wanting to avenge their fathers. I would like to point out that they are making excuses for the murder of children, including newborn baby boys! 

Many apologists claim that it was the Midianite women who sexually seduced the Israelis, so the Midianite women who have had sex had to die to prevent them from seducing the Israelis again. However, that is not completely correct since Numbers 25 mentions Moabite women and only 1 Midianite woman.  The punishment meted out on the Midianites seems to be overkill for the “sin” of 1 Midianite woman.

Of course, the pregnant women would have to be killed since they were not virgins. And their unborn children would therefore die. So not only are women killed but their babies are aborted. Yet, many of those who believe the bible is against abortions justify the abortions in this passage!

What happened to the virgin girls? Some were “a tribute to the Lord”, where apologists quickly point out they were slaves and were not sacrifices.  The King James Version mentions a “heave offering,” so some people have interpreted this tribute as being a human sacrifice. Whether it is a sacrifice or slavery, it is still immoral!

Why were virgins not killed? Some say they were sexual spoils of war for the Israeli soldiers. Notice that the words “for yourselves” indicate that the women were spoils for the soldiers and not just children to be assimilated into the community. It was very common to for men to have concubines (Abraham, Solomon, and other Jewish patriarchs did). Women back then were considered property. Virgin women were considered valuable property while non-virgin women were considered damaged goods. 

Some apologists argue that the virgin females were adopted or assimilated into the community. There is no evidence of this in the scriptures. Let’s examine the evidence that is in this passage. All males are slaughtered, including newborn baby boys. All unborn babies are aborted. Virgin females are listed as spoils of war in a list that includes donkeys, sheep, and cattle. Some virgin females are either sacrificed or enslaved as a tribute to God. I see no reason why such a barbaric God and people would suddenly act like modern western nations and treat the remaining virgin girls as equal citizens.

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Responses

  1. The virgin women were not killed because they would be married to the Israelite men and adopt their customs. All others were killed to they were worshipping Baal & did not allow the Israelites to pass through during the Exodus.

    • The text does not state that the Israeli men would marry the virgins.

      You state that “all others were killed… they were worshippoing Baal.” The bible does not support your claim.

      Numbers 25:6 mentions only ONE Midianite woman (named Cozbi in v 17), and she was killed with a spear through her lover and herself. Moabites (plural) were mentioned in Numbers 25, but only one Midianite woman is mentioned.

      But assuming that this is retribution for the unnamed sins of multiple Midianite women, there are still innocents killed. For example, the unborn children of the pregnant Midianite women were killed. These unborn children were not worshiping Baal, as you claim. Also, the newborn baby boys were all killed. These newborn baby boys were not worshipping Baal, as you claim.

      Your claims have been thoroughly refuted.

      • The Midianite women were complicate in going to the Israelis with the intent to have sex with them and to get them to worship their idols. This was an attempt to get God to leave the Israelis, so the Midianites could defeat them. Balaam was also complicate in this scheme, as he was a sorcerer, and was likely in league with Satan. This was a sin directed specifically against God via Satan (as Jesus would later come from the Jews as prophesied).

    • Do you not see something wrong with forcing virgins of the vanquished people to marry the same people who killed their family ? If the same thing happened today to your family it would be considered criminal and yet you do not condemn it. If the story was repeated with the names changed you would immediately point out the evil, and yet simply because its from the Holy Bible you have a double standard.

      • Would you rather they be left in the desert to die with no family to support them? I suppose you think the next group of people to come along would just treat them with kindness when they actually would be more likely to enslave and rape them.

      • It would be best if war orphans were raised without any form of abuse by the captors (assuming the war was just). That would be the humane thing to do. It is sad that you worship a god who is described as a murderer of children and that you have become so immoral that you could not even think of how to humanely treat children.

    • God’s purpose for leaving the virgins to the Israelite men was indeed to assimilate them with the Israelites. In other words, the female (wife) becomes one with the male (husband) and any children she concieves is the race of its father. Virgins were pure, so to speak, and worthy of becoming an Israelite mother, whereas, sexually active women were polluted and unworthy of conception. There are other verses in the Old Testament that infers as much.

      • Do you really believe that a woman who has had a child is polluted?

  2. [...] Hensley at Bible Verses Rarely Read on Sunday. The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible Doug Kelley at [...]

  3. Ugh. Who would want to given in marriage to people who killed your entire people and culture, and then be forcefully adapted to a culture not their own?

    It’s still barbaric.

    • Without family, they likely would have died or been enslaved/raped by another people. Given the possibility to remarry into another people would be their choice. There is no indication that the young women were treated harshly.

      • The young pregnant married women were killed, along with their unborn fetuses. That sounds like pretty harsh treatment of young women.

        “And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.” Save for yourselves sounds like an invitation for the men to do whatever they want with those girls.

  4. At age 10, shortly after joining a Baptist church, I undertook to read the Bible in an effort to improve my life. But instead of following the pastor’s “recommended daily readings for the week,” I started with Genesis 1, 1, and read straight through, just as if I were reading a novel. I stopped when I got to Numbers 31. How, I wondered, could a just and benificent deity possibly condone genocide and rape. To my credit, I didn’t have to reflect but a moment before I reached the obvious answer. At the time, I had never heard the word “atheist,” or if I had I didn’t know what it meant; so for several years I naively believed that I was the only person in the world who didn’t believe in God. I eventually learned that I was not alone, of course, but today, nearly 70 years later, is the first time I have ever seen comments on Numbers 31 — which leads me to the conclusion that Christians are dishonest.

  5. [...] is also filled with descriptions of a vengeful, jealous, arbitrary, and capricious god who condones slavery, genocide by Jews, and child murder and rape by Jews, for [...]

  6. If a people rose up today and committed these atrocities and claimed to be acting on orders from god, would we not wipe them from the face of the planet?

    • Well, you can try to go against Gods’ will, as the Midianites tried to get the Israelis to leave God, but, I would not advise anyone to try to fight God. Go ask a Midianite how that turns out. This is not about genocide, this is about people trying to go against God. If you are against God, you are for Satan, again, something I would not advise. Had the Midianites wanted to join the Israelite to worship God, they would have been blessed. At least one generation of Assyrians who listened to Jonah repented and were blessed.

  7. It seems the Midianites are one of the peoples who get special attention for extra hatred in the Bible. Ive always felt this is because of their connection with YHWH. THe kings and priests of Israel had a good system, and the last thing they wanted was the truth about where YHWY which was an extremely important part of their authority. The bible of course only wants worship of God, because the church back then was a big business. The locals had to bring the best of the best meat and grain etc for sacrifice along with some money. It wouldnt be very good if they went to other local temples instead, thus the foundations of the Bible.

    • This one of the things that Jesus was pointing out in the new testament…the abuse of that authority (system) no matter if it was local or distant. The good intent was to be willingto help support the suffering. there was no welfare,unemployment, social security,retirement,minimum wage,free housing,free food,insurance.ect.
      Even our improved system is corrupt.!!!

      • Please discuss the verses and do not get too far off subject.

        Thanks.

  8. I forgot to mention that YHWY was of course originally a God of the Hills and the Midianites. Theres even a few places called YHWY. The notion that YHWY was only exclusively Jewish is of course wrong, he was worshipped in other local places just as the jews worshipped gods of their neighbours – eg Baal.

    • The Midianites were idolaters and worshipped Baal. In fact, the whole cause of this massacre is due to the fact that the Midianites were trying to get the Israelis to leave God.

      • All innocent little baby boys were killed, including all who could not possibly worship Ball.

  9. So killing in the name of God is nothing new, it has always been a reliable means of motivation and justification used by megalomaniacs to further their own cause. It’s sad that 3 of the largest religions recognise Moses as a bearer of Gods word, might explain the conflicts we have today, without religion there would be more peace and love, humanity could then devote more energy to solving other problems our families face in this world.

    • This whole incident is not about killing in the name of God, it is about what happens when people reject God or try to drive others away from God. Everyone can reject God, and deny him, but this is an example of what happens when you do that. So, if you think that using this passage to convince people to reject God’s word, then you are asking God to visit the same punishment that befell the Midianites on yourself and others.If you do not view the whole context of the passage, then you miss the message and condemn yourselves.

      • “So, if you think that using this passage to convince people to reject God’s word, then you are asking God to visit the same punishment that befell the Midianites on yourself and others.”

        Sounds like a threat. What a horrible god you worship.

  10. We must realize that we have a choice to do things we should or shouldnt do. We are all of the same nature and history proves that we can inflict great injustices among our fellow human beings.We can also choose to do great things and hopefully for the right reason. God wants us to make our own choice between good and bad.
    If we get away from the real reason for doing good we fall into the doing just the opposite subtley or purposefully. We can do all of these atrocities on our own or say its in Gods name. i often wonder if God has given us plenty of time in this world to try to get it right only to prove we cant do it . The old testament might be a record of god rubbing it in their faces, metting out what they had coming. Gods creation ,people taking their turns against each other and sometimes with Gods personal instruction because we refuse to
    listen for the truth…it continues. Even the people we call innocent are subjected because of our choices. A father shaking his own infant,a mother
    taking drugs during pregnancy,a brother selling a sibling or just ignoring our children because we are just to busy… the list goes on.

  11. I am a believing Christian. I find this the most difficult of all bibel texts.
    I still have not found a satisfactory answer. Even if I accept that these are eschatological and messoretic texts rather than historical how can they be inspired? I am required to ,believe that all scripture is inspired. But why would God inspire anyone to describe himself as wanting his own people to stick knives in thousandfs of little male children and babies? There is no definition of bibel “inspiratioon” that covers that. Jesus pre existed as a devine person in the Godhead before his human birth. So he who said let the little children come to me also auithorized this genocide. He who “wills all men to be saved”
    instructed his own people to in effect self harm by sticking knives into little children as they would be crying for their Mummys. So my question is hoe could Jesus, as a pre existing divine person, in the Godfhead have inspired such bibel passages?
    It is the only thing in my Christian faith that appears as a complete contradiction. Thus far I can find no addequate definition for the divine inspiration of scripture that can include such passages of the bibel.
    Any suggestions?.

    • You are asking the right questions. Keep searching.

    • You are not asking the right questions. This is an example of what befalls people that reject God and work against God. Had the Midianites joined the Israelis in worshipping God, they would have been blessed. Instead, they USED their women, sex and idolatry to turn the Israelis from God (with the intent to defeat them at some point in battle no doubt). When you consider that Jesus, the salvation of the world, would come from the Jews, this is a Satanic attack directed at God. So, if you don’t understand these truths, then you can learn from the mistakes of the Midianites and gain Gods grace. Fighting God only leads to the same fate as the Midianites.

      • “Fighting God only leads to the same fate as the Midianites.”

        Atheist Thomas Edison fought the ignorance of the bible. He did not receive the same fate as the Midianites, but rather he become a millionaire, founder of General Electric, and inventor of the light bulb, movie projector, recorded music, and much more!

        http://sundaymagazine.org/2010/10/no-immortality-of-the-soul-says-thomas-a-edison/

        Atheists and agnostics also invented the computer program (Alan Turing), Mac Computers, the iPod, iPhone, iPad (Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs), Windows computers (Bill Gates) and much more. They gave women the right to vote (Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony) and were pioneers in civil rights (Robert Ingersol). None of these people suffered the fate of the Midianites, and you use their products every day!

  12. The Midinates worshiped Baal. As part of their pagan worship ceremonies, they would sacrifice children. Also, they would have orgies as part of the temple worship “service”.

    If you can imagine, these people were probably STD infected. Since some STDs can cause death such as syphilis, it is not a good idea to let them intermingle.

    • Once again, you are just making stuff up when you say “these people were probably STD infected”.

      Every little baby boy and every pregnant women was ordered to be killed by Moses, whether or not they had any sexual diseases. Of course, the virgin girls were saved for the soldiers to enjoy. The bible lists the women with the donkeys, sheeep and goats as the plunder of the war in verses 32-35. Even worse, in verses 25-31 Yahweh commands Moses to give the virgin girls to the soldiers. God is actually quoted as giving commands for these horrific attrocities.

      How can any moral person justify this cesspool of immoral filth?

      • Ed, you think that fighting against God is somehow the answer? You read this passage, see what happened to the Midianites, and now you say, that fighting God’s will (which is what the Midianites were doing) and you think that following the Midianite example is the wise chioce? Take a moment to consider your fate here. You obviously believe this passage happened. Then you have to know that God acted for a reason. The Midianites were full of idolatry and were trying to turn the Jews from God. And they condemned their women to that fate by following Balaam’s advice to lure the Israelis to idolatry and sex. It wasn’t just a dinner party and a romp that took place here. This is what happens when you fight against God. That happens to be exactly what you are doing by misleading people about the nature of this passage.

      • No, I do not believe this passage happened. Archaeology does not support the early books of the Old Testament.

      • Since two generations later in Judges six the Midioanites were oppressing the Hebrews. I expect the account is not entirely historical. There is some evidence to suggest it is a messoretic and eschatological text. I expect it is loosely based on history. Numbers 31 is certainly one of the most difficult texts in the entire bible. The bible has various diffierent narrative forms so it should not all be taken literally. But as for a maximaly great being who is holy and just. Yes he reveals himself to those who sincerely seek him within their lights. He is reality and we will all be exposed before him. Jesus is the supreme revelation of God in time space.

  13. It is clear that this passage is not entirely historocal. In Judges 6 the Jews, two generations later, are oppressed by the Midianites. Numbers 31 is a Messoretic and escathological story. So for me the question raised by it is more about the nature of bible inspiration. God reveals himself within the capacities of the people. The bible must be largely anthropologocal.
    It is often not history and never intended to be a science book.But its truths even when conveyed through myths are beautiful. It is a miracle it ever came to exist. It is a whole library.The existance of the Jewish nation today is also a bible miracle.The bible covers thousands of years of history and so much of it cannot be ditrectly compared with the Koran as an earlier post suggested. The Koran was written very fast after the Prophet died.I think around 630 AD. There are also different levels of inspiration in the bibel.
    But Numbers 31 is the most difficult passage of all.

    • I agree that the bible is not entirely historical. I disagree with several other points. The problem is that the bible does not say that “this passage historical but that passage is mythical” or “this part is wholly inspired but that part is partly inspired.” This results in the bible being whatever the reader chooses it to be, which is why we have over 30,000 different branches of Christianity.

      • I notice Ed, you say” we”. Have you managed to to come up with an answer yet to this unhelpful situation? Any suggestions?

      • When I said “we have over 30,000 denominations”, I could have said “there exist 30,000 denominations.” My solution was to reject the bible. It is clearly not the infalible word of a perfect and loving god.

      • I see that is now clear. But you have much interest in the bibel as you show here. Why is that?
        I find the bibel fascinating and if you do not expect it to be a science book or a history book in our modern sense it can be very inspiring.
        The truths behind the myths and true stories remain powerful. The enormous good and civilizing that the bible has inspired throughout history is marvellous. If we recognise the good we need not be cynical about history or the bibel. My experience is that the bibel brings out the very best in people.
        The bibel charts the long history of mans becoming aware that there is one God and he is good and then that he is Love itself. The bibel is lony infallible in its intended message. We must not expect the bibel to be a science book or a modern style history book. It is a library spanning millenia.
        Do u have anything better to offer? or a positive contribution to make?
        If not is it possible you have become cynical?

      • First of all, it is bible, not bibel.

        Secondly, the bible did not lead to civilization but hindered it. The bible did NOT influence the establishment of Sumeria, Egypt, Greece, Rome, China or any great civilization. Ancient Israel was nothing compared to these civilizations that did not need the bible. The Egyptian-Greek-Roman progress in science came to a stop when the Roman empire became officially Christian in the 4th century. When Christianity took over, the Roman empire fell into the Dark Ages until the protestant reformation and enlightenment occurred.

        Look at the history of greek-roman philosophers. Note what happens to the productivity after Christianity took over in the 4th century.

        http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/greekphilosophy/a/TimeLPhilosophr.htm

        Look at what the Christians did to Hypatia:

        “Desribed as “the spirit of Plato and the body of Aphrodite,” Hypatia was turned into a martyr immortalized when local monks stripped her alluring body and tore it to shreds. She was the last significant mathematician until the late Middle Ages.”

        What do Atheists and Agnostics offer? Atheists/Agnostics invented the light bulb, film projector, phonograph and founded General Electric (Thomas Edison), invented stored computer program, decrypted the Nazi enigma machine (Alan Turing), created macintosh computers, ipad, ipod, iphone, and ran Pixar Studios (Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak), founded Microsoft and created Windows computers (Bill Gates), discovered the structure of DNA leading to all DNA technologys (James Watson, Francis Crick), won Nobel peace prizes (Jane Addams and Doctors Without Borders), gave women the right to vote (Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony), established the NAACP (W.E.B. DuBois), wrote the books of Mark Twain, wrote every word of every song in the Wizard of Oz (Yip Harburg), made up 93% of the National Academy of Sciences members in 1998 (probably more today) and SO MUCH MORE! Most of the good things you enjoy and use every day came from atheists and agnostics.

        I do not think you know what the word cynical means, especially since you can not even spell bible.

      • Thank you for helping with my bad spelling. I am dislexic and I am keen to see my mistakes as you point them out so I can improve.
        Please do not take my questions so petrsonaly. They were genuine enquiries and not intende to offend u in any way. You appear to want to take a swipe at me in parts of your response however. In part your response seems cynical about me. I hope I am not quite as bad at words as I am at spelling them though. In general people have at times complemenhted my intellegence so perhaps your first impression of me is prejudiced..
        I found your account of history most interesting and otriginal. I like it when someone gives me a chance to see things in a completely different way.
        I had no doubt that atheists have made great contributions to civilisation.
        I question was intended to relate with their philosophies not their tallants.
        Excuse me for being unclear there.
        I never suggested that other peoples and great cvivilisations had not contributed greatly to history. But I do not agree entirely with your account of
        the Judeo Christian contribution. Could your perception here also be a bit prejudiced as was your initial reaction to me? I am more interested in your answewrs and knowledge and challenging ways of thinking than your negative reactions to me and my bad spelling etc. I would ask u to be a bit more gracious towards me Ed.

      • I accept your explanation for misspelling bible. I also would have accepted that your email address ends in .de, which is Deutschland, which spells the word bibel. I lived in Giessen for 7 years and know that subtle differences in word use (Ich habe recht – literally “I have right” means “I am correct”) can be confusing.

        My account of history is not original. Numerous great civilizations were created without Christianity, and the Roman Empire was at a strong point when Christianity became its official religion. I do not wish to discuss this much more because this blog is about bible verses.

        I am happy to discuss opinions on bible verses, but if I am told that something must be true because of the great Judeo Christian contributions, then I will present the facts mentioned above. By the way, Judeo Christian is a recent phrase, having first been used in 1829 with a different meaning, first used in its current meaning in 1939. It gained popularity after World War 2. I have many Jewish friends (most of them also atheists), and they say most Jews hate that term, although some accept it. But there I go talking about something not in bible verses.

      • my point was that bith the Jews and the Christians have contributed to Civilisation. I never doubted the great contributions of other peoples and nations. You appear though to deny any creduit at all to these Jewish and christian peoples in this regard. I am surprised you would hold this view of history because you are clearly a very intellegent and well informed person.
        You did not answer my question as to why you are so interested in the bibel
        considering yiu seem to detest it so much in drawi g attention to only the most difficult parts of it such as numbers 31.All people groups comprise the best and worst in human nature. But why focus onkl,y on the bad in these groups. Christians built the first univercities in Europe and in so many places proivide education and orphanages abd hospitals to the poor. Over half of all third word charities are provided by the RC Church alone.
        There is always twho sides to history the good and the bad. A good historian and bibel scholar does not only deal with the bad or deny the good.
        I do not see many hospitals and orphanages for the poor that have been
        inspired by athaeists. Faith in a loving and just God has brought out the best in people throughout history. Numbetrs 312 is an eschatological story.
        Many scholars deny it as fully historical and refer to judhges 6 two generations ;later where the midianites are oppressing the Jews. They were not destroyed. Moses wife was a Midianite. i would like to see where your
        athaeism inspires you to be positive and to serve the poor. Sometimes athaeists do care for the poor but not so much. Can you explain how historicaly athaeism has inspired the development of civilisation? What ancient athaeist texts for example can you refer to that inspired peoples?
        I in no way wish to be offensive so -lease do not take tbis personaly as before. This is a sincere enquiry.I only wish to get more to the truth.

      • I do not see many hospitals and orphanages for the poor that have been
        inspired by athaeists.

        Doctors Without Borders is a Nobel Peace Prize winning organization that was founded by French atheists. Agnostic Jane Addams and Hull House also won a Nobel Peace Prize. There are many atheist charitable organizations with the highest of all ratings of accountability, including Richard Dawkins Foundation, Foundation Beyond Belief, and so many more. Agnostic Bill Gates is one of the leading charitable givers in the world, as was the late Andrew Carnegie (look him up if you are not from America).

        I in no way wish to be offensive…

        You are not as offensive as you are ignorant of atheists. More has been accomplished by the non-religious than by any other religious demographic.

        Faith in a loving and just God has brought out the best in people throughout history.

        Such as the crusades, the inquisition, the holocaust, and the September 11 attacks.

      • .Thamnks for ur response and I appreciate u have no wish to be offensive. I said I do not see many charities that were inspired by athaeists.I did not include humanist here. I do not see many charities that have been inspired by athaeism. I did not say there were none. I do see an enormous amount that are inspired by faith in a just and loving God.
        I do not agree that such faith inspired the Nine Elenen attacks etc.
        :Like so many things religion can be good or abused. It can be dangerous.
        My wife died of brain cancer in May. Myself and our three children were greatly supported through this ordeal by our faith in God.My wife was greatly comforted by her faith too during her illness. Why would u want to take this away from us apart from the fact that faith is reasonable anyway.
        Without faith hope has no substance.
        What do u hope to achieve here?.

      • “I do not agree that such faith inspired the Nine Elenen attacks etc.”
        You are choosing to be blind, deaf, and dumb.

        My wife died of Amyloidosis in 2001. I have raised 4 children mostly on my own, with a new wife in recent years. My oldest is a personal trainer, my second is a chemical engineer for Exxon, and my younger two are honor students in high school and middle school. I did all this without faith, and you could have as well! People do this all the time, whether it is in faith in the correct religion (Christianity, as you claim), faith in the wrong religion (i.e. Islam), or no faith at all.

        I hope that people read the bible and realize it is a book written by men. People should stop inserting god into laws throughout are nation and stop teaching superstitions in our public school science classes. People should keep religion out of government and government out of religion. Human reason provides a better path to resoling world problems than religious dogma.

      • I read yoir response about how like me you have lost your wife through illness and have children. You have done a great job with your kids. My three girls are still teens.
        I cannot see your last response posted here now though. I want to read it again to respond best. I enjoy the way your mind works.I enjoy and admire people who seek out the truth at all costs even when I do not come to the same conclusions. In response, I do not agree with your “either or” assumptions. As for example regarding either faith or reason being the guide for law and society and family. They are not mutually exclusive.
        Regarding your other point, as I mentioned in an earlier post I never assumed athaeists were without virtue. Of course there are Athaeists like
        I think perhaps yourself who achieve great things. I do not find this in opposition to my position about what is best for society and the family in general.. ie: belief in a good but ultimately just God who will hold us to account. W humans naturaly seek the absolute and when we find there
        hope and justice and love. It cannot really be the cause of harm to us.
        Like water religion can give life but you can also drown in it. But we do not abandon water cos some have been killed by it.

  14. Perhaps u will get time to reply to my above response. I hope so.
    U ppinted out in your overall introduction that to operate on the premis that all scripture in bible is being taken as literal. But few if any hoild to that. I think this therefore is not a helpful premis to hold to in order conduct your exegesis. In tbis casecwe see from Judges 6 two generations later that the Midianites were not wiped out but were in fact oppressing the Jews.
    Few hold that the bible is inerrant in every sense. Rather most hoild that the bible is inerrant in its intended message. I think your premis basing your arguments on that assumption is misleading as it means your arguments are not really dealing with the way the vast majority of Christians or Muslims read the bibel. I think the bible and also religion are like water. It gives life but you can also drown in it. But we do not abandon water becuase you can drown in it. Water can be dangerous at times in certain ways but we still cherish it. We need only use it wisely and with respect.

    • You are DEAD WRONG when you say few, if any, believe the bible literally. Millions of people believe the bible literally. There is the Creation Museum here in Kentucky where millions of dollars are spent every year by those who believe in a literal bible. THese people teach the earth is 6000 years old and people lived with dinosaurs. They teach legendary monsters (Loch Ness monster, Grendel and the dragon from Beowulf, English legend St. George and the Dragon, etc) were actually dinosaurs that lived with people. You should watch this video to learn what is happening to science education in the USA due to biblical literalism.

      In Germany, where your email address originates, few people believe in a literal god. I lived in Giessen 1989 through 1995. I enjoyed the Christkindlemarkt, Nicolastag, and all the other cultural events. Christianity in the USA is different from Christianity in Germany.

      • Thanks for your response. Yes I know in the USA there is a rediculous and false polarization between faith and science. Faith must always submit to truth and never visa versa. But globaly I find that most do not take the whole bible as literal. Most Christians believe there are figurative, poetic, messoretic and eschatological texts coveying theological truths rather than literal meanings. Even in the 3rd century it was believed that the theological truths were conveyed in the manner of the recipent author via their personality and culture etc. It appears that a lot of the expreme literalism you refer to comes from a relatively novel historical idea of sola scriptura.
        This promotes a need for a simplistic attitude to scripture.
        But when it took 450 sheep to produce the parchment for one bible and ten years salary for the parchment alone few could afford to own a bible not alone read it. The vast majority if christians could not possible practice sola scriptura. It appears reason and faith mpre often blend better here in Europe.
        At least by those of us who retain the faith here. I am an old Earth Creationist myself and I find developments in physics and cosmology over the last twenty years very supportive of my faith but my faith is always submitted to truth and at all cost. I that ultimately without faith our hope has no substance. Genuine faith in a God of love and justice fosters a healthy society and family. That is my experience.

  15. I was told by some Christians that If I where to read through the Bible and by doing so, getting to know God, personally, I would have but no other choice than to become a true believer. I think I’m at a bit of a disadvantage here, that of apparently not being blessed with a single digit IQ. I mean seriously, what kind of a person would want to be near a God that would do this to a people that just had a different name for him.

    The more I get to know this God, the faster I want to run. getting locked up in Heaven with him… I think not. I don’t even think Hell is a safe place to hide from such a monster.

  16. Ask God to prove himself to you….test Him….tell Him you need proof. Let’s be open minded enough to give God a chance. I beg you to test God.

    • I did. God was powerless to prove himself, because he does not exist. I can not prove that a god does not exist, but the god of the bible is clearly invented by man, as was Isis, Osiris, Zeus, Apollo, Thor, etc.

  17. The bible is as much about man and his failings as it is about God.
    The bible contains myths as well as history.
    If anyone insisted it is all literaly true or a science book they will have such problems with it. But the bible is wonderful. It uniquely reveals the nature of the relationship between man and his creator. There is only one God. He is good. We are all made in his image. All he created was good. this is in great contrast to the other entirely man made religions at the time.
    His justice and holiness is like a consuming fire. We will all be answerable to him. We need his help to be saved from our deceitfulness or sinfulness.
    God has provided a way through Jesus Christ.

    • Where does the bible say, “this passage is myth, that passage is history, this passage is literal, that passage is metaphor….” The fact is, the bible does NOT specify which sections are myths or history, as you declared. If the bible is not 100% literal, then the task of determining what is literal and what is myth is left to men and women. This end result of this is mass confusion, such as over 30,000 different sects of Christianity.

      The bible makes much more sense when you realize that it the Old Testament are stories of superstitious Bronze Age tribes and the New Testament is a collection of books agreed to by vote in 367 A.D. after orthodox Christianity was established in 325 A.D. after centuries of arguing over the nature of god by many early Christian groups, most of whom would be deemed heretical today.

      • ED,
        Those who have ears will hear,those who have eyes will percieve. Is that history or myth?
        Why are you infatuated with slavery and rape? Apparently you havent gone to a church that has given a sermon or spoke on this subject. Keep trying to find one, you will if you search, then go and enjoy..

      • Those who have ears will hear,those who have eyes will percieve. Is that history or myth?

        That is neither history nor myth.

        Why are you infatuated with slavery and rape?

        I am not. I just wonder how people claim morality comes from a book that condones slavery often and rape on many occasions.

      • Thank you for your considered response.
        You approach the bible with pre dispositions that understandably make it look
        a mess. It would look that way too to anyone with those presuppositions.
        But the majority of bible readers have a very different experience of reading the bible.That is why it is still the worlds best seller. But polarising yourself with those sola scriptura Christians and those who believe in a simplistic notion of the bible as like a modern history or science does not really do justice to the facts. I gather than in your country there are many Christians who have a naieve simplistic understanding of bible narratives. But they are not really representative of the broader body of Christians etc far from it.

      • You are correct in that there are many interpretations of the bible. When interpreted literally, the bible is ridiculous. When men are permitted to have their own interpretations, some interpretations may improve upon the literal text. However, who is to say that the Catholic interpretation, the Eastern Orthodox interpretation, the Unitarian interpretation, etc, is correct? I see no reason for modern humanity to take it seriously at all other than to learn from our past mistakes and appreciate the stories as we appreciate the Greek, Roman and Egyptian mythologies.

      • Every time i read the bible i delibertly try to interpret it in different ways. Men are permitted to have their own interpretations some keep it to themselves, some dont … in an overbearing way and some just want to share how it helped them.Modern humanity isnt any different than ancient humanity in the genre of taking it seriously,otherwise humanity would have acknowledged the mistakes and changed without regressing . Anologies help us relate and explore our thoughts. Its up to us to accept or deny these images right or wrong…our own will…our choice. As a sinful christian (from Gods point of view and my own) i realize that the nature of that beast cannot
        be controlled perfectly by my own will.

    • Seriously, if there were a God and the Bible was the picture of our relationship with him, then he is the all-powerful dictator and we are his pets and slaves. Not exactly what most modern churches teach, even the Bible-believing fundamentalist ones. And as far as I can see, it’s clearly not the a positive life message that religion usually claims to be.

      • Mikel, he could be a dictator but choose not to be. With all his authority he chose to take the time to seek a relationship with the creature he created for what. He could just killed them and start his puppets again, but many times he stopped to listen to his puppets or slaves as you say and even decide to send his son to get them out of their own mess even after he warned them about their choices .

      • I am not sure if this is really a history text. Moses was married to a Midianite woman and the Midianites were certainly not wiped out. They were still oppressing the Jews two generations later as seen in Judges 6. Also the extent of the booty here is considered unlikely as a factual account. We must not treat ancient Mid East narratives as we would 21st C ones. This story seems to be mitradic and eschatological rather than entirely factual. But it does seem to depict God in a way that seems inconsistent with most other bible texts. It raises the most difficult question of all about the bible and what exactly it means to be inspired. God is reality and Bronze age peoples could comprehended reality in a limited way according to their capacities. Still this bible passage seems an anomaly.

      • Thank you for your honesty. There are too many anomalies like this in the bible, in my opinion.

      • I like to check out all the arguments and follow the evidence honestly.
        To date despite the anomalies in the bible I find the proponderance of evidence in favor of a unique intervention the creator in human history related in the bible even though the bible is like a library full of the corruptions and limitations moral and otherwise, of man at different stages of civilization.I do find the proponderance of evidence in favor or a God too. Then there is my own personalexperience of the miraculous.So these anomalies do not yet outweigh my evidence based faith in God.I also find modern scoence increasingly supportive o0f intellegent design.

      • Modern science does not support intelligent design, but that is a topic for another blog.

  18. No of course from your perspective one interpretation is much the same as another. I cannot explain it but somehow I have faith that enables me to be convinced that reality comprises a God who is not impersonal and who is willing to reveal himself and does. But I believe we need to approach God on Gods terms. I am convinced that he has a moral basis for permitting evil. I am a Christian so you know what that means. I had been an Agnostic for a while.
    My only agenda is truth so I appreciate meeting people like you that help me to see reality from a different perspective and to question my perceptions.
    Somehow the Bible is wonderful to me despite its anomalies . It is Spirit breathed. It is not the paper or ink of course. I experience truth in a mysterious way when reading it and cannot explain it. Somehow the bible is good for me and is even delicious. A poet said “we see things not as they are but as we are”. Perhaps this is how we experience our shared reality in such different ways. I am convinced that God is so close and so immense that we cannot see him. Looking for God is like a fish in the Atlantic looking for the ocean. He will not find it because he is already utterly immersed in it.
    But as Jesus said unless you become as a little child you will not see the reality (Kingdom) of God.

    • Copernicus and Galileo (both born and remained Christian) did not act like little children. Nor did the atheist Thomas Edison (light bulb, movie projector, recorded music, General Electric, etc), the atheist Alan Turing (invented the computer program), the agnostic Bill Gates (Microsoft products), the atheist Steve Wozniak (Apple computers), the non-religious Steve Jobs (iPod, iPad, iPhone, Mac), the atheist Elizabeth Cady Stanton (women’s right to vote in the USA) and many others.

      You may choose to live in a world where adults act like children. But unfortunately, the accomplishments of these individuals and many others have pulled us out of the dark ages. I have no desire to return the world to a state where adults act like children, who willingly believe in Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and Jesus. We have ventured to far to go back.

  19. It never ceases to maze me how some Christians defend the indefensible as they justify and rationalize genocide, infanticide, savagery and unspeakable torture. There is no defence of these atrocities so twisting and spinning verses to say things they don’t say only makes these defenders look as bad as the perpetrators.
    For intellectually honest people the barbarism and cruelty is unmistakable in the descriptive language used in these verses… in all the gory details. The devil is in the details, and can be found in stomach turning descriptions of the methods used to slaughter men, women and children. These deaths were not merciful and quick but violent in the extreme… dashing infants to pieces, or against rocks, spearing bellies of pregnant women. These descriptions reveal what really was the case, acts of barbarism and rage practiced by a tribe of primitive genocidal marauders against other tribes. This is not consistent with a benevolent and just god but rather a tribe out for blood and plunder.
    The narratives and descriptives speak volumes and display a salience that is unmistakable. To those Christians who instinctively insist on defending these acts of brutality. You have no idea what horrible monsters you sound like.

  20. One also wonders how the Israelite soldiers were able to identify “girls who have never slept with a man” from those who had. By asking them? After witnessing the horrible slaughter of their families and community one could safely imagine many virgins would prefer to die rather than be kidnapped and handed out as booty for the Israelite soldiers. The words “keep the virgin girls for yourselves” is not the kind of language used by someone interested in the girl’s well being or forming loving marital bonds; it’s more in keeping with treating them like slaves. Besides how could you possible form a legitimate loving marriage with a man who just horribly hacked to death your mother, father, brothers and sisters?
    Since virginity is a key point in keeping the Midianite girls one can reliably assume rape came into play as virginity was seen by the misogynistic cultures of the day as something to be conquered.

  21. a genocide by any other name is still a genocide…is this any less abhorrent than the holocaust?

  22. […] http://rarebible.wordpress.com/2009/12/15/genocide-slavery-and-rape-of-the-midianites/ […]

  23. What was the purpose of the war. The deceit of the midianites to pollute Israel. To eliminate the pollution called for all pollutants to go. The unborn child also would be polluted by his mother grieving her husband and family and vow revenge. I love how you guys say they rape the girls without evidence .don’t forget their God also ask them to kill their own who sinned to get rid of the pollution -so he seem very clear -if his mercy is extended now use it as his will , will be done a new way is established to get rid of our pollution through his son . The choice is ours. He will get rid of all pollution in the end ,so wash &b clean. Stop trying to defend who God shows himself to be. He made us good and we chose bad. We suffer because of our choices so now all have sinned even the unborn was created in sin

    • Where dos the bible say we are all created in sin?
      I am a believer but God as omnipotent does not need to have his people self harm by sticking knives into thousands of babies and todlers in order to achieve his purposes. We are talking about the pre incarnate person of Jesus here as God. Ancient Bronze Age Mid Eastern narratives were not like ours today. They were usually written long after the event with a mithratic or eschatological purpose and context. The question should be more about the nature ofr bible inspiration than any notion that Jesus as a a divine person needed to have his children slaughter thousands of male babies and kids. We know that Jesus would have had them brought up in the knowledge and love of God to love their enemies and do good to those who hate them. People change anthropologically but God does not change.

      • I am not sure about your first question, but it is common for orthodox Christians to say all people are born with original sin, often blaming Eve. Even when I was a Christian, I did not buy into the idea that a little baby was born full of sin.
        Your assertion that god does not change is not supported by the scripture, in my opinion, as the god of the New Testament seems quite different from the god of the Old Testament.

  24. […] of Midianite women (almost all of them innocent) as vengance for the crimes of one Midiniate woman? Genocide, Slavery and Rape of the Midianites | Bible Verses Rarely Read on Sunday Many apologists claim that it was the Midianite women who sexually seduced the Israelites, so […]

  25. Exodus 20, (2a)”I am the Lord thy God…(3)thou shalt have no other gods before me. (5) I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation OF THEM THAT HATE ME. (6) and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. God is “visiting the iniquity” in Numbers 25, He keeps His word.
    Ed, we all have a huge personal responsibility, every knee shall bow. let us not surrender to the pressures of mans understanding, or even history, but to an actual living God. Jesus said, ” Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I Will give you rest. We can argue from many points of view, but rest is found in God alone.

    • You have provided an excellent example of the superiority of secular morality over that of the bible. No secular judicial system punishes the children of a criminal, much less “visiting the iniquity” to the third and fourth generation. We can be thankful that the laws of the USA are not based upon biblical morality.
      Your assertion that the bible is true is no more supported by evidence than the assertions of the Muslims, Mormons, Hindus, Scientologists, etc.

    • To be correct one should not say that Jesus said this, that or the other rather it should be “it is written that Jesus said this, that or the other. None of the gospels were written by contemporaries of Jesus at the time of his life, the ones we have have also been edited and deleted by the Romans.

      • The bible is a library of books produced over a thousand years. It represents anthropogical developments and also a developing awareness of morality.
        It has various different narrative forms not all fitting our 21st C style or motifs.
        It is a mistake to judge it by or force it into our modern narrative expectations. The New Testament is a culmination in a development of moral teaching and supports and often inspired modern legal systems.
        The belief in the dignity and equality of every human person. the belief in an objective morality and justice etc are all clear in the culmination of the bible in Jesus and in the NT. Few experts dispute Jesus as the greatest teacher of ethics.

      • Your assertions are not supported by facts. I know of no “expert” that believes Jesus is the greatest teacher of ethics. Confucius said “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” hundreds of years before the authors of the New Testament wrote it down. In Luke 14:26 Jesus says “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” and in Matthew 10 he says “34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn
        “‘a man against his father,
        a daughter against her mother,
        a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
        36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’

        37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. ”

        Confucius is far superior to Jesus, and there is more evidence that Confucius actually existed. Jesus was so unimportant during his life that no contemporary historian or philosopher wrote anything about him.


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