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.”
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.