Series: Thru the Bible
Where we’ve been…where we’re Going!
Vengeance on Midian
Num. 31:1-54, HCSB “(1) And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: (2) “Take vengeance on the Midianites for the children of Israel. Afterward you shall be gathered to your people.(3) So Moses spoke to the people, saying, “Arm some of yourselves for war, and let them go against the Midianites to take vengeance for the LORD on Midian.”
This may cause some confusion since we know that Christian doctrine holds that Vengeance belongs to God as is stated in Deut. 32:35 & Rom. 12:19. The reason this fits within that established doctrine is for the same reason as all authority belongs to God. God OWNS and is the source of ALL authority, yet He delegates it to mankind as He wills to accomplish His good purposes – whether good leadership in respect to the righteous, or corrupt leadership for their punishment and correction or for the sake of judgment – but all of these eventuate and work for the good of his people. Thus Paul writes, in Romans 13 that “…he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. (5) Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake.”
So it is with vengeance. It belongs to God, but He has the sovereign right to delegate the execution of it into the hands of anyone He chooses. This is why the phrase “take vengeance for the LORD on Midian.” was used which is even more appropriate than you may at first realize. It would not rightfully be Israel’s vengeance since they willingly fell into the temptations the Midianites provided. God was the only true victim here – He was the one the Israelites committed spiritual adultery against!
Another example of this is capital punishment. The Life of man is in God’s hands and it is God’s law that if a man sheds innocent blood, by the hand of man his blood will be shed. So even though Life and Death are in God’s power, He has the sovereign right to delegate that authority to whomever He wills.
…and in this case, He is commissioning Israel to exact vengeance on those who led them through temptation into sin and pagan idolatry.
As we have learned in the past, one of the unspoken reasons for this is that God is teaching Israel a lesson in humility and the Fear of the Lord which we will see later in this same chapter when Moses and Eleazar rebuke them for not exacting vengeance on EVERYONE.
So back with verse 3…
“(3) So Moses spoke to the people, saying, “Arm some of yourselves for war, and let them go against the Midianites to take vengeance for the LORD on Midian.
(4) A thousand from each tribe of all the tribes of Israel you shall send to the war.” (5) So there were recruited from the divisions of Israel one thousand from each tribe, twelve thousand armed for war.
(6) Then Moses sent them to the war, one thousand from each tribe; he sent them to the war with Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, with the holy articles and the signal trumpets in his hand.
The holy articles and the signal trumpets, may be a poor translation in that it is suggested by some learned people that the “and the” is not functioning as a conjunction but serves an explanatory role meaning the trumpets themselves MAY BE the “holy articles”. While the ark did go into battle with Israel upon occasions, it is not always mentioned where are the trumpets seem to be present.
(7) And they warred against the Midianites, just as the LORD commanded Moses, and they killed all the males. (8) They killed the kings of Midian with the rest of those who were killed–Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba, the five kings of Midian. Balaam the son of Beor they also killed with the sword. (9) And the children of Israel took the women of Midian captive, with their little ones, and took as spoil all their cattle, all their flocks, and all their goods. (10) They also burned with fire all the cities where they dwelt, and all their forts. (11) And they took all the spoil and all the booty–of man and beast. (12) Then they brought the captives, the booty, and the spoil to Moses, to Eleazar the priest, and to the congregation of the children of Israel, to the camp in the plains of Moab by the Jordan, across from Jericho. (13) And Moses, Eleazar the priest, and all the leaders of the congregation, went to meet them outside the camp. (14) But Moses was angry with the officers of the army, with the captains over thousands and captains over hundreds, who had come from the battle. (15) And Moses said to them: “Have you kept all the women alive? (16) Look, these women caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the LORD in the incident of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the LORD.
Partial obedience was a continual problem with the Israelites. While it is true that the information these verses supply did not have God or Moses telling the leaders to “kill them all” – the REASON for the invasion WAS made clear and since it was not just the males who guilty but also the women who had participated in the sexual temptation of the Israelite men – it should have been obvious to them that God intended that they all be destroyed…and if there had been any lingering questions they should have asked BEFORE they went into battle. More than likely these men were hoping to keep these women for themselves.
Also notice WHO Moses directed his anger against – it was the LEADERS – the Officers and Captains.
(17) Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known a man intimately. (18) But keep alive for yourselves all the young girls who have not known a man intimately.
So Moses spares all the young women who did not sin since they were virgins, but all the men – young and old were killed. Men carry authority and so this was necessary.
Not this next part has to do with ritualistic purity. These men had been in physical contact with dead bodies and so the law required them to be purified and remain outside the camp for 7 days.
Also all the spoils needed to be purified by fire or by the water of purification which came from what? 01/23/19 – The Ashes of the Red Heifer.
(19) And as for you, remain outside the camp seven days; whoever has killed any person, and whoever has touched any slain, purify yourselves and your captives on the third day and on the seventh day. (20) Purify every garment, everything made of leather, everything woven of goats’ hair, and everything made of wood.” (21) Then Eleazar the priest said to the men of war who had gone to the battle, “This is the ordinance of the law which the LORD commanded Moses: (22) “Only the gold, the silver, the bronze, the iron, the tin, and the lead, (23) everything that can endure fire, you shall put through the fire, and it shall be clean; and it shall be purified with the water of purification. But all that cannot endure fire you shall put through water. – Numbers 19:9 (24) And you shall wash your clothes on the seventh day and be clean, and afterward you may come into the camp.”
Division of the spoil
(25) Now the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: (26) “Count up the plunder that was taken–of man and beast–you and Eleazar the priest and the chief fathers of the congregation; (27) and divide the plunder into two parts, between those who took part in the war, who went out to battle, and all the congregation. (28) And levy a tribute for the LORD on the men of war who went out to battle: one of every five hundred of the persons, the cattle, the donkeys, and the sheep; (29) take it from their half, and give it to Eleazar the priest as a heave offering to the LORD. (30) And from the children of Israel’s half you shall take one of every fifty, drawn from the persons, the cattle, the donkeys, and the sheep, from all the livestock, and give them to the Levites who keep charge of the tabernacle of the LORD.” (31) So Moses and Eleazar the priest did as the LORD commanded Moses.
You remember that I have often referred to incident at Ziklag, how the Amalekites had come and burned down and raided Negev and attacked Ziklag, taking all the women with them including David’s wives while they were away at David’s direction. They all blamed David for the loss and many of the men were exhausted from fighting. But David sought the Lord and the Lord told them where to find those who had done this and David and his men recovered all. But 1Sam. 30:20-25 we see how David took this rule God began here with the plunder of the Midianites and he turned it into a law. Let’s read it – “(20) He took all the sheep and cattle, which were driven ahead of the other livestock, and the people shouted, “This is David’s plunder!” (21) When David came to the 200 men who had been too exhausted to go with him and had been left at the Wadi Besor, they came out to meet him and to meet the troops with him. When David approached the men, he greeted them, (22) but all the worthless men among those who had gone with David retorted, “Because they didn’t go with us, we will not give any of the plunder we recovered to them except for each man’s wife and children. They may take them and go.” (23) But David said, “My brothers, you must not do this with what the LORD has given us. He protected us and handed over to us the raiders who came against us. (24) Who can agree to your proposal? The share of the one who goes into battle is to be the same as the share of the one who remains with the supplies. They will share equally.” (25) And it has been so from that day forward. David established this policy as a law and an ordinance for Israel and it continues to this very day.” ~ 1Sam. 30:20-25 HCSB
“(32) The captives remaining from the plunder the army had taken totaled: 675,000 sheep and goats,
(33) 72,000 cattle,
(34) 61,000 donkeys,
(35) and 32,000 people, all the females who had not had sexual relations with a man.
(36) The half portion for those who went out to war numbered:
337,500 sheep and goats,
(37) and the tribute to the LORD was 675 from the sheep and goats;
(38) from the 36,000 cattle, the tribute to the LORD was 72;
(39) from the 30,500 donkeys, the tribute to the LORD was 61;
(40) and from the 16,000 people, the tribute to the LORD was 32 people.
(41) Moses gave the tribute to Eleazar the priest as a contribution for the LORD, as the LORD had commanded Moses.
(42) From the Israelites’ half, which Moses separated from the men who fought, (43) the community’s half was:
337,500 sheep and goats,
(44) 36,000 cattle,
(45) 30,500 donkeys,
(46) and 16,000 people.
(47) Moses took one out of every 50, selected from the people and the livestock from the Israelites’ half. He gave them to the Levites who perform the duties of the LORD’s tabernacle, as the LORD had commanded him.
All Present and accounted for:
(48) The officers who were over the thousands of the army, the commanders of thousands and of hundreds, approached Moses (49) and told him, “Your servants have taken a census of the fighting men under our command, and not one of us is missing. (50) So we have presented to the LORD an offering of the gold articles each man found–armlets, bracelets, rings, earrings, and necklaces–to make atonement for ourselves before the LORD.” (51) Moses and Eleazar the priest received from them all the articles made out of gold. (52) All the gold of the contribution they offered to the LORD, from the commanders of thousands and of hundreds, was 420 pounds. (53) Each of the soldiers had taken plunder for himself.
God also remember the good – NOT just the bad
(54) Moses and Eleazar the priest received the gold from the commanders of thousands and of hundreds and brought it into the tent of meeting as a memorial for the Israelites before the LORD.”
Reuben and Gad Settle in Gilead
This is very straightforward and in my opinion need not be read aloud. It can be adequately summarized by saying that the tribes of Reuben and Gad evidently had a larger than typical amount of livestock and figured that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush – so they asked Moses if they might forgo their inheritance in the Promised land and be given this land instead since it was such good land for livestock.
At first Moses would not allow it – referring back to the spies whose negative report discouraged the people so that they would not go in to take the land. If these two whole tribes remained on this side of the Jordan and did not go in to conquer the land with them – the same may happen ‘causing the anger of God to drive them once more into the wilderness until this generation had passed as well.
Reuben and Gad both vowed to send their warriors into battle with the rest of Israel until the very last land for the very last tribe was secured and settled – they would not forsake their brothers in time of need.
Moses accepted this compromise with the condition that if they failed to follow through they would be forced to resettle in the Promised Land due to their failure to keep their word – a condition to which Reuben and Gad agreed as we can read in verse 29-33
“(29) If the Gadites and Reubenites cross the Jordan with you, every man in battle formation before the LORD, and the land is subdued before you, you are to give them the land of Gilead as a possession. (30) But if they don’t go across with you in battle formation, they must accept land in Canaan with you.” (31) The Gadites and Reubenites replied, “What the LORD has spoken to your servants is what we will do. (32) We will cross over in battle formation before the LORD into the land of Canaan, but we will keep our hereditary possession across the Jordan. (33) So Moses gave them–the Gadites, Reubenites, and half the tribe of Manasseh son of Joseph–the kingdom of Sihon king of the Amorites and the kingdom of Og king of Bashan, the land including its cities with the territories surrounding them.”
Num. 33:1-56, HCSB “(1) These were the stages of the Israelites’ journey when they went out of the land of Egypt by their military divisions under the leadership of Moses and Aaron.
(2) At the LORD’s command, Moses wrote down the starting points for the stages of their journey; these are the stages listed by their starting points:
(3) They departed from Rameses in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the month. On the day after the Passover the Israelites went out triumphantly in the sight of all the Egyptians. (4) Meanwhile, the Egyptians were burying every firstborn male the LORD had struck down among them, for the LORD had executed judgment against their gods. (5) The Israelites departed from Rameses and camped at Succoth [Soo-cot].
(6) They departed from Succoth and camped at Etham, which is on the edge of the wilderness.
(7) They departed from Etham and turned back to Pi-hahiroth [Pie – ha-hi-roth], which faces Baal-zephon, and they camped before Migdol.
(8) They departed from Pi-hahiroth and crossed through the middle of the sea into the wilderness. They took a three-day journey into the Wilderness of Etham and camped at Marah.
(9) They departed from Marah and came to Elim. There were 12 springs of water and 70 date palms at Elim, so they camped there.
(10) They departed from Elim and camped by the Red Sea.
(11) They departed from the Red Sea and camped in the Wilderness of Sin. (12) They departed from the Wilderness of Sin and camped in Doph-kah. (13) They departed from Doph-kah and camped at Alush[Al-osh].
(14) They departed from Alush[Al-osh] and camped at Rephidim, where there was no water for the people to drink. (15) They departed from Rephidim and camped in the Wilderness of Sinai.
(16) They departed from the Wilderness of Sinai and camped at Kibroth-hattaavah [Kib-roth Ha-tay-ivah].
(17) They departed from Kibroth-hattaavah [Kib-roth Ha-tay-ivah] and camped at Hazeroth.
(18) They departed from Hazeroth and camped at Rithmah.
(19) They departed from Rithmah and camped at Rimmon-perez. (
20) They departed from Rimmon-perez and camped at Libnah.
(21) They departed from Libnah and camped at Rissah [Re-sa].
(22) They departed from Rissah [Re-sa] and camped at Kehelathah [Key-huh-LAY-tha].
(23) They departed from Kehelathah [Key-huh-LAY-tha] and camped at Mount Shepher [She – fer].
(24) They departed from Mount Shepher [She – fer] and camped at Haradah.
(25) They departed from Haradah and camped at Mak-he-loth.
(26) They departed from Mak-he-loth and camped at Ta-hath.
(27) They departed from Ta-hath and camped at Terah.
(28) They departed from Terah and camped at Mithkah.
(29) They departed from Mithkah and camped at Hashmonah.
(30) They departed from Hashmonah and camped at Moseroth.
(31) They departed from Moseroth and camped at Bene-jaakan [Beno-jay-ikan] .
(32) They departed from Bene-jaakan [Beno-jay-ikan] and camped at Hor-haggid-gad.
(33) They departed from Hor-haggid-gad and camped at Jotbathah.
(34) They departed from Jotbathah and camped at Abronah.
(35) They departed from Abronah and camped at Ezion-geber [Easy-on-gee-ber].
(36) They departed from Ezion-geber [Easy-on-gee-ber]
and camped in the Wilderness of Zin (that is, Kadesh).
(37) They departed from Kadesh and camped at Mount Hor on the edge of the land of Edom.
(38) At the LORD’s command, Aaron the priest climbed Mount Hor and died there on the first day of the fifth month in the fortieth year after the Israelites went out of the land of Egypt. (39) Aaron was 123 years old when he died on Mount Hor. (40) At that time the Canaanite king of Arad, who lived in the Negev in the land of Canaan, heard the Israelites were coming. (41) They departed from Mount Hor and camped at Zal-mo-nah.
(42) They departed from Zal-mon-ah and camped at Punon.
(43) They departed from Punon and camped at Oboth.
(44) They departed from Oboth and camped at Iye-abarim on the border of Moab.
(45) They departed from Iyim and camped at Dibon-gad.
(46) They departed from Dibon-gad and camped at Almon-diblathaim [Almon-dib-lath-a-yeem]. (47) They departed from Almon-diblathaim [Almon-dib-lath-a-yeem] and camped in the Abarim range facing Nebo.
(48) They departed from the Abarim range and camped on the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho. (49) They camped by the Jordan from Beth-jeshimoth to Acacia Meadows on the plains of Moab.”
Drive out your enemies
“(50) The LORD spoke to Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho, (51) “Tell the Israelites: When you cross the Jordan into the land of Canaan, (52) you must drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you, destroy all their stone images and cast images, and demolish all their high places. (53) You are to take possession of the land and settle in it because I have given you the land to possess. (54) You are to receive the land as an inheritance by lot according to your clans. Increase the inheritance for a large clan and decrease it for a small one. Whatever place the lot indicates for someone will be his. You will receive an inheritance according to your ancestral tribes. (55) But if you don’t drive out the inhabitants of the land before you, those you allow to remain will become thorns in your eyes and in your sides; they will harass you in the land where you will live. (56) And what I had planned to do to them, I will do to you.”
Take aways from chapter 33
- I’ve given the land to you
- It was God’s to give!
- Drive them OUT
- Destroy ANYTHING that hints at worship to other gods
- If you leave any people – they will persecute you and I will do to you what I had planned to do to them.
I hope this message will bless you richly…not because I taught it, but because it reveals Christ. He alone is our blessing and if in any way – whether big or small, 100% accurate or even just partially so – I have revealed our great God and Savior to you in a relationally knowable way, then this was time well spent on both our parts.
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