18 Apr. Numbers 31:1-16,25-31

18 Apr. The Israelites defeat the kings of Midian

“The LORD spoke to Moses and said, ‘Pay back the Midianites for what they did to the Israelites; after that you will die.’”

“So Moses said to the people, ‘Get some men ready for war. The LORD will use them to pay back the Midianites. Send to war 1,000 men from each of the tribes of Israel.’ So 12,000 men got ready for war…”

“Phinehas son of Eleazer the priest was with them. He took with him the holy things and the trumpets for giving the alarm. They fought the Midianites as the LORD had commanded Moses, and they killed every Midianite man. Among those killed were Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur and Reba, the five kings of Midian. They also killed Balaam son of Beor with a sword.”

“The Israelites captured the Midianite women and children, and they took all of their flocks, herds and goods. They burned all the Midianite towns where they had settled and all their camps, but they took all the people and animals and goods. Then they brought the captives, the animals and the goods back to Moses and Eleazar the priest and all the Israelites. Their camp was on the plains of Moab near the Jordan River, across from Jericho.”

“Moses, Eleazar the priest, and all the leaders of the people went outside the camp to meet them. Moses was angry with the army officers, the commanders over 1,000 men and those over 100 men, who returned from war.”

“He asked them, ‘Why did you let the women live? They were the ones who followed Balaam’s advice and turned the Israelites from the LORD at [Mount] Peor. Then a terrible sickness struck the LORD’s people…”

“The LORD said to Moses, ‘You, Eleazar the priest, and the leaders of the family groups should take a count of the goods, the men and the animals that were taken. Then divide these possessions between the soldiers who went to war and the rest of the people. From the soldiers who went to war, take a tax for the LORD of one thing out of every 500. This includes people, cattle, donkeys or sheep. Take it from the soldiers' half and give it to Eleazar the priest as the LORD’s share.”

“And from the people’s half, take one thing out of every 50. This includes people, cattle, donkeys, sheep or other animals. Give that to the Levites, who take care of the LORD’s Holy Tent.’ So Moses and Eleazar did as the LORD commanded Moses.”

          (Numbers 31:1-16, 25-31)



In Numbers Chapter 28, 29 and 30, Moses received further guidance about offerings, religious festivals and vows.

Chapter 31 then describes how the Israelites defeated the five kings of Midian and killed Balaam, the soothsayer, who had advised the Midianite kings.

The spoils were divided equally amongst the soldiers and the Israelite community, using a formula which rewarded the 12,000 active fighters with the same amount of animals and goods as the other 588,000 Israelite men who had not gone to war.

In addition, the priests received one five-hundredth of the soldier’s share, while the Levites received a fiftieth of the people’s share.

When the soldiers returned with their booty – animals, goods and people – Moses criticised the generals for allowing the women to be taken captive as prisoners, because it was many of these women who had caused the Israelite men to worship the Baal at Mount Peor, and had passed on to them a sexually transmitted disease from which some died. As a result, Moses ordered the soldiers to kill all the Midianite women who had had sexual relations with Israelite men (see Numbers 31:17).

In order to ‘cleanse’ the gold, silver, bronze and iron objects that had been seized from the Midianites, Moses ordered that they should be melted down in a furnace and ‘purified’ by fire (see Numbers 31:22-23).

The photo (by David Bjorgen) shows the Jordan River valley near Jericho, bordering the plains of Moab.

You can read more about the events in Moab @ https://www.thebiblejourney.org/biblejourney2/26-the-journey-continues-from-sinai-to-moab/the-israelites-defeat-the-kings-of-midian

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