Study Guide

Book of Numbers Chapter 31

Chapter 31

War! What Is It Good For? (Getting Lots of Stuff, Apparently)

  • God tells Moses that the Israelites should attack the Midianites. Apparently, God still hasn't stopped hating on these guys.
  • So, Moses gathers up 12,000 men (1,000 from each tribe) and they kick butt pretty thoroughly. They slaughter every single man in the country, as well as all five kings of Midian and Balaam.
  • Wait, Balaam? What did he do wrong? Well, apparently, between his multiple blessings of Israel and now, he advised some of the Midianite women to tempt the Israelite men into worshipping Baal. (Remember all that craziness back in chapter 25?)
  • Okay, so all the men are dead. What about the women and children? They're taken captive. Nice. Along with all the animals and possessions in Midian.
  • When the army comes back with the human and non-human spoils of war, Moses is annoyed. "Have you allowed all the women to live?" Huh?
  • See, Moses is ticked because some of these women were the ones that tried to convince Israelite men to worship Baal. So, why exactly are they here?
  • Moses tells the army to kill every woman who's ever had sex (not sure how they're gonna be able to figure that one out). And for good measure, all the male children are gonna need to die, too. It's getting pretty genocidal up in here.
  • Female virgins, on the other hand, will be allowed to live. Good news, ladies. You will now be forcibly married to your captors or else used as slaves. Welcome to your new home.
  • But onto more important things. Have you touched a dead body during this whole gore fest? You're gonna need to leave camp for seven days and follow that whole purification ritual thing. See you in a week, gents!
  • Then, God tells Moses exactly how they should divide the booty. Keep in mind, by "booty," God means both animals and young women who have just watched the majority of their neighbors be brutally murdered.
  • Half the spoils of war will go to the 12,000 soldiers. The other half to everyone else in the community. Naturally, a small portion will make its way to the priests.
  • So, Moses and Eleazar get this all organized. It's quite a haul. The soldiers alone end up with:
  • 675,000 sheep
  • 72,000 oxen
  • 61,000 donkeys
  • 32,000 virgins
  • And—more good news—not even one Israelite has died in battle. Not one. Even though they just killed an entire race of men and sexually active women. We're thinking this is actually becoming a bit of a fish story.
  • The troops also bring 16,750 shekels worth of gold and silver that they "found" to the tabernacle in order to atone for themselves. Gee, we wonder what they would have to atone for?

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