Moses delivers to Israel the annual calendar of celebrations that they are to follow when they enter Canaan. These celebrations require the sacrifice of hundreds of animals who have no defects. Where will these wilderness wanderers obtain such a vast number?
Finally, the Lord gives Moses one final instruction, “Take vengeance on the Midianites for the Israelites. After that, you will be gathered to your people” (Numbers 31:1).
A twelve-thousand man army marches against the Midianites and destroys them. Balaam, the pagan diviner, dies by Israel’s sword, and Israel commandeers the Midianites’ great wealth: people, animals, and gold jewelry.
The Lord gives two instructions regarding the plunder:
The Lord commands Moses to kill all of the males and all the women who aren’t virgins since “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” (Numbers 31:16).
The Lord divides the plunder between those who fought and those who remained in the camp. Each group was to set apart a tribute to the Lord and a tribute to the priests.
Israel’s battle with the Midianites provides them with more sacrificial animals than the annual calendar requires. This scene reveals a truth that runs throughout the Bible: God gives instructions that requires God’s activity. Obedience always precedes illumination and provision.
The first such story to reveal this truth occurs in the garden of Eden when God tells Adam, “It is not good that man be alone. I will make a helper for him.” Then God informs Adam to name the animals. After this obedience Adam realizes that he is without a complimentary partner. God puts him to sleep and creates Eve from his rib. God’s instructions always require faith and obedience.
God is good. He only does good.
"Have you allowed the women to live?" he asked them. 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." (Numbers 31:15-16)
When I read these verses I think of the statement, "A little leaven leavens the whole lump" (1 Cor. 5:6b) where Paul warns the Corinthian believers not to allow sexual immorality in their midst. Sexual sin has a way of creeping in and defiling many; 24,000 people lost their lives when God sent the plague in Israel's midst after they had slept with Midianite women and worshiped their gods (Numbers 25:9).
Sexual sin isn't taken seriously anymore. Too many people put sexual sin under the umbrella of judging. Yet God still takes sexual sin seriously. When sin is not dealt with it becomes the norm among the people of God. Church discipline rarely occurs anymore and many in the church have no distinguishing characteristics from those in the world except that they attend church.
Had Israel kept the women alive they again would have slept with the women and worshiped their gods. God's demand for the death of the Midianite women may seem harsh, yet He is acting on behalf of the good of His people.
Early in the wilderness experience God warned the people against making "a covenant with the inhabitants of the land . . . and taking their daughters for your sons, and his daughters play the harlot with their gods and make your son play the harlot with their gods" (Exodus 34:15-16; Deut. 7:3-6). The history of Israel is replete with examples of men whose hearts were turned away from God by foreign women. Solomon (1 Kings 11:1-4), Ahab, and Jehoshaphat (married Jezebel's daughter) are just a few examples.
Sin influences. It doesn't remain stagnant. Because the people of God "are a holy people of the Lord, chosen to be a people for Himself, and a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth" (Deut. 7:6) God does not tolerate sexual sin in their midst. God's ageless standard is purity in the marriage relationship. Purity honors God, protects the home, guards against STDs, and lives without regrets. Let us, as holy people of God, guard ourselves against sexual sin.
Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
"A promise to man is a bond upon the estate, but a promise to God is a bond upon the soul" - Matthew Henry. What are the four different examples of making a vow given in this text?
What is the number one reason vows made by women would remain unenforced? How does this regulation protect women?
Why is this battle against the Midianites considered "the Lord’s vengeance," and what role does Phinehas have in the battle?
What does the death of Balaam tell you about his offense against the children of Israel?
Why were purification laws enacted upon the children of Israel at the conclusion of the battle?
Why were the spoils of war to be distributed among all of Israel?
What demonstrates God's protection of Israel during the battle with the Midianites?
Turning truth into prayer
Ask the Lord to show you areas of your life where you "flirt" with sexual sin.