Pastoral Commentary for Numbers 31
Author: Pastor Bob Nordlie
God told Moses that his final duty would be to execute the Lord's vengeance on Midian. It was the Midianite women who had seduced the Israelites into idolatry as a part of their pagan revelry. Therefore God justly punished them by sending 12,000 Israelites, a thousand men from each tribe, against them. This is also where we learn that God did not answer Balaam's prayer to die a natural death, but was killed in battle. Moses was angry with the men when they returned with the Midianite women along with the plunder. He said, "Behold, these, on Balaam's advice, caused the people of Israel to act treacherously against the LORD." Moses' command that the women and male children be put to death seems harsh, but it was crucial for Israel to see the evil of idolatry and understand its fatal consequences at this early stage in their history as God's chosen nation about to enter the Promised Land. The plunder that was to be kept had to be purified by fire, and those who fought the battle also had to undergo ritual purification. All the plunder was divided between the army of Israel and all the people, with a portion going to the LORD. Out of gratitude that they had suffered no casualties the military commanders presented a special offering to their LORD.