Numbers 31: The Cursers Get Cursed

'Sarab-e Bahram' photo (c) 2010, dynamosquito - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/Remember that incident with Midian a little ways back?

Well, let’s say that some guys from Israel engaged in some inappropriate hanky-panky with some women from Midian resulting in some rather unfortunate idolatry which resulted in a plague that killed 24,000 people.

And do you remember how during that time there were a lot of allusions to Genesis 12 and the announcement that whoever cursed Abraham’s offspring would themselves be cursed?

Well, Numbers 31 has arrived and let the cursing begin!

Or I could ask some questions and attempt to work through them. Yeah, let’s do that instead of cursing.

Take Care of the Women & Children

Israel basically trounces Midian. All the men are killed. If that doesn’t spell total and utter defeat, I don’t know what does.

But they leave the women and children. Ordinarily I would consider this a good move.

But Moses had a different idea.

He tells the army to kill everyone save female virgins. That means all male children and all women who have had sex. This sounds horrible and to a certain extent, my own cultural biases will never be able to be 100% on board with this. But we do need to take a closer look.

The last time the Israelite men had Midianite women around, bad things happened. They led the Israelites into idolatry and that is God’s cardinal sin #1. The result of that idolatry, like I said before, was a massive plague. So from that perspective, I get why Moses wouldn’t want them around.

The Midianite women were more deadly to the Israelites than the Midianite men. That’s just old fashioned number-crunching there.

Balaam . . . Meet the Sword

I really went to bat for Balaam. I thought he was a pretty cool guy.

I guess I was wrong.

Apparently, while he was refusing to curse Israel, he was giving the Midianite women advice on how to destroy Israel.

Not cool, bro. Not cool.

And now he’s dead.

I’m not sure what to do with that. Balaam really seemed like he was on the right track. I didn’t really read anything in Numbers that made me think otherwise.

What happened?

Virgin Tributes

So after the battle, the Israelites plunder Midian. They collect vast quantities of sheep, oxen, donkeys and . . . virgins.

I would imagine that most of these girls and women became servants and slaves in the Israelite camp. And there were laws about what could and couldn’t be done to them. And while I am pretty sure being a slave to the people who destroyed your own people always sucks, being a slave to the Israelites was probably as good as it got back then.

But there is this tricky little part where the Israelites give a portion of all their spoils to the Priest and the Levites.

When animals are given, they are sacrificed.

What happens when people are given? Does Eleazar have 32 virgins running around helping out?

I really hope it is that and not something else.

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5 responses

  1. Haha. The thought of 32 people running around like madpeople just made me chuckle.

    Balaam is one of the oddest characters in the Bible. I always thought he was on the right side, but Jewish history seems to frown upon him.

  2. I don’t have a huge cultural bias against what God had Israel do. The problem I have is people here in America running around acting like God speaks to them and telling them to do the same things. God may be the same, but He doesn’t act the same in all ages and circumstances.

  3. I have caught up at last. I found this blog a few days ago and then went back to the beginning, it has taken a few days to catch up (no I didn’t read all the passages on the way through, only those that I didn’t remember enough about to make sense of the posts.) but I am here at last. To those who have expressed difficulty in reading the Bible through, may I suggest that they first read The Book of God by Walter Wangerin jr. This is basically the Bible as a novel and helps to get events in order.
    Now to Numbers 31 I calculate 352 virgins; 32 from the troops and 320 from the rest of the people

  4. This chapter was really hard for me. I am struggling through the mass slaughters/plague killings. Glad you are working through these same things with us!

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