Skip to main content

Justice Will Happen: Numbers 31

In Summary: This chapter recounts the battle between Israel and Midian. Having fallen to the temptations of the Midianites earlier in the narrative, God commands the Israelites to attack.

There’s something about that, isn’t there? Had the Midianites been content to let Israel pass by, God would have saved judgment on the Midianites for some other time. Yet they had to go after the people of God, who held no harm for them. This brought destruction. I think there is something to that in terms of how God reacts to those who oppose Him. When one opposes God, He continues to work to bring us back to Him. He extends grace in a wide path.

Yet when we start to cross over into harming others, God draws a firmer line. It is true that He still allows evil in this world, but I would suggest the argument that this evil opens opportunities for God’s people to do good. This allows us to live up to the name of Christian: one who is like Christ but smaller. He came into a world of evil and did the ultimate good—we can do smaller goods that point people to Him.

Back to the chapter, we see the overall battle is a rout. The Israelites lose no soldiers, while Midian is defeated and slaughtered. This is an area that continues to trouble me, and others, regarding warfare in the Old Testament. Was it truly necessary to execute everyone? Apparently it was commonplace, but I cannot wrap my head around it as a good thing.

Going forward, the Israelites then breakdown and divide the spoils of war between those who fought and those who stayed behind. This was not a matter of rewarding the lazy. Remember that God only called for one thousand from each tribe, so many who would have fought were not needed. Additionally, the Levites were not part of the fighting forces, so these also were left out. However, those who had the risk received the greater reward. (Numbers 31:25-27)

In Focus: I would put the spotlight on Numbers 31:8. Notice who is put to death, along with the kings of the Midianites: Balaam, son of Beor. Remember him from earlier in Numbers?

All of his posturing about only doing what YHWH commanded, all of his religious talk meant exactly nothing. I do not think there is anything in this passage that supports the idea that he was among the enemies of God doing mission work. Instead, we get the sense that he is there advising the Midianites in their opposition to Israel.

And in the end, all the wealth he received from Balak came to naught. It ends up part of the plunder of the people of Israel. Had Balaam listened to God and not gone (Numbers 22) or bailed out after God blessed Israel (Numbers 23-24), he would have lived—and perhaps profited. Instead, he spoke more than what YHWH gave him to say, because he advised Balak how to trap Israel.

In Practice: So, let us think on Balaam one more time here. God gave him a prohibition, a commandment regarding his behavior. And Balaam chafed at it. First he chafed at not going. Then he seemed to chafe at restricting his speech. Then he chafed at seeking YHWH for words and spoke his own oracle of blessing. In the end, he chafed at leaving it alone.

We do that, don’t we? We chafe at the commands of God. We think God does not know well enough, and so we get around His commands. We find loopholes or issue provisos. We look for ways to not do what we should or to do what we should not.

In the end, it ends up leading to death. And then we’re surprised. We wonder what happened…I wonder if Balaam thought the same. Why is this happening? He should have turned back. So should we—the Word of God is plain on this, that we must flee to Christ first, and then follow Him.

In Nerdiness:  I think there is something interesting in Numbers 31:28 and Numbers 31:30. The offering to YHWH from the warriors (the first verse) is 1 from 500. The offering from the Israelites that did not fight is 1 from 50.

I think there may be something here that sets a precedent of giving thanks to God for those who fight on our behalf. Even to the point of offering sacrifices on their behalf rather than asking it from them. I am not fully certain how much we should base on this, but you see a precedent here that sounds a lot like a support-the-veteran’s event in Israel.

It is noteworthy that items were not given to the warriors but all was part of the worship. I’m not sure how (or exactly if) this should apply in a Christian church. But it is part of our Scriptures, and should be examined.


Popular posts from this blog

Book Review: The Heart Mender by @andyandrews (Andy Andrews)

The Heart Mender: A Story of Second ChancesEver read a book that you just kind of wish is true?  That's my take on The Heart Mender by Andy Andrews.  It's a charming story of love and forgiveness, and it's woven into the historical setting of World War II America.  For the narrative alone, the book is worth the read, but the message it contains is well worth absorbing as well.However, let's drop back a minute.  This book was originally published under the title Island of Saints.  I read Island of Saints and enjoyed it greatly.  Now, Andrews has released it under a new title, with a few minor changes.  All of this is explained in the Author's Note at the beginning, but should be noted for purchaser's sake.  If you read Island of Saints, you're rereading when you read The Heart Mender.  Now, go ahead and reread it.  It will not hurt you one bit.Overall, the story is well-paced.  There are points where I'd like more detail, both in the history and the geog…

Abraham Lincoln Quoted by Jesus! Mark 3

Mark records a curious event in his third chapter (link). If you look at Mark 3:25, you'll see that Jesus quotes the sixteenth President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. After all, one of the highlights of the Lincoln years is his famous speech regarding slavery in the United States where he used the phrase that "a house divided against itself cannot stand." This speech was given in 1858 when he accepted the nomination to run against Stephen A. Douglas for Senate, but is still remembered as the defining speech regarding slaveholding in the United States. I recall being taught in school how brilliant and groundbreaking the speech was, how Lincoln had used such wise words to convey his thought. Yet the idea was not original to Lincoln. Rather, it was embedded in Lincoln from his time reading the Bible. Now, I have read varying reports about Lincoln's personal religious beliefs: some place him as a nearly completely committed Christian while others have him somewh…

Book: Vindicating the Vixens

Well, if Vindicating the Vixens doesn’t catch your attention as a book title, I’m not sure what would. This volume, edited by Sandra L. Glahn (PhD), provides a look at some of the women of the Bible who are “Sexualized, Vilified, and Marginalized.” As is frequently the case, I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for my review.Let’s take this a stage at a time. First stage: book setup. This is primarily an academic Biblical Studies book. Be prepared to see discussions of Greek and Hebrew words, as appropriate. You’ll also need a handle on the general flow of Biblical narrative, a willingness to look around at history, and the other tools of someone who is truly studying the text. This is no one-day read. It’s a serious study of women in the Bible, specifically those who either faced sexual violence or who have been considered sexually ‘wrong’ across years of study.A quick note: this book is timely, not opportunistic. The length of time to plan, assign, develop, and publish a multi…