Reading 48/341, Numbers 31-32

[A] They kill Balaam today. Here we are told that it was he who came up with the strategy of corrupting Israel through having the Midianite women entice the Israelite men to worship the false gods.
[B] We see the first example here of the complete destruction of a nation. Israel kills men, women, and boys. Note that this is at Moses' command, not the Lord's. This is very significant when, as you have surely noticed, the usual pattern is "The Lord spoke to Moses, saying..."
[C] Without trying to defend the practice of killing non-combatants, there is a certain practicality to it. In modern warfare, we try to rebuild the country instead of destroy it. This seems more just to us, but it is surely not very successful. With all of our military superiority, we have been unable to rebuild Afghanistan. If, after 9-11-01 we had simply gone there and killed 100,000 people in retribution, and then left, fewer people would have died. We cannot do this because we have high ideals, but, on a purely practical level, it would have made more sense.
[D] The reason for the genocide, as Moses gives it today, is that leaving a corrupt people in the midst of Israel would not make the corrupt people better. It would merely corrupt Israel as well.

...Numbers...

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Avenge the children of Israel on the Midianites, and then you shall be gathered to your people.” Moses spoke to the people, saying, “Arm men from among you for the war, that they may go against Midian, to execute the Lord's vengeance on Midian. Of every tribe, throughout all the tribes of Israel, you shall send one thousand to the war.” So there were sent, out of the thousands of Israel, a thousand from every tribe, twelve thousand armed for war. Moses sent them, one thousand of every tribe, to the war, them and Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, to the war, with the vessels of the sanctuary and the trumpets for the alarm in his hand. They warred against Midian, as the Lord commanded Moses, and they killed every male. They killed the kings of Midian with the rest of their slain, Evi, and Rekem, and Zur, and Hur, and Reba, the five kings of Midian. They also killed Balaam the son of Beor with the sword. The children of Israel took captive the women of Midian and their little ones, and all their livestock, and all their flocks, and all their goods. They took these as plunder. All their cities in the places where they lived, and all their encampments, they burnt with fire. They took all the spoil, and all the plunder, both of man and of animal.

They brought the captives, and the plunder, and the spoil, to Moses, and to Eleazar the priest, and to the congregation of the children of Israel, to the camp at the plains of Moab, which are by the Jordan at Jericho. Moses, and Eleazar the priest, and all the princes of the congregation, went forth to meet them outside of the camp. Moses was angry with the officers of the army, the captains of thousands and the captains of hundreds, who came from the service of the war. Moses said to them, “Have you saved all the women alive? Behold, it was they who caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the Lord in the matter of Peor, and so the disease was among the congregation of the Lord. Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man by lying with him. But all the girls, who have not known man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves. Encamp outside of the camp seven days, whoever has killed any person, and whoever has touched any slain, purify yourselves on the third day and on the seventh day, you and your captives. As to every garment, and all that is made of skin, and all work of goats' hair, and all things made of wood, you shall purify them. Eleazar the priest said to the men of war who went to the battle, “This is the statute of the law which the Lord has commanded Moses: only the gold, and the silver, the bronze, the iron, the tin, and the lead, (everything that can pass through fire), you shall pass through the fire, and it shall be clean. Nevertheless it shall also be purified with the water for impurity, and all that does not withstand the fire you shall pass through the water. You shall wash your clothes on the seventh day, and you shall be clean, and afterward you shall come into the camp.”

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Take the sum of the plunder that was taken, both of man and of animal, you, and Eleazar the priest, and the heads of the fathers' houses of the congregation, and divide the plunder into two parts, between the men skilled in war, who went out to battle, and all the congregation. Levy a tribute to the Lord of the men of war who went out to battle, one soul of five hundred, of the persons and of the oxen, the donkeys, and the flocks, take it from their half, and give it to Eleazar the priest, for the Lord's wave offering. Of the children of Israel's half, you shall take one drawn out of every fifty, of the persons, of the oxen, of the donkeys, and of the flocks, and of all the livestock, and give them to the Levites, who keep the charge of the tent of the Lord.” Moses and Eleazar the priest did as the Lord commanded Moses.

Now the plunder, besides the booty which the men of war took, was 675,000 sheep, and 72,000 oxen, and 61,000 donkeys, and 32,000 persons in all, of the women who had not known man by lying with him. The half, which was the portion of those who went out to war, was in number 337,500 sheep, and the Lord's tribute of the sheep was 675. The oxen were 36,000, of which the Lord's tribute was 72. The donkeys were 30,500; of which the Lord's tribute was 61. The people were 16,000, of whom the Lord's tribute was 32 people. Moses gave the tribute, which was the Lord's wave offering, to Eleazar the priest, as the Lord commanded Moses. Of the children of Israel's half, which Moses divided off from the men who went to war (now the congregation's half was 337,500 sheep, and 36,000 oxen, and 30,500 donkeys, and 16,000 people), of the children of Israel's half, Moses took one drawn out of every fifty, both of man and of animal, and gave them to the Levites, who kept the charge of the tent of the Lord, as the Lord commanded Moses.

The officers who were over the thousands of the army, the captains of thousands, and the captains of hundreds, came near to Moses, and they said to Moses, “Your servants have counted the men of war who are under our charge, and there is not one man missing. We have brought the Lord's offering, what every man has gotten, jewelry of gold, armlets, and bracelets, signet rings, earrings, and necklaces, to make atonement for our souls before the Lord.” Moses and Eleazar the priest took the gold from them, all worked jewelry. All the gold of the wave offering that they offered up to the Lord, of the captains of thousands, and of the captains of hundreds, was 16,750 shekels. (For the men of war had taken booty, every man for himself.) Moses and Eleazar the priest took the gold of the captains of thousands and of hundreds, and brought it into the tent of meeting, as a memorial for the children of Israel before the Lord.

Now the children of Reuben and the children of Gad had a very large multitude of livestock, and when they saw the land of Jazer, and the land of Gilead, and beheld that the place was a place for livestock, the children of Gad and the children of Reuben came and spoke to Moses, and to Eleazar the priest, and to the princes of the congregation, saying, “Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Sebam, Nebo, and Beon, the land which the Lord struck before the congregation of Israel, is a land for livestock, and your servants have livestock.” They said, “If we have found favor in your sight, let this land be given to your servants for a possession; do not bring us over the Jordan.” Moses said to the children of Gad, and to the children of Reuben, “Shall your brothers go to the war while you sit here? Why discourage the hearts of the children of Israel from going over into the land which the Lord has given them? Thus your fathers did, when I sent them from Kadesh Barnea to see the land. For when they went up to the valley of Eshcol, and saw the land, they discouraged the heart of the children of Israel, that they should not go into the land which the Lord had given them. The Lord's anger was kindled on that day, and he swore, saying, ‘Surely none of the men who came up out of Egypt, from twenty years old and upward, shall see the land which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, for they have not wholly followed me, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite, and Joshua the son of Nun, who have wholly followed the Lord.’ The Lord's anger was kindled against Israel, and he made them wander back and forth in the desert for forty years, until all the generation, who had done evil in the sight of the Lord, was consumed. Behold, you have taken your fathers' place, a harvest of sinful men, to yet add to the fierce anger of the Lord toward Israel. For if you turn away from following him, he will yet again leave them in the desert, and you will destroy all this people.”

They came near to him, and said, “We will build sheepfolds here for our livestock, and cities for our little ones, but we ourselves will be ready armed to go before the children of Israel, until we have brought them to their place, and our little ones shall dwell in the fortified cities because of the inhabitants of the land. We will not return to our houses until the children of Israel have inherited, every man his inheritance. For we will not inherit with them on the other side of the Jordan and beyond, because our inheritance is fallen to us on this side of the Jordan eastward.” Moses said to them, “If you will do this; if you will arm yourselves to go before the Lord to war, and every armed man of you passes over the Jordan before the Lord, until he has driven out his enemies from before him, and the land is subdued before the Lord, then afterward you shall return and be guiltless toward the Lord, and toward Israel, and this land shall be your possession before the Lord. But if you do not do so, behold, you have sinned against the Lord, and be certain that your sin will find you out. Build cities for your little ones, and folds for your sheep, and do what has proceeded out of your mouth.” The children of Gad and the children of Reuben spoke to Moses, saying, “Your servants will do as my lord commands. Our little ones, our wives, our flocks, and all our livestock, shall be there in the cities of Gilead, but your servants will pass over, every man who is armed for war, before the Lord to battle, as my lord says.”

So Moses gave charge concerning them to Eleazar the priest, and to Joshua the son of Nun, and to the heads of the fathers' houses of the tribes of the children of Israel. Moses said to them, “If the children of Gad and the children of Reuben pass with you over the Jordan, every man who is armed to battle, before the Lord, and the land shall be subdued before you, then you shall give them the land of Gilead for a possession, but if they will not pass over with you armed, they shall have possessions among you in the land of Canaan.” The children of Gad and the children of Reuben answered, saying, “As the Lord has said to your servants, so will we do. We will pass over armed before the Lord into the land of Canaan, and the possession of our inheritance shall remain with us beyond the Jordan.”

Moses gave to them, to the children of Gad, and to the children of Reuben, and to the half-tribe of Manasseh the son of Joseph, the kingdom of Sihon king of the Amorites, and the kingdom of Og king of Bashan, the land, according to the cities of it with their borders, the cities of the land round about. The children of Gad built Dibon, and Ataroth, and Aroer, and Atrothshophan, and Jazer, and Jogbehah, and Beth Nimrah, and Beth Haran, fortified cities, and folds for sheep. The children of Reuben built Heshbon, and Elealeh, and Kiriathaim, and Nebo, and Baal Meon, (their names being changed), and Sibmah, and they gave other names to the cities which they built. The children of Machir, the son of Manasseh went to Gilead, and took it, and dispossessed the Amorites who were there. Moses gave Gilead to Machir the son of Manasseh, and he lived there. Jair the son of Manasseh went and took the towns of it, and called them Havvoth-jair. Nobah went and took Kenath, and the villages of it, and called it Nobah, after his own name.

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