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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Israelites Battle the Midianites; Why Does God Order the Deaths of Children in Battle?

Today's Reading:
  • Numbers 30:1 - 31:54
  • Proverbs 11:20 - 21
Read Bible Passages Online

Numbers 30:1 - 31:54
Chapter 31 tells the story of Israel's conquest of the Midianites.  The Lord was angry with the Midiantes because they had led many Israelite men into worshiping Baal of Peor.

Israel went into battle with only 12,000 men.  It doesn't say (as far as I can tell here) how many they fought against.  What it does say is that all five of the Midian Kings (Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur and Reba) were killed in battle.  All the men, boys, and non-virgin women were killed either in battle or shortly afterwards. 

The Israelites captured 675,000 sheep and goats, 72,000 cattle and 61,000 virgins.  So while we do not know how many Midianites were killed, we do know that the amount of animals and virgins was quite large.  Virgin women would not account for a large percentage of the population, yet there were 61,000 of them.

Now before someone reads this and gets the wrong impression about the taking of the virgin women -- they were not kept because the men wanted just the virgins.  Originally the Israelites did not kill the women and children, but when the captives were led to Moses, he was angry.  The way the Midianites led Israel to worship Baal was by luring the men into the beds of the women.  Therefore only women that were virgins could live because they did not participate in that scheme. All others were ordered to be killed.

I was surprised when 31:8 mentioned that the Israelites killed Balaam.  I found the story of Balaam to be quite interesting, and remarked about it in two separate posts.  When we first met Balaam, he was sent for by the king of the Moabites to curse the Israelites.  The Lord told Balaam these people were not cursed -- they were blessed. 

The Moabite king sent for Balaam a couple times before Balaam finally agreed to go.  Along the way, an angel of the Lord blocked the road and Balaam's donkey would not pass.  Balaam beat his donkey three times before the donkey turned around and spoke to him, warning him to say only what the Lord told him to say.  Balaam agreed, and despite much anger from the king, he did not curse the Israelites.  He went on his way.

I thought that was where the story ended, until the Israelites killed Balaam.  No information was given in that verse as to why, but later in verse 31:16, we are told that it was Balaam's advice that gave birth to the scheme. 

This really surprised me, since Balaam seemed to follow God's command and left without cursing the Israelites.  So I wonder why he would plan to cause the Israelites to worship another god?  Obviously Balaam knew the Lord, he received visions and he knew it was the Lord who warned him against cursing the Israelites.  

So what motive might Balaam have had to try to make the Israelites fall out of favor with God?  Was it money?  He was offered an awful lot to curse them, but since he couldn't I doubt he got paid.  Maybe I'll run across more information later.  If not, it's all speculation for me.  Anyone else have thoughts on the matter?

Proverbs 11:20 - 21
20  The Lord detests people with crooked hearts, but he delights in those with integrity.
21  Evil people will surely be punished, but the children of the godly will go free.
Verse 21 really speaks to me today, especially since I read about all the deaths of the Midianites -- and that included the male children.  I also recall reading other excerpts where the children were ordered to be killed after a battle.  I always wonder about that.  

The bible says in more than one place that a good crop yields good fruit and a bad crop yields bad fruit.  I guess the same could be said for children.  I don't condone the deaths of the children by any means, but these passages at least help me to reconcile my feelings when I read stories like the one above. 

God knew the hearts of these children and he knew the hearts of the parents. If He deemed any of them worth saving, then He would have saved them.  It's still sad, but at least it helps me understand better why the Lord would command that those children be killed.

A short note on integrity -- doing the right thing, even when no one is looking.  Sometimes it might feel like there's no reward to doing the right thing, but right here we are told that God knows.  God knows and he values it of us.  And if we do the wrong thing because no one is looking, he knows that too, and that he detests.  I know which choice I choose to take. 

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