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Sunday, July 21st, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 31

Kretzmann's Popular Commentary of the BibleKretzmann's Commentary

Verses 1-12

The Overthrow of Midian

v. 1. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,

v. 2. Avenge the children of Israel of the Midianites, by undertaking a formal campaign of revenge against them, as commanded Numbers 26:16-18. Afterward shalt thou be gathered unto thy people, as had been revealed to him Numbers 27:13.

v. 3. And Moses spake unto the people, saying, Arm some of yourselves unto the war, prepare everything for a campaign, mobilize an army, and let them go against the Midianites, and avenge the Lord of Midian, carry out the revenge of Jehovah upon Midian, execute His divine judicial sentence upon the entire nation.

v. 4. of every tribe a thousand, throughout all the tribes of Israel, shall ye send to the war, a total of twelve thousand armed men.

v. 5. So there were delivered out of the thousands. of Israel, for so the subdivisions of the tribes were called, Numbers 1:16, a thousand of every tribe, twelve thousand armed for war.

v. 6. And Moses sent them to the war, as a holy army under the direction of Jehovah, and very likely with Joshua as their commander, a thousand of every tribe, them and Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the priest, who had distinguished himself in his zeal for the Lord, to the war with the holy instruments, either the priestly garments or some of the consecrated vessels, and the trumpets to blow in his hand, for that was one of the objects of the silver trumpets, to call the army to battle, Numbers 10:9.

v. 7. And they warred against the Midianites, whom they presumably took unawares, as the Lord commanded Moses; and they slew all the males, since it was a war of revenge, of extermination.

v. 8. And they slew the kings of Midian, beside the rest of them that were slain; namely, Evi, and Bekem, and Zur, and Hur, and Beba, five kings of Midian; Balaam also, the son of Beor, they slew with the sword, because it had been he who had given the devilish advice to the Midianites in the matter of seducing the children of Israel and causing them to commit idolatry and whoredom.

v. 9. And the children of Israel took all the women of Midian captives and their little ones, the small children of both sexes, and took the spoil of all their cattle, and all their flocks, and all their goods.

v. 10. And they burned all their cities, the fortified towns, wherein they dwelt, and all their goodly castles, the unfortified hamlets or encampments, with fire.

v. 11. And they took all the spoil and all the prey, all the plunder both in treasures and in animals, both of men and of beasts.

v. 12. And they brought the captives and the prey and the spoil unto Moses and Eleazar, the (high) priest, and unto the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the camp at the Plains of Moab, which are by Jordan near Jericho. Note that the punishment of the Lord is sure to strike those who seduce His people, even though He, so far as we know, no longer delegates any special nation to carry out His will in this manner.

Verses 13-18

The Manner of Dealing with the Captives

v. 13. And Moses and Eleazar, the priest, and all the princes of the congregation went forth to meet them without the camp, full of eagerness to see the evidence of God's avenging justice.

v. 14. And Moses was wroth with the officers of the host, with the captains over thousands and captains over hundreds which came from the battle.

v. 15. And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive? It was a decided expression of disapproval at this course of action.

v. 16. Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the Lord, they had given the Israelites occasion to become unfaithful to Jehovah, in the matter of Peor, in the immoral service of this idol, Numbers 25, and there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord.

v. 17. Now, therefore, kill every male among the little ones, to prevent the reestablishment of the nation, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him, in carnal intercourse, for there was the danger that any one of these women may have been engaged in the shameless practices connected with the service of Peor and that the children of Israel would thus be contaminated by these women.

v. 18. But all the women children that have not known a man by lying with him keep alive for yourselves, as slaves or handmaids, for marriage with such was not forbidden. The great God is terrible in His judgments, a fact which should teach us to fear His wrath and not act contrary to His commandments.

Verses 19-24

The Purification of the Army

v. 19. And do ye abide without the camp seven days, because they had touched the bodies of slain people and must be purified, Numbers 19:11; whosoever hath killed any person and whosoever hath touched any slain, purify both yourselves and your captives on the third day and on the seventh day, Numbers 19:9.

v. 20. And purify all your raiment, and all that is made of skins, the vessels and the coverings made of skins, and all work of goats' hair, garments woven out of this hair, and all things made of wood. Cf Numbers 19.

v. 21. And Eleazar, the priest, said unto the men of war which went to the battle, This is the ordinance of the law which the Lord commanded Moses, a further extension and application of the precepts of purification of Chapter 19;

v. 22. only the gold and the silver, the brass, the iron, the tin, and the lead,

v. 23. everything that may abide the fire, all metals that could withstand the power of the fire as they were placed in it for purposes of purification, ye shall make it go through the fire, and it shall be clean; nevertheless it shall be purified with the water of separation, in addition to the outward cleansing by fire, for the Levitical cleansing was an essential part of the ceremony; and all that abided not the fire, such as wood, cloth, and skins, ye shall make go through the water.

v. 24. And ye shall wash your clothes on the seventh day, as was usually done in the ceremony of purification, and ye shall be clean, and afterward ye shall come into the camp. To this day God can bear no uncleanness, no sinfulness, and He is very earnestly concerned lest the believers become contaminated by contact with the world.

Verses 25-47

The Division of the Spoils

v. 25. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,

v. 26. Take the sum of the prey that was taken, of everything that was captured in this campaign, both of man and of beast, thou and Eleazar, the priest, and the chief fathers of the congregation, the heads of the fathers' houses, Exodus 6:14;

v. 27. and divide the prey into two parts; between them that took the war upon them, who assumed the offensive, made the attack, who went out to battle, and between all the congregation. The army received half the spoil, as having been actively engaged in the arduous campaign, but the congregation was also fairly entitled to its share, a rule which was observed also in later times, Joshua 22:8; 1 Samuel 30:24.

v. 28. And levy a tribute unto the Lord of the men of war which went out to battle: one soul of five hundred, both of the persons, the female captives, and of the beeves, and of the asses, and of the sheep, the levy thus being one-fifth of one per cent. ;

v. 29. take it of their half, and give it unto Eleazar, the priest, for an heave-offering of the Lord.

v. 30. And of the children of Israelis half, of the portion which had been allotted to the congregation that had remained in camp, thou shall take one portion of fifty, or two per cent. of the persons, of the beeves, of the asses, and of the flocks, of all manner of beasts, and give them unto the Levites, which keep the charge of the Tabernacle of the Lord. This special order was intended for only this one case, and was not to be a precedent.

v. 31. And Moses and Eleazar, the priest, did as the Lord commanded Moses.

v. 32. And the booty, being the rest of the prey which the men of war had caught, after deducting the persons that were slain by the command of God, and the animals that were consumed during the return to camp, was six hundred thousand and seventy thousand and five thousand sheep (675,000),

v. 33. and threescore and twelve thousand beeves (72,000),

v. 34. and threescore and one thousand asses (61,000),

v. 35. and thirty and two thousand persons in all, of women that had not known man by lying with him.

v. 36. And the half, which was the portion of them that went out to war, was in number three hundred thousand and seven and thirty thousand and five hundred sheep (337,500);

v. 37. and the Lord's tribute of the sheep was six hundred and threescore and fifteen (675).

v. 38. And the beeves were thirty and six thousand; of which the Lord's tribute was threescore and twelve (72).

v. 39. And the asses were thirty thousand and five hundred; of which the Lord's tribute was threescore and one (61).

v. 40. And the persons were sixteen thousand; of which the Lord's tribute was thirty and two persons.

v. 41. And Moses gave the tribute which was the Lord's heave-offering unto Eleazar, the priest, as the Lord commanded Moses, undoubtedly for their maintenance, the girls becoming their slaves, and the other property being theirs to dispose of as they saw fit.

v. 42. And of the children of Israel's half, which Moses divided from the men that warred,

v. 43. (now the half that pertained unto the congregation was three hundred thousand and thirty thousand and seven thousand and five hundred sheep,

v. 44. and thirty and six thousand beeves,

v. 45. and thirty thousand asses and five hundred,

v. 46. and sixteen thousand persons;)

v. 47. even of the children of Israel's half Moses took one portion of fifty, both of man and of beast, and gave them unto the Levites, which kept the charge of the Tabernacle of the Lord, observing all the precepts which pertained to the ministry, as it was entrusted to them, as the Lord commanded Moses. The maintenance of the Old Testament Church was a duty commanded by God and prescribed by Him in detail; that of the New Testament Church is a privilege regulated by our love for the cause of the Lord, surely the greatest inducement to make us willing in His service.

Verses 48-54

The Gifts Consecrated to the Lord

v. 48. And the officers which were over thousands of the host, (namely,) the captains of thousands and captains of hundreds, came near unto Moses;

v. 49. and they said unto Moses, Thy servants have taken the sum of the men of war which are under our charge, and there lacketh not one man of us. "This is one of the features of this narrative which shows that we are dealing here with the execution of a divine sentence. It implies an extraordinary divine protection, which is in accordance with the view that they were in a peculiar sense the Lord's instruments. " (Gosman. )

v. 50. We have therefore brought an oblation for the Lord, what every man hath gotten, of the individual plunder which they had made, of jewels of gold, chains, armbands, and bracelets, seal-rings, rings, such as were fastened in the noses, earrings, and tablets, small golden spheres which were used for personal adornment, to make an atonement for our souls before the Lord, for the blessing of their safe return, since they felt that they were not worthy of such divine goodness.

v. 51. And Moses and Eleazar, the priest, took the gold of them, even all wrought jewels, gold that had been fashioned into jewelry.

v. 52. And all the gold of the offering that they offered up, to the Lord, of the captains of thousands and of the captains of hundreds, was sixteen thousand seven hundred and fifty shekels (16,750), or more than $160,000, not too large a sum, by any means; for the nomadic tribes were rich in jewelry as well as in herds and flocks.

v. 53. (For the men of war had taken spoil, every man for himself. )

v. 54. And Moses and Eleazar, the priest, took the gold of the captains of thousands and of hundreds, and brought it into the Tabernacle of the Congregation, into the treasury of the Sanctuary, for a memorial for the children of Israel before the Lord. It pleases the Lord, even now, if believers, for special manifestations of God's goodness and mercy, show their appreciation in special gifts of gratitude, for the work of the Lord.

Bibliographical Information
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Numbers 31". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kpc/numbers-31.html. 1921-23.
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