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In this Chapter we have the relation of Israel's war with Midian. The number of the army appointed by the LORD himself; the success of GOD'S host; the event of the battle in the spoils brought with them: the purifying the people after the war; and the division of the booty.
Here we see the fulfillment of that sacred Scripture, which assures us that the judgment of the ungodly lingereth not; for however the LORD may seem slack, as some men count slackness, yet the day of the LORD will come as a thief in the night, in which GOD will recompense his enemies, and the enemies of his people, which are a part of himself, to their face. See 2 Peter 2:3 ; Malachi 4:1 .Ecclesiastes 8:11 . The Reader will enter into a proper apprehension of this history, by consulting Numbers 22:0 ; Numbers 23:0 ; Numbers 24:0 , and Numbers 25:0 . But while I beg the Reader to consult those chapters, in order to see the equity and justice of the divine proceeding, in ordering Israel to destroy Midian, which had first tried to curse Israel, and afterwards did tempt and seduce Israel to rebel against the LORD GOD by idolatry; I must request the Reader not to overlook the tenderness of the LORD to Moses. Though the time was arrived, when Moses was to be gathered to his people, yet the LORD will grant his servant to see with his eyes the destruction of Midian before his departure. This victory was a pledge of the conquest of Canaan. And Moses has assurance before he dies. Blessed JESUS! Is it not thus thou dealest with all thy people in the precious confirmation of thy promises. See Psalms 91:8-16 .
I beg the Reader to observe the words of Moses in this verse. In the former verse the LORD had said that the children of Israel should avenge themselves of the Midianites. But Moses varies the precept, and here saith, that the LORD is to be avenged of them. And what doth this teach us but this, that the interests of GOD and his people are one and the same. I remember in the moment I am looking over this scripture thy sweet words, blessed JESUS, in which thou hast left upon record, that whatsoever is done in a way of kindness to one of the least of thy brethren, thou takest as done to thyself. Matthew 25:40 ; John 17:21-23 .
There is a special mercy in appointing Phineas to this service. He it was whose zeal for GOD'S honour broke forth in a day of affliction to the deliverance of Israel. See Numbers 25:7-13 .
The Reader will not forget to observe that Midian, and not Moab, was first the seat of war; though it is probable, from what we read before, of Midian and Moab acting in conjunction, to get Balaam, the pretended conjuror, to curse Israel, that both nations were in colleague. See Numbers 22:7 .
Reader! pause over the death of this wretched character, and remark the sure destruction of the ungodly. The man whose eyes he confessed were open, but whose heart never was influenced by grace. Devils are of this stamp. They cannot but believe, because they know who CHRIST is; but never love, and therefore tremble. James 2:19 .
The destruction of all the men of Midian means, no doubt, all that were then in Midian; for probably some of the subjects of Midian might be from home, or in Moab. And the wars which Israel had with Midian afterwards, confirm this. See Judges 6:3 . Bat Reader, do not overlook in this relation the corruption of our nature, in the soldiers sparing the women. Had they remembered themselves, or had they felt conscious shame in the remembrance of their transgressions against GOD, they would have known that the daughters of Moab and Midian had caused their idolatry. But alas! we spare our corruptions in the day of inquisition, under the cover of infirmities, and the like; so deceitful the heart of man! Romans 3:9 .
It is truly interesting to see the zeal of the faithful. How jealous for the honour of GOD was Moses? In regarding the LORD'S glory, he passeth by all lesser considerations. Angels burn with an holy flame in this particular. We have a striking instance of one of the heavenly host manifesting his warmth of zeal for the glory of GOD, in the instance of the death of Herod. Acts 12:23 . And if the Reader would behold the account of one infinitely greater than the angels, he may read how the prophet described him under this feature, as clad with zeal as a cloke; and how the evangelist interpreted this when he appeared in substance of our flesh. See Isaiah 59:17 ; Psalms 69:9 ; John 2:15-17 .
The law respecting uncleanness had so much in it of allusion to the gospel, that it is not to be wondered at we meet with it upon every occasion. But Reader! how delightful is it to see our privileges in JESUS. Let us go forth unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. Hebrews 13:13 .
I think it not necessary to break the chain of those verses, when one general observation may be properly made from the whole taken together. It is worthy of remark, how graciously the LORD, by taking a portion to himself, hath taught us to consider from whom all blessings flow, and therefore to whom tribute should return, in a perpetual thanksgiving. It is suitable in all our alms, to the poor, to keep in view that they are the LORD'S poor, and therefore the gift is first and principally on his account. Reader! I would recommend you to be very jealous, over your own heart in this particular. Search the motives of your alms-giving to the bottom; and always ask yourself, Is it on the LORD'S account this charity is exercised? The apostle's argument is founded on this. 1 John 3:16-17 .
I class all these verses together, because they are connected in the history, and because the improvements they suggest are all united. We have in them the pious reflections of the officers in Israel's army, on the event of their victory over their enemies; and the grateful acknowledgement they offered in consequence thereof to the LORD. Reader! do observe; they did not ascribe the victory to their own sword, but they saw the hand of the LORD in it; and therefore to him gave all the glory. There is a similar example of this, Psalms 44:1-8 . But this was not all. They beheld the preservation of themselves and their people from all danger, in the accomplishing this victory, as the peculiar interposition and mercy of GOD. And to be sure, nothing could be more decisive in confirmation of it, for when they came to muster up the people, there was not a single man wanting. Never perhaps, in the annals of the world, was there ever known such an instance. They saw, therefore, as a saint of GOD did upon another occasion, that this was the LORD'S doing, and marvellous in their eyes. Psalms 118:23 . But when the Reader hath duly pondered over the natural and religious sense of this event, I would beg him to consider again the spiritual meaning, whether this first battle in the conquest of the promised land, in which not a soul was lost, was not typical of JESUS'S conquest of the eternal Canaan, concerning which he himself remarked, of them which thou hast given me have I lost none. John 18:9 . The offering of the officers to the LORD is a delightful testimony from whom they consider the blessing of victory came, and to whom therefore ought to be returned the tribute of praise. What a sweet and precious example is this for all military characters.
PAUSE, my soul, over the perusal of this whole Chapter, and duly contemplate in the case of Balak and Balaam's confederacy against Israel, and the event which here so soon after followed, in the destruction of Midian, the truth of that Scripture, The lamp of the wicked shall be put out. And again: Yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be; thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be.
In the contemplation of the holy war of Israel, behold, my soul, the figure and similitude of that war in which thon art engaged. LORD, help me to go forth to every conflict in thy strength, making mention of thy righteousness, even thine only. Let not mine eye spare any of those lusts, in my corrupt members, which war against my soul; but do thou blessed JESUS, as the great captain of my salvation, go before, and by the precious influences of thine HOLY SPIRIT, drive them out before me, until they are utterly consumed. And grant, gracious GOD, that when returning from the slaughter, I may have so fully learnt the song of salvation to GOD and the LAMB, that the blood of JESUS may be my oblation for the atonement of the sin of my soul. Of my soul may it be said, as it is and shall ever be of all the redeemed in the holy army of the LORD, They overcame by the blood of the LAMB, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Numbers 31". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany