Our worst enemies are those that draw us to sin.
Over all such enemies there is absolute victory for those who take sides with God against them.
1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
2 Avenge the children of Israel of the Midianites: afterward shalt thou be gathered unto thy people.
3 And Moses spake unto the people, saying, Arm some of yourselves unto the war, and let them go against the Midianites, and avenge the LORD of Midian.
4 Of every tribe a thousand, throughout all the tribes of Israel, shall ye send to the war.
5 So there were delivered out of the thousands of Israel, a thousand of every tribe, twelve thousand armed for war.
6 And Moses sent them to the war, a thousand of every tribe, them and Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, to the war, with the holy instruments, and the trumpets to blow in his hand.
7 And they warred against the Midianites, as the LORD commanded Moses; and they slew all the males.
8 And they slew the kings of Midian, beside the rest of them that were slain; namely, Evi, and Rekem, and Zur, and Hur, and Reba, five kings of Midian: Balaam also the son of Beor they slew with the sword.
9 And the children of Israel took all the women of Midian captives, and their little ones, and took the spoil of all their cattle, and all their flocks, and all their goods.
10 And they burnt all their cities wherein they dwelt, and all their goodly castles, with fire.
11 And they took all the spoil, and all the prey, both of men and of beasts.
12 And they brought the captives, and the prey, and the spoil, unto Moses, and Eleazar the priest, and unto the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the camp at the plains of Moab, which are by Jordan near Jericho.
13 ¶ And Moses, and Eleazar the priest, and all the princes of the congregation, went forth to meet them without the camp.
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.
15 And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive?
16 Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the LORD.
17 Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.
18 But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.
19 And do ye abide without the camp seven days: 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.
20 And purify all your raiment, and all that is made of skins, and all work of goats’ hair, and all things made of wood.
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;
22 Only the gold, and the silver, the brass, the iron, the tin, and the lead,
23 Every thing that may abide the fire, ye shall make it go through the fire, and it shall be clean: nevertheless it shall be purified with the water of separation: and all that abideth not the fire ye shall make go through the water.
24 And ye shall wash your clothes on the seventh day, and ye shall be clean, and afterward ye shall come into the camp.
25 ¶ And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
26 Take the sum of the prey that was taken, both of man and of beast, thou, and Eleazar the priest, and the chief fathers of the congregation:
27 And divide the prey into two parts; between them that took the war upon them, who went out to battle, and between all the congregation:
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, and of the beeves, and of the asses, and of the sheep:
29 Take it of their half, and give it unto Eleazar the priest, for an heave offering of the LORD.
30 And of the children of Israel’s half, thou shalt take one portion of fifty, 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.
31 And Moses and Eleazar the priest did as the LORD commanded Moses.
32 And the booty, being the rest of the prey which the men of war had caught, was six hundred thousand and seventy thousand and five thousand sheep,
33 And threescore and twelve thousand beeves,
34 And threescore and one thousand asses,
35 And thirty and two thousand persons in all, of women that had not known man by lying with him.
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:
37 And the LORD’S tribute of the sheep was six hundred and threescore and fifteen.
38 And the beeves were thirty and six thousand; of which the LORD’S tribute was threescore and twelve.
39 And the asses were thirty thousand and five hundred; of which the LORD’S tribute was threescore and one.
40 And the persons were sixteen thousand; of which the LORD’S tribute was thirty and two persons.
41 And Moses gave the tribute, which was the LORD’S heave offering, unto Eleazar the priest, as the LORD commanded Moses.
42 And of the children of Israel’s half, which Moses divided from the men that warred,
43 (Now the half that pertained unto the congregation was three hundred thousand and thirty thousand and seven thousand and five hundred sheep,
44 And thirty and six thousand beeves,
45 And thirty thousand asses and five hundred,
46 And sixteen thousand persons;)
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; as the LORD commanded Moses.
48 ¶ And the officers which were over thousands of the host, the captains of thousands, and captains of hundreds, came near unto Moses:
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.
50 We have therefore brought an oblation for the LORD, what every man hath gotten, of jewels of gold, chains, and bracelets, rings, earrings, and tablets, to make an atonement for our souls before the LORD.
51 And Moses and Eleazar the priest took the gold of them, even all wrought jewels.
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.
53 (For the men of war had taken spoil, every man for himself.)
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, for a memorial for the children of Israel before the LORD.
Numbers 1 – J. Vernon McGee
Numbers 31:1-20 – The Destruction of the Midianites
In reading such a chapter as this we must remember that the Bible is the history of the slow advance of a nation toward the knowledge of God, and its preparation to become one of the greatest of spiritual forces. That process could only be a prolonged one. Only by slow degrees could the grossness of the period be eliminated. Our Lord distinctly said that certain things were allowed for a time because of the hardness of their hearts. See Matthew 19:8. Many times He made the clear distinction between what “them of old” had said and what He said. See Matthew 5:21, 27, 33, 38, 43. The highest law for dealing with our enemies is found in his teachings.
The first steps of purification had to do with the women who might introduce heathen vices into Israelite homes, and the leisurely dealing with spoils and captives, so that passion might have time to cool. —Through the Bible Day by Day
Numbers 31:21-54 – The Disposition of the Spoils of War
This law, which subjected the victors to a whole week of separation and to special purification, instead of an immediate welcome into the camp, was intended to wean the Hebrews from the practice of war, giving them a higher standard than that of surrounding nations. Thus God educates us, by placing before us an ever higher standard, as we are able to obey it. It is easy to say hard things against this treatment of Midian, but extermination is sometimes the only way to safety.
For us the lesson is one of rigid separation. Some may be able to stand God’s searching fire; but others cannot bear that flame. Yet these may not go altogether free. See Numbers 31:23. As strangers and pilgrims we must abstain from fleshly lusts. God demands our holiness, but discriminates in the method of producing it. —Through the Bible Day by Day
Numbers 31:23—Every thing that may abide the fire, ye shall make it go through the fire.
The great aim of this enactment was to render these articles ceremonially clean. They had been in the use of the Midianites, and required cleansing, before they could be appropriated by Israel. But the cleansing processes were to be determined by their texture. Fire for what would stand fire; water for what could not stand fire.
We must be thoroughly cleansed.—If a man will purge himself, he shall be a vessel unto honor, meet for the Master’s use. Not cleverness, but cleanliness, is the prime condition of service. Jesus will not put throne-water into impure and polluted receptacles. What fellowship hath Christ with Belial?
We shall not be passed through fire, unless we can stand it.—Our faith is too precious to God to be exposed to risk. He will not let us be tempted beyond what we are able, lest we be discouraged, and make shipwreck. If, then you are called at this time to pass through an unusually searching ordeal, be sure that your Heavenly Father knows that you can endure it. “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7).
We must go through water, if not through fire.—The law provided also that “all that abideth not the fire ye shall make go through the water.” The one is negative, the other positive; the first appertains to John the Baptist, the second to the Holy Spirit. The latter is the best; but be thankful, if you cannot endure it, that there is a discipline more tempered and gentle, which will yet render you meet for the handling of the Holy Savior. —Our Daily Homily