From Slaves to Soldiers

Chapter 31

Yahweh told Moses to punish the Midianites for what they did to Israel before he died – was separated from Israel – and united with his ancestors.

In this incident, ancient Israel had a unique place in Yahweh’s plan, with a special call to be an instrument of God’s vengeance. This is something no person should take upon himself or herself today.

Remember that while Israel abode in Shittim the men committed unlawful sex with the daughters of Moab. They also worshiped Baal with the women. They joined themselves to Baal and worshipped with obscene rites. Twenty-four thousand died of the result of these sins. It all started when the Midianites sent their women to invite the Israelite men to their sex and worship rituals to Baal. Yahweh commanded the Israelites to consider the Midianites their enemies forever.

Moses mustered a thousand men from each tribe of Israel and sent them off to war. He sent the son of the high priest’s son, Phinehas, with them and gave him charge over the holy vessels and the signaling bugles.

Israel attacked Midian, as Yahweh commanded Moses, and according to the custom of the day, killed every man. In that culture and time, the boys would have grown into men with the solemn responsibility to avenge their father’s death and to perpetuate Midianite culture – which in itself was anti-God. The People of Israel took the Midianite women – also according to the custom of the day but in direct violation of Yahweh’s command – and children captive and took all their animals and herds and goods as plunder. They burned all the towns in which Midianites lived and their tent camps to the ground. They looted and plundered everything and everyone. Among the fallen were the five kings of Midian and Balaam son of Beor, who had told the Midianites to send their women into the camp of the chosen people. They took the loot and captives all back to Moses, Eleazar the priest and the encampment of Israel still bivouacked on the Plains of Moab, at Jordan-Jericho.

Moses, Eleazar, and all the leaders of the congregation went to meet the returning army outside the camp. Moses was furious with the army officers because they let the women who had caused the trouble in the Israeli camp earlier to live. They were the ones who, under Balaam’s direction, seduced the men of Israel away from Yahweh and 25,000 men had died. He told the leaders to finish their job and kill all the boys and the women who had been bonded to Mediante men by sex. These were probably all girls under the age of twelve, or maybe younger, who would be slave labor[1] for Israel – not sex toys.

“Though most Israelites thought these women were safe, they were more dangerous to Israel than an army of mighty warriors. Israel could overcome mighty warriors if they were spiritually strong; but if they were seduced into immorality and idolatry, they would certainly fall.”[2]

Moses gave the warriors instructions for purifying themselves and their booty before they could renter the camp of Yahweh’s chosen people. Anyone who had killed anyone or touched a corpse was told to stay outside the camp for seven days. Remember that, “Yahweh was teaching his people spiritual truths. He wanted them – and he wants us – to realize that death isn’t the result of perfection. Corruption – sin – causes death and Yahweh is the author of life[3]. Death is as sin made visible.[4] Death is the result of sin. Therefore, death is the symbol of sin.

“Yahweh repeated his instructions for a person to purify himself or herself after contact with death, and added that the ritually unclean must purify himself or herself on the third day with the Water of Cleansing[5] so he or she could be clean on the seventh day. The water purification ceremony was a picture of purifying the heart by the Word of Yahweh[6]. The number three pictures completeness, but to a lesser degree than the number seven, and points to something that is solid and substantial.”[7] Moses instructed the leaders in the army to purify everything made of leather, goat hair, or wood.

Eleazar the priest told the soldiers who had fought in the battle that he was giving them the revelation from Yahweh to Moses so they would know it was important for them to obey without discussion or second guessing his orders. Anything that could survive the blaze – all the gold, silver, bronze, iron, tin, and lead – had to be passed through the fire; where it would be ritually purified. It would also have to be ritually washed in the Water-of-Cleansing. Anything that couldn’t be put through the fire had to go through the Water-of-Cleansing. They were to scrub their own cloths on the seventh day before they would be ritually clean and could return to camp.

Yahweh commanded Moses and Eleazar and all the leaders in the community to count the people and animals that were captured in the war. They were to divide the plunder between those who went out to battle, and the entire congregation:. According to the customs of the era and area the spoil would have belonged to the soldiers alone but Yahweh didn’t want soldiers who were looters or pirates. Therefore, he ordered that the spoil be divided with the people of Israel who did not fight. Yahweh wanted Israel to have the heart of givers.

What non-living booty went to the soldiers was to be taxed ten percent lower than the community was taxed for their share. The proceeds were given to Eleazar the priest. The tax on animals and people went to the Levites. The tax on them was also ten percent lower for the soldiers than for the community.

“The greatness of the victory is shewn by the result, since such an abundance of cattle could only have been collected from a wide and populous country. It is probable that it was not very fertile, and consequently only live stock, and not corn and wine, are enumerated as amongst their wealth. Still, we may conjecture that it was famous for pastures, since barren mountains could not have fed so many oxen, and goats, and sheep, and camels. Besides, it is most evident, from the number of young women, that the men who were slain were more in number than their conquerors that had been sent to the battle; for suppose they each of them had an unmarried daughter, they would have almost three times outnumbered the 12,000 Israelites. Hence, again, it is manifest that the victory was affected by Divine power.”[8]

When the leaders of the army saw that none of their men were lost, they consecrated their spoils of gold and silver to the Lord. Moses magnified Yahweh’s special blessing in bringing them all back safely. The war was successfully accomplished under the guidance of Yahweh who had protected the 12,000 men. They acknowledged Yahweh’s power in the preservation of the soldiers by offering as the price of their redemption whatever gold and silver they had taken among the spoils. Moses recorded the sum to make it clear that it was a large amount and that it was donated by the soldiers who had taken the booty. It was given to the commanders who took it to Moses and Eleazar who, in turn, took it to the Tent of Meeting to serve as a reminder to Israel before Yahweh.


Summary of chapter 31

Yahweh commanded Moses to make war on the Midianites. One thousand men were chosen out of each of the twelve tribes, and sent with Phinehas against the Midianites. Israel slayed all the males along with the five kings and Balaam and took all the women captive, with the flocks and goods. They burned the Mediante cities, and brought the spoil and the captives to Moses. He was angry with the leaders for sparing the women, who had been the cause of their sin and the resulting deaths. He commanded all the male children and all the sexually active females to be slain. The soldiers were given instructions to purify themselves and the different articles taken in the war. They were commanded to take the sum of the prey and divide it into two parts; one for the 12,000 warriors, and the other for the rest of the congregation. One in 500, both of persons and cattle, of the share of the warriors, was to be given to Yahweh for the priests; and one part of fifty, of the people’s share, was to be given to the Levites. The leaders reported that they had not lost a man in the war and brought a voluntary offering to Yahweh of gold and ornaments in the amount of 16,750 shekels. Moses and Eleazar took the gold into the tabernacle for a memorial.


Prayer: I love you, O Lord. You are my strength. Your law is perfect and restores my soul. Your precepts are right and rejoice my heart. Your commandment is pure and sheds light on my spiritual eyes. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, my Lord and my Redeemer. Human nature is so complicated, Lord. I need your guiding hand in my life every second – every nano-second – of every minute of every hour of every day. I remember that you have told me to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with you but find it hard to know what justice is. I get mercy confused with unproductive sympathy; and I confuse walking humbly by your side with letting evil use me for a rug. I need your instructions to show me how to live a productive healthy life but if I’m not careful I allow the opinions of other imperfect humans to cloud and confuse your instructions. James said that if I lack wisdom to ask and you will give it to me. Please give me wisdom, Lord. Thank you.



Things to think about

  1. Why do you think Yahweh told Israel to go to war against Midian?
  2. What difference does the gospel – death, burial, and resurrection of Yeshua ha Mashiach/Jesus Christ – make in the way Yahweh deals with evil nations today?
  3. Could the Midianites have repented and been saved from destruction?
  4. Why do you think every male and sexually attached female that Israel went to war against was killed but no Israelite died in the battle?
  5. Why were the woman and little boys killed?
  6. Can we honestly ask how a good god could allow bad things to happen today and still wonder how he could have got rid of the evil and the people seeped in evil in the ancient land of Canaan?
  7. Why do you think the soldiers took the women captives back to Israel and why did it infuriate Moses?



[1] According to the custom of the area and era


[3] Romans 6:23

[4] Romans 5:12; 7:24

[5] That has the ashes of the cow in it, combined with the symbols of Yeshua – scarlet, cedar, and hyssop and his work of salvation – For soap Egyptians used a paste containing ash or clay

[6] James 4:8

[7] Chapter 19



2 thoughts on “From Slaves to Soldiers

  1. Maryann Parsons

    great post, very informative. I wonder why the opposite specialists of this sector don’t understand this. You must continue your writing. I am confident, you’ve a huge readers’ base already!

    Liked by 1 person


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