Summary of passages: Numbers 31: The Lord orders Moses to take vengeance on the Midianites for the Israelites. Moses orders 1000 men from each tribe. Phinehas son of Eleazar accompanied the 12,000 men to blow the trumpets. The wiped out all men from the tribe. They captured all the women and children and took all of their animals back to the plains of Moab where the Israelites were encamped.
Moses was mad that the women were allowed to live when they were the ones who enticed the Israelites into sexual sin and brought about the plague. He orders them to kill all the boys and every woman who has slept with a man. Only the virgin girls are allowed to live. Then all who had contact with a dead body or killed anyone in battle must cleanse themselves with water or fire and stay outside the camp for 7 days.
The Lord orders the spoils to be divided between the soldiers who fought and the rest of the community, including shares for the Levites. Not one Israeli soldier died in the battle so they brought the gold they had taken as plunder as atonement to the Lord.
Numbers 32: The Reubenites and the Gadites, seeing good land for their flocks where they were, asked Moses if they could stay here and not cross over into the Promised Land. Moses reminds them the last time they refused to enter the Promised Land, the Lord’s anger burned against His people and He punished them by making them wander the desert for 40 years. If they disobey again, Moses warns, they will be the cause of their destruction.
The Reubenites and the Gadites said they would fight with their brothers and take the land promised by God but that they wanted to stay here in the land on the east of the Jordan River. Moses agreed but warned them they must keep their promised and fight. So Moses gave them (including half of the tribe of Manasseh) the land they wanted. They rebuilt the cities and drove out the Amorites.
Numbers 33: Moses records the stages in their journey at the Lord’s command from Egypt to where they sit right now, on the Plains of Moab overlooking the Promised Land. God says to drive out all of the inhabitants of the land, destroy all of their idols, take possession of the land and settle it, dividing it by lot according to size of the tribes. God warns to carry out all of His commands or they will suffer what God does to the Canaanites.
Numbers 34: God assigns the boundaries of the Promised Land for the 9 1/2 tribes on the West side of the Jordan River. The 2 1/2 tribes on the East already have their inheritance. The Lord appoints leaders from each tribe to assign the inheritance to the Israelites.
Numbers 35: God commanded Moses to give the Levites towns to live in and pasturelands around the towns. Six of the 48 Levite towns will be cities of refuge for those who kill someone to flee to so that they may stand trial and not be afraid of revenge killings. If the person does not flee to the refuge town, then they open themselves up to be killed by relatives.
Numbers 36: This solves the problem of what happens to the land given to Zelophehad’s daughters when they marry. Thus God says Zelophehad’s daughters must marry within the clan of their father and this applies to every daughter who inherits land for every Israelite must keep the inherited land in their family. No inheritance may pass from tribe to tribe.
9a) Yes because the Midianite women were the ones who seduced the Israeli men and introduced other gods for them to worship. They defiled the land and made it unholy, making it impossible to have God occupy it without atonement (Numbers 35:34). What atones? Blood. Thus, blood had to be shed to make it holy for the Lord.
b) Whole books have been written on this topic. Honestly, it’s not for us to know God’s reasons for vengeance. He says attack, the people attack. He is God and we don’t question His authority over us. But as a just God, the penalty for sin must be paid and punished. Here, the punishment is death which is the punishment for all sin. It is God’s right to mete it out. We merely do His will.
Common reasons given for the wars in the OT: The Promised Land was always in God’s plan. He promised it to Abraham. The Canaanites were not innocent people. They had sinned and as punishment the Canaanites would lose their land (Deut 9:5). We’ve read about their sexual sin and sacrifice of children to false gods. The Canaanites would contaminate the Israelites and thus had to be completely removed (which didn’t happen because the people disobeyed and the Babylonians would punish them for that). This was about believers and unbelievers.
10a) They had very large flocks and herds and wanted to settle in land suitable for the livestock. I would say they are tired of traveling and ready to settle down. The land they saw was good and saw no reason (besides obeying God) to continue on. They were willing to help their brothers take the land so were willing to compromise. However, they were complacent. They were content with this land. Complacency is contagious and leads to stagnation. We should never be complacent in our growth with God. Little did they know, but God had greater things for them in the land of Canaan if only they had obeyed.
b) No. He chastised them and reminded them about what happened the last time the Israelites refused to enter the Promised Land and basically said they would be the cause of God’s wrath and responsible for their destruction if they did what they proposed to do.
c) Compromised. The Reubenites and the Gadites agreed to help the Israelites fight to take the Promised Land and not return to their homes until every Israelite has received his inheritance. They would not receive their inheritance on that side of the river, preferring these other lands instead.
11a) So the Israelites will know from whence they came and the power of God who brought them thus far.
b) Personal Question. My answer: Nothing. My life is uneventful and not of import. I would say my everyday living speaks for itself.
12) In the culture of the day, if someone killed someone, their relatives could take revenge and kill you. Here, God provides cities of refuge so if the killing was accidental, that person could have a fair trial. This shows that God is the ultimate judge (who gives that authority to the proper authorities) to take a life and He protects His people from needless bloodshed. God is the giver and the taker of life. It is His decision. He is the protector of His people out of His infinite love for us.
Conclusions: Long lesson and not looking forward to next week where we are assigned to read the majority of Deuteronomy. Awesome lessons of God reminding His people before they take over the Promised Land of what is important in their lives and just how far they have come.
End Notes: Numbers 31: The Israelites enacted vengeance because God told them to do so. Today, our governments have been given the authority to enact vengeance by God, not us personally.
Note the priests went into battle with them–a sign of God’s blessing.
The custom was to kill the men and take the rest captive. However, this was against God’s orders.
The male children had to be killed because at this time boys were raised to take revenge against those who had killed their fathers. Hence, they were a threat to the Israelites.
Things that don’t seem a threat are what us as Christians stumble over. That’s why it’s important to pray to God and let Him tell you what to do. We can learn from the Israelites who didn’t eliminate the threat (the women) what can happen.
Purification was important–that’s why we have the Holy Spirit.
Normally the spoil would just be divided up amongst the warriors. However, God didn’t want the reason for killing to be only about the spoils. And a portion had to go to the Levites. God wants givers and not just takers.
Numbers 32: They were discouraging the others and saying by their example,”The fight was not worth it. Let’s just be happy here.” This should remind us of the 10 spies who discouraged the Israelites to not take the Promised Land the first time around. Again, wholly following the Lord is not contentment with half of what God has for us. We can accept others’ contentment except when it influences others.
Numbers 33: Here we can see exactly how much the Israelites moved in 40 years! For those of us who have moved a lot, this can be punishment in and of itself since it’s no easy task!
God accomplished two goals with the Israelites: used them to judge the people of Canaan and gave them land promised long ago.
God’s warning will fall on deaf ears as the Canaanites are not completely destroyed and thus over time infiltrate the Israelites and bring about their destruction.
Numbers 34: This is land given by God, not earned. Debate over the “Wadi of Egypt” continues today: is this the Nile or some other stream? Hence, the fight over the Sinai Peninsula continues.
God chose leaders to end any conflict once the land was split.
Numbers 35: The Levites were distributed proportionately as well so that God’s people would have enough priests. This reflects Christ as he went to the people and not just the people come to him.
Revenge killing is not bad per se. It can work–except in the case of accidents. This is where God steps in to protect His people. If you murder someone, then yes you should suffer death as well. However, accidents happen and God provides for that. The difference between murder and kill here is important.
These cities were evenly distributed with good roads (Deut 19:3). These cities were open to all and not just to the Israelites.
If found innocent, the man had to stay within the walls of the city until the death of the high priest. Otherwise, he could still be killed.
The cities of refuge picture Jesus as he is our refuge.
We can murder someone’s reputation as well.
A murderer cannot buy his way out of proper penalty.
Unjudged murderers defile a land. Unfortunately, a lot get away. But God knows and they will face ultimate penalty with Him.
Numbers 36: A picture of no perfect solutions in life. If a daughter did choose to marry outside the tribe, she’d forfeit her inheritance. They married their cousins so the land stayed within the family as well as the tribe.
End of Numbers: We leave the Israelites about to take their final step into the Promised Land. They have come a long way but the last step is what counts. Sadly, many Christians become lost in the Wilderness and never step into what God has for them. Faith has brought them this far, but it will take even more faith to finish the journey.
Map showing division of the Promised Land: http://www.biblestudy.org/maps/large-map-of-division-promised-land-to-israel.jpg
Map of Wilderness Journey up to the Jordan River: http://www.keyway.ca/gif/wildjour.gif