|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
31:1-6 All who, without commission from God, dare to execute private revenge, and who, from ambition, covetousness, or resentment, wage war and desolate kingdoms, must one day answer for it. But if God, instead of sending an earthquake, a pestilence, or a famine, be pleased to authorize and command any people to avenge his cause, such a commission surely is just and right. The Israelites could show such a commission, though no persons now can do so. Their wars were begun and carried on expressly by Divine direction, and they were enabled to conquer by miracles. Unless it can be proved that the wicked Canaanites did not deserve their doom, objectors only prove their dislike to God, and their love to his enemies. Man makes light of the evil of sin, but God abhors it. This explains the terrible executions of the nations which had filled the measure of their sins.
Verse 1. - The Lord spake unto Moses. The command to "vex the Midianites, and smite them," had been given before (Numbers 25:17), but how long before we cannot tell. Possibly the interval had been purposely allowed in order that the attack when it was made might be sudden and unexpected. From the fact that no resistance would seem to have been made to the Israelitish detachment, and that an enormous amount of plunder was secured, we may probably conclude that the Midianites had thought all danger past.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And the Lord spake unto Moses,.... After the plague upon Israel for their fornication and idolatry, into which they were drawn by the daughters of Moab and Midian, and after the sum of the people was taken in the plains of Moab, and various laws given or repeated, and a little before the death of Moses:
saying; as follows.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Nu 31:1-54. The Midianites Spoiled and Balaam Slain.
1, 2. the Lord spake unto Moses, Avenge the children of Israel of the Midianites—a semi-nomad people, descended from Abraham and Keturah, occupying a tract of country east and southeast of Moab, which lay on the eastern coast of the Dead Sea. They seem to have been the principal instigators of the infamous scheme of seduction, planned to entrap the Israelites into the double crime of idolatry and licentiousness [Nu 25:1-3, 17, 18] by which, it was hoped, the Lord would withdraw from that people the benefit of His protection and favor. Moreover, the Midianites had rendered themselves particularly obnoxious by entering into a hostile league with the Amorites (Jos 13:21). The Moabites were at this time spared in consideration of Lot (De 2:9) and because the measure of their iniquities was not yet full. God spoke of avenging "the children of Israel" [Nu 31:2]; Moses spoke of avenging the Lord [Nu 31:3], as dishonor had been done to God and an injury inflicted on His people. The interests were identical. God and His people have the same cause, the same friends, and the same assailants. This, in fact, was a religious war, undertaken by the express command of God against idolaters, who had seduced the Israelites to practise their abominations.
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