Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,7. The War Against the Midianites
1. The command to fight Midian (Numbers 31:1-6)
2. The war (Numbers 31:7-12)
3. The cleansing (Numbers 31:13-24)
4. The spoil taken (Numbers 31:25-47)
5. The oblation of the officers (Numbers 31:48-54)
War is commanded next by the Lord. The Lord said to Moses, “Avenge the children of Israel of the Midianites; afterward shalt thou be gathered to thy people.” This is, therefore, the last thing in the official life of Moses. This war against Midian had been commanded before (Numbers 25:16-18), the execution had been delayed. It was now to be carried out and the Midianites were to suffer for the wicked thing they had done to Israel by seducing them to the idolatrous worship of Baal Peor. Phinehas, the high priest, accompanied the army of 12,000 men. They were victorious and slew the kings of Midian; Balaam also was slain (verse 8). His wish, “let me die the death of the righteous,” was not granted unto him, for he remained in his wickedness.
This war of revenge has a significant meaning. The key is found in the third verse, which, literally translated, reads: “Arm some of yourselves unto the war, and let them go against Midian, to execute the vengeance of Jehovah upon Midian.” There is another day of vengeance coming which will fall heavily upon the Gentile world. The Lord will avenge His people Israel and judge the nations for the sin they committed against them. Of this the prophetic Word speaks often. That day is closely linked with Israel’s restoration to the land. Then the true King-Priest will appear, like Phinehas, who was with the army of Israel (Isaiah 63:1-6; 2Thessalonians 1:7-9).
Purification took place and the spoil was divided. This table may be studied in connection with verses 25-47.
When the officers returned they discovered to their great joy that they had not lost a single man. God’s power had been with them and kept them in a miraculous way. They brought a magnificent oblation. The gold they offered was brought into the tabernacle for a memorial.