Numbers 31:1
And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
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(1) Avenge the children of Israel of the Midianites.—The time had now come for the fulfilment of the command which had already been given (see Numbers 25:16-18), after which Moses was to be gathered unto his people, as it had been revealed to him (Numbers 27:13). After Balaam had been dismissed by Balak, he appears to have gone, not to the Moabites, but to the Midianites; and it was in consequence of the counsel which he gave to the Midianites (Numbers 5:16) that the Israelites were reduced into the idolatrous and lascivious worship of Baal Peor. It is possible, also, that the Midianites, as the descendants of Abraham, may have possessed clearer light and greater privileges than the Moabites. They may have had many men as enlightened as Jethro amongst them, and consequently they may have incurred the greater guilt, and rendered themselves obnoxious to the severer punishment of those who, “after they have known the way of righteousness, turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them” (2Peter 2:21). But whether satisfactory reasons can or cannot be assigned why a more exemplary judgment should have been inflicted upon the Midianites than upon the Moabites, who were not left unpunished (see Deuteronomy 23:3-4), those only can maintain that the destruction of the Midianites is inconsistent with the justice or the goodness of God who deny that He has absolute control over the destinies of all the creatures of His hands, and that when it is His pleasure to recall the life which He has bestowed, it is for Him to determine what agents or what instruments it is best to employ.

Numbers 31:1. Avenge the children of Israel of the Midianites — For their malicious designs and practices against Israel, both by hiring Balaam to curse them, and by sending their women to insnare them. The Moabites also were guilty, but God was pleased to spare them, because the measure of their iniquity was not yet full.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.Rather, And if she shall at all be an husband's, and her vows shall be upon her, or a rash utterance of her lips, wherewith she hath bound her soul, etc. The "at all" intimates that the case of a girl betrothed but not yet actually married is here especially contemplated. After betrothal, a woman continued to reside, until the period of her marriage arrived, in her father's house; but her property was from that time forward vested in her husband, and she was so far regarded as personally his, that an act of faithlessness to him was, like adultery, punishable with death Deuteronomy 22:23-24. Hence, his right to control her vows even before he actually took her home as his wife. CHAPTER 31

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.God commanded Moses, before he die, to avenge Israel of the Midianites, Numbers 31:1,2. he chooses twelve thousand men, and Phineas: the kings of Midian and Balaam slain, Numbers 31:3-8. Their women and cattle taken; and cities burnt: they bring the spoil to Moses and Eleazar, Numbers 31:9-12. Moses is wroth with the officers for saving the women alive; commands them to kill every male child, and woman that had known man; the rest saved alive; and to purify themselves and the captives. Numbers 31:13-21. A law for dividing the booty; executed; and the sum of the booty, Numbers 31:25-40. The tribute. offering of the Lord given to the priests and Levites, Numbers 31:41-47. The captains make an offering to the Lord; which is laid up in the tabernacle for a memorial, Numbers 31:48-54.

No text from Poole on this verse.

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.

And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
1–18. The utter destruction of every Midianite, with the exception of the virgins who are to be kept as spoil.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. Numbers 30:3-15 contain the rules relating to positive and negative vows made by a woman, and four different examples are given. The first case (Numbers 30:3-5) is that of a woman in her youth, while still unmarried, and living in her father's house. If she made a vow of performance or abstinence, and her father heard of it and remained silent, it was to stand, i.e., to remain in force. But if her father held her back when he heard of it, i.e., forbade her fulfilling it, it was not to stand or remain in force, and Jehovah would forgive her because of her father's refusal. Obedience to a father stood higher than a self-imposed religious service. - The second case (Numbers 30:6-8) was that of a vow of performance or abstinence, made by a woman before her marriage, and brought along with her (עליה, "upon herself") into her marriage. In such a case the husband had to decide as to its validity, in the same way as the father before her marriage. In the day when he heard of it he could hold back his wife, i.e., dissolve her vow; but if he did not do this at once, he could not hinder its fulfilment afterwards. שׂפתיה מבטא, gossip of her lips, that which is uttered thoughtlessly or without reflection (cf. Leviticus 5:4). This expression implies that vows of abstinence were often made by unmarried women without thought or reflection. - The third case (Numbers 30:9) was that of a vow made by a widow or divorced woman. Such a vow had full force, because the woman was not dependent upon a husband. - The fourth case (Numbers 30:10-12) was that of a vow made by a wife in her married state. Such a vow was to remain in force if her husband remained silent when he heard of it, and did not restrain her. On the other hand, it was to have no force if her husband dissolved it at once. After this there follows the general statement (Numbers 30:13-16), that a husband could establish or dissolve every vow of performance or abstinence made by his wife. If, however, he remained silent "from day to day," he confirmed it by his silence; and if afterwards he should declare it void, he was to bear his wife's iniquity. עונה, the sin which the wife would have had to bear if she had broken the vow of her own accord. This consisted either in a sin-offering to expiate her sin (Leviticus 5:4.); or if this was omitted, in the punishment which God suspended over the sin (Leviticus 5:1).
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