Numbers 31:17
Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that has known man by lying with him.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Numbers 31:17. Kill every male among the little ones — Which they were forbidden to do to other people, (Deuteronomy 20:14,) except the Canaanites, to whom this people had equalled themselves by their horrid crimes; and therefore it is not strange, nor unjust, that God, the supreme Lord of all men’s lives, who, as he gives them, so may take them away when he pleaseth, did equal them in the punishment. Kill every woman, &c.— Partly for punishment, as having, in general, either prostituted themselves to the Israelites, or some way been accessary in enticing them to idolatry, in which they were so confirmed that there was no hope of reclaiming them; and partly for prevention of the like mischief in future; for had they been saved alive, they would probably have continued to lead the Israelites into the sin of fornication, and have poisoned their minds by their superstitions. The female children were to be spared, because, being young, there was some hope they might be reformed from idolatry, and become proselytes to the true religion. These they might have as servants, or might marry them.31:13-18 The sword of war should spare women and children; but the sword of justice should know no distinction, but that of guilty or not guilty. This war was the execution of a righteous sentence upon a guilty nation, in which the women were the worst criminals. The female children were spared, who, being brought up among the Israelites, would not tempt them to idolatry. The whole history shows the hatefulness of sin, and the guilt of tempting others; it teaches us to avoid all occasions of evil, and to give no quarter to inward lusts. The women and children were not kept for sinful purposes, but for slaves, a custom every where practised in former times, as to captives. In the course of providence, when famine and plagues visit a nation for sin, children suffer in the common calamity. In this case parents are punished in their children; and for children dying before actual sin, full provision is made as to their eternal happiness, by the mercy of God in Christ.Caused ... to commit trespass - More literally, "became to the children of Israel for a cause (or, incitement) of treachery to the Lord." 14-18. And Moses was wroth with the officers of the host—The displeasure of the great leader, though it appears the ebullition of a fierce and sanguinary temper, arose in reality from a pious and enlightened regard to the best interests of Israel. No order had been given for the slaughter of the women, and in ancient war they were commonly reserved for slaves. By their antecedent conduct, however, the Midianitish women had forfeited all claims to mild or merciful treatment; and the sacred character, the avowed object of the war (Nu 31:2, 3), made their slaughter necessary without any special order. But why "kill every male among the little ones"? It was designed to be a war of extermination, such as God Himself had ordered against the people of Canaan, whom the Midianites equalled in the enormity of their wickedness. Among the little ones, which they were forbidden to do to other people, Deu 20:14, except the Canaanites, to whom this people had equalled themselves by their horrid crimes; and therefore it is not strange, nor unjust, that God, the supreme Lord of all men’s lives, who as he gives them, so may take them away when he pleaseth, did equal them in the punishment.

Every woman that hath known man; partly for punishment, because the guilt was general, and though some of them only did prostitute themselves to the Israelites, yet the rest made themselves accessory by their consent, or concurrence, or approbation; and partly for prevention of the like mischief from such an adulterous generation. Now therefore kill every male among the little ones,.... Which they had taken and brought captives, Numbers 31:9.

and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him; who might be such, at least many of them, who had lain with Israelitish men; and as the adulterers had been put to death, so now the adulteresses; or they were ordered to, be slain, even all of them, lest they should entice the children of Israel to uncleanness, and so to idolatry again: now these were known to be such, either by conjecture at their age, or rather, through the examination of matrons, unless it can be thought, as it is by some, that it was by divine revelation.

Now therefore kill every male among the {g} little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.

(g) That is, all the boy children.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
All this booty (shalal, booty in goods), and all the prey in man and beast (malkoach), was brought by the conquerors to Moses and Eleazar and the congregation, into the camp in the steppes of Moab. In Numbers 31:12, שׁבי applies to the women and children who were taken prisoners, מלקוח to the cattle taken as booty, and שׁלל to the rest of the prey.
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