Numbers 31:3
And Moses spoke to the people, saying, Arm some of yourselves to the war, and let them go against the Midianites, and avenge the LORD of Midian.
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(3) Arm some of yourselves . . . —Better, Arm from among you (or, from those with you) men for the war. The details of the selection are contained in the next verse.

Numbers 31:3. Avenge the Lord — What in the preceding verse is termed avenging Israel, is here called avenging the Lord, because by their idolatry and lewdness, and by seducing God’s people into rebellion against him, they had offered a high affront to him. God’s great care was to avenge the Israelites, and Moses’s chief desire was to avenge God, rather than himself or the people.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.Avenge the Lord of Midian - The war against the Midianites was no ordinary war. It was indeed less a war than the execution of a divine sentence against a most guilty people.

Doubtless there were many among the Midianites who were personally guiltless as regards Israel. But the rulers deliberately adopted the counsel of Balaam against Israel, and their behests had been but too readily obeyed by their subjects. The sin therefore was national, and the retribution could be no less so.

But the commission of the Israelites in the text must not be conceived as a general license to slay. They had no discretion to kill or to spare. They were bidden to exterminate without mercy, and brought back to their task Numbers 31:14 when they showed signs of flinching from it. They had no alternarive in this and similar matters except to fulfill the commands of God; an awful but doubtless salutary manifestation, as was afterward the slaughter of the Canaanites, of God's wrath against sin; and a type of the future extermination of sin and sinners from His kingdom.

3. Arm some of yourselves—This order was issued but a short time before the death of Moses. The announcement to him of that approaching event [Nu 31:2] seems to have accelerated, rather than retarded, his warlike preparations. For the affront and injury which they offered to God, partly by their own idolatry and lewdness, and partly by seducing God’s people into rebellion against him. God’s great care was to

avenge the Israelites, Numbers 31:2, and Moses’s chief desire was to avenge God rather than himself or the people. Withal he doth hereby insinuate, that God and his people have the same cause, the same friends and enemies. And Moses spake unto the people, saying,.... In obedience to the divine command; this must be supposed to be spoken to the heads or princes of the tribes:

arm some of yourselves unto the war: not the whole body of the militia, 600,000 men and upwards, only some of them, and these choice and select men; and, according to the Jewish writers, good men, who, detesting the sins of lewdness and idolatry, would more strictly and severely avenge themselves on the Midianites for drawing their brethren into those sins, whereby they fell; and so Jarchi calls them righteous men:

and let them go against the Midianites, and avenge the Lord of Midian: what the Lord calls the vengeance of the Israelites, Moses calls the vengeance of the Lord, because they were the Lord's people, and his cause and theirs the same: and because the sins they were drawn into by the Midianites were not only against themselves, and to their prejudice, but against the Lord and to the dishonour of his name.

And Moses spake unto the people, saying, Arm some of yourselves unto the war, and let them go {a} against the Midianites, and avenge the LORD of Midian.

(a) As he had commanded in Nu 25:17, declaring also that the injury done against his people is done against him.

Verse 3. - Avenge the Lord of Midian. God, speaking to Moses, had commanded a war of vengeance; Moses, speaking to the people, is careful to command a war of religious vengeance. In seducing the people of the Lord the Midianites had insulted and injured the majesty of God himself. On the question why Midian only, and not Moab also, was punished see on Numbers 25:17. It is to be remembered that, however hateful the sins of licentiousness and idolatry may be, they have never aroused by themselves the exterminating wrath of God. Midian was smitten because he had deliberately used these sins as weapons wherewith to take the life of Israel. 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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