Numbers 31:50
We have therefore brought an oblation for the LORD, what every man hath gotten, of jewels of gold, chains, and bracelets, rings, earrings, and tablets, to make an atonement for our souls before the LORD.
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Numbers 31:50. We have brought an oblation — Finding, to their great joy and surprise, that not a single man was missing of the whole twelve thousand, they unanimously resolved, out of the free plunder, to make a voluntary offering to God, for the service of religion. To make an atonement — For their error, noted Numbers 31:14-16; and withal for memorial, or by way of gratitude for such a stupendous assistance and deliverance. We should never take any thing to ourselves, in war or trade, of which we cannot in faith consecrate a part to God, who hates robbery for burnt-offerings. But when God has remarkably preserved and succeeded us, he expects we should make some particular return of gratitude to him.

31:48-54 The success of the Israelites had been very remarkable, so small a company overcoming such multitudes, but it was still more wonderful that not one was slain or missing. They presented the gold they found among the spoils, as an offering to the Lord. Thus they confessed, that instead of claiming a reward for their service, they needed forgiveness of much that had been amiss, and desired to be thankful for the preservation of their lives, which might justly have been taken away.The "chains" were "armlets" 2 Samuel 1:10. The "rings" were "finger-rings," or "seal-rings;" and the "tablets" were worn suspended from the neck Exodus 35:22.

To make an atonement for our souls before the Lord - Compare Exodus 30:11-16. The atonement was not for any special offence committed (which would have called for a sacrifice of blood-shedding), but rather like the half-shekel given at the census in the Book of Exodus (loc. cite), was an acknowledgment of having received undeserved mercies. These, if unacknowledged, would have entailed guilt on the soul.

48-54. officers … said … there lacketh not one man of us—A victory so signal, and the glory of which was untarnished by the loss of a single Israelitish soldier, was an astonishing miracle. So clearly betokening the direct interposition of Heaven, it might well awaken the liveliest feelings of grateful acknowledgment to God (Ps 44:2, 3). The oblation they brought for the Lord "was partly an atonement" or reparation for their error (Nu 31:14-16), for it could not possess any expiatory virtue, and partly a tribute of gratitude for the stupendous service rendered them. It consisted of the "spoil," which, being the acquisition of individual valor, was not divided like the "prey," or livestock, each soldier retaining it in lieu of pay; it was offered by the "captains" alone, whose pious feelings were evinced by the dedication of the spoil which fell to their share. There were jewels to the amount of 16,750 shekels, equal to £87,869 16s. 5d. sterling. For their error, noted, Numbers 31:14-16, and withal

for a memorial, as it is said Numbers 31:54, or by way of gratitude for such a stupendous assistance and deliverance, as appears from the word therefore in the beginning of this verse, and from Numbers 31:49.

We have therefore brought an oblation to the Lord,.... A freewill offering, out of the spoil, over and above the tribute levied out of the half that came unto them:

what every man hath gotten: or "found" (f), in the houses, and upon the bodies of the slain, or of such that were taken captives:

of jewels of gold either such as were set in gold; or rather, as the words may be rendered:

vessels of gold (g), as dishes, cups, spoons, and the like:

chains; which were wore about the neck, or upon the arm, as Aben Ezra:

and bracelets; for the hand, as the same writer, see Genesis 24:22,

rings; for the finger:

ear rings; for the ear, as we render it, the word signifies something round:

and tablets; which, according to the Targum of Jonathan, were ornaments that hung down between the breasts:

to make an atonement for our souls before the Lord; not only this offering was brought as a token of gratitude and thankfulness, for sparing of everyone of their lives, and giving them such success and victory, and so large a spoil of the enemy; but also to expiate any sins they had been guilty of in going out, and coming in, and particularly for sparing the women they should have put to death, for which Moses was wroth with them, Numbers 31:14.

(f) "invenit", Pagninus, Montanus. (g) "vas auri", Montanus; "vasa aurea", Vatablus.

{q} We have therefore brought an oblation for the LORD, what every man hath gotten, of jewels of gold, chains, and bracelets, rings, earrings, and tablets, to make an atonement for our souls before the LORD.

(q) The captains by the free offering acknowledge the great benefit of God in preserving his people.

50. jewels of gold] Golden ornaments were taken from the Midianites when Gideon won his victory (Jdg 8:24-26). They were worn by roving nomads and traders, such as the Midianites were (cf. Genesis 37:28), more than by the members of settled communities. This seems to be the meaning of the parenthesis in Jdg 8:24, where ‘Ishmaelites’ is apparently a general term for nomads.

Verse 50. - What every man hath gotten. The whole, apparently, of their booty in golden ornaments was given up as a thank offering, and in addition to this was all that the soldiers had taken and kept. The abundance of costly ornaments among a race of nomads living in squalid tents and hovels may excite surprise; but it is still the case (under circumstances far less favourable to the amassing of such wealth) among the Bedawin and kindred tribes (see also on Judges 8:24-26). Chains. אֶצְעָדָה. Septuagint, χλιδῶνα. Clasps for the arm, as in 2 Samuel 1:10. Tablets. כּוּמָז. Probably golden balls or beads hung round the neck (see on Exodus 35:22). A different word is used in Isaiah 3:20. Numbers 31:50Sacred Oblations of the Officers. - When the officers reviewed the men of war who were "in their hand," i.e., who had fought the battle under their command, and found not a single man missing, they felt constrained to give a practical expression to their gratitude for this miraculous preservation of the whole of the men, by presenting a sacrificial gift to Jehovah; they therefore brought all the golden articles that they had received as booty, and offered them to the Lord "for the expiation of their souls" (see at Leviticus 1:4), namely, with the feeling that they were not worthy of any such grace, and not "because they had done wrong in failing to destroy all the enemies of Jehovah" (Knobel). This gift, which was offered as a heave-offering for Jehovah, consisted of the following articles of gold: אצעדה, "arm-rings," according to 2 Samuel 1:10 (lxx χελιδῶνα; Suidas: χελιδόναι κοσμοὶ περὶ τοὺς βραχιόνας, καλοῦνται δὲ βραχιάλια); צמיד, bands, generally armlets (Genesis 24:22, etc.); טבּעת, signet-rings; עגיל, hoops, - according to Ezekiel 16:12, ear-rings; and כּוּמז, gold balls (Exodus 35:22). They amounted in all to 16,750 shekels; and the men of war had received their own booty in addition to this. This gift, presented on the part of the officers, was brought into the tabernacle "as a memorial of the children of Israel before Jehovah" (cf. Exodus 30:16); that is to say, it was placed in the treasury of the sanctuary.

The fact that the Israelites did not lose a single man in the battle, is certainly a striking proof of the protection of God; but it is not so marvellous as to furnish any good ground for calling in question the correctness of the narrative.

(Note: Rosenmller has cited an example from Tacitus (Ann. xiii. 39), of the Romans having slaughtered all the foe without losing a single man on the capture of a Parthian castle; and another from Strabo (xvi. 1128), of a battle in which 1000 Arabs were slain, and only 2 Romans. And Hvernick mentions a similar account from the life of Saladin in his Introduction (i. 2, p. 452).)

The Midianites were a nomad tribe, who lived by rearing flocks and herds, and therefore were not a warlike people. Moreover, they were probably attacked quite unawares, and being unprepared, were completely routed and cut down without quarter. The quantity of booty brought home is also not so great as to appear incredible. Judging from the 32,000 females who had never lain with a man, the tribes governed by the five kings may have numbered about 130,000 or 150,000, and therefore not have contained much more than 35,000 fighting men, who might easily have been surprised by 12,000 brave warriors, and entirely destroyed. And again, there is nothing in the statement that 675,000 sheep and goats, 72,000 oxen, and 61,000 asses were taken as booty from these tribes, to astonish any one who has formed correct notions of the wealth of nomad tribes in flocks and herds. The only thing that could appear surprising is, that there are no camels mentioned.

But it is questionable, in the first place, whether the Midianites were in the habit of rearing camels; and, in the second place, if they did possess them, it is still questionable whether the Israelitish army took them away, and did not rather put to death all that they found, as being of no value to the Israelites in their existing circumstances. Lastly, the quantity of jewellery seized as booty is quite in harmony with the well-known love of nomads, and even of barbarous tribes, for ornaments of this kind; and the peculiar liking of the Midianites for such things is confirmed by the account in Judges 8:26, according to which Gideon took as much as 1700 shekels in weight of golden rings from the Midianites alone, beside ornaments of other kinds. If we take the golden shekel at 10 thalers (30 shillings), the value of the ornaments taken by the officers under Moses would be about 167,500 thalers (L.25,125). It is quite possible that the kings and other chiefs, together with their wives, may have possessed as much as this.

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