But Moses was angry with the officers of the army, with the captains over thousands and captains over hundreds, who had come from the battle. And Moses said to them: “Have you kept all the women alive? Look, these women caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the Lord in the incident of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord. Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known a man intimately. But keep alive for yourselves all the young girls who have not known a man intimately. (Numbers 31:14-18)
The Price Of Influence
There are difficult passages in the Bible to read and the text of Numbers 31 is of no exception. At first glance, there is a shock at the severity of the command given by the Lord to Moses and the nation of Israel. Moses had been told by God to take vengeance on the Midianites for the children of Israel. Twelve thousand men of war went against the Midianites and they killed all the males, the kings of Midian and Balaam the son of Beor they also killed with the sword. The children of Israel took the women of Midian captive, with their little ones and all their animals and goods. When Moses, Eleazar the priest and all the leaders of the congregation went to meet the returning army, Moses became angry with the officers of the army. As in times past, the people did not understand the full intent of the purpose of God to destroy the nations that sought to corrupt and defile the hearts of the people of Israel. The Midianites had tried to destroy Israel by seducing them to idolatry through the prophecies of Balaam. When Israel remained in Acacia Grove, the people began to commit harlotry with the women of Moab and sacrificing to their gods. The Midianites sought to harass Israel with their schemes by which they seduced the people in the matter of Peor and Cozbi, daughter of a leader of Midian. When the Lord told Moses to take vengeance on the Midianites, He demanded a complete cleansing of the plague of wickedness that filled the hearts of the people of Midian. There would be no exceptions. The officers either refused to kill all the captives or failed to understand the complete measure demanded by God. Regardless, Moses commanded the men to kill all the women who were not virgins and to kill all the male children of all ages. They carried out the command and killed all the women save the virgins and every male child among the captives. Thirty-two thousand women were spared with an untold number killed along with the infants.
In the modern voice of reason, this kind of action would be met with horror, disbelief, and condemnation by the world. Critics of holy writ challenge the action of such measures against women and children as severe and undeserving of death. The reason the Holy Spirit preserved the text of the war against the Midianites was to affirm the righteousness of a Holy God against the influence of unrighteousness on His people. God was not relishing the idea of killing women and children but executing divine judgment on a people that sought to corrupt the holy nation of God with the inducements of evil. Idolatry was the height of ungodliness, immorality, debauchery, and depravity. The Midianites did not serve the true and living God. They were people corrupt in the pleasures of the flesh, immoral in heart and mind and lived for the passions of the carnal. The word of the Lord demanded this influence be purged from the people of God because the power of the women who had known men through the idolatrous worship and the male children who would grow up and continue the idolatrous practice must be stopped. It seemed severe but it says more about the view of the Lord against influence than a matter of killing women and children. Idolatry would eventually destroy the holy people of God and without keeping in check the influence of its carnal desires; there would be no hope for the people. That is the insidious power of Satan as he seeks to sway the hearts of the righteous with the appeal of the sexual inducements of idolatry. The only way to stop its power was to destroy it – totally. If killing all the women who were not virgins and the children would help hold back the plague of idolatrous influence then God demanded it.
The wisdom of man finds it hard to justify the action against the Midianites but human wisdom is what created the practice of idolatry. It must be understood how corrupt and immoral the people who practiced idolatry were as they murdered their children in human sacrifice, raped innocent women, sexually abused children, killed old people, committed bestiality, homosexuality, and worshiped with violence, debauchery, and unbridled passions. God’s directive against the Midianites was to stem the influence of ungodliness that appealed to the weakness of His people. Satan has not ceased from his impact on the hearts of God’s people as he destroys the hearts of the righteous with the purge of pornography, sensuality, abortion, immodesty, materialism and social gospels appealing to the need for entertainment. God demanded severe action against the influence of the nations around Israel. It may require the Christian to take severe action to lessen or extinguish various forms of temptations that will – if left unchecked – destroy the soul. What will the value of the internet be to the soul that stands condemned before the Lord when the heart of the righteous knew the power of temptation in pornography? When dealing with the influence of pornography, when will the decision be to rid the home of the internet in exchange for the salvation of the soul? Is that so extreme it cannot be considered? Giving children their own smart-phones may show them to be accepted by their peers but at what cost if it creates a world that could damn their soul? If a job keeps a person from serving the Lord as required by the word what value will that job be in hell? Jesus said there are those who will live as eunuchs in the kingdom of God because they value their souls more than the love of an unlawful marriage. It may seem severe to divorce a person who is deeply loved by another but if the marriage is not blessed by the Lord what purpose will it serve in eternity? What may seem severe in this world will be longed for in the world to come. Killing the women and children of the Midianites was commanded by the Lord. He knew the price that would be paid. Do we see the price and the cost of compromise? Can eternal damnation be worth the cost? The power of influence – let the power of God influence your decision for righteousness.