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 Power Of Ungodly Influence
Forty years had passed since the nation of Israel stood at the entrance to Canaan, a land promised by God to Abraham and his descendants. When the Lord promised the land to Abraham, He told the patriarch the iniquity of the people was not thoroughly evil to destroy them. Centuries later, Moses led the people to the promised land and it was time to bring judgment upon the iniquity of the people. King Sihon of the Amorites had been soundly defeated and Og king of Bashan was killed, along with his sons, and all his people, until there was no survivor left.
Balak, king of the Moabites saw all that Israel had done to those who stood against them. He called for Balaam to curse the people of Israel, but the Lord would not permit Balaam to bring a curse upon Israel. Though Balaam could not curse Israel, he knew he could tempt the people to sacrifice to the gods and commit harlotry with the women of Moab. Twenty-four thousand were killed in the plague brought by God. The influence of Balaam was so complete, Zimri the son of Salu, a leader of a father’s house among the Simeonites, brought a Midianite woman named Cozbi the daughter of Zur into the camp and committed adultery with her in the sight of all Israel. Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest saw it and took a javelin and killed them both.
Moses would not be permitted to enter the promised land, but God had one final war for the great leader of Israel. The Lord tells Moses to bring judgment upon the Midianites. Twelve-thousand men went to war against the Midianites and they killed all the males and the kings of Midian. Balaam the son of Beor, was also killed with the sword. The children of Israel took the women of Midian captive with their children. They burned all the cities with fire and took all the spoil of the land. Returning from the war, the Israelite army presented all they had captured to Moses, to Eleazar the priest, and to the people of Israel. But Moses became angry with the officers and the captains. He wanted to know why they had kept all the women alive. He reminded them of how the women had turned the hearts of Israel from God through the counsel of Balaam.
The power of ungodly influence had destroyed twenty-four thousand of God’s people. The cause and root of the wickedness came from the temptation of the ungodly women. Moses tells them to kill all the male children and every woman who was not a virgin. They were allowed to keep the virgin girls for themselves. The word of the Lord is firm against the ungodly influences that seek to destroy His people. God had told Abraham the ungodliness of the people was not to a point where judgment was justified, but when Moses arrived with the nation of Israel, the wickedness of the people had surpassed the longsuffering of God. To the modern mind, killing all the male children and women who were not virgins is an incredible command to give and carry out. Nonetheless, the influence of ungodliness was to be removed entirely from the nation.
God is full of love, but He also is a Lord of justice and righteousness. The people destroyed in the conquest of Canaan faced the wrath of God because they were so wicked; the justice of God demanded their destruction. Allowing the influence of the world to slowly permeate the heart or the mind will destroy the character of righteousness. The command of God is a severe action against evil. Jesus would later tell His followers that if the hand causes one to sin, it would be better to cut it off and if the eye causes one to sin, it would be better to pluck it out. Jesus did not suggest this literally, as sin is not a problem of biology but of the evil heart. The action against sin may have to be severe.
Killing all the male children and the women who were not virgins is a rash act but needed if the people would be saved. There are things in life that may need to be removed. Jobs may need to be changed; marriages are reconsidered, friendships ended, possessions are given up, and a host of things that could hinder salvation. Abraham was told to offer his son as a burnt offering and he obeyed the word of the Lord. The rich young ruler was told to give all he had to the poor, but he refused. What are you willing to do for the Lord to remove ungodly influences?