Moses Ordering the Slaughter of the Midianites - Moeyaert, Claes Cornelisz - 1650
Plan for week of Aug 4, 2013
Aug 9, Friday - Numbers 30 - 36
Aug 10, Saturday - Deuteronomy 1 - 6
Chapter 30 talks about vows and obligations to the LORD made by men and women. Many of the rules in this chapter pertain specifically to women, whether they lived at home with their father, were married and stayed with husband, or were divorced/widowed. The reason has to do with the power structure of the Israelite society, when it came to gender - the men had power, and the women didn’t.
Vows involved promising a sacrifice or some other gift to God in anticipation of divine blessing. Obligations imposed positive requirements or restrictions on a person.
Rule for men:
If a man made a vow to the LORD, or some other oath or pledge, he had to do everything he had vowed to do.
Rules for women:
(a) For those who lived at home with their father:
- If a young woman were to make a vow, her father would have the ability to nullify it, if he wished. If he heard about the vow, and forbid it, it would become null and void, and the young woman would no longer be bound by it. The LORD would “release her” from her promise.
- If the father didn't say anything, when he heard about the vow, then that would count as implicit agreement.
(b) For a young woman who lived with her father and made a vow, who then got married and lived with her husband:
- her husband would then have the opportunity to nullify it, similar to the way her father could have.
- Just like with fathers, if the husband heard about the vow but didn't say anything, that would count as implicit agreement.
(c) The same rules would apply
- if a married woman made a vow; her husband would have the ability to nullify the vow, when he heard about it. And if he didn't say anything, it would count as implicit agreement.
- If the husband heard about a vow, and didn't say anything about it at the time, but then later on nullified it, then he would become responsible for the vow, instead of her.
(d) Any vow taken by a widow, or a divorced woman, would be binding on her.
Vengeance on Midanites
Back in the camp, The LORD said to Moses, “Take vengeance on the Midianites for the Israelites. After that, you will be gathered to your people.”
Midianites were the ones by which Israel was seduced, resulting in a plague, killing 24,000 men.
Moses picked 1,000 men from each tribe of Israel, and sent out 12,000 troops, to fight the Midianites, He also sent with them Phinehas (Eleazar’s son), who carried with him sfew articles from the sanctuary and some trumpets, for signaling.
The Israelites waged war and killed every male member. They also killed the five kings of Midian - Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba. Prophet Balaam, who lived with the Midianites was killed by Phinehas. They took the women, children, and plunder for themselves. They brought all of the spoils of war back to Moses, Eleazar, and the rest of the community.
The Women of Midian Led Captive by Hebrews - Tissot
Upon seeing this, Moses was angry with the officers, and said,
“Have you allowed all the women to live?” he asked them. “They were the ones who followed Balaam’s advice and were the means of turning the Israelites away from the LORD in what happened at Peor, so that a plague struck the LORD’s people. Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.” (verses 15–18)
In my opinion, war is a peculiar human activity, which can bring out some of our best traits, such as courage and self-sacrifice, yet also elicit tremendous cruelty and suffering.
Moses then instructed a clean up procedure - anyone who killed anyone, or who touched a dead body, should stay outside the camp for seven days, as part of the cleansing process. They were to follow all the rules for a person who had touched a dead body. Eleazar also instructed them that any articles they have that can be passed through the fire must be passed through, and then cleansed with the water of cleansing. Anything that can’t be passed through fire must be cleansed with the water of cleansing.
To give you a clue what the soldiers took:
- 675,000 sheep
- 72,000 cattle
- 61,000 donkeys
- 32,000 virgin girls.
Moses then instructed the people to divide their spoils between the soldiers, who took part in the battle, and the rest of the Israelites. Then they were to take the Levites’ share - 1 out of every 500 items.
The officers of the army then came back to Moses and reported that not a single member of the Israelite army was missing. They had wiped out the entire Midianite nation, without a single casualty. To thank the LORD for this accomplishment, they presented an additional offering: all of the gold articles they acquired - 190 kilograms of gold.
The Transjordan Tribes
The lands of the Amorites and of Bashan, were well suited to raise cattle and sheep. The tribes of Reuben and Gad owned great numbers of flocks. Hence, the leaders of these two tribes approached Moses and asked if they could be given the land of the Amorites and Bashan as their share of the conquest, instead of their due part in the land of Canaan, across the Jordan. Half the tribe of Manasseh joined the two tribes in their request.
Moses did not like the idea of them sitting idle, watching their flocks, while their brothers waged wars against the natives of Canaan. The men of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh said that their families and flocks would remain on the east side of the Jordan while they fought shoulder to shoulder with their brothers until the complete conquest of Canaan. They would also be in the forefront of the fight.
Moses agreed to this agreement. The women and children of these tribes immediately settled in Transjordania. The men, however, were among the vanguard of the Jewish troops. Only after the entire Holy Land was conquered, did they return to their families and flocks in Transjordania.
Stages in Israel's Journey
Here we can see the long list of stops made by the Israelites - Thanks to Moses for keeping track of all these; LORD had instructed him to do so. You can read them in the Bible in Numbers 33.
For those who are fascinated by geography, here is a tool - BibleMap.org Click on it and it should open up a new window. Plug in the book and chapter of Bible you are referring to - in this case, Numbers 33. It will show a list of all the places with description.
Play with it, and you will gain some interesting insight.
One particular thing I want to point out, while we are still in this chapter. This has some ramification in later part of our tour. Remember the land of Canaan was a haven for idol worshipers? LORD gives a warning to Moses in verse 50, as to what to do with them.
50 On the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho the Lord said to Moses,
51 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you cross the Jordan into Canaan,
52 drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you. Destroy all their carved images and their cast idols, and demolish all their high places.
53 Take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given you the land to possess.
54 Distribute the land by lot, according to your clans. To a larger group give a larger inheritance, and to a smaller group a smaller one. Whatever falls to them by lot will be theirs. Distribute it according to your ancestral tribes.
55 “‘But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live.
56 And then I will do to you what I plan to do to them.’”
'High places' in verse 52 refers to altars on top of mountains for Baal and other gods. We will see the Israelites do not follow this rule verbatim and suffer the consequence. Idol worshipers emerge and spread like a virus. Israelites think they are the children of LORD and cannot be harmed - which is not the case.
Boundaries of Canaan
Anybody in the real estate business might find this chapter interesting as it talks about boundaries of the land, which is going to be called 'Promised Land.' I am not going to explain it in detail here. BibleMap.org was not of much help as many of the names in the Bible were the old names and they have changed since.
Joshua and Eleazar (the high priest) are the ones designated to divide up the land among those nine and a half tribes (earlier, two and a half tribes took their land on the other side of the Jordan). Many tribal leaders are available to assist Joshua and Eleazar.
Towns for the Levites
Since the Levites weren't supposed to have any land of their own, the Israelites were to allocate 48 towns for the Levites, out of their land.
Cities of Refuge
If someone accidentally killed another person, they could flee to a "city of refuge", to escape the “avenger” of the person who died. Six of the towns given to the Levites were to be designated “cities of refuge.” - three cities of refuge on each side of the river.
Cities of refuge were not just for Israelites; aliens living in the country would fall under the same laws. One or other 'city of refuge' could be reached in less than a day's journey from any part of the land. Man-slayers could flee for refuge, and be safe, till they had a fair trial.
If an Israelite accidentally killed someone, and fled to a city of refuge, he had to stay there, inside the city, until the death of the High Priest.
If the ACCUSED ever ventured outside of the city, and the avenger of blood found him and killed him, the avenger could kill him, without being guilty of murder. Only after the death of the High Priest would the ACCUSED ever be allowed to return to his own property.
Rules regarding murder
Anyone who struck another person with an object, killing that person, would be considered a murderer, and was to be put to death. Many rules of murder are given in here -
If a person was on trial for murder, there had to be at least two witnesses giving testimony for the person to be put to death for the murder. One witness would not be sufficient.
If a person was found guilty of murder, no ransom was to be accepted, to buy back his life; he was to be put to death.
If the accused fled to a city of refuge, no ransom was to be accepted, to allow him to return to his property; he was to remain in the city of refuge until the death of the High Priest.
A final advice from LORD:
33 “‘Do not pollute the land where you are. Bloodshed pollutes the land, and atonement cannot be made for the land on which blood has been shed, except by the blood of the one who shed it.
34 Do not defile the land where you live and where I dwell, for I, the Lord, dwell among the Israelites.’”
Inheritance of Zelophehad’s Daughters
Remember the daughters of Zelophehad from yesterday, who would get their father's inheritance?
Members from the clan of Manesseh approached Moses, worried that Zelophehad’s daughters might marry men outside the clan, resulting in the property leaving the clan.
Moses consulted with the LORD.
LORD agreed it to be a valid point and ordered so: "They may marry anyone they please as long as they marry within the tribal clan of their father. No inheritance in Israel is to pass from tribe to tribe, for every Israelite shall keep the tribal land inherited from his forefathers. Every daughter who inherits land in any Israelite tribe must marry someone in her father’s tribal clan, so that every Israelite will possess the inheritance of his fathers. No inheritance may pass from tribe to tribe, for each Israelite tribe is to keep the land it inherits.”
So Zelophehad’s daughters do as commanded, and marry cousins on their father’s side, to keep the land within their own tribe.
Marriage is always a happy occasion and shall we whistle a tune and say, "The daughters of Zelophehad stayed happily every after - THE END"
The Daughters of Zelophehad
For those on this journey:
This completes the tour on the Book of Numbers. So far, we've covered the following books:
One month has flow by, since we started our 'guided tour'. Our current goal is to complete Old Testament by Christmas - to learn and understand why Jesus Christ came into this world. Within the allotted time-span, this is the best tour I can provide. To a certain extend, I maybe able to lead you towards the Holy Bible, but it's your sole decision to read it now, later, or never. Agreed - it takes time to read the Bible and sure enough, it is a thick book. We have our own priorities, duties and responsibilities to fulfill as well. All I am asking is, "Try out a cursory reading."
Thanks to those occasional corrections I receive - they have been incorporated as soon as they've been called out. Let them keep pouring in.
I am clueless as to how many individuals are reading this (or following any of what is written here) regularly. Even if there is none, If LORD permits, I would still continue at this pace and take it to the finish line. Since I am not that privileged to hear any comments or suggestions, I contemplate one of the two - (a) nobody is following (anything) (b) nobody wants to tell me anything. During the early days, many wrote and gave feedback - sure they helped. Whatever be the case, it's been a rewarding experience. If LORD permits, I am already planning to come back this route again (and again, maybe?) even without an audience!
Will move on to Deuteronomy tomorrow.