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2002 11 11
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Chapter 31


1 The LORD said to Moses,


"Avenge the Israelites on the Midianites, and then you shall be taken to your people."


So Moses told the people, "Select men from your midst and arm them for war, to attack the Midianites and execute the LORD'S vengeance on them.


From each of the tribes of Israel you shall send a band of one thousand men to war."


From the clans of Israel, therefore, a thousand men of each tribe were levied, so that there were twelve thousand men armed for war.


Moses sent them out on the campaign, a thousand from each tribe, with Phinehas, son of Eleazar, the priest for the campaign, who had with him the sacred vessels and the trumpets for sounding the alarm.


They waged war against the Midianites, as the LORD had commanded Moses, and killed every male among them.


2 Besides those slain in battle, they killed the five Midianite kings: Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur and Reba; and they also executed Balaam, son of Beor, with the sword.


But the Israelites kept the women of the Midianites with their little ones as captives, and all their herds and flocks and wealth as spoil,


while they set on fire all the towns where they had settled and all their encampments.


Then they took all the booty, with the people and beasts they had captured, and brought the captives, together with the spoils and booty,


to Moses and the priest Eleazar and to the Israelite community at their camp on the plains of Moab, along the Jericho stretch of the Jordan.


When Moses and the priest Eleazar, with all the princes of the community, went outside the camp to meet them,


Moses became angry with the officers of the army, the clan and company commanders, who were returning from combat.


"So you have spared all the women!" he exclaimed.


"Why, they are the very ones who on Balaam's advice prompted the unfaithfulness of the Israelites toward the LORD in the Peor affair, which began the slaughter of the LORD'S community.


3 Slay, therefore, every male child and every woman who has had intercourse with a man.


But you may spare and keep for yourselves all girls who had no intercourse with a man.


"Moreover, you shall stay outside the camp for seven days, and those of you who have slain anyone or touched anyone slain in battle shall purify yourselves on the third and on the seventh day. This applies both to you and to your captives.


You shall also purify every article of cloth, leather, goats' hair, or wood."


Eleazar the priest told the soldiers who had returned from combat: "This is what the law, as prescribed by the LORD to Moses, ordains:


Whatever can stand fire, such as gold, silver, bronze, iron, tin and lead,


4 you shall put into the fire, that it may become clean; however, it must also be purified with lustral water. But whatever cannot stand fire you shall put into the water.


On the seventh day you shall wash your clothes, and then you will again be clean. After that you may enter the camp."


The LORD said to Moses:


"With the help of the priest Eleazar and of the heads of the ancestral houses, count up all the human captives and the beasts that have been taken;


5 then divide them evenly, giving half to those who took active part in the war by going out to combat, and half to the rest of the community.


You shall levy a tax for the LORD on the warriors who went out to combat: one out of every five hundred persons, oxen, asses and sheep


in their half of the spoil you shall turn over to the priest Eleazar as a contribution to the LORD.


From the Israelites' half you shall take one out of every fifty persons, and the same from the different beasts, oxen, asses and sheep, and give them to the Levites, who have charge of the LORD'S Dwelling."


So Moses and the priest Eleazar did this, as the LORD had commanded Moses.


This booty, what was left of the loot which the soldiers had taken, amounted to six hundred and seventy-five thousand sheep,


seventy-two thousand oxen,


sixty-one thousand asses,


and thirty-two thousand girls who were still virgins.


The half that fell to those who had gone out to combat was: three hundred and thirty-seven thousand five hundred sheep,


of which six hundred and seventy-five fell as tax to the LORD;


thirty-six thousand oxen, of which seventy-two fell as tax to the LORD;


thirty thousand five hundred asses, of which sixty-one fell as tax to the LORD;


and sixteen thousand persons, of whom thirty-two fell as tax to the LORD.


The taxes contributed to the LORD, Moses gave to the priest Eleazar, as the LORD had commanded him.


The half for the other Israelites, which fell to the community when Moses had taken it from the soldiers, was:


three hundred and thirty-seven thousand five hundred sheep,


thirty-six thousand oxen,


thirty thousand five hundred asses,


and sixteen thousand persons.


From this, the Israelites' share, Moses, as the LORD had ordered, took one out of every fifty, both of persons and of beasts, and gave them to the Levites, who had charge of the LORD'S Dwelling.


Then the officers who had been clan and company commanders of the army came up to Moses


and said to him, "Your servants have counted up the soldiers under our command, and not one is missing.


6 So, to make atonement for ourselves before the LORD, each of us will bring as an offering to the LORD some gold article he has picked up, such as an anklet, a bracelet, a ring, an earring, or a necklace."


Moses and the priest Eleazar accepted this gold from them, all of it in well-wrought articles.


The gold that they gave as a contribution to the LORD amounted in all to sixteen thousand seven hundred and fifty shekels. This was from the clan and company commanders;


what the common soldiers had looted each one kept for himself.


Moses, then, and the priest Eleazar accepted the gold from the clan and company commanders, and put it in the meeting tent as a memorial for the Israelites before the LORD.



1 [1-3] The narrative of Israel's relations with Midian, which was interrupted after Numbers 25:18, is now resumed.

2 [8] The five Midianite kings: they are called "Midianite princes, Sihon's vassals" in Joshua 13:21.

3 [17] (17)There are later references to Midian in Jdgs 6-8; 1 Kings 11:18; Isaiah 60:6. The present raid was only against those Midianites who were dwelling at this time near the encampment of the Israelites.

4 [23] Lustral water: water mixed with the ashes of the red heifer as prescribed in Numbers 19:9.

5 [27] Divide them evenly: for a similar division of the booty into two equal parts, between those who engaged in the fray and those who stayed with the baggage, cf 1 Sam 30:24. But note that here the tax on the booty of the noncombatants is ten times as much as that on the soldier's booty.

6 [50] The precise nature and use of some of these articles of gold is not certain.

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