Reading through the Bible together

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

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The Midianites were descendants of Abraham, the ones who had purchased Joseph from his brothers and sold him to the Egyptians (see Genesis 37:28). Zipporah, the wife of Moses was from Midian (see Exodus 2:21 and 3:1). You might recall that a few chapters back in Numbers, it was the Midianite women who had been sent into the camp by Balaam in order to seduce God’s people into sin. It was a Midianite woman who was defiantly brought into the camp by Zimri, causing both to be promptly killed by a javelin administered by Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron - an action that immediately stopped the plague (see Numbers 25).


It was time for divine action. “God had sent judgments upon Israel for yielding to the enticements of the Midianites; but the tempters were not to escape the wrath of divine justice… the Midianites who seduced them [Israel] into sin were speedily made to feel God's judgments, as being the more dangerous enemies” (PP 456). On God’s instruction, Moses ordered the Israelite army to destroy the Midianites. In battle they killed five kings of Midian and the Midianite army, burning all their towns and camps; even Balaam was one of the victims. But Moses is shocked to discover what had not been killed. All the Midianite troops had been killed, but the women and children had been spared.


Why do people try to out­think God? Are we guilty of similar rationalizations today? Do we follow God’s instructions or do we, like the generals of Israel, make choices we believe are better than what God has ordered? To fulfill God’s instruction, Moses had to order all younger men and all women who were not virgins to be killed (immorality has a way of rubbing off on those committed to following God, and these were the very women who had infiltrated the camp to lead the Israelites to sin). This story reminds us of King Saul who had been instructed by Samuel to totally destroy the Amalekites, but came back from war having failed to follow God’s specific instructions (see 1 Samuel 15). Was Saul not aware of this story in Numbers? How does God feel when it’s time to destroy those who have repeatedly rejected His word? Is He happy and pleased about eradicating sinners from the face of the earth? Or does he shed tears for those who refuse his free offer of eternal life. Is God waiting to punish the non­repentant sinner? Or does He say, “How can I give you up? How can I let you go?” (see Hosea 11:8).


Fred Knopper

Adventist Media Center