In addition to Tom Constable’s helpful notes. I also recommend Paul Copan’s book “Is God a Moral Monster?: Making Sense of the Old Testament God.”
Here is an excerpt from “Is God a Moral Monster?” that deals with Numbers 31.
The Midianites (Numbers 31)
As with Israel’s lifelong enemies, the Amalekites (cf. Deut. 25:17–19), the Midianites also posed a serious threat to Israel. Whereas Amalek endangered Israel’s very existence, Midian profoundly threatened Israel’s spiritual and moral integrity as the people of God. With the help of the devious pagan prophet Balaam, the Midianites devised a plan to lead Israel into pagan worship. This involved ritual sex, feasting before their Baal, and bowing and sacrificing to him (Num. 25:1–2; 31:16). When he couldn’t bring a curse down on Israel (Num. 22–24), he sought another way.
This is why Moses gives the command, “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” (Num. 31:17–18 NIV). This command must be understood in the context of Numbers 25. At Peor, the Midianite women deliberately seduced the Israelite men into orgiastic adultery as well as Baal worship.
The death sentence for all males is unusual. However, males were the potential enemy army to rise up against Israel. (Keep in mind that the Israelite males who participated in the seduction were also put to death.) Midian’s brazen, evil intent to lead Israel astray called for a severe judgment. The intent of Moses’s command was to undermine any future Midianite threat to Israel’s identity and integrity.
What about the taking of young virgins? Some critics have crassly suggested that Israelite men were free simply to grab and rape young virgins. Not so. They were saved precisely because they hadn’t degraded themselves by seducing Israelite men. As a backdrop, have a look again at Deuteronomy 21:10–14. There, a Gentile female POW couldn’t be used as a sex object. An Israelite male had to carefully follow proper procedures before she could be taken as a wife. In light of the highly sensitive nature of sexual purity in Israel and for Israel’s soldiers, specific protocols had to be followed. Rape was most certainly excluded as an extracurricular activity in warfare.
Luke 2:14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace must be dared, it is itself the great venture, and can never be safe. Peace is the opposite of security. To demand guarantees is to want to protect oneself. Peace means giving oneself completely to God’s commandment, wanting no security, but in faith and obedience laying the destiny of the nations in the hand of Almighty God, not trying to direct it for selfish purposes. Battles are won, not with weapons, but with God. They are won when the way leads to the cross. BONHOEFFER: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy; page 241
I wish everyone the daring peace that comes from giving ourselves completely to God. Merry Christmas my friends.
Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Beginning in January 2012 I will be changing the Bible I teach from on Sunday mornings. The version of the Bible I have been teaching out of is the 1984 version of the NIV. This year, the publishers of the NIV changed to an updated version which is different than what I have been using. Therefore, I need to change the Bible I am teaching out of.
While I think that the updated NIV is good, over the last few years I have read more and more from the ESV (English Standard Version) and I have really enjoyed it. So beginning in January 2012 I will be teaching out of the ESV translation of the Bible.
You can find out more about the ESV at: http://www.crossway.org/bibles
Here is the Bible that I have: http://www.christianbook.com/esv-reference-trutone-cordovan-portfolio-design/9781433502378/pd/502378?event=CF
If you are looking for an ESV study Bible I would recommend these:
1) The Ryrie ESV Study Bible that you can find here: http://www.amazon.com/Bonded-Leather-Black-Letter-Indexed/dp/0802475655
2) The MacArthur ESV Study Bible that you can find here: http://www.esvmacarthurstudybible.com/editions
If you are interested in a longer explanation of this transition, Mark Driscoll wrote an 18 page explanation of the reasons that he made this change that is available at: http://theresurgence.com/files/pdf/mark_driscoll_2007-01-09_pastoral_reflections_on_bible_translations.pdf
The Value of a Career in Motherhood.
Adapted from G.K. Chesterton’s essay, What’s Wrong with the World.
Mothers are quickly thrust into a career of immanent importance. Their babies need not to be taught a trade, but to be introduced to the world. To put the matter shortly, a mother is generally shut up in a house with a human being at the time when he or she asks all the questions that there are and even some that there aren’t. It would be odd if she retained any of the narrowness of a specialist.
Now if anyone says this duty of enlightenment is in itself too exacting and oppressive, I can understand the view. I can only answer that God has thought it wise to cast this burden on women in order to keep common-sense in the world. But when people begin to talk about this domestic duty as not only difficult but trivial and dreary, I simply give up on the question. For I cannot with the utmost energy of imagination understand what they mean.
When Motherhood, for instance, is called drudgery, all the difficulty arises from a double meaning in the word. If drudgery only means dreadfully hard work I admit the mother drudges in the home. But if it means that the hard work is more heavy because it is trivial, colorless and of small importance to the soul, then I say, I give up; I do not know what you mean.
To be the Queen within a definite area, deciding sales, banquets, labors and holidays; to be in business in a certain area, providing a certain expertise or service; to be Aristotle, teaching within a certain area, morals, manners and philosophy; I can understand how this can exhaust the mind, but how can it not also narrow it? How can it be an important career to tell others about the Rule of Three, and an unimportant career to tell ones own children about everything in the universe? How can it be more meaningful to tell the same thing to everyone, and less meaningful to be everything to someone? No; a mothers career is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness.
Give me a faith which can remove And sink the mountain to a plain; Give me the childlike praying love Which longs to build thy house again; Thy love, let it my heart o’erpower, Let it my ransomed soul devour.
I would the precious time redeem And longer live for this alone— To spend and to be spent for them Who have not yet my Savior known; Fully on these my mission prove, And only breath, to breath thy love.
My talents, gifts and graces, Lord, Into Thy blessed hands receive; And let me live to preach thy word, And let me to thy glory live; My every sacred moment spend In publishing the sinner’s Friend.’
Enlarge, inflame and fill my heart With boundless charity divine; So shall I all my strength exert, And love them with a zeal like Thine; And lead them to Thine open side, The sheep for whom their shepherd died.