Friday, March 5, 2010


Numbers 31-33

In Numbers 31, the Israelites attack the Midianites. The LORD told Moses to have the Israelites "take vengeance on the Midianites," after which he would "be gathered to your people." So Moses told the people to arm some of their men to go to war. So twelve thousand men, one thousand from each tribe, were supplied and went out to fight, along with Phinehas (son of Eleazar) who took articles from the Sanctuary and the trumpets. They killed every man, including the five kings of Midian, and also killed Balaam. They captured the women and children and gathered all of the Midianite herds, flocks and goods as plunder. When they returned, Moses was angry for them having allowed the women to live, as they were the ones "who followed Balaam's advice" and "were the means of turning the Israelites away from the LORD." He told them to kill all of the boys and women "who have lain with a man" but to save the virgins for themselves. And then they all had to be purified who had killed or touched a dead body. They gave half of the spoils to the men who had fought, and the other half to the rest of the Israelites. Of the soldiers plunder, one five-hundredth went to the priests, and of the rest, one-fiftieth went to the Levites.

In chapter 32, the Reubenites and Gadites, with large flocks, "saw that the lands of Jazer and Gilead were suitable for livestock." So the told Moses and Eleazar that they would prefer to stay there, but Moses was angry with them, as they were expected to fight with the rest of the tribes to take the land that the LORD had promised them. They said that they would carry arms and participate in the conquest, and Moses agreed that they could, after the conquest, "return and be free from your obligation to the LORD and to Israel. And this land will be your possession before the LORD."

Numbers 33 contains the "travelogue," a list of the places that the Israelites traveled and camped during their forty years in the desert. And the LORD said to Moses to tell the Israelites to "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. Take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given you the land to possess... 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."

Thoughts, questions, issues

  • It's rather stunning to see Balaam re-appear here. In his prior appearance, he refused to curse the Israelites for Balak, and did everything the LORD told him. There's no intermediate indication that he did anything wrong, so for them to blame him for Midian's seduction and kill him is more than a little bit surprising.
  • The killing of the male children and the non-virgin women is the kind of total war that makes for shocking reading.
  • It's easy to look at the Reubenites and Gadites and think, "they are satisfied with what they have - good for them." But it doesn't work that way. There's a covenant, and while GOD's part is to watch over them and deliver the promised land, their part is to follow his laws and take it.
  • In the forty years of wandering, the Israelites "camped at" forty-two different places, a little over one per year.

Psalms 28

Again, the psalmist turns to GOD from despair, crying out for mercy from the GOD he praises.

Psalm 28
Of David.
1 To you I call, O LORD my Rock;
do not turn a deaf ear to me.
For if you remain silent,
I will be like those who have gone down to the pit.

2 Hear my cry for mercy
as I call to you for help,
as I lift up my hands
toward your Most Holy Place.

3 Do not drag me away with the wicked,
with those who do evil,
who speak cordially with their neighbors
but harbor malice in their hearts.

4 Repay them for their deeds
and for their evil work;
repay them for what their hands have done
and bring back upon them what they deserve.

5 Since they show no regard for the works of the LORD
and what his hands have done,
he will tear them down
and never build them up again.

6 Praise be to the LORD,
for he has heard my cry for mercy.

7 The LORD is my strength and my shield;
my heart trusts in him, and I am helped.
My heart leaps for joy
and I will give thanks to him in song.

8 The LORD is the strength of his people,
a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.

9 Save your people and bless your inheritance;
be their shepherd and carry them forever.

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