[Numbers 31] Defeating the Midianites in Your Life. In this chapter, God instructs Moses to war against the Midianites who attempted to seduce Israel with idolatry in the wilderness of Zin. The Midianites worshipped Baal – whose name means dominative father. The name Midian means strife and contention. This speaks of spiritual warfare against the influence of dominative and contentious people in your life. There is a time to reject sources of conflict and contention and to refuse to commit idolatry with those who think you need to submit yourself to heavy-handed, dominating spiritual leadership. After defeating the Midianites, the spoil was divided not only to the warriors but also to those that stayed behind. A true spiritual warrior knows that their conquests are not only to their own benefit but also to be shared as spoil to those who support and pray for them.
[Num 31:1-54 KJV] 1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 2 Avenge the children of Israel of the Midianites: afterward shalt thou be gathered unto thy people. 3 And Moses spake unto the people, saying, Arm some of yourselves unto the war, and let them go against the Midianites, and avenge the LORD of Midian. 4 Of every tribe a thousand, throughout all the tribes of Israel, shall ye send to the war. 5 So there were delivered out of the thousands of Israel, a thousand of [every] tribe, twelve thousand armed for war. 6 And Moses sent them to the war, a thousand of [every] tribe, them and Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, to the war, with the holy instruments, and the trumpets to blow in his hand. 7 And they warred against the Midianites, as the LORD commanded Moses; and they slew all the males. 8 And they slew the kings of Midian, beside the rest of them that were slain; [namely], Evi, and Rekem, and Zur, and Hur, and Reba, five kings of Midian: Balaam also the son of Beor they slew with the sword. 9 And the children of Israel took [all] the women of Midian captives, and their little ones, and took the spoil of all their cattle, and all their flocks, and all their goods. 10 And they burnt all their cities wherein they dwelt, and all their goodly castles, with fire. 11 And they took all the spoil, and all the prey, [both] of men and of beasts. 12 And they brought the captives, and the prey, and the spoil, unto Moses, and Eleazar the priest, and unto the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the camp at the plains of Moab, which [are] by Jordan [near] Jericho. 13 And Moses, and Eleazar the priest, and all the princes of the congregation, went forth to meet them without the camp. 14 And Moses was wroth with the officers of the host, [with] the captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, which came from the battle. 15 And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive? 16 Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the LORD. 17 Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. 18 But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves. 19 And do ye abide without the camp seven days: whosoever hath killed any person, and whosoever hath touched any slain, purify [both] yourselves and your captives on the third day, and on the seventh day. 20 And purify all [your] raiment, and all that is made of skins, and all work of goats’ [hair], and all things made of wood. 21 And Eleazar the priest said unto the men of war which went to the battle, This [is] the ordinance of the law which the LORD commanded Moses; 22 Only the gold, and the silver, the brass, the iron, the tin, and the lead, 23 Every thing that may abide the fire, ye shall make [it] go through the fire, and it shall be clean: nevertheless it shall be purified with the water of separation: and all that abideth not the fire ye shall make go through the water. 24 And ye shall wash your clothes on the seventh day, and ye shall be clean, and afterward ye shall come into the camp. 25 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 26 Take the sum of the prey that was taken, [both] of man and of beast, thou, and Eleazar the priest, and the chief fathers of the congregation: 27 And divide the prey into two parts; between them that took the war upon them, who went out to battle, and between all the congregation: 28 And levy a tribute unto the LORD of the men of war which went out to battle: one soul of five hundred, [both] of the persons, and of the beeves, and of the asses, and of the sheep: 29 Take [it] of their half, and give it unto Eleazar the priest, [for] an heave offering of the LORD. 30 And of the children of Israel’s half, thou shalt take one portion of fifty, of the persons, of the beeves, of the asses, and of the flocks, of all manner of beasts, and give them unto the Levites, which keep the charge of the tabernacle of the LORD. 31 And Moses and Eleazar the priest did as the LORD commanded Moses. 32 And the booty, [being] the rest of the prey which the men of war had caught, was six hundred thousand and seventy thousand and five thousand sheep, 33 And threescore and twelve thousand beeves, 34 And threescore and one thousand asses, 35 And thirty and two thousand persons in all, of women that had not known man by lying with him. 36 And the half, [which was] the portion of them that went out to war, was in number three hundred thousand and seven and thirty thousand and five hundred sheep: 37 And the LORD’S tribute of the sheep was six hundred and threescore and fifteen. 38 And the beeves [were] thirty and six thousand; of which the LORD’S tribute [was] threescore and twelve. 39 And the asses [were] thirty thousand and five hundred; of which the LORD’S tribute [was] threescore and one. 40 And the persons [were] sixteen thousand; of which the LORD’S tribute [was] thirty and two persons. 41 And Moses gave the tribute, [which was] the LORD’S heave offering, unto Eleazar the priest, as the LORD commanded Moses. 42 And of the children of Israel’s half, which Moses divided from the men that warred, 43 (Now the half [that pertained unto] the congregation was three hundred thousand and thirty thousand [and] seven thousand and five hundred sheep, 44 And thirty and six thousand beeves, 45 And thirty thousand asses and five hundred, 46 And sixteen thousand persons;) 47 Even of the children of Israel’s half, Moses took one portion of fifty, [both] of man and of beast, and gave them unto the Levites, which kept the charge of the tabernacle of the LORD; as the LORD commanded Moses. 48 And the officers which [were] over thousands of the host, the captains of thousands, and captains of hundreds, came near unto Moses: 49 And they said unto Moses, Thy servants have taken the sum of the men of war which [are] under our charge, and there lacketh not one man of us. 50 We have therefore brought an oblation for the LORD, what every man hath gotten, of jewels of gold, chains, and bracelets, rings, earrings, and tablets, to make an atonement for our souls before the LORD. 51 And Moses and Eleazar the priest took the gold of them, [even] all wrought jewels. 52 And all the gold of the offering that they offered up to the LORD, of the captains of thousands, and of the captains of hundreds, was sixteen thousand seven hundred and fifty shekels. 53 ([For] the men of war had taken spoil, every man for himself.) 54 And Moses and Eleazar the priest took the gold of the captains of thousands and of hundreds, and brought it into the tabernacle of the congregation, [for] a memorial for the children of Israel before the LORD.
In v. 1 of our chapter, the Lord instructs Moses to exact consequences on the Midianites for hiring the prophet Balaam to curse the nation of Israel. This chapter can be very upsetting to read with its description of carnage and bloodshed to a peace-loving person. Let us ask ourselves what more profound message can we see in this chapter that is so important that God would see to it that the account reaches us thousands of years later? Look at the meaning of the word Midianite: The word Midianite means “strife and contention.” When the Midianites could not successfully curse Israel through Balaam, they sent their daughters into the camp to seduce the people to worship Baal through ritual prostitution. This is the Baal/Jezebel strategy, and it is very prevalent in our culture and, sadly, also in the church. Sexualization and objectification of the female form saturate our society and is widespread in the culture of the church as well. Baal is a false god whose name means “dominative father.” We tend to seek out larger than life leaders that have more in common with the cult of celebrity than the humble servant leaders reflected in the Bible narrative. These leaders prey upon our insecurities and strut themselves before us while they “step on toes” and “preach the hard messages” that interestingly enough always seem to apply to someone other than the people who might be listening. The stronghold that a leader with a Baal spirit builds in our lives is one of strife and contention. They will seek to ally themselves with prophets who prophesy negative things as King Balak tried to get Balaam to do. Their whole definition of a prophet is one of condemnation and calling down judgment (on everyone but themselves, of course). They completely condemn a positive message of exhortation, edification, and comfort as “compromising, not of God, etc.” because they know if the people are comforted, they will slip from the control of their dictatorial ways.
In this chapter, we see that there is a time to go to war against the Midianite principle in our lives. The Midianites preyed on the vulnerabilities of the people and seduced them to idolatry and compromise. There comes a time that we have to set aside hesitancy and put our foot down against those that seek to manipulate us to come under the leadership of manipulative leaders who reject the true prophetic spirit and foster attitudes of condemnation and rejection toward the weakest brothers and sisters among us.
In vs. 13-18, Moses chastises his armies’ officers for leaving the sexually active women alive and not executing them as worshippers of Baal-Peor. This is difficult for us to read. Our sense of fairness and justice rejects this picture of unarmed captives being slain. What is the more profound lesson? Remember, these are the Midianites. They represent sources of strife, contention, and manipulation of the most sensual kind. They advocate idolatry toward leadership and following dominative fathers rather than humble servant leaders. Church culture today is largely contaminated with the attitudes these captives represent. You want to be sensitive and understanding. You want to be gentle. These influences know precisely how to make you hesitate, and when you do, they capture you by their whiles and rob you of the favor of God. Moses commands that they had to be destroyed because their influence brought a plague among God’s people. We often face powerlessness and lack of answered prayer and breakthrough, but we need to look very hard at our lives and the spiritual environment around us. Have you allowed strife and contention to exist around you? Do you refrain from taking “the waters of separation” from these influences because family and friends are involved? You cannot move in pity. Human empathy will, many times diminish your anointing and rob you of your strength in God. There is a difference between man’s idea of mercy and the compassion of Christ.
We see here (v. 19-24) that the captains of the people went out to war and came back in a condition that needed to be addressed. Spiritual warfare can be a contaminating thing. You have to pray off of yourself what gets on you in the midst of battle. Remember that Moses is addressing those who have won an important fight for the nation of God. There were no parades or ticker tape. They were commanded to go outside the camp because Moses didn’t want what was on them to get on the general population. This speaks from a level of spiritual warfare most people know nothing about. We would never question a victorious general in his choices and decisions. We have the same attitude toward success. We confuse success in life with God’s approval and choose our leaders and extend our fidelities toward those that are accomplished, influential, and prosperous. This can be very misleading.
In all our travels around the world, we have loving relationships with people from all walks of life. We have spiritual children in the projects of East St. Louis, and we have ministered in the homes of some of the most affluent people you could imagine. The wealthy are in just as great a need spiritually as the destitute believers we have ever met. In looking at the lives of those who are icons of success, I have never concluded, “wow – I think I should follow their example” or “I wish our lives were like theirs.” These people need and want guidance and leadership, just like those in poor circumstances. These military leaders brought back the spoil and gained the victory. However, they still needed to be spiritually decontaminated so that their success did not become a problem because they lacked discernment as to what to do with the spoil.
After the battle was waged and the situation in the aftermath was set in order, there was a dividing of the spoil. The men of war who fought the battle were due their portion. There was, however, a division of the spoil as well to Moses and the High Priest and to the people who stayed behind. In other words, maybe in a particular season of your life, you are held back by natural considerations and can’t go into the battle of spiritual things. God still rewards you through the efforts of those who do. Don’t feel condemned if you cannot battle in the spirit as others do for your time will come and they will stay behind. God deals with us as a whole and doesn’t make distinctions based on spiritual performance. Learn when to rest and when to go to battle and much confusion and condemnation will be avoided in your life.