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God commands Moses to avenge Israel of the Midianites, ver. 1,2.
Moses sends them to the war, ver. 3 - 6.
They slay the Midianites, ver. 7 - 12.
He reproves them for sparing the women, ver. 13 - 18.
Directions for purifying themselves, ver. 19 - 24.
The distribution of the spirit, ver. 25 - 47.
The free - will - offering of the officers, ver. 48 - 54.
3: Avenge ye the Lord - For the affront which they offered to God,
by their own idolatry and lewdness, and by seducing God's people into
rebellion against him. God's great care was to avenge the Israelites,(Nu 31:2), and
Moses's chief desire was to avenge God rather than himself or the people.
5: Twelve thousand - God would send no more, though it is apparent
the Midianites were numerous and strong, because he would exercise their
trust in him, and give them an earnest of their Canaanitish conquests.
6: Them and Phinehas - Who had the charge not of the army, as
general, (an office never committed to a priest in all the Old Testament)
but of the holy instruments, and was sent to encourage, and quicken,
them in their enterprize. The holy instruments - The holy breast - plate,
wherein was the Urim and Thummim, which was easily carried, and very useful
in war upon many emergent occasions.
7: All the males - Namely all who lived in those parts, for colonies
of them, were sent forth to remoter places, which therefore had no hand
either in their former sin, or in this present ruling. And herein they did
according to God's own order concerning such people, (De 20:13), only
their fault was, that they did not consider the special reason which they
had to involve the women in the destruction.
13: Without the camp - Partly to put respect upon them, and
congratulate with them for their happy success; and partly to prevent the
pollution of the camp by the untimely entrance of the warriors into it.
17: The little ones - Which they were forbidden to do to other
people, (De 20:14),
except the Canaanites, to whom this people had equaled themselves by
their horrid crimes, and therefore it is not strange, nor unjust, that God,
the supreme Lord of all mens lives, who as he gives them, so may take them
away when he pleaseth, did equal them in the punishment. Every woman
- Partly for punishment, because the guilt was general, and though some of
them only did prostitute themselves to the Israelites, yet the rest
made themselves accessary by their consent or approbation; and partly, for
prevention of the like mischief from such an adulterous generation.
20: Your raiment - Namely, your spoil and prey. All work - All
which had contracted some ceremonial uncleanness either from the dead bodies
which wore them, or the tents or houses where they were, in which such dead
bodies lay, or from the touch of the Israelitish soldiers, who were
legally defiled by the slaughters they made.
27: Two parts - The congregation hath some share, because the
warriors went in the name of all, and because all having been injured by
the Midianites, all were to have some share in the reparations: but
the warriors who were but 12000, have a far greater share than their
brethren, because they underwent greater pains and dangers.
29: An heave - offering - In thankfulness to God for their preservation
and good success.
30: One of fifty - Whereas the former part was one of five hundred;
the reason of the difference is, partly, because this was taken out of the
peoples portion, whose hazards being less than the others, their gains also
in all reason were to be less: partly because this was to be distributed
into more hands, the Levites being now numerous, whereas the priests
were but few.
50: An atonement - For their error noted, (Nu 31:14-16),
and withal for a memorial, or by way of gratitude for such a stupendous
assistance and deliverance. We should never take any thing to ourselves
in war or trade, of which we cannot in faith consecrate a part to God,
who hates robbery for burnt - offerings. But when God has remarkably
preserved and succeeded us, he expects we should make some particular
return of gratitude to him.