Numbers 31:49
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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(49) There lacketh not one man of us.—It is obvious from the smallness of the number of the Israelitish warriors, as well as from the reference to those chiefs only of the Midianites who were the vassals of Sihon, and from the strength of the Midianitish nation in the time of Gideon (Judges 6-8), that the attack was made only upon that particular portion of the nation which had been concerned in the seduction of the Israelites to the worship of Baal Peor. The Midianites were probably attacked in an unprepared and defenceless state. After due allowance, however, has been made for all these circumstances, the fact that not a single Israelitish warrior perished can be satisfactorily explained only on the supposition that God vouchsafed to grant to His people miraculous aid and protection.

31:48-54 The success of the Israelites had been very remarkable, so small a company overcoming such multitudes, but it was still more wonderful that not one was slain or missing. They presented the gold they found among the spoils, as an offering to the Lord. Thus they confessed, that instead of claiming a reward for their service, they needed forgiveness of much that had been amiss, and desired to be thankful for the preservation of their lives, which might justly have been taken away.There is no mention of any resistance on the part of the Midianites. The Israelites saw in this and in the preservation of all those engaged, proofs that the Lord had been with them in the work, and hence, the free-will oblation of Numbers 31:50. 48-54. officers … said … there lacketh not one man of us—A victory so signal, and the glory of which was untarnished by the loss of a single Israelitish soldier, was an astonishing miracle. So clearly betokening the direct interposition of Heaven, it might well awaken the liveliest feelings of grateful acknowledgment to God (Ps 44:2, 3). The oblation they brought for the Lord "was partly an atonement" or reparation for their error (Nu 31:14-16), for it could not possess any expiatory virtue, and partly a tribute of gratitude for the stupendous service rendered them. It consisted of the "spoil," which, being the acquisition of individual valor, was not divided like the "prey," or livestock, each soldier retaining it in lieu of pay; it was offered by the "captains" alone, whose pious feelings were evinced by the dedication of the spoil which fell to their share. There were jewels to the amount of 16,750 shekels, equal to £87,869 16s. 5d. sterling. No text from Poole on this verse.

And they said unto Moses,.... Gave the following relation to him, which is a very surprising one:

thy servants have taken the sum of the men of war which are under our charge; since the war with Midian was over, they had mustered the several companies under their command, such as had thousands, and those that had hundreds:

and there lacketh not one man of us; which is a most amazing and unheard of thing, that in waging war with a whole nation, slaying all their males, sacking and burning so many cities, plundering the inhabitants of their substance, taking and carrying off such a vast number of captives, yet not one should fall by the sword of the enemy, or by any disease or accident whatever, but all to a man should return to the camp of Israel again; this is not to be paralleled in any history.

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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
49. The officers report the safe return of every single Israelite soldier. No element of success must be absent from the ideal picture of a sacred victory.

Verse 49. - There lacketh not one man of us. The officers naturally regarded this as a very wonderful circumstance; and so indeed it was, whether Midian made any resistance or not. It was, however, in strict keeping with the promises of that temporal dispensation. It would have been no satisfaction to the Israelite who fell upon the threshold of the promised land to know that victory remained with his comrades. His was not the courage of modern soldiers, who fling away their lives in blind confidence that some advantage will accrue thereby to the army at large; rather, he fought under the conviction that to each, as well as to all, life and victory were pledged upon condition of obedience and courage. In this case no one was found unfaithful, and therefore no one was allowed to fall. Numbers 31:49Sacred Oblations of the Officers. - When the officers reviewed the men of war who were "in their hand," i.e., who had fought the battle under their command, and found not a single man missing, they felt constrained to give a practical expression to their gratitude for this miraculous preservation of the whole of the men, by presenting a sacrificial gift to Jehovah; they therefore brought all the golden articles that they had received as booty, and offered them to the Lord "for the expiation of their souls" (see at Leviticus 1:4), namely, with the feeling that they were not worthy of any such grace, and not "because they had done wrong in failing to destroy all the enemies of Jehovah" (Knobel). This gift, which was offered as a heave-offering for Jehovah, consisted of the following articles of gold: אצעדה, "arm-rings," according to 2 Samuel 1:10 (lxx χελιδῶνα; Suidas: χελιδόναι κοσμοὶ περὶ τοὺς βραχιόνας, καλοῦνται δὲ βραχιάλια); צמיד, bands, generally armlets (Genesis 24:22, etc.); טבּעת, signet-rings; עגיל, hoops, - according to Ezekiel 16:12, ear-rings; and כּוּמז, gold balls (Exodus 35:22). They amounted in all to 16,750 shekels; and the men of war had received their own booty in addition to this. This gift, presented on the part of the officers, was brought into the tabernacle "as a memorial of the children of Israel before Jehovah" (cf. Exodus 30:16); that is to say, it was placed in the treasury of the sanctuary.

The fact that the Israelites did not lose a single man in the battle, is certainly a striking proof of the protection of God; but it is not so marvellous as to furnish any good ground for calling in question the correctness of the narrative.

(Note: Rosenmller has cited an example from Tacitus (Ann. xiii. 39), of the Romans having slaughtered all the foe without losing a single man on the capture of a Parthian castle; and another from Strabo (xvi. 1128), of a battle in which 1000 Arabs were slain, and only 2 Romans. And Hvernick mentions a similar account from the life of Saladin in his Introduction (i. 2, p. 452).)

The Midianites were a nomad tribe, who lived by rearing flocks and herds, and therefore were not a warlike people. Moreover, they were probably attacked quite unawares, and being unprepared, were completely routed and cut down without quarter. The quantity of booty brought home is also not so great as to appear incredible. Judging from the 32,000 females who had never lain with a man, the tribes governed by the five kings may have numbered about 130,000 or 150,000, and therefore not have contained much more than 35,000 fighting men, who might easily have been surprised by 12,000 brave warriors, and entirely destroyed. And again, there is nothing in the statement that 675,000 sheep and goats, 72,000 oxen, and 61,000 asses were taken as booty from these tribes, to astonish any one who has formed correct notions of the wealth of nomad tribes in flocks and herds. The only thing that could appear surprising is, that there are no camels mentioned.

But it is questionable, in the first place, whether the Midianites were in the habit of rearing camels; and, in the second place, if they did possess them, it is still questionable whether the Israelitish army took them away, and did not rather put to death all that they found, as being of no value to the Israelites in their existing circumstances. Lastly, the quantity of jewellery seized as booty is quite in harmony with the well-known love of nomads, and even of barbarous tribes, for ornaments of this kind; and the peculiar liking of the Midianites for such things is confirmed by the account in Judges 8:26, according to which Gideon took as much as 1700 shekels in weight of golden rings from the Midianites alone, beside ornaments of other kinds. If we take the golden shekel at 10 thalers (30 shillings), the value of the ornaments taken by the officers under Moses would be about 167,500 thalers (L.25,125). It is quite possible that the kings and other chiefs, together with their wives, may have possessed as much as this.

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