Numbers 31:7
And they warred against the Midianites, as the LORD commanded Moses; and they slew all the males.
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(7) They slew all the males.—The reference appears to be to those who were engaged in the war. The words do not refer to the whole of the male population, as appears from Numbers 31:17; and it is probable that many of the Midianites who were not engaged in the war withdrew from the scene of conflict. The reference in this verse, unless the words are inserted proleptically, seems to be to the whole of the adult males who fell into the hands of the Israelites during the war.

Numbers 31:7-8. They slew all the males — That is, they slew those who were in the fight, and who did not save themselves by flight. As a nation they had forfeited their lives to the laws of God, and he, as judge of all the earth, had given command that the sentence of his laws should be executed on the guilty. Le Clerc properly observes, that there was this material difference between the wars of other nations and those of the Jews, that the former followed the bent of their own passions; whereas the Jews were only the ministers or executioners of divine justice, most evidently appointed to this work by God himself, as he manifested by a train of miracles wrought among and for them, such as had never been known on the earth before. So that no consequence can be deduced from their conduct in their wars, to warrant the like conduct in other people. Balaam also they slew — He suffered justly, for being the wicked instrument of seducing the Israelites from their allegiance to Jehovah.31:7-12 The Israelites slew the Kings of Midian. They slew Balaam. God's overruling providence brought him thither, and their just vengeance found him. Had he himself rightly believed what he had said of the happy state of Israel, he would not have thus herded with the enemies of Israel. The Midianites' wicked wiles were Balaam's projects: it was just that he should perish with them, Ho 4:5. They took the women and children captives. They burnt their cities and castles, and returned to the camp.Phinehas - He was marked out as the fitting director of the expedition by his conduct (compare Numbers 25:7-13) in the matter of Zimri and Cozbi.

With the holy instruments, and the trumpets - Or rather, "with the holy instruments, to wit, the trumpets," for the trumpets themselves seem to be the instruments intended.

7. they slew all the males—This was in accordance with a divine order in all such cases (De 20:13). But the destruction appears to have been only partial—limited to those who were in the neighborhood of the Hebrew camp and who had been accomplices in the villainous plot of Baal-peor (Nu 25:1-3), while a large portion of the Midianites were absent on their pastoral wanderings or had saved themselves by flight. (Compare Jud 6:1). Namely, all whom they took in that war, or all who lived in those parts; for it is probable (and was then very usual) some colonies of them were sent forth to remoter places, which therefore had no hand either in their former sin, or ill this present ruin, of whom we read after this, Jud 6. And herein they did according to God’s own order concerning such people, Deu 20:13; only their fault was, that they did not consider the special reason and great obligation which they had to involve the women in the destruction, for which reason Moses blames them afterward, Numbers 31:15,16. And they warred against the Midianites, as the Lord commanded Moses,.... Whether the Midianites came out against them with an army, and there was a pitched battle between them, is not certain; however the Israelites committed acts of hostility upon them, by entering their cities, plundering their houses, and slaying the inhabitants of them; the Targum of Jonathan is,"they warred against Midian, and surrounded it in the three corners of it, as the Lord commanded Moses;''for, as Maimonides (b) observes from tradition,"when they besiege a city to take it, they do not surround it in the four corners of it, but in the three corners of it, and leave a place to flee out, that everyone that would might escape for his life, as it is said, "and they warred against Midian, as the Lord commanded Moses"; by report, or from tradition, it is learnt that so he commanded him;''that is, in such a manner to besiege a city; but for this there is only tradition, for it is not mentioned among the rules after directed to in such a case, Deuteronomy 20:10,

and they slew all the males; which fell into their hands; for, no doubt, there were multitudes that made their escape, since in later times we read of the Midianites, as a very powerful people, and very distressing to Israel, Judges 6:1 these, as Aben Ezra observes, they slew, were such as were grown up, for as for their little ones, them they spared and carried captive, Numbers 31:9.

(b) Hilchot Melacim, c. 6. sect. 7.

And they warred against the Midianites, as the LORD commanded Moses; and they slew all the males.
7. they slew every male] An imaginative description of success. If it were historically true, Midian would have disappeared from history; but they are found not long afterwards as one of Israel’s most troublesome neighbours (Judges 6-8).

7–12. In this ideal picture of the war nothing is said of the place where the battle was fought, nor the length of time occupied by it, nor any details of the fight. It was a rapid and sweeping conquest.The Campaign. - After the people of Israel had been mustered as the army of Jehovah, and their future relation to the Lord had been firmly established by the order of sacrifice that was given to them immediately afterwards, the Lord commanded Moses to carry out that hostility to the Midianites which had already been commanded in Numbers 25:16-18. Moses was to revenge (i.e., to execute) the revenge of the children of Israel upon the Midianites, and then to be gathered to his people, i.e., to die, as had already been revealed to him (Numbers 27:13). "The revenge of the children of Israel" was revenge for the wickedness which the tribes of the Midianites who dwelt on the east of Moab (see at Numbers 22:4) had practised upon the Israelites, by seducing them to the idolatrous worship of Baal Peor. This revenge is called the "revenge of Jehovah" in Numbers 31:3, because the seduction had violated the divinity and honour of Jehovah. The daughters of Moab had also taken part in the seduction (Numbers 25:1-2); but they had done so at the instigation of the Midianites, and not of their own accord, and therefore the Midianites only were to atone for the wickedness.
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