And the children of Israel took the women of Midian captive, with their little ones, and took as spoil all their cattle, all their flocks, and all their goods. They also burned with fire all the cities where they dwelt, and all their forts. And they took all the spoil and all the booty—of man and beast. (Numbers 31:9-11)
The Bible records that this battle resulted in a major victory for Israel. The kings, leaders and fighting men of Midian were all destroyed as was the seer Balaam (he should have gone on home). But as we see, they spared the women — something that Moses took great issue with saying, “These women caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the Lord in the incident of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord” (Numbers 31:16). His orders were that any woman who was not a virgin was to be put to death.
In our day and time, reading this at glance causes us to shudder and look negatively upon Moses and God, for that matter. But Moses was pointing out that, if they had successfully seduced the men of Israel once before, what’s to stop them from doing it again? They are the very reason Israel was in the situation whereby they had to go to war. In other words, why would a person invite into your tent the venomous snake that has already bitten you? Again, I realize that sounds harsh and cold to our modern, hyper-sensitive ears but don’t overlook the principle within the details of the story.
First, consider that Moses was related to these people through marriage and so he wouldn’t have been completely insensitive to their plight. On the other hand, he was in a better position than most to understand the Midianites, and so then, we weren’t there — it is impossible for us to accurately judge the situation. Secondly, the women who participated in the seduction of Israel represented the evil that threatens God’s people’s existence. The Adversary is always prepared to lure us away with whatever our weakness is and (don’t miss this point) our weakness is more than willing to destroy us. Wouldn’t it be better to overcome our weakness — destroy it if you will — rather than it drag us to hell? Consider the words of the Messiah:
“You have heard that it was said by them of old time, ‘You shalt not commit adultery:’ But I say unto you, that whoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart. And if your right eye offends you, pluck it out, and cast it away: for it is profitable for you that one of your members should perish, and not that your whole body should be cast into hell.” (Matthew 5:27-29)
I will recommend to you that Messiah’s words echo the words of Moses. Better to remove the cancerous cell — the offensive inclination and habit — than to allow it to spread throughout the Body. Obviously, I am not endorsing such drastic action as what Moses prescribed but I am looking beyond the surface to reveal the principle — don’t coexist with the sin that is going to kill you. As the writer of Hebrews said: “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us” (Hebrews 12:1). Get it out of your life and live.
Blessings and Shalom,