Numbers 31

* War with Midian. (1-6) Balaam slain. (7-12) Those slain who

caused sin. (13-38) Purification of the Israelites. (39-24)

Division of the spoil. (25-47) Offerings. (48-54)

1-6 All who, without commission from God, dare to execute

private revenge, and who, from ambition, covetousness, or

resentment, wage war and desolate kingdoms, must one day answer

for it. But if God, instead of sending an earthquake, a

pestilence, or a famine, be pleased to authorize and command any

people to avenge his cause, such a commission surely is just and

right. The Israelites could show such a commission, though no

persons now can do so. Their wars were begun and carried on

expressly by Divine direction, and they were enabled to conquer

by miracles. Unless it can be proved that the wicked Canaanites

did not deserve their doom, objectors only prove their dislike

to God, and their love to his enemies. Man makes light of the

evil of sin, but God abhors it. This explains the terrible

executions of the nations which had filled the measure of their

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.
13-18 The sword of war should spare women and children; but the

sword of justice should know no distinction, but that of guilty

or not guilty. This war was the execution of a righteous

sentence upon a guilty nation, in which the women were the worst

criminals. The female children were spared, who, being brought

up among the Israelites, would not tempt them to idolatry. The

whole history shows the hatefulness of sin, and the guilt of

tempting others; it teaches us to avoid all occasions of evil,

and to give no quarter to inward lusts. The women and children

were not kept for sinful purposes, but for slaves, a custom

every where practised in former times, as to captives. In the

course of providence, when famine and plagues visit a nation for

sin, children suffer in the common calamity. In this case

parents are punished in their children; and for children dying

before actual sin, full provision is made as to their eternal

happiness, by the mercy of God in Christ.
19-24 The Israelites had to purify themselves according to the

law, and to abide without the camp seven days, though they had

not contracted any moral guilt, the war being just and lawful,

and commanded by God. Thus God would preserve in their minds a

dread and detestation of shedding blood. The spoil had been used

by Midianites, and being now come into the possession of

Israelites, it was fit that it should be purified.
25-47 Whatever we have, God justly claims a part. Out of the

people's share God required one in fifty, but out of the

soldiers' share only one in five hundred. The less opportunity

we have of honouring God with personal services, the more should

we give in money or value.
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.
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