The Cyclical Nature of Israel's Disobedience
by Bobby Bruno

More than a few times did the nation of Israel begin to obey God but then turn around and disobey Him in some fashion or another. This can be seen in Numbers, chapter 31, where the Israelites are told by God (v. 2) to go to war with the Midianites. During this battle they were to obliterate the Midianites and kill all the men, women, and boys and girls, with the exception of any woman who was still a virgin. But, during the fighting, the soldiers gathered up all of the women and children and brought them back to camp as prisoners of war.

Moses was furious with his men (v. 14) for disobeying the command God had put forth concerning who should live and who should die. He tells his men that the non-virginal women had to die because they were the ones who followed Balaam's advice which ultimately caused a plague in Peor. Disobedience in this matter of killing the boys could spell trouble for Israel in the future as the boys could someday rise up against Israel for the deeds done against their fathers in this battle. The virginal girls could be saved because they posed no threat because any children they would have would no longer be considered Midianite.

When the battle ended, everything that was kept as plunder had to be purified, even the Israelites themselves, whoever touched a dead body. These people had to stay outside the camp for seven days and were to purify themselves with ritual water twice that week to wash away their sins (v. 19). All of their clothes had to be washed I water and all precious metals taken had to be placed I fire to burn off any impurities from the handling of these metals by the Midianites. Once all of these things were done, the Israelites were now able to could all that they had plundered.

Because of their repentance of not killing the women and boys without having to be reprimanded for not doing so sooner and their obedience for wiping out the Midianites, God blessed His people greatly with all that had been plundered during the fighting. The list of the plunder is as follows: (v. 33-46) 72,000 cattle, 61,000 donkeys, and 32,000 women who had never gone to bed with a man. Of the 337,500 sheep and goats they received, 675 went to the LORD as taxes. Of the 36,000 cattle they received, 72 went to the LORD as taxes. Of the 30,500 donkeys they received, 61 went to the LORD as taxes. Of the 16,000 people they received, 32 went to the LORD as taxes. The community received 337,500 sheep and goats, 36,000 cattle, 30,500 donkeys, and 16,000 people. The Levites received 1 out of every 50 things, people and animals for the Lord's work (v. 47). But of all the blessings God bestowed on His people after the war was that not one Israelite was killed during the battle (v. 49).

Many times the Israelites were given a word from God to perform and duty for Him that would either increase the nation of Israel or would protect the nation from its enemies. Each time the Israelites set out to follow the word of the Lord they would stumble along the way and not quite follow God's desire as perfectly as God wanted them to. Why did they keep on doing this when they should have known that God would bless them in the end? Did they not trust God, or was all of this killing and plundering hard to take to a seemingly peaceful people?

In the above scripture, was the fact that they were ordered by God Himself to kill women and children a little hard to take and even harder to do with an actual weapon in their hand. Yes, it was God giving the orders, but the Israelites were supposed to love one another. They would be blessed, yes, but when a blessing came only after the shedding of blood; how quickly that would turn off most of us today. It is no surprise that the Israelites had a hard time carrying out God's orders. Would any of us today find it easy to kill, even if Almighty God Himself gave the order?


All Scripture from GOD'S WORD, 1995 God's Word to the Nations. Used by permission of Baker Publishing Group.

Bobby Bruno was saved 15 years ago in a way that left him no doubt that Jesus wanted him to reach others with His great and abounding love.  He started writing at the age of 12 and hasn't stopped since. He achieved Associates Degree in Biblical Studies from Ohio Christian University in early 2014.

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