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Taking a closer look at the Midianites

by Robert Randle  
8/18/2010 / Bible Studies

According to Genesis 25: 1-2, it says: Abraham took another wife [because Sarah had died], whose name was Keturah (incense), and one of the sons she bore was 'Midian.' In Genesis 37: 28 it reads: The Midianite traders passed by; so the brothers pulled Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt. There is an interesting breakdown in the Book of Judges as to the ethnicity of the Midianites. In Judges 8: 10-12, esp. verse 10, they are called, "people of the East" and verse 12 refers to the two kings [Zebah and Zalmunna] that Gideon captures as "Midians;" 8: 21b mentions, "crescent ornaments" [a crescent is one of the symbols associated with several Arab nations, Iran {Persia} and the religion of Islam]; 24b describes golden earrings [found on the dead bodies of the Midian army] and identifies the wearers as "Ishmaelites;" and 26b again mentions, crescent ornaments and kings of Midian.

In Exodus 2: 15-21; 3: 1 Moses flees from Pharaoh and goes to the land of Midian, which is thought to be somewhere in the Sinai Peninsula. Moses later marries Zipporah [sparrow of the Lord??], one of the daughters of Reuel [friend of God] or Jethro [his Excellency], who was also a priest [although some think he might be an Arab tribal or clan leader/elder]. This Jethro seems to not only have certain reverence for God but knowledgeable about worshipping Him as in Exodus 18: 12, which reads: Then Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, took a burnt offering and other sacrifices to offer to God. And Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat bread with Moses' father-in-law before God.

NOTE: This offering and sacrifice by Jethro was before Moses received God's Law [Torah] from Mount Sinai and Horeb with the statutes, judgments and ordinances pertaining as how to approach His holy presence with such gifts.

In Numbers 31: 8, it says: They killed the kings of Midian with the rest of those who were killed- Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba, the five kings of the Midianites. . . in Joshua 13: 21, it reads: All the cities of the plain and all the kingdom of Sihon king of the Amorites, who reigned in Heshbon, whom Moses had struck with the princes of Midian: Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba, who were princes of Sihon dwelling in the land (??). One can only wonder how Moses felt waging war against a people that had once offered him refuge and protection from Pharaoh's justice for forty years but more important than that, how did his wife Zipporah, sons Gershom and Eleazar, and father-in-law Reuel feel about his actions that slaughtered their countrymen and relatives?

Not only that, but pouring more salt on the wound is found in Numbers 31: 7, 9a, 15, 17-18, which states: And they warred against the Midianites, just as the LORD had commanded Moses, and they killed all the males [young, old, sickly, infirm, peacenik, warrior, priest, educator, skilled laborer, healer, etc,]. And the children of Israel took the women of Midian captive, with their little ones. . And Moses said to them: "Have you kept all the women alive? "Now therefore, 'kill every male among the little ones [adolescents, toddlers, infants and new-born babies], and kill every "woman" [elderly, infirm, widow, infirm, wise crone, menopausal, teacher, healer, artist, etc,] who has known man intimately [had sexual intercourse]. "But keep alive for yourselves [to do what with them??] all the "young girls" who have not known man intimately [virgins].

COMMENTARY: This passage is probably one of the more disturbing in the entire Bible, and one wonders if God really commanded this and it certainly diminishes the heretofore noble character of the great Lawgiver Moses. Also, how are the Israelite soldiers supposed to know if a Midianite woman is sexually experienced or not; how does one go about making a determination or examining her like an OB-GYN physician would? It seems the only way that a primitive warring man could do in the situation is to engage in non-consensual sexual penetration [rape] because it is unlikely that the women wore some kind of clothing [preferably white??], had body piercing or a tattoo that indicated her virginity.

Also, the reaction and ill-advised response of king Sihon and the Midianite kings might be understandable given the fact that the local wilderness grapevine reports a large group of people are heading your way that have just devastated mighty Egypt. This mixed multitude group of people cover the land like locusts, and possibly depleting vital natural resources, leaving nothing behind but a swath of destruction. Of course there is always the fear among other clans and tribes in the region that these Israelites could join the ranks of your enemy so the thinking is to get them first before they get you.

ENDNOTE: In the Bible Dictionary by Smith and Peloubet, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1948, the Midianites are called "Arabians" whose southern border extended along the eastern shore of the Gulf of Eyleh and northward along the eastern frontier of Palestine.

Robert Randle
776 Commerce St. #B-11
Tacoma, WA 98402
August 18, 2010

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