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Chapter 31

Campaign Against the Midianites. The Lord said to Moses:[a] Avenge the Israelites on the Midianites, and then you will be gathered to your people. So Moses told the people, “Arm some men among you for the campaign, to attack Midian and to execute the Lord’s vengeance on Midian. From each of the tribes of Israel you will send a thousand men to the campaign.” From the contingents of Israel, therefore, a thousand men of each tribe were levied, so that there were twelve thousand men armed for war. Moses sent them out on the campaign, a thousand from each tribe, with Phinehas, son of Eleazar, the priest for the campaign, who had with him the sacred vessels and the trumpets for sounding the alarm. They waged war against the Midianites, as the Lord had commanded Moses, and killed every male. Besides those slain in battle, they killed the kings of Midian: Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur and Reba, the five kings of Midian;[b] and they also killed Balaam, son of Beor, with the sword. But the Israelites took captive the women of the Midianites with their children, and all their herds and flocks and wealth as loot, 10 while they set on fire all the towns where they had settled and all their encampments. 11 Then they took all the plunder, with the people and animals they had captured, and brought the captives, together with the spoils and plunder, 12 to Moses and Eleazar the priest and to the Israelite community at their camp on the plains of Moab by the Jordan opposite Jericho.

Treatment of the Captives. 13 When Moses and Eleazar the priest, with all the leaders of the community, went outside the camp to meet them, 14 Moses became angry with the officers of the army, the commanders of thousands and the commanders of hundreds, who were returning from the military campaign. 15 “So you have spared all the women!” he exclaimed. 16 “These are the very ones who on Balaam’s advice were behind the Israelites’ unfaithfulness to the Lord in the affair at Peor,(A) so that plague struck the Lord’s community. 17 [c]Now kill, therefore, every male among the children and kill every woman who has had sexual relations with a man. 18 But you may spare for yourselves all the girls who have not had sexual relations.

Purification After Combat. 19 “Moreover, remain outside the camp for seven days; every one of you who has killed anyone or touched someone killed will purify yourselves on the third and on the seventh day—both you and your captives. 20 You will also purify every garment, every article of leather, everything made of goats’ hair, and every article of wood.”

21 Eleazar the priest told the soldiers who had taken part in the battle: “This is the prescribed ritual which the Lord has commanded Moses: 22 gold, silver, bronze, iron, tin and lead— 23 whatever can stand fire—you shall put into the fire, that it may become clean; however, it must also be purified with water of purification.[d] But whatever cannot stand fire you must put into the water. 24 On the seventh day you will wash your garments, and then you will again be clean. After that you may enter the camp.”

Division of the Spoils. 25 The Lord said to Moses: 26 With the help of Eleazar the priest and of the heads of the ancestral houses of the community, inventory all the spoils captured, human being and beast alike; 27 then divide the spoils[e] between the warriors who went on the campaign and the whole community. 28 You will levy a tax for the Lord on the soldiers who went on the campaign: one out of every five hundred persons, oxen, donkeys, and sheep. 29 From their half you will take it and give it to Eleazar the priest as a contribution to the Lord. 30 From the Israelites’ half you will take one captive from every fifty human beings, oxen, donkeys, and sheep—all the animals—and give them to the Levites, who perform the duties of the Lord’s tabernacle. 31 So Moses and Eleazar the priest did this, as the Lord had commanded Moses.

Amount of the Plunder. 32 This plunder, what was left of the loot which the troops had taken, amounted to six hundred and seventy-five thousand sheep, 33 seventy-two thousand oxen, 34 sixty-one thousand donkeys, 35 and thirty-two thousand women who had not had sexual relations.

36 The half-share that fell to those who had gone out on the campaign was in number: three hundred and thirty-seven thousand five hundred sheep, 37 of which six hundred and seventy-five fell as tax to the Lord; 38 thirty-six thousand oxen, of which seventy-two fell as tax to the Lord; 39 thirty thousand five hundred donkeys, of which sixty-one fell as tax to the Lord; 40 and sixteen thousand persons, of whom thirty-two persons fell as tax to the Lord. 41 Moses gave the taxes contributed to the Lord to Eleazar the priest, exactly as the Lord had commanded Moses.

42 As for the Israelites’ half, which Moses had taken from the men who had fought— 43 the community’s half was three hundred and thirty-seven thousand five hundred sheep, 44 thirty-six thousand oxen, 45 thirty thousand five hundred donkeys, 46 and sixteen thousand persons. 47 From the Israelites’ half, Moses took one captive from every fifty, from human being and beast alike, and gave them to the Levites, who performed the duties of the Lord’s tabernacle, exactly as the Lord had commanded Moses.

Gifts of the Officers. 48 Then those who were officers over the contingents of the army, commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds, came up to Moses 49 and said to him, “Your servants have counted the soldiers under our command, and not one of us is missing. 50 [f]So, we have brought as an offering to the Lord articles of gold that each of us has picked up—anklets, bracelets, rings, earrings, or pendants—to make atonement for ourselves before the Lord.” 51 Moses and Eleazar the priest accepted the gold from them, all fashioned pieces. 52 The gold that was given as a contribution to the Lord—from the commanders of thousands and the commanders of hundreds—amounted in all to sixteen thousand seven hundred and fifty shekels. 53 What the common soldiers had looted each one kept for himself.[g] 54 So Moses and Eleazar the priest accepted the gold from the commanders of thousands and of hundreds, and put it in the tent of meeting as a reminder on behalf of the Israelites before the Lord.

Footnotes

  1. 31:1–3 The narrative of Israel’s campaign against Midian, which was interrupted after 25:18, is now resumed.
  2. 31:8 The five kings of Midian: they are called Midianite princes, Sihon’s vassals, in Jos 13:21.
  3. 31:17 There are later references to Midian in Jgs 6–8; 1 Kgs 11:18; Is 60:6. The present raid was only against those Midianites who were dwelling at this time near the encampment of the Israelites.
  4. 31:23 Water of purification: water mixed with the ashes of the red heifer as prescribed in 19:9.
  5. 31:27 Divide the spoils: for a similar division of the plunder into two equal parts, between those who engaged in the battle and those who stayed with the baggage, cf. 1 Sm 30:24. But note that here the tax on the plunder of the noncombatants is ten times as much as that on the soldiers’ plunder.
  6. 31:50 The precise nature and use of some of these articles of gold is not certain.
  7. 31:53 Apparently because of the commanders’ generosity the common troops were under no sort of obligation to make their own offerings and could keep their loot.

Vengeance on the Midianites

31 The Lord said to Moses, “Take vengeance on the Midianites(A) for the Israelites. After that, you will be gathered to your people.(B)

So Moses said to the people, “Arm some of your men to go to war against the Midianites so that they may carry out the Lord’s vengeance(C) on them. Send into battle a thousand men from each of the tribes of Israel.” So twelve thousand men armed for battle,(D) a thousand from each tribe, were supplied from the clans of Israel. Moses sent them into battle,(E) a thousand from each tribe, along with Phinehas(F) son of Eleazar, the priest, who took with him articles from the sanctuary(G) and the trumpets(H) for signaling.

They fought against Midian, as the Lord commanded Moses,(I) and killed every man.(J) Among their victims were Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur and Reba(K)—the five kings of Midian.(L) They also killed Balaam son of Beor(M) with the sword.(N) The Israelites captured the Midianite women(O) and children and took all the Midianite herds, flocks and goods as plunder.(P) 10 They burned(Q) all the towns where the Midianites had settled, as well as all their camps.(R) 11 They took all the plunder and spoils, including the people and animals,(S) 12 and brought the captives, spoils(T) and plunder to Moses and Eleazar the priest and the Israelite assembly(U) at their camp on the plains of Moab, by the Jordan across from Jericho.(V)

13 Moses, Eleazar the priest and all the leaders of the community went to meet them outside the camp. 14 Moses was angry with the officers of the army(W)—the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds—who returned from the battle.

15 “Have you allowed all the women to live?” he asked them. 16 “They were the ones who followed Balaam’s advice(X) and enticed the Israelites to be unfaithful to the Lord in the Peor incident,(Y) so that a plague(Z) struck the Lord’s people. 17 Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man,(AA) 18 but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.

19 “Anyone who has killed someone or touched someone who was killed(AB) must stay outside the camp seven days.(AC) On the third and seventh days you must purify yourselves(AD) and your captives. 20 Purify every garment(AE) as well as everything made of leather, goat hair or wood.(AF)

21 Then Eleazar the priest said to the soldiers who had gone into battle,(AG) “This is what is required by the law that the Lord gave Moses: 22 Gold, silver, bronze, iron,(AH) tin, lead 23 and anything else that can withstand fire must be put through the fire,(AI) and then it will be clean. But it must also be purified with the water of cleansing.(AJ) And whatever cannot withstand fire must be put through that water. 24 On the seventh day wash your clothes and you will be clean.(AK) Then you may come into the camp.(AL)

Dividing the Spoils

25 The Lord said to Moses, 26 “You and Eleazar the priest and the family heads(AM) of the community are to count all the people(AN) and animals that were captured.(AO) 27 Divide(AP) the spoils equally between the soldiers who took part in the battle and the rest of the community. 28 From the soldiers who fought in the battle, set apart as tribute for the Lord(AQ) one out of every five hundred, whether people, cattle, donkeys or sheep. 29 Take this tribute from their half share and give it to Eleazar the priest as the Lord’s part. 30 From the Israelites’ half, select one out of every fifty, whether people, cattle, donkeys, sheep or other animals. Give them to the Levites, who are responsible for the care of the Lord’s tabernacle.(AR) 31 So Moses and Eleazar the priest did as the Lord commanded Moses.

32 The plunder remaining from the spoils(AS) that the soldiers took was 675,000 sheep, 33 72,000 cattle, 34 61,000 donkeys 35 and 32,000 women who had never slept with a man.

36 The half share of those who fought in the battle was:

337,500 sheep, 37 of which the tribute for the Lord(AT) was 675;

38 36,000 cattle, of which the tribute for the Lord was 72;

39 30,500 donkeys, of which the tribute for the Lord was 61;

40 16,000 people, of whom the tribute for the Lord was 32.

41 Moses gave the tribute to Eleazar the priest as the Lord’s part,(AU) as the Lord commanded Moses.(AV)

42 The half belonging to the Israelites, which Moses set apart from that of the fighting men— 43 the community’s half—was 337,500 sheep, 44 36,000 cattle, 45 30,500 donkeys 46 and 16,000 people. 47 From the Israelites’ half, Moses selected one out of every fifty people and animals, as the Lord commanded him, and gave them to the Levites, who were responsible for the care of the Lord’s tabernacle.

48 Then the officers(AW) who were over the units of the army—the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds—went to Moses 49 and said to him, “Your servants have counted(AX) the soldiers under our command, and not one is missing.(AY) 50 So we have brought as an offering to the Lord the gold articles each of us acquired—armlets, bracelets, signet rings, earrings and necklaces—to make atonement for ourselves(AZ) before the Lord.”

51 Moses and Eleazar the priest accepted from them the gold—all the crafted articles. 52 All the gold from the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds that Moses and Eleazar presented as a gift to the Lord weighed 16,750 shekels.[a] 53 Each soldier had taken plunder(BA) for himself. 54 Moses and Eleazar the priest accepted the gold from the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds and brought it into the tent of meeting(BB) as a memorial(BC) for the Israelites before the Lord.

Footnotes

  1. Numbers 31:52 That is, about 420 pounds or about 190 kilograms

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