Why did God command the Israelites to kill the Midianite women and boys,1 if He is a God of love?
The background of God’s command:
- Balak, king of the Moabites, conferred with the Midianites to get the prophet Balaam to curse Israel.2 God did not allow Balaam to curse the Israelites, but only to bless them.3
- Revelation 2:14 tells us that Balaam advised Balak to entice the Israelites to immorality and idolatry (an immoral physical relationship causes a man to defect from God). It worked. God was furious and He sent a plague that killed 24,000 Israelites.4
- The Israelites were in a covenant relationship with God who warned them not to follow the example of the nations in Canaan. They knew God wanted to protect them against immorality and idolatry that defile the land so that it vomits out its inhabitants.5
- How did Balaam know about God and His decrees, because he lived far from Egypt 6 and Canaan,7 in Pethor near the River Euphrates? The God of the Israelites, and His power was well known.
- God’s reaction to the Midianites’ attempt to seduce the Israelites was to tell His people to treat them as enemies. 8 God always protects His people.
- Moses commanded 12,000 soldiers to exact vengeance on the Midianites. That tells us it must have been only a local tribe, since we meet the Midianites again as a big force in Judges 6.
Why different treatment for women who have slept with a man, boys and virgins?
- The women who have slept with a man were the ones who seduced the Israelites and caused God’s curse on His people. The women could also be pregnant and so bring Midianite enemies into the Israelite camp.
- Were the boys who had to be killed 1 year olds, or adventurous teenagers who could not resist the excitement of war? The problem was that since the male was regarded as the head of the family, leaving the boys to grow up, would raise a generation of Midianites inside the Israelite camp.
- Why were the virgins not killed? The Israelite men could marry them, teach them about God and assimilate them into the nation. Atheists taunt that God advocates rape. They obviously have never read Deuteronomy 21:10-14 that clearly teaches Israelite men how to treat a captive woman they wish to marry.
- The Midianites deliberately set out to alienate the Israelites from God.
- Opposing God will always lead to destruction, after a period of grace. Nothing prevented the Midianites from accepting God as their king instead of trying to destroy His people.
- Numbers 31:1-6
- Numbers 22:1-6
- Numbers 22-24
- Numbers 25:6-15
- Leviticus 18:24-29
- God miraculously led about 3 million Israelites out of slavery, Exodus 7-11
- God miraculously helped the Israelites to take in various main cities, Joshua 5-13
- Numbers 25:16