Did God not love the Midianites?

Why did God command the Israelites to kill the Midianite women and Anubisboys,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. 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 lesson:

  • 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.


  1. Numbers 31:1-6
  2. Numbers 22:1-6
  3. Numbers 22-24
  4. Numbers 25:6-15
  5. Leviticus 18:24-29
  6. God miraculously led about 3 million Israelites out of slavery, Exodus 7-11
  7. God miraculously helped the Israelites to take in various main cities, Joshua 5-13
  8. Numbers 25:16

Why all the Canaanites were not killed

If the Israelites fulfilled God’s command to annihilate the Amalekites, Canaanites and Midianites (kill them all, part 1, Kill them all, part 2, Kill them all, part 3, Kill them all, part 4People flee in war 2), why were some of the descendants still living among the Israelites 900 years later? They remained Israel’s enemies for centuries. Yet the Bible reports that ‘all were killed?

To understand this riddle, we have to read the Bible carefully. For example, were all the Canaanites killed, or only those in the specific cities? The following gives us a clue to what happened.

#1. The refugee problem. People flee when danger or war looms. We read, ‘Indeed, Moab was filled with dread because of the Israelites.’  The Moabites said to the elders of Midian, ‘This horde is going to lick up everything around us, as an ox licks up the grass of the field.’ 1

The fathers would have instructed their wives and children to flee as the Israelites approached. They and those who stubbornly refused to leave, probably remained and were killed. 2  So the Bible is not wrong when it says all the people in a city were killed.  It was those who remained in the cities that were killed, while the others fled and came back after the danger passed.

For example, the Jebusites were ‘destroyed’ by Joshua’s armies. 3  Yet a short while later, we read that the Benjamites could not dislodge the Jebusites. 4  Later king David, taunted by the Jebusites, overcame them. It seems as if ‘destroy them all’ meant only those who were present at that specific time.

# 2. Only the main cities are on record. Another issue is that the Bible records only certain cities that were destroyed. In Joshua 15 is a list of more than a hundred towns and villages that were Judah’s inheritance. 6  Yet the Bible lists only a few main cities like Makkedah, Libnah, Lachish, Eglon, Hebron and Debir where all the people were killed. 7 Yet it is recorded that Joshua subdued the whole region. 8

‘Region’ must be understood as locally instead of a whole country.  When Joshua was old, God told him, ‘You are very old, and there are still very large areas of land to be taken over.’  9  When the Bible mentions subduing the whole region, it must have been local areas. The people fled, and later returned to be a thorn in the flesh for the Israelites. The Israelites mainly failed with the ‘mopping up’ initiatives. 10


The two reasons above explain why the descendants of the people in Canaan were still alive in the time of Ezra in 458 BC (900 years after the conquest). Careful analysis of the Bible, and comparison to what happens in times of war, reveals that the Bible is logical. Many enemies of God do not critically read the Bible, and only concentrate on the sensational, using one sided information.


  1. Numbers 22:4
  2. Judges 6:21; 8:26; 10:20,28;32,35,39-40
  3. Joshua 11:103, 12, 16; 12:10
  4. Judges 1:21
  5. 2 Samuel 5:6-7
  6. Joshua 15:21-63
  7. Joshua 10:28-40
  8. Joshua 10:40
  9. Joshua 13:1
  10. Judges 1:1-36

Why atheists have a problem

In the previous blog we saw that Rahab and the Gibeonites joined Enemies destroyedIsrael, because they had faith in the God of the Israelites (Rahab and Gibeonites) What is the difference between them and the Amalekites, Canaanites and Midianites whom God commanded the Israelites to annihilate?

The only difference is their attitude towards God and Israel. God’s enemies wanted to destroy His nation, the Israelites. In Psalm 83:1-4 we read, ‘O God, do not be silent; be not quiet, O God, be not still. See how your enemies are astir, how your foes rear their heads. With cunning they conspire against your people; they plot against those you cherish. Come, they say, let us destroy them as a nation, that the name of Israel be remembered no more.

They wanted to get rid of Israel (it sounds quite modern, like Hitler). Did they think getting rid of the Israelites meant getting rid of God (God created the Israelite nation)? The only difference between the ‘saved’ and the ‘lost’ is that one group have faith in God and the other group wants to ‘annihilate’ Him.

The three groups planned their campaigns against the Israelites deliberately.

  • The Amalekites waylaid the Israelites as they came out of Egypt.1
  • The Canaanites wanted to attack and destroy the Gibeonites because they made a treaty with the Israelites. The Gibeonites asked the Israelites for help. Subsequently the attackers were vanquished. In the same way, the kings of Northern Canaan rallied together for a combined attack against the Israelites, but they were also routed. 2
  • The Midianites conspired with the Moabites to have Israel cursed.  Balaam gave them the advice to use women to entice the Israelites to idolatry, to worship their idols. 3  Balaam knew that would make God angry: the plague among the Israelites killed 24,000. 4

So the enemies of God have one thing in common, they hate God, ‘With one mind they [the Amalekites, some of the Midianite kings, Sisera, Jabin, the Canaanites, et cetera] plot together; they form an alliance against you.’ 5


Rahab and the Gibeonites acknowledged that God is all-powerful and they planned not to be destroyed. The others just plainly hated God. God acted to vindicate His honour, ‘Let them know that you, whose name is the Lord – that you alone are the Most High over all the earth.’ 6 The message remains the same today, ‘He [Jesus] will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.’ 7

The sad thing is that it applies to all haters of God, which includes atheists. One can only pray that they will reconsider.


  1. 1 Samuel 15:2
  2. Joshua 11:1-20
  3. Numbers 31:16; Revelation 2:14
  4. Numbers 25:7-9
  5. Psaml 83:5
  6. Psalm 83:18
  7. 2 Thessalonians 1:8
%d bloggers like this: