Today we’ll see the significance of the vengeance on the Midianites that took place in Numbers 31 but before we do, let’s review some of the Scripture that precedes it.
Numbers 27 reminds us that Moses could not lead the Israelites into the Promised Land because he didn’t trust the Lord or uphold His holiness before the people when he struck the rock to bring forth water instead of speaking to it. Instead, the Lord told Moses to take Joshua the son of Nun and appoint him as leader over the community by laying hands on him, putting him in front of the High Priest and the whole community, commissioning him, and delegating authority to him so the people would obey him.
In Numbers 28, the Lord told Moses to order the people to bring the proper offerings at the proper times. This included the daily offerings, the ones for the Sabbaths and the New Moons (at the first of each month), and those for the feasts of the Lord. The people were also instructed to observe the feasts by having a holy convocation and by avoiding ordinary work. These offerings were to be made in addition to the vows and voluntary offerings of the people.
One thing that we often overlook is the keeping of vows. When vows are broken, guilt incurs. If a girl makes a vow, it can be made null and void by her father; likewise the vow of a married woman can be made null and void by her husband he says he’s displeased with it when he first hears about it. It is the man who bears the consequent guilt of the female’s unfulfilled vow. If the father or husband doesn’t say anything, the girl or woman is obligated to keep her vow just as males are required to keep their vows. Widow and divorcees are required to keep their vows as well.
We must understand that the father and the husband represents Jesus who has borne the guilt of our broken vows as a husband or father does for his bride or child; however, His sacrifice is not a license to break our vows. We should still take vows or promises seriously and not lightly. Don’t ever promise anything you might not be able to keep because you will incur guilt. Just think about how long term financial pledges are requested and made for church building programs and other things that are not always kept. Some may have been broken for valid reasons such as a job loss or perhaps someone changed churches and stopped paying his pledge. There is much guilt over these churches because pledges are not kept.
Consider Ananias and Sapphira who did not keep their vow to give all of the proceeds of the sale of their land to the apostles. They could have done what they wanted with the money but they must have promised to give all of it to the apostles. Once the vow was made, they must have changed their mind concerning the amount of money to donate. Since they lied to the Holy Spirit, their lives were cut short. This happened after Christ’s ascension. This should cause us to fear the Lord and it should keep us from lying to the Holy Spirit and to others. Please understand that we are obligated to keep our pledges even though Jesus’ blood can cover our guilt. If you’ve failed to honor a vow, you must do what it takes to fulfill it if possible.
Now let’s turn our attention to Numbers 31. After instructions for the fulfillment of vows, the Lord ordered Moses to gather an army in order to take vengeance on the Midianites. The Lord told Moses that after this was accomplished, Moses would be gathered to his people. Moses obeyed the Lord by ordering some of the men to be armed for war. One thousand men from each tribe of Israel — a total of 12,000 men were sent with Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, the holy articles, and the signal trumpets. Every Midianite male was killed but the people of Israel took all the women and children captive. All the Midianite cities were plundered and set on fire. The captives, animals, and booty were brought to Moses but he became angry when he found out the women had been permitted to live. He immediately he ordered all the women who had known a man intimately to be killed since they were responsible for leading the people into idolatry and sexual immorality. He also ordered all the male children to be killed. Most likely this was so they wouldn’t grow up to take revenge on behalf of their families. On the other hand, the virgins were to be kept alive for the Israelites.
Moses instructed whoever had killed someone or touched a corpse was to remain outside the camp and be purified on the 3rd and 7th days, including men and captives. In addition, all garments and everything of wood had to be purified with water. Anything made of metal had to be passed through the fire in order to purity it. After this, the plunder was divided among those who fought in the battle and the rest of the congregation. Those who went to war gave part of their portion to the High Priest to be offered as a heave offering to the Lord.
When we read Numbers 31, we may wonder why the command to bring proper offerings at proper times in Numbers 28-29 was made between Joshua being appointed as a leader in Numbers 27 and the orders to take vengeance on the Midianites in Numbers 31. Contemplate this: The spring feasts showed us the work of the Messiah during His first time on earth – Jesus died as our Passover Lamb, He offered Himself to the Father as Firstfruits from the dead, and the Holy Spirit came to dwell in the hearts of believers. This correlates to the time of Moses death and the beginning of Joshua’s leadership.
The time period that begins with Moses’ death is parallel with the period between Jesus’ death and His return. We can expect Christ to fulfill the fall feasts when He returns – Jesus will come at the last trumpet, the wicked will be judged during the battle of Armageddon, and Jesus will dwell with His people. These feasts will be celebrated during the millennial reign of Christ too because what is foreshadowed in the feasts will not be fully completed until after the Great White throne judgment takes place and the New Jerusalem comes down (Col. 2:16-17; Matt. 5:17-18). This time period can be associated with the leadership of Joshua that began before vengeance was taken on the Midianites.
During the time period between Jesus’ death (compared to Moses’) and Jesus’ return (associated with Joshua’s leadership), we are to be living sacrifices holy and acceptable to God. We are to do this daily, each month, and in every season. As we do so we should celebrate the feasts of the Lord because they represent a shadow of things to come. In addition, we should not fail to meet together to worship the Lord and enjoy our Sabbath rests.
The command to take vengeance on the Midianites is also a picture of what takes place during the fall feasts. Note that the Midianite women were guilty of harlotry and therefore share a similarity with Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots. The Midianite women had to be destroyed because of their harlotry. Likewise, Babylon the Great must be destroyed. The Midianite virgins were joined with the Israelites. In a similar manner, Gentile believers have been grafted into the olive tree of Israel. They are part of the bride of Christ which is to blameless and pure. Balaam the son of Beor was killed in addition to the kings of Midian (Evi, Rekem, Tzur, Hur, and Reva) along with the others who were slain. This parallels the beast of Revelation and the 10 kings who will hand over their power and authority to him and go to war against the Lamb of God. After the battle of Armageddon, the enemies of the Lord will be plundered, gifts will be offered to the Lord, and the wedding supper of the Lamb will take place. Those who will be there will be pure and dressed in clean robes of righteousness just like the Israelites purified themselves and their clothing after the war with the Midianites. Just as Moses was gathered to his people in death after the war with the Midianites, Jesus who now lives to intercede for us will be gathered together with His people forever.
The reason we know all these things will take place because the Lord has promised us they will happen and He always keeps His vows.