Numbers 31:1-12 The Lord told Moses to instruct the men to prepare for war against the Midianites to execute the Lord’s vengeance, 1000 men from each tribe. With them went Phinehas the priest, the vessels of the sanctuary, and the trumpets sounding. The killed all the males and the 5 kings of Midian, including Balaam. They took the women and the children captive and plundered all they had. They burned their encampment.
Notes: Israel was commanded by the Lord to take vengeance on Midian because they were responsible for corrupting Israel at Peor.
Numbers 31:13-20 When the army returned to camp, Moses was angry they let the women live, for they were the reason they want to war against Midian in the first place, for they lured the Hebrew men with their religion. Moses instructed to kill them all except for the young virgin girls. After the execution, the Jews involved in the killing had to purify themselves outside the camp for 7 days.
Notes: The execution of all male children and women of childbearing age ensured the extermination of the Midianites and prevented them from ever again seducing Israel to sin.
Numbers 31:21-31 The Lord instructed Phineas to pass all the precious metals through fire so that it will be clean. What can’t stand the fire shall pass through water. The Lord instructed Moses to divide the plunder into 2 parts, between the warriors and the rest of the camp. The men of war were to be taxed their share, 1 out of 500 of the plunder, and give it to Eleazar. From the people, 1 out of 50 shall be taken and given to the Levites who keep guard over the tabernacle.
Notes: The plunder was divided equally between those who went and fought and those who stayed.
Numbers 31:32-41 The armies plunder was 675 thousand sheep, 72 thousand cattle, 61 thousand donkey, and 32 thousand people. Of these numbers, the army took half. The Lord received 675 sheep, 72 cattle, 61 donkeys, and 32 persons.
Numbers 31:42-47 The camps plunder was 337 thousand sheep, 36 thousand cattle, 30 thousand donkey, and 16 thousand people. Of these numbers, Moses took of every 50 and gave them to the Levites that guarded the tabernacle.
Numbers 31:48-54 The commanders of the army reported to Moses that they did not lose any men in battle. The presented Moses with the Lord’s offering of the precious metals that totaled 16,750 shekels.
Notes: The gold may have been made into vessels for the tabernacle; at any rate, it served to remind God of Israel’s generosity and to ward off a plague, which a census could provoke.