Problem of Moabite Destruction Num.31


The Problem of Moabite Destruction

Numbers 31

Today (Feb. 12) we read about Israel being commanded by God to kill the Midinites.  These people were the offspring of Midian, a son of Abraham by the concubine Keturah. The Moabites were the descendants of Lot. Both of these people had left the God of Abraham and begun worshipping idols.   

Earlier we read of the Midianites and the Moabites collaborating together to orchestrate the downfall of Israel in this manner (Num. 22:4,7). Thus both of them have their end by the decree of judgment by God.

We recoil as we read of the killing of this people by Israel at the commandment of God. We are venturing into very precarious area - standing in moral judgment upon God. We don't have all the facts. We are not aware of the whole situation of the moral depravity of the nations. We have been anesthetized to sin and hence are not in a position to understand the holy wrath of God against such. To many, any answer we give will be construed as 'special pleading' for God. They would just assail God and declare him to be a wicked ogre who has no love or compassion.

My first thought is that this is NOT ethnic cleansing. When you turn to the passages that do give a hint as to God's judgments, they indicate that God was condemning them for their iniquities. As the formula in Amos states:  "For three transgressions and for four" (Amos 1:3,6,9,11,13; 2:1,4,6). In the giving of that principle of judgment, God made no difference between the other nations and Israel and Judah. These judgments were judgments for sin.

As we look at the overall picture, we can see that God was longsuffering before any such action took place. God had told Abraham that he could not enter and take the land because the iniquity of the Amorite was not yet full (Gen. 15:16).  It would be hundreds of years that God suffered as they grew steadily more ungodly and marched to their doom.

Temporal judgments upon nations involved the society as a whole. When Judah was punished by God we read of the difficult situations of Jeremiah, Daniel, and Ezekiel. They were not being punished yet they suffered by being part of the nation / people that were being punished.

Temporal judgment upon the nation did not equate across the board with spiritual judgment of the individual. The death of the innocent little ones did not indicate they were consigned to hell. Rather, I would understand that such little ones were yet innocent before God and not liable to eternal damnation. The adults on the other hand will stand before God to answer for the debauchery of their lives.

God was in fact orchestrating a grand purpose of protecting a people that would give birth to His son, Jesus. To facilitate this preservation of a holy seed, God gave them a special law and a special place. The land was to be where they could be protected from the evil of these nations. Evil companions corrupt good morals is not just a New Testament reality.  Israel was to make no covenants with these peoples of the land. They were not to mix with them in their religious / social decadence.

We see this in chapter 25 as it concerns these people.  We read in Revelation: "But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality" (2:14).  The history of this is recorded by Moses: "While Israel lived in Shittim, the people began to whore with the daughters of Moab. These invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel yoked himself to Baal of Peor. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel" (Numbers 25:1-3)

Israel will fail to fulfill this judgment upon the peoples when they enter the land of promise and will leave the remnants of such people and their evil ways among them. It will happen again just as it did here at Shittim. They will join themselves to the peoples, learn their ways, and be seduced into the idolatry and immorality of those nations.  This will bring about the many judgments of God in the book of Judges. This will be followed by Solomon's marrying foreign wives and being seduced into idolatry. This will bring the destruction of the northern tribes by Assyria. God will cast Judah into captivity to Babylon for 70 years because they adopted the immoral idolatry of the peoples of the land.

With the thinnest of margins, God did preserve a godly seed that did bring forth Jesus, the son of God who would be the savior of the world.