The Battle Against Midian

Numbers 31:1-53

God commands Moses to lead the Children of Israel into battle against Midian as vengeance for causing them to sin at Baal Peor, after which Moses will die. Without flinching, Moses orders the nation to send out an army of 1,000 soldiers from each tribe to fight against this enemy of God. The fighters slay all the men, including the five kings of Midian and Balaam; destroy the Midianite cities; and take the women and children captive and the cattle and property as spoils.


Moses reacts strongly to the captives taken, saying the women were the ones most responsible for leading the Israelites to sin! He orders the execution of all male children and all women old enough to have been with a man, allowing the girls to live. He divides the spoils between the fighting forces and the community members who stayed behind, taking a portion from each for God. He also explains how to purify vessels accumulated from the Midianites so that they may be used by the Children of Israel.


Soon after, the soldiers approach Moses. They tell him they conducted a census and determined that not one of their number fell in battle. In great awe, they wish to offer a tribute to God in exchange for the souls He spared. The gift consists of gold vessels and jewelry.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

The Torah tells us why Moses orders the women to be executed. Why do you think he has the boys killed, as well?

Comments ( 8 )

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  • Judith

    The young boys were killed because they carried the seed of the inheritance of their culture which would spread like wildfire as they came into young adults. The mothers trained the boys in their early years to hate Ysr'al. Moses knew only too well that the mixing of cultures would lead to infidelity with the worship of other deities – just like Mitzrayim.

  • Yoel

    Am I too profane to say too easy to blame others (women and medianites) for the sins that you (as individuals) have committed? They might have lured you, you had a choice to sin or not… killing them and not addressing your own behavior will not prevent the same problem from happening again in future similar circumstances…

  • Herman Arentsen

    The women who seduced men of Israel were killed and also the boys. Young girls who could not have been with a man were kept alive. The boys could take revenge at a later age hearing of the fate of their mothers. Moreover the brood of a serpent will be a serpent. So to protect Israel against it in the future, these precautions had been taken. The very young girls had been divided among the tribes. I read that in the division of the land they even received a part allotted to them.

    • Angela B

      I agree with you Herman on the young boys growing up to take revenge for their parents — fighting Yisrael in the future.

  • Phyllis Pearson

    My first thought was of the older women. A woman can turn a smoldering fire into an inferno with her tongue, perhaps that is why they were killed, to stop an angry bitter tongue turn a young boy into a vengeful man, bent on retribution.
    And the young boys, well they would have grown with anger in their spirit, and cried out for vengeance when older. Even without being coerced by another voice. Diana's point about the corruptable seed was really good.

  • Doreen Poole

    I thought that maybe the boys, so they would not grow up and war against Isreal.

  • Tsivya Fox

    This sounds plausible. Good thinking.

  • Diana Brown

    To stop the corruption of seed? These boys and women were unrepentant to HaShem for the damage/injury they incurred upon their brothers as Abraham was also their forefather. Is this correct?

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