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?