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13. Vows, Vengeance, and Vows

August 14, 2009

Text:      Numbers 30:1-32:42

Outline:           I. Vows Made by Women               Numbers 30:1-16

II. God’s Vengeance Against the Midianites      Numbers 31:1-20

III. Just Distribution of the Spoils      Numbers 31:21-54

IV. Vows Made by Three Tribes      Numbers 32:1-42


Moses addresses Israel’s leaders and states “When a man makes a vow or pledge to the Lord, he must keep it”. Consider some of the vows recorded in Scripture such as Hannah, Samuel, Sampson, David, the prophets, Nehemiah, the disciples, Paul, Ananias and Sapphira, and even Jesus in choosing to humble Himself to come to earth and die for our sin. Consider the vow you have made to Christ; to follow Him and be His faithful disciple.

Women are singled out in this passage because God created woman to help man. God’s organizational order is God, man, and woman. Woman is not inferior to man but she has been blessed with a different and special role and, therefore, subject to special rules. When a young woman makes a vow it can be nullified by her father or her husband upon marriage immediately upon hearing it. If not nullified immediately, it stands and she is obligated to fulfill her vow. Any vow taken by a widow or divorced woman must be fulfilled because there is no man caring for her. When a married woman takes a vow it can be nullified immediately by her husband when he hears of it. However, if he says nothing, it stands. In other words, woman is subject to man and the unity defined in marriage given in Genesis 2 includes the sharing on ones heart with one another. See Ephesians 5 for further clarification.

God has one last campaign for Moses to lead before he dies and that is to exercise God’s vengeance upon the Midianites. Moses asks for and sends 1000 armed Israelites from each tribe plus Phineas [with sanctuary articles and signaling trumpets] into battle against the Midianites. They fought and killed all the men, captured the women and children, took all their herds and flocks, and burned down their towns. All the plunder and the women and children were presented to Eleazar, the High Priest. All the leaders plus Moses and Eleazar greeted the returning army outside the camp. Moses becomes angry when seeing the women because they were the reason many Israelites turned away from the Lord and died. Moses orders all the boys killed and all the women killed, except those who were virgins, to complete the Lord’s vengeance upon the Midianites. All the men who killed or even touched a dead body were required to stay outside the camp for 7 days and fulfill the rites of purification [red heifer rite of Numbers 19]. Any of the plunder that could withstand fire is to be put through fire for cleansing before being washed with water. Articles that cannot stand fire must be put through water for cleansing. After 7 days and washing all their clothes, they could return to camp.

The leaders of Israel are to count the people and the animals which were captured and divide the spoils among those who fought and the whole Israelite community; a 50/50 split. One of every 500 animals or persons given to the fighters goes to Eleazar, the High Priest because they belong to the Lord. One of every 50 persons and animals given to the Israelites that did not fight were to be given to the Levites because they are responsible for the care of the Tabernacle. Note the exact accounting in the text. The leaders of the army took a count and learned that no Israelite was lost in battle so they brought an offering of precious metal to Eleazar for the Lord which totaled 16,750 shekels.

Next the tribes of Reuben and Gad approach Moses and Eleazar and ask to stay on the east side of the Jordan where it was good grazing land for their animals.  Moses questions their motives suggesting that they don’t want to fight for their Promised Land and are attempting to discourage the other tribes from entering similar to what happened 40 years earlier at Kadesh Barnea. Moses tells them that if they leave Israel now they are sinners responsible for the destruction of Israel. The leaders of Reuben and Gad propose to build pens for their livestock and cities for their families AND go with the rest of Israel to fight for the Promised Land. They promise to fight to the end but not take any inheritance from the west side of the Jordan. Moses agrees with their proposal. Moses relays this information to all Israel so all know the status of Reuben and Gad’s commitment. Manesseh also joined in the agreement with Reuben and Gad so they settled in the cites they had previously destroyed, renamed them, and refortified them for their families.


1. Israel is God’s chosen people who committed themselves to obey God’s laws and glorify His Name. They are to be holy, Godly, and righteous before the nations. The chain of command is clear; God, man, and woman. This does not mean an authoritarian or tyrannical relationship but one of understanding and unity for what is righteous and best. The lesser in the chain of command always has the right to question and be a part of a pro/con discussion. Moses did this on many occasions. It’s just that someone always has the final say. Men, don’t take advantage of women but respect their view point. Then submission will not be a reason for disunity but a reason for unity. The definition of Godly submission is different than that for “worldly” submission. See I Peter 3:7.

2. Those who lead others astray are subject to quick destruction. This is true throughout history. God jealously protects those who belong to Him and are committed to serving Him. God protects, redeems, and restores His people. God destroys those who sin against Him and who would lead others astray.

3. Those who volunteer or who are appointed to serve others in His Kingdom and who fight for the Lord to make His promises real receive a greater reward. Identify them and reward them now. Note God’s justness in dividing the spoils and reward His workers accordingly.

4. We have all been called to serve. Do not breach your contract. Persevere in your faith and serve faithfully all your life.

5. Always take time to support and encourage God’s people and their work on His behalf. Be selfless and not selfish. Give generously in the support and encouragement of others. Battle with them and do not shirk your responsibility of doing God’s Will.

6. God’s justness requires that sin be removed and sinful behavior be punished.

7. As Christians, we commit to follow God and persevere so as to faithfully fulfill our responsibilities and obligations, submitting to the wisdom of God.


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