Bamidbar (Numbers): Matot > Ch 31

G-d commands Moses to take revenge against Midianites. Moses sends 12000 men, 1000 from each tribe and Phinehas the kohen.

  • The Lord spoke to Moses saying, "Take revenge for the children of Israel against the Midianites; afterwards you will be gathered to your people."
  • So Moses spoke to the people, saying, "Arm from among you men for the army, that they can be against Midian, and carry out the revenge of the Lord against Midian. A thousand for each tribe, a thousand for each tribe, from all the tribes of Israel you shall send into the army." From the thousands of Israel one thousand was given over for each tribe, twelve thousand armed for battle.
  • Moses sent them the thousand from each tribe to the army, them along with Phinehas the son of Eleazar the kohen to the army, with the sacred utensils and the trumpets for sounding in his possession.

Israelites kill every male, including Balaam and the 5 kings of Midian. They take Midianite women, children and possessions and set Midianite cities on fire.

  • They mounted an attack against Midian, as the Lord had commanded Moses, and they killed every male. And they killed the Midianite kings upon their slain: Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba, the five kings of Midian, and Balaam the son of Beor they slew with the sword. The children of Israel took the Midianite women and their small children captive, and they plundered all their beasts, livestock, and all their possessions. They set fire to all their residential cities and their castles. They took all the booty and all the plunder of man and beast. They brought the captives, the plunder, and the booty to Moses and to Eleazar the kohen and to the entire community of Israel in the camp, in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho.

Moses commands Israelites to kill adult women and their male children, because these women caused a plague to be sent on the Israelites

  • Moses, Eleazar the kohen, and all princes of the community went out to meet them, outside the camp. Moses became angry with the officers of the army, the commanders of thousands and the commanders of hundreds, who had returned from the campaign of war. Moses said to them, "Did you allow all the females to live? They were the same ones who were involved with the children of Israel on Balaam's advice to betray the Lord over the incident of Peor, resulting in a plague among the congregation of the Lord. So now kill every male child, and every woman who can be with a man you shall kill. And all the young girls who have not had relations, you may keep alive for yourselves.
  • And you, encamp outside the camp for seven days; whoever killed a person or who touched a corpse shall cleanse himself on the third and seventh day, both you and your captives. All garments, leather articles, any goat product, and every wooden article shall undergo purification." Eleazar the kohen said to the soldiers returning from battle, "This is the statute that the Lord commanded Moses. Only the gold, the silver, the copper, the iron, the tin, and the lead whatever is used in fire you shall pass through fire and then it will be clean; it must, however, [also] be cleansed with sprinkling water, and whatever is not used in fire you shall pass through water. You shall wash your garments on the seventh day and become [ritually] clean; afterwards, you may enter the camp."

G-d tells Moses how to divide the plunder (32,000 women and 808,000 animals)

  • The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, "Take a count of the plunder of the captive people and animals, you, together with Eleazar the kohen and the paternal leaders of the community. And you shall divide the plunder equally between the warriors who went out to battle and the entire congregation. And you shall levy a tax for the Lord from the soldiers who went out to battle: one soul out of every five hundred, from the people, from the cattle, from the donkeys, and from the sheep. You shall take from their half and give it to Eleazar the kohen as a gift to the Lord.
  • From the half belonging to the children of Israel you shall take one part out of fifty of the people, of the cattle, of the donkeys, of the sheep, and of all animals, and you shall give them to the Levites, the guardians of the Mishkan of the Lord." Moses and Eleazar the kohen did as the Lord had commanded Moses.

Army officers give all their plundered gold to G-d, because not one soldier in their charge has died in the battle

  • The officers appointed over the army's thousands, the commanders of thousands and the commanders of hundreds, approached Moses. They said to Moses, "Your servants counted the soldiers who were in our charge, and not one man was missing from us. We therefore wish to bring an offering for the Lord. Any man who found a gold article, be it an anklet, a bracelet, a ring, an earring, or a body ornament, to atone for our souls before the Lord.
  • Moses and Eleazar the kohen took all the gold articles from them. The total of the gift of gold which they dedicated to the Lord [amounted to] 16,750 shekels; this was from the commanders of the thousands and the commanders of the hundreds. The soldiers had seized spoils for themselves. Moses and Eleazar the kohen took the gold from the commanders of the thousands and hundreds and brought it to the Tent of Meeting, as a remembrance for the children of Israel before the Lord.

Research & Analysis
  • Moses sent them along with Phinehas the son of Eleazar the kohen to the army, with the sacred utensils and the trumpets for sounding in his possession. Kohanim participated in the army and had a special role.