Why did Moses order female virgins to be kept alive but non-virgin females and all males to be killed in Numbers 31:17-18?
Is it equal to genocide, gendercide, and/or sexual slavery?
Please explain from all aspects.
The children of Moab comprised a smaller tribe within the larger federation of tribes referred to as Midianites, or simply Midian. Earlier in the book of Numbers, we learn that the Israelites "began to play the harlot with the daughters of Moab" (25:1). Moreover, the Israelites attended the sacrifices of the Moabites, they ate among the Moabites (perhaps partaking of foods God had declared unclean), and they bowed down to the Moabites' gods, including Baal (25:2,3). God judged Israel for her harlotry, both spiritual and literal, with a plague in which 24,000 Israelites died (25:9).
As the Jewish Encyclopedia says,
The Midianite virgins you refer to (31:18) were young girls who obviously were not involved in the licentiousness and immorality associated with Baal worship. They were therefore not implicated along with the adult men and women. These virgins grew up and were given in marriage to men in Israel.
As for why the young boys of Midian were not spared, I can only guess. Remember, the nation of Israel at this time in their history lived in an age of tribal warfare. The males of the nations around them were, of course, the warriors who made life difficult for Israel. Perhaps the boys were not spared because had they been allowed to grow up they would have sought vengeance for the deaths of their family members at the hands of Israel.
YHWH is not by nature a vengeful God who strikes out capriciously and randomly at whatever people-group He feels like killing off. YHWH does not take pleasure in the death of any man or woman, boy or girl. He is longsuffering and slow to anger, plenteous in mercy. He even provided for the acceptance of sojourners and strangers into the fold of Israel if they were willing to join Israel in the worship of the one true God, YHWH.
While He may visit the iniquity of the fathers to the third and fourth generations of those who do evil (Nu 14:18 ff.; De 5:9), He also shows "lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love [Him] and keep [His] commandments" (De 5:10).
Moreover, He waited for hundreds of years to liberate His chosen people, Israel, from bondage in Egypt because "the iniquity of the Amorites had not yet reached its full measure" (Ge 15:16). When it did, it was a stench in the nostrils of a holy God, not to mention a blot on humanity.
We need not go into detail on the depths of depravity into which the polytheistic peoples of Palestine had sunk by the time their iniquity had reached its full measure. Suffice it to say, that "full measure" was unimaginably depraved and likely included such aberrant behavior as child-sacrifice, cult prostitution, bestiality, pedophilia, and more, making Sodom and Gomorrah look like a Sunday school picnic!
The immorality of the human race became so egregious in the days of Noah, that God chose to wipe out humanity, save for Noah and the seven members of his family. Was God "justified" in doing so? Here's what the Bible says about humanity in the days of Noah:
This verse is not hyperbole, but is a succinct summation of the depths to which humanity can go if left unchecked and without a moral compass. Utter annihilation of even a people guilty of heinous sins may seem to us today to be unthinkably cruel, but to a holy God it may in fact be an act of mercy and a way to purge the human race of unmitigated evil and thus safeguard succeeding generations.
The general rules for the treatment of human captives were laid out in Deut.20:10-17a:
So the war against Midian, far south of Canaan, seems to have been a special case. Numbers 25:17-18 indicates God told Moses to kill the Midianites in retaliation for their having led the Israelites into idolatry. But when the army returned with women, children, and animal booty, Moses said,
The text gives no reason for Moses’ direction to the kill the male children, though perhaps because lineage was determined patriarchally, only the girls were thought to pose no danger of producing Midianite sons who might avenge their families.(1) The general rule above, however, suggests this was not the usual concern. The text itself offers nothing more.
As for the girls, after being divvied up with the rest of the booty among the soldiers and other tribes, most of them were likely absorbed into Israelite community, perhaps in accordance with the Deuteronomic instruction for female prisoners-of-war taken as wives (Deut 21:10-14).
There remained, however, the 32 virgin girls Moses gave to Eleazer the priest as a ‘tribute’ to the Lord, literally an offering (תְּרוּמָה, H8641). Again, the text here does not explain the purpose or service for which these girls were offered, but this story – as cast centuries later by the Priestly writers – may retain echoes of human sacrifice and temple prostitution as warned against in the Law and reported, sadly, in Israelite history.
(1) Nili S. Fox, 'Numbers', The Jewish Study Bible (Adele Berlin, Marc Zvi Brettler, editors), Oxford University Press, 2004; p.345.
He killed them because of medical reasons, God is not just a spiritual being, he is a logical and intelligent being. The debauchery and sexually promiscuous acts meant that every man, teenage boy and woman had dangerous sexually transmitted diseases that they would have spread to the Israelites. He spared women, virgins and children who were disease free and so could be assimilated into the Hebrew community. It was an act of necessity not one he enjoyed.
God ordered moses to take vengeance on the Midianites, but he NEVER told moses to kill any of the children. Moses stepped beyond the letter of the command. The male children were innocent, and so should have been spared along with the female children.
In going beyond the letter of Gods command, Moses effectively became a mass murderer. I say this as a Christian....Moses became a war criminal.
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