Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves. Numbers 31:17-18

The true problem about this verse is a the part "for yourselves". Now, this would usually be understood as "for your pleasure". But us this understanding of "for yourselves" to rush or does it have some other meaning? Can it be interpolation or a scribal error?

How do we explain phrase "for yourselves"?

Please answer. Thanks in advance!

Note: Altough some translations say "virgins", the correct translation is "female children".

  • 1
    Keep alive for yourselves . . as maids and as servants. Possibly, as wives. I would suggest the question is prompted by your own supposition. Do you have any evidence, contextually, of what you suggest ?
    – Nigel J
    Commented Feb 9, 2020 at 15:58
  • Nigel J I am asking how do we explain the phrase ,,for yourselves". It would usually be understood as ,,for your pleasure" so I am asking how would in this passage meaning be different. I think you suppose I am an atheist. No, I am a Christian, I am just asking for an explanation.
    – curious
    Commented Feb 9, 2020 at 17:02
  • In the aftermath of a war or battle, the surviving population is usually enslaved by the winners, as a balanced choice between two other extremes (complete annihilation, which, quite literally, constitutes an overkill, and the more being, but potentially naive alternative, of setting them free, which could potentially blow up in one's face if the survivors decide to continue or reignite the war). In this case, an option in between complete annihilation and enslavement was chosen, since boys might grow up to avenge their fathers, and women might plan or harbor vengeance for their dead husbands.
    – Lucian
    Commented Mar 7, 2020 at 9:03

1 Answer 1


Did Moses allowed rape?

Only to take as their wife's

Numbers 31:17-18 (NASB)

17 "Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man intimately. 18 But all the [b]girls who have not known man [c]intimately, [d]spare for yourselves."

In the battle with the Midians the Israelites were allowed to keep alive only virgins, girls and women from among the captives.

Numbers 31:3,18, 35 (NASB)

3" Moses spoke to the people, saying, “Arm men from among you for the war, that they may [a]go against Midian to execute the Lord’s vengeance on Midian.18 But all the [a]girls who have not known man intimately, spare for yourselves.35 and of human beings, of the women who had not known man [a]intimately, all the persons were 32,000."

The Law allowed for the taking of a wife from among such parent-less female war captives.

Deuteronomy 21:10-14 (NASB)

Domestic Relations

10 “When you go out to battle against your enemies, and the Lord your God delivers them into your hands and you take them away captive, 11 and see among the captives a beautiful woman, and have a desire for her and would take her as a wife for yourself, 12 then you shall bring her home to your house, and she shall shave her head and trim her nails.

13 "She shall also remove the clothes of her captivity and shall remain in your house, and mourn her father and mother a full month; and after that you may go in to her and be her husband and she shall be your wife. 14 It shall be, if you are not pleased with her, then you shall let her go wherever she wishes; but you shall certainly not sell her for money, you shall not mistreat her, because you have humbled her."

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