The Moabites and the Midianites were both involved in luring Israel into idolatry. But why were only the Midianites punished in Numbers 25 and Numbers 31?

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Answer from wikipedia (hebrew article of חטא בעל פעור ..)

The story of sin begins with the description of fornication with the daughters of Moab: "And the people desired to commit fornication with the daughters of Moab," however, throughout the rest of the story, and especially in its mentions in Parshat Phinechas and Parshat Matot in relation to the commandment to take revenge on transgressors, the daughters of Midian are specifically mentioned: "And he brought the Midianites near to his brothers," The commentators stood by the change, and gave several explanations for it. Some say that both the daughters of Moab and the daughters of Midian were complicit in the sin, but God did not command to take revenge on the Moabites because the people of Israel had already been warned before to harm them due to their familial closeness to them, who are the sons of Lot, and therefore it was only on the Midianites that Israel was tasked with avenging God's vengeance . And some say that God did not command revenge on the Moabites because they did so out of fear of Israel, or because Israel conquered the land of Sihon, which occupied the territory from Moab, while the Midianites got themselves into a 'quarrel' that had nothing to do with them, and therefore were punished. And some say that God did not command to smite the Moabites because Ruth the Moabite, the grandmother of Jesse, the father of King David, was to be born to the Moabite people. Some say that the daughters of Moab did not seduce Israel, but the people of Israel initiated the prostitution. Whereas the Midianites tempted the people of Israel to fornicate with them, and therefore they were punished. And some say that only the daughters of Midian participated in the sin, but since they came to the land of Moab which was near the place where Israel camped, the plains of Moab, they resembled to the Israelites as Moabites.


The Moabites were kinfolk of Israel, while the Midianites were not. Moreover, God had "given" the Moabites their land, so they were not to be destroyed or driven out as with the Canaanite tribes. In Genesis, the Moabites are said to have been descended from Lot, Abraham's nephew:

The first-born [daughter of Lot] bore a son, and called his name Moab; he is the father of the Moabites to this day. (Genesis 19:37)

Lot and Abraham had agreed to separate so that their herders would have adequate grazing land for their flocks. In addition, Lot had shown great courage at Sodom in protect his angelic visitors. These facts are probably the underlying reason why God commanded Moses not to attack the Moabites and their brother tribe, the Ammonites:

And we turned and went in the direction of the wilderness of Moab. And the Lord said to me, ‘Do not harass Moab or contend with them in battle, for I will not give you any of their land for a possession, because I have given Ar to the sons of Lot for a possession.’ ...the Lord said to me, ‘This day you are to pass over the boundary of Moab at Ar; and when you approach the frontier of the sons of Ammon, do not harass them or contend with them, for I will not give you any of the land of the sons of Ammon as a possession, because I have given it to the sons of Lot for a possession.’ (Deut 2:8-19)

However, in a sense God did punish these nations in later generations, as both of them became vassals of Israel and were sometimes treated harshly by Israelite kings.

Genesis depicts Lot as giving hospitality to God's angels in Sodom and protecting them from the local men who intended them great harm. It is probably on the basis of Lot's righteousness during this crisis, together with his kinship with the Israelites, that his descendants were spared despite their having practiced idolatry.

For additional information see the Jewish Encyclopedia article on Moab

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