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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Numbers 31

 

 

Verse 2

Numbers 31:2 Avenge the children of Israel of the Midianites: afterward shalt thou be gathered unto thy people.

Ver. 2. Avenge the children of Israel.] This is called the vengeance of Jehovah. [Numbers 31:3] The righteous Judge will not fail to avenge our unrighteous vexations, if we "commit ourselves to him in well doing." [1 Peter 4:19]


Verse 3

Numbers 31:3 And Moses spake unto the people, saying, Arm some of yourselves unto the war, and let them go against the Midianites, and avenge the LORD of Midian.

Ver. 3. Arm some of yourselves unto the war.] Lactantius (a) being, according to his name, a mild and gentle man, abhorred bloodshed, thought it not lawful for a just man to be a warrior, whose justice was his warfare. But this was his error; Patres legendi sunt cum venia; God bids here, Arm yourselves, &c. Indeed it is utterly unlawful for men wilfully to thrust themselves into unnecessary wars: and it is reported in the life of Augustine, that he would never pray for such. But when God sounds the alarm, as here, "Cursed is he that doeth this work of the Lord negligently: Cursed is he that keepeth back his sword from blood." [Jeremiah 48:10]


Verse 5

Numbers 31:5 So there were delivered out of the thousands of Israel, a thousand of [every] tribe, twelve thousand armed for war.

Ver. 5. Twelve thousand.] This was no great army, but they were Deo armati, with whom "there is no restraint to save by many or by few." [1 Samuel 14:6] How wondrously did God work by that handful of Hussites in Bohemia, when all Germany was up in arms against them by the Pope’s instigation! And may it not be said of that small remnant, that now fighteth the Lord’s battles in Ireland, "The Lord hath done great things for them, whereof we are glad?" Have they not been "helped with a little help indeed?" [Daniel 11:34] The more is our shame, that send them no more.


Verse 6

Numbers 31:6 And Moses sent them to the war, a thousand of [every] tribe, them and Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, to the war, with the holy instruments, and the trumpets to blow in his hand.

Ver. 6. Them and Phinehas.] Not without Joshua, the general (though not here mentioned), the mighty conqueror of all Israel’s enemies that rose up and resisted them: famous is he for his faithfulness and fortitude, In cognoscendis rebus bellicis perspicax, in agendo solers: noverat optime insidias facere, proelium committere, victoria uti, &c., as Dio saith (a) of Decebalus, king of the Daci, in Domitian’s days: i.e., Well skilled in warlike businesses, and diligent in despatching them; He knew well how to lay an ambush, worst an enemy, use a victory, &c.


Verse 8

Numbers 31:8 And they slew the kings of Midian, beside the rest of them that were slain; [namely], Evi, and Rekem, and Zur, and Hur, and Reba, five kings of Midian: Balaam also the son of Beor they slew with the sword.

Ver. 8. And Zur.] The father of Cozbi, that noble harlot. Dignitas in indigno est ornamentum in luto. Sedes prima, et vita ima, is but golden rubbish, eminent infamy, noble dishonour.

Balaam, also, the son of Beor.] {See Trapp on "Numbers 24:25"} Oh that God would cause the false prophets, and the unclean spirit (for whom they act, and by whom they are acted) to pass out of our land, according to his promise! [Zechariah 13:2]


Verse 9

Numbers 31:9 And the children of Israel took [all] the women of Midian captives, and their little ones, and took the spoil of all their cattle, and all their flocks, and all their goods.

Ver. 9. Took all the women.] The Jews are a nation, to this day noted for effeminate; and yet they hold that women are of a lower creation, made for the propagation and pleasure of man; and, therefore, they suffer them not to enter their synagogues but appoint them a gallery without. (a)


Verse 10

Numbers 31:10 And they burnt all their cities wherein they dwelt, and all their goodly castles, with fire.

Ver. 10. And they burnt all their cities.] For the same reason, perhaps, that our Henry VIII demolished so many monasteries, saying, Corvorum nidos esse penitus disturbandos, ne iterunt ad cohibitandum convolent, That the crows’ nests were to be utterly, destroyed, lest they should make further use of them again another time. (a) Or rather, lest sloth or covetousness should draw any of the Israelites to hide themselves in these nests, and neglect the Promised Land. See 6:1.


Verse 13

Numbers 31:13 And Moses, and Eleazar the priest, and all the princes of the congregation, went forth to meet them without the camp.

Ver. 13. Went forth to meet them.] As Melchisedec went forth to meet Abraham returning with victory; [Genesis 14:18] as Archbishop Hubert met our Richard I returning from the Holy Land, (as they called it,) both of them first falling to the earth, rose again and ran into each other’s arms, comforting themselves with mutual embraces, and weeping with joy. (a)


Verse 14

Numbers 31:14 And Moses was wroth with the officers of the host, [with] the captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, which came from the battle.

Ver. 14. And Moses was wroth.] For all the joy he could not but be zealous for the Lord of hosts, when he saw the train. Zeal is the cream of all the affections.


Verse 15

Numbers 31:15 And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive?

Ver. 15. Have ye saved all the women alive.] By whom ye have so lately sinned, and so lately suffered! "Keep thee far from an evil matter," [Exodus 23:7] Circa serpentis antrum positus, non eris diu illaesus, saith Isidore. We should take heed how we play about the hole of the asp, or near the den of the cockatrice. [Isaiah 11:8] Sin and temptation come both under one name in the Lord’s Prayer. To pray, "Lead us not into temptation," and yet to run upon the occasion of sin, is to thrust a finger into the fire, and then pray not to be burnt. These Israelites should have said to those Midianitish housewives, as those in Isaiah did to their idols, "Get you hence," Avaunt; they should have here been as cautous as they were in other cases. For being forbidden to make covenants with the Gentiles, they also abstained from drinking with them, because that was a ceremony used in striking of covenants, and so it might have drawn them on thereunto. Our dallying with the occasions of sin, doth usually tempt the devil to tempt us.


Verse 18

Numbers 31:18 But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.

Ver. 18. That have not known a man.] As far as they could conjecture by their age. But the way of a man with a maid, is one of Solomon’s secrets. [Proverbs 30:19] Of Rebecca it is noted, that she went for a maid, and she was so. [Genesis 24:16] But Quartilla, the strumpet in Petronius, was not ashamed to say, Iunonem meam iratam habeam, si unquam me meminerim virginem fuisse, (a) That she could not remember that ever she was a maid. And what a base slander was that cast upon our religion by an impudent Jesuit, Sylvester Petrasancta, Puellas plerumque corruptas nuptui dari in reformato Evangelio, (b) That few maids amongst us come clear to marriage.


Verse 19

Numbers 31:19 And do ye abide without the camp seven days: whosoever hath killed any person, and whosoever hath touched any slain, purify [both] yourselves and your captives on the third day, and on the seventh day.

Ver. 19. Whosoever hath killed any person.] War, though never so just, is the slaughter house of mankind, and the hell of this world. Homer brings in Mars, the god of battle, as most hated of Jupiter. Bellum per antlphrasin, quia minime bellum. "For every battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood." [Isaiah 9:5] What a strange man then was Pyrrhus, King of the Epirotes, of whom Justin reports, that he took more pleasure in fighting than in reigning! And what a hard heart had Hannibal, who, when he saw a pit full of man’s blood which he had spilt, cried out, O formosum spectaculum! O brave sight! So, O rem regiam, said Valesus, i.e., O kingly act! when he had slain three hundred persons. And what a strange hell-hag was that queen, who, when she saw some of her Protestant subjects lying dead and stripped upon the earth, cried out, The goodliest tapestry that ever she beheld! God, that he might teach his people not to have "feet swift to shed blood," tells them here of a ceremonial uncleanness, contracted by killing, though an enemy, devoted by him to destruction.


Verse 23

Numbers 31:23 Every thing that may abide the fire, ye shall make [it] go through the fire, and it shall be clean: nevertheless it shall be purified with the water of separation: and all that abideth not the fire ye shall make go through the water.

Ver. 23. And all that abideth not the fire.] We must deal with every man, saith one from this text, according to his temper; indulge them what lawfully you may. Quod tamen accipiendum est cum grano salis.


Verse 49

Numbers 31:49 And they said unto Moses, Thy servants have taken the sum of the men of war which [are] under our charge, and there lacketh not one man of us.

Ver. 49. And there lacketh not one man of us.] A wonderful work of God; a whole nation cut off with no loss at all. "This was the Lord’s own doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes." [Psalms 118:23] Surely, if the Grecians so thankfully acknowledged to their Jupiter that overthrow they gave to the Persians, by Themistocles, and called him Eλευθεριος, their deliverer, how much more might these Israelites celebrate the unparalleled goodness of their gracious God in this so unbloody a victory!


Verse 53

Numbers 31:53 ([For] the men of war had taken spoil, every man for himself.)

Ver. 53. For the men of war had taken spoil.] And kept what they caught to themselves. The Turks, when they had taken Constantinople, wondered at the wealth thereof - which the citizens would not be drawn to part with for their own preservation - and were so enriched therewith, that it is a proverb amongst them at this day, if any grow suddenly rich, to say, "He hath been at the sacking of Constantinople." (a)

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Numbers 31:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/numbers-31.html. 1865-1868.

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