07 August 2009

The Midianite massacre: Have you saved all the women alive?

This is a bible story that everyone should know.

It begins with God telling Moses to take vengeance on the Midianites. (He doesn't say for what, but I guess it was for the sex and dinner party that brought on God's last round of killings.)

So Moses does what he's told and sends off 12,000 men led by Phinehas (the guy who stopped God from killing everyone by impaling the couple who were having sex).

First they killed every male "as the LORD commanded Moses."
And they warred against the Midianites, as the LORD commanded Moses; and they slew all the males. Numbers 31:7
Next they killed five kings,
And they slew the kings of Midian ... namely, Evi, and Rekem, and Zur, and Hur, and Reba, five kings of Midian. Numbers 31:8a
along with Balaam (the nice guy with the talking ass).
Balaam also the son of Beor they slew with the sword. Numbers 31:8b
Then they took the women and children captive, collected their animals and valuables, burned the cities, and returned to Moses.
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. Numbers 31:9
But Moses wasn't pleased. Here's what he said:
And Moses was wroth with the officers ... Have ye saved all the women alive? Behold, these caused the children of Israel ... to commit trespass against the LORD ... and there was a plague. Numbers 31:14-16
And 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
(You see, it was the Midianite women who had sex and a dinner with the Israelites. And that's what pissed God off so much. So all the non-virgin women had to be killed.)

So that's what they did. They went back and killed all the non-virgin women, keeping the 32,000 virgins alive for themselves. (I'm not sure how they separated the virgins from the non-virgins, but God probably helped out with that.)

Since there were 32,000 virgin women saved alive as booty, I figured there must have been about 200,000 killed in this episode, which would include all of the males (men, boys, babies) and non-virgin females.

God's next killing: God slowly killed the Israelite army


busterggi said...

You know, if Yahweh really wanted all those Midianites & Ammonites & Moabites, etc to worship him maybe he should have announced his presence to all of them instead of just the Jews.


I am the wise fool. said...

This is one of my favorite disgusting OT episodes. God ordains genocide. Moses is angry that the genocide wasn't complete, and then ends up making the virgins the spoils of war. Ha! The "Good Book", ha!

As for separating the virgins, the only thing I can think of was doing a hymen check on the girls. That would have taken quite some time to check 32000 women.

Or perhaps they simply went by apparent age, killing off anyone that looked old enough to have "known" a man.

What they did with the young girls probably varied from owner to owner, but I'm guessing many would have unfortunately become sexual slaves, similar to what I've discussed below:


Baconsbud said...

I am wondering if this is an endorsement of child brides. I doubt many of the virgin females were very old. Of course the christians would say it was a different time and place but I think that when they claim the bible is an instruction book that it is timeless and all is still in effect.

matt311 said...

Holy crap. Whatever happened to "God is love"?

Oh, right; he isn't. He's fictional and completely immoral.

Ritchie Annand said...

Oh my GOD - I didn't even KNOW that Balaam got skewered. I made a post ages back on that weird, weird episode of the donkey saving Balaam from the angel who was angry for... well, no good reason; all it did was reiterate the instructions Balaam was already following.

...and after all that, he was saved JUST TO BE SKEWERED?

I'm sure there's a moral lesson in there somewhere. Just let me go contract a giant drilling rig and crew so I stand a chance of being able to dig deep enough. I may hit magma.

gneek said...

Fellow atheists, please stop calling mythological persons "dumbasses" and such.
That makes you seem like you actually believe in such an entity and are simply mad at him. Guess where the whole "atheists are angry with god" argument came from.

Steve Wells said...

Ritchie Annand -- Yeah, I missed the part about Balaam, too, until wrote this post. Wasn't Balaam on God's side.

Gneek -- I agree. We should try to discuss the issues, not insult one another.

Markus Arelius said...

I wonder how many Christian women in the US, for example, have read through this particular biblical account and what they think about it?

They could probably could write it all off to the iron age misogyny of the day and even explain that these attitudes were subsequently projected on to Yahweh (God) at the time.

What I then thought about was that some Christian churches hold these little children sermons during the regular church service, where young children come up to the alter and listen to a biblical story or lesson told from the pastor/priest. Then I got to thinking: How in the world this particularly episode could be applied and used under such circumstances?

The answer is, it could and would never be applied and used.

It's good to see the contents of Bible being revealed "as is" and appropriately questioned.

Ritchie Annand said...

Wasn't Balaam on God's side.

He certainly seemed to be. From Numbers 22:20:

22:20 And God came unto Balaam at night, and said unto him, If the men come to call thee, rise up, and go with them; but yet the word which I shall say unto thee, that shalt thou do.
22:21 And Balaam rose up in the morning, and saddled his ass, and went with the princes of Moab.

Then God got angry... because Balaam did what God told him to do?

22:22 And God's anger was kindled because he went: and the angel of the LORD stood in the way for an adversary against him. Now he was riding upon his ass, and his two servants were with him.

But he got saved by his talking donkey and all. You'd think he was in the clear, but no! :)

Carl said...

I find it strange that Christians and Jews avoid even replying to this kind of stuff. Actually, maybe it isn't so weird.

I think the OT just illustrates our need to have the gods as a scapegoat for our own evil and the NT our need for the gods as a scapegoat for our own love.

And I think the latter is the worse boat to be in, if we can't love on our own, then what do we have?

Ian G. said...

Good ol' family values: genocide!

matt311 said...

Carl: It's ridiculous, isn't it? Love should be the first thing that humanity claims as its own; otherwise, how could it hold up to any self-reflection?

Brendan said...

Hey! I'm a little late, sorry about that.

Carl: Actually, Carl, the Torah was revolutionary in that it says the opposite. The other creation myths at the time held the gods responsible for evil. The Torah says that G-d made everything good, and humans fucked it up.

Steve: Balaam was an evil, genocidal man who sought to harness the power of G-d in order to destroy the Jews.

At least, that's what the Midrashim say. The Torah only says that the seduction of Baal Peor was carried out at his command.

The Midrash goes on to say that his plan was to get G-d to destroy the Jews by having them worship Baal.

The Torah still says that he was responsible for the seduction of Baal Peor.

On the matter of G-d ordained genocide, Richard Elliot Friedman writes:

"... the fearful order to kill the women and children comes from Moses... to conceive of Moses' thoughts, perhaps we must go back to the point of the Midianite seductions at Baal Peor and start asking the question of what Moses might feel when he learns that women of his wife's people are seducing the Israelites into heresy: shock, embarrassment, betrayal, fury... What humiliation might Zipporah suffer from the Israelites in the aftermath of Baal Peor? How much are both Moses and Zipporah undermined? Moses' command to eliminate the Midianite women can be conceived of as coming from the depth of his outrage and pain. Another point: The text never reports that Moses' order was carried out! There is a mention of retaining virgin women as captives, but no mention of the execution of the women who have known men or the male infants... alternatively, perhaps it is not reported simply because it is so horrible to describe."

Indeed, this is quite possibly the most gruesome story in the Bible. However, this CANNOT be considered "G-d's 27th killing". There is no mention of this being demanded by G-d.

Steve Wells said...

"...this CANNOT be considered "G-d's 27th killing". There is no mention of this being demanded by G-d."

What? The whole thing was started by God's command (what's with the hokey G-d thing, Brendan?).

"And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Avenge the children of Israel of the Midianites."

And where does the Torah say that the seduction of Baal Peor was carried out at Balaam's command?

Brendan said...

"And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Avenge the children of Israel of the Midianites."

But he did not demand the execution of the male children and women. That was at Moses' command.

"(what's with the hokey G-d thing, Brendan?)"

Meh, what can I say? I stopped writing/typing the o.

"And where does the Torah say that the seduction of Baal Peor was carried out at Balaam's command?"
Numbers 31:16 clearly says that it was at "Balaam's word".

Tom Chapin said...

Brendan, I find it amusing that you are scared to write the word "God", but you have no problem lying about the use of the letter "o".

wpnexp said...

First, the Midianites were not subject to genocide, as they go to war with Israel later in the Bible. Second, Balaam and the Midianites use woman to try to get the Israelis to depart from God. This is strait from Satan in his effort to prevent the Messiah from coming from the Jews. Women are subject to punishment here as they were used to lure the Israelis into sex and idol worship. The message is, if you mess with God, expect the worst. Had the Midianites wanted to know God, I am sure they would have been blessed.

Baconsbud said...

Wpnexp have you ever noticed that most christians are always trying to justify the bible not provide proof of its truth. You are lacking in any real proof of why you view should be accepted. You are always trying to justify but when you apply the same logic to real life you see things differently. If you don't then you are full of hate not love as youy claim.

Todd Reeder said...

I have asked people why God would kill people like in this instance and other instances. I have recieved several reasons why. Like God destroyed them because he knew they would never turn to him and worship him. God order the children and babies to be destroyed to save them from the wickedness of the people around them. God is not unjust in doing this because he doesn't owe anyone anything. They say we don't have the right to breath our next breath or wake up tomorrow. They say it is only God's grace that allows it. Another lame explanation God wanted people killed to preserve the bloodline of the Messiah. And the Israelites did not commit murder because they did what God told them to do. So it was ok. The Calvinist believe that no one can go to Heaven unless God chooses them to be saved. And if we go to hell it is because we deserve it for being sinners. So if any of those people who God ordered to be killed were no chosen to be saved they went to hell because they deserved it for being a sinner. And they had no say in the matter. And that God is not unjust in doing that because everyone deserves Hell for being a sinner. And They say God is always just. According to Calvinist God is just in someone spending eternity in hell because he chose not to save them. Because we deserve it. And God can do what he wants.