Numbers 30–36: ‘Be angry, and yet do not sin’

“And Moses said to them, ‘Have you spared all the women? Behold, these caused the sons of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, so the plague was among the congregation of the LORD. Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man intimately.’” (Numbers 31:15–17 NASB)

God killed 24,000 Israelite men for their debauchery with these women. These women were willing tools in Midian and Moab’s efforts to seduce the people of Israel into idolatry. This is why they were killed.

The men of Midian used their wives to seduce the Israelites. In the dual Torah readings מטות Matot and מסעי Massei, we learn that Midian did this under the belief that they had to conquer Israel for their own long-term survival, for the sake of their sons. Hence when God tells Israel to wipe out the men, wives and young boys, he is telling them to wipe out the people complicit in Israel’s idolatry and also the reason for which they excused their idolatry.

The young boys had to be killed as well because they would be raised by their mothers to take revenge. For the safety of future generations of Israelites, these boys were also killed. If the Israelites had raised they, they would have still felt themselves as Midianites, not Israelites and would have been raised by their mothers to take revenge on the Israelites.

God is smarter than we are, he knows what the future would hold if these young boys had been allowed to grow up. Later generations of Israelites did not follow this counsel and the nation of Israel ended up experiencing more war, cultural corruption and idolatry because of it.

God decided this and God is right. We can say, “but, but, but” all we want but God is the one who knows right and wrong better than we do.

God was harsher in his judgement on the Midianites than on the Moabites. The Moabites were inhabiting the territory that God gave them and God did not want Israel to take that territory.

God does not believe in cultural relativism. He does not believe all cultures are equal and deserving of equal protection to flourish.

He has given the children of Israel a pure, monotheistic culture and He did not want the children of Israel to allow any pagan, alien culture to integrate into this culture, especially not cultures that use prostitution and child sacrifice to worship their gods.

God did not want Israel to appropriate any other cultures into their culture. They wanted Israel to become a nation that would represent Him so well that the other nations would want to worship God along with them and “appropriate” their culture and their God as their one and only culture.

Why is something right and why is something wrong. Torah gives us case studies of most of the laws that it lays out.

For example, there is a difference between a vow and an oath. The Hebrew word neder (H5088) refers to a prohibition or an obligation of oneself regarding an object. For example, you might abstain from a food that is normally clean to lose weight. We can not take a neder to refrain from something that is already against God’s law such as eating pork. We also can’t force someone else to take a neder.

Yeshua made a neder at His last Supper.

““But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”” (Matthew 26:29 NASB)

You can also make a neder to make something that is normally optional obligatory.

What the Torah calls a “binding oath” on the other hand, is based on actions. For example, a marriage is an oath, not a vow. It’s about how we treat other people and how we will act. When you say you will no longer use curse words or that you will never speak to someone again, that is an oath, not a vow. Oaths have rules.

““Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT MAKE FALSE VOWS, BUT SHALL FULFILL YOUR VOWS TO THE LORD.’ “But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is THE CITY OF THE GREAT KING. “Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. “But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.” (Matthew 5:33–37 NASB)

Don’t swear by an object that is under God’s domain. For example if you say, “I won’t talk to you until pigs fly” a tornado might come through and then there will be plenty of pigs flying.

You can’t swear by an object, an individual or anything God made. Anything beyond saying yes or no is a sin.

“‘The cities shall be to you as a refuge from the avenger, so that the manslayer will not die until he stands before the congregation for trial. ‘The blood avenger himself shall put the murderer to death; he shall put him to death when he meets him.” (Numbers 35:12, 19 NASB)

Why can fathers and husbands over rule the vows or oaths of young women or wives? There’s a spiritual lesson here. The young women and wives represent the bride of Christ. God and Messiah Yeshua can over rule vows of their creation and their bride, just as a father and a husband can overrule the vow of the child they brought into the world or the bride they have a blood covenant with.

Who is a blood avenger? It is usually the nearest male relative, such as father, son, brother, uncle, etc. The one significant difference between a blood avenger v. a hire assassin, a prosecutor or an attorney general is that the hired assassin, prosecutor or attorney general does not have the option of forgiveness or mercy. The blood avenger does. The blood avenger doesn’t have to kill if he doesn’t want to.

The blood avenger has to operate under certain rules:

  1. No hunting because that is pre-meditated.
  2. No capture which is kidnapping, that is also illegal.
  3. No assistance or lynch mob.

The blood avenger has two ways to make sure justice is done: either kill the guilty one if he happens to come upon him outside a city or refuge or wait until the court, held in a city of refuge, makes a decision of guilt.

There has to be at least two independent witnesses to a death penalty crime, if there is only one witness, that witness can’t testify. Even in Torah, sometimes a guilty person escaped human punishment but no one will escape God’s punishment.

There is no city of refuge for crimes other than murder or manslaughter.

The cities of refuge were set up based on geographic distance so that regardless of where you live in Israel, there was a city of refuge that a manslayer could realistically flee to in a short time.

The Levite cities included 1000 cubits outside the city walls for their grazing land and an additional 1000 cubits of land for their crops. This was to sustain the Levites because the Levites did not have any land inheritance.

The first letter by apostle Yochanan tells us that anyone who hates is in darkness and hatred makes you a murderer and you are guilty.

“Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” (1John 3:13–16 NASB)

When you hate your brother, you murder him in your heart. Every human goes through this. At some point in our lives, we have all unintentionally “murdered” someone in our hearts. If you hate someone, you are guilty.

“‘Be angry, and yet do not sin’ [Psalm 4:4]; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.” (Ephesians 4:26-27 NASB)

We should repent, but we still have to deal with that murder guilt. That guilt was paid by the High Priest, our High Priest is Yeshua. It is only the death of Yeshua that pays for that sin.

Yeshua said if we want forgiveness, we have to forgive.

Banner Photo: “Four men, perhaps farmers, make angry gestures while holding an axe, rifle, pitchfork and stick. They typify the traditional Western concept of an angry rural mob protesting something with the threat of violence.” Photo by Robert Couse-Baker via Creative Commons License.

Summary: Tammy. 

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