Day 68 (March 9): Vows to God are serious, victory over Midianites, dividing the spoils

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  Take the challenge.  You won’t regret it.

Numbers 30-31

Questions & Observations

Q. (Numbers 30:1-16): So the Lord expected the Israelites to keep their promises to the Lord.  What kind of vows were they talking about?  The first verses say that men must always keep their word.  However, women and girls are subject to their father or husband’s acceptance of the vow.  Why the difference between men and women?  And, boys are not mentioned.  Do they follow under the first verses of men?

A. Basically, the rule here is that vows, of any sort, were not to be made rashly, and each person was responsible for vows they made.  The only two exceptions were both for women, who were subject to the authority of their fathers (if not married) or their husbands (if they were).  These men had the authority to overturn any vow that they, as the authority over the woman, would have a hand in fulfilling.  So basically, if you were a man, a boy, or a divorced woman, you had no one to blame for your foolish vows but yourself!  No one else would be able to take responsibility for them.

Q. (31:6): Phinehas, son of Eleazar has been mentioned several times.  Should we discuss him at all?

A. Eleazar was Aaron’s son, who took over the role of High Priest when Aaron died back in chapter 20.  This makes Phinehas Aaron’s grandson, and the priest who was responsible for the killing of the man and woman who flaunted their sin in front of the Tabernacle in 25:7.  He thus becomes a person who has a great zeal for God’s holiness, and God rewards Him for this zeal.  He is mentioned again in Joshua, but this is his most prominent role.

Q. (31:9): Any idea where or when the gentleman’s rule started — the rule of fighting men, but leaving women and children unharmed?  31:17 does not make for a nice visual.

A. As far as I know, the idea of warfare being only among the men who are fighting it goes back for thousands of years.  Its the understood difference between soldiers and civilians.  Now sometimes this gets blurry, as in instances of a siege, where the entire intent is to starve out people who have blockaded themselves for protection, but generally the “rule” in question is the way that warfare has been conducted for some time.

Verse 17 is indeed pretty brutal, but there were two important reasons for Moses’ command, though they don’t soften the blow much.  The women, rather than the male soldiers, were indeed the ones who brought about the plague at Peor, and therefore it would have been risky to let them live.  The death of the boys was done in order to prevent issues with inheritance in future generations of Israelites.  Moses is attempting to prevent non-Israelites from inheriting the Promised Land in future generations.

Q. (31:32): I know it’s not important, but I have no idea how they would have accurately counted that much livestock, and girls.

A. I have no idea how they did it either.  You should always consider numbers of this sort to be rough estimates.  Keep in mind, prior to these volumes being written down, they would have been passed down generation to generation orally.  That means that having rough numbers is a more manageable system then going into specifics.  It is also possible that the number became more “rough” as the story was handed down (i.e. originally the count was 36,588 cattle, but it became 36,000 over time).

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