249 – Numbers 31 – Vengeance!

I’m going to share four verses with you that I’m convinced are not always well received by readers. Too often verses like this are either dismissed as Old Testament and therefore no longer relevant to today’s reader, or Yahweh is called into the courtroom of human justice and accused. To dismiss any passage of Scripture because it is from the Old Testament demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of God’s word. God’s word, His whole word is relevant. I’ve said more about this in previous posts.

Maybe you are thinking, “I would never put God on trial…”. I hope that’s true, but if you question His right to do certain things, if you think He can’t exact vengeance and be a loving God at the same time, then that is exactly what you are doing. You see, too often whether we mean to or not, we (metaphorically) drag Yahweh off His throne and humanize Him. We demand (at least in our thinking) that He conform to our ideas of what He should be like. 

Numbers 31:1-4

1 Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, 

2 Seek vengeance for the ⌊Israelites⌋ on the Midianites; afterward you will be gathered to your people.” 

3 Moses spoke to the people, saying, “Arm yourself from among your men for the battle, so that they will ⌊go⌋ against Midian to mete out the vengeance of Yahweh on Midian. 

4 A thousand from each tribe of every tribe of Israel you will send to battle.”

How did reading the above verses strike you? “Yahweh spoke”, what did He tell Moses? Yahweh commanded him to seek vengeance on the Midianites! Wait a second! Doesn’t God forgive? Isn’t Vengeance wrong?

Look at Romans 12:9 (LEB)

9 Do not take revenge yourselves, dear friends, but give place to God’s wrath, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the Lord

The author is quoting Deuteronomy 32:35 in this verse. Vengeance or revenge is not something for mankind to execute. However, God is fully within His rights to exercise vengeance. If we refuse to understand that Yahweh executes vengeance we will necessarily misunderstand who He is as God. How we feel about the above four verses may indicate that an adjustment needs to be made in our own hearts or understanding.

As a side note, although the Bible makes no mention of this, it is possible Moses and his wife had a hard time with vengeance against Midian because she was from Midian.

So why was Yahweh, through Moses exacting vengeance on Midian? The answer can be found back in chapter 25 of this amazing book. You may remember that Balaam the talking donkey rider was not allowed by God to curse Israel for King Balak. Balaam went around God’s will and told Balak in effect, “if you want to defeat Israel you’ll do it from within! Turn their hearts away from God and to your idols by prostituting your women!”

In incredible wickedness, King Balak, and the diviner Balaam attacked Yahweh and severely wounded Israel.

God is indeed a God of love. He is slow to anger, and in an incredible act of mercy, He extends forgiveness to us who daily offend Him with our sin. I’m sure you realize the incredible act of mercy I’m referring to is sending His dear son Jesus Christ to the cross to pay the penalty for our sin. It should have been each one of us hanging on the cross, but God hung His son there in our place.

I have heard the Hebrew word for Idol means nothing. Can you imagine? The creator of the universe, the One who redeemed us with His own blood, the One who is love denied worship and adoration for a piece of wood – something that is literally nothing?

I hope you’ll read all of the 31st chapter of Numbers. In it, you will find that Balaam, Balak, and all the kings of Midian lost their lives for their treachery!

I think it’s time we stop resisting what God does and who He is and fully submit to His Lordship. I’ve heard so many people proclaim Jesus is Lord with their lips and yet their lives are totally devoid of any evidence that it’s true in their lives.

Think about Proverbs 1:7 (LEB)

7 Fear of Yahweh is the beginning of knowledge; wisdom and instruction, fools despise.

All too often the first thing that is said about this verse is “fear means reverence” as if the sharp edge of the word of God needs to be sanded down lest it offend our sensibilities. 

When we react adversely to the word of God what’s actually happening is our hearts are pulling away from God because He has offended us by being different than we have imagined Him.

We must allow our minds and our hearts to be renewed by constantly spending time in God’s holy word.

Yahweh truly is a God to be feared! Yahweh is a good God worthy of all praise, worship, and adoration!


All Scripture quotations from Harris, W. Hall, III et al., eds. The Lexham English Bible. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012. Print.

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