The Midianites were enemies of Israel, and in Numbers 11 God tells Moses to carry out His vengeance on them. So twelve thousand Israelite men go to battle against the Midianites. They kill every single Midianite man. They burn all the towns of the Midianites. But the women and children, they keep alive, claiming them and all other plunder for themselves. Numbers 31:9 reads:
The Israelites captured the Midianite women and children and took all the Midianite herds, flocks and goods as plunder.
When the Israelites return to their camp, however, they meet Moses who is angry that the women have been kept alive. This is because in an earlier event, the Midian women had followed the advice of the wicked prophet Balaam and enticed the Israelites to be unfaithful to the Lord. So, Moses commands the Israelites to kill all the Midian boys and kill every Midian woman who was not a virgin. All other women and girls could be spared. Numbers 31:15-18 reads:
“Have you allowed all the women to live?” he [Moses] asked them. “They were the ones who followed Balaam’s advice and enticed the Israelites to be unfaithful to the Lord in the Peor incident, so that a plague struck the Lord’s people. Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.”
This must have been a very sad day – one that was filled with the shedding of blood and tears. One moment, these Midian women were living their lives, some of them with husbands and children. And then the next day, they had everything ripped from them – their homes, their fathers, their husbands, their brothers, their sons; and some of them even had their own lives ended.
1. The Midian women were casualties of war. Even though only men went to war back then, men were not the only ones who suffered from war. As we can see from the Scripture passage above, women and children also suffered greatly. The Midian women who survived were probably never the same. War still devastates today. It devastates those who go to battle and it devastates those who are left behind. It devastates minds, hearts, bodies, and nature itself.
War has become all too common in our world, but we must never think that war is God’s will. It isn’t. War kills and steals and robs us of the most sacred thing we have – life. When God created Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, He created them to live forever. He never meant for them to experience death. Death for human beings was not in His plans. In Psalm 36:9, David calls God “the fountain of life.” Jesus the Christ described Himself as “the way, the truth, and the life.” God is all about life, not death. That is why He sent His Son to defeat death once and for all so that everyone who believes in Him will never have to experience its sting.
It is easy to think that God takes sides in wars, and perhaps He does. When Joshua ‘fit the battle’ of Jericho, God was on his side, and as a result the walls came tumbling down. But when Saul went to battle against the Philistines, God was not on his side and he lost, also losing his life and the lives of his sons in the process. To use more modern events, it certainly is hard to imagine that God was on the side of the Axis powers during World War II or that He was rooting for the Confederates and the preservation of slavery during the Civil War. But the truth is, God cares about those involved in the “good side” and those involved in the “bad side” of war because God cares about people, regardless of their actions.
God cares about the survivors of war and the casualties of war, the winners and the losers, the victors and the victims. He cared about the Israelites and the Midianites. Even though God is a God of life, He understands the devastation of death. He knows what it is like to lose a loved one, to see them wounded and mutilated, and to see their dead body placed in a grave. He knows because He experienced it with His only begotten Son. He identifies with the pain of a broken heart and the emptiness that one feels when a family member or friend is gone. God is close to the brokenhearted.
Wars rage today, but they will not rage always. God has a day ready – hopefully, it is not too far off – when people all over the world will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation and no one will train for war anymore. In that day, God will save those who are crushed in spirit. He will bind up every broken heart. He will wipe away every tear from every eye. There will be no more death, no more mourning, no more crying, and no more pain.
There will be an eternal ceasefire and casualties of war will be a thing of the past.