Containing The Interval Of Thirty Eight Years.
From The Rejection Of That Generation To The Death Of Moses.
How The Hebrews Fought With Midianites, And Overcame Them.
1. Now Moses sent an army against the land of Midian, for the causes forementioned, in all twelve thousand, taking an equal number out of every tribe, and appointed Phineas for their commander; of which Phineas we made mention a little before, as he that had guarded the laws of the Hebrews, and had inflicted punishment on Zimri when he had transgressed them. Now the Midianites perceived beforehand how the Hebrews were coming, and would suddenly be upon them: so they assembled their army together, and fortified the entrances into their country, and there awaited the enemy's coming. When they were come, and they had joined battle with them, an immense multitude of the Midianites fell; nor could they be numbered, they were so very many: and among them fell all their kings, five in number, viz. Evi, Zur, Reba, Hur, and Rekem, who was of the same name with a city, the chief and capital of all Arabia, which is still now so called by the whole Arabian nation, Arecem, from the name of the king that built it; but is by the Greeks called Petra.
Now when the enemies were discomfited, the Hebrews spoiled their country, and took a great prey, and destroyed the men that were its inhabitants, together with the women; only they let the virgins alone, as Moses had commanded Phineas to do, who indeed came back, bringing with him an army that had received no harm, and a great deal of prey; fifty-two thousand beeves, seventy-five thousand six hundred sheep, sixty thousand asses, with an immense quantity of gold and silver furniture, which the Midianites made use of in their houses; for they were so wealthy, that they were very luxurious. There were also led captive about thirty-two thousand virgins. (14) So Moses parted the prey into parts, and gave one fiftieth part to Eleazar and the two priests, and another fiftieth part to the Levites; and distributed the rest of the prey among the people. After which they lived happily, as having obtained an abundance of good things by their valor, and there being no misfortune that attended them, or hindered their enjoyment of that happiness.
2. But Moses was now grown old, and appointed Joshua for his successor, both to receive directions from God as a prophet, and for a commander of the army, if they should at any time stand in need of such a one; and this was done by the command of God, that to him the care of the public should be committed. Now Joshua had been instructed in all those kinds of learning which concerned the laws and God himself, and Moses had been his instructor.
3. At this time it was that the two tribes of Gad and Reuben, and the half tribe of Manasseh, abounded in a multitude of cattle, as well as in all other kinds of prosperity; whence they had a meeting, and in a body came and besought Moses to give them, as their peculiar portion, that land of the Amorites which they had taken by right of war, because it was fruitful, and good for feeding of cattle; but Moses, supposing that they were afraid of fighting with the Canaanites, and invented this provision for their cattle as a handsome excuse for avoiding that war, he called them arrant cowards, and said they had only contrived a decent excuse for that cowardice; and that they had a mind to live in luxury and ease, while all the rest were laboring with great pains to obtain the land they were desirous to have; and that they were not willing to march along, and undergo the remaining hard service, whereby they were, under the Divine promise, to pass over Jordan, and overcome those our enemies which God had shown them, and so obtain their land.
But these tribes, when they saw that Moses was angry with them, and when they could not deny but he had a just cause to be displeased at their petition, made an apology for themselves; and said, that it was not on account of their fear of dangers, nor on account of their laziness, that they made this request to him, but that they might leave the prey they had gotten in places of safety, and thereby might be more expedite, and ready to undergo difficulties, and to fight battles. They added this also, that when they had built cities, wherein they might preserve their children, and wives, and possessions, if he would bestow them upon them, they would go along with the rest of the army. Hereupon Moses was pleased with what they said; so he called for Eleazar the high priest, and Joshua, and the chief of the tribes, and permitted these tribes to possess the land of the Amorites; but upon this condition, that they should join with their kinsmen in the war until all things were settled. Upon which condition they took possession of the country, and built them strong cities, and put into them their children and their wives, and whatsoever else they had that might be an impediment to the labors of their future marches.
4. Moses also now built those ten cities which were to be of the number of the forty-eight [for the Levites;]; three of which he allotted to those that slew any person involuntarily, and fled to them; and he assigned the same time for their banishment with that of the life of that high priest under whom the slaughter and flight happened; after which death of the high priest he permitted the slayer to return home. During the time of his exile, the relations of him that was slain may, by this law, kill the manslayer, if they caught him without the bounds of the city to which he fled, though this permission was not granted to any other person. Now the cities which were set apart for this flight were these: Bezer, at the borders of Arabia; Ramoth, of the land of Gilead; and Golan, in the land of Bashan. There were to be also, by Moses's command, three other cities allotted for the habitation of these fugitives out of the cities of the Levites, but not till after they should be in possession of the land of Canaan.
5. At this time the chief men of the tribe of Manasseh came to Moses, and informed him that there was an eminent man of their tribe dead, whose name was Zelophehad, who left no male children, but left daughters; and asked him whether these daughters might inherit his land or not. He made this answer, That if they shall marry into their own tribe, they shall carry their estate along with them; but if they dispose of themselves in marriage to men of another tribe, they shall leave their inheritance in their father's tribe. And then it was that Moses ordained, that every one's inheritance should continue in his own tribe.
(14) The slaughter of all the Midianite women that had prostituted themselves to the lewd Israelites, and the preservation of those that had not been guilty therein; the last of which were no fewer than thirty-two thousand, both here and Numbers 31:15-17, 35, 40, 46, and both by the particular command of God; are highly remarkable, and show that, even in nations otherwise for their wickedness doomed to destruction, the innocent were sometimes particularly and providentially taken care of, and delivered from that destruction; which directly implies, that it was the wickedness of the nations of Canaan, and nothing else, that occasioned their excision. See Genesis 15;16; 1 Samuel 15:18, 33; Apost. Constit. B. VIII. Ch. 12. p. 402. In the first of which places, the reason of the delay of the punishment of the Amorites is given, because "their iniquity was not yet full." In the secured, Saul is ordered to go and "destroy the sinners, the Amalekites;" plainly implying that they were therefore to be destroyed, because they were sinners, and not otherwise.
In the third, the reason is given why king Agag was not to be spared, viz. because of his former cruelty:"As thy sword hath made the (Hebrew) women childless, so shall thy mother be made childless among women by the Hebrews." In the last place, the apostles, or their amanuensis Clement, gave this reason for the necessity of the coming of Christ, that
"men had formerly perverted both the positive law, and that of nature; and had cast out of their mind the memory of the Flood, the burning of Sodom, the plagues of the Egyptians, and the slaughter of the inhabitants of Palestine,"
as signs of the most amazing impenitence and insensibility, under the punishments of horrid wickedness.