Moses and the Midianites
God’s treatment of Midian in Number 25 seems harsh, but we need to understand that a serious spiritual battle was going on. If the spiritual powers of evil had been able to win this one, God’s plans for Israel would have been seriously set back. The background information relevant to this issue can be found in Old Testament Violence and God and War. My book called Kingdom Authority is important too.
The Passover and the crossing of the Red Sea was an not just a military victory, it was an important spiritual victory. The Egyptians chased the Israelites out of their land. Spiritual powers were not interested in slaves, so they had ignored the Israelites. So when they were shut out of the land, they were mostly evil-spirit free. God wanted them to stay that way.
The attacks by Sihon of the Amorites and Og of Bashan were military attacks. With the Lord’s help, the people were able to defend themselves and defeat the attackers.
Numbers 22-25 describes a much more serious battle. The Midianites with support of the Moabites launched a spiritual attack against the children of Israel. They first bought in a prophet called Balaam and paid him to put a curse on the Israelites. However, Balaam was slightly honest, and open to the Lord’s voice. When the Lord told him to bless Israel and not to curse them he did as he was told. When Balaam had completed his last oracle/prophecy, it seemed like the Lord has achieved a mighty victory over the spiritual powers of evil that controlled Midian (Num 23-24).
Unfortunately, these spiritual powers had another trick up their sleeve (Num 25). They sent attractive Moabite and Midianite women to seduce the Israelite men. One of the women was a daughter of one of the leading men of the Midianites (Num 25:15)Then once they had engaged in sexual immorality, they persuaded them to join in the worship of Baal of Peor, an evil spiritual power. This incident was not just an orgy that got out of control. It was an intense spiritual attack. When they committed adultery and worshipped Baal of Peor, they gave the Cosmos Dominator that controlled this false god and the spirits that worked with him permission to enter their lives and control them. This would have been a disaster, because Israel would have gone from being relatively evil-spirit free to being controlled by powerful spirits.
Because Jesus had not yet died on the cross, Moses did not have the ability to cast these demonic powers out. So God had to do the only thing that he could do to defeat the spiritual powers. He told Moses to kill the leaders of the people who had committed adultery and expose them in daylight. Once these men had died, the evil spirit that had entered them left and went back to where they had come from. The people of Israel stayed away from them to keep spiritually false.
The spiritual powers of evil over-reacted and attacked the rest of the people who had sinned with a pestilence/plague. Once these 24000 had died, these spirits had to leave them, because the rest of the people had chosen to stay loyal to God, so they could not enter their lives.
God told the Israelites to treat the Midianites harshly. This is not the way he likes working, but he had to deal with a situation where his plans were under threat due to an intense spiritual attack. He said to Moses,
Harass the Midianites, and attack them; for they harassed you with their tricks by which they seduced you in the matter of Peor and in the matter of Cozbi, the daughter of a leader of Midian (Num 25:17-18).
Moses was not just defending the people of Israel against a military attack. He was dealing with a clever spiritual attack, with very few spiritual weapons, because he was operating prior to cross when the spiritual powers of evil had not yet been defeated. His people were being spiritually harassed. They only way that he could deal with this was to use physical force against the leaders who had made the people vulnerable to this attack.
God then told Moses to engage in war against the Midianites (Num 31:1-2). They would be living close to the Israelites and would continue to be a spiritual threat to the Israelites. The last thing did before he died was to organise a battle against the Midianites. They killed the kings of Midian and the women who had tried to seduce them into the ways of evil.
After the battle, the men who had fought had to cleanse themselves to protect themselves from picking up evil spirits (Num 31:19-24). Eleazer, the priest, told them what to do. Any soldier who killed anyone, or had touched anyone who was killed had to remain outside the camp for a week. On the third and the seventh day, they had to purify themselves and their clothing. They did this to ensure that they did not carry any evil spirits back into the camp.
Any gold, silver, bronze, iron tin and lead that they had captured had to be passed through a fire. This burning purified the metal and ensured that evil spirits did not come into the camp on the metal that had been used to make idols.
This battle was one of the few which was not started in response to a physical attack. However, it was a defensive battle. It was fought to overcome a serious spiritual attack that put God’s purposes for Israel at risk. Harsh tough action was needed because the threat was serious, and the consequences of losing were terrible.
Since the cross, we have powerful weapons for dealing with the spiritual powers of evil. So we no longer need to engage in this kind of war. Christians who use war for spiritual purposes have failed to understand the cross. We now use spiritual weapons for resisting spiritual attacks.
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