God’s Hatred of Evil
The Midianites had lured the Israelites into the sexually immoral worship of Baal of Peor (see Numbers 25). As Moses’ last act of leadership, God calls him to lead the people to destroy the temptation-nation.
God’s warriors fight to victory—but an incomplete one. Infuriated, Moses realizes that the warriors have spared the Midianite women—the source of the sinful seduction. He orders God’s warriors to finish the job. They do.
As Israel approaches the promised land, the tribes of Reuben and Gad find that the land east of God’s promised border is good for livestock and appeal to Moses to let their tribes settle there. Initially, Moses refuses. It appears that the two tribes are repeating the sin of the ten spies—faithlessly abandoning Israel’s mission outside of the promised land. After the tribal leaders assure Moses that they’ll fight with Israel until the promised land is fully taken, Moses reverses his decision.
Moses shares his list of the campsites that the nation has visited in their 40-year wandering. And God issues his conquering command: “Completely drive out the people in the promised land so they do not lead you astray.”
The King’s Heart
The Midianites worshiped their idol through sexual acts. And somehow, while the Israelites were passing through on their way to the promised land, they began to participate in this type of idol worship.
It was evil. And God couldn’t let his people become heart-captive to sex-idol gods. The Midianites had be destroyed.
Moses was angry when he learned that the army had left the women alive. It was the women who had seduced Israelite men into idol worship. He gave new orders: Kill all of the women who had been sexually active (and most likely had participated in the idolatry), but Moses instructed the army to let the virgins live. As a result of Moses’ command, the young girls would be freed from the entrapment of sex worship. They would become a part of God’s people. Their family lines would be grafted into God’s family line. And they would have the opportunity to know and love the one true God who had given them a fresh start.
It was impossible for Balaam to curse Israel, but we discover in Numbers 31:16 that he was the one responsible for counseling the women of Moab and Midian to lure the Israelite men into idol worship. In a way, he did curse Israel by getting them to fall into dark idolatry. So Balaam was killed with the rest of the Midianites (see Numbers 31:8).