Numbers 31 Commentary

Numbers 31 Commentary: Midian destroyed, Balaam is also killed.

Moses has one more task before transitioning into glory in death. Midian must be destroyed.

There is one important pick from this chapter. We have more details about Balaam. We know that immediately after Balaam’s triumphant display of integrity, the scripture recorded for us yet another downer as Israel engaged in sexual immorality. Now we know who was behind the sexual immorality that rocked the nation of Israel. Balaam must have regretted (shortly after) turning down the handsome bribe from Barak.

The last time we saw Balaam, he stood tall having refused to take a handsome fee. He had been hired to curse Israel. We know the curse was going to be fruitless. As Balaam had put it; there is no divination against Israel. The LORD had put words in Balaam’s mouth – the same way He had put words in a donkey. When the power of the LORD had waned off, Balaam returned to his usual self. He sought to curse Israel but this time using a working formula. Sexual sin is always a working formula for diverting men’s attention from their LORD to satan.

The working formula was this: tell Midian chiefs to lead Israel into sexual sin. In this way Israel would destroy herself as the LORD would not tolerate sin. It is this sin of Balaam and others that attracted punishment on Midian and Balaam himself.

So chapter 31 is a record of Midian’s punishment. It is a record of Balaam’s punishment. Importantly it is a record of success for God’s community. Midian is destroyed completely. The plunder is shared as guided by the LORD.

We can look back at the story of Balaam with a couple of highlights.

Firstly, a sin situation isn’t purposeless. Israel’s sexual immorality had the destruction of the nation for a purpose. Even today the evil one knows how to get the saint destroyed – just cause him to sin. It is a time bomb planted in the saint’s life.

Secondly when divinations and witchcraft fail, the enemy turns to vanity and sinful self-gratification. This is always a working formula for destroying saints. Empty words don’t work.  

But really chapter 31 has more. It’s a high point for Israel. It looks like we are off to a very good start. Looking at the sheep from the plunder, there was so much of it to go round the entire community – one sheep per man! Israel is enjoying herself. They are inheriting material wealth they didn’t work for, exactly as the LORD had said.

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Published by Joseph Malekani

Joseph Malekani is a born-again Christian with a strong PAOG/Baptist background. He is heavily involved in student ministry with ZAFES – an IFES movement with focus on student ministry in Zambia. He is married to Audrey and they have two lovely children.

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