Friday, February 18, 2011

New Year: Nm 31-33 for Feb 18

The battle rules of Israel against Midian were those of hostile action against them (Numbers 25:17), in which Israel occupied the moral high ground due to Midianite war tricks using a female secret agent (25:18), told in general terms just earlier (25:1; 25:6; cf. 31:3). Moses's advice (31:17-18) was evidently a shock, going contrary to the activities of the "officers of the army" (31:14), whose memory was very short and needed refreshing (31:16).

What about the war against Canaan, itself? We have been prepared ever since Genesis 9:25-27 for things to tanspire between Canaan-land and the descendants of Shem. But Genesis, while explicit about Canaan, was less so about the wars that would come with the Canaanites (cf. Gen 15:16-21).

That text in Genesis was prophetic of that which occured in Numbers 21:1-3. Therefore this destruction also occupies the moral high ground, by a slightly different path. First of all, God announced it hundreds of years earlier, in Gen 15:16-21, that there would be a taking over in response to Canaanite iniquity. Secondly, as to specifics, the king of Arad initiates the Canaanite conflict with Moses and Israel, and is explicitly identified as "the Canaanite" in 21:1.

Moses's last campaign is against Midianites (31:2). As we have seen, he is very strict regarding how the rules of battle would have to be followed, and he prevailed (31:25-54) even as a lame-duck general, whose designate replacement had already been chosen (27:15-23). Look at Numbers 31:50ff. That is a conscious allusion to the leadership of Moses then, compared to Aaron earlier (Ex 32:1ff). "Rings" in both places, but put to far different use (Ex 32:3; Nm 31:50). A different generation, with a different set of leaders (31:49-54; cf. 16:2).

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