Human sacrifice to Yahweh in Numbers 31?

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Puritan Board Senior
25 The LORD said to Moses, 26 "Take the count of the plunder that was taken, both of man and of beast, you and Eleazar the priest and the heads of the fathers’ houses of the congregation, 27 and divide the plunder into two parts between the warriors who went out to battle and all the congregation. 28 And levy for the LORD a tribute from the men of war who went out to battle, one out of five hundred, of the people and of the oxen and of the donkeys and of the flocks. 29 Take it from their half and give it to Eleazar the priest as a contribution to the LORD. 30 And from the people of Israel’s half you shall take one drawn out of every fifty, of the people, of the oxen, of the donkeys, and of the flocks, of all the cattle, and give them to the Levites who keep guard over the tabernacle of the LORD." 31 And Moses and Eleazar the priest did as the LORD commanded Moses.

32 Now the plunder remaining of the spoil that the army took was 675,000 sheep, 3372,000 cattle, 3461,000 donkeys, 35 and 32,000 persons in all, women who had not known man by lying with him. 36 And the half, the portion of those who had gone out in the army, numbered 337,500 sheep, 37and the LORD’s tribute of sheep was 675. 38 The cattle were 36,000, of which the LORD’s tribute was 72. 39 The donkeys were 30,500, of which the LORD’s tribute was 61. 40 The persons were 16,000, of which the LORD’s tribute was 32 persons. 41 And Moses gave the tribute, which was the contribution for the LORD, to Eleazar the priest, as the LORD commanded Moses.

Was this human sacrifice (as some people seem to think), or were all of these given to the Levites for the Levites to enjoy...thereby making it a "tribute to the Lord". That's how I had read it, but I don't know what good Midianites would be to the Levites whose task it was to conduct the worship of God.


Puritan Board Sophomore
I consulted Jamiesson Faucett and Brown and John Gill, neither of whom say anything about human sacrifice. It appears to me from the text and the commentaries that the people were given the cattle and the people as spoils of war. The contribution to the Lord meant that the Levites and the priests who guarded the Lord's temple were to receive a portion of the spoil.

Southern Presbyterian

Puritan Board Doctor
...I don't know what good Midianites would be to the Levites whose task it was to conduct the worship of God.

They would have been their bond slaves, performing all the menial labor for them (i.e. chopping wood, carrying water, tending sheep, etc.). I would imagine that this would be quite useful for any of the Israelites.

Adam Elliott

Puritan Board Freshman
Numbers 31:7 "And they warred against the Midianites, as the LORD commanded Moses; and slew all the males."
In verses 15 through 17 all non-virgin women were put to death. The virgins were saved for the men to marry, or use as servants. I suppose it would be up to the individual man what we wanted to do.

One Cananite town tricked the Israelites into making a covenant with them and they became a slave people (no plundering or killing); in fact they called on Israel for defense when the other Cananites found out about the arrangement and attacked their city.

So mostly it is punishing the people who had displeased GOD, not arranging human sacrifices. Baal worship was a major offense because it practiced just that; sacrificing the firstborn children of it's followers.
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