It’s been a long and winding road for the Israelites to wander 40 years in the wilderness. Finally, they are across the Jordan River from the Promised Land. However, God has a little housekeeping — sanctification — to do first. The Promised Land is a sacred land. God wants only righteous people living there. The current inhabitants, in God’s eyes, are idol worshipers, evil, wicked people. The Israelites must go in and conquer them and take over the land. That takes the men of fighting age that we counted in the last lesson — all of them. What happens when a couple of tribes prefer the land on the east side of the Jordan? Can they compromise with God? Should anyone try to compromise with God? Let’s dig in…..
Numbers 31 – Conquest of the Midianites
Then the Lord said to Moses, 2 “On behalf of the people of Israel, take revenge on the Midianites for leading them into idolatry. After that, you will die and join your ancestors.”
3 So Moses said to the people, “Choose some men, and arm them to fight the Lord’s war of revenge against Midian. 4 From each tribe of Israel, send 1,000 men into battle.” 5 So they chose 1,000 men from each tribe of Israel, a total of 12,000 men armed for battle. 6 Then Moses sent them out, 1,000 men from each tribe, and Phinehas son of Eleazar the priest led them into battle. They carried along the holy objects of the sanctuary and the trumpets for sounding the charge. 7 They attacked Midian as the Lord had commanded Moses, and they killed all the men. 8 All five of the Midianite kings—Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba—died in the battle. They also killed Balaam son of Beor with the sword.
9 Then the Israelite army captured the Midianite women and children and seized their cattle and flocks and all their wealth as plunder. 10 They burned all the towns and villages where the Midianites had lived. 11 After they had gathered the plunder and captives, both people and animals, 12 they brought them all to Moses and Eleazar the priest, and to the whole community of Israel, which was camped on the plains of Moab beside the Jordan River, across from Jericho. 13 Moses, Eleazar the priest, and all the leaders of the community went to meet them outside the camp. 14 But Moses was furious with all the generals and captains who had returned from the battle.
15 “Why have you let all the women live?” he demanded. 16 “These are the very ones who followed Balaam’s advice and caused the people of Israel to rebel against the Lord at Mount Peor. They are the ones who caused the plague to strike the Lord’s people. 17 So kill all the boys and all the women who have had intercourse with a man. 18 Only the young girls who are virgins may live; you may keep them for yourselves. 19 And all of you who have killed anyone or touched a dead body must stay outside the camp for seven days. You must purify yourselves and your captives on the third and seventh days. 20 Purify all your clothing, too, and everything made of leather, goat hair, or wood.”
21 Then Eleazar the priest said to the men who were in the battle, “The Lord has given Moses this legal requirement: 22 Anything made of gold, silver, bronze, iron, tin, or lead— 23 that is, all metals that do not burn—must be passed through fire in order to be made ceremonially pure. These metal objects must then be further purified with the water of purification. But everything that burns must be purified by the water alone. 24 On the seventh day you must wash your clothes and be purified. Then you may return to the camp.”Numbers 31:1-24 NLT
Next, they divide the plunder, and you can read that on your own here. You might think that this was done for the wealth, but no, it was God’s revenge. Check out Psalm 94, but the last verse says it all…
23 God will turn the sins of evil people back on them.Psalm 94:23 NLT
He will destroy them for their sins.
The Lord our God will destroy them.
That sounds clear to me!
Interesting, too, that not one Israelite died in the battle with the Midianites. Even Balaam, who had a chance, but he blew it, chasing money instead of righteousness, was killed. Since he couldn’t curse the Hebrews, He told the Midianite women to seduce the Hebrews. He, too, died the death of the wicked. Going on…
51 So Moses and Eleazar the priest received the gold from all the military commanders—all kinds of jewelry and crafted objects. 52 In all, the gold that the generals and captains presented as a gift to the Lord weighed about 420 pounds. 53 All the fighting men had taken some of the plunder for themselves. 54 So Moses and Eleazar the priest accepted the gifts from the generals and captains and brought the gold to the Tabernacle as a reminder to the Lord that the people of Israel belong to him.Numbers 31:51-54 NLT
As it turns out, not all the Midiantes were killed and later, in Book of Judges, we’ll see that they invade.
You can’t give the devil even the slightest foothold. It’s like the yeast — a tiny bit infiltrates all the dough.
Numbers 32 – The Tribes East of the Jordan River
The tribes of Reuben and Gad owned vast numbers of livestock. So when they saw that the lands of Jazer and Gilead were ideally suited for their flocks and herds, 2 they came to Moses, Eleazar the priest, and the other leaders of the community. They said, 3 “Notice the towns of Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Sibmah, Nebo, and Beon. 4 The Lord has conquered this whole area for the community of Israel, and it is ideally suited for all our livestock. 5 If we have found favor with you, please let us have this land as our property instead of giving us land across the Jordan River.”
6 “Do you intend to stay here while your brothers go across and do all the fighting?” Moses asked the men of Gad and Reuben. 7 “Why do you want to discourage the rest of the people of Israel from going across to the land the Lord has given them? 8 Your ancestors did the same thing when I sent them from Kadesh-barnea to explore the land…
13 “The Lord was angry with Israel and made them wander in the wilderness for forty years until the entire generation that sinned in the Lord’s sight had died. 14 But here you are, a brood of sinners, doing exactly the same thing! You are making the Lord even angrier with Israel. 15 If you turn away from him like this and he abandons them again in the wilderness, you will be responsible for destroying this entire nation!”
16 But they approached Moses and said, “We simply want to build pens for our livestock and fortified towns for our wives and children. 17 Then we will arm ourselves and lead our fellow Israelites into battle until we have brought them safely to their land. Meanwhile, our families will stay in the fortified towns we build here, so they will be safe from any attacks by the local people. 18 We will not return to our homes until all the people of Israel have received their portions of land. 19 But we do not claim any of the land on the other side of the Jordan. We would rather live here on the east side and accept this as our grant of land.”
20 Then Moses said, “If you keep your word and arm yourselves for the Lord’s battles, 21 and if your troops cross the Jordan and keep fighting until the Lord has driven out his enemies, 22 then you may return when the Lord has conquered the land. You will have fulfilled your duty to the Lord and to the rest of the people of Israel. And the land on the east side of the Jordan will be your property from the Lord. 23 But if you fail to keep your word, then you will have sinned against the Lord, and you may be sure that your sin will find you out. 24 Go ahead and build towns for your families and pens for your flocks, but do everything you have promised.”
25 Then the men of Gad and Reuben replied, “We, your servants, will follow your instructions exactly. 26 Our children, wives, flocks, and cattle will stay here in the towns of Gilead. 27 But all who are able to bear arms will cross over to fight for the Lord, just as you have said.”
28 So Moses gave orders to Eleazar the priest, Joshua son of Nun, and the leaders of the clans of Israel. 29 He said, “The men of Gad and Reuben who are armed for battle must cross the Jordan with you to fight for the Lord. If they do, give them the land of Gilead as their property when the land is conquered. 30 But if they refuse to arm themselves and cross over with you, then they must accept land with the rest of you in the land of Canaan.”
31 The tribes of Gad and Reuben said again, “We are your servants, and we will do as the Lord has commanded! 32 We will cross the Jordan into Canaan fully armed to fight for the Lord, but our property will be here on this side of the Jordan.”Numbers 32:1-6, 13-32 NLT
Numbers 33 is a detailed recap of the whole journey from when they escaped from Egypt through to where they are, camped across the river from Jericho. You can read it yourself here. Why the recap? Well, considering that most of this generation was born while they were wandering in the desert, they needed a history lesson. They needed to understand all that God did for them and that God led them every step of the way.
Numbers 34 – Boundaries of the Land
Here we see exactly how big the Promised Land really is. Check out the map below to see where each tribe ended up. It’s interesting that the borders described here cover way more territory than what the State of Israel is now!
Then the Lord said to Moses, 2 “Give these instructions to the Israelites: When you come into the land of Canaan, which I am giving you as your special possession, these will be the boundaries. 3 The southern portion of your country will extend from the wilderness of Zin, along the edge of Edom. The southern boundary will begin on the east at the Dead Sea. 4 It will then run south past Scorpion Pass in the direction of Zin. Its southernmost point will be Kadesh-barnea, from which it will go to Hazar-addar, and on to Azmon. 5 From Azmon the boundary will turn toward the Brook of Egypt and end at the Mediterranean Sea.
6 “Your western boundary will be the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea.
7 “Your northern boundary will begin at the Mediterranean Sea and run east to Mount Hor, 8 then to Lebo-hamath, and on through Zedad 9 and Ziphron to Hazar-enan. This will be your northern boundary.
10 “The eastern boundary will start at Hazar-enan and run south to Shepham, 11 then down to Riblah on the east side of Ain. From there the boundary will run down along the eastern edge of the Sea of Galilee, 12 and then along the Jordan River to the Dead Sea. These are the boundaries of your land.”
13 Then Moses told the Israelites, “This territory is the homeland you are to divide among yourselves by sacred lot. The Lord has commanded that the land be divided among the nine and a half remaining tribes. 14 The families of the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh have already received their grants of land 15 on the east side of the Jordan River, across from Jericho toward the sunrise.”Numbers 34:1-15 NLT
In the end of Numbers 34, Moses lists the leaders of the 12 tribes. But what about the Levites, the priests? They are next….
Numbers 35 – Land for the Levites and Cities of Refuge
While Israel was camped beside the Jordan on the plains of Moab across from Jericho, the Lord said to Moses, 2 “Command the people of Israel to give to the Levites from their property certain towns to live in, along with the surrounding pasturelands. 3 These towns will be for the Levites to live in, and the surrounding lands will provide pasture for their cattle, flocks, and other livestock… (Then the pasturelands are measured out.)
6 “Six of the towns you give the Levites will be cities of refuge, where a person who has accidentally killed someone can flee for safety. In addition, give them forty-two other towns. 7 In all, forty-eight towns with the surrounding pastureland will be given to the Levites. 8 These towns will come from the property of the people of Israel. The larger tribes will give more towns to the Levites, while the smaller tribes will give fewer. Each tribe will give property in proportion to the size of its land.”Numbers 35:1-6 NLT
Cities of Refuge
9 The Lord said to Moses, 10 “Give the following instructions to the people of Israel.
“When you cross the Jordan into the land of Canaan, 11 designate cities of refuge to which people can flee if they have killed someone accidentally. 12 These cities will be places of protection from a dead person’s relatives who want to avenge the death. The slayer must not be put to death before being tried by the community. 13 Designate six cities of refuge for yourselves, 14 three on the east side of the Jordan River and three on the west in the land of Canaan. 15 These cities are for the protection of Israelites, foreigners living among you, and traveling merchants. Anyone who accidentally kills someone may flee there for safety…Numbers 35:9-15 NLT
Jesus is Our City of Refuge!
After all this, we are reminded, as the Israelites were, that everything belongs to God. Besides that, God lives with us, just like He lived with the Israelites in the Promised Land. He lives with us in the form of the Holy Spirit!
Just like the Levites serving in every city, born-again Christians act as priests wherever they live and wherever they go. Because we have the Holy Spirit in our hearts, we are temples of the Holy Spirit. We become a scared place communing with Jesus all the time. Here are some thoughts from the Bible Study by Spoken Gospel…
Consider the cities of refuge. God is the avenger of blood who can exercise his right to put us to death. However, He provides us with a city of refuge in Jesus.
Jesus fulfills the laws about marriage and land as well. Because we are married to Jesus through faith, we will inherit the whole earth with Him when He returns!“Jesus in all of Numbers” by Spoken Gospel
Do You Want this Inheritance?
If you’re not sure if you’re saved or not, if you truly want to be born again and have the assurance of salvation, receive the Holy Spirit, and get a 1-way, non-stop ticket to Heaven after you die, or that you won’t be left behind at the Rapture, which can happen at any moment, this is what you have to do…
Believe. Repent. Be Baptized. Receive the Holy Spirit.
- Believe — have Faith — that Jesus is the Christ and He died taking your sins away forever and that He rose from the dead 3 days later.
- Repent of your sins — stop sinning! Do a complete 180 degree turn in your life and surrender your life to Him.
- Be Baptized by water baptism — show the world and yourself that you have died to your old life and are born again in Christ.
- Receive the Holy Spirit in your heart.
Check out this map to see the whole journey of the Israelites….
Soli Deo Gloria! To God Alone Be the Glory!
Top image by Sweet Publishing from FreeBibleImages.org, (CC BY-SA 3.0)