The king of Moab (Midian) was not finished with the Israelites, though Balaam was unable to curse them. Though he could not render a curse from a higher authority, he could render a curse just the same. The curse Balaam plagued Israel with was with the curse of intimacy (C-25). The Lord dealt with this in a way that was truly catastrophic for the Midianites. Israel took its army (12,000 men) and entirely destroyed the Midianites army (31:6-7). The destruction was complete and the “booty” to be gained by such a victory was great (31:32-41).
This chapter has raised a moral problem. Was this war of extermination justified by the Lord Himself? If so, how can this be morally justified when one considers that the innocent were killed and virgin females were considered “booty” to the men? These are hard questions that need to be addressed. This has prompted some to think that God has involved Himself in a moral failing – why kill the innocent? The questions are hard enough that some have looked upon this as not at all being historical. In my view, the foundation to be in place before any reasonable answer can be given to these hard questions is the singular foundation of God. In other words, since God is the Creator of life, it is His to determine when life is to be extinguished. The very existence of life (your life), is because God, in His mercy, has allowed you to live, and thus read this. Building upon this, then, one can give plausible answers to what actually took place, especially in regard to the innocent. Regardless of the reasonableness of the answer that one attains, there will be some who will not accept it (that is why it is called a reasonable answer, not dogmatic). In the end, though, we have to leave it with one who knows the only correct (singular) answer … while, at best, we speculate.
Application: Moral questions and comments are brought up continually. For instance, in today’s headline Senator Grassley said that leaving our children with a mounting debt is a moral issues (June 29, 2011). What makes it a moral issue? The point is not to negate any morality surrounding the topic, but to encourage another to think hard on what is the basis of one’s morality.