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God’s Word for You

Numbers 31:7-8 Balaam is killed

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, January 19, 2022

7 They fought against Midian, as the LORD commanded Moses, and they killed every male. 8 Along with the others who were slain, they killed the kings of Midian: Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba, the five kings of Midian. They also killed Balaam son of Beor with the sword.

Later, Joshua would recount this same battle and the very same list of five kings, although he calls them “chiefs” and “princes allied with Sihon” (Joshua 13:21). The titles leaders give themselves and the titles they are remembered by are not always identical.

This battle happened either on the Plains of Moab below Mount Nebo, or on the highlands to the east and north. The text doesn’t make any hint about the location except that Israel remained in the same place afterward as they had been before, so it was nearby. Micah hints that it took place at Shittim (Micah 6:5), and Shittim is on the upper slopes of the plains as they descend to the west.

The rugged highlands are grasslands (or scrub and grass land), but receive more rain than the desert further south and east. If the battle was in the plains leading down to the Jordan, then there were many gulches or wadis to reckon with. The steep slopes and deep trenches were pits fit for massacres. Since the Israelites had fallen prey to the temptation of the Moabite women and the worship of the Baal of Peor, it’s inevitable that the Midianites would have been totally surprised by this attack. They were slaughtered by the thousands. Every male Midianite died. Israel received no casualties at all.

Among the dead was Balaam himself. Why he had not gone back to Mesopotamia yet is unclear, unless he himself fell prey to his own suggested temptation and had a dalliance with a Moabite woman. He was caught and killed with a sword (which Joshua also confirms, Joshua 13:22).

Sexual sins and false worship, adultery and idolatry, were punishable by death (Leviticus 20:10; Ezekiel 23:49) and are still punishable with eternal damnation (1 Peter 4:3-5). Paul makes the obvious conclusion when he says: Put to death your adultery and idolatry (Colossians 3:5). Better the sins die from your life than your life be given up because of those sins.

Was this war unnecessary? Not at all. Consider what was at stake. Would God’s people, which at this time were here, in this one group in this one place on earth, be in any danger from the pagans that surrounded them and who occupied the land the Lord had promised them? Absolutely. Either there was a physical (military) danger, or else there was a spiritual danger of mixing the Hebrew religion with others, or even the danger of losing the Hebrew religion altogether in the morass of pagan rituals and beliefs. True fellowship means agreement on correct doctrine, not an ecumenical blending of many beliefs into a slush of nonsense where true religion is unwelcome, oppressed, and attacked. “There are some who ignorantly deny him (Christ),” Ignatius says. “They are advocates of death and not the truth. They were not persuaded by the prophecies, or by the law of Moses, or up to now by the gospel, or even by our own sufferings” (Letter to the Smyrnaeans 5:1). Paul was more blunt: “A different gospel is no gospel at all” (Galatians 1:6-7); “Even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally damned!” (Galatians 1:8).

Again, Paul says: “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?” (2 Corinthians 6:14-15). There can only be one true doctrine concerning the creation of the world, the holy Trinity, the person of Christ, the redemption, the conversion of mankind, and so on, and whatever does not agree with this one doctrine, must necessarily be false.

In the New Testament age, this means distancing ourselves from those who preach a different doctrine. In Moses’ time, it meant war. But for us, the matter of “mark and avoid” (Romans 16:17) is for false teachers. When it comes to the sheep of heretical flocks, then things are different. If you are friends with one of those sheep, and especially if you love one, then reach out to them. Hermas (a second century theologian) said: “For he who has many such troubles is tormented by the same anguish as someone who is tortured in chains. Many people bring death down upon themselves because of such miseries, when they cannot bear them. Therefore anyone who knows of such misery in a man and does not rescue him commits a great sin, and is guilty of his very blood” (The Shepherd of Hermas Hs 10,4,3). You can’t force people to put their faith in Jesus, but you can share your faith. “Be merciful to those who doubt,” Jude says, and “snatch others from the fire and save them” (Jude 1:22,23). Hold out the grace of the Lord Jesus. Even if you are mocked and your words despised (2 Chronicles 36:16), you have offered the promise of everlasting life. You have done the work of Christ as an apostle of Christ. Your effort will be remembered by the angels and by God.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


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