This next portion is called Mattoth (Numbers 30-32), meaning “tribes.” And I’ve decided to focus on the events of Numbers 31: the destruction and plundering of the Midianites by Israel.
This chapter is another one of those that cause outrage and offence when people read the Bible. They say it proves that God is a homicidal, genocidal, brutal and bloodthirsty god, most likely dreamed up as a justification for the atrocities that a vengeful, avaricious Israel committed against their enemies – proof that history is written from the vantage point of the victor, if you will.
Of course, as mentioned at the end of the last post, it’s an eerie coincidence that a ground war should’ve started between Israel and Gaza during the week when Mattoth was the prescribed Torah portion. What’s more, the things many people are saying about present-day Israel as a result are pretty much the same things they’ve been saying about the Israel of the Bible for a long time – that they’re invading conquerors out to murder, oppress and rob their neighbours.
… I guess there really is nothing new under the sun.
But I’m writing this, first and foremost, because there’s no denying that this is a disturbing part of the Bible (I’ll talk about Gaza later). It’s disturbing to read about men, women and children being killed or taken captive, while their homes are burned and their animals and belongings are plundered by their conquerors. It’s extremely alarming that it should all have been done at God’s command, with His full approval and explicit instruction. … It goes against everything that we instinctively feel should be true about a loving God and how He wants His people to deal with outsiders.
But in past entries, I’ve dealt with controversial topics like slavery and misogyny (see The curse of Canaan, A defence of Biblical slavery, How to read the Bible: an introduction, and Of ritual impurity and women) – and proven from the Scriptures themselves that the Bible isn’t as vulgar, immoral or unreasonable as superficial readings might at first suggest. So I guess this is the next logical entry in that vein. … And in my opinion, the primary question one needs to bear in mind when reading Numbers 31 is this: how does God feel about people who stumble His children?
Because this is a chapter which makes no bones about the fact that God was very much involved in the awful fate which befell the Midianites. It challenges us head-on, really, to look at Him in a way that comprehends His character without twisting or blaspheming it – and that’s something very few people make the time and effort to do. Nevertheless, Jesus gave us a very clear picture when He said, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6).
Just before in Numbers 23:21, God had made His feelings about Israel clear when Balaam prophesied, “He has not observed iniquity in Jacob, nor has He seen wickedness in Israel.” As I wrote in The pagan personality,
In our relationship with God, our wrongs are between us and Him: once our sins are forgiven, they are also forgotten, and He will justify His own to non-believers in the clearest and most unequivocal terms, brooking no accusation or harmful intent against them.
So at this point, Israel was in right relationship with God – the 40-year exile was over; a new generation had reached maturity; the people had just defeated the Amorites; and they were now getting ready to enter Canaan. … To have come so far, and be so close to inheriting the promises of God for them, therefore, and to blow it all by committing idolatry and fornicating with pagan women – to hazard destruction by sinning so badly against Him now, so that His will for Abraham’s progeny would yet again go unfulfilled – was a very, VERY big deal.
And here’s the thing: God excuses no one. He plays no favourites. If His people sin against Him, He punishes them, and as a result of the Peor debacle, 24,000 Israelites died in a plague before any Midianites had to lose a hair on the battlefield (judgement begins, after all, at the house of God). But afterwards – anyone who’s guilty of stumbling and tempting God’s children to destruction will feel His fury, as the fury of a father whose kids have died of a drug overdose, and the blood of their dealer is now forfeit.
This is why, in Numbers 25:16-18, God said to Moses, “Harass the Midianites, and attack them; for they harassed you with their schemes by which they seduced you in the matter of Peor.” There are 2 components to that command. In Hebrew, the word that’s translated “harass”, צָרוֹר (tzaror), is written in the infinitive absolute form. This implies that the Israelites were to hold a permanent, enduring attitude of enmity toward the Midianites that would result in an active, ongoing pursuit of their distress and vexation, as opposed to a once-off conflict. And secondly, they were to attack them in an actual conflict (which took place after the plague subsided).
Now, one might think that the latter would’ve been enough to punish the Midianites. After all, their population was decimated in that war, their cities burned, and their belongings plundered. Why should God have ordered that His people hold an attitude of perpetual enmity toward them as well? … Shouldn’t forgiveness have been the order of the day once the necessary requital of bloodshed was carried out?
… Well, the answer lies with the fact that Midian’s injury of Israel was not a temporary one – unlike a war. If we go to Joshua 22:17, we see the Israelites saying to each other, “Is the iniquity of Peor not enough for us, from which we are not cleansed till this day, although there was a plague in the congregation of the Lord?” And in Hosea 9:10, centuries later, God says in His denouncing of Israel’s corruption,
I found Israel
Like grapes in the wilderness;
I saw your fathers
As the firstfruits on the fig tree in its first season.
But they went to Baal Peor,
And separated themselves to that shame;
They became an abomination like the thing they loved.
Considering the testimony of these verses, if we recall the fact that God is just and punishes measure for measure, then it becomes clear why a once-off war with Midian was not enough – it was because Midian’s offence was actually permanent. For because of them, a lasting stumbling block had been introduced into Israel. Thereafter, the lust for the idolatry and immorality of Peor would plague the nation, never being totally removed, but emerging in fits and pockets throughout its history – which is probably why Numbers 25:3 says that Israel became joined, or yoked, to Baal Peor at Acacia Grove. It’s a fit description of what happened when Israel sinned, and a logical explanation for why God’s anger was so fierce.
This is why He said, “Harass the Midianites … for they harassed you.” According to Or ha-Chaim, a prominent 18th century Moroccan rabbi, the purpose of God’s two-fold command was not merely simple revenge. Rather, the desire for immoral pleasure and pagan worship, once experienced, is very hard to eradicate. That desire is constantly in danger of reasserting itself, and the way to deal with such a danger is by making people understand that what they think is a tempting pleasure is really an enemy, a threat to their very existence. Israel therefore had to become convinced that Midian had nothing to offer them… and the way to cultivate that conviction was by seeing and treating the Midianites, ever after, as a hateful and despised people.
Of course, one can try to accuse God of being unduly harsh because of this, but that’s only if one persists in not seeing Peor worship (or any kind of idolatry, for that matter) as the abominable, destructive thing that it was. … To revisit the drug-taking analogy, anyone who’s ever had a loved one struggle with addiction will know that drugs and junkies and dealers – any sordid thing or person connected with the addict’s old life, basically – are to be recognised as inimical to their loved one’s rehabilitation, and not given any quarter whatsoever. As well, they will know the anger and consuming desire to see the destruction of every den and needle and poppy field in existence… which is about the closest comparison I can think of to illustrate how God must’ve felt, and why He would’ve sanctioned the widespread destruction of Midian which He did.
In fact, if we read Numbers 22, we see that Moab felt “exceedingly afraid” and “sick with dread” when it came to Israel. So the king consulted with Midian as to what they should do, and Midianite elders accompanied the Moabites to see Balaam. Afterwards, Numbers 25:15 states that Cozbi, the woman who successfully seduced Zimri, a head of Simeon, was the daughter of a Midianite leader. These subtle but well-placed brushstrokes of detail indicate that Moab acted primarily out of fear for their own survival, whereas Midian was far more brazen about things – not even hesitating to offer up one of their own princesses to do the dirty work of corrupting Israel… to the point where an Israelite chief completely forgot himself, and had the temerity to openly present her to his brethren in front of Moses and the entire camp. Coupled with the fact that God did not pronounce the same kind of fate on Moab which He did Midian, this indicates that Midian had the greater share of blame for what happened in Israel.
So for those who insist on seeing Numbers 31 as an indictment of God’s supposedly genocidal tendencies, their case fails (as it does in the matter of the Canaanites) if one only deigns to look at the Scriptures and consider what they actually say, rather than what an ill-informed, superficial reading might at first suggest. … God wasn’t ordering the dismantling of Midian for its own sake, as if He were some callous, capricious, vicious despot, but because Midian had purposely, remorselessly committed a grave and irreversible evil to His children – and that evil could not be allowed to go unpunished.
But to complete our examination of the matter, we also have to deal with the second and equally, if not more, troubling part of Israel’s war with Midian: the taking of plunder and captives. … How is God’s role in that respect to be justified?
Well, we start with the fact that God, as Creator, has authority and ownership over everything there is. As Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein.” It is within His purview, therefore, to give portions of that fullness to whom He wishes, and the Scriptures tell us how He tends to like going about it in verses like Proverbs 13:22, which says, “The wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous” and Job 27:13-17:
This is the portion of a wicked man with God,
And the heritage of oppressors, received from the Almighty:
If his children are multiplied, it is for the sword;
And his offspring shall not be satisfied with bread.
Those who survive him shall be buried in death,
And their widows shall not weep,
Though he heaps up silver like dust,
And piles up clothing like clay—
He may pile it up, but the just will wear it,
And the innocent will divide the silver.
This had already happened at the commencement of the Exodus, when Israel escaped their slave-masters (“Now the children of Israel had done according to the word of Moses, and they had asked from the Egyptians articles of silver, articles of gold, and clothing. And the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they granted them what they requested. Thus they plundered the Egyptians” – Exodus 12:35-36); and it will happen again when the Lord returns, as described in passages like Zechariah 14:14 (“Judah also will fight at Jerusalem. And the wealth of all the surrounding nations shall be gathered together: gold, silver, and apparel in great abundance”) and Isaiah 60:
Then you shall see and become radiant,
And your heart shall swell with joy;
Because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you,
The wealth of the Gentiles shall come to you.
Therefore your gates shall be open continually;
They shall not be shut day or night,
That men may bring to you the wealth of the Gentiles,
And their kings in procession.
Whereas you have been forsaken and hated,
So that no one went through you,
I will make you an eternal excellence,
A joy of many generations.
You shall drink the milk of the Gentiles,
And milk the breast of kings;
You shall know that I, the Lord, am your Savior
And your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.
Instead of bronze I will bring gold,
Instead of iron I will bring silver,
Instead of wood, bronze,
And instead of stones, iron.
I will also make your officers peace,
And your magistrates righteousness.
Violence shall no longer be heard in your land,
Neither wasting nor destruction within your borders;
But you shall call your walls Salvation,
And your gates Praise.
From such sections laid out in the Bible, we know that God allows men to live and work and act as they will up to a certain point in time; He has determined that people should be free to choose who they want to be and how they want to conduct their affairs… but He will also address their sins and injustices when their cup is full. So even though He allowed the Egyptians to enslave the Hebrews, He also liberated the latter in the end, and transferred the Egyptians’ accumulated wealth into their hands. He was going to do the same with the Canaanites (see The curse of Canaan for more) and He was doing this now in the case of Midian. Likewise, He will do it when Jesus returns – upon which the peoples will face a reckoning, a total reversal of national fortunes and the old world order, the like of which has never been seen, or ever will be again.
… The fact is, God is able, and free, to bless, benefit and enrich His people even (or especially) when He is judging someone’s sin. It is an exercise of His discretion and act of kindness, even as He fulfils the imperative in His divine character to administer justice. One may try to say that this is unfair, as well, but grace by nature is not about fairness in the sense that it goes beyond what is simply just. For example: Jesus was judged, but the whole world was saved as a result through the transference of His righteousness and justification. … How much more should the wealth of a wicked nation, then, pass into the hands of the innocent/righteous when they are judged – because God has grace, and is redemptive in His justice?
Though in saying all this, does it mean that believers are supposed to be brutal, greedy people attacking others for profit so long as they purport to do it in His name? … Can we honestly conclude that Numbers 31 presents just such a case, and is therefore liable to be used for justifying that kind of behaviour?
The answer is a resounding no – because if we consult the whole counsel of the word, we know that vengeance belongs to God. If He decides to use His people as instruments of judgement, as He did with Israel on the Canaanites and Midianites, then yes… it is incumbent on them to obey and act. But the crucial point of the matter is that it does hinge on Him giving the explicit command to act. Killing and plundering wantonly – before God has deemed it time or meet to punish someone in such a terrible way – is not judgement, but robbery and murder. And utterly abhorrent to Him.
The truth is, when people have been doing terrible things for a long time, or have severely wronged God’s children, they forfeit the right (in some cases even the right of their offspring) to continue living and thriving under His auspices. Whether in His own house or among the nations, God must judge sin, and that judgement can come in the form of destruction, loss of freedom, and/or removal of wealth. Moreover, the severity of said judgement depends on the level of sin: depending on how serious and protracted the wrongdoing is and/or how much harm it’s brought to God’s people, it could engender total destruction with no survivors, or certain relatively innocent segments of the population may be spared, instead of dying with the rest of their brethren; and the wealth of said people might pass on to more worthy successors, or be condemned along with their owners because of how badly tainted and repugnant by association they’ve become.
But the bottomline is, bloodshed and booty are never an end in themselves for the Lord, nor are they to be pursued for their own sake by His people. We know this because on the one hand, there were communities that were allowed to continue in Israel’s settling of Canaan (like the Kenites), and others that were to be utterly destroyed without a single coin or cow taken (like Jericho in the time of Joshua, or the Amalekites during the reign of Saul). And whenever God’s desire in this regard was not obeyed, the guilty parties were punished (e.g. the stoning of Achan in Joshua 7, or God’s rejection of Saul from being king over Israel in 1 Samuel 15).
So really, it’s always up to God to decide what kind of end should befall a nation and their belongings – the decision was never left to Israel, nor were they ever given free rein to do just what they wanted. … There were always consequences if they fell short of doing exactly what He asked, or if they went beyond what He sanctioned. Thus in the end, the final responsibility always came back to Him, and was all about Him.
In fact, when we read the Bible, it’s a curious but apparent trait of the Israelites that they hardly ever did just what God told them to. Characteristically, they tended to stop short and were never, as a rule, as thorough or obedient about things as He wanted them to be. Examples of this abound in Joshua, Kings and the prophets, e.g. they didn’t drive out all the Canaanites when they inherited the land; didn’t fully observe the Torah for most of their history; and in the case of Midian, they didn’t kill any of the women even though a good number had participated in the seduction of Peor, thereby causing a grievous plague in their own camp. … So really, more often than not, Israel couldn’t rightly be accused of being ruthless, warring conquerors so much as reluctant, even half-hearted executors of His commands.
And on the rare occasion when Israel did cross the line (e.g. with Saul and the Gibeonites), it was His own people whom God judged (3 years of famine, no less, in that particular case – see 2 Samuel 21). And this is notable because the Gibeonites were actually Hivite and Amorite descendants… part of the 7 tribes Israel was supposed to purge from Canaan (see Deuteronomy 7:1-5). One would think, therefore, that if Saul killed them, it would’ve been counted as obedience to God. However, Joshua 9 tells us that Israel made a covenant with this particular group of Canaanites never to attack them – and despite the fact the covenant had been a mistake, God remembered it even though Saul didn’t. So when he violated it, God called him bloodthirsty, and David had to atone for it with the lives of Saul’s own descendants, after which God then heeded prayer for the land.
This same spirit of integrity, likewise, is seen in the fact that when Israel took plunder from her enemies, it had to be handled in a manner that was submitted to His law and character before all else. There were no shortcuts, exceptions or loopholes. If God considered certain items irredeemably contaminated, they had to be destroyed; and if not, they had to go through a process of ritual purification before entering the camp. Then a portion was tithed to God first, before being distributed among His people last of all. And the sanctificatory nature of the order in this procedure, I believe, was intended to imprint in the minds of the Israelites that whatever they possessed from their enemies was a blessing from God – it was theirs only because He had allowed it, so it was not to be mishandled or treated flippantly… and it certainly couldn’t serve as an excuse for them to stoke their own bloodlust or greed.
Additionally, if we pay proper attention to the Torah, we see that any prisoners captured by Israel were to be treated with a level of dignity which people often fail to mention where the Bible is concerned, as well. And this, too, was testament to God’s character… for just as judgement matters to Him, so does mercy (it’s just that in His justice, mercy cannot come before the imperative to judge). This can be seen in the law concerning the treatment of slaves (see A defence of Biblical slavery), and in Deuteronomy 21:10-14, on the treatment of any captive women whom Israelites might desire to be more than slaves:
When you go out to war against your enemies, and the Lord your God delivers them into your hand, and you take them captive, and you see among the captives a beautiful woman, and desire her and would take her for your wife, then you shall bring her home to your house, and she shall shave her head and trim her nails. She shall put off the clothes of her captivity, remain in your house, and mourn her father and her mother a full month; after that you may go in to her and be her husband, and she shall be your wife. And it shall be, if you have no delight in her, then you shall set her free, but you certainly shall not sell her for money; you shall not treat her brutally, because you have humbled her.
Nowhere in the Bible are the people of God ever allowed to simply use or abuse women, sexually or otherwise – not even prisoners of war. Instead, if an Israelite wanted to cohabit with a captured female, he had to make her his wife/concubine (which automatically gave her rights and protection). Not only that, he had to bring her into his home, provide for her needs while she put off her old life (as signified by the head shaving, nail trimming and change of clothes) and allow her a month-long mourning period. Then she was to live and be treated as a proper woman of the house, and if the man changed his mind about her, he had to set her free – he was not allowed to sell her or treat her as a slave because of everything she’d already been through. In fact, the Hebrew of that last injunction is extremely adamant:
וְהָיָה אִם־לֹא חָפַצְתָּ בָּהּ וְשִׁלַּחְתָּהּ לְנַפְשָׁהּ וּמָכֹר לֹא־תִמְכְּרֶנָּה בַּכָּסֶף לֹא־תִתְעַמֵּר בָּהּ תַּחַת אֲשֶׁר עִנִּיתָהּ
“And it shall be, if you do not delight in her, then you will let her go as she wishes, and selling you shall not sell her for silver; you shall not make a commodity of her seeing as you have afflicted her.
The Hebrew phrase וּמָכֹר לֹא־תִמְכְּרֶנָּה (“and selling you shall not sell her”) is very emphatic language – in English, it’d typically be translated more like, “most assuredly you shall not sell her” – and is written in the absolute infinitive form, indicating that this was something that was never, EVER to be done. … What’s more, the thing that really reaches out and grabs you when you read this verse in the Hebrew, is just how strongly God insists on the welfare of the captive woman. The language betrays great empathy and compassion, completely opposite to what many people would imagine in such a situation. … Thus even in Israel’s destruction of Midian’s males and mature women – those who, if left alive, posed the greatest threat to the nation (though a number obviously survived because the race grew strong enough again to cause Israel further grief in the book of Judges) – some comfort can at least be derived from the knowledge that once the terrible judgement was completed, those who remained were not allowed to be mistreated by their captors.
… And lest we forget, most importantly of all: none of these things had to befall the Midianites in the first place. The only reason it did, was because they participated in an intentional campaign to entice and destroy Israel through sin. If they hadn’t, they quite likely would’ve been left alone because they were not among the 7 tribes appointed to destruction by God. … And in an eerie parallel to current events, the same could be said of the war with Gaza: so many people are talking about the disproportionality of the conflict and how the women, children and innocent civilians of Gaza are suffering, but the fact is, it’s the Gazans themselves who voted Hamas into power – Hamas, who, bent on Israel’s annihilation, fired thousands of rockets across the border, eliciting Operation Protective Edge. … Without the incitement of that unrelenting and intolerable threat, Israel would have had no reason or desire to initiate any kind of military operation; but like the Bible’s critics of old, the world is blind to the one-sidedness of their interpretation of the situation.
And interestingly, the parallel doesn’t end there. Apart from Numbers 31, the Midianites are featured mainly in 2 other places in the Bible: the sale of Joseph, and the story of Gideon. And it’s my opinion that these passages paint a prophetic picture of what will happen to Israel especially in the end times… so I’d like to close this very long post, at last, with an analysis of what that might be.
Judges 6 says:
Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord. So the Lord delivered them into the hand of Midian for seven years, and the hand of Midian prevailed against Israel. Because of the Midianites, the children of Israel made for themselves the dens, the caves, and the strongholds which are in the mountains. So it was, whenever Israel had sown, Midianites would come up; also Amalekites and the people of the East would come up against them. Then they would encamp against them and destroy the produce of the earth as far as Gaza, and leave no sustenance for Israel, neither sheep nor ox nor donkey. For they would come up with their livestock and their tents, coming in as numerous as locusts; both they and their camels were without number; and they would enter the land to destroy it. So Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites, and the children of Israel cried out to the Lord.
And it came to pass, when the children of Israel cried out to the Lord because of the Midianites, that the Lord sent a prophet to the children of Israel, who said to them, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘I brought you up from Egypt and brought you out of the house of bondage; and I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of all who oppressed you, and drove them out before you and gave you their land. Also I said to you, “I am the Lord your God; do not fear the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell.” But you have not obeyed My voice.’”
In my view, the Midianites are representative of the enemies of Israel whom God will judge in the last day. The name Midian, in fact, is thought to mean “strife” from the noun מָדוֹן (madhon), or “place of judgement” from the root דִין (deen) – both of which are applicable to Midian’s role and place in Scripture. And in the opening paragraphs of the story of Gideon, one indeed sees shadows of many last-day details as set out in the word, e.g. the 7 years which the Antichrist will confirm, in his power, with Israel (Daniel 9:27); those in Judea hiding in the mountains when they see the abomination of desolation (Matthew 24:15-16); an Antichrist army of innumerable confederate multitudes descending on the land of Israel to plunder and destroy it (Ezekiel 38:10-16); and God-appointed prophets admonishing Israel during her time of suffering (Malachi 4:5, Revelation 11:3).
But more telling than that is the way the story ends, as set out in Judges 8:
Then Gideon went up by the road of those who dwell in tents on the east of Nobah and Jogbehah; and he attacked the army while the camp felt secure. When Zebah and Zalmunna fled, he pursued them; and he took the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and routed the whole army. …
And he said to Zebah and Zalmunna, “What kind of men were they whom you killed at Tabor?” So they answered, “As you are, so were they; each one resembled the son of a king.” Then he said, “They were my brothers, the sons of my mother. As the Lord lives, if you had let them live, I would not kill you.” … So Gideon arose and killed Zebah and Zalmunna, and took the crescent ornaments that were on their camels’ necks. …
Then Gideon said to [the men of Israel], “I would like to make a request of you, that each of you would give me the earrings from his plunder.” For they had golden earrings, because they were Ishmaelites. So they answered, “We will gladly give them.” And they spread out a garment, and each man threw into it the earrings from his plunder. Now the weight of the gold earrings that he requested was one thousand seven hundred shekels of gold, besides the crescent ornaments, pendants, and purple robes which were on the kings of Midian, and besides the chains that were around their camels’ necks. …
Thus Midian was subdued before the children of Israel, so that they lifted their heads no more.
As a God-appointed judge of humble beginnings who later accomplished great victory over Israel’s enemies, Gideon was a type for the Messiah. And these closing paragraphs contain shadows, as well, of what will happen in the last days – specifically, what Christ will do when He returns at the time of Israel’s great distress, e.g. He’ll come upon the Antichrist army when they’re not expecting it and defeat them; He’ll take the deaths of His brethren very personally and avenge their blood; He’ll kill the army’s 2 principal leaders (the Antichrist and the false prophet); gather the riches of His enemies; and decisively destroy those enemies so they never rise to power again. … But the most notable detail in the story, to my mind, is the fact the princes of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, are recorded as wearing crescent ornaments.
The crescent is of course a symbol of the religion of Islam, and when you think about the fact that Israel is now surrounded by Muslim neighbours who call for her destruction (including the Palestinians), the story becomes extremely pointed, prophetically. Link that to Psalm 83, which talks about an end-time confederacy of nations coming to wipe out Israel, and the message is positively lanceolate:
Deal with them as with Midian…
Make their nobles like Oreb and like Zeeb,
Yes, all their princes like Zebah and Zalmunna,
Who said, “Let us take for ourselves
The pastures of God for a possession.”
O my God, make them like the whirling dust,
Like the chaff before the wind!
As the fire burns the woods,
And as the flame sets the mountains on fire,
So pursue them with Your tempest,
And frighten them with Your storm.
Fill their faces with shame,
That they may seek Your name, O Lord.
Let them be confounded and dismayed forever;
Yes, let them be put to shame and perish,
That they may know that You, whose name alone is the Lord,
Are the Most High over all the earth.
This tells us that it’s no accident there’s a war going on between Israel and Gaza right now. It’s a war rooted in ancient spiritual enmity between the God of Israel and the god of the nations that surround Israel – a war that goes beyond mere geo-politics or tribal feudalism, which will culminate in an invasion of nations (including Gaza/Palestine) against Israel that will precipitate the Lord’s return (see Zechariah 14) – an invasion whose leaders will be wearing as their symbol, like the Midianite princes of old, the crescent moon.
And what’s even more revealing, is the fact the Midianites are referred to as Ishmaelites in the story of Gideon. Midian was not a descendant of Ishmael, of course, but his half-brother (both were born to the secondary wives of Abraham, Hagar and Keturah), but I believe this is at least partly a reference to the fact that Israel’s enemies will be of the same spirit as Ishmael (jealousy/enmity) and under his spiritual leadership (Islam was founded by Ishmaelite descendants). And this association, interestingly, occurs only 1 other time in Scripture: in the sale of Joseph.
Now we know that Joseph was yet another type for the Messiah (see the opening paragraphs of this post for more), and Genesis 37:28 tells us that he was sold by his brothers into the hands of Midianites, who took him to Egypt (where he eventually rose to prominence and power). … Parallel this to Yeshua’s life, and we see that He was likewise sold by His brethren into the hands of the Romans, who crucified Him (and facilitated the means by which His name would later be spread to all nations). So in a nutshell, Yeshua was given into the hands of the people who would eventually afflict Israel with a great destruction; and when we consult the historical records of Josephus and Tacitus, it’s revealed that the 4 Roman legions that were under Titus during the siege of Jerusalem in AD 70 were recruited from the eastern portion of the Roman empire, with the general breakdown of their nationalities being as follows:
- Legio X Fretensis: Turkey, Syria
- Legio XV Apollinaris: Syria
- Legio XII Fulminata: eastern Turkey, Syria
- Legio V Macedonica: Serbia, Bulgaria
The legion, in particular, that went through the city’s wall breach and set fire to the Temple was known as X Fretensis (the Tenth Legion). They were the ones who actually pulled down the Temple and made the Temple Mount its new base. And when we examine the smaller units, or cohorts, that made up this particular legion, we find that they in turn came from these more specific locations and populations:
- Thracum: Syria (Syrians)
- IV Cohort Thracia: Bulgaria and Turkey (Turks)
- Syria Ulpia Petraeorum: Petra in Edom (Nabatean Arabs)
- IV Cohort Arabia (Arabs)
Thus while the people who destroyed the Temple were Roman citizens, they were not primarily of European descent – they actually came from the ethnic groups living in the region around Israel during the first century (for more on this, please see Walid Shoebat’s book, God’s War on Terror, pages 349-353). And not surprisingly, these people are, today, overwhelmingly Muslim.
It’s extremely interesting therefore that Genesis would mention, even in passing, a Midianite/Ishmaelite connection in the sale of Joseph… as if the text was giving us a furtive peek at who would primarily be involved with Israel, again, during the period of Joseph’s antitype in the first century AD – an eerie testament to the highly patterned nature of prophetic history, if you will. And it explains why, in Daniel 9:26, it says, “The people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary”; the prince who is to come is of course the Antichrist, and the Scriptures are telling us that it was going to be his people – people who shared his ethnic/spiritual lineage – who would destroy the Temple during the time of Christ. … And it is these same people who will surround Israel, again, for the final battle just before He returns.
In my opinion, none of this is a coincidence. In my view, these 3 parts of the Bible contain unmistakable hints as to what was going to happen at Christ’s first coming, what is happening to Israel now in His absence, and what will happen when He returns. The pieces fit: it all hinges on the question of who the Midianites are, and what their end is supposed to be in the eyes of God – and the Scriptures themselves tell us the answer.
… Of course, I must make the usual disclaimer that none of this is guaranteed to be absolutely correct before the confirmation of real-life fulfillment, but the way it all fits is highly interesting, right?
So that’s it for this entry. … Phew. Next up: the final portion of Numbers.