In previous blog-posts I put forth that Balaam advised Midian how to corrupt Israel, bringing her out from under the protection of Yahweh, their God. The Midian leadership took measures to put Balaam’s advice into practice, so that Israel could be weakened (and managed), if not destroyed. Therefore, Israel went out to meet Midian in battle (Numbers 31:3-7) and slew all the males. The problem comes in Numbers 31:9 when Israel took all the Midianite women captive, which angered Moses (Numbers 31:14), who then told the soldiers to slay all the women who weren’t virgins (Numbers 31:17). Why kill these women. They weren’t warriors. They should be reckoned as noncombatants—shouldn’t they?
The problem with this idea is that sex was used as a weapon against Israel in an effort to weaken or destroy the nation. In order to accomplish this, Moabite women (Numbers 25:1) had to have traveled about 30 miles to where Israel was camped—remember Israel had fought with and destroyed the Amorites who came out against them. The Amorites had inhabited the towns north of Moab, but Israel cast out the noncombatants after destroying the Amorite armies, and Israel inhabited their towns. Presently, Israel was at Shittim in the Plains of Moab, poised to cross over the Jordan to enter the Promised Land. But, where did the Midianite women (Numbers 25:6, 15; 31:15-16) come from?
The Midianites were largely nomadic clans. It appears that they had recently moved from wherever they had camped to inhabit some of the cities of the Amorites recently vacated by Israel. This was not only an aggressive action in itself, but consider the fact that Midian also brought his women and children with him in this campaign! Normally, only the men participated in raids upon settlements, but the women were of particular importance in this campaign.
Consider the scope of this particular event that took place in Numbers 25. Twenty-four thousand Israelites were killed (Numbers 25:9)—presumably males (sons of Israel in Numbers 25:8; cf. all the men of Deuteronomy 4:3). Paul claims the plague destroyed 23000 (1Corinthians 10:8), which may mean that 1000 of Israel’s leaders were executed by Moses (Numbers 25:4), making the total slain—i.e. those leaders executed plus those who died in the plague—24000 (Numbers 25:9). So the leadership of both Israel and Midian were involved (Numbers 25:14-15).
Sex has been used by nations throughout the centuries in order to gain an advantage over an enemy. However, in order to involve so many as seen above, more than a few Midianite women would have had to have been active participants in this campaign, perhaps numbering up to 10000. Imagine! These women agreed to execute Balaam’s strategy to weaken or destroy Israel. Either they talked their husbands into allowing them to commit wholesale adultery or their husbands talked them into doing it for the sake of ill will toward Israel. However, no matter which is true, the campaign was facilitated by the Midianite leadership. That is, they financed the movement of the entire 5 tribal clans into an area where they could execute Balaam’s plan. This may be the most extensive use of sex as a weapon in recorded military history.
In view of these facts about the context, we are able to view Moses’ sentiment toward the women in Numbers 31:16-17 in its proper light. These women, in their own way, had acted as a military unit poised to defeat a nation toward whom they bore ill will. They acted in deceit, as though they were attracted to Israel, when from the very beginning they were poised for Israel’s destruction.
 This study is based upon a much larger study of Glenn Miller’s who hosts the Christian Think Tank website. His study can be found HERE. Although I have based my study on Glenn Miller’s, he may not fully endorse my conclusions or my interpretation of his work. The reader should consult Glenn’s studies and draw his own conclusion.