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Numbers Chapter 31
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Deuteronomy

Attacking the Midianites
31:1 God spoke to Moses, saying,
31:2 'Take revenge for the Israelites against the Midianites. Then you shall [die and] be gathered to your people.'
31:3 Moses spoke to the people, saying, 'Detach men for armed service against Midian, so that God's revenge can be taken against the Midianites.
31:4 One thousand from each of Israel's tribes shall be sent into armed service.'
31:5 From the thousands of Israel, 1000 volunteered from each tribe, [a total of] 12,000 special troops.
31:6 Moses sent forth the 1000 men from each tribe as an army along with Pinchas son of Eleazar the priest, who was in charge of the sacred articles and signal trumpets.
31:7 They mounted a surprise attack against Midian as God had commanded Moses, and killed all the [adult] males.
31:8 Along with the other victims, they also killed the five kings of Midian: Evi, Rekem, Tzur, Chur, and Reva, the five Midianite kings. They also killed Balaam son of Beor by the sword.
31:9 The Israelites took captive all the women of Midian and their children. They took as booty all their animals, all their possessions, and all their wealth.
31:10 [The Israelites] also set fire to all their residential cities and fortresses,
31:11 taking all the booty and plunder, both man and beast.
31:12 They brought the captives, the plunder, and the spoils to Moses, Eleazar the priest, and the entire Israelite community, [who were] in the Western Plains of Moab, on the Jericho Jordan.
31:13 Moses, Eleazar and all the community princes went out to greet them outside the camp.
31:14 However, Moses was angry at the generals and captains, who were the officers returning from the military campaign.
31:15 'Why have you kept all the women alive?' demanded Moses.
31:16 'These are exactly the ones who were involved with the Israelites at Balaam's instigation, causing them to be unfaithful to God in the Peor incident, and bringing a plague on God's community.
31:17 Now kill every male child, as well as every woman who has been involved intimately with a man.
31:18 However, all the young girls who have not been involved intimately with a man, you may keep alive for yourselves.
31:19 'You must now remain outside the camp for seven days. Whoever killed a person or touched a corpse must purify himself on the third and seventh days. As far as you and your captives are concerned,
31:20 every garment, every leather article, anything made of goat products, and every wooden article, must undergo such purification.'

Purification After the War
31:21 Eleazar the priest said to the soldiers returning from the campaign: This is the rule that God commanded Moses:
31:22 As far as the gold, silver, copper, iron, tin and lead are concerned,
31:23 whatever was used over fire must be brought over fire and purged, and [then] purified with the sprinkling water. However, that which was not used over fire need only be immersed in a mikvah.
31:24 You yourselves must also immerse [your bodies and] your garments on the seventh day, and you will then be clean so that you can enter the camp.

Dedicating a Portion of the Spoil
31:25 God spoke to Moses, saying,
31:26 'Together with Eleazar the priest and the community's paternal leaders, you must take an accounting of the men and animals plundered as spoil.
31:27 Then divide the plunder equally, giving half to the warriors who went out to battle and the other half to the community.
31:28 'From the soldiers who participated in the campaign, levy a tax to God consisting of one out of 500 of the humans, cattle, donkeys and sheep.
31:29 Take this from their half, and give it to Eleazar the priest as an elevated gift to God.
31:30 'From the half that is going to the other Israelites, take one part out of 50 of the humans, cattle, donkeys, sheep and other animals, and give it to the Levites who are entrusted with God's Tabernacle.'
31:31 Moses and Eleazar the priest did as God had commanded Moses.
31:32 In addition to the goods that the troops had taken as booty, the plunder consisted of 675,000 sheep,
31:33 72,000 head of cattle,
31:34 61,000 donkeys,
31:35 and 32,000 humans (women who had never experienced intimacy with a man).
31:36 The half-portion for those who went out in the army was as follows:
The number of sheep was 337,500,
31:37 and the tax for God from the sheep consisted of 675 sheep.
31:38 There were 36,000 cattle, out of which the tax for God was 72.
31:39 There were 30,500 donkeys, out of which the tax for God was 61.
31:40 There were 16,000 humans, out of which the tax for God consisted of 32 individuals.
31:41 Moses gave the tax to Eleazar the priest as an elevated gift to God, as God had commanded Moses.
31:42 The half that Moses took from the military men for the [other] Israelites as
31:43 the community's portion consisted of 337,500 sheep,
31:44 36,000 cattle,
31:45 30,500 donkeys,
31:46 and 16,000 humans.
31:47 From the humans and beasts that were the Israelites' half, Moses took one out of fifty and gave them to the Levites, who are entrusted with God's Tabernacle. [It was all done] as God had commanded Moses.
31:48 The generals and captains, who were officers over the army's divisions, approached Moses.
31:49 They said to Moses, 'We have taken a census of the warriors under our command and not a single man has been lost!
31:50 We therefore want to bring an offering to God. Every man who found any gold article [such as] and anklet, a bracelet, a finger ring, and earring, or a body ornament [wishes to bring it] to atone for our souls before God.'
31:51 Moses and Eleazar the priest took all the gold articles from them.
31:52 The entire elevated gift of gold that was offered to God [totalled] 16,750 shekels. This was given by the generals and captains.
31:53 The other soldiers, however, took their plunder for themselves.
31:54 Moses and Eleazar the priest took the gold from the generals and captains, and brought it to the Communion Tent as a remembrance for the Israelites before God.



Commentary:

Detach
  (Radak, Sherashim; Hirsch). Chalatz in Hebrew. Or, 'alert' (Targum; Saadia); 'arm' (Ibn Ezra; Ibn Janach; Septuagint); 'draft' (Yevamoth 102b); or 'mount a special force' (Malbim)

volunteered
  (Abarbanel). Or, 'were given over' (Sifri; Malbim).

as an army
  Or, ' ... along with Pinchas sons of Eleazar, the army priest' (HaKethav VeHaKabbalah). See next note.

Pinchas
  He was sent out as the priest anointed for war (Sotah 43a; Rashi). See Deuteronomy 20:2 (Yad, Melakhim 7:1). He was also the one who had begun the battle against Midian (Numbers 25:7; Rashi).

in charge
  (Sifri; Rashi). Literally, 'who had in his hand.'

sacred articles
  The ark (Sifri; Sotah 43b; Rashi). See note on Numbers 10:33. Others say that it was the priestly forehead plate (tzitz) mentioned in Exodus 28:36 (Rashi; Midrash Aggadah), or the Urim and Thumim (Exodus 28:30; Targum Yonathan). Or, 'the sacred vessels which were the trumpets' (Ralbag).

signal
  (Septuagint). Teruah in Hebrew, literally staccato.

trumpets
  See Numbers 10:9 (Midrash HaGadol). Others say that these were ram's horns (Sotah 43b; Tzafanath Paneach).

mounted a surprise attack
  (Saadia). Or, 'set themselves in battle array' (Septuagint), or, 'sieged' (Sifri). Josephus writes that the Midianites assembled an army and set up a fortified line on their borders (Antiquities 4:8:1).

adult
  (Ibn Ezra). See Numbers 31:9.

Along with...
  (Chizzkuni). Literally, 'on top of' (Rashi; cf. Midrash HaGadol).

five kings of Midian
  For each of the five Midianite nations; see note on Genesis 25:4. Also see Joshua 13:21.

Rekem
  Some say that the city Rekem, otherwise known as Kadesh and Petra, was named after him (Josephus, Antiquities 4:8:1). See note on Genesis 14:7. Also see Joshua 18:27.

Tzur
  Kazbi's father; see Numbers 25:15 (Ibn Ezra).

Balaam son of Beor
  Although he was heading home (Numbers 24:25), he went to Midian to try to collect his fee (Sanhedrin 106a; Targum Yonathan; Rashi). He felt that it was due because of the plague that had come as a result of his advice (Numbers 25:9, 31:16).

possessions
  (Septuagint). Or, 'livestock' (Targum).

wealth
  (Targum; Ibn Ezra). Or, 'and spoiled their forces' (Septuagint).

fortresses
  Or, 'fortified cities' (Ralbag). Tirah in Hebrew; see Genesis 25:16. Ezekiel 25:4, 49:23, Psalms 69:26. Or, 'palaces' (Saadia; Rashi; Ibn Janach; Ibn Ezra); 'temples' (Targum; Sifri; Rashi); 'observatories' (Malbim), 'open villages' (Septuagint).

generals and captains
  Literally, 'commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds.'

These
  (cf. Abarbanel). See Numbers, 25:3.

third and seventh days
  See Numbers, 19:12,19.

As far as you and your captives
  (Ramban). Or, 'this is true of both you and your captives.' Actually, gentiles do not become unclean upon contact with the dead (cf. Rashi). However, as soon as the prisoners were taken captive, they acquired the status of slaves, and thus had a status similar to that of true Israelites (Ralbag; cf. Sifri; Tzafanath Paneach). Some say that there were Israelite apostates included among the prisoners (Midrash Aggadah).

goat products
  Even from the horns and hooves (Sifri; Rashi).

such purification
  See Numbers, 19:18.

over fire
  This teaches that any vessels used for cooking must first be purged to remove any taint of forbidden food. If it is used for cooking with water, it must be boiled out with water (see Leviticus 6:21). If it is used directly over fire without water, it must be burned out (Targum Yonathan; Rashi). Others say that this is speaking specifically of articles used in fire without water, such as baking pans and spits (Sifri; Ramban).

sprinkling water
  Mey Niddah; see Numbers, 19:9

immersed in a mikvah
  (Targum Yonathan; Rashi). From here, the law is derived that metal vessels procured from a gentile must be immersed before they can be used (Avodah Zarah 75b). This is like a 'conversion' process, very much like the immersion of a proselyte (Yerushalmi, Avodah Zarah 5:15). Some say that this teaches that cooking vessels that are used with water need merely be purged, and not burnt out, and hence translate the verse, 'must be brought through [boiling] water' (Sifri; Ramban).

bodies and
  (Chizzkuni). See Exodus 19:10.

divide the plunder equally
  This set the pattern that any spoils would be divided equally between those who went to battle and those who remained behind to stand guard (1 Samuel 30:24; Ralbag).

one part out of 50
  This is taken as a standard for the average priestly terumah gift (Yerushalmi, Terumah 6:2). Some say that a part of the spoils must be set aside in all wars of revenge (Halakhoth Gedoloth; Tzafanath Paneach; cf. Sefer HaMitzvoth, Shoresh 3. 39a), although it is definitely not required in the case of ordinary wars (Menachoth 77b).

other animals
  Such as camels (Chizzkuni).

goods
  Inanimate goods (Rashi; cf. Midrash HaGadol; Bachya, on 31:12). Specifically, gold and silver (Lekach Tov; see Numbers, 31:53). Or, 'besides what was destroyed in the war' (Lekach Tov), or, 'besides what was eaten' (Ibn Ezra; Chizzkuni).

We
  Literally, 'your servants.' See note on Genesis 44:18.

anklet
  (Rashi; Yerushalmi, Shabbath 6:4). Etz'adah in Hebrew, from the root tza'ad, 'to walk' (Lekach Tov; Radak, Sherashim; Bachya). Or, 'arm band' from 2 Samuel 1:10 (Saadia; Ibn Ezra; Septuagint).

bracelet
  (Saadia; Rashi; Ibn Ezra). Tzamid in Hebrew, see Genesis 22:24. Or, 'chain' (Septuagint).

finger ring
  (Saadia). Tabaath in Hebrew. See Exodus 35:22.

earring
  (Saadia; Rashi; Ibn Ezra). Agil in Hebrew; see Ezekiel 16:12. (cf. Yerushalmi, Shabbath 6:4). Or, 'brassiere' (Mesekhta Kallah 1; Midrash HaGadol); or, 'bracelet' (Septuagint). However, it is possible that there is a transposition in the Septuagint, and agil should be translated as 'chain.'

body ornament
  (Saadia). Kumaz in Hebrew. Or, 'hair clasp' (Septuagint). See note on Exodus 35:22.

16,750 shekels
  837.5 pounds.





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