Numbers 31:19 – 32:42

Sunday Evening Bible Study

May 10, 1998


The Israelites are right on the verge of entering into their Promised Land.

They’ve spent the last 40 years, wandering in the wilderness as God has been transforming them from a bunch of complaining slaves, into a lean, mean, fighting machine.

In response to God’s orders, they have just come off victorious in fighting the Midianites, a group of people who had been responsible for leading the nation into idolatry and immorality at Beth Peor.

Numbers 31

:19-24 Purification from uncleanness

:19 purify both yourselves

There would be an uncleanness that would come as a result of all the killing.

Even a just war has its price.

On the other hand, though they were unclean, they were not judged as murderers and put to death.

There's a difference between murder and war in God's eyes.

(Exo 20:13 KJV) Thou shalt not kill.

Some have taken this to mean that war is wrong.

But the Hebrew word is ratsach, which means specifically "murder", not just a general "killing".

EXO 20:13 (NAS) "You shall not murder.

:23 through the fire ... through the water

This was the two ways that the things take as spoil were to become cleansed.

If anything could stand being in the fire, it would go through the fire.

Whatever could not stand the fire without being burned up would be passed through the water.

In this way everything that was unclean would become clean.

It's kind of the same with our lives (excuse me is I become a little mystical here)

We're the spoils of war. We belong to the Victor, Jesus Christ. He's won us fair and square.

He's in the business of taking His spoils and making them clean.

The fire and water He uses are the trials in our lives.


Trials work to cleanse us

They take us through the process of going from unclean to clean

(1 Pet 1:6-7 KJV) Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: {7} That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:

Gold is "proven", or refined by intense heat. The heat melts the ore, and the impurities, or dross, come to the surface where the goldsmith can scoop it out.

The goldsmith knows when the gold is pure when he can see his own reflection in the liquid gold.

Lesson #2:

God's cleansing won't destroy us.

(Isa 43:1-2 KJV) But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. {2} When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.

God will take us through the flood and the fire, but we won't be destroyed in the process!

The flood won't drown you, the fire won't scorch you.

But they will cleanse you!

:24 ye shall wash your clothes on the seventh day

Here's a great message from God:

Do your laundry once a week! Hah!

:25-31 Dividing the spoil

:27 divide the prey

The spoil was divided between those who went out to war (the 12,000), and the rest of the nation

:28 levy a tribute unto the LORD

The booty was to be counted, and God would be given a portion of the spoil.

From the men of war, Eleazar the priest would receive a small portion.

From the rest of the congregation, the Levites would receive a greater portion.


Acknowledge God in your victories.

Give credit where credit is due!

Who gave the victory in the first place?

:32-41 Amount of spoil for the warriors

:35 thirty and two thousand persons in all

These 32,000 virgin women would have become servants then of Israel.


How many people was that? That's a lot of people! And that's just the virgin women!

I don't think it unlikely that the Midianite army might have been at least equal to the same number.

Yet Israel only fought with 12,000 men (see Num.31:5).


You and God is a majority

It doesn't take much when God's on your side.

PSA 34:7 The angel of the \Lord\ encamps around those who fear Him, And rescues them.

:42-47 Division of spoil for congregation

:43 the half that pertained unto the congregation

But how come they get some of the spoil when they didn't do any of the fighting?

David had a similar experience in the battle to recover Ziklag. (1Sam.30)

The Amalekites had raided the city while David and his men were gone. They took all the women, children, everything.

In pursuing the Amalekites, some of the guys couldn't keep up, so they stayed back with the supplies. When it came time to divide up the spoil, some of the men didn’t think it right that those who stayed behind get anything.

1SA 30:23-25 Then David said, "You must not do so, my brothers, with what the \Lord\ has given us, who has kept us and delivered into our hand the band that came against us. 24 "And who will listen to you in this matter? For as his share is who goes down to the battle, so shall his share be who stays by the baggage; they shall share alike." 25 And so it has been from that day forward, that he made it a statute and an ordinance for Israel to this day.


Even those who stay behind share the spoil

You may not be able to go out into the front lines of the mission field.

You may not be gifted in street evangelism or be able to pull off a Harvest Crusade.

You may not be able to counsel all the brokenhearted that come into the church for help.

But when you support, pray for, and encourage those who do, you share in the spoil (the rewards in heaven!)!

:48-54 Thank offering to God from the spoil

:52 sixteen thousand seven hundred and fifty (16,750) shekels

Equivalent to 420 pounds, or 6720 ounces.

Worth several millions dollars (one Bible says $32,160,000!)

They offered it up to the Lord "to make atonement" (vs.50)

They were more concerned about being right with God than keeping the big time money!

:49 there lacketh not one man of us


Vengeance is safest in God's hands.

God had commanded Moses to take His vengeance on the Midianites. It wasn't Moses' idea, it was God's.

And as a result, no Israelite soldiers lost their lives in the battle.

Keep in mind, there were only 12,000 Israeli warriors against at least 30,000 Midianite warriors.

The problem is that we often take vengeance into our own hands, and then it gets kind of messy.

At one point in his life Moses took vengeance into his own hands –

ACT 7:24 "And when he saw one {of them} being treated unjustly, he defended him and took vengeance for the oppressed by striking down the Egyptian.

Moses ended up spending forty years in the wilderness, fleeing from Pharaoh, all because he took vengeance into his own hands.

Let God take care of it.

Sometimes He will direct you to do something appropriate.

Sometimes He wants you to just drop it.

Numbers 32

:1-5 Reuben & Gad are content to stay east

:1 the land of Jazer, and the land of Gilead

This was the land to the east and north of Canaan. The land they had conquered from Sihon and Og.

:3 Ataroth, and Dibon, and Jazer...

These are names of some of the cities that Israel had conquered.

:5 bring us not over Jordan

They were happy where they were.

The land of Gilead was just fine for their needs.

They couldn't see letting all this fine grazing land go to waste.

Were they supposed to have this land? NO!

Were they out of God's will in taking this land as opposed to land on the other side of the Jordan? YES!

How can I say that this land wasn't their Promised Land?

Moses was told he would never make it into the Promised Land.

(Num 20:12 KJV) And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.

He would get to see it, but not go in.

(Num 27:12-13 KJV) And the LORD said unto Moses, Get thee up into this mount Abarim, and see the land which I have given unto the children of Israel. {13} And when thou hast seen it, thou also shalt be gathered unto thy people, as Aaron thy brother was gathered.

Yet Moses was already in the land that these people wanted to stay in.

They were not in the Promised Land.

They were settling for second best. They were trying to take the easy way out.

"Hey, we've already come this far, why go any farther?"

If they went into the Promised Land, they might have to face some of those giants.

I think this is one of the biggest reasons why we are so reluctant to hold on to God's promises.

We know that it's going to get ugly at times.

But the truth is, it's also going to get beautiful as well.

Remember how God wants the spoils of war (us) to be cleansed by fire and water?

(Psa 66:10-12 KJV) For thou, O God, hast proved us: thou hast tried us, as silver is tried. {11} Thou broughtest us into the net; thou laidst affliction upon our loins. {12} Thou hast caused men to ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water: but thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place.

It's hard going through the fire and the water, but on the other side is a place of abundance!


Don't settle for "second-best".

Has God placed a challenging Promised Land before you, but you've been pretty content to just stay where you are?


The Call of the Barnyard

A flock of wild ducks were flying in formation, heading south for the winter. They formed a beautiful V in the sky, and were admired by everyone who saw them from below. One day, Wally, one of the wild ducks in the formation, spotted something on the ground that caught his eye. It was a barnyard with a flock of tame ducks who lived on the farm. They were waddling around on the ground, quacking merrily and eating corn that was thrown on the ground for them every day. Wally liked what he saw. "It sure would be nice to have some of that corn," he thought to himself. "And all this flying is very tiring. I'd like to just waddle around for a while." So after thinking it over a while, Wally left the formation of wild ducks, made a sharp dive to the left, and headed for the barnyard. He landed among the tame ducks, and began to waddle around and quack merrily. He also started eating corn. The formation of wild ducks continued their journey south, but Wally didn't care. "I'll rejoin them when they come back north in a few months, he said to himself. Several months went by and sure enough, Wally looked up and spotted the flock of wild ducks in formation, heading north. They looked beautiful up there. And Wally was tired of the barnyard. It was muddy and everywhere he waddled, nothing but duck doo. "It's time to leave," said Wally. So Wally flapped his wings furiously and tried to get airborne. But he had gained some weight from all his corn-eating, and he hadn't exercised his wings much either. He finally got off the ground, but he was flying too low and slammed into the side of the barn. He fell to the ground with a thud and said to himself, "Oh, well, I'll just wait until they fly south in a few months. Then I'll rejoin them and become a wild duck again." But when the flock flew overhead once more, Wally again tried to lift himself out of the barnyard. He simply didn't have the strength. Every winter and every spring, he saw his wild duck friends flying overhead, and they would call out to him. But his attempts to leave were all in vain. Eventually Wally no longer paid any attention to the wild ducks flying overhead. He hardly even noticed them. He had, after all, become a barnyard duck.

Sometimes we get tired of being wild ducks-followers of Jesus Christ. It's not always easy to be obedient to God and to discipline ourselves to hang in there for the long haul. When we are feeling that way, that's when Satan tempts us to "fall out of formation" and to join the barnyard ducks - the world.

But look what happened to Wally. He thought he would just "check it out" for awhile and then leave when he wanted to. But he couldn't do it. Sin is like that. Sin is a trap, and it has a way of changing us into people we don't even want to become. Eventually we lose touch with who we really are--the sons and daughters of the Most High. We become barnyard ducks.

Edited from More Hot Illustrations for Youth Talks by Wayne Rice. Copyright 1995 by Youth Specialties, Inc.

:6-15 Moses: "Don't stumble your brothers"

:7 the land which the LORD hath given them?

Again, in other words, God promised Israel the land on the other side of the Jordan, not on the eastern side.

:15 ye shall destroy all this people

Does your walk have an effect on the lives of others?

You bet.

Moses is saying that if these tribes decide not to go across the Jordan, that the other tribes will become discouraged and not want to cross either, and they will be destroyed in the process.

(Luke 17:1-2 KJV) Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! {2} It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.


Your walk affects other people.

A little leaven leavens the whole lump. Don't be the little bit of leaven in other people's lives.

:16-19 Response: "We will help our brothers"

:18 We will not return unto our houses …

They promise to stick to the deal.

They will build cities for their wives and children.

But they will go to war and fight with their brothers.

When the conquering is done, then they will go home.

:20-27 An agreement is made

:23 be sure your sin will find you out

You can't keep secrets from God.

Genesis 4 - Cain killed Abel, thought he could hide it from God

(Gen 4:10 KJV) And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground.

It is the wicked who act as though God doesn't see (read Ps.94)

(Psa 94:7 KJV) Yet they say, The LORD shall not see, neither shall the God of Jacob regard it.


God is watching!

Have you ever thought you were all by yourself and went and did something silly, only to find out that somebody was off in the corner watching you all along?

Sometimes it's real funny to watch your kids when they don't know you're watching!

God sees us. You can't hide from Him!

Charles Spurgeon:

There is a singular poem by Hood, called "The Dream of Eugene Aram" --- a most remarkable piece it is indeed, illustrating the point on which we are now dwelling. Aram had murdered a man, and cast his body into the river --- "a sluggish water, black as ink, the depth was so extreme." The next morning he visited the scene of his guilt --

"And sought the black accursed pool,

With a wild misgiving eye;

And he saw the dead in the river bed,

For the faithless stream was dry."

Next he covered the corpse with heaps of leaves, but a mighty wind swept through the wood and left the secret bare before the sun ---

"Then down I cast me on my face,

And first began to weep,

For I knew my secret then was one

That earth refused to keep:

On land or sea though it should be

Ten thousand fathoms deep."

In plaintive notes he prophesies his own discovery. He buried his victim in a cave, and trod him down with stones, but when years had run their weary round, the foul deed was discovered and the murderer put to death.

David wrote,

(Psa 32:1-5 KJV) A Psalm of David, Maschil. Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. {2} Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile. {3} When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. {4} For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah. {5} I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah.

:24 do what you have promised

Do they stick to the agreement?


(Josh 22:1-4 KJV) Then Joshua called the Reubenites, and the Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh, {2} And said unto them, Ye have kept all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, and have obeyed my voice in all that I commanded you: {3} Ye have not left your brethren these many days unto this day, but have kept the charge of the commandment of the LORD your God. {4} And now the LORD your God hath given rest unto your brethren, as he promised them: therefore now return ye, and get you unto your tents, and unto the land of your possession, which Moses the servant of the LORD gave you on the other side Jordan.

So often people in the Bible make promises and then fail to keep them. Here it's refreshing to see someone keep to their commitment.

We may pick on these tribes about settling for less than the Promised Land, but at least they were people who kept their word!


Keep your word!

:28-32 The agreement is passed on to next leaders

:28 So concerning them Moses commanded Eleazar the priest …

Moses is about to go to heaven.

His tour of duty is about complete.

Before he goes, he makes sure that all the bases are covered.

He doesn't leave any loose ends.


Make good transitions

If you're switching jobs, make sure you leave your old job in good shape.

If you're switching ministries, make sure you've got someone to cover for you, and they're trained and ready to move in!

:33-42 Territory assigned to eastern tribes

:33 Moses gave unto them...

The territory is officially given to these two and a half tribes

:33 unto half the tribe of Manasseh the son of Joseph

Half tribe in the respect that they were half of Joseph's sons.

Half tribe in the respect that half of Manasseh settled on the eastern side of the Jordan, while half of Manasseh settled on the west side of the Jordan.

(Josh 17:5-6 KJV) And there fell ten portions to Manasseh, beside the land of Gilead and Bashan, which were on the other side Jordan; {6} Because the daughters of Manasseh had an inheritance among his sons: and the rest of Manasseh's sons had the land of Gilead.

These were the daughters of Zelophehad, who had earlier demanded a share of the inheritance. Their father had died in the wilderness, and they didn't think it was fair for them to loose out on the Promised Land.

I think it wonderful that these gals who fought so hard to get an inheritance in the Promised Land, didn't settle with the majority of Manasseh in Gilead, but were given a portion right in the middle of the promised land.


Hold out for the promises! Persevere!

(Heb 10:35-36 KJV) Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward. {36} For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.

You don’t have to go with the flow! You can be a trend-setter rather than a trend-follower.