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Israel’s War against Midian

31 The Lord said to Moses, “Before you die, make sure that the Midianites are punished for what they did to Israel.”[a]

Then Moses told the people, “The Lord wants to punish the Midianites. So have our men prepare for battle. Each tribe will send a thousand men to fight.”

Twelve thousand men were picked from the tribes of Israel, and after they were prepared for battle, Moses sent them off to war. Phinehas the son of Eleazar went with them and took along some things from the sacred tent[b] and the trumpets for sounding the battle signal.

The Israelites fought against the Midianites, just as the Lord had commanded Moses. They killed all the men, including Balaam son of Beor and the five Midianite kings, Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba. The Israelites captured every woman and child, then led away the Midianites' cattle and sheep, and took everything else that belonged to them. 10 They also burned down the Midianite towns and villages.

11 Israel’s soldiers gathered together everything they had taken from the Midianites, including the captives and the animals. 12-13 Then they returned to their own camp in the hills of Moab across the Jordan River from Jericho, where Moses, Eleazar, and the other Israelite leaders met the troops outside camp.

14 Moses became angry with the army commanders 15 and said, “I can’t believe you let the women live! 16 They are the ones who followed Balaam’s advice and invited our people to worship the god Baal Peor. That’s why the Lord punished us by killing so many of our people. 17 You must put to death every boy and all the women who have ever had sex. 18 But do not kill the young women who have never had sex. You may keep them for yourselves.”

19 Then Moses said to the soldiers, “If you killed anyone or touched a dead body, you are unclean and have to stay outside the camp for seven days. On the third and seventh days, you must go through a ceremony to make yourselves and your captives clean. 20 Then wash your clothes and anything made from animal skin, goat’s hair, or wood.”

21-23 Eleazar then explained, “If you need to purify something that won’t burn, such as gold, silver, bronze, iron, tin, or lead, you must first place it in a hot fire. After you take it out, sprinkle it with the water that purifies. Everything else should only be sprinkled with the water. Do all of this, just as the Lord commanded Moses. 24 Wash your clothes on the seventh day, and after that, you will be clean and may return to the camp.”

Everything Taken from the Midianites Is Divided

25 The Lord told Moses:

26-27 Make a list of everything taken from the Midianites, including the captives and the animals. Then divide them between the soldiers and the rest of the people. Eleazar the priest and the family leaders will help you.

28-29 From the half that belongs to the soldiers, set aside for the Lord one out of every five hundred people or animals and give these to Eleazar.

30 From the half that belongs to the people, set aside one out of every fifty and give these to the Levites in charge of the sacred tent.

31 Moses and Eleazar followed the Lord’s instructions 32-35 and listed everything that had been taken from the Midianites. The list included 675,000 sheep and goats, 72,000 cattle, 61,000 donkeys, and 32,000 young women who had never had sex.

36-47 Each half included 337,500 sheep and goats, 36,000 cattle, 30,500 donkeys, and 16,000 young women. From the half that belonged to the soldiers, Moses counted out 675 sheep and goats, 72 cattle, 61 donkeys, and 32 women and gave them to Eleazar to be dedicated to the Lord. Then from the half that belonged to the people, Moses set aside one out of every fifty animals and women, as the Lord had said, and gave them to the Levites.

48 The army commanders went to Moses 49 and said, “Sir, we have counted our troops, and not one soldier is missing. 50 So we want to give the Lord all the gold jewelry we took from the Midianites. It’s our gift to him for watching over us and our troops.”

51 Moses and Eleazar accepted the jewelry from the commanders, 52 and its total weight was over four hundred pounds. 53 This did not include the things that the soldiers had kept for themselves. 54 So Moses and Eleazar placed the gold in the Lord’s sacred tent to remind Israel of what had happened.[c]

Land East of the Jordan River Is Settled

32 The tribes of Reuben and Gad owned a lot of cattle and sheep, and they saw that the regions of Jazer and Gilead had good pastureland. So they went to Moses, Eleazar, and the other leaders of Israel and said, 3-4 “The Lord has helped us capture the land around the towns of Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Sebam, Nebo, and Beon. That’s good pastureland, and since we own cattle and sheep, would you let us stay here east of the Jordan River and have this land as our own?”

Moses answered:

You mean you’d stay here while the rest of the Israelites go into battle? If you did that, it would discourage the others from crossing over into the land the Lord promised them. This is exactly what happened when I sent your ancestors from Kadesh-Barnea to explore the land. They went as far as Eshcol Valley, then returned and told the people that we should not enter it. 10 The Lord became very angry. 11 And he said that no one who was twenty years or older when they left Egypt would enter the land he had promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Not one of those people believed in the Lord’s power, 12 except Caleb and Joshua.[d] They remained faithful to the Lord, 13 but he was so angry with the others that he forced them to wander around in the desert forty years. By that time everyone who had sinned against him had died.

14 Now you people of Reuben and Gad are doing the same thing and making the Lord even angrier. 15 If you reject the Lord, he will once again abandon his people and leave them here in the desert. And you will be to blame!

16 The men from Reuben and Gad replied:

Let us build places to keep our sheep and goats, and towns for our wives and children, 17 where they can stay and be safe. Then we’ll prepare to fight and lead the other tribes into battle. 18 We will stay with them until they have settled in their own tribal lands. 19 The land on this side of the Jordan River will be ours, so we won’t expect to receive any on the other side.

20 Moses said:

You promised that you would be ready to fight for the Lord. 21 You also agreed to cross the Jordan and stay with the rest of the Israelites, until the Lord forces our enemies out of the land. If you do these things, 22 then after the Lord helps Israel capture the land, you can return to your own land. You will no longer have to stay with the others. 23 But if you don’t keep your promise, you will sin against the Lord and be punished.

24 Go ahead and build towns for your wives and children, and places for your sheep and goats. Just be sure to do what you have promised.

25 The men from Reuben and Gad answered:

Sir, we will do just what you have said. 26 Our wives and children and sheep and cattle will stay here in the towns in Gilead. 27 But those of us who are prepared for battle will cross the Jordan and fight for the Lord.

28 Then Moses said to Eleazar, Joshua, and the family leaders, 29 “Make sure that the tribes of Gad and Reuben prepare for battle and cross the Jordan River with you. If they do, then after the land is in your control, give them the region of Gilead as their tribal land. 30 But if they break their promise, they will receive land on the other side of the Jordan, like the rest of the tribes.”

31 The tribes of Gad and Reuben replied, “We are your servants and will do whatever the Lord has commanded. 32 We will cross the Jordan River, ready to fight for the Lord in Canaan. But the land we will inherit as our own will be on this side of the river.”

33 So Moses gave the tribes of Gad, Reuben, and half of Manasseh[e] the territory and towns that King Sihon the Amorite had ruled, as well as the territory and towns that King Og of Bashan had ruled.[f]

34 The tribe of Gad rebuilt the towns of Dibon, Ataroth, Aroer, 35 Atroth-Shophan, Jazer, Jogbehah, 36 Beth-Nimrah, and Beth-Haran. They built walls around them and also built places to keep their sheep and goats.

37 The tribe of Reuben rebuilt Heshbon, Elealeh, Kiriathaim, 38 Sibmah, as well as the towns that used to be known as Nebo and Baal-Meon. They renamed all those places.

39 The clan of Machir from the tribe of East Manasseh went to the region of Gilead, captured its towns, and forced out the Amorites. 40 So Moses gave the Machirites the region of Gilead, and they settled there.

41 Jair from the Manasseh tribe captured villages and renamed them “Villages of Jair.”[g]

42 Nobah captured the town of Kenath with its villages and renamed it Nobah.


  1. 31.2 Midianites. . . to Israel: See 25.1-18.
  2. 31.6 Phinehas. . . sacred tent: Phinehas would serve as the priest during the battle, so he took along the things needed to ask God what he wanted done.
  3. 31.54 to remind. . . happened: Or “so the Lord would continue to help Israel.”
  4. 32.12 Caleb and Joshua: See the note at 14:30.
  5. 32.33 half of Manasseh: Or “East Manasseh.”
  6. 32.33 ruled: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text of verse 33.
  7. 32.41 Villages of Jair: Or “Havvoth-Jair.”