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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 48–54
Verses 48–54

Here is a great example of piety and devotion in the officers of the army, the colonels, that are called captains of thousands, and the inferior officers that were captains of hundreds; they came to Moses as their general and commander-in-chief, and, though he was now going off the stage they very humbly and respectfully addressed themselves to him, calling themselves his servants; the honours they had 1305 won did not puff them up, so as to make them forget their duty to him. Observe in their address to them, 1. The pious notice they take of God’s wonderful goodness to them in this late expedition, in preserving not only their own lives, but the lives of all the men of war that they had under their charge; so that, upon the review of their muster-roll, it appeared there was not one missing, Num. 31:49. This was very extraordinary, and perhaps cannot be paralleled in any history. So many thousands of lives jeoparded in the high places of the field, and not one lost, either by the sword of the enemy or by any disease or disaster. This was the Lord’s doing, and cannot but be marvellous in the eyes of those that consider how the lives of all men, especially soldiers, are continually in their hands. It is an evidence of the tender feeling which these commanders had for their soldiers, and that their lives were very precious to them, that they looked upon it as a mercy to themselves that none of those under their charge miscarried. Of all that were given them they had lost none; so precious also is the blood of Christ’s subjects and soldiers to him, Ps. 72:14. 2. The pious acknowledgment they make for this favour: Therefore we have brought an oblation to the Lord, Num. 31:50. The oblation they brought was out of that which every man had gotten, and it was gotten honestly by a divine warrant. Thus every man should lay by according as God has prospered him, 1 Cor. 16:2. For where God sows plentifully in the gifts of his bounty he expects to reap accordingly in the fruits of our piety and charity. The tabernacle first, and the temple afterwards, were beautified and enriched with the spoils taken from the enemies of Israel; as by David (2 Sam. 8:11; 12), and his captains, 1 Chron. 26:26; 27. We should never take any thing to ourselves, in war or trade, which we cannot in faith consecrate a part of to God, who hates robbery for burnt-offerings; but, when God has remarkably preserved and prospered us, he expects that we should make some particular return of gratitude to him. As to this oblation, (1.) The captains offered it to make an atonement for their souls, Num. 31:50. Instead of coming to Moses to demand a recompence for the good service they had done in avenging the Lord of Midian, or to set up trophies of their victory for the immortalizing of their own names, they bring an oblation to make atonement for their souls, being conscious to themselves, as the best men must be even in their best services, that they had been defective in their duty, not only in that instance for which they were reproved (Num. 31:14), but in many others; for there is not a just man upon the earth that doeth good and sinneth not. (2.) Moses accepted it, and laid it up in the tabernacle as a memorial for the children of Israel (Num. 31:54), that is, a monument of God’s goodness to them, that they might be encouraged to trust in him in their further wars, and a monument of their gratitude to God (sacrifices are said to be memorials), that he, being well pleased with this thankful acknowledgment of favours bestowed, might continue and repeat his mercies to them.