The Lord commanded, “If a man makes a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by some agreement, he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth”. However, the Lord gives protection to women living under their father’s house and to married women by allowing their father or husband to release them from a vow. Jesus will later go on to say, “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn. But I say to you, do not take an oath at all… And do not take an oath by your head, for you can not make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil” (Matthew 5:33-37). God knows we are prone to make vows we will not keep so He says keep it simple; be a man or woman of your word; yes means yes and no means no. Pretty soon in the story, during the Judges Era, we will meet a man named Jephthah who is going to make a very foolish vow to the Lord with a high cost, proving that the Lord takes seriously vows made to Him.
“And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: ‘Take vengeance on the Midianites for the children of Israel. Afterward you shall be gathered to your people.’” The Midianites were joined with the Moabites in attempting to curse the Israelites in the wilderness with Balaam. The Midianites ultimately sent out their women along with the Moabite women to lead Israel into sexual sin and idolatry. So the Israelites kill all the Midianites, except for their virgin girls, and divide the spoils amongst themselves. “Balaam the son of Beor they also killed with the sword.”
I know it is difficult to read about women and boys being killed, but remember, the women were the ones that seduced the Israelite men, and the Lord knows these boys could grow up and take revenge on His people. Also, God already warned the Israelites concerning the sexual sin and idolatry of the people around them, and He does not want the Israelites following their practices (Numbers 18). More battles and death are going to occur as the Israelites conquer the promised land. We must keep in mind that God is good and He knows the hearts and minds and future potential of everyone. The children of Israel will have to trust the Lord to protect them His way and to carry out His judgment on the wicked as He sees best, just as we have to trust Him too.
Tomorrow some of the tribes are allocated their land, bringing us one more step closer to Jesus! (Numbers 30:1-31:54)