The Bible Slam: Numbers Chapter 31

Many people who finally sit down and read the Bible from cover to cover are appalled by the barbarism and butchery advocated by the Christian god.  Numbers Chapter 31 is often cited as an example of the pure evil and lack of empathy advocated in the Old Testament.  The actions described in this chapter, which were apparently commanded by God and Moses, would be considered war crimes by today's standards.

In this chapter, the Lord commands Moses to take avenge against the Midianites.  The army follows Moses' instructions. All of the adult males are killed and the cities torched.  However, the children of Israel take as plunder the women, children, cattle, and goods.  When they return with this plunder, Moses is furious because women were kept alive.  They had previously enticed the male Israelites to worship their god and from Moses' point of view, deserved to die.

Moses commands his troops to murder every single male child and woman who was not a virgin.  Virgins' lives were spared so that the priests and Israelites could have them.

See the discussion points below for tallies of "the booty," as the Old Testament describes it.

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  • About the Bible Slam – If you are new here, please read the "about" page to understand the choice of the word "slam" and to read the Important Disclaimer about swear words. We have provided a link to biblical reading without swear words or commentary on the about page, just in case swear words are offensive to you.
  • There are people who argue that the King James translation of the bible is the "inerrant word of God."  Yet, they either do not read the Bible or are quite selective in determining what parts of it should literally be followed. Does this book seem like the literal, inerrant word of God to you?
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Discussion Points.

If you've been following along, you'll know that the Bible has stated that for 40 years, the Israelites had nothing to eat but manna. Just a few chapters ago, in Numbers 21, God sends "firey serpents" after the Israelites that bite them and kill them for complaining about having nothing to eat but manna.  Numbers 15 describes another mass killing by Yahweh of his chosen people for complaining about manna.   It's unclear how all of the "plunder" described in this chapter corresponds with eating manna which is clearly described in the Book of Numbers. The plunder and its division described in this holy book, considered by some to be God's inerrant guideline for moral behavior, is something to behold.

Reading from the King James version of Numbers 31, we are told in verses 31 and 32 that the LORD commanded Moses and his priest, Eleazar, how to divide the "booty," as it was called in the Old Testament.  The priesthood, of course, gets its share of the booty.  Here's an abbreviated version; read the whole chapter for the entire count:

  • Were there human sacrifices?  In verse 28, "And levy a tribute unto the Lord of the men of war which went out to battle: one soul of five hundred, both of the persons, and of the beeves, and of the asses, and of the sheep."
  • 675,000 sheep – the LORD's share is 675
  • 72,000 beeves – the LORD's share is 72
  • 61,000 asses – the LORD's share is 61
  • 32,000 virgin girls/women – the LORD's share is 32

The LORD's share was given as a "heave offering," which implies that 32 human virgins were sacrificed.

Using Steve Wells' analysis, the God-endorsed death count at the close of Numbers 31 is 31,635,181.

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