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  Discovery Box

Numbers 31:25-54

Context
The Distribution of Spoils

31:25 Then the Lord spoke to Moses: 31:26 “You and Eleazar the priest, and all the family leaders of the community, take the sum 1  of the plunder that was captured, both people and animals. 31:27 Divide the plunder into two parts, one for those who took part in the war – who went out to battle – and the other for all the community.

31:28 “You must exact 2  a tribute for the Lord from the fighting men who went out to battle: one life out of five hundred, from the people, the cattle, and from the donkeys and the sheep. 31:29 You are to take it from their half-share and give it to Eleazar the priest for a raised offering to the Lord. 31:30 From the Israelites’ half-share you are to take one portion out of fifty of the people, the cattle, the donkeys, and the sheep – from every kind of animal – and you are to give them to the Levites, who are responsible for the care of the Lord’s tabernacle.”

31:31 So Moses and Eleazar the priest did as the Lord commanded Moses. 31:32 The spoil that remained of the plunder which the fighting men 3  had gathered 4  was 675,000 sheep, 31:33 72,000 cattle, 31:34 61,000 donkeys, 31:35 and 32,000 young women who had never had sexual intercourse with a man. 5 

31:36 The half-portion of those who went to war numbered 337,500 sheep; 31:37 the Lord’s tribute from the sheep was 675. 31:38 The cattle numbered 6  36,000; the Lord’s tribute was 72. 31:39 The donkeys were 30,500, of which the Lord’s tribute was 61. 31:40 The people were 16,000, of which the Lord’s tribute was 32 people. 7 

31:41 So Moses gave the tribute, which was the Lord’s raised offering, to Eleazar the priest, as the Lord commanded Moses.

31:42 From the Israelites’ half-share that Moses had separated from the fighting men, 8  31:43 there were 337,500 sheep from the portion belonging to the community, 31:44 36,000 cattle, 31:45 30,500 donkeys, 31:46 and 16,000 people.

31:47 From the Israelites’ share Moses took one of every fifty people and animals and gave them to the Levites who were responsible for the care of the Lord’s tabernacle, just as the Lord commanded Moses.

31:48 Then the officers who were over the thousands of the army, the commanders over thousands and the commanders over hundreds, approached Moses 31:49 and said to him, 9  “Your servants have taken a count 10  of the men who were in the battle, who were under our authority, 11  and not one is missing. 31:50 So we have brought as an offering for the Lord what each man found: gold ornaments, armlets, bracelets, signet rings, earrings, and necklaces, to make atonement for ourselves 12  before the Lord.” 13  31:51 Moses and Eleazar the priest took the gold from them, all of it in the form of ornaments. 31:52 All the gold of the offering they offered up to the Lord from the commanders of thousands and the commanders of hundreds weighed 16,750 shekels. 14  31:53 Each soldier had taken plunder for himself. 31:54 So Moses and Eleazar the priest received the gold from the commanders of thousands and commanders 15  of hundreds and brought it into the tent of meeting as a memorial 16  for the Israelites before the Lord.

1 tn The idiom here is “take up the head,” meaning take a census, or count the totals.

2 tn The verb is the Hiphil, “you shall cause to be taken up.” The perfect with vav (ו) continues the sequence of the instructions. This raised offering was to be a tax of one-fifth of one percent for the Lord.

3 tn Heb “people.”

4 tn Heb “had plundered.”

5 sn Here again we encounter one of the difficulties of the book, the use of the large numbers. Only twelve thousand soldiers fought the Midianites, but they brought back this amount of plunder, including 32,000 girls. Until a solution for numbers in the book can be found, or the current translation confirmed, one must remain cautious in interpretation.

6 tn The word “numbered” has been supplied in the translation for clarity.

7 tn Heb “soul.”

8 tn Heb “the men who were fighting.”

9 tn Heb “to Moses”; the proper name has been replaced by the pronoun (“him”) in the translation for stylistic reasons.

10 tn Heb “lifted up the head.”

11 tn Heb “in our hand.”

12 tn Heb “our souls.”

13 sn The expression here may include the idea of finding protection from divine wrath, which is so common to Leviticus, but it may also be a thank offering for the fact that their lives had been spared.

14 sn Or about 420 imperial pounds.

15 tn The Hebrew text does not repeat the word “commanders” here, but it is implied.

16 tn The purpose of the offering was to remind the Lord to remember Israel. But it would also be an encouragement for Israel as they remembered the great victory.



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