31:6 So Moses sent them to the war, one thousand from every tribe, with Phinehas son of Eleazar the priest, who was in charge 1 of the holy articles 2 and the signal trumpets. 31:7 They fought against the Midianites, as the Lord commanded Moses, and they killed every male. 3
1 tn The Hebrew text uses the idiom that these “were in his hand,” meaning that he had the responsibility over them.
2 sn It is not clear what articles from the sanctuary were included. Tg. Ps.-J. adds (interpretively) “the Urim and Thummim.”
3 sn Many modern biblical scholars assume that this passage is fictitious. The text says that they killed every male, but Judges accounts for the Midianites. The texts can be harmonized rather simply – they killed every Midianite who was in the battle. Midianite tribes and cities dotted the whole region, but that does not mean Israel went and killed every single one of them. There apparently was a core of Midianites whom Balaam had influenced to pervert Israel.