31:7 They fought against the Midianites, as the Lord commanded Moses, and they killed every male. 1 31:8 They killed the kings of Midian in addition to those slain – Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba – five Midianite kings. 2 They also killed Balaam son of Beor with the sword. 3
31:9 The Israelites took the women of Midian captives along with their little ones, and took all their herds, all their flocks, and all their goods as plunder.
1 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.
2 sn Here again we see that there was no unified empire, but Midianite tribal groups.
3 sn And what was Balaam doing among the Midianites? The implication is strong. This pagan diviner had to submit to the revealed will of God in the oracles, but he nonetheless could be hired. He had been a part of the attempt to destroy Israel that failed; he then apparently became part of the plan, if not the adviser, to destroy them with sexual immorality and pagan ritual.