Cruelty In The Bible?

Balak hires Balaam to curse Israel.
What is the appropriate punishment?

THE HUMANIST CLAIMED CRUELTY: In Numbers chapter 31, the Lord approves of these instructions that Moses gave to the Israelite soldiers about how to treat certain women and children captured in war: “Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.”

So we know what the humanists are talking about this accusation of cruelty quotes Numbers 31:17-18.

The Problem:

To understand what was going on here we need to go back to the plains of Moab and the record in Numbers 22-25 describing what happened there.

The evil prophet Balaam had been hired by Balak, the king of the Midianites living in Moab, to curse Israel so that they could be destroyed. But, God would not allow Balaam to curse Israel, but instead Balaam blessed Israel. This wasn't good for Balaam. He had been promised a huge reward for cursing Israel, but now it appeared he would leave in disgrace and with no payment.

But then Balaam came up with a way to curse Israel by getting them to bring the curse on themselves. Balaam told king Balak that the Midianites needed to seduce the people of Israel with prostitutes and idolatry. This disobedience of God would result in Israel bringing a curse on themselves. Balak followed Balaam’s advice, and Israel fell into sin, worshiping Baal of Peor and committing fornication with Midianite women... bringing a plague of sin and a curse on themselves that resulted in the death of 24,000 Israelites. (Numbers 25:1-9)

The humanist statement above makes it seem as though Numbers 31:17-18 are general instructions for war. That is a false representation of what is happening here. These are not general instructions for war, but specific instructions for how Israel is to deal with the Midianites. Why are young men and women who were not virgins targeted? They were the ones responsible for corrupting Israel at Peor (Numbers 25:1-18). This ensured the end of the Midianites and prevented them from seducing Israel again in the future.

In addition, Balaam's three-fold blessing of Israel (instead of cursing) made it clear to Balak, King of the Midianites, that Israel was blessed by God. They were not people that Balak should be trying to destroy.

The Solution:

The punishment perfectly fit the crime. It was just and appropriate.

Conclusion: Once again we see that God is not cruel. His response to Midianite sexual and spiritual seduction was just and appropriate.

Next example: Isaiah 13:9,15-18 contains this message from God: “Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger. . . . Every one that is found shall be thrust through. . . . Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes . . . and their wives ravished. Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them. . . . [T]hey shall have no pity on the fruit of the womb; their eyes will not spare children.”

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