In Numbers 31:18-19, it says, "Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man." Was it really the LORD's will for the Israelites to "kill all the boys" and for them to keep "girls who had not slept with a man" for themselves?
Yes, for we can assume that God was speaking through Moses. This situation is similar to what we read earlier in Genesis. God ordered Moses to take vengeance on the Midianites because they had corrupted God's people (Israelites) at Peor (Num 25:1-18). We must assume that what Moses directed in response to God's command was also given by God.
Now, the question why? God sometimes operates slightly different in different cases and with different people. He is always fair and just. In this case God wanted the Midianites exterminated, therefore never allowing them to ever to seduce Israel again.
The Midianite "line" was carried on by the male, therefore all males had to be killed. The women who were married had already had intercourse and possibly children with the Midianite men, and thus have become "one with their Midianite husbands." Now the virgins were somewhat neutral in all of this. They would have typically been 12-14 years old and younger, and would assume the identity of their future husbands, and their country and cultures. They would not be a corrupting influence at their young ages. In that society they would be very submissive to their husbands or masters.
Now whether they themselves (the soldiers) got to keep the virgins is unsure. The virgins would normally have been "married off" around 12-14 years, so they could be given to sons, or other single men. They also had multiple wives and concubines, none of which was God's plan, for God has always had one man for one woman--a one flesh, "a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh." [Genesis 2:24].
Did God wipe out Sodom and Gomorrah because every single adult there was evil?
Yes, and very evil. Evil is progressive, and as a person, or people go down that road of evil, then curses and punishment are inevitable. Jesus said, that "evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived." [2 Timothy 3:13] So, we can expect that all "evil doers" and unsaved people will, in time, become worse.
When God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, He also wiped out babies and children which seems to me to be an example of God punishing the innocent.
All humans are guilty, and all deserve immediate destruction. You see we all sinned, "The LORD looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one." [Psalm 14:2-3]. Even babies are sinners from conception. You say, "but they didn't even commit a sin yet in the womb." Yet the Word of God says that we were all there "in Adam" committing the first sin with him. It was the human race that sinned, and we all got charged with that "original sin" and are therefore born into this world as sinners, and then we prove our nature by sinning against God on our own [Romans 5:14-19].
So God has the "right" to kill babies because they all come a sinful race, and are all sinners. Besides He has the right to do whatever He wants with "His" creatures--an absolute right. The only rights we have are what He gives us--He is always in absolute control. Whatever God does is always right and just, even if we, with our little finite minds don't think so. There is evidence in the Bible that babies and children who die before the "age of accountability" go to heaven after death, however, Jesus still had to pay for their original sin on the cross with His death. Again, there are no innocent humans, all are guilty of sinning before God.
Both the evil adults and the babies were equally destroyed, but in one case for being evil, in another case for simply living in the same town as evil doers. I'd think an all-powerful God could have spared all the innocent. It seems to me that this story indicated that there is no escaping God's punishment, whether you are innocent or guilty.
Again, all were guilty of sin, but those who were passed the "age of accountability" were guilty of not only the original sin of man, but their own personal sins. They were all guilty. But also, God can and does take the life of each person, sinners or Christians (forgiven sinners).
I'm not sure what you mean by the Midianite "line." If you mean a line of inheritance, since the Midianites were wiped out, there was no longer a line for the little boys to carry on, and I would think that a 3 or 4 year old boy would hardly remember much of any Midianite traditions, and would accept whatever his foster parents told him was right, the way children do.
It was this particular people--the Midianites, and God wanted them all destroyed, and the "line" was passed on through the boys. This concept was very strong in those days, where the line and identity came from the male. We have just a little left of this concept in the wife taking the husband's last name and no longer using hers. The identity of the whole family comes from the "head" of the family. Obviously, as our society continues in it's rebellion against God and his roles for men and women, then we fight against anything that says one person is to be submissive or a dependant of another, therefore many today are keeping their own names, and/or demanding equality in marriage. But back when God used the Midianite people for an illustration of His judgment it was different.
I'm curious also about your attitude towards prisoners of war. If a Christian nation defeated a non-Christian nation in a war, would you recommend slaughtering all the boy children of the losing nation, because they carried on that nation's "line?" Or, if the nation allowed property to be inherited through both boys and girls, the slaughter of all the children? If not, why would God tell the Israelites to do it back then, but it wouldn't be OK for a Christian nation to do so?
No, I don't think so. One we are not God, and don't have absolute control. Also, Moses was getting "direct" commands from God himself. God directed the destruction of the Midianites. Now, America is by no means a Christian nation. Yet God may use us to punish other (more wicked?) nations. He did this all the time in the Bible, often times taking wicked nations and punishing Israel (His people) for her rebellion. We have God's Word, His commands and rules (so to speak) in His Bible, and for years have used the basic concepts to govern our society (do not murder, do not steal, etc.). God does ordain in the Book of Romans (chap 13) that man can punish other men for their sins, but under the guise of the established authorities (police, armies, etc.).
I think that our dropping of the Atomic bombs on Japan in WWII is a good example. We killed many little babies in those blasts, yet felt justified as a nation to do it to save other lives and to end the war. I personally believe that God used America to punish both Germany and Japan for their evil actions in starting the war and trying to destroy others. Therefore I believe the bombings were justified according to God's Word. By the way, I believe that the wickedness of America (abortion, pornography, immorality, drunkenness, gambling, murders, homosexuality, crime, greed, etc.) will someday bring God's judgment, most likely in the form of another nation destroying us.
When you say: They also had multiple wives and concubines, none of which was God's plan, for God has always had one man for one woman--a one flesh, "a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh." [Genesis 2:24]. Do you mean the Israelites had wives and concubines, and this was against God's will? If it was, why didn't God wipe out the Israelites like the Somomites and Gommorahites? Or is homosexuality a worse sin than polygamy?
This is one of those questions I really don't have an answer for. It is true that they had multiple wives and concubines (sex slaves), and God never seems to address those sins. Yet today it is clearly prohibited in the New Testament, and God will not tolerate it. All I know it that it was against God's plan and He did not directly judge them for it, although all sin has consequences built-in. I know in my own life God doesn't deal with all my sins at the same time. I am still searching for an answer to this question, but I do know that God is just and righteous, and that all sin will someday be punished, on the Cross of Calvary or ultimately in hell with eternal torments.
Added to Bible Bulletin Board's "Tony Capoccia's Questions and Answers" by:
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