Do Some People Think Numbers 31 Involved Rape of Midianites?

Article on Numbers 31 By Ibn Anwar, BHsc (Hons), MCollT

midian

The text in question is Numbers 31:18:

“but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.” (NIV)

The story goes that the biblical Moses was commanded by God to annihilate the Midian nation by killing off all of its male adults along with male babies and children and also non-virgin girls and women, as specifically mentioned in verse 17. However, a small category of the nation was to be spared: female babies, girls and women that were virgins. What do the scholarly material inform us about this disturbing biblical account?

Emeritus Professor of Statistics at Auckland University, New Zealand and a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand Arthur F. Seber writes:

“God seems to sanction rape. In Numbers 31:17-18 we read that Moses encouraged his men to kill all the boy captives and female captives who are not virgins but keep virgins alive for themselves. God did not rebuke him but urged him to distribute the spoils (verses 25 40).” [1]

In a massive commentary on the Bible, The theologian Claudia Rakel writes:

“The connection between war and the rape of the women of the conquered people is recorded in biblical texts such as Numbers 31, Genesis 34, and Judges 5:30.” [2]

Academically trained in Criminal Justice and member of the The American Investigative Society of Cold Cases (AISOCC), Arthur S. Chancellor writes:

“In what we generally think of as ancient history, the rape of women of a conquered city by the victorious army was considered a part of the “spoils of war… Examples can be found within the Bible: Numbers 31:1-18 described how Moses ordered the slaughter of all Midianite males after a battle but the 32, 000 female virgins were spared to become slaves or given to soldiers as captives of war.” [3]

Peter J. DiDomenica of Boston University and Chief of Boston University Police Thomas G. Robbins write:

“While our cultural rules prohibit rape and in the vast majority of places during the vast majority of times it is not tolerated, there are certain situational variables such as war or individual personal variables such as psychopathy that allow this genetic tendency to flourish. Since the beginnings of recorded history, rape has accompanied warfare… In a biblical account of war found in the Old Testament, Numbers 31, Moses sends 12, 000 Israelites to war against the Midianites. “And they warred against the Midianites, as the Lord commanded Moses; and they slew all the males.” Of the women and children taken captive, all were ordered killed by Moses except the virgins.” [4]

Eminent scholar Professor Carolyn J. Sharp, who is Acting Associate Dean of Academic Affairs & Professor of Hebrew at the Divinity School of Yale University identifies the text in Numbers as an example of a prescription for rape:

“The practice of sexual violation of enemy women for the purpose of long-term destabilization of the enemy is a well-known and amply documented strategy of male warriors in many cultures, from ancient times to today. Scripture testifies to this abhorrent practice in holy-war texts such as Numbers 31:18, in which Moses commands the execution of nonvirgin Midianite women but allows his army to “keep alive for” themselves Midianite virgin girls, and Deuteronomy 20:14, which instructs that enemy women may be taken as booty.” [5]

Notes:

[1] Seber, A. F. (2015). Can We Believe it?: Evidence for Christianity. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock Publishers. p. 175

[2] Rakel, C. (2012). Judith: About a Beauty Who Is Not What She Pretends to Be, (Lisa E. Dahill, Everett R, Kalin, Nancy Lukens et. al., trans.). In Luise Schottroff and Marie-Theres Wacker (eds), Feminist Biblical Interpretation: A Compendium of Critical Commentary on the Books of the Bible and Related Literature. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. p. 521

[3] Chancellor, A. S. (2013). Investigating Sexual Assault Cases. Burlington, Massachusetts: Jones & Bartlett Learning. p. 4

[4] DiDomenica, P. J. & Robbins, T. G. (2013). Journey from Genesis to Genocide: Hate, Empathy, and the Plight of Humanity. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Dorrance Publishing Co. p. 50

[5] Sharp, C. J. (2010). Wrestling the Word: The Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian Believers. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press. p. 131

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Categories: Islam

46 replies

  1. christians always like to graphically demonstrate jesus’ “love on the cross” or sometimes they beat jesus’ in their minds and then paint a picture of what is in their minds.

    i wanna know how moses’ soldiers cut open 3 year old and what did a soldier do when he saw a pre-pubescent young girl with long hair.

    how about pregnant non-virgins? any graphical demonstration on how they were ripped open?

    Like

    • The prepubescents in Numbers 31:17-18 were all children:

      https://discover-the-truth.com/2016/08/07/a-detailed-historical-examination-of-numbers-3118/

      ere are three accurate translations which show that the verse only speaks about ‘female children’:

      Jubilee Bible 2000 – “But all the FEMALE CHILDREN that have not known a man by lying with him KEEP ALIVE FOR YOURSELVES.” – Numbers 31:18

      Webster’s Bible – “Translation But all the FEMALE CHILDREN that have not known a man by lying with him, KEEP ALIVE FOR YOURSELVES.” – Numbers 31:18

      Living Bible (TLB) – “Only the LITTLE GIRLS may live; you may KEEP THEM FOR YOURSELVES.” – Numbers 31:18

      Like

  2. Why should I give a damn about the opinions of scholars?

    Why should an Israelite soldier do anything when he sees a pre-pubescent girl with long hair?

    He is not pre-programmed to rape by islamic teachings which make them his booty over which he has complete freedom to do what he wants.

    Allah killed women and children in the flood and at Sodom and Gomorra. Where’s the difference?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “The same is true in Numbers 31. Israel destroys the five major cities of the Midianites and takes all of the women and children captive. This incenses Moses because the Midianite women are going to lead Israel astray, as they had before. So Moses orders the soldiers to execute every non-virgin female, and every male child. But he orders that the virgin maidens be spared and integrated into Israel. What? Virgin Midianite girls didn’t worship their parents’ foreign deities also? Of course they did. The virgin girls would have been just as much of a threat to pure Yahwism in Israel as their mothers would have been.”

    so far we know that yhwh, joshua and others put to the sword innocent because they are like contagion, so why were virgins spared?

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  4. so a soldier can drive a sword into non-virgin pregnant women and slice open 3 year olds , but he has “rules” for young pre-pubescent? lol

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  5. One is judgement and one is law. You are confusing the issue.

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    • Opebony your mouth again, eh madman? So perhaps you can answer my questions again:

      1. Who was the instigator: the Israelites or the Canaanites?

      2. People die from natural causes all the time. It’s a bit different from deliberately killing a baby, dont you think?

      And let me add a new question for you. 😉

      3. Your god considers rape “judgement”?!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. God’s judgement is god’s judgement.

    Yet, I’m not obliged to view this behaviour as exemplary. Muslims are obliged to view mohammed’s savagery as a great example for all time. The events related in Numbers describe specific circumstances at a specific moment in time that came under god’s judgement and are not to be emulated. These stories could even be parables, or metaphors that describe god’s judgement against sin and sinfulness.

    I shudder when I read about god’s judgement, muslims must celebrate mohammed’s cruelty and view it as a great example to follow.

    Like

    • notice how you called your god, moses , joshua as cruel and savage but you hid behind the word “judgement”

      how can you call ANYBODIES actions as SAVAGE when bastards like you believe that god and moses both commanded the KILLING of pregnant women and their unborn?

      Liked by 2 people

    • “These stories could even be parables, or metaphors that describe god’s judgement against sin and sinfulness.”

      quote :

      I shudder when I read about god’s judgement

      ////

      you shudder over something which is not literal, but just a story about baby killing ?

      Like

    • Kev, since you decided to open your mouth as well, let me ask you the question you refused to answer before.

      1. Was this behavior right or wrong? I am not asking you whether you follow the OT prophets. I’m asking whether what they did was right or wrong regardless of the time period?

      2. What gives with the hypocrisy? Why arent you foaming at the mouth and why aren’t you outraged at such appalling behavior that is sanctioned in your Bible but you hyocritically attack Islam for sanctioning far far less?

      Like

  7. There is nothing about rape in these passages. It means that the virgin girls would be spared and protected and eventually grow up to be able to be married. There is nothing in the text that sanctions rape. “for yourselves” is just a general term that later they can be married.

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    • liar for jesus. those girls were going to be sexually “devoured” or “consumed”

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    • the text never says any of that.

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    • “…and eventually grow up”

      where does it say “grow up”

      why would hebrew soldier wait for young pre-pubescent to grow up in time of “gods judgement”
      ?

      Like

    • Christian taqiyya!!

      If it is as you claim, they why weren’t the young boys spared as well? Why were they on the hit list?

      Like

    • I don’t know. That still does not say anything about rape or condoning rape.

      Like

    • did soldier of war have concubine on the side or fresh virgin ? if fresh virgin, and yhwh is bringing “judgement” then it only seems logical that those virgins would be forcefully raped.

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    • nope; because nothing in the text gives any validity to that; and the rest of both OT and NT is consistent in ethics that rape is always wrong.

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    • “able to be married”

      they could have become concubines. or side orders.

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    • did their heads get shaved and they mourned for 1 month and then rape ensued?

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    • “nope; because nothing in the text gives any validity to that; and the rest of both OT and NT is consistent in ethics that rape is always wrong.”

      quote :
      They left
      them alive in order to become wives and concubines, spread out
      among the tribes of Israel, with 320 going to the Levites, and 32
      virgins going to one man, the High Priest.

      quote :

      “If there were 32,000 virgin girls, how many non-virgin
      women and male children must there have been? I’ll estimate a
      total of 44,000. ”

      those girls had to be raped at an early age if mortality rate was high in those days.
      kev said that this was “gods judgement”

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    • > There is nothing about rape in these passages

      Ken you are correct. Here is how these women were to be treated.

      Deu 21:10 When you go to war against your enemies and the LORD your God delivers them into your hands and you take captives,
      Deu 21:11 if you notice among the captives a beautiful woman and are attracted to her, you may take her as your wife.
      Deu 21:12 Bring her into your home and have her shave her head, trim her nails
      Deu 21:13 and put aside the clothes she was wearing when captured. After she has lived in your house and mourned her father and mother for a full month, then you may go to her and be her husband and she shall be your wife.
      Deu 21:14 If you are not pleased with her, let her go wherever she wishes. You must not sell her or treat her as a slave, since you have dishonored her.

      The irony is that the Bible does speak a lot about rape in war, not Numbers 31, and this post which is claiming to be scholarly does not consider any of these references. Why not?

      Like

    • Sam & Ken,
      “since you have dishonored her.”
      What kind of “dishonor ” that god of love commanded against that innocent girl?
      Also, could you give us the word in Hebrew, and what it means?

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Ken said:

    “I don’t know. That still does not say anything about rape or condoning rape.”

    Are you being willfully stupid?

    Let’s look at this logically. The Israelite soldiers were all men. All of the women who had SLEPT with a man were killed. All of the boys, regardless of age, were also killed. The only ones who were spared were virgin girls. Hmmm…why is that? You see Ken, in human biology, males have intercourse with females. There is a parallel passage in Deuteronomy 21 which allows the Israelite soldiers to take women as their “wives”, or “concubines” to be more precise:

    “…if you notice among the captives a beautiful woman and are attracted to her, you may take her as your wife. 12 Bring her into your home and have her shave her head, trim her nails 13 and put aside the clothes she was wearing when captured. After she has lived in your house and mourned her father and mother for a full month, then you may go to her and be her husband and she shall be your wife. 14 If you are not pleased with her, let her go wherever she wishes. You must not sell her or treat her as a slave, since you have dishonored her.”

    It is obvious that the taking of virgin girls was done for sexual purposes. Your desperate and frantic attempts to whitewash this abhorrent behavior just goes to show how dishonest you are. I think this is why James White has criticized Christians for attacking Islam and Muhammad (pbuh) for alleged “immoral” behavior, and yet their own Bible contains actual sickening examples of immoral behavior.

    So you have no idea why the boys were also killed? It seems pretty logical to me. The Israelite soldiers could not have sex with the boys! They were of no use. That is why they were killed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Deu 21:10 When you go to war against your enemies and the LORD your God delivers them into your hands and you take captives,
      Deu 21:11 if you notice among the captives a beautiful woman and are attracted to her, you may take her as your wife.
      Deu 21:12 Bring her into your home and have her shave her head, trim her nails
      Deu 21:13 and put aside the clothes she was wearing when captured. After she has lived in your house and mourned her father and mother for a full month, then you may go to her and be her husband and she shall be your wife.
      Deu 21:14 If you are not pleased with her, let her go wherever she wishes. You must not sell her or treat her as a slave, since you have dishonored her.

      Like

  9. Samuel, what’s your point? I already quoted Deut. 21 to show that taking concubines was allowed. Hence, the act of sparing the virgins in Numbers 31 served no other purpose other than sex.

    If it was some other reason, then why were the boys also not spared?

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Wife, not concubine.

    The nations not under the ban could surrender without a battle and no-one was put to the sword.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lol, oh I’m sorry, my mistake! As if that makes it better!

      Don’t lie madman. Deut. 21 says very clearly that people would be killed. And then the captured women would be taken as spoils of war and “dishonored”.

      Still not answering my questions?

      1. Who was the instigator: the Israelites or the Canaanites?

      2. People die from natural causes all the time. It’s a bit different from deliberately killing a baby, dont you think?

      And let me add a new question for you. 😉

      3. Your god considers rape “judgement”?!

      Did you commit yourself yet?

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Deut 20:

    10 When thou comest nigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace unto it. 11 And it shall be, if it make thee answer of peace, and open unto thee, then it shall be, that all the people that is found therein shall be tributaries unto thee, and they shall serve thee.

    Why didn’t Mohammed follow this law with the Banu Qurayza? If he thought he was following in the footsteps of Joshua?

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    • Lol, madmanna. Please commit yourself already!

      You are do beguiled by your holy spirit, you don’t even see the absurdity of your question! What had those nations done to even be given that choice? You know the Mongols gave the same choice to their enemies too. They either had the choice to submit and have peace or resist and die. Some choice, eh? So, apparently, the morals of your Bible were no better than that of the Mongols. Ouch!!

      In contrast, the Bano Qurayza had committed treason. They had the choice of cooperation or treason. They chose the latter and effectively declared war on the Muslims.

      Answer my questions madman.

      1. Who was the instigator: the Israelites or the Canaanites?

      2. People die from natural causes all the time. It’s a bit different from deliberately killing a baby, dont you think?

      And let me add a new question for you. 😉

      3. Your god considers rape “judgement”?!

      Liked by 1 person

    • brother Faiz, by now you must be disgusted with these peoples disgusting double standards.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Oh absolutely brother Heath. But then again, I’m not surprised. Their entire religion is based on deception and hypocrisy.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. “In contrast, the Bano Qurayza had committed treason. They had the choice of cooperation or treason. They chose the latter and effectively declared war on the Muslims.”

    Mohammed was not their ruler in any respect. Therefore it could not be treason.

    Loyalty is a two-way street and Mohammed’s “revelations” were threats that showed the Jews his real intentions and reneged on the treaty from his side.

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    • Madman, answer my questions. It just keeps getting worse for you.

      The Jews had a treaty with the Prophet, you psychotic moron.

      In contrast, none of the nations your god ordered to be exterminated had any treaty or done anything to the Israelites. Your god’s rules were no different from those of Genghis Khan.

      1. Who was the instigator: the Israelites or the Canaanites?

      2. People die from natural causes all the time. It’s a bit different from deliberately killing a baby, dont you think?

      And let me add a new question for you. 😉

      3. Your god considers rape “judgement”?!

      Like

    • “In contrast, none of the nations your god ordered to be exterminated had any treaty or done anything to the Israelites. Your god’s rules were no different from those of Genghis Khan.”

      you will not believe that the point you made about israelis being the aggressors was something i was reading yesterday . here is the full quote(some christians are disgusted with hypocrisy of people like mental man) :

      Second, the commenter claims that Israel’s wars in the Canaanite conquest were “defensive.” This is a claim he has made repeatedly in response to my book, which he claims to have read. But had he read my book, he would know that I devote several pages to refuting this argument. At the most basic level, Israel’s conquest of Canaan was an aggressive campaign. They didn’t invade Canaan because Canaanites were attacking them first. They invaded Canaan, according to the text, because they were on a mission from God to obliterate the Canaanites, to wipe them off the map, and take their land from them. They’re not called the “conquest” narratives for nuthin’. How this commenter can claim, with a straight face, that an aggressive invasion of foreign territory is somehow “defensive” is beyond my capacity to comprehend. Now, it’s true that a few of the battles are portrayed as defensive, in a certain sense, but let’s get this straight. Why was Israel being attacked by the Canaanites? Were the Canaanites attacking the Israelites for no reason? Um, no. The Canaanites were attacking the Israelites because the Israelites attacked them first. The Canaanites were defending themselves against Israelite aggression! Not the other way around. The text itself is quite plain on this point. It’s just insane to characterize Israel’s conquest of Canaan as “defensive.” As far back as Origen, at least, a clear distinction was made between Israel’s defensive wars, and its genocidal conquests. Origen said that the defensive wars were morally permissible, but the genocidal conquests, if taken literally, were morally condemnable. Moreover, even if we were to concede that, somehow, Israel’s wars in Canaan were “defensive,” that hardly justifies the wholesale slaughter of women and children! Were they worried an army of toddlers was going to wipe them out? Give me a break! This isn’t modern warfare. Israel wasn’t carpet bombing cities. They fought armies outside the cities, and then went in, allegedly on Yahweh’s orders, and slaughtered all of the non-combatants, including women and children, after the warriors had been defeated. And let’s not forget that these were their orders even before they entered Canaan in the first place! That’s not a defensive war. That’s aggression. That’s genocide.

      I stated in my book that one of the problems with our Scriptures is that they teach us to reason just like war criminals, just like the modern perpetrators of genocide we love to loathe. This commenter has proven my point splendidly. Well done!

      As for his reference to Christopher Hitchens, what this commenter is doing is attempting to insinuate that because I disapprove of Israel’s genocides, I must want to see Israel wiped off the face of the earth. This is malicious deceit, not worthy of the name Christian, but typical of fundamentalist apologists. It’s disheartening and sad to see that some people’s grasp on their religion is so feeble that they have to resort to these sorts of deceitful and underhanded tactics to “score points” for their cause. But this whole line of reasoning is based on the spurious assumption that Israel was in danger of being wiped out, had they not slaughtered Canaanite babies. But the reality is, despite what the conquest narratives tell us, the actual history of Israel’s emergence in Canaan was not very violent at all. Israelites were Canaanites. There was no mass exodus out of Egypt, and their was no grand conquest into Canaan. The archaeological record is unequivocal on these points. Thus, it is simply not true that Israel had to kill women and children in order to survive. And anyone who claims the wholesale slaughter of children is necessary in order to survive needs to get their head checked and their propaganda meter re-calibrated.

      In short, yes, Israel committed genocide. No, they didn’t have to do so in order to survive. Yes, I condemn the positive portrait of genocide painted in the Bible. No, that doesn’t make me anti-Semitic. After all, the Canaanites were Semites too. (Or doesn’t this commenter realize?) So when I’m sticking up for the Canaanite babies, I’m pro-Semite all the way.

      Like

  13. So it seems madman is posting on his blog about our discussions and makes his own commentary that he doesn’t make here.

    https://badmanna.wordpress.com/2017/05/12/faiz-a-muslim-accuses-the-jews-confronted-by-mohammed-of-racism-a-classical-piece-of-islam-inspired-jew-hatred-and-bigotry/

    I posted a response on his blog:

    Hey madman. Why don’t you answer my questions? I am chasing you across the Internet now it seems! Lol!!!

    Jew-hatred? So the Jewish rejection of Gentile prophets is not racist, but criticizing the act of automatically rejecting a non-Jewish prophet is “Jew-hatred”? Lol! A classical piece of Christian inspired stupidity and hypocrisy. What else we expect from a demented madman? Did you commit yourself yet? 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  14. our brother Faiz made a point :

    In contrast, none of the nations your god ordered to be exterminated had any treaty or done anything to the Israelites. Your god’s rules were no different from those of Genghis Khan.

    ::
    let a christian by the same of “thom stark” further elaborate on Faiz’ excellent point :

    quote :

    Second, the commenter claims that Israel’s wars in the Canaanite conquest were “defensive.” This is a claim he has made repeatedly in response to my book, which he claims to have read. But had he read my book, he would know that I devote several pages to refuting this argument. At the most basic level, Israel’s conquest of Canaan was an aggressive campaign. They didn’t invade Canaan because Canaanites were attacking them first. They invaded Canaan, according to the text, because they were on a mission from God to obliterate the Canaanites, to wipe them off the map, and take their land from them. They’re not called the “conquest” narratives for nuthin’. How this commenter can claim, with a straight face, that an aggressive invasion of foreign territory is somehow “defensive” is beyond my capacity to comprehend. Now, it’s true that a few of the battles are portrayed as defensive, in a certain sense, but let’s get this straight. Why was Israel being attacked by the Canaanites? Were the Canaanites attacking the Israelites for no reason? Um, no. The Canaanites were attacking the Israelites because the Israelites attacked them first. The Canaanites were defending themselves against Israelite aggression! Not the other way around. The text itself is quite plain on this point. It’s just insane to characterize Israel’s conquest of Canaan as “defensive.” As far back as Origen, at least, a clear distinction was made between Israel’s defensive wars, and its genocidal conquests. Origen said that the defensive wars were morally permissible, but the genocidal conquests, if taken literally, were morally condemnable. Moreover, even if we were to concede that, somehow, Israel’s wars in Canaan were “defensive,” that hardly justifies the wholesale slaughter of women and children! Were they worried an army of toddlers was going to wipe them out? Give me a break! This isn’t modern warfare. Israel wasn’t carpet bombing cities. They fought armies outside the cities, and then went in, allegedly on Yahweh’s orders, and slaughtered all of the non-combatants, including women and children, after the warriors had been defeated. And let’s not forget that these were their orders even before they entered Canaan in the first place! That’s not a defensive war. That’s aggression. That’s genocide.

    I stated in my book that one of the problems with our Scriptures is that they teach us to reason just like war criminals, just like the modern perpetrators of genocide we love to loathe. This commenter has proven my point splendidly. Well done!

    As for his reference to Christopher Hitchens, what this commenter is doing is attempting to insinuate that because I disapprove of Israel’s genocides, I must want to see Israel wiped off the face of the earth. This is malicious deceit, not worthy of the name Christian, but typical of fundamentalist apologists. It’s disheartening and sad to see that some people’s grasp on their religion is so feeble that they have to resort to these sorts of deceitful and underhanded tactics to “score points” for their cause. But this whole line of reasoning is based on the spurious assumption that Israel was in danger of being wiped out, had they not slaughtered Canaanite babies. But the reality is, despite what the conquest narratives tell us, the actual history of Israel’s emergence in Canaan was not very violent at all. Israelites were Canaanites. There was no mass exodus out of Egypt, and their was no grand conquest into Canaan. The archaeological record is unequivocal on these points. Thus, it is simply not true that Israel had to kill women and children in order to survive. And anyone who claims the wholesale slaughter of children is necessary in order to survive needs to get their head checked and their propaganda meter re-calibrated.

    In short, yes, Israel committed genocide. No, they didn’t have to do so in order to survive. Yes, I condemn the positive portrait of genocide painted in the Bible. No, that doesn’t make me anti-Semitic. After all, the Canaanites were Semites too. (Or doesn’t this commenter realize?) So when I’m sticking up for the Canaanite babies, I’m pro-Semite all the way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ouch!!!

      At least this guy is brutally honest. But people like madman and Lassie would rather lie through their teeth. How shameful. But I guess it can’t be helped. What did Jesus say? “By their fruits you shall know them”? I know he was talking about false prophets, but it sure does fit the bill with these clowns.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. There do appear to be a number of passages in the Bible​ that reduce women to the role of property. It’s a short hop from that notion to the idea that men are entitled to their bodies, whether the woman agrees or not.

    Like

  16. More on Numbers 31:17-18

    by Ibn Anwar, BHsc (Hons), MCollT

    Yahya Snow was good enough to share my recent article on Numbers 31 on Paul Williams’ blog, which can be accessed here https://bloggingtheology.net/…/do-some-people-think-number…/. It has apparently generated quite a bit of attention from those that agree with what I wrote to those that do not. The following are additional material from the scholarly literature regarding the biblical text in question.
    Professor of Social Ethics and Latinx Studies at Iliff School of Theology in Colorado, Dr. Miguel A. De La Torre, who is also an ordained Southern Baptist minister, readily recognises the plain meaning of Numbers 31:18:

    “The abolitionists were hard pressed to find any biblical passage that outright condemned the institution of slavery. Even the rape of female slaves found biblical justification and was considered to be ordained by God. Specifically, Numbers 31:18 instructs conquerors as follows: “You shall keep alive all young females who have not had sex with a male for yourselves.” This passage is part of Moses’ instructions for treatment of the conquered people of Midian, who were now to be Israel’s slaves.” [1]
    Writer and philosopher Chander Behl writes:

    “But it is the same Lord God that incites Moses to attack and destroy every Midianite, except virgin girls, who Lord God advised to “keep alive for yourselves,” according to the Book of Numbers (31:18). The God of Genesis doesn’t abhor sexuality or violence, obviously (see Chapter 17). Suffice it to say that these examples encourage men to dehumanize, and bully and rape women.” [2]
    Noted American author, the late Norm Phelps writes:

    “Numbers 31 describes God ordering the children of Israel to undertake a retaliatory military raid against a rival tribe, the Midianites. In obedience to God’s command, the Israelites “made war against Midian, just as the Lord had commanded Moses, and they killed every male.” (Numbers 31:7) They took the women and children prisoner, which angered Moses, who told his officers to “kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known a man intimately. But all the girls who have not known man intimately, spare for yourselves.” (Numbers 31:17-18) The Midianites were all to be exterminated, man, woman, and child, except for the young virgins, who were to be kept alive for the soldiers to rape, supposedly on God’s orders.” [3]

    Eminent theologian and biblical scholar of international repute Dr. Carole Fontaine, who is the John Taylor professor of biblical theology and history at the Andover Newton Theological School, identifies Numbers 31 as a clear example of an endorsement of rape in the Bible:
    “In concrete terms, armies may choose one or all of the following: (1) gendered massacre (kill all the men, rape all the women and take them captive); (2) castration and sexual mutilation, and (3) homosexual rape. The Hebrew Bible seems quite familiar with many of these practices; consider the war notice in Numbers 31 for its implications in terms of human suffering…” [4]

    The Reverend Dr. Will Gafney, who is Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible at Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, Texas, writes:

    “The “one woman, one man” relationship of Eve and Adam becomes one man and two women in Genesis 4:19, one man and an untold number of prepubescent girl war captives in Numbers 31:18 and in several other texts… The evolution of polygamy, both consensual and forced, as a human-initiated cultural practice in the scriptures is particularly striking because of God’s lack of condemnation of it (not to mention, according to Deuteronomy, God’s sanction of abduction or rape-marriage during armed conflicts).” [5]
    The above academic material reinforces what we discussed in the previous article. A plain reading of the text must necessarily lead a nonfundamentalist reader to accept that the text called for genocide and the rape of virgin girls and the scholarly literature backs that obvious understanding. There is no escape from the fact that the biblical Moses, supposedly at the behest of God, commanded the total massacre of an entire nation and he not only sanctioned but demanded that the virgin girls of that nation be kept as war booty for Israelite men to enjoy. As Muslims, we cannot and never will accept the notion that God or any of His noble prophets would demand such unspeakable horrors. The Bible, however, is fertile grounds for such things.

    Notes:

    [1] De La Torre, M. A. (2007). A Lily Among the Thorns: Imagining a New Christian Sexuality. San Francisco, Jossey-Bass. p. 45
    [2] Chander Behl (2015). Anatomy of Spirituality: Portrait of the Soul. Canada: FriesenPress
    [3] Phelps, N. (2002). The Dominion of Love: Animal Rights According to the Bible. New York: Lantern Books. p. 14
    [4] Fontaine, C. R. (2008). With Eyes of Flesh: The Bible, Gender and Human Rights. Sheffield, United Kingdom: Sheffield Phoenix Press. p. 56
    [5] Gafney, W. (2011). Scripture: Sexuality and Sexual Orientation. In Gary R. Hall & Ruth A. Meyers (eds), Christian Holiness & Human Sexuality: A Study Guide for Episcopalians. New York: Church Publishing, Incorporated.

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