ABC:Numbers 31

From BibleStrength

Verse 14 claims a contradiction with other verses on wisdom with the heading, "Moses' personality." [1]

This is a complex passage because multiple issues are involved, (1) why God wanted the people destroyed, (2) whether Moses did so by God's commandment or his own decision, and (3) whether Moses' personality indeed contradicts.

Why the Destruction?

Jim Meritt rather dishonestly omits from his quote at the crucial v. 16 showing that God wanted evil nations destroyed because they were causing Israelites to sin. The sin was so grievous God sent a huge plague on Israel which killed 24,000 Israelites. Moses afterward in the verses above can be seen screaming at the guilty Israelites for adopting the evil practices that caused God to send the plague, practices they learned from the wicked women, just as God had warned would happen. For a fuller discussion of what happened, see Numbers 25. The Midianite leaders infiltrated Israel and seduced Israelites into committing idolatrous sacrifice with Baal.

What Meritt fails to point out is that Baal sacrifice means CHILD SACRIFICE specifically. THAT was what got God so enraged, that the Israelites were being seduced by evil women into sacrificing their own children by burning them alive. They are also said to have "ate the sacrifices of the dead", meaning that not only did they kill their own children, but may have actually eaten them as well; cannibalism.

God had specifically stated He would be destroying the evil nations of Canaan for the reasons mentioned in Leviticus 18, which included child sacrifice to Baal/Molech.

God severely commanded the Israelites not to murder their own children like this.

God's constant punishment of Israel, including the Babylonian captivity, was in large part because they insisted upon child sacrifice to Baal and Molech.

God was destroying the nations and forbidding Israelite contact with them because God wanted to destroy this horrible practice and prevent Israelites from adopting it.

Unfortunately Israel deliberately disobeyed God's commandments to destroy the evil nations around them, and ended up adopting the horrible practice of child sacrifice which spread like a plague to other parts of the world including Israel. Therefore it was very fitting that God at the time punished Israel with a plague for disobeying.

Whose Commandment?

God never commanded that only female children be left alive. Moses did this of his own decision, just as he is seen to have done elsewhere as well. God originally commanded that the entire nations be wiped out with no exceptions. (Deuteronomy 7:2; Exodus 23:32-33) God also specifically forbade marrying their daughters. (Exodus 34:11-12; Deuteronomy 7:3-4) Moses disobeyed God by not destroying the nations. (Psalms 106:34)

Moses elsewhere disobeyed God's direct commandments. Jesus stated God never intended that Moses allow divorce, for example, but that the seemingly wishy-washy Moses did so for the hardness of their hearts.

For another case of Moses disobeying God, see Exodus 3-4. In summary:

  • God tells Moses to go to Pharaoh to bring the Israelites out of Egypt. (3:7-10)
  • Moses complains that he's a nobody and Pharaoh won't listen. (3:11)
  • God assures Moses He'll be with Moses and Moses will know as a sign that Moses will serve God on the same mountain. (3:12)
  • Moses complains he'll have nothing to tell the Israelites when they ask what God they are to serve. (3:13)
  • God replies that Moses should tell them "I AM", the self-existent God of their forefathers has sent him. (3:14-15) God urges Moses to go tell the Israelites what will happen. (3:16-22)
  • Moses complains that the Israelites won't believe him. (4:1)
  • God tells Moses how to work a miracle with his rod so it becomes a reptile of some kind. Moses then runs away from the reptile and God coaxes him back so it turns back into a rod, and teaches him two other miracles, leprosy and turning water to blood. (4:2-9)
  • Moses complains that he has a speech impediment. (4:10)
  • God replies that He is the maker of the mouth and will give Moses the ability to speak. (4:11-12)

At the end of all this, Moses just basically tells God, "Sorry, send someone else" and God gets mad, and sends Moses' brother Aaron along as a spokesman because Moses refuses to cooperate. (4:13-17)

For another example, God gave Moses an opportunity to glorify God before all Israel as a sign to all future generations, but Moses used it instead to make himself look good.

This last act of disobedience was the final straw for God, probably still peeved at the earlier Moses incidents. God told Moses he wouldn't enter the promised land of Canaan, and Moses ultimately died just outside the country's borders, and Joshua took over as leader. (Deuteronomy 1:37-38, 31:2) It may be that God knew Moses would be very much honored and rewarded in Heaven, but that for the sake of future generations He had to make an example of Moses so it would be apparent how severe Moses' disobedience had been; so that there would be no confusion over how Moses had rejected God's commandments to do what he wanted.

Moses' Personality

Now, with all of this apparent, does Moses' personality contradict? On the contrary, Moses was meek, so meek he refused to listen to God in Exodus 3-4 and scared of the enormity of the task, told God to go away and send someone else. So meek he didn't stand up to the Israelites and created commandments they wanted which God never intended like allowing divorce and sparing young females of evil nations. His meekness seemingly made him a poor leader, as he didn't stand up to Israel and take charge. As a result his sibling Aaron got a lot of responsibility and ultimately led Israel to rebel against God with idolatry. (Exodus 32)

Moses' initial anger that Israel was disobeying God's commandments does not contradict his meekness, as anyone meek can still get angry. The last part of the verse appears to evidence his giving into the Israelites on an issue as he did with divorce, to disobey God's commandment to destroy the nations and not marry into them. As such it is more confirmation of his meekness rather than a contradiction.

Verse 17

Don Morgan's list at Infidels claims this is a contradiction and makes the following comments (italicized). [2]

First of all, it should be pointed out that Don Morgan deceptively excluded adjoining verses showing that God's attributes include BOTH angry vengeance and loving mercy. For example, Deuteronomy 5:9 was referenced, but not 5:10. Isaiah 42:13 was referred to but not verses 14 or 1-4. Exodus 20:5 was mentioned yet not 20:6. Exodus 15:3 was referenced not 15:13. Exodus 34:14 was brought up yet verses 6-7 noticeably unmentioned. I could keep going, but you get the idea.

This was likely to disingenuously portray the Old Testament as exclusively portraying God as vengeful, and the New Testament portraying God as loving (which is of course not accurate, cp. Rev. 19:11-21; 2 Th. 1:8; Rom. 2:7-8; 2 Pet. 3:5-7; Mt. 24:51; Mk. 9:43; Lk. 16:24) Bible critics like to misportray the Bible like this because they do not care about honesty or truth. God is good to those who do good, and even those who do evil God has shown longsuffering, sending blessings which they have not appreciated; while giving them time to repent.

God is a God of longsuffering patience who sends his rain on the just and the unjust, and is withholding judgment to give all people more time to repent.

In Jesus' case, He held His peace for thousands of years, was put to death and persecuted, but will ultimately execute justice in the Earth.

God can be both a God of love and of vengeance. Many great martial artists, who are ordinarily very peaceful, like Bruce Lee, are the most capable and deadly fighters imaginable. Inner peace, love, and patience also allows for unspeakable rage at injustice. As John Drysden once put it, "Beware the fury of a patient man." God's love of justice will ultimately necessitate punishing the wicked; indeed paradise for good people cannot exist so long as evil people are in it, for they will persecute the righteous and corrupt such a creation the way they have this one. People ask why God allows evil in this world, seemingly unaware that for God to remove evil from this world, He would have to remove all evil people who cause evil from it.

Concerning specific verses brought up showing God's fierce wrath, such as Numbers 25:3, many relate to the Israelite adoption of a Canaanite practice to sacrifice one's children alive to idols such Baal and Molech, burning them alive and then eating them. This was the main reason God had Canaanite nations destroyed, to stop the global spread of a horrific and immoral pagan practice of cannibalistic child sacrifice. For a discussion of the subject, see Destruction of Canaanites.

Verse 18

The ReasonProject lists the following as a Bible contradiction with the headline "Is it wrong to commit adultery?" [3]

First of all, the inference is that Moses' action in Number 31 was supported by God which is nowhere stated. Actually Moses by giving the commandment directly disobeyed God's original command not to make a covenant with the Midianites or have relationships with their descendants. (Exodus 23:32, 34:11-17; Deuteronomy 7:2-4, 20:16-18) For more on why this was necessary to stop the horrid Canaanite practice of cannibalistic child sacrifice, see Destruction of Canaanites.

Actually Moses' disobedience was so great that God shortly after this punished Moses by not letting him enter the Promised Land. (Deuteronomy 32:51) Moses similarly disobeyed God by allowing Israelites to divorce their wives, which as Jesus pointed out was contrary to what God intended. (Mark 10:4-12) Jesus if asked about this would likely have said the same thing, that this was a case of Moses disobeying God's commandments. Moses had a history of disobeying God as far back as the burning bush, when God repeatedly told Moses to go to Pharaoh, and Moses first complained that he was a nobody, then complained Pharaoh wouldn't listen, argued he couldn't speak well, and finally just told God to go bother someone else. (Exodus 3:11-4:14)

As for the Hosea passages, the Scofield Study Bible III has addressed this very well in its note for Hosea 1:2:

For an alternative view, Edward Ridenour of the Christian Post argues that Gomer wasn't originally an adulteress when Hosea married her, and points to Hosea 2:7 as evidence that Hosea was Gomer's first husband. [5] As an interesting side note, the story of Hosea has inspired Christian books such as Francine Rivers' novel, "Redeeming Love."


  1. Meritt, Jim (1992). A list of Biblical contradictions. Retrieved from
  2. Morgan, Donald. Bible Inconsistencies: Bible Contradictions? Internet Infidels.
  3. Marlow, Andy (2009). Contradictions in the Bible. Project Reason.
  4. Scofield, C.I. (2006). The Scofield Study Bible III. p. 1145. Oxford University Press.
  5. Ridenour, Edward (2011, January 17). God Told Hosea To Do What? The Christian Post.