The Midian War
The people of Israel were welcomed into Egypt, as refugees, during a great famine (see The Goshen Refugees). Over time however, the Israelites grew powerful, and therefore became a potential military threat to their Egyptian hosts:
"1:8 Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph.
1:9 And he said unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we: 1:10 Come on, let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land." (Exodus 1:8-10 KJV)
The Midianites' national territory was east of the Jordan River (see The Jordan Valley) and The Dead Sea and southward through the desert wilderness of the Arabah. During the time of Moses, their territory also included portions of The Sinai Peninsula. When Moses fled from Egypt, Midianites took him in and permitted him to marry a Midianite woman (see Palace Prince To Sinai Shepherd).
After the Exodus however, the Midianites, like the Egyptians before, viewed the Israelites as a military threat. Hence, the Midianites joined with the Moabites to oppose the people of Israel.
"22:3 And Moab was sore afraid of the people, because they were many: and Moab was distressed because of the children of Israel. 22:4 And Moab said unto the elders of Midian, Now shall this company lick up all that are round about us, as the ox licketh up the grass of the field. And Balak the son of Zippor was king of the Moabites at that time." (Numbers 22:3-4 KJV)
"And they warred against the Midianites, as the LORD commanded Moses"
It was surely not a war that Moses wanted, considering his being taken in by the Midianites when he fled Egypt and his marriage to their people. But it was a war that Moses was commanded, by the LORD, to fight and to win after the Midianites chose to start the conflict (they made their view of Israel as a military threat into a self-fulfilling idea by starting a war with Israel). Moses was commanded to annihilate them (it was the second time that Moses was forced to fight people that he once regarded as his own - first the Egyptians, then the Midianites).
"31:1 And the LORD [i.e. Jesus Christ; see 'The God Of The Old Testament' and 'Before Abraham Was, I AM'] spake unto Moses, saying, 31:2 Avenge the children of Israel of the Midianites: afterward shalt thou be gathered unto thy people.
31:3 And Moses spake unto the people, saying, Arm some of yourselves unto the war, and let them go against the Midianites, and avenge the LORD of Midian. 31:4 Of every tribe a thousand, throughout all the tribes of Israel, shall ye send to the war. 31:5 So there were delivered out of the thousands of Israel, a thousand of every tribe, twelve thousand armed for war. 31:6 And Moses sent them to the war, a thousand of every tribe, them and Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, to the war, with the holy instruments, and the trumpets to blow in his hand.
31:7 And they warred against the Midianites, as the LORD commanded Moses [see The LORD Is My Banner]; and they slew all the males.
31:8 And they slew the kings of Midian, beside the rest of them that were slain; namely, Evi, and Rekem, and Zur, and Hur, and Reba, five kings of Midian: Balaam also the son of Beor they slew with the sword. 31:9 And the children of Israel took all the women of Midian captives, and their little ones, and took the spoil of all their cattle, and all their flocks, and all their goods.
31:10 And they burnt all their cities wherein they dwelt, and all their goodly castles, with fire. 31:11 And they took all the spoil, and all the prey, both of men and of beasts.
31:12 And they brought the captives, and the prey, and the spoil, unto Moses, and Eleazar the priest, and unto the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the camp at the plains of Moab, which are by Jordan near Jericho.
31:13 And Moses, and Eleazar the priest, and all the princes of the congregation, went forth to meet them without the camp. 31:14 And Moses was wroth with the officers of the host, with the captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, which came from the battle.
31:15 And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive? 31:16 Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the LORD. 31:17 Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. 31:18 But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.
31:19 And do ye abide without the camp seven days: whosoever hath killed any person, and whosoever hath touched any slain, purify both yourselves and your captives on the third day, and on the seventh day. 31:20 And purify all your raiment, and all that is made of skins, and all work of goats' hair, and all things made of wood.
31:21 And Eleazar the priest said unto the men of war which went to the battle, This is the ordinance of the law which the LORD commanded Moses;
31:22 Only the gold, and the silver, the brass, the iron, the tin, and the lead,
31:23 Every thing that may abide the fire, ye shall make it go through the fire, and it shall be clean: nevertheless it shall be purified with the water of separation: and all that abideth not the fire ye shall make go through the water. 31:24 And ye shall wash your clothes on the seventh day, and ye shall be clean, and afterward ye shall come into the camp." (Numbers 31:1-24 KJV)
Fact Finder: (a) Did Moses personally know the LORD? (b) What happened after Moses transgressed his authority?
(a) See The Trysting Tent
(b) See Why Did Christ Put Moses To Death?