Numbers 31:41

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And Moses gave the tribute, which was Jehovah`s heave-offering, unto Eleazar the priest, as Jehovah commanded Moses. (ASV)

Contents

Pro

In Numbers 31:18, Moses instructs his followers to kill all the Midianite captives except the virgin girls. And, in subsequent verses, a portion of all the booty is set aside as a sacrifice, including (in Numbers 31:40), 32 Midianite virgins.

Here, those 32 virgins become human sacrifices.

The usual apologetic excuse is that the virgins given to the priesthood "became servants" (or "wives"). The Bible says otherwise. The phrase translated as "heave offering", terumah, specifically refers to sacrificial offerings. And the fate of humans "devoted to God" is spelled out in Leviticus 27:29: "No one devoted, that shall be devoted from among men, shall be ransomed; he shall surely be put to death". --Robert Stevens 09:51, 4 Apr 2006 (CDT)

Response to Con piece

Our shared human heritage explains why most of us have a "moral sense" (via biological and social evolution: we did, after all, evolve as social creatures). But, regardless, there isn't much support for the notion of "Divine Command Morality" in the Bible. The story of the Forbidden Fruit tells us that we DO have knowledge of Good and Evil, and that God didn't want us to have this knowledge. "Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil" (Genesis 3:22). The Bible also says that God can create evil (Isaiah 45:7, Amos 3:6).

So, according to the Bible itself, we do indeed have the ability to judge God, and to discover "evil" attributable to him. And the notion of worshipping a God who relishes virgin girls as human sacrifices is indeed disturbing to many of us (even if some have no problem with it) --Robert Stevens 13:43, 4 Apr 2006 (CDT)

Response to "Defense of Answer"

"And dealing within the framework of Biblical morality, the fact that God can providentially create evil has nothing to do with the fact that God is not himself evil (ontological), or the fact that we cannot discern good and evil without appeal to God's self-revelation, both in ourselves as creatures and in recorded verbal communication (epistemological), or the fact that we have no right to sit in judgment of God (moral)". ...These are not "facts": they are the opinions of SOME Christians. And they don't seem to have much Biblical support, and (as previously noted) are directly contradicted by the Forbidden Fruit story culminating in Genesis 3:22, which confirms that we DO have the ability to discern Good and Evil (even though God didn't want us to: which is rather interesting).

There IS a possible excuse for apparent atrocities: that God has an "hidden reason" for perpetrating them (as is supposedly the case in the Job story), and that we humans aren't in a position to figure this out. However, the Bible explains what's going on with Job: and I'll leave it to the reader to try to figure out a "good reason" for the sacrifice of 32 virgins. --Robert Stevens 04:54, 5 Apr 2006 (CDT)

In general

Arguments based on Biblical immorality will not be effective on those who simply say that "I will accept anything that God does, no matter how awful it appears to others". They are intended to provoke the inerrantist to search whatever sense of "conscience" and "fairness" they have left: and that might not be much. Those who remain unmoved by such arguments should maybe study other categories of Biblical problems instead. --Robert Stevens 04:39, 5 Apr 2006 (CDT)

Response to "An Alternate Answer"

I see nothing in "An Alternate Answer" that would contradict the notion that these virgins became human sacrifices. You were discussing the rules regarding taking captive women as wives: these weren't taken as wives. Your other analogy doesn't apply either: they weren't unavoidable "civilian casualties" from the use of "weapons of mass destruction", nor was this deed an attempt to terrify a still-fighting enemy into surrendering. --Robert Stevens 07:08, 6 Nov 2006 (CST)

Con

Answer

You'd have to have some standard of evil that is applicable to all persons before you can claim that any motive or action is "evil," else you reduce "evil" to "I (or some group of people) don't like it" -- but why should anyone listen to you (or some group of people)?

If God created humanity, and thereby has a right to impose whatever moral laws He wishes on humanity, then (by definition) there can be nothing "immoral" about what He requires of humanity, because morality is what He requires of humanity.

So you are begging the question to assume some standard of absolute morality exists according to which you can call this immoral; or, if you are assuming the Biblical morality for the sake of argument, then by definition it cannot be immoral, because God sanctions it.

The passage actually doesn't say what happened to the people or livestock or goods. It doesn't use the language of Leviticus 27:29. But even if it did refer to killing the people, there is a difference between ritual human sacrifice and the death penelty (retributive justice). In this passage, on the interpretation which assumes that the people were killed, Moses spares most of the people (16,000) and kills 32. Since all 16,000 deserved to die by God's reckoning, it was very merciful to allow the majority to live and only require a small number to die. --4.227.23.48 12:39, 4 Apr 2006 (CDT)

Defense of Answer

Having a "sense of morality" (an idea I take to be different on different wordviews) doesn't mean anything in regard to the case before us. Most humans also have teeth -- so what? And even if, for the sake of argument, I grant that all humanity find it disturbing for God to sanction capital punishment for some thought or action (which would virtually require omniscience), that only means that all humanity doesn't like what God does. Again, so what? If all humanity doesn't like chocolate ice-cream, does that make it prescriptive not to eat that flavor, or does it merely describe a fact about humans (like "humans have teeth")? Where does the link from the description to the prescription come from? What "is" is not necessarily what "should be," is it? And without such a link, how is an absolute moral condemnation meaningful? If you are just making a biographical statement about your own tastes (of even the tastes of all of humanity), that certainly is not documenting an "error."

And dealing within the framework of Biblical morality, the fact that God can providentially create evil has nothing to do with the fact that God is not himself evil (ontological), or the fact that we cannot discern good and evil without appeal to God's self-revelation, both in ourselves as creatures and in recorded verbal communication (epistemological), or the fact that we have no right to sit in judgment of God (moral).

Gen. 18:25 Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just? (ESV).

Job 40:1-5 And the LORD said to Job: (2) "Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it." (3) Then Job answered the LORD and said: (4) "Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. (5) I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further." (ESV). --MonkeeSage 00:52, 5 Apr 2006 (CDT)

Defense 2

To know good and evil experimentally is completely different from knowing good and evil autonomously — even when Adam and eve fell, and thereby learned the difference between good and evil in a personal, experimental sense, they still did not have the right to try to judge them apart from God's revelation — the whole idea of the fall is that they decided what was right apart from (viz., autonomously of) God's decree not to eat of the tree. As Bonhoffer says:

In appropriating the origin to himself man took to himself a secret of God which proved his undoing. The Bible describes this event with the eating of the forbidden fruit. Man now knows good and evil. This does not mean that he has acquired new knowledge in addition to what he knew before, but the knowledge of good and evil signifies the complete reversal of man's knowledge, which hitherto had been solely knowledge of God as his origin. (Ethics, The World Of Conflicts, ch. 1).

As for the "facts" of revelation, if you reduce the logo-centricity of the text to subjective deconstruction, then you likewise must allow for my interpretation, in which there is no moral problem. You can't affirm logocentrism (and with it, moral error) and at the same time affirm anthropocentrism (and with it, that every meaning is equally valid to the people who affirm it). If the text has an absolute meaning, regardless of the interpreter, then we can indeed say what the facts of the text are; if not, then we can only articulate our own views of it, and this whole project is an exercise in futility. --MonkeeSage 05:58, 5 Apr 2006 (CDT)

BTW, on the Biblical morality, everyone is a sinner, deserving of condemnation according the legal representation of Adam, whether it's 32 virgins, or the whole human race, so from the Biblical perspective there is no problem with capital punishment being applied to 32 virgins of a defeated nation. --MonkeeSage 06:05, 5 Apr 2006 (CDT)

An Alternate Answer

See my very lengthy response at Numbers 31:18 under the same title (An Alternate Answer). The idea that the "beautiful captive women" became human sacrifices is pure induction/fantasy. -sirhemlock@yahoo.com

Neutral

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