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Moses issued a chilling order: to kill all the women, sparing only the virgin girls. The ancient Near East was a barbaric and ruthless place, and a story like this reminds us of that context. But how do we understand and reconcile these events within an ethical worldview and the spirit of Torah?
In Bible times, oaths were taken in the names of the gods. The idea was that if the person taking the oath proved false, the gods would deal with him. Vows and oaths have not disappeared from the world. When a man and woman get married, they exchange vows. Vows are like extra-solemn promises.
Messiah has not yet come; neither has all Israel yet returned. Despite that, the Jewish people are taking hold of the redemption as much as possible in this current era. The return of the Jewish people to the land and the modern State of Israel represents the first fruits of the final ingathering, the first glimmering of the dawn of redemption.
The “Anointed for War” alludes to King Messiah who will take the battlefield like David His father and fight the wars of the LORD. He fights with supernatural weapons: “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit” (Zechariah 4:6). The Almighty anoints Him with the Spirit of power to overcome the enemies of Israel.
In an effort to ensnare the Israelites, the Midianites and Moabites had sent their daughters to use sexual seduction to entice the men of Israel into worshipping Baal of Peor. The plan worked. Many Israelite men were led away by the seductive allure of the Moabite and Midianite women. They committed fornication with them and worshipped idols. Their wickedness incited the wrath of the LORD, who struck Israel with a devastating plague. Pinchas (Phinehas), the son of Eleazar the priest, put a stop to the plague when he killed the degenerate Israelite Zimri and the Midianitess Cozbi with a single spear thrust.
Paul tells the Ephesian women “to be subject to your own husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Messiah also is the head of the Assembly” (Ephesians 5:22–23). In his epistle to Titus, he encourages the young married women to “to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored” (Titus 2:4–5). Simon Peter had strong feelings about gender roles in the marriage too. He instructs married women to “be submissive to your own husbands” (1 Peter 3:1), even if they are unbelievers. The biblical position on family hierarchy is unanimous.