Moses barbaric?

Christian Bale (who is playing Moses in an upcoming movie) called Moses schizophrenic/a barbarian. A message board thread reporting this included a quote from the Bible where Moses was upset that the people in the army didn’t kill people since they tempted the Hebrews to sin. So he orders that they kill the women and children, except for the virgins (who they’re to keep). How should we respond to these situations in the Bible?

Please provide the particular quote from the Bible.

sorry, found it (virgin is turned into young girl here):

Numbers 31:13-18 Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSVCE)Return from the War

13Moses, and Elea′zar the priest, and all the leaders of the congregation, went forth to meet them outside the camp.14And Moses was angry with the officers of the army, the commanders of thousands and the commanders of hundreds, who had come from service in the war.*

15Moses said to them, “Have you let all the women live?16Behold, these caused the people of Israel, by the counsel of Balaam, to act treacherously against theLordin the matter of Pe′or, and so the plague came among the congregation of theLord.17Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man by lying with him.18But all the young girls who have not known man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.

According to Philo of Alexandria in his Life of Moses:

And they led away a perfectly incalculable number of prisoners, of whom they chose to slay all the full-grown men and women, the men because they had set the example of wicked counsels and actions, and the women because they had beguiled the youth of the Hebrews, becoming the causes to them of incontinence and impiety, and at the last of death; but they pardoned all the young male children and all the virgins, their tender age procuring them forgiveness

So I’m assuming that the people taught them sinful stuff, and in those times violence settled issues of corruption?

Also, it sounds like an act of mercy to keep the younger people alive, but why do they take them “as their own”?

Tribal genocide was the way that mankind worked before civilization. Like it or not, it is who we are as a species. This was the culture that we all came from. Civilization is very recent. In the bronze age, when your tribe does something bad to my tribe, my tribe punishes you by wiping your tribe literally out of existence.

You kept the women and children so that you could absorb them into your own tribe to make it healthier. All of mankind behaved this way. Singling out Moses is the error.

Remember, all of the Old Testament prophets are fallen men. Only Jesus could set us straight from our fallen ways.

Hey, this is a really interesting read! I enjoy history a lot.

I found this bit and it reminded me of abortion views today, how about you? It’s about when Moses was put on the river bank (they call it “exposed”, which I’m pretty sure meant left on the ground to die).

"Then, as was natural for people involved in a miserable misfortune, they accused themselves as having brought a heavier affliction on themselves than they need have done. “For why,” said they, “did we not expose him at the first moment of his birth?” For people in general do not look upon one who has not lived long enough to partake of salutary food as a human being at all. “But we, in our superfluous affection, have nourished him these three entire months, causing ourselves by such conduct more abundant grief, and inflicting upon him a heavier punishment, in order that he, having at last attained to a great capacity for feeling pleasures and pains, should at last perish in the perception of the most grievous evils.” "

Well, that all does indeed sound barbaric–especially keeping the virgins alive to do with what you will.
So Bale is correct in that respect, as many would agree: Barbaric.



Sounds barbaric to me but that kind of thing was a lot more common back then. Remember, Moses wasn’t perfect. He beat a man so badly that it caused him to die because of mistreatment of the Jews. He was flawed and acted like many other people of his time. Tribal genocide wasn’t a rarity back then.

We grow as a society when we study history and choose to do better but, when we view history, especially ancient history, and judge it by today’s standards, we should also look at those current events that reflect lessons NOT learned. Tribal violence is making a strong comeback in several places in the world, not just the Middle East.


I used to struggle with these verses. And I am sure some wish they were not part of the biblical history.

But I have learned to be glad they are in there. Not that it happened but glad we do not delete it from the record. Nobody records this kind of stuff in a politically correct world.

God has been with us through our development as barbarians.He sticks with us like a Father. Just don’t single Moses out. This is where we come from. Delete these passages and we deny our beginnings and the patience the father has given us.

In reading God’s instructions given thru Moses for the conquering of the Promised Land (the land God promised Abraham that He would give to his descendants), there are several points I’ve found very helpful to keep in mind.

  1. Perhaps the most important for me in understanding the “why”, is the following passage of God’s words to Abraham at the time He made the promise to him.
    Genesis 15:13-16 Then the LORD said to Abram, "Know of a surety that your descendants will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs, and will be slaves there, …for 400 years; … And they shall come back here in the fourth generation; for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.ONLY when the iniquity of the pagan inhabitants was total/complete, would God intervene. 400 years God waited before intervening with His power to support Abraham’s descendants in conquering the land.

  2. The commands are like wartime commands given by a military leader for a military action against an enemy.
    (I compare them to commands given by our generals when our nation has been at war. They are temporary and apply only as long as the war persists. Eg. We bombing and killing of Germans during 2 World Wars, but once war was won the killing ceased and peace was pursued.)

  3. And several other Scripture passages about God’s sovereignty, which we should always keep in mind. For example:
    *Jeremiah 27:5 It is I who by My great power and My outstretched arm have made the earth, with the men and animals that are on the earth, and I give it to whomever it seems right to Me.

Daniel 5:21 …until he knew that** the Most High God rules the kingdom of men**, and sets over it whom He will.

Psalm 50:10-12 For every beast of the forest is Mine, …for **the world and all **that is in it is Mine.

Ezekiel 18:4 Behold, **all souls *are Mine.

You do realize that God sanctioned Moses killing the non-virgin women and male children, correct? The only sin God mentions Moses committing is striking the rock instead of speaking to it. What Moses did was actually a righteous act. News flash: God wipes out those who disobey his commands. He exterminates entire civilizations. Here’s an example directly from the book of Ezekiel:

“4 The Lord said to him, “Go through the midst of the city, even through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations which are being committed in its midst.” 5 But to the others He said in my hearing, “Go through the city after him and strike; do not let your eye have pity and do not spare. 6 [d]Utterly slay old men, young men, maidens, little children, and women, but do not touch any man on whom is the mark; and you shall start from My sanctuary.” So they started with the [e]elders who were before the [f]temple. 7 And He said to them, “Defile the [g]temple and fill the courts with the slain. Go out!” Thus they went out and struck down the people in the city.” Ezek. 9:4-7 (NASB)

Christian Bale is playing Moses??? I thought Charlton Heston was Moses??? That is the problem!!!

For what its worth, here’s how the relevant Haydock commentary explains this apparent deviation (and also that there’s no permission to sin with the captives, as some insinuate):

Ver. 17. Of children. Women and children, ordinarily speaking, were not to be killed in war, Deuteronomy 20:14. But the great Lord of life and death was pleased to order it otherwise in the present case, in detestation of the wickedness of this people, who by the counsel of Balaam, had sent their women amongst the Israelites on purpose to draw them from God. (Challoner) — Only those who were under twelve would be thus reserved; and as their tender minds might yet receive the impressions of virtue, by a proper education, they might, one day, be married by some of the Hebrews. The boys were all slain, either because they might be inclined to resent the injury done to their relations, or because they were all consecrated to Beelphegor; the first-born to be his priests, the rest to be victims, if necessary, to avert any evil. For “the heathens in cold blood,” says Paine, “offered their children in sacrifice to Baalpeor.” It was on this account, that the killing of all the first-born in Egypt, was felt so terribly, as the people could not lawfully approach their gods. (Forbes) — Moses did not reserve the girls for the purpose of debauchery, as Paine ignorantly pretends; for that was contrary to his own laws, nor did he wantonly kill the innocent, which he also strictly forbade, and which he would have been still more afraid to do, if he had been an impostor. But he preserved the lives of those girls who might be presumed innocent, and who might live to do good, while he took the revenge of the Lord (ver. 3,) upon the rest. (Haydock)

The boys were innocent as well and werent involved in leading Israel to sin- so why were they also killed? One may argue Moses killed them because they were a threat because they may seek revenge on Israel, but In Deuteronomy, God told Israel to adopt all of the children from the nations they were at war with. He didnt say to kill all the male children because they were a potential future threat.

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