Yes, he was the meekest man who ever lived.
3 Now the man Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth.
Numbers 12:3  NASB


No, he was vicious and cruel.
14 Moses was angry with the officers of the army, the captains of thousands and the captains of hundreds, who had come from service in the war.
15 And Moses said to them, “Have you spared all the women?
16 Behold, these caused the sons of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the Lord in the matter of Peor, so the plague was among the congregation of the Lord. 17 Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man intimately.
18 But all the girls who have not known man intimately, spare for yourselves
Numbers 31:14-18  NASB


SAB Contradiction 309


Problem 1
Moses as a leader of the people of Israel is said to have a humble character, but when his officers returned from a battle he became angry. Isn’t this an evident Bible Contradiction?


Answer 1
Of course not. A humble character doesn’t exclude the possibility to become angry in a serious matter. The question is then: how does this person behave in his anger? Is he blaming others in an irrational way, is he threatening them in an unreasonable way? Is he becoming abusive and cursing the others? No, we don’t read any misbehavior of Moses. So it is not fair to accuse the Bible of a contradiction here.


Problem 2
However, the critic may come with the accusation that Moses became angry and as a result of that he gave the excessive order to kill a lot of defenceless and innocent people: women and boys who had nothing done wrong: “Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man intimately.” (Numbers 31:17).


Answer 2
Wrong again. Moses didn’t gave this order in a fit of temper. Before the battle and before the return of his army the Lord had spoken already to Moses about this: Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Be hostile to the Midianites and strike them; for they have been hostile to you with their tricks, with which they have deceived you in the affair of Peor, …’” (Numbers 25:16-18)


Additional (update 1 July 2014)

Why that harsh order?
Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man intimately.” (Numbers 31:17).
In other words:
1. Why kill women, who ever had sexual intercourse?
2. What about the killing of young boys? (as we will see an annoying mistranslation)


Fertility festival
The Midianites of Peor had organized a festival of fertility for their god Baal. It was an intersexual party: the woman had to choose a man (not their husband) to have sexual intercourse. The belief was that by such an intersexual festival the rains would come and the fertility of the soil would increase. However this time the women didn’t choose Moabite men, but – on Bileam’s advice – they invited 24,000 Israelites. By this the order of the Israelites, their lifestyle and religion, run the risk of being destroyed completely (Numbers 25:1, 9):
Socially. The strong family structure of the Israelites fell apart. Disloyalty in marriage would bring disloyalty and distrust in society.
Health care. It would give an unparalleled explosion of sexually transmitted diseases without medication.
Religion. They immediately lost their relationship with Yaweh, their God who had saved them from the Egyptians and all the problems in the desert.
Survival in the desert. God fed the Israelites each day (manna) and He couldn’t continue doing so if his people started to follow Baal. Their continued existence was at stake.
The Midianites of Peor had only one goal: to destroy Israel with their Baal festival. It was a most intelligent and total attack on the descendants of Abraham. And it is also interpreted in the Bible as a total war, that started with women as soldiers for Baal to seduce the Israelites on a large scale.


What about the women
In this strange Baal oriented society the women were seriously guilty, being the inviters for the Baal festival and Moses gave the order that women who had sexual intercourse were to be killed. Apparently the Baal devoted women could be distinguished in public; we have to think of cuts in the flesh at their initiation rite for the first intercourse with a Baal priest. Cuts in the flesh were usual ingredients in Baal rites (1 Kings 18:28).
Baal could be performed by:
– a bull to show Baal’s extreme (sexual) power.
– a fighters man with a club, hammer or lightning in his right hand, and in his left a plant representing fertility.
These icons represented the fighting mentality of a religion that aggressively spread fertility (and intersexuality).


Rules of War
This was the only war that the Israelites killed women, as they had taken part in the hostilities. It seems that also their children boys and girls lost their lives. This an old and serious misinterpretation. Why?

Normally women, children, old people and others could evade hostilities as the Canaanite fortified cities seemed to prepare the warfare by sending out the women and children to the camps where they used to live in harvest time (compare Numbers 31:10). After battles being lost they often could flee to other regions to avoid slavery (Deuteronomy 9:5, Numbers 14:3).
E.g. we know that the city of Ai was empty of people during the war against the Israelites: And all the people who were in the city were called together to pursue … and they left the city unguarded (open) and pursued Israel.” (Joshua 8:16-17  NASB). Sometimes a few women remained in the cities for personal reasons (compare Joshua 6:22), e.g. to provide food for the army. This seemed to happen in Ai as only men and (some) women were slain. Anyway it is clearly stated that no children were slain in the battle of Ai nor thereafter in town (Joshua 8:24-25). We have to consider that Jericho and the other Canaanite cities were taken in the same way as Ai (Joshua 8:2). When we read in the book of Joshua the standard formula (Joshua 6:21): “They utterly destroyed everything in the city both man and woman, young and old, …”  we have to realize that this refers exclusively to an army in a city (young and old soldiers and women for special services, e.g. sexual sevices, Rachab: Joshua 2:1). It was a sort of standard formula that one had acted according to the war ban; it doesn’t give any information about the number of people that actually lost their lives (compare Joshua 11:15).


What about the ‘killed children’?
This is an old and annoying mistake. Children have never been killed by the Israelites, especially not in the matter of Baal-Peor. It was a shame in Israel that the Amalakites once had tried to do so (Deuteronomy 25:17-18).
In Numbers 31:35 we read about the total sum of women (Hebr. nashim) held captive and who were of marriageable age. In verse 18 they are called ‘all youth among the women’ (again: nashim, women) and nothing about 'little girls'. Apparently the little girls had been left behind after the hostilities under supervision of slaves or servants. In the same way it is correct to interpret that neither young boys were held captive; all little children had been left behind.
In Numbers 31:17 is the translation “… kill every male among the little ones …” (NASB). This can’t be true as we have seen. It should be: “… kill every man/male being with the youth …’ We have to reckon with men (soldiers) that were appointed to protect the women and the children. These soldiers were hold responsible as well as the women for the tragedy of Baal-Peor. Their fellow-soldiers were slain in the war earlier. (Numbers 31:7)


No Bible Contradictions