In today's reading, God gave Moses a double-sided commanded: Avenge the people of Israel on the Midianites. After that, you're coming home.
I did wonder if by that point, Moses was more than ready to die. But I also wondered, avenge them for what? (oh, how short my memory is.)
The Midianite women had led the men of Israel astray, and 24,000 died.
Oh, yes. That reason.
But . . . avenge? When I looked for images, all I found were video game and comic book heroes. The 21st century has corrupted the role of avengers to an entertainment sport.
It's also an unexpected command, since God says, "Vengeance is mine; I will repay."
I checked to see if this word is used elsewhere, in the conquest of Canaan, about other tribes they would vanquish. No, it isn't. God only commands vengeance against the Midianites.
Merriam Webster defines avenge as "to exact satisfaction for a wrong by punishing the wrongdoer."
What was the wrong done? Leading the people of Israel into worshipping other gods; pushing the always-hot sex button. Women took the lead in the plot.
God had already punished the Israelites for falling for the temptation; now He wanted Israel to punish Midian for leading them astray. The women were a key component of the temptation. Any right-thinking leader would realize the vengeance must incorporate the women who led them astray, or else, well, they might go back where they started.
12,000 men went to war. They killed all the men and brought home the women. I couldn't help but wonder if a few of the couples who had been together met again. Maybe the guys were hoping for a repetition of the experience, this time almost God-approved? Our thinking can get really twisted when we want something badly enough.
Moses was furious and ordered that all the women who weren't virgins be put to death.
Hmm, does this story on vengeance have anything to say about the betrayal I've experienced? Well, I wasn't led into sin. So perhaps not.