Skip to main content

Defending the Indefensible

By WizenedSage (Galen Rose) ~

Christian apologists usually manage to ignore the really tough questions posed by the Bible. But, occasionally, we read of one who will tackle a tough one head on. On the one hand we have to admire the fact that at least one Christian writer sees and understands that there’s a serious problem in this passage or that, but on the other hand, we can’t help but deplore a clumsy and/or dishonest explanation.

I came across just such an example recently on the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry site. The article was titled, “Why were only the virgins left alive among the Midianites?” (Numbers 31:17-18).

The article explains,
“The Midianites were descended from Abraham and Keturah (Gen. 25:1). They inhabited the land of Moab and were apparently involved in seducing Israel into going after false gods. Because the Israelites fell into idolatry this way, God told Moses to order the deaths of all who had bowed to the false gods in that land… Later, when Moses meets the returning Israeli army he was angry because he saw the Midianite survivors. The Midianite women, he said, should have died because they were directly culpable in Israel’s sin at Baal of Peor. All the women except the virgins were then sentenced to death along with all the boys. This insured the extermination of the Midianites and thus prevented them from ever again seducing Israel to sin . . . The virgins were spared because they obviously had had no role in the Baal of Peor incident nor could they by themselves perpetuate the Midianite peoples. Some may object that the Israelites then married the virgins, the daughters of those whom they had killed and that this would be a horrible thing for the virgins. Perhaps it was a horrible thing for them. But, their lives were spared. Also, in that culture at that time, warfare and plunder was a necessary evil. The reality of taking women as wives was unfortunate but true.”

Well, right off the top, the extermination of the Midianites – because they were Midianites - is genocide, pure and simple. Notice that Moses did not say, “Round up the suspects, try them, and punish those found guilty.” He just ordered the extermination of all Midianites except female virgins. So, this author is defending Moses’ genocide.

In that culture at that time, warfare and plunder was a necessary evilFurther, how were they to tell whether a woman was a virgin? Did they examine them all, or, much more likely, just select the very youngest? And how do we know the virgins were taken for marrying instead of for raping? There is nothing in that passage about marrying. Moses didn’t say, “Hey, you guys who don’t have a wife just take one of the virgins.” The Bible is clear that virginity is a treasure and virgins are “best” for sex, so I suggest that this writer is perhaps a tad naïve. And, if the virgins were really taken for marrying, the implication of this author is that they were to be married off whether they wanted it or not – to those who had killed their families! Talk about insensitive! And isn’t that basically rape?

He writes, “Also, in that culture at that time, warfare and plunder was a necessary evil.”

Why was war – except in self defense - necessary? And why was plunder necessary at all?

Further, “The reality of taking women as wives was unfortunate but true.”

The writer of this article says this practice was “unfortunate,” so he obviously thinks it was wrong, but won’t actually say it because it was god’s chosen people who were doing it.

This article amounts to a very poor defense of Moses’ immoral actions in this affair.

Now, how much evidence should one need that Moses was not simply carrying out the wishes of a loving, merciful god? Could it be any more obvious that the writer of these Biblical passages was a brutal, primitive man who felt that might makes right? Whatever he felt was right for him and his people determined whatever words he put in his god’s mouth. However, in our time we should have not only the good sense to recognize the immorality of Moses’ acts, but the courage to point it out.

The really sad thing going on here is that the apologist, when he wrote “The reality of taking women as wives was unfortunate,” clearly recognizes that action as morally wrong, but he will not stand up for it. He will not trust his own judgment. Instead, he tries to convince himself that his god must have had good reasons, though he can’t really think of any beyond that’s the sort of thing they did in those days. So, he writes that the action was “unfortunate but true,” as though somehow its being “true” explains something.

This is perhaps the ultimate evil in Christianity: it teaches people to not trust their own reason. And, once one brushes reason off the table, he becomes the perfect, utterly defenseless gull.