Before Moses died, God had one last military act for him to lead. God instructed Moses to take 1000 men from each of the tribes (totaling 12,000) and to send them out to do battle with the Midianites led by Phinehas (the high priest). The soldiers went out and defeated the Midianites and killed their 5 kings. They burned the Midianites cities and took a large amount of plunder.
When they returned home there was a lot of plunder to share so Moses explained to them how God wanted them to share it. First, they divided it in half. One half was given to the men who actually fought in the war and the other half was given to the rest of the people. Then the soldiers were to each give a portion (1 out of 500) to God to thank Him for allowing them to survive the battle. The people were to give a portion (1 out of 50) to God as well to thank Him for His provision.
The men who had gone to war were also supposed to spend the first seven days after they came back outside the camp and wash everything they had taken into battle. This was called purification. But why did they need to do this? I think there were 2 reasons. Number 1, they could have encountered diseases in the Midianites cities. By washing everything, they helped get rid of germs and if anyone had caught something, they would probably begin to show symptoms by then and they could avoid spreading it further. The second reason, in my opinion, was for their mental health. Being in war is hard, and spending 7 quiet days gave them time to pray and process what they had seen and been required to do. We all need a rest break sometimes! And this gave the soldiers one!
This chapter shows many ways that God cares for His people and rewards them when they follow His commands. The soldiers went out and defeated God’s enemy. In return they received great riches, but God also thought about their physical wellbeing and their mental wellbeing. Doing all that washing may have seemed silly then, but now we know about germs and that it is really important to wash dirty thing. God is taking care of us, even when His instructions may seem a little strange!
Have your child help you clean: wash dishes, load the dishwasher, wash laundry or even mop the floor. Explain to them that today we know we need to wash to kill germs that spread disease, but at the time of Moses they didn’t know about germs and most people didn’t wash regularly. God was taking care of His chosen people and they didn’t even know it!!