He had told the Israelites they should not intermarry with other nations.
Numbers 31:1 - 51
MSG - 1 God spoke to Moses: "Avenge the People of Israel on the Midianites. Afterward you will go to be with your dead ancestors. 3 Moses addressed the people: "Recruit men for a campaign against Midian, to exact God's vengeance on Midian, a thousand from each tribe of Israel to go to war.
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The children of Moab comprised a smaller tribe within the larger federation of tribes referred to as Midianites, or simply Midian. Earlier in the book of Numbers, we learn that the Israelites "began to play the harlot with the daughters of Moab" (Numbers 25:1). Moreover, the Israelites attended the sacrifices of the Moabites, they ate among the Moabites (perhaps partaking of foods God had declared unclean), and they bowed down to the Moabites' gods, including Baal (Numbers 25:2,3). God judged Israel for her harlotry, both spiritual and literal, with a plague in which 24,000 Israelites died (25:9). As the Jewish Encyclopedia says, "It is commonly held that this form of Ba'al-worship especially called for sensual indulgence. The context seems to favor this view, on account of the shameful licentiousness into which many of the Israelites were there enticed. But all Ba'al-worship encouraged this sin; and Peor may not have been worse than many other shrines in this respect, though the evil there was certainly flagrant." The Midianite virgins I refer to Numbers 31:18 were young girls who obviously were not involved in the licentiousness and immorality associated with Baal worship. They were therefore not implicated along with the adult men and women. These virgins grew up and were given in marriage to men in Israel. As for the girls, after being divvied up with the rest of the booty among the soldiers and other tribes, most of them were likely absorbed into Israelite community, perhaps in accordance with the Deuteronomic instruction for female prisoners-of-war taken as wives (Deuteronomy 21:10-14).
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