All scriptures contain passages that are weird. Christians have to explain why Jesus would curse a fig tree to death for not bearing fruit out-of-season, Muslims have to explain why Allah turned Jews into apes for breaking the Sabbath, and so forth. Despite their strangeness, passages like these don’t present too much trouble for believers because, even if they can’t account for them, the verses can be explained away as being “mysterious” without causing a crisis of faith. Then there are passages like Numbers 31:13-18 which are so damned awful that they can ruin an entire religion.
Moses, humble hero of the Israelites, God’s chosen liaison to the world of mortals, finds out that his war-party had the audacity to spare the lives of the Midianite women and children, and he goes into a full-on rage! How dare they allow these prisoners to live? They were the ones who listened to Balaam and prostituted themselves to the Israelites thereby forcing God’s hand to kill tens-of-thousands of Israelites with a plague!
Except that everything Moses just said is wrong! Balaam spoke only to the Moabites, not the Midians, he never told anyone to prostitute themselves, and of the prostitutes, only the Moabite women were explicitly stated to have been involved. If anyone is at fault, it’s either the Israelite men who paid for the sex or God for murdering people indiscriminately (or both)!
But Moses isn’t all that concerned with facts and orders the execution of every woman without an intact hymen. Why? Were the grandmothers selling their bodies as well? Then, he orders the execution of every single little boy. Why? Did the Israelites pay to have sex with little boys too? Finally, Moses tells the war-party that they may keep the little virgin girls for themselves as spoils of war. Each little girl will either be kept as a slave, forcibly married and raped, or both—possibly even by the same man who butchered her parents.
Even when I try, I can’t think of a worse atrocity in human history, and I have absolutely no respect for the horrible people who defend these actions, though I understand why they do. In their minds the bible must be true and God must be perfect, therefore, everything that God does in the bible, regardless of how vile and evil it appears, must actually be the pinnacle of morality. That’s why we have sub-human apologist like William Lane Craig saying that God was moral when he ordered the murder of every man, boy, and woman of an entire race, and the rape of everyone else (the little girls). The apologist’s reasons are just as awful as you’d think, but this post is getting long, so I’ll go into them on Friday.