Substantial parts of the Old Testament are concerned with wars between the Israelites and their neighbouring tribes. In Numbers, we read of the vengeance of the Israelites against the Midianites. There the Israelites defeat the Midianites in battle, and kill every man, every boy, and every woman who isn’t a virgin:
They did battle against Midian, as the Lord had commanded Moses, and killed every male. They killed the kings of Midian: Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba, the five kings of Midian, in addition to others who were slain by them; and they also killed Balaam son of Beor with the sword. The Israelites took the women of Midian and their little ones captive; and they took all their cattle, their flocks, and all their goods as booty. All their towns where they had settled, and all their encampments, they burned, but they took all the spoil and all the booty, both people and animals. Then they brought the captives and the booty and the spoil to Moses, to Eleazar the priest, and to the congregation of the Israelites, at the camp on the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho.
Moses, Eleazar the priest, and all the leaders of the congregation went to meet them outside the camp. Moses became angry with the officers of the army, the commanders of thousands and the commanders of hundreds, who had come from service in the war. Moses said to them, ‘Have you allowed all the women to live? These women here, on Balaam’s advice, made the Israelites act treacherously against the Lord in the affair of Peor, so that the plague came among the congregation of the Lord. Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known a man by sleeping with him. But all the young girls who have not known a man by sleeping with him, keep alive for yourselves.’ [Numbers 31:7-18 (NRSV)]
This would have reduced the Midianites to a tribe of virgin slaves, and so should have put an end to them. However, in Judges the Midianites are back, oppressing the Israelites once more:
The Israelites did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord gave them into the hand of Midian for seven years. The hand of Midian prevailed over Israel… [Judges 6:1-2a (NRSV)]
So did the Israelites destroy the Midianites the first time or not?
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