[First posted on The Times of Israel at: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/matot-jealous-and-vengeful-god/]
Ibn Ezra Numbers: Matot
Jealous and Vengeful God
“I had rather be a toad, and live upon the vapor of a dungeon than keep a corner in the thing I love for others uses.”-William Shakespeare
There is a dark and dangerous side to our God and beware all who may unleash it. We believe in His mercy, but also in His justice. There is a divine fairness in His eternal plans that no human will ever fathom. However, we also witness His wrath, His anger, the death and destruction he lets loose upon the earth.
In the Bible we see two general victims of His wrath. Perhaps ironically, He is most angry at the people of Israel. Every infraction, every betrayal of the ancient covenant brings hardship, poverty, famine, conquerors, exile, persecution and even death. But there is also the element of mercy. He punishes Israel but does not obliterate Israel. The second types of victim of God’s castigation are those who hurt Israel. There God has shown less restraint.
During our desert wanderings, the Midianite nation had participated in the enticement of the men of Israel. Israel turned to the worship of other gods, and God was swift with his response, the death by plague of 24,000 of Israel. But for the Midianites, God almost wipes them off the map. Every single male Midianite was killed and almost all of the females as well. Ibn Ezra on Numbers 31:3 explains that God commanded vengeance upon both His honor as well as Israel’s. God saw it as one and the same. Like a jealous husband, God takes deep affront at both the seduction and injury of his people. If we think of all the empires, regimes and peoples that sought to harm the nation of Israel and wonder how many are still around, history will provide a very short list.
May the list get shorter.
To hateful regimes of the world. You will be just a memory.