In much of the Pentateuch, Moses's word and YHWH's will are practically indistinguishable, but this equation seems to break down in the latter half of Numbers, where Moses himself is explicitly condemned for rebellion (20:12; 27:13–14). In line with that shift, this article argues against the widespread assumption that Moses's command to slaughter the Midianite women and boys in Num 31:17–18 fulfills YHWH's call for “vengeance” (נקמה) in 31:1–2. Reinterpreting a surprisingly diverse range of earlier biblical legislation, Num 31 will be seen to juxtapose two sequences of divine command, fulfillment, and voluntary extension (31:1–18; 31:25–54), in which Moses's demand in 31:13–18 is contrasted with the officers' gift to the sanctuary in 31:48–54. Both can be seen as additional responses to YHWH's נקמה, but the first emphasizes its punitive side, demanding vengeance on the enemy, while the second takes up the liberating side of נקמה, celebrating the vindication and redress of Israel. In the end, it is not Moses's call for slaughter that is granted lasting significance but the officers' generous gift to the sanctuary.

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