Yesterday we learned that, despite impossible odds against them, the Israelites pulled through with their victory. And today, in Numbers 31:48-54 we get the total number of casualties that occurred when the Israelites attacked a larger, better defended, and more motivated army. How many heart-broken mothers will there be? Not a single one! That’s right, the total casualty count is, ZERO!
Even though the Midianites had twice as many defenders, lived in walled cities, and were filled with the vigor of protecting their homelands, they were so completely inept that that couldn’t kill a single Israelite attacker! There wasn’t even a single incident of friendly fire among the attackers. Probably not even a pulled hamstring from improper stretching!
I see two possible conclusions to this battle. One, there was some supernatural miracle event. The Israelites became invulnerable at the last second, or the Midianites all fell deathly ill due to some magical sickness, or God himself came down and smote every single person foolish enough to defend their home, whatever. The other alternative is, none of this actually happened. And like Quazar, that’s the one I think is correct.
But the narrative disagrees. Rather than offer some BS explanation, the authors just assume the reader is fine with the idea of an unprecedented army of invincible soldiers and goes right to the tributes. 420 pounds of gold in the form of various types of stolen jewelry are given to Eleazar as tribute to God for giving the Israelites a flawless victory… with a fatality… and a friendship. Eleazar doesn’t bother to melt the gold down or make anyone eat it, instead he keeps it in the tent as a memorial to the fabulous victory.