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Is Numbers 31:40 describing human sacrifice?

Animals and 32 virgin women are grouped together as tributes to the Lord. Is this human sacrifice as some people (mainly atheists) suggest?
I can’t find in-depth commentary on what’s going on in this passage. Any help would be appreciated.

Numbers 31:40
And the persons were sixteen thousand; of which the Lord’S tribute was thirty and two persons.


@Tnt77 Good question :slight_smile: No, this is not an instance of human sacrifice. Earlier in the same passage it is clear that the girls who had not slept with a man were neither killed nor sacrificed, but kept either to be married or as servants.

Numbers 31:15-18 - “Have you allowed all the women to live?” he asked them. 16 “They were the ones who followed Balaam’s advice and enticed the Israelites to be unfaithful to the Lord in the Peor incident, so that a plague struck the Lord’s people. 17 Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, 18 but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.

Numbers 31 is about the destruction of Midian because they had plotted to seduce Israel away from worship of the true God (see Numbers 25). After the conquest, 32,000 young women were taken captive. Half the spoil went to the warriors and half to the regular Israelites back in the camp. Both the warriors and the Israelites tithed a portion of their spoil to service among the Levites. The 32 young women was the warrior’s tithe. I would assume they served in the Levite camp in some manner.

For a fuller discussion of these difficult texts, please see resources in the following thread:


Thank you friend! This meant a lot. @SeanO do you know if Paul Copan’s book (I hate the title of it) deals with this issue?


@Tnt77 I am not sure if Copan addresses this specific passage, but I highly recommend his book in order to gain a better understanding of the Israelite conquest of Canaan generally. And I am confident it would help you understand this particular issue better. His talk on YouTube is also a fairly good summary.