The Torah says that Midyan was Avraham (Tzadik) and Keturah (Tzaddekes) son:

וַיֹּסֶף אַבְרָהָם וַיִּקַּח אִשָּׁה וּשְׁמָהּ קְטוּרָה׃ וַתֵּלֶד לוֹ אֶת־זִמְרָן וְאֶת־יָקְשָׁן וְאֶת־מְדָן וְאֶת־מִדְיָן וְאֶת־יִשְׁבָּק וְאֶת־שׁוּחַ׃
Abraham took another wife, whose name was Keturah. She bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah. (Gen 25.1)

Some 300 years later Moshe exterminates Midyan's nation for being particularly bad to the Israelites.

Was it the same Midyan (I don't see any other Midyan born in Bereshis) and if yes how did this nation come to be so bad it needed full extermination?

  • 1
    How did Amalek become so bad it needed full extermination when his great-grandparents were Yitzchak and RIvkah? Commented Nov 24, 2019 at 3:10
  • It's even more amazing when you think about Midian producing tzadikkim like Yitro and Tzippora and 1-2 generations later needing to be destroyed Commented Nov 24, 2019 at 19:48
  • If Moshe exterminated Midyan's nation, he didn't do a very good job of it, as they came back to wreak havoc in Gideon's time (Judges 6-8). (Who says Moses exterminated them?)
    – Tamir Evan
    Commented Nov 25, 2019 at 14:46

1 Answer 1


One of the main tenets of Judaism is that humans have free choice. That means that in spite being raised in a perfect environment with the the most righteous surroundings, a person can still choose to make the wrong decisions and be evil/do active that warrant punishment (the positive side of this is that we can also always choose positively, in spite of any negative'external forces).

History is unfortunately replete with children of righteous people who are nonetheless wicked sinners (for example, Esav).

Note also that your premises aren't entirely factually correct. The decree to destroy the Midyanim was in retaliation for specific acts they did to us (hiring Bilam and causing us to sin with the women), not because they were judged on some spiritual level to be considered "evil" and therefore destroyed. Also, they didn't receive full extermination, girls under the age of 3 were spared.

  • THis sounds plausible. I, however, disagree with the dogma of the free choice. Numerous examples in the Torah clearly prove that Tzaddikim are born Tzaddikim and the vice verse. Yaakov and Moses were born good, Eisov was born wicked, they were known to be so from their first moment.
    – Al Berko
    Commented Nov 24, 2019 at 13:19
  • @AlBerko - that's a rather bombastic set of statements! 1) the dogma of the free choice, 2) the Torah clearly proves that Tzaddikim are born Tzaddikim 3) Yaakov and Moses were born good, 4) Eisov was born wicked, 5) they were known to be so from their first moment. (Maybe their tendencies were apparent, but from there to invalidate free choice???) Commented Nov 25, 2019 at 9:14
  • @AlBerko Where in the world did you come from with this claim about Yaakov and Eisav? The Torah says no such thing. And of course the Rambam states clearly (Hilchos Teshuvah 5) "Every human being is fit to become righteous like Moshe Rabbeinu"
    – MichoelR
    Commented Jul 16, 2021 at 1:57
  • @MichoelR From Midrash Rabbah that explains the struggle in the womb by the fact that Eisov was intrinsically bad and Jacob was intrinsically good, even before they were born. See Rashi ibid.
    – Al Berko
    Commented Jul 27, 2021 at 7:12
  • I don't think that is a correct understanding of that Midrash. It simply describes their tendencies. They still had free choice. Certainly the Rambam understood it that way.
    – MichoelR
    Commented Jul 28, 2021 at 2:24

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