After the Midianites enticed the Israelites to fornicate and worship their false deity (Baal of Peor), Moshe launched a surprise attack and slaughtered all the adults, but the warriors left the children alive, and this angered Moshe. Why did Moshe get so upset? Is there a general principle that says one must kill the male babies?

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    Welcome to Mi Yodeya, TK770, and i hope you enjoy it here. Just one thing about your question - would you mind editing where in the Torah this incident is recorded, for the benefit of others reading the question?
    – Scimonster
    Commented Mar 29, 2015 at 11:43
  • My assumption is that the prophetic instructions were such that, in the instance, he felt that they should have known it was not a divine commandment limited to the culpable adults, but to anyone who would share the national character (i.e. against the nation, not just the individuals). I don't think there's a general rule since I don't think we're generally at war with Midian.
    – Loewian
    Commented Mar 29, 2015 at 13:26
  • Parshas matos, shlishi. That's the source. Looking at it now... Commented Mar 29, 2015 at 16:50
  • I was planning to ask this question when we got to Matos.
    – CashCow
    Commented Mar 31, 2015 at 14:51
  • Would like to add, why did Moshe insist killing all the Midianite, Or Hachaim, Pinhas 15 mentions there was only one there, the rest were afraid to intice Bnei Israel.
    – Zeev
    Commented Apr 2, 2015 at 20:31

2 Answers 2


Yes, It is a general principle in a milchemes-mitzva, a holy war, that one should wipe out the males, since it is presumed that they will grow up and take vengeance for the genocide of their parents. See the tract Toras Hamelech by Rabbi Ginsburg. As for the non-virginal women, it is not clear why they had to be killed. Perhaps it was unclear whether they might be in the early stages of pregnancy.


Moshe's command was to spare the maidens, (Bamidbar 31:18) but not the males. Since Moshe was an accepted prophet, there is a positive mitzvah to heed his words.

The Gemara also brings up the idea (although it is not accepted) that a female convert 3 years and younger can marry a Kohen. Perhaps that has something to do with it?

And our King David left no man, woman, or child alive on various occasions. This may have been in a similar vein to the precedent set by Moshe, (e.g. everyone dies except the maidens/yafos toar etc.)

  • We don't paskin like that opinion. Any convert cannot marry a Kohein.
    – Double AA
    Commented May 3, 2015 at 5:19

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