Moses, Eleazar the priest, and all the chieftains of the community came out to meet them outside the camp. Moses became angry with the commanders of the army, the officers of thousands and the officers of hundreds, who had come back from the military campaign. Moses said to them, “You have spared every female! Yet they are the very ones who, at the bidding of Balaam, induced the Israelites to trespass against the Lord in the matter of Peor, so that the Lord’s community was struck by the plague. Now, therefore, slay every male among the children, and slay also every woman who has known a man carnally; but spare every young woman who has not had carnal relations with a man.
“You shall then stay outside the camp seven days; every one among you or among your captives who has slain a person or touched a corpse shall cleanse himself on the third and seventh days. You shall also cleanse every cloth, every article of skin, everything made of goats’ hair, and every object of wood.”
Eleazar the priest said to the troops who had taken part in the fighting, “This is the ritual law that the Lord has enjoined upon Moses: Gold and silver, copper, iron, tin, and lead–any article that can withstand fire–these you shall pass through fire and they shall be clean, except that they must be cleansed with water of lustration; and anything that cannot withstand fire you must pass through water. On the seventh day you shall wash your clothes and be clean, and after that you may enter the camp.”
The Lord said to Moses: “You and Eleazar the priest and the family heads of the community take an inventory of the booty that was captured, man and beast, and divide the booty equally between the combatants who engaged in the campaign and the rest of the community. You shall exact a levy for the Lord: in the case of the warriors who engaged in the campaign, one item in five hundred, of persons, oxen, asses, and sheep, shall be taken from their half-share and given to Eleazar the priest as a contribution to the Lord; and from the half-share of the other Israelites you shall withhold one in every fifty human beings as well as cattle, asses, and sheep–all the animals–and give them to the Levites, who attend to the duties of the Lord’s Tabernacle.”
Moses and Eleazar the priest did as the Lord commanded Moses. The amount of booty, other than the spoil that the troops had plundered, came to 675,000 sheep, 72,000 head of cattle, 61,000 asses, and a total of 32,000 human beings, namely, the women who had not had carnal relations.
Thus, the half-share of those who had engaged in the campaign [was as follows]: The number of sheep was 337,500, and the Lord’s levy from the sheep was 675; the cattle came to 36,000, from which the Lord’s levy was 72; the asses came to 30,500, from which the Lord’s levy was 61. And the number of human beings was 16,000, from which the Lord’s levy was 32. Moses gave the contributions levied for the Lord to Eleazar the priest, as the Lord had commanded Moses.
As for the half-share of the other Israelites, which Moses withdrew from the men who had taken the field, that half-share of the community consisted of 337,500 sheep, 36,000 head of cattle, 30,500 asses, and 16,000 human beings. From this half-share of the Israelites, Moses withheld one in every fifty humans and animals; and he gave them to the Levites, who attended to the duties of the Lord’s Tabernacle, as the Lord had commanded Moses.
The commanders of the troop divisions, the officers of thousands and the officers of hundreds, approached Moses. They said to Moses, “Your servants have made a check of the warriors in our charge, and not one of us is missing. So we have brought as an offering to the Lord such articles of gold as each of us came upon: armlets, bracelets, signet rings, earrings, and pendants, that expiation may be made for our persons before the Lord.”
Moses and Eleazar the priest accepted the gold from them, all kinds of wrought articles. All the gold that was offered by the officers of thousands and the officers of hundreds as a contribution to the Lord came to 16,750 shekels. But in the ranks, everyone kept his booty for himself. So Moses and Eleazar the priest accepted the gold from the officers of thousands and the officers of hundreds and brought it to the Tent of Meeting, as a reminder in behalf of the Israelites before the Lord.
From Parshat Mattot-Masei. From THE TANAKH: The New JPS Translation According to the Traditional Hebrew Text. Copyright 1985 by the Jewish Publication Society. Used by permission.