(an outtake from Once More, From the Beginning. This is one of the bits that didn’t make it into the book.)
When God caught the Hebrew men partying with Moabite women and worshiping Moabite gods, he insisted that Moses hack off the heads of the offenders and hang them up to dangle in the sun like big, grisly tassels . . . hinting that this might satisfy his wrath. Moses was quick to obey, but The Lord whipped up a surprise plague anyway, killing off about twenty-four thousand random people, just in case they were among the offenders.
Chastened, the Hebrews sent an army of twelve thousand of their remaining men to conquer the Midianites, which they accomplished with relative ease. They had been practicing, and were quite good at it by now. They burned all the castles and cities, killing all the males and confiscating everything they owned. On reflection, they realized that this left a lot of homeless, destitute, grieving people on their hands so, as a purely charitable act, they slaughtered the women as well, sparing only the virgins for their own personal use. Of course, they were very careful to purify the girls before using them, lest the Hebrew men be defiled. No doubt the maidens felt highly honoured to be made use of by such very fastidious men.
When they took roll call (which wasn’t easy, as so many of the men had already hurried off to use the Midianite virgins) they found that not one Hebrew soldier had been slain. Gathering all the gold that had been taken as spoils of war, they offered it to The Lord, in gratitude for their victory.
Moses at once eagerly accepted it on God’s behalf. “It’s the thought that counts, of course,” Moses admitted. “But I think we need to melt down all the little bits and pieces – most of them are really not our style at all, when you take a close look – and make him something he’ll really like . . . .
“I know just the thing! We’ll commission a tasteful memorial. Something evocative yet understated, to spruce up the tabernacle that holds those old tablets . . . you know, the ones with the commandments. It could certainly use a bit of help. It’s beginning to look pretty shabby after being carted around in the wilderness all these years.”
Before he died, Moses blessed all the tribes of Israel and distributed the promised land among the male offspring – with never so much as a grain of sand granted to the females, of course. In fact, the women would have been overlooked completely if five feisty sisters hadn’t kicked up a fuss about it. Their father had died honourably in the wilderness, but he had left no sons so his share of the land promised by The Lord was to be forfeit, and his daughters left destitute. The five women took turns petitioning Moses, and were so relentless in their determination and so persuasive in their arguments that the dispute started to interfere with his digestion, which was none too good by that time anyway.
He finally agreed that in a case where a man died leaving no son, his inheritance should pass to his daughter – almost as if she were a real person. Of course, the girls would be forced to marry within their own tribe so that the land wouldn’t transfer out of the family in the next generation. And any girl who had even one brother was still totally dependent. But it was all they were going to get, and it was more than anyone had ever intended to offer, so the five sisters did a little happy dance and told themselves how lucky they were.