Numbers 25


‘While Israel was staying in Shittim, the men began to indulge in sexual immorality with Moabite women, who invited them to the sacrifices to their gods. The people ate the sacrificial meal and bowed down before these gods. So Israel yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor. And the LORD’s anger burned against them. The LORD said to Moses, “Take all the leaders of these people, kill them and expose them in broad daylight before the LORD, so that the LORD’s fierce anger may turn away from Israel.” So Moses said to Israel’s judges, “Each of you must put to death those of your people who have yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor.” Numbers 25:1-5

Moab Seduces Israel

Here we read that in Shittim, Joshua 2:1 / Joshua 3:1, the men of Israel begun to have sexual relations with the Moabite women, this was to be a problem for Israel for many years to come, hence why God warned them about this very thing, Exodus 34:12-16 / Deuteronomy 7:1-6.

As is it is in most cases, one sin leads to another, here we find that the Moabite women led them to worship and sacrifice to foreign gods, the Baal of Peor.

Baal was the Canaanite fertility god, and the worship of Baal was a constant temptation for Israel, Hosea 4:14 / Hosea 9:10. Baalam prophesied from the high places of Baal, Numbers 22:41.

It does appear that Balaam played some part in this moral destruction of Israel in that he counselled both the Israelite men and Moabite women to commit fornication, Numbers 31:16 / Revelation 2:14.

Remember, after meeting with king Balak of Moab, Balaam prophesied over Israel four times. But as he spoke forth God’s word, he didn’t curse Israel, instead he blessed them each time.

When he was unsuccessful in cursing Israel, Balaam advised Balak on how to bring Israel under a curse. Instead of trying to have a prophet curse Israel, he should lead them into fornication and idolatry and then God would curse a disobedient Israel.

Balak did just that, sending his young women into the camp of Israel to lead Israel into sexual immorality and idolatry. Because of the people’s sin, God did curse Israel, He brought a plague of judgment upon Israel that killed 24,000 but judgment would come upon him later, Numbers 31:7-8.

Barnes, in his commentary says the following concerning the number who died.

‘Paul says ‘three and twenty thousand,’ 1 Corinthians 10:8, following probably the Jewish tradition which deducted one thousand as the number slain by the hands of their brethren.’

Balaam was guilty of the greatest of sins, deliberately leading others into sin. Worse yet, he did it for money. Greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, the greedy error of Balaam was that he was willing to compromise everything for money, 2 Peter 2:15-16. The certain men Jude warned about had the same heart, Jude 11.

We read how serious this matter was before God, the leaders of the people were help responsible by God and as a result, they were hanged first.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘Many scholars agree that the mode of execution here is not certainly known. Many believe that the exposure of the bodies in the sun was merely to advertise the penalty and not for the purpose of causing death, that being inflicted before the impaling.’

The second action that had to be taken was to rid the nation of those who had committed the sin, and so, the judges executed those who had had sexual relations with the Moabite women and worshiped the Baal of Peor.

‘Then an Israelite man brought into the camp a Midianite woman right before the eyes of Moses and the whole assembly of Israel while they were weeping at the entrance to the tent of meeting. When Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, saw this, he left the assembly, took a spear in his hand and followed the Israelite into the tent. He drove the spear into both of them, right through the Israelite man and into the woman’s stomach. Then the plague against the Israelites was stopped; but those who died in the plague numbered 24,000. The LORD said to Moses, “Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, has turned my anger away from the Israelites. Since he was as zealous for my honour among them as I am, I did not put an end to them in my zeal. Therefore tell him I am making my covenant of peace with him. He and his descendants will have a covenant of a lasting priesthood, because he was zealous for the honour of his God and made atonement for the Israelites.” The name of the Israelite who was killed with the Midianite woman was Zimri son of Salu, the leader of a Simeonite family. And the name of the Midianite woman who was put to death was Kozbi daughter of Zur, a tribal chief of a Midianite family. The LORD said to Moses, “Treat the Midianites as enemies and kill them. They treated you as enemies when they deceived you in the Peor incident involving their sister Kozbi, the daughter of a Midianite leader, the woman who was killed when the plague came as a result of that incident.” Numbers 25:6-18

Here we read that an Israelite man, blatantly and walked into camp with a Midianite women, to shock of everyone. This woman was brought into the camp even while supplications were being made to stop the plague that was ravaging through Israel.

Phinehas in the righteous indignation Phinehas was moved to take immediate action. Both Zimri and Kozbi were thrust through with a spear and because he acted quickly, Phinehas and his descendants were rewarded with a covenant of peace, Ephesians 2:14, and a lasting priesthood in Israel.

It appears that deception was part of the problem in reference to Israel’s sin with the Midianites. It’s possible that the Midianites took advantage of Israel’s innocence.

Notice, however, that although the Israelites were innocently deceived, they were still held responsible for their sin. The Midianites paid the price for the sin in that God judged them using the Israelite army, Numbers 31.

Go To Numbers 26


"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men."

Colossians 3:23