Numbers Chapter 25 covers the topic of sexual immorality and the worship of false gods. At the core of this conflict is the relationship between Israeli men and Moabite women and the Midianite people.
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Seduction of the Israeli Men
As the Israelites made camp in a region of Shittim, the men began to have sexual relations with the Moab women. Soon after, these women would sway the men to worship their god, Baal. They ate the sacrificial food of Baal and bowed to his altar.
Upon hearing of these actions, the Lord was furious. He commanded Moses to execute these men in public. The Lord also said he would turn away from the people of Israel and send a plague upon them.
Execution in the Tent of Meeting
An Israeli man brought with him a Midianite woman to the tent where Moses and the elders were meeting and also crying over the punishment of the Israeli people. Bringing the woman was an act of defiance and when Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron, saw this, he grabbed a spear and drove it through both the man and the woman.
Once this occurred, the plague had ended and God no longer subjected the Israelites to His wrath. Over 24,000 Israelites died in the plague.
God’s Words about the Midianites
The Lord spoke about the actions of Phinehas. The Lord noted his zeal and stated his commitment to serve the Lord contributed to the Lord turning his anger away from the Israelite people. Phinehas would now be honored with the priesthood. A lasting covenant between his family and the Lord now existed.
The Lord also commanded Moses to kill the Midianites due to their actions of tricking the Israelite people in Poer and contributing to their worship of Baal with the Moabites.
Numbers 25 (King James Version)
1 And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab.
2 And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods.
3 And Israel joined himself unto Baalpeor: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel.
4 And the LORD said unto Moses, Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up before the LORD against the sun, that the fierce anger of the LORD may be turned away from Israel.
5 And Moses said unto the judges of Israel, Slay ye every one his men that were joined unto Baalpeor.
6 And, behold, one of the children of Israel came and brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping before the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
7 And when Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose up from among the congregation, and took a javelin in his hand;
8 And he went after the man of Israel into the tent, and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her belly. So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel.
9 And those that died in the plague were twenty and four thousand.
10 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
11 Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, hath turned my wrath away from the children of Israel, while he was zealous for my sake among them, that I consumed not the children of Israel in my jealousy.
12 Wherefore say, Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace:
13 And he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel.
14 Now the name of the Israelite that was slain, even that was slain with the Midianitish woman, was Zimri, the son of Salu, a prince of a chief house among the Simeonites.
15 And the name of the Midianitish woman that was slain was Cozbi, the daughter of Zur; he was head over a people, and of a chief house in Midian.
16 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
17 Vex the Midianites, and smite them:
18 For they vex you with their wiles, wherewith they have beguiled you in the matter of Peor, and in the matter of Cozbi, the daughter of a prince of Midian, their sister, which was slain in the day of the plague for Peor’s sake.