Read NUMBERS 25
Moab Seduces Israel
25 While Israel was staying in Shittim, the men began to indulge in sexual immorality with Moabite women, 2 who invited them to the sacrifices to their gods. The people ate the sacrificial meal and bowed down before these gods. 3 So Israel yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor. And the Lord’s anger burned against them.
4 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.”
5 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.”
6 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. 7 When Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, saw this, he left the assembly, took a spear in his hand 8 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; 9 but those who died in the plague numbered 24,000.
10 The Lord said to Moses, 11 “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 honor among them as I am, I did not put an end to them in my zeal. 12 Therefore tell him I am making my covenant of peace with him. 13 He and his descendants will have a covenant of a lasting priesthood, because he was zealous for the honor of his God and made atonement for the Israelites.”
14 The name of the Israelite who was killed with the Midianite woman was Zimri son of Salu, the leader of a Simeonite family. 15 And the name of the Midianite woman who was put to death was Kozbi daughter of Zur, a tribal chief of a Midianite family.
16 The Lord said to Moses, 17 “Treat the Midianites as enemies and kill them. 18 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.”
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise, / thou mine inheritance, now and always: / thou and thou only, first in my heart, / high King of heaven, my treasure thou art.’1
We last glimpsed the Israelites camped on the plains of Moab, victorious in battle, feared by the surrounding nations, poised to possess the Promised Land. However, ‘there’s many a slip ‘twixt the cup and the lip’! Their ‘slip’ was a sin as old as time: the creature’s failure to give the Creator his rightful place.2 It was no accident that ‘You shall have no other gods before me’ was God’s first commandment.3 This command was the bedrock of the covenant relationship and the basis for promised blessing. At Sinai, even before the metaphoric ink was dry, God’s people had flouted this commandment!4
The Bible ‘juxtaposes the brightest of revelations and the darkest of sins.’5 The events in these verses have many echoes of those at Sinai.6 At Sinai, the golden calf is worshipped; at Shittim, God’s people bow before Baal, the Canaanite fertility god. At Sinai, they feast and ‘indulge in revelry’;7 now they eat the ‘sacrificial meal’ (v 2) and ‘indulge in sexual immorality’ (v 1). On both occasions, the Lord’s anger burns fiercely, many die by plague or execution and those who defend God’s honor are highly commended. To be ‘yoked’ (vs 3,5) is to be bound in pursuit of a common purpose. The marrying of spiritual idolatry and sexual immorality is a recurrent theme in the Bible. Brazen sin calls for a bold response. The violent action which gives rise to God’s ‘covenant of peace’ with Phinehas (vs 8,12) foreshadows a greater covenant of peace where the violence is directed against the Son of God himself, who makes peace in his own flesh.8 The sin of idolatry is as old as time but also prevalent throughout time, assuming different forms and faces.
Graven images and golden calves may no longer captivate us, but are we captive to the lures of riches, lofty ambitions, digital delights, and a host of glittering pleasures?
The world offers so many distractions. Father, I need your wisdom and power to walk closely with you.
Last Updated on August 18, 2023 by kingstar