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Numbers 25 commentary

A verse by verse commentary on Numbers 25 dealing with Moab Seduces Israel, moses commanded to kill the Midianites,.

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Numbers 25 commentary

  1. 1. NUMBERS 25 COMMENTARY EDITED BY GLENN PEASE Moab Seduces Israel 1 hile Israel was staying in Shittim, the men began to indulge in sexual immorality with Moabite women, BARNES, "The records of the neighboring cities of the plain, and the circumstances of the origin of Moab (Gen_19:30 ff) suggest that the people among whom Israel was now thrown were more than ordinarily licentious. GILL, "And Israel abode in Shittim,.... A place in the plains of Moab, so called from the shittim wood, which grew here in great abundance, so often mentioned in the building of the tabernacle; which was a sort of white thorn, or rather the acacia tree, since there was scarcely any thing else grew in the deserts of Arabia; see Gill on Exo_25:5 its full name was Abelshittim, Num_33:49, here the Israelites abode even to the death of Moses, for this was their last station in the wilderness; they were now on the borders of the land of Canaan, and just ready to enter into it, which is an aggravation of the sins they here fell into, and are next observed: and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab; and of Midian also, as appears from Num_25:6 by the advice of Balaam, the Moabites and Midianites found ways and means to become familiar with the Israelites, and to introduce their daughters into their company and conversation, and being ensnared and enamoured with them, they were drawn to commit lewdness with them, and hereby were led on to commit other abominations, which brought the divine displeasure upon them; so that what they dared not attempt by war, and could not effect by sorceries and divinations, they accomplished by those iniquitous arts, namely, bringing the wrath, the curse, and plague of God upon them. HENRY 1-5, "Here is, I. The sin of Israel, to which they were enticed by the daughters of Moab and Midian; they were guilty both of corporal and 1
  2. 2. spiritual whoredoms, for Israel joined himself unto Baal-peor, Num_25:3. Not all, nor the most, but very many, were taken in this snare. Now concerning this observe, 1. That Balak, by the advice of Balaam, cast this stumbling-block before the children of Israel, Rev_2:14. Note, Those are our worst enemies that draw us to sin, for that is the greatest mischief any man can do us. If Balak had drawn out his armed men against them to fight them, Israel had bravely resisted, and no doubt had been more than conquerors; but now that he sends his beautiful women among them, and invites them to his idolatrous feasts, the Israelites basely yield, and are shamefully overcome: those are smitten with this harlots that could not be smitten with his sword. Note, We are more endangered by the charms of a smiling world than by the terrors of a frowning world. 2. That the daughters of Moab were their tempters and conquerors. Ever since Eve was first in the transgression the fairer sex, though the weaker, has been a snare to many; yea strong men have been wounded and slain by the lips of the strange woman (Pro_7:26), witness Solomon, whose wives were shares and nets to him Ecc_7:26. 3. That whoredom and idolatry went together. They first defiled and debauched their consciences, by committing lewdness with the women, and then were easily drawn, in complaisance to them, and in contempt of the God of Israel, to bow down to their idols. And they were more likely to do so if, as it is commonly supposed, and seems probable by the joining of them together, the uncleanness committed was a part of the worship and service performed to Baal-peor. Those that have broken the fences of modesty will never be held by the bonds of piety, and those that have dishonoured themselves by fleshly lusts will not scruple to dishonour God by idolatrous worships, and for this they are justly given up yet further to vile affections. 4. That by eating of the idolatrous sacrifices they joined themselves to Baal-peor to whom they were offered, which the apostle urges as a reason why Christians should not eat things offered to idols, because thereby they had fellowship with the devils to whom they were offered, 1Co_10:20. It is called eating the sacrifices of the dead (Psa_ 106:28), not only because the idol itself was a dead thing, but because the person represented by it was some great hero, who since his death was deified, as saints in the Roman church are canonized. 5. It was great aggravation of the sin that Israel abode in Shittim, where they had the land of Canaan in view, and were just ready to enter and take possession of it. It was the highest degree of treachery and ingratitude to be false to their God, whom they had found so faithful to them, and to eat of idol-sacrifices when they were ready to be feasted so richly on God's favours. II. God's just displeasure against them for this sin. Israel's whoredoms did that which all Balaam's enchantments could not do, they set God against them; now he was turned to be their enemy, and fought against them. So many of the people, nay, so many of the princes, were guilty, that the sin became national, and for it God was wroth with the whole congregation. 1. A plague immediately broke out, for we read of the staying of it (Num_25:8), and of the number that died of it (Num_25:9), but no mention of the beginning of it, which therefore must be implied in those words (Num_ 25:3), The anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel. It is said expressly (Psa_106:29), The plague broke in. Note, Epidemical diseases are the fruits 2
  3. 3. of God's anger, and the just punishments of epidemical sins; one infection follows the other. The plague, no doubt, fastened on those that were most guilty, who were soon made to pay dearly for their forbidden pleasures; and though now God does not always plague such sinners, as he did here, yet that word of God will be fulfilled, If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy, 1Co_3:17. 2. The ringleaders are ordered to be put to death by the hand of public justice, which will be the only way to stay the plague (Num_25:4): Take the heads of the people (that is, of that part of the people that went out of the camp of Israel into the country of Moab, to join in their idolatries) - take them and hang them up before the sun, as sacrifices to God's justice, and for a terror to the rest of the people. The judges must first order them to be slain with the sword (Num_25:5), and their dead bodies must be hanged up, that the stupid Israelites, seeing their leaders and princes so severely punished for their whoredom and idolatry, without any regard to their quality, might be possessed with a sense of the evil of the sin and the terror of God's wrath against them. Ringleaders in sin ought to be made examples of justice. JAMISON,"Num_25:1-18. The Israelites’ whoredom and idolatry with Moab. Israel abode in Shittim — a verdant meadow, so called from a grove of acacia trees which lined the eastern side of the Jordan. (See Num_33:49). K&D, "The Lord had defended His people Israel from Balaam's curse; but the Israelites themselves, instead of keeping the covenant of their God, fell into the snares of heathen seduction (Num_25:1, Num_25:2). Whilst encamped at Shittim, in the steppes of Moab, the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab: they accepted the invitations of the latter to a sacrificial festival of their gods, took part in their sacrificial meals, and even worshipped the gods of the Moabites, and indulged in the licentious worship of Baal-Peor. As the princes of Midian, who were allied to Moab, had been the advisers and assistants of the Moabitish king in the attempt to destroy the Israelites by a curse of God; so now, after the failure of that plan, they were the soul of the new undertaking to weaken Israel and render it harmless, by seducing it to idolatry, and thus leading it into apostasy from its God. But it was Balaam, as is afterwards casually observed in Num_31:16, who first of all gave this advice. This is passed over here, because the point of chief importance in relation to the object of the narrative, was not Balaam's share in the proposal, but the carrying out of the proposal itself. The daughters of Moab, however, also took part in carrying it out, by forming friendly associations with the Israelites, and then inviting them to their sacrificial festival. They only are mentioned in Num_25:1, Num_25:2, as being the daughters of the land. The participation of the Midianites appears first of all in the shameless licentiousness of Cozbi, the daughter of the Midianitish prince, from which we not only see that the princes of Midian performed their part, but obtain an explanation of the reason why the judgment upon the crafty destroyers of Israel was to 3
  4. 4. be executed upon the Midianites. (Note: Consequently there is no discrepancy between Num_25:1-5 and Num_25:6-18, to warrant the violent hypothesis of Knobel, that there are two different accounts mixed together in this chapter-An Elohistic account in Num_25:6-18, of which the commencement has been dropped, and a Jehovistic account in Num_25:1-5, of which the latter part has been cut off. The particular points adduced in proof of this fall to the ground, when the history is correctly explained; and such assertions as these, that the name Shittim and the allusion to the judges in Num_25:5, and to the wrath of Jehovah in Num_25:3 and Num_25:4, are foreign to the Elohist, are not proofs, but empty assumptions.) Shittim, an abbreviation of Abel-Shittim (see at Num_22:1), to which the camp of the Israelites in the steppes of Moab reached (Num_33:49), is mentioned here instead of Arboth-Moab, because it was at this northern point of the camp that the Israelites came into contact with the Moabites, and that the latter invited them to take part in their sacrificial meals; and in Jos_2:1 and Jos_3:1, because it was from this spot that the Israelites commenced the journey to Canaan, as being the nearest to the place where they were to pass through the Jordan. ‫ָה‬‫נ‬ָ‫ז‬, construed with ‫ל‬ ֶ‫,א‬ as in Eze_ 16:28, signifies to incline to a person, to attach one's self to him, so as to commit fornication. The word applies to carnal and spiritual whoredom. The lust of the flesh induced the Israelites to approach the daughters of Moab, and form acquaintances and friendships with them, in consequence of which they were invited by them “to the slain-offerings of their gods,” i.e., to the sacrificial festivals and sacrificial meals, in connection with which they also “adored their gods,” i.e., took part in the idolatrous worship connected with the sacrificial festival. These sacrificial meals were celebrated in honour of the Moabitish god Baal-Peor, so that the Israelites joined themselves to him. ‫ד‬ ַ‫מ‬ ָ‫,צ‬ in the Niphal, to bind one's self to a person. Baal-Peor is the Baal of Peor, who was worshipped in the city of Beth-Peor (Deu_3:29; Deu_4:46; see at Num_23:28), a Moabitish Priapus, in honour of whom women and virgins prostituted themselves. As the god of war, he was called Chemosh (see at Num_21:29). CALVIN, "1And Israel abode in Shittim. From this narrative we learn assuredly that the people were no more able to bear prosperity than adversity. Heretofore, either worn out by fatigue, or rendered impatient by abstinence and famine, they had often rebelled against God; now, when they have entered a habitable land, and are resting in the midst of fruitful fields, they are incited by their more comfortable dwelling-places, and more pleasant mode of life, to lasciviousness, and the indulgence of filthy lusts. Moses relates how, when they had given way to their lust, they fell at the same time into whoredom and idolatry. We shall presently see that this arose from the counsel of Balaam, that the Moabites should prostitute their women to the Israelites, in order to entice them by their blandishments to unholy worship. Balaam had learnt by experience that God’s favor was an invincible safeguard to protect the people from all injury. He, therefore, invents a plan 4
  5. 5. whereby they may destroy themselves, by not only depriving themselves of God’s protection, but also by provoking His wrath against them. By this fan, then, Balaam stirred up the fire, which impelled these poor wretches, inflamed by blind lechery, to another crime, by which they might arouse against themselves the enmity of God. Consequently Paul, referring to this history, informs us that the punishment, which will be mentioned immediately, was inflicted upon them for fornication. (1 Corinthians 10:8.) For, although it was God’s design to avenge the violation of His worship, still it is fitting to examine into the origin and source of the evil. Just as, if a drunken man has killed a person, the murder will be imputed to his drunkenness, so Paul, seeing the Israelites impelled by fornication to idolatry, sets before us the punishment as a warning to deter us from fornication, which was the primary cause of their chastisement, and the means of their corruption. Since, then, the fall from one sin to another is so easy, let us hence learn to be more watchful, lest Satan should entangle us in his snares. Let us also observe that he creeps upon us by degrees in order to entrap us. The Moabitish damsels did not straightway solicit the Israelites to worship their idols, but first invite them to their banquets, and thus tempt them to idolatry; for, if mention had been made at first of idol-worship, perhaps they might have shuddered at the atrocity of the crime, to which they allowed themselves to be beguiled by degrees. Now, to be present at a feast which was celebrated in honor of false gods, was a kind of indirect renunciation of the true God; and when they had been attracted thus far, they threw aside all shame, and abandoned themselves to that extreme act whereby they transfer the honor due only to the one true God, to false and imaginary deities. COFFMAN, "The great importance of this chapter arises from the pivotal nature of it in the subsequent history of Israel. Right here began the religious apostasy of Israel that was to continue for centuries, resulting in the total corruption: (1) of the Northern Israel, and (2) later of the Southern Israel also, with the result that both nations went into captivity, and only the southern remnant survived. A careful study of the episode also reveals the basis of Israel's rejection of their sacred covenant with God. It simply came down to this, that the people rejected the strict moral requirements of the Decalogue. Not all of this appears on the surface of the narrative, but it is clear enough that we are not dealing with two different episodes, but with one, and in order to appreciate the more comprehensive event and the relationship of the two phases of it appearing in this chapter to the total situation, some reading between the lines is necessary. A failure to do this is sure to result in the most ridiculous conclusions, as, for example, that of Marsh: "This chapter contains two stories, from JE and P respectively, concerning Israel's intercourse with foreign women and the consequent idolatry. The first, featuring Moabite women, lacks an ending; the second, introducing Midianite women, has no beginning. The interests of the two stories are widely different."[1] 5
  6. 6. That such conclusions are absolutely false has been known for ages. As Keil stated it, "There is no discrepancy in these `two' accounts. The points offered as proof of such assertions fall to the ground when the history is correctly explained."[2] Even Martin Noth who frequently followed a critical pattern in his commentaries stated that, "There is a lack of any convincing indications which would enable us to divide the narrative into various `sources,' (as J or P)."[3] It is easy enough to reconstruct the larger narrative of which the seemingly isolated events of this chapter are vital ingredients. First, the Moabites and the Midianites were allies, their kingdoms at the moment being under a common ruler, Balak, a Midianite who was also king of Moab.[4] Balak was serving the interests of both Midian and Moab by his seeking to frustrate the progress of Israel. Balaam had not succeeded in cursing Israel, but his hatred of God's people was an invariable element in his activities first to last. Therefore, Balak and Balaam eventually teamed up in the plot for the seduction of Israel. Hengstenberg supposed that Balaam's suggestion for using the Moabite women as instruments of their seduction (Numbers 31:16), came about as follows: "Balaam having failed to get all those rich rewards he had hoped to get from Balak, decided that he would try to get them from the Israelites. So he went to Moses and told him all about his blessing Israel so many times and the prophecies about their triumphs over Moab and other enemies, and then asked Moses to pay him rich rewards! Moses refused, and then Balaam went back to Balak and said, "Well, I cannot curse Israel, but I can tell you how to bring them down by seduction." We see how this diabolical plot worked out in this chapter."[5] Such happenings are not related in the Bible, but even Keil allowed the "possibility" that that is exactly what happened. True, only the Moabite women are mentioned first, but the Midianites came through on schedule with their part of the plot also, when Cozbi, a Midianite princess, married one of the princes of Israel, Zimri, who was the spokesman and outstanding leader of an all-out rebellion against Moses and the Decalogue which he protested and repudiated in its entirety, declaring it not to have been from God at all, but only from Moses! With the understanding of such a background, strongly supported by the most vigorous statements in the word of God, it is easy to see that we have one narrative here and not two, and that the whole rebellion and apostasy against God in evidence here was part of the evil work of Balaam, "who loved the wages of unrighteousness." "And Israel abode in Shittim; and the people began to play the harlot with the daughters of Moab: for they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods; and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods. And Israel joined himself unto Baal-peor: and the anger of Jehovah was kindled against Israel. And Jehovah said unto Moses, Take all the chiefs of the people, and hang them up unto Jehovah before the sun, that the fierce anger of Jehovah may turn away from Israel. And Moses said unto the judges of Israel, Slay ye everyone his men that have joined themselves unto Baal-peor." 6
  7. 7. "Shittim ..." This means "Acacia Trees."[6] It was the very last stopping place of Israel prior to crossing the Jordan (Joshua 2:1; 3:1). It was not very far from Mount Peor, from which the last effort of Balaam to curse Israel was attempted. It is thought that a special shrine or temple to Baal-peor was located on the top of it. "Gods ..." are mentioned in Numbers 25:2; but only Baal-Peor is mentioned in Numbers 25:3. The Baalim were in fact plural and consisted of many `gods.' Here the noted Baal-Peor stands for all of them. These pagan gods were worshipped with the most abominable sexual ceremonies in which the people acted out the mating of their fertility gods, supposing that such orgies led to abundant crops, etc. The particularly Satanic action of this chapter appears in the "design" and purpose of the event. Having already broken over to "commit whoredom" with the seductive women of Moab, it was natural enough that the women should have invited the Jews to attend the services of "their gods"! It appears that this "party" was a howling success indeed with a thousand of the judges of Israel among the invited guests! This was the purpose of the Midianite-Moabite conspiracy from the beginning. "To play the harlot with the daughters of Moab ... (Numbers 25:1). Orlinsky rendered this: "They profaned themselves by whoring."[7] WHY ISRAEL DID THIS At this point, we shall address the question of what actually lay behind this conduct, and the whole conception of implacable hatred against God's people by the pagan nations. All of it went back to the strict moral code of the Decalogue. In a pagan world organized around the temples of Aphrodite, Bacchus, a host of Baals, and a whole stable of pagan gods and goddesses, where the sale and exploitation of sex and all other vices was their appeal, their source of income, and the evil evangelistic apparatus of their orgiastic religion ... what a challenge the pure morality of the Decalogue presented to that kind of world! No wonder the world of that day hated it. Israel had been in the wilderness environment for forty years, and now that renewed conflict with the pagan world was available, many found the temptation more than they could overcome. That the Moabite-Midianite conspiracy was aimed squarely at breaking the influence of the Decalogue in Israel cannot for a moment be doubted. Josephus has a very interesting account of the part played by Zimri. In no sense was he just an innocent who became enamoured with a beautiful princess. No, he was a rebel against God! In a great assembly before all the people, Zimri said the Ten Commandments were not of God, but of Moses, and that Moses had made up those laws himself, and that he was "harder on the Hebrews than were the Egyptians themselves"! Zimri further boasted that he had "married a strange woman" and that "of course, he had sacrificed to her gods," saying, "I think it is right to seek the truth by inquiring of many people (gods) and not of merely one."[8] 7
  8. 8. It is certain that Zimri had a large popular following. Josephus stated that unless he had been executed, the contagion might have become far greater. There is a textual problem with just who were hanged before God in the sun, following God's command to Moses. Whitelaw stated unequivocally that there is no authority for reading "them" in Numbers 25:4 as a reference to any except the judges. The lines in Numbers 25:5 that mention those "who have joined themselves unto Baal-Peor" merely state what the offense of the judges was.[9] With the subsequent death of 23,000 by the plague, when added to the thousand judges that were "hanged," the total number comes to 24,000. Paul devoted a significant part of 1 Corinthians 10 to the events of this chapter, in fact, shedding additional light upon what the people here did. "Hang them up ..." Many scholars agree that the mode of execution here is not certainly known. Orlinsky rendered it, "impaled."[10] 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 severe penalty executed upon the incompetent judges who had not only made no move to prevent such a defection but who had actually participated in it themselves, along with the announced fierce anger of Jehovah brought the host of Israel into a great public convocation where the people were weeping and pleading for God's anger to be turned away from them. Right in the midst of that pitiful and tragic situation, the rebellious advocate of Satan himself, Zimri, made his daring attempt to take the people away from Moses. The next paragraph tells how. As Noth stated it, "A certain amount has to be read between the lines to understand what follows."[11] COKE, "Numbers 25:1-2. Israel abode in Shittim, &c.— A place in the plains of Moab, where they were before encamped. It is called Abel-Shittim, ch. Numbers 33:49 i.e. the mourning of Shittim; probably on account of the mourning for the 24,000 who died here of the plague, Numbers 25:9. This was the last station which the Israelites made while they remained in the wilderness; for from this place Joshua removed them, after Moses's death, to Jordan, whence they passed over to Gilgal, Joshua 3:1; Joshua 4:19. Wherefore they are admonished to remember "what Balak consulted, and what Balaam answered him, from Shittim to Gilgal, that they may know the righteousness of the Lord," Micah 6:5 that is, that they might know the goodness of God towards them, in turning Balaam's intended curse into a blessing. But what all the inchantments and divinations of Balaam could not effect, came to pass by the rebellion of the Israelites. Here it was that the kings of Moab and Midian put in practice the advice which Balaam gave them. He counselled them to think of drawing the Israelites into some heinous offence against their God; assured that there was no possible way of getting an advantage over Israel, unless they could be first drawn into sin, that so a breach might be made between God and them. This was a kind of Machiavelian policy, shrewd and deep 8
  9. 9. laid, but cursed and diabolical. This project, in a great measure, succeeded: the daughters of Moab, and of Midian (Numbers 25:6; Numbers 25:17.) entered into a correspondence with the Israelites, and soon convinced them, that there were more dangerous charms than those of magic: they possessed themselves of their hearts and souls; they invited them to the sacrifices of their gods, and made this the price of their infamous compliance. The Israelites fell into the snare; they offered their homage, without scruple, to the gods of those women whom they themselves idolized; they did eat, and bowed to their gods. See chap. Numbers 31:16. TRAPP, "Numbers 25:1 And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab. Ver. 1. To commit whoredom.] By the wicked counsel of Balaam, who knew well, that no one means hath more enriched hell than beautiful faces, and therefore taught Balak to lay this stumblingblock before the children of Israel; and is therein held by some to have sinned against the Holy Ghost. Howsoever he goes out in a stench, as it is usually said of his master the devil. POOLE, "The Israelites’ whoredom and idolatry: God commands the guilty to be put to death, Numbers 25:1-5. A plague: Phinehas’s zeal; for which God promises him the priesthood, Numbers 25:6-15. God commands the Midianites to be slain for this their treachery in drawing the people to sin, Numbers 25:16-18. Shittim; a place called more largely Abel-shittim, Numbers 33:49, it being usual with the Hebrews to abbreviate long proper names, as Hermon is put for Baal- hermon, Jude 3:3, Tholad for El-tholad, Joshua 19:4, Nimrim, Isaiah 15:6 for Beth- nimrim, Numbers 32:36. And this was their last station, from whence they passed immediately into Canaan. So this is here noted as a great aggravation of their sin, that they committed it when God was going to put them into the possession of their long-expected and much-desired land. The people; not all, but many of them, as appears from Deuteronomy 4:3,4 1 Corinthians 10:8. To commit whoredom, both corporally and spiritually, either because they prostituted themselves to them upon condition of worshipping their god; or because their filthy god was worshipped by such filthy acts, as Priapus and Venus were. Of Moab, and of Midian too, as is evident from Numbers 25:6,17,18 Num 31:16; for both these people being confederated in this wicked design, the one is put for the other; and the daughters of Moab may be named, either because they began fine transgression, or because they were the chief persons, possibly, the relations or courtiers of Balak king of Moab. 9
  10. 10. BENSON, "Numbers 25:1. Israel abode in Shittim — And this was their last station, from whence they passed immediately into Canaan. This is noted as a great aggravation of their sin, that they committed it when God was going to put them into the possession of their long-expected land. The people — Many of them. Whoredom — Either because these women prostituted themselves to them upon condition of worshipping their god, or because their filthy god was worshipped by such filthy acts as Priapus and Venus were. The daughters of Moab — And of Midian too; for both these people being confederated in this wicked design, the one is put for the other, and the daughters of Moab may be named, either because they began the transgression, or because they were the chief persons, probably the relations, or courtiers of Balak. WHEDON, "Verse 1-2 ISRAEL SEDUCED INTO IDOLATRY, Numbers 25:1-3. 1, 2. Shittim — These plains are in the El-Ghor, sixty furlongs east of the Jordan. Note, Joshua 2:1. The daughters of Moab were the chief agents in the execution of this plot by forming friendly associations with the Israelites and then inviting them to the sacrifices of their gods — a licentious festival. Thus all the animal appetites are addressed at once. Such a temptation required stronger moral principles and a loftier spirituality than many Israelites possessed. The vices of the Canaan-ites, idolatry and whoredom, had infected Midian, a branch of Abraham’s family, (Genesis 25:2,) through successive intermarriages with these tribes. The prostitution of a king’s daughter, (Numbers 25:6, note,) doubtless given by her father as a token of hospitality, a custom still found among some African nations, shows that the shocking depravity of Sodom (Genesis 19:8) had corrupted the seed of Abraham. EBC, "THE MATTER OF BAAL-PEOR Numbers 24:10-25; Numbers 25:1-18 THE last oracle of Balaam, as we have it, ventures into far more explicit predictions than the others, and passes beyond the range of Hebrew history. Its chief value for the Israelites lay in what was taken to be a Messianic prophecy contained in it, and various bold denunciations of their enemies. Whether the language can bear the important meanings thus found in it is a matter of considerable doubt. On the whole, it appears best not to make over-much of the prescience of this mashal, especially as we cannot be sure that we have it in the original form. One fact may be given to prove this. In Jeremiah 48:45, an oracle regarding Moab embodies various fragments of the Book of Numbers, and one clause seems to be a quotation from Numbers 24:17. In Numbers the reading is, "and break down, all the sons of 10
  11. 11. tumult"; in Jeremiah it is, "and the crown of the head of the sons of tumult" The resemblance leaves little doubt of the derivation of the one expression from the other, and at the same time shows diversity in the text. The earlier deliverances of Balaam had disappointed the king of Moab; the third kindled his anger. It was intolerable that one called to curse his enemies should bless them again and again. Balaam would do well to get him back to his own place. That Jehovah of whom he spake had kept him from honour. If he delayed he might find himself in peril. But the diviner did not retire. The word that had come to him should be spoken. He reminded Balak of the terms on which he had begun his auguries, and, perhaps to embitter Moab against Israel, persisted in advertising Balak "what this people should do to his people in the latter days." The opening was again a vaunt of his high authority as a seer, one who knew the knowledge of Shaddai. Then, with ambiguous forms of speech covering the indistinctness of his outlook, he spoke of one whom he saw far away, in imagination, not reality, a personage bright and powerful, who should rise star-like out of Jacob, bearing the sceptre of Israel, who should smite through the corners of Moab and break down the sons of tumult. Over Edom and Seir he should triumph, and his dominion should extend to the city which had become the last refuge of a hostile people. Of spiritual power and right there is not a trace in this prediction. It is unquestionably the military vigour of Israel gathered up into the headship of some powerful king Balaam sees on the horizon of his field of view. But he anticipates with no uncertainty that Moab shall be attacked and broken, and that the victorious leader shall even penetrate to the fastnesses of Edom and reduce them. A people like Israel, with so great vitality, would not be content to have jealous enemies upon its very borders, and Balak is urged to regard them with more hatred and fear than he has yet shown. The view that this prophecy "finds its preliminary fulfilment in David, in whom the kingdom was established, and by whose victories the power of Moab and Edom was broken, but its final and complete fulfilment only in Christ," is supported by the unanimous belief of the Jews, and has been adopted by the Christian Church. Yet it must be allowed that the victories of David did not break the power of Moab and Edom, for these peoples are found again and again, after his time, in hostile attitude to Israel. And it is not to the purpose to say that in Christ the kingdom reaches perfection, that He destroys the enemies of Israel. Nor is there an argument for the Messianic reference worth considering in the fact that the pseudo-Messiah in the reign of Hadrian styled himself Bar-cochba, son of the star. A pretender to Messiah- ship might snatch at any title likely to secure for him popular support; his choice of a name proves only the common belief of the Jews, and that was very ignorant, very far from spiritual. There is indeed more force in the notion that the star by which the wise men of the East were guided to Bethlehem is somehow related to this prophecy. Yet that also is too imaginative. The oracle of Balaam refers to the virility and prospective dominance of Israel, as a nation favoured by the Almighty and destined to be strong in battle. The range of the prediction is not nearly wide enough 11
  12. 12. for any true anticipation of a Messiah gaining universal sway by virtue of redeeming love. It is becoming more and more necessary to set aside those interpretations which identify the Saviour of the world with one who smites and breaks down and destroys, who wields a sceptre after the manner of Oriental despots. In Balaam’s vision small nations with which he happens to be acquainted bulk largely-the Kenites, Amalek, Moab, and Edom. To him the Amalekites appear as having once been "the first of the nations." We may explain, as before, that he had been impressed on some occasion by what he had seen of their force and the royal state of their king. The Kenites, dwelling either among the cliffs of Engedi or the mountains of Galilee, were a very small tribe; and the Amalekites, as well as the people of Moab and Edom, were of little account in the development of human history. At the same time the prophecy looks in one direction to a power destined to become very great, when it speaks of the ships of Chittim. The course of empire is seen to be westward. Asshur, or Assyria, and Eber-the whole Abrahamic race, perhaps, including Israel-are threatened by this rising power, the nearest point of which is Cyprus in the Great Sea. Balaam is, we may say, a political prophet: to class him among those who testified of Christ is to exalt far too much his inspiration and read more into his oracles than they naturally contain. There is no deep problem in the narrative regarding him-as, for instance, how a man false at heart could in any sense enter into those gracious purposes of God for the human race which were fulfilled by Christ. Balaam, we are told, "rose up and returned to his own place"; and from this it would seem that with bitterness in his heart he betook himself to Pethor. If he did so, vainly hoping still that Israel would appeal to him, he soon returned to give Balak and the Midianites advice of the most nefarious kind. We learn from Numbers 31:16, that through his counsel the Midianite women caused the children of Israel to commit trespass against Jehovah in the matter of Peor. The statement is a link between chapters 24 and 25. Vainly had Balaam as a diviner matched himself against the God of Israel. Resenting his defeat, he sought and found another way which the customs of his own people in their obscure idolatrous rites too readily suggested. The moral law of Jehovah and the comparative purity of the Israelites as His people kept them separate from the other nations, gave them dignity and vigour. To break down this defence would make them like the rest, would withdraw them from the favour of their God and even defeat His purposes. The scheme was one which only the vilest craft could have conceived; and it shows us too plainly the real character of Balaam. He must have known the power of the allurements which he now advised as the means of attack on those he could not touch with his maledictions nor gain by his soothsaying. In the shadow of this scheme of his we see the diviner and all his tribe, and indeed the whole morality of the region, at their very worst. The tribes were still in the plain of Jordan; and we may suppose that the victorious troops had returned from the campaign against Bashan, when a band of Midianites, professing the utmost friendliness, gradually introduced themselves into the camp. 12
  13. 13. Then began the temptation to which the Midianitish women, some of them of high rank, willingly devoted themselves. It was to impurity and idolatry, to degradation of manhood in body and soul, to abjuration at once of faith and of all that makes individual and social life. The orgies with which the Midianites were familiar belonged to the dark side of a nature-cultus which carried the distinction between male and female into religious symbolism, and made abject prostration of life before the Divinity a crowning act of worship. Surviving still, the same practices are in India and elsewhere the most dreadful and inveterate barriers which the Gospel and Christian civilisation encounter. The Israelites were assailed unexpectedly, it would appear, and in a time of comparative inaction. Possibly, also, the camp was composed to some extent of men whose families were still in Kadesh waiting the conquest of the land of Canaan to cross the border. But the fact need not be concealed that the polygamy which prevailed among the Hebrews was an element in their danger. That had not been forbidden by the law; it was even countenanced by the example of Moses. The custom, indeed, was one which at the stage of development Israel had reached implied some progress; for there are conditions even worse than polygamy against which it was a protest and safeguard. But like every other custom falling short of the ideal of the family, it was one of great peril; and now disaster came. The Midianites brought their sacrifices and slew them; the festival of Baalpeor was proclaimed. "The people did eat and bowed down to their gods." It was a transgression which demanded swift and terrible judgment. The chief men of the tribes who had joined in the abominable rites were taken and "hanged up before the Lord against the sun"; the "judges of Israel" were commanded to slay "every one his men that were joined unto Baalpeor." The narrative of the "Priests’ Code," beginning at Numbers 25:6, and going on to the close of the chapter, adds details of the sin and its punishment. Assuming that the row of stakes with their ghastly burden is in full view, and the dead bodies of those slain by the executioners are lying about the camp, this narrative shows the people gathered at the tent of meeting, many of them in tears. There is a plague, too, which is rapidly spreading and carrying off the transgressors. In the midst of the sorrow and wailing, when the chief men should have been bowed down in repentance, one of the princes of Simeon is seen leading by the hand his Midianitish paramour, herself a chief’s daughter. In the very sight of Moses and the people the guilty persons enter a tent. Then Phinehas, son of Eleazar the priest, following them, inflicts with a javelin the punishment of death. It is a daring but a true deed; and for it Phinehas and his seed after him are promised the "covenant of peace," even the "covenant of an everlasting priesthood." His swift stroke has vindicated the honour of God, and "made an atonement for the children of Israel." An act like this, when the elemental laws of morality are imperilled and a whole people needs a swift and impressive lesson, is a tribute to God which He will reward and remember. True, one of the priestly house should keep aloof from death. But the emergency demands immediate action, and he who is bold enough to strike at once is the true friend of men and of God. The question may be put, whether this is not justice of too rude and ready a kind to 13
  14. 14. be praised in the name of religion. To some it may seem that the honour of God could not be served by the deed attributed to Phinehas; that he acted in passion rather than in the calm deliberation without which justice cannot be dealt out by man to man. Would not this excuse the passionate action of a crowd, impatient of the forms of law, that hurries an offender to the nearest tree or lamp-post? And the answer cannot be that Israel was so peculiarly under covenant to God that its necessity would exonerate a deed otherwise illegal. We must face the whole problem alike of personal and of united action for the vindication of righteousness in times of widespread license. It is not necessary now to slay an offender in order clearly and emphatically to condemn his crime. In that respect modern circumstances differ from those we are discussing. Upon Israel, as it was at the time of this tragedy, no impression could have been made deep and swift enough for the occasion otherwise than by the act of Phinehas. But for an offender of the same rank now, there is a punishment as stern as death, and on the popular mind it produces a far greater effect-publicity, and the reprobation of all who love their fellowmen and God. The act of Phinehas was not assassination; a similar act now would be, and it would have to be dealt with as a crime. The stroke now is inflicted by public accusation, which results in public trial and public condemnation. From the time to which the narrative refers, on to our own day, social conditions have been passing through many phases. Occasionally there have been circumstances in which the swift judgment of righteous indignation was justifiable, though it did seem like assassination. And in no case has such action been more excusable than when the purity of family life has been invaded, while the law of the land would not interfere. We do not greatly wonder that in France the avenging of infidelity is condoned when the sufferer snatches a justice otherwise unattainable. That is not indeed to be praised, but the imperfection of law is a partial apology. The higher the standard of public morality the less needful is this venture on the Divine right to kill. And certainly it is not private revenge that is ever to be sought, but the vindication of the elemental righteousness on which the well- being, of humanity depends. Phinehas had no private revenge to seek. It was the public good. It is confidently affirmed by Wellhausen that the "Priestly Code" makes the cultus the principal thing, and this, he says, implies retrogression from the earlier idea. The passage we are considering, like many others ascribed to the "Priests’ Code," makes something else than the cultus the principal thing. We are told that in the teaching of this code "the bond between cultus and sensuality is severed; no danger can arise of an admixture of impure, immoral elements, a danger which was always present in Hebrew antiquity." But here the danger is admitted, the cultus is entirely out of sight, and the sin of sensuality is conspicuous. When Phinehas intervenes, moreover, it is not in harmony with any statute or principle laid down in the "Priests’ Code"-rather, indeed, against its general spirit, which would prohibit an Aaronite from a deed of blood. According to the whole tenor of the law the priesthood had its duties, carefully prescribed, by doing which faithfulness was to be shown. Here an act of spontaneous zeal, done not "on the positive command of a 14
  15. 15. will outside," but on the impulse arising out of a fresh occasion, receives the approval of Jehovah, and. the "covenant of an everlasting priesthood" is confirmed for the sake of it. Was Phinehas in any sense carrying out statutory instructions for atonement on behalf of Israel when he inflicted the punishment of death on Zimri and his paramour? To identify the "Priestly Code" with "cultus legislation," and that with theocracy, and then declare the cultus to have become a "pedagogic instrument of discipline," "estranged from the heart," is to make large demands on our inattention. In the closing verses of the chapter another question of a moral nature is involved. It is recorded that after the events we have considered Jehovah spake unto Moses, saying, "Vex the Midianites, and smite them; 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 the prince of Midian, their sister, which was slain on the day of the plague in the matter of Peor." Now is it for the sake of themselves and their own safety the Israelites are to smite Midian? Is retaliation commanded? Does God set enmity between the one people and the other, and so doing make confession that Israel has no duty of forgiveness, no mission to convert and save? There is difficulty in pronouncing judgment as to the point of view taken by the narrator. Some will maintain that the historian here, whoever he was, had no higher conception of the command than that it was one which sanctioned revenge. And there is nothing on the face of the narrative which can be brought forward to disprove the charge. Yet it must be remembered that the history proceeds on the theocratic conception of Israel’s place and destiny. To the writer Israel is of less account in itself than as a people rescued from Egypt and called to nationality in order to serve Jehovah. The whole tenor of the "Priests’ Code" narrative, as well as of the other, bears this out. There is no patriotic zeal in the narrow sense, -"My country right or wrong." Scarcely a passage can be pointed to implying such a sentiment, such a drift of thought. The underlying idea in the whole story is the sacredness of morality, not of Israel; and the suppression or extinction of this tribe of Midianites with their obscene idolatry is God’s will, not Israel’s. Too plain, indeed, is it that the Israelites would have preferred to leave Midian and other tribes of the same low moral best unmolested, free to pursue their own ends. And Jehovah is not revengeful, but just. The vindication of morality at the time the Book of Numbers deals with, and long afterwards, could only be through the suppression of those who were identified with dangerous forms of vice. The forces at command in Israel were not equal to the task of converting; and what could be achieved was commanded-opposition, enmity; if need were, exterminating war. The better people has a certain spiritual capacity, but not enough to make it fit for what may be called moral missionary work. It would suffer more than it would gain if it entered on any kind of intercourse with Midian with the view of raising the standard of thought and life. All that can be expected meanwhile is that the Israelites shall be at issue with a people so degraded; they are to be against the Midianites, keep them from power in the world, subject them by the sword. 15
  16. 16. Our judgment, then, is that the narrative sustains a true theocracy in this sense, exhibits Israel as a unique phenomenon in human history, not impossible, -there lies the clear veracity of the Bible accounts, -but playing a part such as the times allowed, such as the world required. From a passage like that now before us, and the sequel, the war with Midian, which some have regarded as a blot on the pages of Scripture, an argument for its inspiration may be drawn. We find here no ethical anachronisms, no impracticable ideas of charity and pardon. There is a sane and strenuous moral aim, not out of keeping with the state of things in the world of that time, yet showing the rule and presenting the will of a God who makes Israel a protesting people. The Hebrews are men, not angels; men of the old world, not Christians-true! Who could have received this history if it had represented them as Christians, and shown us God giving them commands fit for the Church of today? They are called to a higher morality than that of Egypt, for theirs is to be spiritual; higher than that of Chaldea or of Canaan, for Chaldea is shrouded in superstition, Canaan in obscene idolatry. They can do something; and what they can do Jehovah commands them to do. And He is not an imperfect God because His prophet does not give from the first a perfect Christian law, a redeeming gospel. He is the "I Am." Let the whole course of Old Testament development be traced, and the sanity and coherency of the theocratic idea as it is presented in law and prophecy, psalm and parable, cannot fail to convince any just and frank inquirer. The end of Balaam’s life may be glanced at before the pages close that refer to his career. In Numbers 31:8, it is stated that in the battle which went against the Midianites Balaam was slain. We do not know whether he was so maddened by his disappointment as to take the sword against Jehovah and Israel, or whether he only joined the army of Midian in his capacity of augur. F. W. Robertson imagines "the insane frenzy with which he would rush into the field, and finding all go against him, and that lost for which he had bartered heaven, after having died a thousand worse than deaths, find death at last upon the spears of the Israelites." It is of course possible to imagine that he became the victim of his own insane passion. But Balaam never had a profound nature, was never more than within sight of the spiritual world. He appears as the calculating, ambitious man, who would reckon his chances to the last, and with coolness, and what he believed to be sagacity, decide on the next thing to attempt. But his penetration failed him, as at a certain point it fails all men of his kind. He ventured too far, and could not draw back to safety. The death he died was almost too honourable for this false prophet, unless, indeed, he fell fleeing like a coward from the battle. One who had recognised the power of a higher faith than his country professed, and saw a nation on the way to the vigour that faith inspired, who in personal spleen and envy set in operation a scheme of the very worst sort to ruin Israel, was not an enemy worth the edge of the sword. Let us suppose that a Hebrew soldier found him in flight, and with a passing stroke brought him to the ground. There is no tragedy in such a death; it is too ignominious. Whatever Balaam was in his boyhood, whatever he might have been when the cry escaped him, "Let me die the death of the righteous," selfish craft had 16
  17. 17. brought him below the level of the manhood of the time. Balak with his pathetic faith in cursing and incantation now seems a prince beside the augur. For Balaam, though he knew Jehovah after a manner, had no religion, had only the envy of the religion of others. He came on the stage with an air that almost deceived Balak and has deceived many. He leaves it without one to lament him. Or shall we rather suppose that even for him, in Pethor beyond the Euphrates, a wife or child waited and prayed to Sutekh and, when the tidings of his death were brought, fell into inconsolable weeping? Over the worst they think and do men draw the veil to hide it from some eyes. And Balaam, a poor, mean tool of the basest cravings, may have had one to believe in him, one to love him. He reminds us of Absalom in his character and actions-Absalom, a man void of religion and morals; and for him the father he had dethroned and dishonoured wept bitterly in the chamber over the gate of Mahanaim, "My son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!" So may some woman in Pethor have wailed for Balaam fallen under the spear of a Hebrew warrior. PETT, "Verses 1-5 Chapter 25 Israel Are Lured Into Sin By The Moabites and Midianites. 4). The Defeat of the Evil Influence of Moab (Numbers 25:1-18). It is noteworthy that just as the glorious revelation on Mount Sinai was followed by the lapse into idolatry with the molten calf, so here the glorious repetition and expansion of the promises by Balaam is followed by gross idolatry. In each case the one contrasts with the other, the proclamation of the grace of God with the disobedience of man. For having settled down in the Moabite plain Israel now demonstrated their propensity for sin at Shittim by enjoying close relations with the daughters of Moab, and ‘joining themselves’ to Baal-peor. In spite of all Yahweh’s warnings they engaged in idolatry. This would finally result in the death of a Simeonite chieftain and a plague on the people. Analysis of the chapter. a Israel sin at Shittim in regard to Baal-peor (Numbers 25:1-3 a). b Yahweh is angry with Israel and demands their punishment. Moses calls on the judges to slay those who worshipped Baal-peor (Numbers 25:3-5) c A Midianitish woman brought into the camp by a Simeonite chief for evil purposes (Numbers 25:6). d Phinehas, son of Eleazar slays the chieftain and the woman (Numbers 25:7-8 a). 17
  18. 18. e As a result of his action judgment by plague is stayed (Numbers 25:8 b). e Those who died in the plague are enumerated (Numbers 25:9) d Phinehas is confirmed in the priesthood for his action (Numbers 25:10-13). c The chieftain and the woman are identified (Numbers 25:14-15). b Yahweh demands the punishment of Midian (Numbers 25:16-17) a The punishment is in respect of the sin regarding Baal-peor (Numbers 25:18) Israel Sin at Shittim in Regard to Baal-peor (Numbers 25:1-3 a) Numbers 25:1-2 ‘And Israel abode in Shittim; and the people began to play the harlot with the daughters of Moab, for they called the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods.’ Settling down at Shittim after a period of continual travel, Israelite males began to take a fancy to certain young women who lived in Moab, and who seemingly made themselves available. (Note that the Midianitish woman is seen as ‘a daughter of Moab’, that is a woman who lived in Moabite territory. There was clearly a very close relationship between these Midianites and Moab). Not being constantly on the move themselves their women were able to make themselves up more attractively, and the men of Israel clearly enjoyed the novelty. These were worshippers of Baal- peor, and we note that the sin is not said to have been sexual, although that no doubt occurred, but a turning to their idols, although in view of what follows sexual relations might well be seen as implied. And in view of the nature of the religion of Baal with its fertility rites there may well have been ritual sex acts between them. Outwardly, however, the sin is said to be that of being present at the sacrifices to their gods, eating sacred meals with them and bowing down to their gods. Among others they were disobeying the first two commandments. Yahweh Was Angry with Israel and Demanded The Punishment Of Those Who Had Sinned (Numbers 25:3-4). PULPIT, "THE SIN OF ISRAEL AND ATONEMENT OF PHINEHAS (Numbers 25:1-18). Numbers 25:1 Abode in Shittim. For a considerable time; from their first arrival in the Arboth Moab until the crossing of the Jordan. Shittim is the shortened form of Abel- 18
  19. 19. Shittim, "Field of Acacias" (Numbers 33:49). It seems to have been the northernmost part of the last encampment of Israel on that side Jordan, and the head-quarters of the host (Joshua 2:1; Joshua 3:1). Began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab. This commencement of sin seems to have been made by Israel without special provocation. The very victories won, and the comparative ease and affluence now enjoyed, after long marches and hardships, may well have predisposed them to this sin, for which they now for the first time found abundant opportunity. BI 1-9, "The people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab. The sin of Israel at Shittim, and the judgment of God I. The sin of the Israelites at Shittim. 1. The sin itself. (1) Spiritual fornication, or idolatry (Hos_2:1-23.). (2) Physical fornication. 2. The origin of their sin (Num_31:16; Rev_2:14). 3. The instruments of their sin: Moab and Midian. 4. The occasion of their sin. (1) Their abode at Shittim. They were in the neighbourhood of sinful associations and corrupting influences. “Near a fire, a serpent, and a wicked woman, no man can long be in safety.” (2) Their lack of occupation. Idleness leads to vice and mischief. II. The judgment of God upon the Israelites on account of their sin. 1. The judgment inflicted immediately by God. In some form or other punishment ever follows closely upon the heels of sin. 2. The judgment inflicted by Moses and the judges by the command of God. (1) Its nature : Death. (2) Its publicity. (3) Its executioners. Lessons: 1. The secret of the security of the people of God: faithfulness. 2. The danger of those temptations which appeal to our self-indulgence or love of pleasure. 3. The terribleness of the Divine anger. 4. The solicitude with which we should guard against arousing this anger towards us. Sin calls it forth, therefore shun sin. 19
  20. 20. 5. Tile earnestness with which we should seek the mercy and the protection of God. (W. Jones.) Evil men proceed by degrees from worse to worse In these words is offered unto us an example, expressing the nature of sin where once it is entertained. For behold here how they grow in sin. At the first, they departed out of the host of Israel and went to the people of Moab and Midian, with whom they coupled themselves; so that albeit they sinned, yet they had some shame of sin, and made some conscience of committing it openly amongst their brethren. But they proceed by little and little, from step to step, till they are ashamed of nothing. Therefore in the example of one man, here set before our eyes, Moses declares to what shamelessness they were come. For this man (who is afterward named), as if he had been absolute in power, as he was indeed resolute in will and dissolute in his whole life, brought his whorish woman in the sight of God, in the sight of Moses, in the sight of the congregation, and in the sight of the tabernacle, to show that he had filled up the measure of his sin. 1. The nature of sin is to draw all such as delight in it from one evil to another, until in the end they become most corrupt and abominable. 2. The wrath of Goal falleth upon such as make no conscience to fall into lesser sins, He giveth them over to a reprobate sense, and to hardness of heart. 3. Sin is fitly resembled to the fretting of a canker, and to the uncleanness of a leprosy, both which go forward until the whole body be infected and every member endangered. Now let us handle the uses. 1. Consider from hence how dangerous it is to give entertainment unto sin at the beginning, which groweth to more perfection every day; we cannot stop this stream when we will, it goeth beyond the strength of our nature. 2. Seeing evil men wax worse and worse, we may conclude that their judgment sleepeth not, but is increased as their sin; yea, so it is not far off, but lieth at the doors. 3. Seeing men giving themselves over to sin, it is our duty to resist the beginnings, to prevent the breach, and stop the first course of it. It is as a serpent that must be trod on in the egg. Let us take heed that sin grow not into a custom and get an habit. (W. Attersoll.) Sin deprives us of God’s protection We have beard before that albeit that Balak and Balaam intended by their sorceries to curse the people of God, yet they could by no means do them hurt; they were guarded by the protection of God as with a sure watch. Rut 20
  21. 21. so soon as they forsook the living God, and fell a whoring with the daughters of Moab and Midian, by and by God departeth from them, and His heavy judgments break in upon them. The force of sorcery could not hurt them, but the strength of sin doth weaken them. Hereby we learn that sin depriveth us of God’s protection, and layeth us open to the fierceness of His wrath, and to the fury of our enemies. The reasons being considered will make the doctrine more evident. 1. Sin maketh us execrable to the Lord and abominable in His sight. If, then, sin makes us to be had in execration it is no marvel if we be left destitute of God’s protection. 2. God departeth from them that fall from Him; they forsake Him, and therefore He forsaketh them. So, then, our lying in sin doth drive the Lord from us, that He will have no more fellowship with us to do us any good. We are now to set down the uses of this doctrine. 1. This teacheth us to acknowledge that all judgments which fall upon us are righteous. God chastiseth us often, but always justly, never unjustly. 2. Seeing sin layeth us open to reproaches of enemies and to the judgments of God, as appeareth in this great plague upon the people, this showeth that we must not go about to hide our sin from God through hypocrisy. For all things are naked and open to His eyes, with whom we have to do; so that we must learn to confess them before His presence. 3. This serveth as a notable advantage for the servants of God when they have any dealings against wicked men; we have encouragement from hence that we shall assuredly prevail against them, because we have to do with weak men that are out of God’s protection. (W. Attersoll.) God’s abhorrence of impurity The Lord must have regard to two things in His own people—personal purity; and uncorrupted worship. In the very nature Of things it would be quite impossible to preserve purity of principle, clearness of understanding, and spirituality of affection, with corruption of life. It is a delusion of the worst kind, a master-device of Satan, the perfection of sin’s deceitfulness, and a perversion of all truth, justice, and grace, when men, in the retired indulgence of lusts within, or in open commission of crime, sit down tranquil under the defence of mercy, and fancy themselves with such interest in the robe of Christ’s perfection and beauty, that no spot or fault is in them. A sinner may come to Christ under every sense of imperfection, pollution, and vileness, and through faith in His mediation, may participate with appropriating joy and a well-founded confidence in all the interests of His atoning blood and justifying righteousness; nevertheless, he can never find anything in the nature and influence of evangelical truth but what has the most direct tendency and design to deliver from the power as well as to save from the desert of sin. To a gracious heart sin proves a plague and constant grief, and the cause, while it exists, of a never-ending strife. (W. 21
  22. 22. Seaton.) The valley of sensuality In Java is a valley which is called the Valley of Poison. It is an object of veritable terror to the natives. In this renowned valley the soil is said to be covered with skeletons and carcases of tigers, of goats, and of stags, of birds, and even with human bones; for asphyxia or suffocation, it seems, strikes all living things which venture into this desolate place. It illustrates the valley of sensuality, the most horrible creation of social life. Few men who enter into its depths survive long; for it is strewn with dead reputations and the mangled remains of creatures who were once happy. (W. Seaton.) 2 who invited them to the sacrifices to their gods. The people ate the sacrificial meal and bowed down before these gods. BARNES, "And they called - i. e., “the daughters of Moab called.” CLARKE, "And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods,.... That is, the daughters of Moab and Midian, with whom the children of Israel carried on an unlawful correspondence, invited them, their gallants, to come and partake of the feasts which attended the sacrifices of their idols; for part of what was offered to idols a feast was kept with, to which great numbers were invited, and which was observed with all the circumstances of joy and pleasure imaginable, and which was very ensnaring, especially to young people; and the children of Israel being so much enamoured with the beauty of the Moabitish women, and so strong were their lusts and passions, that they could not refuse the invitation: and the people did eat: of the things sacrificed to idols, and so became guilty of idolatry, even by so doing, and then when they had eaten and drank, and were merry, they were led on to other acts of idolatry: and bowed down to their gods: which was a plain and open act of idolatry, whereby they testified their faith in their divinity, their reverence of them, 22
  23. 23. and their homage and obedience to them: Jarchi says, when the evil concupiscence or lust was strong in them, and they solicited the daughters of Moab to hearken to them, and comply with them, they used to take the image of Peor out of their bosom, and said, worship this, signifying that on that condition they would gratify them; and thus whoredom led them on to idolatry, and they committed the one for the sake of being indulged in the other. GILL, "And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods,.... That is, the daughters of Moab and Midian, with whom the children of Israel carried on an unlawful correspondence, invited them, their gallants, to come and partake of the feasts which attended the sacrifices of their idols; for part of what was offered to idols a feast was kept with, to which great numbers were invited, and which was observed with all the circumstances of joy and pleasure imaginable, and which was very ensnaring, especially to young people; and the children of Israel being so much enamoured with the beauty of the Moabitish women, and so strong were their lusts and passions, that they could not refuse the invitation: and the people did eat: of the things sacrificed to idols, and so became guilty of idolatry, even by so doing, and then when they had eaten and drank, and were merry, they were led on to other acts of idolatry: and bowed down to their gods: which was a plain and open act of idolatry, whereby they testified their faith in their divinity, their reverence of them, and their homage and obedience to them: Jarchi says, when the evil concupiscence or lust was strong in them, and they solicited the daughters of Moab to hearken to them, and comply with them, they used to take the image of Peor out of their bosom, and said, worship this, signifying that on that condition they would gratify them; and thus whoredom led them on to idolatry, and they committed the one for the sake of being indulged in the other. TRAPP, "Numbers 25:2 And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods. Ver. 2. Unto the sacrifices of their gods.] Unto their idol feasts; for Sine cerere et libero friget Venus. Gluttony is the gallery that lechery walketh through. And bowed down to their gods.] Nemo repente fit turpissimus: by degrees they were drawn to open idolatry. If a man’s foot slip into the mouth of hell, it is a miracle if he stop ere he come to the bottom. Principiis obsta. Dally not with the devil; sin is very insinuative; and the old serpent, if he once get in his head, will quickly wind in his whole body. POOLE, " They called the people: this may be noted, either, 1. As the consequent of their whoredom, an invitation to further society in their 23
  24. 24. sacred feasts; or rather, 2. As the cause or occasion of their whoredom, the Hebrew vau here signifying for, as it oft doth. The Moabites being now neighbours to the Israelites, and finding themselves unable to effect their design against Israel by war and witchcraft, they now fell another way to work, by contracting familiarity with them; and perceiving their evil and lustful inclinations, they, i.e. their daughters, last mentioned, invited them to their feasts. Unto the sacrifices, i.e. unto the feasts which were made of their parts of their sacrifices, after the manner of the Jews and Gentiles too, the participation whereof was reckoned a participation in the worship of that god to whom the sacrifices were offered, 1 Corinthians 10:18, and therefore was forbidden to the Israelites when such feasts and sacrifices belonged to a false god, Exodus 34:15. Yet this was a less and more modest kind of idolatry, and therefore is fitly used to usher in what was more gross and impious. Of their gods, i.e. of their god, Baal-peor, the plural elohim being here used, as commonly it is, for one god. Bowed down; which properly notes the outward act of worship, which here consisting in or being accompanied with filthy serious, may either signify or connote them. To their gods; before their gods, or, to the honour and worship of their gods. BENSON, "Numbers 25:2. They called — The Moabites, being now neighbours to the Israelites, and finding themselves unable to effect their design by war and divination, fell another way to work, by contracting familiarity with them, and, perceiving their evil inclinations, they, that is, their daughters, invited them unto the sacrifices — Unto the feasts which were made of their parts of the sacrifices, after the manner of the Jews and Gentiles too, the participation whereof was reckoned a participation in the worship of that God to whom the sacrifices were offered. Of their gods — Of their god Baal-peor, the plural Elohim being here used, as commonly it is for one God. PULPIT, "And they called, i.e; the women of Moab, encouraged to do so by the licentious intercourse which had sprung up. Without such encouragement it is difficult to suppose that they would have ventured on such a step. And the people did eat. Gluttony added its seductions to lust. No doubt this generation were as weary of the manna and as eager for other and heavier food as their fathers had been (see on Numbers 11:4; Numbers 21:5). 24
  25. 25. 3 So Israel yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor. And the Lord’s anger burned against them. BARNES, "Joined himself - i. e., by taking part in the sacrificial meals as described in the last verse. Compare Exo_34:15; 1Co_10:18. The worship of Baal was attended with the grossest impurity, and indeed partly consisted in it Hos_4:14; Hos_9:10. Baal-peor - i. e., the Baal worshipped at Peer, the place mentioned in Num_23:28 (compare Baal-meon, Num_32:38). (The identification of this god with Chemosh in Num_21:29 is now given up.) CLARKE, "Israel joined himself unto Baal-peor - The same as the Priapus of the Romans, and worshipped with the same obscene rites as we have frequently had occasion to remark. The joining to Baal-peor, mentioned here, was probably what St. Paul had in view when he said, 2Co_6:14 : Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers. And this joining, though done even in a matrimonial way, was nevertheless fornication, (see Rev_2:14), as no marriage between an Israelite and a Midianite could be legitimate, according to the law of God. See the propositions at the close of the preceding chapter Num_24:25 (note). GILL, "And Israel joined himself unto Baalpeor,.... The name of an idol; one of the Baals, Baal being a general name for an idol; and, to distinguish this from other Baals or idols, it was called Peor, either from its opening its mouth in prophecy, as Ainsworth; or from some obscene posture and action used in the worship of it, being, as it is by many thought to be, the same with Priapus; or rather from the mountain Peor, where it was worshipped, as Jupiter is called Jupiter Olympius, Capitolinus, &c. from the mountains where he had a temple, or was worshipped; or from the name of some great personage, called Lord Peor, who was deified after his death; hence these Israelites are said to "eat the sacrifices of the dead", Psa_106:28. Mr. Bedford (t) takes him to be Mizraim the son of Ham, the Osiris of the Egyptians, and the Priapus of other Heathens: and Father Calmet (u) is of opinion that he is the same with Orus, Osiris, and Adonis; and that Pe is only a prepositive article, and that Or is the name, and no other than Orus; but such a criticism the word will not bear: this idol, the chief god of the Moabites, was, in all probability, the same with Chemosh, who is expressly called the abomination of Moab, 1Ki_11:7 of whom See Gill on Jer_48:7 so Chemosh and Peor are thought to be the same by our English poet (w): to 25
  26. 26. him the Israelites joined themselves, forsook the true God in a great measure, and were initiated into the rites of this deity, and constantly attended the worship of it, and cleaved unto it with their hearts and directions, and joined with their harlots in all parts of service performed unto it; See Gill on Hos_9:10, and the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel; for no sin is more provoking to God than idolatry, that being so directly opposite to his nature, honour, and glory, as well as to his will and worship; and hereby the end of Balaam and Balak was, in a great measure, answered, and Balaam obtained that by his evil counsel which he could not by all his conjuring; this was seen by the plague sent among them; See Gill on Num_24:14. JAMISON,"Israel joined himself unto Baal-peor — Baal was a general name for “lord,” and Peor for a “mount” in Moab. The real name of the idol was Chemosh, and his rites of worship were celebrated by the grossest obscenity. In participating in this festival, then, the Israelites committed the double offense of idolatry and licentiousness. K&D 3-4, "And the anger of the Lord burned against the people, so that Jehovah commanded Moses to fetch the heads of the people, i.e., to assemble them together, and to “hang up” the men who had joined themselves to Baal-Peor “before the Lord against the sun,” that the anger of God might turn away from Israel. The burning of the wrath of God, which was to be turned away from the people by the punishment of the guilty, as enjoined upon Moses, consisted, as we may see from Num_25:8, Num_25:9, in a plague inflicted upon the nation, which carried off a great number of the people, a sudden death, as in Num_14:37; Num_17:11. ַ‫יע‬ ִ‫ק‬ ‫,ה‬ from ‫ע‬ ַ‫ָק‬‫י‬, to be torn apart or torn away (Ges., Winer), refers to the punishment of crucifixion, a mode of capital punishment which was adopted by most of the nations of antiquity (see Winer, bibl. R. W. i. p. 680), and was carried out sometimes by driving a stake into the body, and so impaling them (ἀνασκολοπίζειν), the mode practised by the Assyrians and Persians (Herod. iii. 159, and Layard's Nineveh and its Remains, vol. ii. p. 374, and plate on p. 369), at other times by fastening them to a stake or nailing them to a cross (ἀνασταυροῦν). In the instance before us, however, the idolaters were not impaled or crucified alive, but, as we may see from the word ‫גּוּ‬ ְ‫ר‬ ִ‫ה‬ in Num_ 25:5, and in accordance with the custom frequently adopted by other nations (see Herzog's Encyclopaedia), they were first of all put to death, and then impaled upon a stake or fastened upon a cross, so that the impaling or crucifixion was only an aggravation of the capital punishment, like the burning in Lev_20:14, and the hanging (‫ה‬ ָ‫ל‬ ָ‫)תּ‬ in Deu_21:22. The rendering adopted by the lxx and Vulgate is παραδειγματίζειν, suspendere, in this passage, and in 2Sa_21:6, 2Sa_21:9, ἐξηλιάζειν (to expose to the sun), and crucifigere. ‫ָה‬ ‫יה‬ ַ‫,ל‬ for Jehovah, as satisfaction for Him, i.e., to appease His wrath. ‫ם‬ ָ‫ת‬ ‫א‬ (them) does not refer to the heads of the nation, but to the guilty 26
  27. 27. persons, upon whom the heads of the nation were to pronounce sentence. CALVIN, "3.AndIsrael joined himself to Baal-peor. Moses amplifies their crime by this expression, that they bound themselves to the idol in an impious alliance; and thus he alludes to that holy union whereby God had connected Himself with the people, and accuses them of broken faith and wicked rebellion. Nevertheless, it is probable that the people were not impelled by superstition, but enticed by the wiles of the women to offer worship to idols which they despised. Yet we are told how God declared that they were “joined” to the idol, which they merely pretended to worship, in order to comply with the ungodly wishes of the women. Hence, therefore, this general instruction may be gathered, that when we turn aside from pure religion, we in a manner connect ourselves with idols, so as to coalesce in one body with them, and conspire to renounce the true God. Baal was then the general name of almost all idols; but all epithet is added to the idol of the Moabites, taken from Mount Peor; nor does it appear that we need go in quest of any other etymology, since the name of this mountain has recently been mentioned. It was on the same principle as in Popery, when they name their Marys after particular places, (183) where the most famous statues are worshipped. COKE, "Numbers 25:3. Israel joined himself unto Baal-peor— See the note on ch. Numbers 21:29. St. Jerome informs us, that Baal-peor was the same as the Greek and Roman Priapus; that this idol was like that of Priapus. That his worship consisted of gross obscenity and impurity there can be no question. See Hosea 10:15 and Revelation 2:14. Those who are inclined to know more respecting this idol, (who, with his ceremonies, was of too gross a sort to engage our further attention,) may consult Calmet's Dissertation upon the subject. When it is said, Psalms 106:28 that they joined themselves unto Baal-peor, and ate the offerings of the dead, it cannot be concluded from thence that Baal-peor was some dead prince idolized; for the dead, in this place, means no more than those dead idols, whom St. Paul calls, nothing in the world, 1 Corinthians 8:4 and who may be denominated dead, in opposition to the living God. See Vossius, de Idol. lib. 2: cap. 7. TRAPP, "Numbers 25:3 And Israel joined himself unto Baalpeor: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel. Ver. 3. Joined himself to Baalpeor.] Separated himself to that shame, [Hosea 9:10] that abominable and shameless service of Priapus, as Jerome and Isidore understand it, as Maachah the mother of Asa seems to have done, [1 Kings 15:13] and other filthy persons, whose fashion was, as soon as their sacrifice was ended, to step aside into the grove of their god, and there, like brute beasts, promiscuously to satisfy their lusts, &c. Vah scelus infandum! 27
  28. 28. POOLE, " Joined himself; the word implies a forsaking of God, to whom they were and should have been joined, and a turning to, embracing of, strict conjunction with, and fervent affection after, this false god. Compare Hosea 9:10 2 Corinthians 6:14. Baal-peor, called Baal, by the name common to many false gods, and especially to those that represented any of the heavenly bodies; and Peor, either from the hill Peor, where he was worshipped, Numbers 23:28, or rather from a verb signifying to open and uncover, either because of the obscene posture in which possibly the idol was set, as Priapus was, or because of the filthiness which was exercised in his worship. Was kindled, i.e. discovered itself in a dreadful plague, Psalms 106:29. BENSON, "Numbers 25:3. Joined himself — The word implies a forsaking God, to whom they were joined, and a turning to, and strict conjunction with, this false god. Baal-peor — Called Baal, by the name common to many false gods, and especially to those that represented any of the heavenly bodies; and Peor, either from the hill Peor, where he was worshipped, Numbers 23:28; or rather from a verb signifying to open and uncover, because of the obscene posture in which the idol was set, as Priapus was; or because of the filthiness which was exercised in his worship. WHEDON, " 3. Baal-peor, to whom Israel (that is, multitudes of them) joined himself, literally, bound himself, was a Moabitish Priapus, whose image, shocking to modesty, was worshipped by women and virgins who prostituted themselves in his service. Anger… kindled — Holiness must necessarily antagonize sin, and justice must punish the sinner in every case except where the ends of moral government are attained by the intervention of an atonement. Note, Judges 2:14. PETT, "Numbers 25:3 ‘And Israel joined himself to Baal-peor: and the anger of Yahweh was kindled against Israel.’ Thus Israel joined themselves to Baal-peor (the lord of Peor). That is they became involved in idolatry and all the behaviour that went with it. The lord of Peor may have been Chemosh, the Moabite god, or a local Baal favoured by the Midianites. This resulted in Yahweh’s anger being aroused, His righteous aversion to such evil behaviour. They had deserted Him and what He stood for and had chosen to follow idols and what they stood for. PULPIT, "Israel joined himself unto Baal-Peor. This is a technical phrase, repeated in Numbers 25:5, and quoted in Psalms 106:28, expressing the quasi-sacramental 28
  29. 29. union into which they entered with the heathen deity by partaking of his sacrificial meats and by sharing in his impure rites (cf. Hosea 9:10 and the argument of St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:1-33). There can be little doubt that Peor ( ‫עוֹר‬ ְ‫,פּ‬ from ‫ר‬ַ‫ﬠ‬ָ‫,פ‬ to open) has the sense of aperiens, in usu obsceno, and that it was the distinguishing name of Baal or Chemosh when worshipped as the god of reproduction with the abominable rites proper to this cultus. For a notice of the same thing in the last days of Israel see Hosea 4:14, and for the practice of Babylonian and (to some degree) Egyptian women, see Herodotus, 1.199; 2.60). The Septuagint has here ἐτελέσθη τῷ βεελφεγώρ , "was consecrated," or "initiated," unto Baal-Peor, which admirably expressed the sense. 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.” BARNES, "Take - i. e., assemble the chiefs of the people to thee (compare the phrase “took men,” in Num_16:1). The offenders were to be first; slain by the hands of “the judges of Israel” Num_25:5, and afterward hung up “against the sun” (i. e., publicly, openly; compare 2Sa_12:12) as an aggravation of their punishment. This would be done by impaling the body or fastening it to a cross. Compare Deu_21:23 note, and 2Sa_21:9. CLARKE, "Take all the heads of the people, etc. - Meaning the chiefs of those who had transgressed; as if he had said, “Assemble the chiefs and judges, institute an inquiry concerning the transgressors, and hang them who shall be found guilty before the Lord, as a matter required by his justice.” Against the sun - in the most public manner, and in daylight. Dr. Kennicott has remarked that the Samaritan and Hebrew texts must be both taken together, to make the sense here complete: And the Lord said unto Moses, Speak unto all the heads of the people; And Let Them Slay The Men That Were Joined To Baal-Peor; and hang them up before the Lord against the sun, etc. GILL, "And the Lord said unto Moses,.... Being provoked with the sins of the people, he called to him out of the tabernacle, or out of the cloud: 29
  30. 30. take all the heads of the people, the princes of the tribes, not to hang them, but to judge those that worshipped Peor, as Jarchi interprets it; though some think that these having sinned, were ordered to be taken and hanged, and made public examples of; but it can hardly be thought, though there were some that might be guilty of the above sins, as Zimri, yet not all of them: hang them up before the Lord against the sun; that is, those that were guilty of idolatry: the meaning is, and which all the Targums give into, that these heads of the people were to assemble at some proper place, the court of judicature, and order the delinquents to be brought before them, and try, judge, and condemn those they found guilty, and cause them to be hanged somewhere near the tabernacle, and before it, having neglected the worship of God there, and served an idol; and this was to be done openly in the daytime, that all might see and fear; and if it was the sun that was worshipped in this idol, as some think, they were hanged against the sun, to show that the idol they worshipped was not able to deliver them; but, in the face of it, and as it were in defiance of it, they were ordered to be hanged up; and this, according to the Targum of Jonathan, was in the morning against the rising sun, and where they hung all day, and were taken down at sun setting: that the fierce anger of the Lord may be turned away from Israel; when justice had taken place, and proper punishment was inflicted upon the criminals, whereby a just resentment was made against sin, and God glorified. JAMISON,"The Lord said unto Moses, Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up — Israelite criminals, who were capitally punished, were first stoned or slain, and then gibbeted. The persons ordered here for execution were the principal delinquents in the Baal-peor outrage - the subordinate officers, rulers of tens or hundreds. before the Lord — for vindicating the honor of the true God. against the sun — that is, as a mark of public ignominy; but they were to be removed towards sunset (Deu_21:23). CALVIN, "4.And the Lord said unto Moses. We have often seen before how God executed His judgments by His own hand, as if He put it forth from heaven; He now imposes this office on Moses, although it is evident from the context that he was not appointed to execute it alone, but that the other judges were associated with him; for it immediately follows that Moses intrusted the same charge to them, and thus, what was obscure, on account of the brevity with which it is recorded, is more clearly expressed. At any rate, it was a notable judgment of God Himself, though He employed men as its ministers. Nor does Paul in vain exhort (184) us by this example to beware of fornication. The mode of the punishment, however, was diverse, for the lower orders were slain 30
  31. 31. (by pestilence,) but the leaders were hanged upon the gallows, that the sight might awaken more terror; for by “the heads of the people” he means those of the highest repute, whose ignominy must have been most notable, because the eyes of all men are generally upon the great and noble. Hence, also, they deservedly incur the heavier punishment, because obscure persons do less harm by their example, nor are their acts so generally the objects of imitation. Let, therefore, those who are held in esteem beware lest they provoke others to sin by their evil deeds, for, in proportion to each man’s pre-eminence, the less excuse he deserves. Others interpret it differently, as if Moses were commanded to fetch the princes to give their sentence against the criminals; thus by the pronoun “them” they understood whosoever should be convictcd; but it is hardly probable that so great a multitude were hanged, and therefore I do not doubt but that reference is made to their peculiar punishment:. COKE, "Numbers 25:4. Take all the heads of the people, &c.— The next verse very fully explains what is meant by this expression; namely, all those who had joined themselves unto Baal-peor: others, however, would interpret it, take unto thee, that is, unto thy assistance, all the heads of the people; that is, all the judges: but the word them in the next clause will, under this interpretation, be very harsh. It is probable, for the reason we shall suggest by and by, that a thousand of the Israelites underwent this punishment. REFLECTIONS.—Balaam's counsel, before he left Moab, produced a worse effect than his intended curse could have done. The alluring arts of lascivious beauty are the strongest witchcraft of the devil. Observe, 1. The crying sins that Israel committed; whoredom and idolatry. The daughters of Moab, armed with more offensive weapons than Balak's mighty warriors, with eyes full of adultery, which cannot cease from sin, and tongues smoother than oil, yet sharper than drawn swords, beset them, and (shameful to tell!) prevail. Bound in these silken cords of pleasure's lure, they run to those sacrifices which they before abhorred; for the gratification of bestial appetites they deny their God, and sacrifice to the abomination of the Moabites. Blind to the happy land before them, even at Shittim, in full view of it, they prefer a present lust to all the promises of a covenant God. Dreadful and aggravated crime! Note; (1.) They who tempt others to sin, are the most guilty instruments of the devil. (2.) The lures of women are the most dangerous of temptations. (3.) Flight is the only conquest. (4.) If once the heart be ensnared, there are no lengths into which the miserable slave of lust and beauty may not be led. (5.) Nothing more strongly tends to effect the soul's final apostacy from God, than yielding to the solicitation of the flesh. 2. The judgment of God upon them. They will buy pleasure dear, who purchase it at the price of God's displeasure and eternal damnation. Execution is immediately done upon them. They are hung up before the Lord, and a plague consumes the people. Note; (1.) The fire of lust and the flames of hell are inseparable. (2.) The plagues of God will quickly turn the sweets of forbidden pleasure into the gall of 31
  32. 32. asps, and the gnawings of the worm which never dies. ELLICOTT, " (4) Take all the heads of the people.—The “heads” or “chiefs” of the people seem to be identical with the “judges” of the following verse. Some understand by “all the heads” those only who had been the chief offenders, whilst others understand the word “take” as equivalent to “assemble,” or “bring before thee,” and refer the word “them” to the offenders. Hang them up . . . —It is obvious from Numbers 25:5 that the punishment of impaling or crucifying was not to be inflicted until after death. The LXX. renders the Hebrew verb which is here used (and which is found also in 2 Samuel 21:6; 2 Samuel 21:9) by the same word which occurs in Hebrews 6:6, and is there translated “to put to an open shame.” TRAPP, "Numbers 25:4 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. Ver. 4. Take all the heads.] The chieftains: their greatness might not bear them out. Potentes potenter torquebuntur. Hell is paved, said one of old, with the bald pates of shavellings, and with the crests of great commanders, who had ever opposed with crest and breast whatsoever stood in the way of their sins and lusts. POOLE, " The sense is, either, 1. Take, to wit. to thyself and thy assistance, all the heads, i.e. the judges, as they are called Numbers 25:5, or rulers, of the people; and in their presence, and by their help, hang them, i.e. the people, now mentioned, to wit, such of them as were guilty, as was said Numbers 25:1. And this sense seems to be favoured by the next verse, where the execution of this command is mentioned, Moses said unto the judges of Israel, whom he had taken to himself and called together, Slay ye every one his man, i.e. each. of you execute this command of God, and hang up the delinquents under your several jurisdictions. Or, 2. Take, i.e. apprehend, all the heads, i.e. the chief, of the people, such as were chief, either in this transgression, or rather in place and power, who are singled out to this exemplary punishment either for their neglect in not preventing, restraining, or punishing the offenders according to their power and duty, or for their concurrence with others in this wickedness, which was more odious and mischievous in them than in others. 32
  33. 33. And then this must be necessarily limited to such heads as were guilty, which is evident from the nature of the thing, and from the words of the verse. And so these heads of the people differ, as in name and title, so in place and dignity, from the judges of the people, Numbers 25:5, which may seem to note the superior magistrates, even the seventy elders, which, being persons of great worth and piety, chosen by God, and endowed with his Spirit, most probably kept themselves from this contagion, and therefore were fitter to punish others; and the heads of the people seem to be the inferior magistrates, the rulers of tens or hundreds, or the like, who as they did many of them partake with the people in other rebellions, so probably were involved in this guilt. Now these are to be hanged up as other malefactors and condemned persons were, Deuteronomy 21:23 2 Samuel 21:6. Before the Lord; to the vindication of God’s honour and justice. Against the sun, i.e. publicly, as their sin was public and scandalous; and speedily, before the sun go down. But withal this phrase may signify, that these also must be taken down about sun-setting, as other malefactors were, Deuteronomy 21:23. BENSON, "Numbers 25:4. Take — That is, apprehend; all the heads (or chief) of the people — Such as were chief in this transgression, and in place and power. These are singled out to this exemplary punishment for their concurrence with others in this wickedness, which was more odious, and of more pernicious tendency in them. Hang them up before the Lord — That is, either before the sanctuary, as men who had forsaken the worship of God, and were by his sentence adjudged to die; or, to the vindication of his honour and justice. Others interpret the words thus: Take unto thee, or to thine assistance, the heads, or judges of the people, and hang them up; that is, hang up such as have joined themselves to Baal-peor. This interpretation seems to be justified by the next verse, in which Moses directs the judges to do their duty by punishing the offenders. Against the sun — Publicly and openly, as their sin was public and scandalous, that all the people might see, and fear to sin; and speedily, before the sun went down. It was provided by the Jewish law, that the bodies of malefactors should hang no longer than till the evening of the day on which they suffered, Deuteronomy 21:22-23. WHEDON, " THE IDOLATERS PUNISHED, Numbers 25:4-9. 4. Take all the heads of the people — This command is not only to put to death the guilty Israelites, but as a strong expression of loathing and a seeming aggravation of punishment, (note, Leviticus 20:14,) as well as a most impressive warning against future idolatry, their bodies were to be impaled and publicly exposed. Dr. Kennicott remarks that the Samaritan and the Hebrew texts united make the sense of this verse complete. Speak unto all the heads of the people; and let them slay the men that were joined to Baal-peor; and hang them up before the Lord, etc. 33
  34. 34. Before the Lord — Literally, for Jehovah, that is, to placate him. PETT, "Numbers 25:4 ‘And Yahweh said to Moses, “Take all the chiefs of the people, and hang them up to Yahweh before the sun, that the fierce anger of Yahweh may turn away from Israel.’ That the failure took in a large number of Israelites is made apparent by the fact that only the chieftains among them were to be executed. Yahweh told Moses to hang up before Yahweh, in the sun, all the chieftains of the people who had been misbehaving. This suggests that a good number of chieftains were involved, which made the position even worse. Only then would His anger be turned away. (‘Them’ cannot mean all the chiefs in Israel, for Moses now turned to some of them for assistance. It refers to those who were among those who had sinned - see Deuteronomy 24:16). PULPIT, "The Lord said unto Moses. It seems strange that so fearful an apostasy had gone so far without interference on the part of Moses. He may have been absent from the camp on account of the wars with the Amorite kings; or he may have trusted to the chiefs to see that due order and discipline was maintained in the camps. Take all the heads of the people, i.e; the chiefs, who ought to have prevented, and might have prevented, this monstrous irregularity, but who seem, if we may judge from the case of Zimri, to have countenanced it. The mere neglect of duty in so gross a case was reason enough for summary execution. Hang them up before the Lord. Either by way of impalement or by way of crucifixion, both of which were familiar modes of punishment. In this case the guilty persons were probably slain first, and exposed afterwards. The hanging up was not ordered on account of its cruelty, nor merely for the sake of publicity ("against the sun ), but in order to show that the victims were devoted to the wrath of God against sin (cf. Deuteronomy 21:23; 2 Samuel 21:2-6). The Septuagint has here παραδειγμάτισον αὐτούς. Cf. Hebrews 6:6, where this word is coupled with "crucify." Them is no authority for referring the "them" ( ‫ם‬ ָ‫אוֹת‬ ) to the guilty persons instead of to the heads of the people, as is done by the Targums and by many commentators. 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.” 34
  35. 35. CLARKE, "Slay ye every one his men - In the different departments where you preside over thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens, slay all the culprits that shall be found. GILL, "And Moses said unto the judges of Israel,.... Either the same with the heads of the people, or the rulers of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens, according to the distribution by the advice of Jethro: slay ye everyone his men, that were joined unto Baalpeor; all that were under their several districts and jurisdictions, that were found guilty of that crime; these they are ordered to slay, either with their own hands, or rather cause to be slain by proper persons they should appoint to be executioners. JAMISON,"judges of Israel — the seventy elders, who were commanded not only to superintend the execution within their respective jurisdictions, but to inflict the punishment with their own hands. (See on 1Sa_15:33). K&D, "The judges were to put to death every one his men, i.e., such of the evil-doers as belonged to his forum, according to the judicial arrangements instituted in Ex 18. This command of Moses to the judges was not carried out, however, because the matter took a different turn. TRAPP, "Numbers 25:5 And Moses said unto the judges of Israel, Slay ye every one his men that were joined unto Baalpeor. Ver. 5. Unto the judges of Israel.]. Those of them that had not defiled themselves; else with what face could they punish others? or look upon those, that before their faces had been hanged up against the sun, whose destruction was for ever to be remembered? [Micah 6:5] POOLE, "Every one his men, i.e. those under his charge; for as these seventy were chosen to assist Moses in the government, so doubtless the care and management of the people was distributed among them by just and equal proportions. BENSON, "Numbers 25:5. Slay ye every one his men — Moses having, in conjunction with the judges, searched out such as had been guilty of this lewdness and idolatry, allots to each magistrate his number of malefactors for execution, that they might either put them to death with their own hands, as Phinehas did, (Numbers 25:7,) or by proper officers. It seems probable that the judges were dilatory in executing this order, since God himself thought fit to visit the heads of 35