Numbers Chapter 25

In the last few chapters, the Israelites were encamped on the east side of the Jordan River, in the area of the Moabites. A Moabite leader, Balak, had hired Balaam to curse the Israelites. Balaam, who was a servant of the Lord, was instructed to bless the Israelites, but because he had a desire for the wealth of men, he told Balak about weaknesses the Israelites had. These weaknesses included issues with fornication and the worship of false gods. The Moabites would be able use these against the Israelites, to destroy them from within. Numbers, chapter 25 begins as follows:

1 And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab.
2 And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods.
3 And Israel joined himself unto Baal-peor: and the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel.
4 And the Lord said unto Moses, Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up before the Lord against the sun, that the fierce anger of the Lord may be turned away from Israel.
5 And Moses said unto the judges of Israel, Slay ye every one his men that were joined unto Baal-peor.

While dwelling in the land of the Moabites, some of the Israelites began to fall prey to temptations. When they began to worship the fall gods, and give sacrifices to them, the Lord was angry. The Lord told Moses to hang the heads of those who had rebelled against Him, between the Israelites and the sun, so that the anger of the Lord would be turned away from them. Moses commanded that all those who had turned to Baal-peor, were to be killed. The footnote for Baal-peor says, “The idol at Peor”, so they were to kill those who went to worship the idol at the mount Peor. The Lord could not look upon sin of this nature with the least degree of allowance. This was not a small sin or a sin of omission. The Lord did not say that those who had done anything wrong ever, were to be killed. Only those who went seeking after another God, after knowing the Lord and making sacred covenants with him.

6 And, behold, one of the children of Israel came and brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping before the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
7 And when Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose up from among the congregation, and took a javelin in his hand;
8 And he went after the man of Israel into the tent, and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her belly. So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel.
9 And those that died in the plague were twenty and four thousand.

While the Israelites were weeping to the Lord, an Israelite man brought a Midianite woman in to the encampment, where she was seen by Moses and the elders. I am thinking this means, he brought her in to be involved with her in sins of immorality. Phinehas, one of the grandsons of Aaron and a man of the priesthood, saw him and sought after the man with a javelin in hand. He followed him to his tent and killed the man and the Midianite woman for their adultery. In doing this, he stopped the plague from spreading among the Israelites. 24,000 people died from the plague before he was able to stop it.

Why would the Lord bring a plague upon the people at this time? Because these people had made covenants with Him. Their covenant was that if they were true and faithful to the laws that had been given to them through Moses, the prophet, they would inherit the promised land. When they could not be faithful, God had to hold to his promise that they would not be allowed to inherit it. If God had not followed through on that, He would have ceased to be the unchanging God they had chosen to worship. The lesson in this, is that we can also know that God will remember his covenants with us. Our choices will bring consequences and we can trust that they will be the consequences the Lord has promised to us.

10 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
11 Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, hath turned my wrath away from the children of Israel, while he was zealous for my sake among them, that I consumed not the children of Israel in my jealousy.
12 Wherefore say, Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace:
13 And he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel.
14 Now the name of the Israelite that was slain, even that was slain with the Midianitish woman, was Zimri, the son of Salu, a prince of a chief house among the Simeonites.
15 And the name of the Midianitish woman that was slain was Cozbi, the daughter of Zur; he was head over a people, and of a chief house in Midian.

Phinehas was blessed for how he stopped the plague and turned away the wrath of the Lord, by executing judgment on the adulterers. The Lord gave him a covenant of peace, where he was promised that he and his posterity would continue to hold the priesthood, because he had stood for what was right in the sight of God. The man who he had killed, was Zimri, a prince of the house of Simeon. The woman was Cozbi, a daughter of a chief in Midian.

I was wondering why it was important for us to know that whom the man was, seeing as the whole tribe was not going to be punished for his sin. He was a prince, or rather, one of the heads of the households in the tribe of Simeon. As such, this man was an example for his entire tribe and family. I have to wonder how many souls would have been lost if he had continued in his rebellion against the laws of the Lord. I have watched as many adults have made decisions to go against their own covenants, and the thing that is the hardest to see, is the effect it has on the children. It brings me such overwhelming heartache, that I cannot adequately describe how it hurts to witness it. When we choose to sin, we often do it with only ourselves in mind. However, the effects of some sins can reach for generations. His choices would have caused the loss of thousands of souls, or more, over time.

16 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
17 Vex the Midianites, and smite them:
18 For they vex you with their wiles, wherewith they have beguiled you in the matter of Peor, and in the matter of Cozbi, the daughter of a prince of Midian, their sister, which was slain in the day of the plague for Peor’s sake.

In response to the actions of Cozbi, and to prevent more of the people of Midian from tempting the Israelites away, the Lord commanded Moses to vex and smite the Midianites.

I think that the Lord was allowing opportunities for the Israelites to use their agency to prove themselves. That is part of the purpose of our lives on earth. We are to make choices, with the opposition placed in front of us, and prove to the Lord that we will indeed follow Him. The Lord had every power to lead the people straight through to the promised land, but he did not. He allowed them time to live among other nations, so that they could know for themselves the good from the evil. We are not blessed by having an easy life, where we are not given choices. We can only increase in wisdom, knowledge, faith and righteousness, as we make everyday choices and learn from the consequences, good or bad. We will be given the same opportunity to use our agency and prove ourselves to the Lord. Because of this, I know that we must be ever watchful. The adversary knows our weaknesses. He knew that Balaam would desire for the wealth of the world. He also knew that Zimri had a weakness for women outside of the covenant. He knows what we find appealing. On the other hand, the Lord knows our strengths. He also knows how we can change our weaknesses into strengths. If we are willing to trust Him, He will help us to avoid falling prey to our temptations. If we are watchful, He will help us to see the stumbling blocks in our path, long before they become to difficult for us to avoid.

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