The Israelites enticed by the daughters of Moab and Midian. (1-5) Phinehas puts Zimri and Cozbi to death. (6-15) The Midianites to be punished. (16-18)
Verses 1-5 The friendship of the wicked is more dangerous than their enmity; for none can prevail against God's people if they are not overcome by their inbred lusts; nor can any enchantment hurt them, but the enticements of worldly interests and pleasures. Here is the sin of Israel, to which they are enticed by the daughters of Moab and Midian. Those are our worst enemies who draw us to sin, for that is the greatest mischief any man can do us. Israel's sin did that which all Balaam's enchantments could not do; it set God against them. Diseases are the fruits of God's anger, and the just punishments of prevailing sins; one infection follows the other. Ringleaders in sin ought to be made examples of justice.
Verses 6-15 Phinehas, in the courage of zeal and faith, executed vengeance on Zimri and Cozbi. This act can never be an example for private revenge, or religious persecution, or for irregular public vengeance.
Verses 16-18 We read not that any Midianites died of the plague; God punished them with the sword of an enemy, not with the rod of a father. We must set ourselves against whatever is an occasion of sin to us, ( matthew 5:29 matthew 5:30 ) . Whatever draws us to sin, should be a vexation to us, as a thorn in the flesh. And none will be more surely and severely punished than those who, after Satan's example, and with his subtlety, tempt others to sin.
Numbers 25:1-18 . THE ISRAELITES' WHOREDOM AND IDOLATRY WITH MOAB.
1. Israel abode in Shittim--a verdant meadow, so called from a grove of acacia trees which lined the eastern side of the Jordan. (See Numbers 33:49 ).
3. 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.
4. 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 ( Deuteronomy 21:23 ).
5. 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.
6, 7. behold, one of the children of Israel . . . brought . . . a Midianitish woman--This flagitious act most probably occurred about the time when the order was given and before its execution.
who were weeping before the door of the tabernacle--Some of the rulers and well-disposed persons were deploring the dreadful wickedness of the people and supplicating the mercy of God to avert impending judgments.
8. the plague--some sudden and widespread mortality.
9. those that died in the plague were twenty and four thousand--Only twenty-three thousand perished ( 1 Corinthians 10:8 ) from pestilence. Moses includes those who died by the execution of the judges [ Numbers 25:5 ].
11-13. Phinehas . . . hath turned my wrath away--This assurance was a signal mark of honor that the stain of blood, instead of defiling, confirmed him in office and that his posterity should continue as long as the national existence of Israel.
14. Zimri, . . . a prince . . . among the Simeonites--Hebrew, "house of a father." The slaughter of a man of such high rank is mentioned as a proof of the undaunted zeal of Phinehas, for there might be numerous avengers of his blood.
17. Vex the Midianites, and smite them--They seem to have been the most guilty parties. (Compare Numbers 22:4 , 31:8 ).
18. they vex you with their wiles--Instead of open war, they plot insidious ways of accomplishing your ruin by idolatry and corruption.
their sister--their countrywoman.