-While Israel remained at Shittim, despite all of God’s blessings on them and their security in Him, the people began to “play the harlot (unfaithful, idolatry)” with the daughters of Moab. This is a sad commentary on the people of Israel isn’t it? They accepted invitations from the Moabites to make sacrifices to their gods, and the children of Israel ate with them and bowed down to worship their false gods. “So Israel joined themselves to Baal of Peor, and the LORD was angry against Israel (Numbers 25:1-3).” Rightfully so, after all the One-True Living God had done for this people, the spurned LORD commanded Moses to take all the leaders and execute them in broad daylight before His Majesty for their contemptable display of disloyalty and intrigue. So Moses said to the judges of Israel, “Each of you slay his men who have joined themselves to Baal of Peor (Numbers 25:4-5).”
-One of the sons of Israel came and brought to his relatives a Midianite woman before Moses and all the people while they were mourning and weeping over this grievous sin at the doorway of the tent of meeting. Phinehas, (not Eli’s infamous-wayward son of later Scriptural text, 1 Samuel 1:3; 2:12-36; 4:4-11), who was the son of Eleazar and grandson of the deceased Aaron, took a zealous stand for the LORD when he saw these who had transgressed the covenant of God. He arose from the midst of the congregation, took a spear in his hand, and went after the man of Israel with his idolatrous woman in a tent. He pierced them both through, and the plague on the sons of Israel was checked after a whopping 24,000 died. This is the size of a pretty big town! Then the LORD spoke directly to Moses again saying, “Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned away My wrath from the sons of Israel in that he was jealous with My jealousy among them, so that I did not destroy the sons of Israel in My jealousy. Therefore say, ‘Behold, I give him My covenant of peace; and it shall be for him and his descendants after him, a covenant of perpetual priesthood, because he was jealous for his God and made atonement for the sons of Israel (Numbers 25:6-13).’” The Simeonite of Israel who was killed was named Zimri. He was a leader of a father’s household. His Midianite woman who led him astray was named Cozbi, the daughter of Zur, who was the head of the people of a father’s household in Midian (Numbers 25:14-15). Moses married a Midianite, Zipporah, so that was not the real issue here (Exodus 18:1-6, Numbers 10:29). The deceptive faith of this woman, Cozbi, is what the LORD detested. She and the other Midianites that Israel got tangled up with led them from their true God into idolatry, and the LORD could not stand this (Exodus 20:2-6). His love for them was jealous with a wrathful display of justice. His covenant (promise) was at stake here, and He would do anything to protect it. Phinehas proved to be a faithful servant in keeping the covenant of peace and exclusivity with Yahweh, the great “I Am (Exodus 3:13-15).”
-Now God told Moses to “be hostile to the Midianites and strike them; for they have been hostile to you with tricks, with which they have deceived you in the affair of Peor and in the affair of Cozbi, the daughter of the leader of Midian, their sister who was slain on the day of the plague because of Peor (Numbers 25:16-18).”
-*Application* Here is this passage we see the biblical principle of righteous indignation, which is a burning anger over something that violates God’s commands. We certainly have to be careful in this emotion, because it can get out of hand and lead to selfish ambition and a horrible testimony. But, it is ordained by God in certain times and situations. Even Jesus, Himself, overturned the tables in the Temple area when His anger burned for the House of God (Matthew 21:12-13, Mark 11:15-17, John 2:15-17). Sometimes the only path to peace is the destruction of the enemy, and God knows the future heart of man as to whether or not it will turn when He okays a “just war.” The main factor is this: Does God get the glory in it and will it advance His Kingdom of love and peace? If so, my brothers and sisters fight the good fight as a faithful servant (1 Timothy 1:12-20, 2 Timothy 4:1-8).
Verses to Memorize: Numbers 25:12-13