New European Commentary

 

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Num 25:1 Israel stayed in Shittim; and the people began to play the prostitute with the daughters of Moab-
We learn from Num. 31:16 and Rev. 2:14 that at this time, Balaam advised Balak to entice Israel with Moabite prostitutes, so that the people would be cursed by their God for immorality. The events of chapter 25 were therefore on Balaam’s advice. This desperate strategy reflects how headlong was Balaam’s desire to receive the wealth promised him, and how he sacrificed the welfare of God’s people upon that altar. In essence we can do the same today.


Num 25:2 for they called the people to the sacrifices of their gods; and the people ate, and bowed down to their gods-
 Bowed down
- But Israel were potentially above the Midianites (24:7,18); the Midianites vexed them (25:18) when israel had been prophesied as vexing them (hence they were told to now vex the Midianites in :17).


Num 25:3 Israel joined himself to Baal Peor, and the anger of Yahweh was kindled against Israel-
Baal Peor refers to the Baal who was worshipped at the town of Peor, near where they were now encamping (Dt. 3:29; 4:46). Each town and geographical area had its own gods, rather like today there is a geography to religion, different parts of the world or even areas within a country tend to have their local religions. The true God and His Truth is the same worldwide, which allows a unique international bond between those who know Him and are in His Son.


Num 25:4 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.
Num 25:5 Moses said to the judges of Israel, Everyone kill his men who have joined themselves to Baal Peor-
This command didn’t need to be carried out, because Phinehas took the initiative in killing the chief offenders (:7,8) and this act so impressed God that the plague was ended (:11). Here we have an example of how God sets up one plan or purpose, but is prepared to amend or change it according to human initiative suggesting another one, as Moses did several times. We see here therefore how open God is to dialogue, to living relationship with His people.


Num 25:6 Behold, one of the children of Israel came and brought to his brothers a Midianite woman in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, while they were weeping at the door of the Tent of Meeting.
Num 25:7 When Phinehas the son of Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest saw it, he rose up from the midst of the congregation, and took a spear in his hand;
Num 25:8 and he went after the man of Israel into the pavilion and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel and the woman through her body. So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel-
 
It seems from 1 Chron. 9:19,20 that it was at the door of the tabernacle / tent of the congregation that Phinehas stopped the apostasy of Israel. It seems from Num. 25:6-8 that the Midianite woman and the Israelite were having sex within "the tent", the tabernacle. Phinehas was remembered for this by his descendants directing the guards at the door of the tent (1 Chron. 9:19,20). The actions of the couple were therefore intended to turn the holy place into a place where Yahweh was supposedly worshipped through sex with prostitutes, exactly the way of pagan religions, and which was a problem in the churches at Corinth and Ephesus.   

The spear connecting Jew and Gentile in death could be seen as pointing forward to the cross of Christ.

 


Num 25:9 Those who died by the plague were twenty-four thousand.

Num 25:10 Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying,
Num 25:11 Phinehas the son of Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest has turned My wrath away from the children of Israel, in that he was jealous with My jealousy among them, so that I didn’t consume the children of Israel in My jealousy-
Phinehas "executed judgment and the plague was stayed" (Ps. 106:30). The Hebrew for "executed judgment" is the same word more usually translated to pray or intreat. His actions were understood by God as a prayer, just as our actions and situations can be understood as a prayer- see on Num. 24:13. God’s feelings are to be ours; Phinehas "was jealous with My jealousy". His colossal love for His people means that He is also therefore jealous over their devotions to any other god.


Num 25:12 Therefore say, ‘Behold, I give to him My covenant of peace:
Num 25:13 and it shall be to him, and to his seed after him, the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was jealous for his God, and made atonement for the children of Israel’-

The Sabbath is described as a perpetual, eternal ordinance between God and His people (Ex. 31:16). Yet in the New Testament we read that the Old Covenant has been done away; and the Old Covenant clearly included the ten commandments (Dt. 4:13), one of which was concerning the Sabbath. For this reason the New Testament is at pains to explain that Sabbath keeping is not now required of God’s people (Col. 2:14-17; Rom. 14:1-3). Indeed, the whole Law of Moses is described as an everlasting covenant (Is. 24:5; Dt. 29:29), but it has now been done away (Heb. 8:13). The feasts of Passover and Atonement were to be “an everlasting statute unto you” (Lev. 16:34; Ex. 12:14); but now the Mosaic feasts have been done away in Christ (Col. 2:14-17; 1 Cor. 5:7). The Levitical priesthood was “the covenant of an everlasting priesthood” (Ex. 40:15; Num. 25:13), but “the priesthood being changed (by Christ’s work), there is made of necessity a change also of the law” (Heb. 7:12). There was an “everlasting covenant” between God and Israel to display the shewbread in the Holy Place (Lev. 24:8). This “everlasting covenant” evidently ended when the Mosaic Law was dismantled. But the same phrase “everlasting covenant” is used in 2 Samuel 23:5 concerning how Christ will reign on David’s throne for literal eternity in the Kingdom. In what sense, then, is God using the word olahm, which is translated “eternal”, “perpetual”, “everlasting” in the Old Testament? James Strong defines olahm as literally meaning “the finishing point, time out of mind, i.e. practically eternity”. It was God’s purpose that the Law of Moses and the associated Sabbath law were to continue for many centuries. To the early Israelite, this meant a finishing point so far ahead that he couldn’t grapple with it; therefore he was told that the Law would last for ever in the sense of “practically eternity”. For all of us, the spectre of ultimate infinity is impossible to intellectually grapple with. We may glibly talk about God’s eternity and timelessness, about the wonder of eternal life. But when we pause to really come to terms with these things, we lack the intellectual tools and linguistic paradigms to cope with it. Therefore there is no Hebrew or Greek word used in the Bible text to speak of absolute infinity. We know that death has been conquered for those in Christ, therefore we have the hope of immortal life in his Kingdom. But God speaks about eternity very much from a human viewpoint.


Num 25:14 Now the name of the man of Israel that was slain, who was slain with the Midianite woman, was Zimri, the son of Salu, a prince of a father’s house among the Simeonites.
Num 25:15 The name of the Midianite woman who was slain was Cozbi, the daughter of Zur: he was head of the people of a fathers’ house in Midian.
Num 25:16 Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying,
Num 25:17 Harass the Midianites, and strike them;
Num 25:18 for they harassed you with their wiles, with which they have deceived you in the matter of Peor, and in the matter of Cozbi the daughter of the prince of Midian their sister, who was slain on the day of the plague in the matter of Peor.