1 While Israel was staying in Shittim, the men began to indulge in sexual immorality with Moabite women,
2 who invited them to the sacrifices to their gods. The people ate and bowed down before these gods.
3 So Israel joined in worshiping the Baal of Peor. And the Lord's anger burned against them.
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."
5 So Moses said to Israel's judges, "Each of you must put to death those of your men who have joined in worshiping the Baal of Peor."
6 Then an Israelite man brought to his family a Midianite woman right before the eyes of Moses and the whole assembly of Israel while they were weeping at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting.
7 When Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, saw this, he left the assembly, took a spear in his hand
8 and followed the Israelite into the tent. He drove the spear through both of them--through the Israelite and into the woman's body. Then the plague against the Israelites was stopped;
9 but those who died in the plague numbered 24,000.
10 The LORD said to Moses,
11 "Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, has turned my anger away from the Israelites; for he was as zealous as I am for my honor among them, so that in my zeal I did not put an end to them.
12 Therefore tell him I am making my covenant of peace with him.
13 He and his descendants will have a covenant of a lasting priesthood, because he was zealous for the honor of his God and made atonement for the Israelites."
14 The name of the Israelite who was killed with the Midianite woman was Zimri son of Salu, the leader of a Simeonite family.
15 And the name of the Midianite woman who was put to death was Cozbi daughter of Zur, a tribal chief of a Midianite family.
16 The LORD said to Moses,
17 "Treat the Midianites as enemies and kill them,
18 because they treated you as enemies when they deceived you in the affair of Peor and their sister Cozbi, the daughter of a Midianite leader, the woman who was killed when the plague came as a result of Peor."
Background: Phinehas is the grandson of Aaron and the son of Eliezar. The Israelites were on their way to the Promised Land, having been saved from enslavement by the Egyptians. God's hand was upon them and fear gripped the nations they passed through. Moab was one of those nations. Balak, the king of Moab hired Balaam to curse Israel, but whenever Balaam opened his mouth to curse Israel, he uttered blessings instead. So Balaam told Moab to entice Israel through Baal worship. He advised them to send the most beautiful women to seduce the Israelites into idolatry. The strategy worked and soon many of the Israelites were seduced.
Studying the passage: Being seduced by the Moabites, the Israelites committed the following sins: They were sexually immoral. They were a part of the sacrifice that was offered to their idols. They ate a sacrificial meal. They bowed down before their god. They yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor and the Lord's anger burned against them.
Consequences: A plague broke out and 24,000 Israelites died that day.
Some of us could question, "Could our loving God be so angry and act this way?"
That's a separate study altogether. A love that does not hate evil is not the love of which the Bible speaks. Someone said, "It is most fitting therefore that a volume on God's love should include an essay on the wrath of God."
Now the Lord commanded Moses to put to death the leaders of those people who committed this sin and expose it in broad daylight. The whole assembly of Israel was weeping at the entrance of the tent of meeting. Meanwhile an Israelite, Zimri son of Salu, a Simeonite leader brought into camp a Midianite woman Kozbi, daughter of a tribal chief right before the eyes of Moses. When Phinehas saw this, he left the assembly, took a spear in his hand and followed Zimri into the tent. He drove the spear into them, right through Zimri and into Kozbi's stomach. Phinehas did this irrespective of the fact that they were an influential family. That's when the plague against the Israelites stopped.
What was the depth of Zimri's
sin? Why did Zimri have to be punished?
Zimri was not in touch with reality. The Lord's anger was burning against the Israelites and 24,000 people were already dead because of the plague. Moses was holding an assembly with the elders of Israel. People were weeping in front of the tent of Meeting, but Zimri was so obsessed with sin and with the pleasure that sin had to offer. He took her into the tent right before the eyes of Moses (an open disrespect towards authority).
That's what sin does to us. Is there any sin that you are so obsessed with that it is taking your eyes off from reality around you?
What made Phinehas the hero of today's study?
He was in touch with reality. He felt what God felt. Look at the testimony that the Lord gave to Moses about Phinehas. "Phinehas has turned my anger away from the Israelites. Since he was as zealous for my honour among them as I am, I did not put an end to them in my zeal."
Whose honour are you more concerned with? Often we could be more concerned about our own honour than God's honour. We may be a hero in the eyes of the world if we are concerned about our honour, but we will be a zero in God's eyes.
Phinehas concern for God's honour made him a hero. Phinehas was more mindful of honouring God than himself. That itself inherited a blessing for him from God. He and his descendants would have a covenant of a lasting priesthood.
The same promise could be applied to us today if we choose to honour God rather than honouring ourselves in our lives.
1. What kind of an image do you have of God?
2. What are few things that you are so obsessed with that it is taking your eyes off from reality and bring dishonour to God?
3. What are some practical steps that need to be taken if you have to honour God more than yourself?