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Scripture Reading – Numbers 25

Numbers 25 brings us to Shittim, the staging ground for Israel to cross the Jordan River and enter the Promised Land (25:1).

Shittim became the setting of a tragic event, for it was here that “the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab” (25:1). After the suffering and toil of wandering in the wilderness for forty years, how could Israel, break her covenant with the LORD? Not only did the people commit adultery with the heathen, but they also worshiped and offered sacrifices to their gods! (25:1-3)

We read, “Israel joined himself unto Baal-peor: and the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel” (25:3). Baal-peor was the place where Baal, the Canaanite god of fertility, was worshipped. The Moabites, Midianites, and Ammonites worshipped Baal (closely identified with Moloch). Portrayed as a bull, the Canaanites sacrificed their sons and daughters to Baal and committed all manner of sexual deviancy in worshipping the idol.

Because of their idolatry, God’s wrath was “kindled against Israel” (25:3). The LORD commanded 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” (25:4).

God’s Punishment of Unfaithful Leaders (25:4-13)

The people’s sins were egregious, and God’s judgment was swift (25:4-5). He placed the responsibility for the sins of the nation upon the “heads [leaders] of the people” (25:5). He demanded they be slain and their bodies hanged in the sun as a warning to the people (25:5).

One man was so brazen that he “brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman (the daughter of a Midianite tribal chief) in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel” (25:6).  Phinehas, the son of the high priest Eleazar, rose and slew the man and the Midianite woman. He thrust them both through with a javelin (25:6-8). As a result, God’s judgment fell upon Israel, and 24,000 perished (25:9).

We are also reminded that nothing escapes the notice of God, for the LORD acknowledged Phinehas’ zeal for righteousness and established a perpetual covenant of the priesthood with him and his lineage (25:10-13).

Closing thoughts:

The sin committed at Shittim was so tragic that the names of the couple slain by Phinehas were recorded (25:14-15). The LORD also commanded Moses, “Vex the Midianites, and smite them” (25:17).

Several spiritual lessons might be drawn from today’s Scripture reading; however, I will limit myself to one: Be not deceived: evil communications [companions] corrupt [ruins; destroys] good manners [morals] (1 Corinthians 15:33).

The Scriptures do not reveal how the men of Israel came to worship the god of Baal and to commit whoredom. However, we can be confident that the proximity of the “daughters of Moab” (25:1) provided the Israelites not only a familiarity with them, but also a tolerance of their wicked ways (25:1-3).

Indeed, the 21st-century church desperately needs young men like Phinehas, who love God and have a zeal for godliness.

Will you commit yourself to having a godly zeal in the 21st century?

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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