Moab Seduces Israel
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 the sacrificial meal and bowed down before these gods. 3 So Israel yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor. And the Lord’s anger burned against them.
After the many victories God has provided for the Israelites, they now enter Shittim, also know as Abel-Shittim. Shittim which means Acacias’, is known for the many Acacia trees there. The exact location is uncertain, however it is on the outskirts of Moab, east of the Dead Sea, this was their last stop before entering the promised Canaan. The Moabites are descendants of Lot.
While staying at Shittim, the Israelite men began to have sexual relations with the Moabite women. It is unclear as to how these woman enticed the Israelite men, whether by prostitution or perhaps simply because the men felt victorious in there many victories that they indulged into sin on their own. These Moabite women also invited the Israelite men to there religious sacrifices and ceremonies. The Israelite men ate of the sacrificial meals and bowed down before the Moabite gods. Basically the Israelites bowed down to Baal of Peor. Remember God has already warned the Israelites of this ….
Exodus 34:12-16 (NIV)
12 Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land where you are going, or they will be a snare among you. 13 Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and cut down their Asherah poles. 14 Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.
15 “Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land; for when they prostitute themselves to their gods and sacrifice to them, they will invite you and you will eat their sacrifices. 16 And when you choose some of their daughters as wives for your sons and those daughters prostitute themselves to their gods, they will lead your sons to do the same.
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.”
Scripture is unclear as to where Moses was during this time, it is thought that perhaps Moses has left the Israelites in charge of some of the elders of the camp, and they have let this sinful event take place. Whatever it was, the Lord has seen it and said too 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.” This is referring to those who were the chief offenders. Moses was to have them killed and then strung up (crucified after death) so that their grievous sin will be exposed to all the Israelites to see. New King James Version renders verse 4 as this…
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Take all the leaders of the people and hang the offenders before the LORD, out in the sun, that the fierce anger of the LORD may turn away from Israel.”
5 So Moses said to Israel’s judges, “Each of you must put to death those of your people who have yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor.”
This is the first mention of the word “Judges” in describing the functions of the officers appointed at Sinai. The “judges” were to put to death all the men who were under their particular jurisdiction, and hang them up for all to see. This command from Moses is not the same as the previous command given to Moses (V4), too kill and hang all the leaders responsible, but for the judges to kill and hang all the ordinary offenders as well.
6 Then an Israelite man brought into the camp 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 into both of them, right through the Israelite man and into the woman’s stomach. Then the plague against the Israelites was stopped; 9 but those who died in the plague numbered 24,000.
Right at the same time when Moses just gave the orders to kill those responsible for the sins with the Moabite women, an Israelite man brings a Midianite woman into camp right before the eyes of Moses and the whole assembly.
While Moses and the whole assembly of Israel are at the tent of meeting, grieving over the judgements to be preformed and the plague that has been sent forth, Phinehas the grandson of Aaron sees this act, leaves the assembly with a spear in hand, follows the two of them into a tent where the man then lays with the Midianite woman, and drives the spear right through the two of them. Instantly the plague stops, but not before killing off 24,000 Israelites. Paul wrote in 1st Corinthians, that 23,000 died in one day. This refers to 23,000 by the hand of God, while the other 1,00 was by the Judges.
1 Corinthians 10:8 (NIV)
8 We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died.
Note* There is missing scripture of exactly how and when the plague came about, but verse 18 brings a glimpse into it.
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. Since he was as zealous for my honor among them as I am, I did not put an end to them in my zeal. 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.”
Thanks too the zeal and faith of Phinehas, by killing the Israelite and Midianite in their act of sin, by making atonement for the Israelites, Gods anger and wrath has ended. God tells Moses too tell Phinehas that He (God) is making a covenant of peace with him, and that he and his descendants will have a covenant of a lasting priesthood.
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 Kozbi daughter of Zur, a tribal chief of a Midianite family.
These next few verses 14-18, were written as an after thought, as an editorial note. It is thought that the mention of Zimri (a prince of the Simeonites), is probably because the tribe of Simeon was deeply implicated in the transgression, and that those who belonged to that tribe were the chief sufferers in the plague. And the mention of Kozbi the daughter of a Midianite leader, is because the Midianites come back in future verses.
16 The Lord said to Moses, 17 “Treat the Midianites as enemies and kill them. 18 They treated you as enemies when they deceived you in the Peor incident involving their sister Kozbi, the daughter of a Midianite leader, the woman who was killed when the plague came as a result of that incident.”
Here we find out that the Midianites were key players in the tempting sins of the Moabite women and of Kozbi the Midianite’s seduction. We also find out that the plague came about due to the Kozbi incident. Just like satan, he tries to kill you with deception and temptations, to get you to forsake God’s love and commands.