Numbers 25

1 Israel stayed in Shittim; and the people began to play the prostitute with the daughters of Moab; 2 for they called the people to the sacrifices of their gods. The people ate and bowed down to their gods. 3 Israel joined himself to Baal Peor. The LORD’s anger burnt against Israel. 4 The LORD said to Moses, “Take all the chiefs of the people, and hang them up to the LORD before the sun, that the fierce anger of the LORD may turn away from Israel.” 5 Moses said to the judges of Israel, “Everyone kill his men who have joined themselves to Baal Peor.” 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. 7 When Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose up from the middle of the congregation, and took a spear in his hand. 8 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. 9 Those who died by the plague were twenty-four thousand. 10 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 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 amongst them, so that I didn’t consume the children of Israel in my jealousy. 12 Therefore say, ‘Behold, I give to him my covenant of peace. 13 It shall be to him, and to his offspring after him, the covenant of an everlasting priesthood, because he was jealous for his God, and made atonement for the children of Israel.’” 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 fathers’ house amongst the Simeonites. 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. 16 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 17 “Harass the Midianites, and strike them, 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.”

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Questions about today’s reading? See if Matthew Henry can help.
Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, 1706

Verses 1–5

The friendship of the wicked is more dangerous than their enmity; for none can prevail against God’s people if they are not overcome by their inbred lusts; nor can any enchantment hurt them, but the enticements of worldly interests and pleasures. Here is the sin of Israel, to which they are enticed by the daughters of Moab and Midian. Those are our worst enemies who draw us to sin, for that is the greatest mischief any man can do us. Israel’s sin did that which all Balaam’s enchantments could not do; it set God against them. Diseases are the fruits of God’s anger, and the just punishments of prevailing sins; one infection follows the other. Ringleaders in sin ought to be made examples of justice.

Verses 6–15

Phinehas, in the courage of zeal and faith, executed vengeance on Zimri and Cozbi. This act can never be an example for private revenge, or religious persecution, or for irregular public vengeance.

Verses 16–18

We read not that any Midianites died of the plague; God punished them with the sword of an enemy, not with the rod of a father. We must set ourselves against whatever is an occasion of sin to us, Mt 5:29, 30. Whatever draws us to sin, should be a vexation to us, as a thorn in the flesh. And none will be more surely and severely punished than those who, after Satan’s example, and with his subtlety, tempt others to sin.

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