The Sin of Peor
25 While Israel remained at Shittim, the people began to play the harlot with the daughters of Moab. 2 For they invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. 3 So Israel joined themselves to [a]Baal of Peor, and the Lord was angry against Israel. 4 The Lord said to Moses, “Take all the leaders of the people and execute them [b]in broad daylight before the Lord, so that the fierce anger of the Lord may turn away from Israel.” 5 So Moses said to the judges of Israel, “Each of you slay his men who have joined themselves to [c]Baal of Peor.”
6 Then behold, one of the sons of Israel came and brought to his [d]relatives a Midianite woman, in the sight of Moses and in the sight of all the congregation of the sons of Israel, while they were weeping at the doorway of the tent of meeting.7 When Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he arose from the midst of the congregation and took a spear in his hand, 8 and he went after the man of Israel into the [e]tent and pierced both of them through, the man of Israel and the woman, through the [f]body. So the plague on the sons of Israel was checked. 9 Those who died by the plague were 24,000.
The Zeal of Phinehas
10 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 11 “Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned away My wrath from the sons of Israel in that he was jealous with My jealousy among them, so that I did not destroy the sons of Israel in My jealousy. 12 Therefore say, ‘Behold, I give him My covenant of peace;13 and it shall be for him and his [g]descendants after him, a covenant of a perpetual priesthood, because he was jealous for his God and made atonement for the sons of Israel.’”
14 Now the name of the [h]slain man of Israel who was [i]slain with the Midianite woman, was Zimri the son of Salu, a leader of a father’s household among the Simeonites. 15 The name of the Midianite woman who was [j]slain was Cozbi the daughter of Zur, [k]who was head of the people of a father’s household in Midian.
16 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 17 “Be hostile to the Midianites and strike them; 18 for they have been hostile to you with their tricks, with which they have deceived you in the affair of Peor and in the affair of Cozbi, the daughter of the leader of Midian, their sister who was slain on the day of the plague because of Peor.”
Now, this might just be coincidence, but first the king of Moab (Balak) tries to get the Israelites cursed by Balaam. When that doesn’t work, we find Moabite women inviting the Israelite men to their feasts and to worship the gods of Moab.
I doubt Balak knew quite the ramifications of this act, but it would be only logical. If you can’t beat them, try to get them on your side (by seduction). The end result would be mass casualties for Israel, and the destruction of this Midianite clan (apparently a sub-section of Moab).
But what’s that to do with us? Well, there were two sins here: one was sexual (unfaithful to their wives), and the other was being unfaithful to God by worshiping idols. While we have plenty of the first in our society (and sadly even among those who call themselves Christians), we would be quick to say that we certainly don’t worship statues/idols.
I was reminded last night that we can often be hasty to point fingers at Israel. I mean, it seems like they really were good at messing up and forgetting God’s commands. However, would we be so different in their shoes? Are we so different even now?
What things do we worship instead of God? How about big-screen TVs, and cars, our careers, jewelry, etc. Everyone has something they struggle to keep from taking priority #1. That position belongs to God, and we must fight to keep him in that place in our lives. Putting God first doesn’t happen by accident, we must be intentional. That was the trap they fell into, and it is still the trap we so easily fall for today. Be on your guard, don’t live life on accident!