INTRODUCTION TO Numbers 25
The contents of this chapter are, the sin of the people of Israel, their whoredom and idolatry, Numbers 25:1, their punishment for it, multitudes being slain, Numbers 25:4, whose number is given, Numbers 25:9, the zeal of Phinehas in slaying two notorious offenders, Numbers 25:6, whose names are observed, Numbers 25:14 for which he is commended, and the covenant of priesthood was given and confirmed unto him, Numbers 25:10, and the chapter is concluded with an order to vex the Midianites, for vexing Israel with their wiles, Numbers 25:16.
and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab; and of Midian also, as appears from Numbers 25:6 by the advice of Balaam, the Moabites and Midianites found ways and means to become familiar with the Israelites, and to introduce their daughters into their company and conversation, and being ensnared and enamoured with them, they were drawn to commit lewdness with them, and hereby were led on to commit other abominations, which brought the divine displeasure upon them; so that what they dared not attempt by war, and could not effect by sorceries and divinations, they accomplished by those iniquitous arts, namely, bringing the wrath, the curse, and plague of God upon them.
and the people did eat: of the things sacrificed to idols, and so became guilty of idolatry, even by so doing, and then when they had eaten and drank, and were merry, they were led on to other acts of idolatry:
and bowed down to their gods: which was a plain and open act of idolatry, whereby they testified their faith in their divinity, their reverence of them, and their homage and obedience to them: Jarchi says, when the evil concupiscence or lust was strong in them, and they solicited the daughters of Moab to hearken to them, and comply with them, they used to take the image of Peor out of their bosom, and said, worship this, signifying that on that condition they would gratify them; and thus whoredom led them on to idolatry, and they committed the one for the sake of being indulged in the other.
and the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel; for no sin is more provoking to God than idolatry, that being so directly opposite to his nature, honour, and glory, as well as to his will and worship; and hereby the end of Balaam and Balak was, in a great measure, answered, and Balaam obtained that by his evil counsel which he could not by all his conjuring; this was seen by the plague sent among them; See Gill on Numbers 24:14.
(t) Scripture Chronology, p. 267. (u) Dictionary, on word "Baal". (w) "Next Chemos, the obscene dread of Moab's sons, Peor his other name, -----" Milton, B. 1. l. 406, 412.
take all the heads of the people, the princes of the tribes, not to hang them, but to judge those that worshipped Peor, as Jarchi interprets it; though some think that these having sinned, were ordered to be taken and hanged, and made public examples of; but it can hardly be thought, though there were some that might be guilty of the above sins, as Zimri, yet not all of them:
hang them up before the Lord against the sun; that is, those that were guilty of idolatry: the meaning is, and which all the Targums give into, that these heads of the people were to assemble at some proper place, the court of judicature, and order the delinquents to be brought before them, and try, judge, and condemn those they found guilty, and cause them to be hanged somewhere near the tabernacle, and before it, having neglected the worship of God there, and served an idol; and this was to be done openly in the daytime, that all might see and fear; and if it was the sun that was worshipped in this idol, as some think, they were hanged against the sun, to show that the idol they worshipped was not able to deliver them; but, in the face of it, and as it were in defiance of it, they were ordered to be hanged up; and this, according to the Targum of Jonathan, was in the morning against the rising sun, and where they hung all day, and were taken down at sun setting:
that the fierce anger of the Lord may be turned away from Israel; when justice had taken place, and proper punishment was inflicted upon the criminals, whereby a just resentment was made against sin, and God glorified.
slay ye everyone his men, that were joined unto Baalpeor; all that were under their several districts and jurisdictions, that were found guilty of that crime; these they are ordered to slay, either with their own hands, or rather cause to be slain by proper persons they should appoint to be executioners.
brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman; into his father's family, into a tent where his brethren dwelt:
in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel; in the most open and undisguised manner, into the midst of the camp, passing by Moses, and a great number of the people, who were gathered together on this solemn occasion, to seek the Lord, and humble themselves before him:
who were weeping before the door of the tabernacle of the congregation; the place where the people used to assemble together for religious exercises; here they were weeping and mourning for the sins and abominations that were committed among them, and on account of the punishment inflicted on many of them, by the hand of the civil magistrate, and because of the plague that was broke out upon them, from an angry God; by which it appears, that though there were many who had fallen into those foul sins, yet there were a great number which were not defiled with them, and sighed and cried for the abominations in the midst of them: and because the fact here recorded was such an amazing piece of impudence, the word "behold" is prefixed to the account of it, it being done in such a public, bold, and audacious manner, and at such a time, when so many had been hanged up for it, and the plague of God was broke out among the people on account of it, and good men were bewailing the sin, and the punishment of it; and if this was on a sabbath day, as the Samaritan Chronicle (x) relates, it was a further aggravation of it.
(x) Apud Hottinger. Smegma Oriental. l. 1. c. 8. p. 448.
he rose up from among the congregation; who were weeping at the door of the tabernacle, or from the midst of the court of judicature, set for trying and judging such persons who were charged with idolatry; for he was not only the son of the high priest and his successor, but a ruler over the Korahites, and had, besides his priestly office, a civil authority, 1 Chronicles 9:20.
and took a javelin in his hand; a spear or pike; the Jews say (y) he snatched it out of the hand of Moses; and, according to Josephus (z), it was a sword; but the word rather signifies an hand pike; this being ready at hand, he took it up and pursued the criminal.
(y) Pirke Eliezer, c. 47. fol. 56. 1.((z) Antiqu. l. 4. c. 6. sect. 12.
and thrust both of them through; with his javelin, spear, or pike:
the man of Israel, and the woman through her belly; by which, it seems, they were killed in the very act of uncleanness; this was an extraordinary action, done by a person of public authority, and under a more than common emotion of spirit, and not to be drawn into an example by persons of a private character:
so the plague was stayed from the children of Israel; which had broke out among them and carried off many; even a disease, the pestilence, according to Josephus (f); it ceasing upon this fact of Phinehas, shows that that was approved of by the Lord.
(a) "conclave est camerati operis, quo lectus circumdatur", Hierozoic. par. 1. l. 4. c. 8. col. 1092. Vid. Schultens Animadv. Philolog. in Job. p. 183. (b) Castel. Lex. Heptaglot. col. 3261. (c) Baal Aruch, fol. 133. 4. (d) T. Bab. Avoda Zara, fol. 17. 2.((e) "in lupanar", V. L. "ad lupanar", Montanus; "in lupanar ipsum", Junius & Tremellius; "in fornicem", Tigurine version. (f) Ut supra. (Antiqu. l. 4. c. 6. sect. 12.)
hath turned away my wrath from the children of Israel; caused the effects of it to cease, by slaying the two persons, as before related:
while he was zealous for my sake among you; for the glory of God, the honour of his law, the credit of religion, and the good of his people, which is a good cause to be zealously affected in, Galatians 4:18 in which he was a type of Christ, whose zeal for the house of God, for the doctrine, discipline, and worship of it, for the salvation of his people, and the glory of God thereby, ate him up, Psalm 69:9 as well as in his turning away wrath from Israel; sin is the cause of wrath, and for it is revealed from heaven; the people of God are deserving of it as others; but Christ has bore it for them, and so has delivered them from it and all the effects of it, and they are secure from its coming upon them:
that I consumed not the children of Israel in my jealousy; by the plague sent among them, being so highly provoked with their shocking abominations.
behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace; not only hereby assuring him that he had nothing to fear from the brethren and relations of the person he had slain, as Aben Ezra; but that he should enjoy all peace and happiness, external, internal, and eternal: Baal Hatfurira on the place says, that "Shalom", peace, is by geometry, or numerically, the Messiah; who is the peace, the peace maker, and peace giver, and in whom all the blessings of grace and peace are: and if this covenant is the same with the covenant of the priesthood in the next verse, it may be so called, because the priests had a peculiar nearness to God, and enjoyed his friendship, favour, and peace with him, and because the right administration of their office was the means of peace between God and his people; in this also Phinehas was a type of Christ; the covenant of grace made with him is called the covenant of peace, Isaiah 54:10 for in this covenant the scheme of peace and reconciliation was formed, agreed to, and settled; Christ was appointed the peace maker, which he agreed to be; and in consequence of it was sent and obtained peace by the blood of his cross, which is published in the everlasting Gospel, called therefore the Gospel of peace.
even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; or this may be read in connection with the preceding words, and the sense be, and he and his shall have the covenant of an everlasting priesthood, beside the covenant of peace before promised to him: the Aaronic priesthood is called everlasting, because it was to continue, and did continue, throughout the whole Jewish dispensation, unto the coming of the Messiah, in whom it had its fulfilling end. Now though Phinehas in course was to have the priesthood at his father's death, yet it is here promised him on account of his zeal, both to assure him that he should survive his father, and that nothing should befall him that should render him incapable of the priesthood; and moreover, that he should have a seed in whom it should be continued; there was indeed an interruption of it in his line for a little while, on some account or other, it being translated into the family of Eli, a son of Ithamar; but then it was restored again in the time of Solomon to the family of Phinehas, where it continued unto the captivity, and even to the times of Herod, and so of the Messiah: in this also Phinehas was a type of Christ, the covenant made with him not only being from everlasting and to everlasting, a covenant that cannot be broken, and will never be removed; but the priesthood founded on it is so too, being established by the oath of God, who swore to him, "thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek": Christ's priesthood is an unchangeable one, and does not pass from one to another; his sacrifice has a perpetual virtue and efficacy in it to take away sin, and he ever lives to make intercession for his people, Hebrews 7:21,
because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel; by executing judgment upon the delinquents, as Christ has made atonement for the sins of his people by satisfying law and justice: and, besides what has been observed, it may be remarked, that there is an agreement between Phinehas and Christ in his very name; Phinehas signifies either "the face of him that spares", that is, of God, that spares; Christ is the face of God, the express image of his person, even of him, who, though he spared not Christ himself, yet he spares his people for Christ's sake; or else "he shall look that spares", or "and spare" (g); that is, God, who looks upon the person, righteousness, blood, and sacrifice of his Son, and spares his people.
(g) Vid. Hiller. Onomastic. Sacr. p. 476.
even that was slain with the Midianitish woman; who was slain also, both together with one thrust:
was Zimri, the son of Sela, a prince of a chief house among the Simeonites; or a prince of his father's house, or family; there were five families of the Simeonites, and this man was a prince of one of them, see Numbers 26:12 though Josephus (h), and so the Samaritan Chronicle (i), make him to be a prince of the tribe of Simeon. His name is mentioned partly to the reproach of him, and partly for the honour of Phinehas, whose zeal and courage were such, that he feared not to take away the life of a person of such figure, authority, and interest among the people.
(h) Antiqu. l. 4. c. 6. sect. 10. (i) Apud Hottinger, Smegma Oriental, l. 1. c. 8. p. 448.
he was head over a people, and of a chief house in Midian; that is, Zur, the father of Cozbi, was; there were five sons of Midian, whose names are given, Genesis 25:4 from whence Jarchi concludes, that there were five principal families in Midian, and that this man was the head or chief of one of them, which is not improbable; and that also makes for the honour of Phinehas, that he spared not any for their rank and quality, of whatsoever nation they were.
(k) Apud Hottinger, ut supra. (Smergma Oriental, l. 1. c. 8. p. 448.)
saying; as follows.
(l) T. Bab. Bava Kama, fol. 38. 2.