Numbers 25

CHAPTER XXV

While Israel abode in Shittim the people commit whoredom with

the daughters of Moab, 1.

They become idolaters, 2.

The anger of the Lord is kindled against them, and he commands

the ringleaders to be hanged, 3, 4.

Moses causes the judges to slay the transgressors, 5.

Zimri, one of the Israelitish princes of the tribe of Simeon,

brings a Midianitish princess, named Cozbi, into his tent,

while the people are deploring their iniquity before the

tabernacle, 6.

Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, incensed by this insult to the

laws and worship of God, runs after them and pierces them both

with a javelin, 7, 8.

Twenty-four thousand die of the plague, sent as a punishment for

their iniquity, 9.

The Lord grants to Phinehas a covenant of peace and an

everlasting priesthood, 10-13.

The name and quality of the Israelitish man and Midianitish

woman, 14, 15.

God commands the Israelites to vex and smite the Midianites, who

had seduced them to the worship of Baal-peor, 16-18.

NOTES ON CHAP. XXV

Verse 3. Israel joined himself unto Baal-peor] The same as

the Priapus of the Romans, and worshipped with the same obscene

rites as we have frequently had occasion to remark.

The joining to Baal-peor, mentioned here, was probably what

St. Paul had in view when he said, 2Co 6:14:

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers. And this

joining, though done even in a matrimonial way, was nevertheless

fornication, (see Re 2:14,) as no marriage between an Israelite

and a Midianite could be legitimate, according to the law of God.

See the propositions at the close of the preceding chapter.

Verse 4. Take all the heads of the people, &c.] Meaning the

chiefs of those who had transgressed; as if he had said, "Assemble

the chiefs and judges, institute an inquiry concerning the

transgressors, and hang them who shall be found guilty before the

Lord, as a matter required by his justice." Against the sun-in

the most public manner, and in daylight.

Dr. Kennicott has remarked that the Samaritan and Hebrew texts

must be both taken together, to make the sense here complete: And

the Lord said unto Moses, SPEAK unto all the heads of the people;

AND LET THEM SLAY THE MEN THAT WERE JOINED TO BAAL-PEOR; and hang

them up before the Lord against the sun, &c.

Verse 5. Slay ye every one his men] In the different

departments where you preside over thousands, hundreds, fifties,

and tens, slay all the culprits that shall be found.

Verse 6. One of the children of Israel] Zimri, the son of

Salu, a prince of a chief family in the tribe of Simeon,

Nu 25:14, brought a Midianitish woman, Cozbi, daughter of Zur,

head over a people of one of the chief families in Midian, Nu 25:15.

The condition of these two persons plainly proves it to have been a

matrimonial alliance, the one was a prince, the other a princess;

therefore I must conclude that fornication or whoredom, in the

common sense of the word, was not practised on this occasion. The

matter was bad enough, as the marriage was in flat opposition to

the law of God; and we need not make it worse by representing the

woman as a common prostitute, as the Vulgate and several others

have done. In such a case this is absolutely inadmissible.

Josephus positively says that Zimri had married Cozbi, Antiq., 1.

iv., cap. 6; and if he had not said so, still the thing is nearly

self-evident. See Clarke on Nu 24:25.

The children of Israel, who were weeping] This aggravated the

crime, because the people were then in a state of great

humiliation, because of the late impure and illegal transactions.

Verse 8. Thrust both of them through] Inspired undoubtedly by

the Spirit of the God of justice to do this act, which can never

be a precedent on any common occasion. An act something similar

occurs in our own history. In 1381, in the minority of Richard

II., a most formidable insurrection took place in Kent and Essex;

about 100,000 men, chiefly under the direction of Wat Tyler,

seized on London, massacred multitudes of innocent people, and

were proceeding to the greatest enormities, when the king

requiring a conference in Smithfield with the rebel leader, Sir

William Walworth, then mayor of London, provoked at the insolence

with which Tyler behaved to his sovereign, knocked him off his

horse with his mace, after which he was instantly despatched.

While his partisans were bending their bows to revenge the death

of their leader, Richard, then only sixteen years of age, rode up

to them, and with great courage and presence of mind thus

addressed them: "What, my people, will you kill your king! be not

concerned for the death of your leader; follow me, and I will be

your general." They were suddenly appeased, and the rebellion

terminated. The action of Sir William Walworth was that of a

zealot, of essential benefit at the time, and justified only by

the pressing exigencies of the case.

Verse 9. Those that died-were twenty and four thousand.] St.

Paul, 1Co 10:8,

reckons only twenty-three thousand; though some MSS. and versions,

particularly the latter Syriac and the Armenian, have twenty-four

thousand, with the Hebrew text. Allowing the 24,000 to be the

genuine reading, and none of the Hebrew MSS. exhibit any various

reading here, the two places may be reconciled thus: 1,000 men were

slain in consequence of the examination instituted Nu 25:4, and

23,000 in consequence of the orders given Nu 25:5; making 24,000

in the whole. St. Paul probably refers only to the latter number.

Verse 12. - 13. My covenant of peace-of an everlasting

priesthood] As the word peace implied all kinds of blessings,

both spiritual and temporal, it may mean no more here than the

promise of God, to grant him and his family the utmost prosperity

in reference to both worlds. The everlasting priesthood refers

properly to the priesthood of Christ which was shadowed out by the

priesthood under the law; no matter in what family it was

continued. Therefore the kehunnath olam, or eternal

priesthood, does not merely refer to any sacerdotal ministrations

which should be continued in the family of Phinehas, during the

Mosaic dispensation, but to that priesthood of Christ typified by

that of Aaron and his successors. The priesthood alone is

everlasting, and a covenant or grant of that was made to Phinehas,

and his descendants. The Jews reckon twelve high priests of the

race of Phinehas, from this time to the days of Solomon, nine more

from that time to the captivity, (see 1Ch 6:4, 15,) and fifteen

from their return to the time of Antiochus Eupator, the last of

whom was Onias, slain by Lysias. Ezra, the great priest and

scribe, was of this line, Ezr 7:1, 5. The family of Ithamar,

uncle of Phinehas, had the priesthood for about 150 years; but it

was restored to the family of Phinehas in the person of Zadok the

priest, 1Ch 6:50, in which it continued in the whole about 950

years. Probably the Maccabees were of the same family; but though

this is not certain, there is no evidence against it. See Calmet.

God therefore sufficiently fulfilled his promise; he gave to him

and his descendants almost the utmost temporal length that could

be given of that priesthood which is, in its own nature, eternal.

Here then the word olam means, not a limited time, but what

is eternal in its duration. See Clarke on Ge 21:33.

Verse 17. Vex the Midianites, &c.] See this order fulfilled,

Nu 31:1-20. Twelve thousand Israelites attacked the

Midianites, destroyed all their cities, slew their five kings,

every male, and every grown up woman, and took all their spoils.

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