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Worship of Baal of Peor


While Israel was staying at Shittim, the people began to have sexual relations with the women of Moab. 2These invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. 3Thus Israel yoked itself to the Baal of Peor, and the L ord’s anger was kindled against Israel. 4The L ord said to Moses, “Take all the chiefs of the people, and impale them in the sun before the L ord, in order that the fierce anger of the L ord may turn away from Israel.” 5And Moses said to the judges of Israel, “Each of you shall kill any of your people who have yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor.”

6 Just then one of the Israelites came and brought a Midianite woman into his family, in the sight of Moses and in the sight of the whole congregation of the Israelites, while they were weeping at the entrance of the tent of meeting. 7When Phinehas son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he got up and left the congregation. Taking a spear in his hand, 8he went after the Israelite man into the tent, and pierced the two of them, the Israelite and the woman, through the belly. So the plague was stopped among the people of Israel. 9Nevertheless those that died by the plague were twenty-four thousand.

10 The L ord spoke to Moses, saying: 11“Phinehas son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, has turned back my wrath from the Israelites by manifesting such zeal among them on my behalf that in my jealousy I did not consume the Israelites. 12Therefore say, ‘I hereby grant him my covenant of peace. 13It shall be for him and for his descendants after him a covenant of perpetual priesthood, because he was zealous for his God, and made atonement for the Israelites.’ ”

14 The name of the slain Israelite man, who was killed with the Midianite woman, was Zimri son of Salu, head of an ancestral house belonging to the Simeonites. 15The name of the Midianite woman who was killed was Cozbi daughter of Zur, who was the head of a clan, an ancestral house in Midian.

16 The L ord said to Moses, 17“Harass the Midianites, and defeat them; 18for they have harassed you by the trickery with which they deceived you in the affair of Peor, and in the affair of Cozbi, the daughter of a leader of Midian, their sister; she was killed on the day of the plague that resulted from Peor.”

10. And the Lord spake unto Moses. In these words God makes it appear that He was the author of the death (of Zimri and Cozbi;) 186186     Added from Fr. not only because He was thus propitiated towards the people, but because He calls the zeal of Phinehas His own. 187187     Margin, A.V., Heb., with my zeal.” It will, however, accord equally well whether we take it actively or passively, viz., either that Phinehas was inflamed with zeal to vindicate God’s glory, or that he took upon him the zeal of God Himself. Whichever be preferred, God refers to Himself what was done by Phinehas. When He declares that He was appeased by the punishment inflicted, let us not imagine that there was a meritorious satisfaction, whereby the Papists feign that their punishments are redeemed before God. For although the just chastisements of sin are sacrifices of sweet savor, they are by no means expiations to reconcile God. Besides, there is no question here of compensation, but what is meant is, that it was a means of appeasing God, when the ungodliness of the people which had, as it were, fanned up His wrath into a flame, was repressed by this severe correction. Thus, in Psalm 106, the atonement is ascribed not to the act of Phinehas, but only to his prayer, 188188     Psalm 106:30 A.V., “Then stood up Phinehas, and executed judgment;” in the English Prayer-book, the Chaldee, Syriac, and other versions, “and prayed;” with this, however, C., in his Commentary, does not agree: “Some render the word פלל, pillel, to pray, (he says;) but the other rendering, to execute justice, is more in accordance with the context.” — Cal. Sec. Edit., vol. 4, p. 230 because, in right of his priesthood, he had humbly interceded for the people. At the same time, the statement of Paul is true, that those are not judged by God who voluntarily judge themselves, (1 Corinthians 11:31,) since, by their penitence, they in a manner prevent this judgment.

A perpetual priesthood is promised to Phinehas as his reward. If any object, that he thus obtained nothing new, since, in accordance with the rule of the law, he was the undoubted successor of his father, I reply, that it is not un-common that what God had already freely promised, He declares that He will give by way of reward. Thus, what had been promised to Abraham before the birth of Isaac, is again repeated after he was prepared to sacrifice him, (Genesis 22:16:) “Because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son,” therefore, “in blessing I will bless thee, and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” Besides, the privilege of a single individual is not simply in question here, but it refers to a perpetual succession, as if God had promised that his posterity should never fail. And assuredly, the change which took place at the commencement of Solomon’s reign, is not repugnant to this promise, for it may be probably inferred that Zadoc, no less than Abiathar, was of the race of Phinehas. This covenant is called a “covenant of peace,” because it was to be surely established; consequently, it may be properly rendered, “My covenant in peace.” At any rate, it indicates prosperity, as if He had said that Phinehas, together with his posterity, should prosperously execute the sacerdotal office.

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