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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.”

17. Vex the Midianites, and smite them. Inasnmch as God constantly forbids His people to take vengeance, it is surprising that the people of Israel should now be instigated to do so; as if they were not already more than enough disposed to it. We must bear in mind, however, that since God, who is the just avenger of all wickedness, often makes use of men’s instrumentality, and constitutes them the lawful ministers for the exercise of his vengeance, it must not be altogether condemned without exception, but only such vengeance as men themselves are impelled to by carnal passions. If any one is injured, straightway he is carried away to the desire of vengeance by the stimulus of his own private injury; and this is manifestly wrong: but if a person is led to inflict punishment by a just and well-regulated zeal towards God, it is not his own cause, but that of God which he undertakes. God did not, therefore, desire to give reins to His people’s anger, so as to repay the Midianites as they had deserved in the violence of its impulse; but He armed them with His own sword for their punishment; as if He had declared that there was a just cause for their war, and that they need not fear the charge of cruelty, if they exterminated such obnoxious enemies. For, although Balaam alone had imagined this snare, still the guilt is laid upon the whole people. In the meantime, the punishment of the Moabites is delayed, although they had apparently inflicted the grosser injury. Because no good reason here appears why God should mercifully bear with the one nation, whilst He hastens speedily to the punishment of the others, let us learn to regard His judgments with reverence, and not to presume to discuss them further than is lawful. Let it be sufficient for us to know that war was justly declared against the Midianites, because it was not their fault that Israel was not ruined by their iniquitous impiety. 190190     “Par l’impiete a laquelle ils l’induisoyent;” by the impiety to which they induced them. — Fr.

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