This chapter is an important one to remember for when you read Numbers 31
- The men of Israel began sinning against God again, committing sexual immorality with the Moabite women, and worshipping the god of Moab (Baal of Peor). The sexual immorality led to the idolatry. God became angry with them. Interestingly, the women of Israel are not said to have participated (25: 1 -3).
- The suggestion that the women of Moab lead the men of Israel into sexual immorality and idolatry was actually made by Balaam (31: 16). So, it was a plot rather than a chance happening.
- The leaders of Moab and Midian conspired to get Balaam to curse the Israelites and when that failed, they resorted to this (22: 2 – 5, 7).
- Moses, following God’s commands, instructs the leaders of the people to kill all the men who had joined in worshipping Baal (25: 4, 5).
- Before all the men who participated were killed, God had already sent a plague that killed 24,000 Israelites (25: 6 – 9).
- This incident involved leaders of the people. Zimri, son of Zalu, the leader of a Simeonite family was with Cozbi, daughter of Zur, a tribal chief of a Midianite family. They were both killed by Phinehas the priest and son of Aaron (25: 14, 15).
- Zimri and Cozbi are both introduced as ‘an Israelite man’ and ‘a Midianite woman’ (25:6). Their names are not given until later (25: 14, 15). A similar thing was done in the story of Moses, where his parents are introduce as ‘a Levite man and a Levite woman’ (Ex 2:1) and their names given much later in a genealogy (Ex 6: 20).
- God tells the Israelites to take justice (or vengeance) on the Midianites, treat them as enemies and kill them because they treated the Israelites as enemies and killed 24,000+ of them. Nothing is said about the Moabites (25: 16 – 18) but Balaam had already prophesied that they would be destroyed by the Israelites (24: 15 – 19).
- When Balak wanted God to speak to him, he went off alone (23: 3, 15).
- God met him (23:4, 16).
- Balaam told God that he had offered sacrifices. Why did he feel the need to tell God this? Did he not know that God knew (23: 4)?
- Balaam said that the Israelites did not consider themselves one of the nations (23:9).
- Was Balaam calling Israel righteous (23: 10)?
- Instead of sending Balaam away after he blessed the Israelites the first time, Balak asked him to try to curse them again. He was hoping that God would let Balaam curse them from another location (23: 11 – 13, 27, 28)?
- Both the first and second oracles follow the same pattern:
Balak takes Balaam to a place where he can see the Israelites
They make offerings.
Balaam goes away to speak with God
Balaam returns and finds Balak standing near his offering.
Balaam blesses Israel
- God does not change his mind. If he says he will do something, he will do it. If he makes a promise, he keeps it (23: 19).
- Foreigners were included in Israelite practices as we have seen in the previous chapters (19: 10).
- The people complained again when they had no water just like they had been doing (20: 2- 5).
- God instructed Moses and Aaron to perform a miracle to produce water in front of the people (20: 7, 8).
- God said to take the staff. What staff (20: 7, 8)? The commentaries I have read say it was not the staff of Aaron that had blossomed, but the staff with which Moses had performed miracles in Egypt
- Moses and Aaron did something wrong and God said they would not enter the land of Canaan (20: 9 – 12). Once again, I consulted several commentaries and they say Moses did several things wrong.
- He struck the rock rather than speak to it as God commanded seemingly because he did not think that speaking to it would be enough and he did it twice apparently because he was angry
- He spoke angrily to the people “Hear now, you rebels”.
- He suggested in his speech that he was the one bringing water from the rock rather than God, “Must we bring you water out of this rock?”, which of course does not honor God.
I think those are speculative, but they might be pretty good guesses.
- Moses said that God sent and angel and rescued them from Egypt (20:16).
- The Edomites would not let the Israelites pass through their territory, for unstated reasons (20:18, 20). Israel did not attack them, but went their own way.
- I wonder whether Moses asked God for directions about such things.
- When God said it was time for Aaron to die, because of what he and Moses had done at Meribah, there are no recorded protests from either of them, no pleas, nothing. They just did as they were instructed (20: 23 – 27).
- Aaron died on Mount Hor, but it is not said what killed him (20: 27 – 29).