The sin of Israel, ver. 1 - 3.
Their punishment, ver. 4, 5.
The zeal of Phinehas, with the promise annext to it, ver. 6 - 15.
The command to slay the Midianites, ver. 16 - 18.
1: Shittim - And this was their last station, from whence they passed
immediately into Canaan. This is noted as a great aggravation of their
sin, that they committed it, when God was going to put them into the
possession of their long - expected land. The people - Many of them.
Whoredom - Either because they prostituted themselves to them upon
condition of worshipping their God: or because their filthy God was
worshipped by such filthy acts, as Priapus and Venus were.
The daughters of Moab - And of Midian too; for both these people being
confederated in this wicked design, the one is put for the other, and the
daughters of Moab may be named, either because they began the
transgression, or because they were the chief persons, possibly, the
relations or courtiers of Balak.
2: They - The Moabites being now neighbours to the Israelites,
and finding themselves unable to effect their design by war and witchcraft,
fell another way to work, by contracting familiarity with them, and,
perceiving their evil inclinations, they, that is, their daughters,
invited them. Unto the sacrifices - Unto the feasts which were made of
their parts of the sacrifices, after the manner of the Jews and
Gentiles too, the participation whereof, was reckoned a participation in
the worship of that God to whom the sacrifices were offered. Of their
gods - Of their God, Baal - peor, the plural Elohim being here used,
as commonly it is, for one God.
3: Joined himself - The word implies a forsaking God to whom they
were joined and a turning to, and strict conjunction with, this false God.
Baal - peor - Called Baal, by the name common to many false Gods, and
especially to those that represented any of the heavenly bodies, and
Peor, either from the hill Peor, where he was worshipped,(Nu 23:28),
rather from a verb signifying to open and uncover, because of the
obscene posture in which the idol was set, as Priapus was: or because
of the filthiness which was exercised in his worship.
4: Take all the heads - Take, that is, apprehend, all the
heads, that is, the chief, of the people, such as were chief in this
transgression, and in place and power, who are singled out to this exemplary
punishment for their concurrence with others in this wickedness, which was
more odious and mischievous in them. Hang them up before the Lord - To
the vindication of God's honour and justice. Against the sun - Publickly,
as their sin was publick and scandalous, and speedily, before the sun go
5: Every one his men - Those under his charge, for as these seventy
were chosen to assist Moses in the government, so doubtless the care
and management of the people was distributed among them by just and equal
6: One came - This was done, when Moses had given the charge to
the Judges, and, as it may seem, before the execution of it; otherwise it
is probable he would not have been so foolish to have run upon certain ruin,
when the examples were frequent before his eyes. To his brethren - Into
the camp of the Israelites. In the sight of Moses - An argument of
intolerable impudence and contempt of God and of Moses.
Weeping - Bewailing the wickedness of the people, and the dreadful
judgments of God, and imploring God's mercy and favour.
8: Thrust them thro' - Phineas was himself a man in great
authority, and did this after the command given by Moses to the rulers
to slay these transgressors, and in the very sight, and no doubt by the
consent of Moses himself, and also by the special direction of God's
9: Twenty four thousand - St. Paul says twenty three thousand,(1Co 10:8). The odd thousand here added were slain by the Judges
according to the order of Moses, the rest by the immediate hand of God,
but both sorts died of the plague, the word being used, as often it is,
for the sword, or hand, or stroke of God.
12: My covenant of peace - That is, the covenant of an everlasting
priesthood, as it is expounded, (Nu 25:13),
which is called a covenant of peace, partly with respect to the happy
effect of this heroical action of his, whereby he made peace between God
and his people; and partly with regard to the principal end of the priestly
office, which was constantly to do that which Phinehas now did, even
to meditate between God and men, to obtain and preserve his own and
Israel's peace and reconciliation with God, by offering up sacrifices
and incense, and prayers, to God on their behalf, as also by turning
them away from iniquity, which is the only peace - breaker, and by
teaching and pressing the observation of that law, which is the only bond
of their peace.
13: At everlasting priesthood - To continue as long as the law and
common - wealth of the Jews did. But this promise was conditional, and
therefore might be made void, by the miscarriages of Phinehas's sons, as
it seems it was, and thereupon a like promise was made to Eli of the
line of Ithamar, that he and his should walk before the Lord,
namely, in the office of high - priest, for ever, which also for his and
their sins was made void, (1Sa 2:30). And the the priesthood returned
to Phinehas's line in the time of Solomon, (1Ki 2:26,27,34).
17: The Midianites - And why not the Moabites. It is probable
the Midianites were most guilty, as in persuading Balak to send for
Balaam, (Nu 22:4,7).
So in the reception of Balaam after Balak had dismissed him,(Nu 31:8), and in farther consultation with him, and in contriving
the means for the executing of this wicked plot.
18: With their wiles - For under pretence of kindred and friendship
and leagues, which they offered to them, instead of that war which the
Israelites expected, they sought only an opportunity to insinuate
themselves into their familiarity, and execute their hellish plot of
bringing that curse upon the Israelites, which they had in vain
attempted to bring another way.