From slaves to Soldiers

Chapter 25

Yahweh had repeatedly told Israel not to have anything to do with the people of Canaan and their gods. The first law he gave Israel as his chosen people, who he had freed from slavery, was to stay away from the worship of anyone or anything as god. He had reminded them of his power and mercy and that he was Yahweh, their God. He told them who he is – the third person of the verb heyah “To Be”. Whether in the first or third person the word expresses our God as THE (one and only) Self-existent One responsible for all existence including his own –the great I AM. As David Guzik says, “The first commandment logically flowed from understanding who God was and what He had done for Israel. Because of that, nothing was to come before God and He was the only God we worship and serve.”[1] It has always been tempting to worship the gods of materialism – Baal in the ancient world was the god of weather, and financial success; and sex.

Yahweh had just given Israel victory over the Canaanite king of Arad and the Amorites and given them water from a well to show them that they would be able to get water in the Promised Land. In spite of that, and everything else Yahweh had been doing to demonstrate his power and authority to his people, the men traded the true God for a fake god, and worshiped the god humans made instead of the God who made them—the God we bless, the God who blesses us, as Paul said. [2]

The women of Moab invited the men to their sex and religion worship and they went. They ate with them and then worshiped their gods. They worshiped the Baal of Peor. The Mayo clinic advice not to jeopardize one’s health or that of others by putting one’s self into situations where one will be tempted to engage in risky sexual practices[3] wasn’t available to them; but they had something better. They had the instructions of their God, Yahweh.

Without intimacy, the physical union is destructive. Yahweh created man male and female. He gave them their function as one, not divided[4]. Yeshua said, “Haven’t you read in your Bible that the Creator originally made man and woman for each other, male and female? Because of this, a man leaves father and mother and is firmly bonded to his wife, becoming one flesh—no longer two bodies but one. Because God created this organic union of the two sexes, no one should desecrate his art by cutting them apart.”[5] Adultery destroys the perfect artwork of the Creator, our God, Yahweh.

Israel’s actions were an insult to their God and their women. They deliberately did their God, Yahweh, wrong and he expressed his negative feelings toward them with an immediate solution to the problem. He told Moses to take the leaders and hang them – and leave their dead bodies for Israel to see that deliberate sin has terrible consequences.

Moses ordered the judges to enforce the law. “The necessity for law enforcement comes from creating the law in the first place, which seeks to establish a set of stipulated rules for society to function without crime and chaos. The purpose of law enforcement is to minimize the violation of these rules and diminish social disobedience.”[6] Yahweh had to teach his people by example how to enforce his laws.

When law enforcement went into action Israel begin to weep in remorse, congregating at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. One of the Israelite men took his Midianite woman into his family tent right in front of everyone, boasting of his behavior.

The son of Eleazar the priest – Aaron’s’ grandson and a priest himself – saw what was going on and grabbed his spear. He followed the criminals into the tent and executed prompt justice. When we consider how he carried out that justice we must remember the time and place. The ancient people of Near East implemented their laws in a different way than we do today.

The continual trouble or distress that these crimes caused stopped at that. Nevertheless, 24,000 had already died. We don’t know what they all died of because the result of that kind of sin can be so violent that it could have been a number of things besides the hangings that caused the devastation.

What Phinehas did was the legally authorized killing of someone as punishment for a crime and Yahweh honored it by stopping the deaths and making a covenant of peace with Phinehas and his descendants. His intentions were Yahweh-centered and his act was in accordance with the law and prevented other deaths and more of the painful circumstances of Canaanite evil.[7]

The narrator recorded the names of the man and woman who flaunted their depravity before the nation even after Moses had ordered the execution of the leaders of the lawbreakers. The woman was the daughter of a tribal chief indicating that the whole thing was a set up initiated by the leaders of Moab to get the Israelite men to sin against their God and their wives. Yahweh told Moses to never forget that Moab was Israel’s enemy.

 

Summary of chapter 25

While Israel abode in Shittim the men committed unlawful sex with the daughters of Moab. They also worshiped Baal with the women. They joined themselves to Baal and worshipped with obscene rites. Yahweh commanded the ringleaders to be hanged. Moses caused the judges to slay the transgressors. Zimri, one of the Israelite princes of the tribe of Simeon, brought a Midianite princess, named Cozbi, into his tent, while the people were deploring their iniquity before the tabernacle. Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, was angered by the insult to the laws and worship of Yahweh and he ran after them and pierced them both with a javelin. Twenty-four thousand die of the result of these sins. Yahweh granted to Phinehas an eternal covenant of peace and everlasting priesthood. Yahweh commanded the Israelites to consider the Midianites their enemies forever.

Prayer: Lord, my heart is full of the joy of knowing you. I think of the way the world would be if there was no law to direct us and show us how we can have a productive and congenial society. I listen to the news that is so full of the horrible things that human beings do to each other and I am so glad that you have given us the promise of a future where that will never happen again. I want to praise you because
“Morning has broken,
like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken,
like the first bird
Praise for the singing,
praise for the morning
Praise for the springing
fresh from the word
Sweet the rain’s new fall,
sunlit from heaven
Like the first dewfall,
on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness
of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness
where his feet pass
Mine is the sunlight,
mine is the morning
Born of the one light,
Eden saw play
Praise with elation,
praise every morning
God’s recreation
of the new day.”[8]

 

Things to think about

  1. Can you understand why the ancient Israelite men would have dropped their work and ignored their wives or mother’s pleas to go with the Moabite women when they invited them to celebrate with them?
  2. We have been told that our God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. We learn in Sunday school that “God is love” and he is our heavenly father. Do you think the Israelite men thought things like this: Our God, Yahweh, is all powerful. Our God, Yahweh is everywhere and will be going with us. Our God, Yahweh knows everything and that means he can read our hearts and know how we are feeling about these Moabite women? When temptation knocks on your personal door, do you think of Yahweh and his love and mercy? Do you think that if the men would have remembered that they were Yahweh’s chosen people that they would have gone wit the women?
  3. Yahweh had told his people not to have anything to do with the people of Canaan. Why do you think the Moabite women were welcome to walk among them in close enough contact to invite them to their celebration?
  4. Do you think the men had already forgotten what Yahweh taught them about sex and intimacy? Do you think their leaders had failed to teach them what Yahweh said? Do you think it was their parents who had failed to teach the children? Since humans were created in the image of Yahweh – have his character imbedded in our being – do you think their own minds – conscious – could have told the mem they were doing wrong?
  5. How does compulsive sex relate to sin of the Israelite men?

6, Do you think the Israelite men would have been able to see how destructive their actions were without the intervention of Yahweh through Moses and Phinehas?

  1. What did you learn about the character of your God, Yahweh, through this incident?

Good friend, take to heart what I’m telling you; collect my counsels and guard them with your life. Tune your ears to the world of Wisdom; set your heart on a life of Understanding. That’s right—if you make Insight your priority, and won’t take no for an answer, searching for it like a prospector panning for gold, or like an adventurer on a treasure hunt – believe me, before you know it Fear-of-Yahweh will be yours; and you’ll have come upon the Knowledge of Yahweh. Yahweh gives out Wisdom free, he is plainspoken in Knowledge and Understanding. He’s a rich mine of Common Sense for those who live well, and a personal bodyguard to the candid and sincere. He keeps his eye on all who live honestly, and pays special attention to his loyally committed ones. So now you can pick out what’s true and fair, find all the good trails! Lady Wisdom will be your close friend, and Brother Knowledge your pleasant companion. Good Sense will scout ahead for danger, and Insight will keep an eye out for you. They’ll keep you from making wrong turns, or following the bad directions of those who are lost themselves and can’t tell a trail from a tumbleweed, – these losers who make a game of evil and throw parties to celebrate perversity, while they travel paths that go nowhere, wandering in a maze of detours and dead ends. Wise friends will rescue you from the Temptress—that smooth-talking Seductress who’s faithless to the husband she married years ago, and never gave a second thought to her promises before God. Her whole way of life is doomed; and every step she takes brings her closer to hell. No one who joins her company ever comes back, ever sets foot on the path to real living. So—join the company of good men and women, and keep your feet on the tried-and-true paths. The men who walk straight will settle this land, and the women with integrity will last here. The corrupt will lose their lives; and the dishonest will be gone for good[9].

[1] https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/guz/exodus-20.html

[2] Romans 1:24, 25

[3] http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/compulsive-sexual-behavior/basics/prevention/con-20020126; Consequences of compulsive sexual behaviors can vary with some being similar to that seen in other addictive disorders while others are unique. Medically, patients are at a higher risk for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and for physical injuries due to repetitive sexual practices. Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), Hepatitis B and C, syphilis, and gonorrhea are particularly concerning consequences. Virtually unknown is the percentage of those individuals with STDs who meet criteria for compulsive sexual disorders. Another significant consequence is the loss of time and productivity. The psychological consequences are numerous. Effects on the family and interpersonal relationships can be profound. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2945841/

[4] Genesis 1:27; 2:7

[5] Matthew 19:6

[6] http://legalbeagle.com/7467391-mean-enforce-law.html

[7] https://www.knowingthebible.net/the-extermination-of-the-canaanites

[8] http://www.oystermouthparish.com/hymns-we-love-morning-has-broken The hymn originally appeared in the second edition of Songs of Praise (published in 1931), to the tune “Bunessan”, composed in the Scottish Islands. In Songs of Praise Discussed, the editor, Percy Dearmer, explains that as there was need for a hymn to give thanks for each day, English poet and children’s author Eleanor Farjeon had been “asked to make a poem to fit the lovely Scottish tune”.

[9] Proverbs 2

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