Study Notes

Numbers 25:1-26:65


Last time, we looked at chapters 22 through 24, examining this strange character named Balaam. Baw-LAWK, king of the Moabites commissioned Balaam to curse the huge crowd of Israelites that had set up camp right next to his kingdom.

Although Balaam obeyed God's direct order not to curse the people, the Scriptures tell us that he was too tempted by the money Baw-LAWK promised to pass up the deal. So he instructed the king how to bring about a curse on the Israelites. Revelation mentions...

Rev. 2:14 ...the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit {acts of} immorality.

Balaam knew that if the Israelites fell into immorality and idolatry, God would curse them. He told Baw-LAWK to send the pretty Moabite women over to make the men fall into immorality. And that's exactly what happened.

25:1-3 Israel Falls Into Idolatry

Camped next to the Moabites at "Shi-TEEM" the Israelite men were tempted by the Moabite women. When they had their idolatrous festivals, they would invite the men to participate. Many of the Israelites offered the sacrifices and bowed down to the false god BAH-al of Peh-ORE.

How could they do such a thing? Seeking to understand how they could will help prevent us from doing the same.

The Daughters Of Moab

First, they began to play the harlot with the daughters of Moab. Many of the men wanted to taste the forbidden fruit of immoral women. Our day is no different. Pornography is rampant, earning billions of dollars in sales every year. Its allure entices us to buy products, with half-dressed women telling us to drink this, smoke that, eat here, shop there.

But the Scripture says,

1Ths. 4:3-5 For this is the will of God, your sanctification; {that is,} that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God;

We also have the stern commandment,

2Cor. 6:14-15 Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?

How can we deal with the barrage of temptation from the daughters of Moab? Paul told Timothy,

2Tim. 2:21-22 ...If a man cleanses himself from these {things} , he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. Now flee from youthful lusts, and pursue righteousness, faith, love {and} peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.

Flee from the temptation and pursue righteousness.

Invited The People

When the Israelites began to go after the women, an invitation to BAH-al worship came next. Hanging out with immoral people will free them to invite you to their immoral gatherings. That is why the psalmist wrote,

Ps. 1:1 HOW blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!

We must not be in a place with unbelievers that welcomes invitations to immoral gatherings.

The People Ate

Notice too that "the people ate." This generation had spent their entire adult lives eating nothing but manna. The promise of a tasty meal drew them in. Where are you at today? Are you content with the manna that God has provided for you? Are you content with your pay? Are you content with your home? Are you content with your situation? If not, you are in constant danger of falling into temptation.

1Tim. 6:6-8 But godliness {actually} is a means of great gain, when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. And if we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.

If you are content with the manna God supplies, you won't be tempted by the tasty food of the world.

Bowing Down

Once they had succumbed to the temptation of the women, received the invitation to the sacrifice, and ate the tasty food, there was no problem to take the final step and bow down to BAH-al. When we live a life of compromise and yield to temptation, we shouldn't be surprised at the depths we fall into.

24,000 Or 23,000?

Believe it or not, verse nine is often quoted by people as a contradiction in the Bible. Why do they say that? Paul wrote in 1Corinthians,

1Cor. 10:5-10 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness. Now these things happened as examples for us, that we should not crave evil things, as they also craved. And do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, "THE PEOPLE SAT DOWN TO EAT AND DRINK, AND STOOD UP TO PLAY." Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer.

23,000? Did Paul the apostle make a mistake? Does this invalidate the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures? Actually, this does not contradict, but gives us even more illumination. Numbers says,

Num. 25:9 And those who died by the plague were 24,000.

1Corinthians says,

1Cor. 10:8 Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day.

23,000 people died that first day. 1,000 more died soon after. No contradiction, only clarification.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: the Bible is completely trustworthy. It never contradicts itself, it is completely from God, and totally trustworthy.

2Tim. 3:16-17 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

2Pet. 1:20-21 But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is {a matter} of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

The Bible is always completely reliable.

25:4-5 Execution For Idolatry

God commands Moses to have all the idolaters put to death. Is God too extreme? Do these people really need to die? Three things to look at:

Broad Daylight

Notice that God said, "Execute them in broad daylight." God is not ashamed of what He has commanded. Many of us get squeamish when an unbeliever points out how mean God seems to be in the Old Testament. They say, "I don't want anything to do with a God that kills everyone in a flood, who tells Abraham to sacrifice his son, who orders women and children to be killed, or who sends plagues."

That's up to them. But God isn't hiding or making excuses. And it is not up to us to defend God's actions. Because one of the most basic understandings that we need to give people is this: God is sovereign. That means He is God and does what He knows is right, sometimes with no explanation, regardless of how we may feel about it.

Ps. 103:19 The LORD has established His throne in the heavens; And His sovereignty rules over all.

God's ways are not always our ways. But I do know that when we are in the presence of God, we will understand how right His ways are. In the book of Revelation, when mankind has judgments poured out upon it, the multitude in heave are saying,

Rev. 19:1-2 ..."Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God; BECAUSE HIS JUDGMENTS ARE TRUE AND RIGHTEOUS...

He is righteous and just, and completely sovereign.


Secondly, this wasn't arbitrary - it certainly didn't take anybody by surprise. When their fathers had worshiped the golden calf, God had them killed. He warned them time and again,

Exod. 20:4 "You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.

Lev. 19:4 'Do not turn to idols or make for yourselves molten gods; I am the LORD your God.

Lev. 26:1 'You shall not make for yourselves idols, nor shall you set up for yourselves an image or a {sacred} pillar, nor shall you place a figured stone in your land to bow down to it; for I am the LORD your God.

Lev. 26:30 'I then will destroy your high places, and cut down your incense altars, and heap your remains on the remains of your idols; for My soul shall abhor you.

So He's staying true to His word.

Killing For Life

"But still," you might think, "isn't this unloving? Isn't this a terrible thing? Isn't God being too harsh?" Let me ask you this... when a person has cancer, and the surgeon cuts out a part of their body, is that unloving? Is it terrible? Is it too harsh?" No... it's taking the extreme measures necessary to insure the life of the rest of the body.

God knows that sin spreads like yeast in the dough. It must be completely removed to insure the purity of the rest.

25:6-9 Blatant Sin

Even while the Israelites are mourning the loss of their people, this man flaunts his sin before the whole congregation.

Pee-nekh-AWS, the son of El-aw-ZAWR the high priest, is overcome by jealousy for the Lord. He grabs a spear and, running to the man's tent, pierces both of the sinners through. Did Pee-nekh-AWS overreact? No, he was obeying the Word of God:

Num. 15:30-31 But the person who does {anything} defiantly, whether he is native or an alien, that one is blaspheming the LORD; and that person shall be cut off from among his people. Because he has despised the word of the LORD and has broken His commandment, that person shall be completely cut off; his guilt {shall be} on him.

A person who sinned defiantly, "with a high hand," was defiantly opposing God's rule. If someone did this, they were to be cut off - killed.

Now this is not an excuse to go shoot abortion doctors. This was the law that the Israelites lived under, not the way we are to do things. The way we deal with sin is confrontation. If there is no repentance, then...

1Tim. 5:20 Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also may be fearful {of sinning.}

You can be certain that people began to be afraid of sinning when Pee-nekh-as used that spear!

25:10-15 Wrath On Toleration

Pee-nekh-AWS' actions actually turned God's wrath away from the people. Why? Hadn't the 24,000 people who sinned already been killed? Yes, but if this sin was tolerated, all of the people would have been guilty.

Although "tolerance" is politically correct in America today, it is not heavenly correct. Jesus rebuked the church at Thyatira for their toleration of the woman Jezebel. Her teachings and prophecies in the Thyatiran church were leading the people to spiritual adultery with other gods. She led the people into idolatry and immorality. Jesus said,

Rev. 2:20 'But I have {this} against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel...

The whole church was being held accountable for their toleration of sin, just as the whole congregation of Israel would have been held accountable for their toleration, had not Pee-nekh-AWS intervened.

Phinehas Is Rewarded

Pee-nekh-AWS was blessed for his zeal for God. God gives him what He calls, "My covenant of peace." What is God's covenant of peace? A promise of perpetual priesthood. The psalmist wrote,

Ps. 106:28-31 They joined themselves also to Baal-peor, and ate sacrifices offered to the dead. Thus they provoked {Him} to anger with their deeds; And the plague broke out among them. Then Phinehas stood up and interposed; And so the plague was stayed. And it was reckoned to him for righteousness, to all generations forever.

Pee-nekh-AWS' zeal equalled action. This work evidencing his faith was reckoned to him as righteousness, just as Abraham's willingness to sacrifice of Isaac was reckoned to him as righteousness.

Zimri And Cozbi

Zim-REE and his Moabite wife Koz-BEE's names have been written down for eternity. This reminds me that all of our sins have been written down in books as well.

Rev. 20:11-15 And I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is {the book} of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one {of them} according to their deeds. And death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

So all of our sinful deeds have been written in books. And if our name is not written in the book of life, then all of those deeds will be read, and we will be judged according to them.

25:16-18 Strike The Midianites

God had originally told the Israelites not to harass the Moabites (Deut 2:9), but now their sin has overflowed to full measure - their iniquity is complete. He now gives the command to make war with them. We will see this attack in chapter 31.

26:1-4 The Second Census

This is going to be the second census of the nation of Israel. The first one was taken 38 years prior.

(26:5-51) The Numbers

These verses break down each tribe by family, giving total numbers of each tribe. The judgments of God took their toll, but procreation seemed to round the numbers back up, so that the total number of Israelite men over 20 years old that could go to war differed very little. In the first census, there were 603,550. In the second census, there were 601,730. But when you look at the breakdown by tribe, it is interesting to note the staggering losses of the tribe of Simeon (from 59,000 down to 22,000), and the declines of numbers in the tribes of Reuben (3,000 less), Gad (5,000 less), Ephraim (8,000 less), and Naphtali (also 8,000 less).

Why did these numerical differences matter? We find out in the next verses...

26:52-56 Proportional Inheritance

God was giving the tribes their inheritance in the Promised Land based on their size. The tribes that fell into sin and incurred God's judgment lost quite a bit of land. Sin often has repercussions that we know nothing about until later.

26:57-62 The Levites With No Inheritance

The Levites were divided into three clans: the descendants of gay-resh-ONE, keh-HAWTH, and mer-aw-REE. Although there were 23,000 Levites, they received no inheritance of land. Remember, they were going to be provided for through the peoples' tithes given to the tabernacle.

Num. 18:20-21 Then the LORD said to Aaron, "You shall have no inheritance in their land, nor own any portion among them; I am your portion and your inheritance among the sons of Israel. And to the sons of Levi, behold, I have given all the tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service which they perform, the service of the tent of meeting."

The Levites would be provided for as they served God.

26:63-65 Only Joshua And Caleb

Because of their faith 38 years before, Joshua and Caleb alone were left from the generation that left Egypt as adults. Walking in faith brings great blessing and longevity to our lives. Let's read Psalm 91,

Ps. 91:1-16 HE who dwells in the shelter of the Most High Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, "My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!" For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper, And from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with His pinions, And under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark. You will not be afraid of the terror by night, Or of the arrow that flies by day; Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness, Or of the destruction that lays waste at noon. A thousand may fall at your side, And ten thousand at your right hand; {But} it shall not approach you. You will only look on with your eyes, And see the recompense of the wicked. For you have made the LORD, my refuge, {Even} the Most High, your dwelling place. No evil will befall you, Nor will any plague come near your tent. For He will give His angels charge concerning you, To guard you in all your ways. They will bear you up in their hands, Lest you strike your foot against a stone. You will tread upon the lion and cobra, The young lion and the serpent you will trample down. "Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him {securely} on high, because he has known My name. He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him, and honor him. With a long life I will satisfy him, And let him behold My salvation."


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