The idolatry of Israel

Anger is a God given emotion. Closely allied to our instinct for right, it is designed to be used for constructive spiritual purposes. The person who cannot feel anger at evil is a person who lacks enthusiasm for good. If you cannot hate wrong, I would say that it’s very question … More


The event in this chapter demonstrates the subtlety of Satan; for what he could not curse, he would corrupt both by idolatry and immorality (vv. 1-2). Balaam wasn’t able to curse Israel, but he knew how to defile them and seduce them into sin so great that Jehovah would judge them. The Bible doesn’t really say how the Israelite men got involved in sexual immorality. It appears that at first they didn’t think about worshiping idols; they were just interested in sex. But before long they started attending local feasts and family celebrations that involved idol worship. Their desire for fun and pleasure caused them to forget their spiritual commitment.

Baal was the most popular god in Canaan, the land Israel was about to enter. The Israelites were continually attracted to Baal worship in which prostitution played a large part. An angry God demanded the death sentence of all the Israelites who participated in this sexual service (vv. 4,5). About this time Zimri, a leader in the tribe of Simeon (v. 14) brought a Midianite woman by the name of Cozbi (v. 15) back to the camp of Israel and openly took her into his tent right before the eyes of Moses. Aaron’s grandson Phinehas left the prayer meeting and went after the couple, killing both of them in the tent with one thrust of his spear (v. 8).

It is clear from Phinehas’ story that some anger is proper and justified. Phinehas was angry because of his zeal for the Lord (vv. 10-11). If we are becoming more like God, we should be angered by sin. Phinehas’ act made atonement for the nation of Israel, and in effect, what he did averted God’s judgment. Because of this, his descendants became high priests (vv 12-13).


If it is my rights that are at stake, it may be wiser to keep angry feelings under control, rather than expressing them to others. But if it is a principal of God being violated, then anger may be justified however retaliation is never good.

Numbers 25:1-18 (English Standard Version)

While Israel lived in Shittim, the people began to whore with the daughters of Moab. These invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel yoked himself to Baal of Peor. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel. And the LORD said to Moses, "Take all the chiefs of the people and hang them in the sun before the LORD, that the fierce anger of the LORD may turn away from Israel." And Moses said to the judges of Israel, "Each of you kill those of his men who have yoked themselves to Baal of Peor." And behold, one of the people of Israel came and brought a Midianite woman to his family, in the sight of Moses and in the sight of the whole congregation of the people of Israel, while they were weeping in the entrance of the tent of meeting. When Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose and left the congregation and took a spear in his hand and went after the man of Israel into the chamber and pierced both of them, the man of Israel and the woman through her belly. Thus the plague on the people of Israel was stopped. Nevertheless, those who died by the plague were twenty-four thousand. And the LORD said to Moses, "Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, has turned back my wrath from the people of Israel, in that he was jealous with my jealousy among them, so that I did not consume the people of Israel in my jealousy. Therefore say, 'Behold, I give to him my covenant of peace, and it shall be to him and to his descendants after him the covenant of a perpetual priesthood, because he was jealous for his God and made atonement for the people of Israel.'" The name of the slain man of Israel, who was killed with the Midianite woman, was Zimri the son of Salu, chief of a father's house belonging to the Simeonites. And the name of the Midianite woman who was killed was Cozbi the daughter of Zur, who was the tribal head of a father's house in Midian. And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Harass the Midianites and strike them down, for they have harassed you with their wiles, with which they beguiled you in the matter of Peor, and in the matter of Cozbi, the daughter of the chief of Midian, their sister, who was killed on the day of the plague on account of Peor."

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