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Numbers 25:4-9

Context
God’s Punishment

25:4 The Lord said to Moses, “Arrest all the leaders 1  of the people, and hang them up 2  before the Lord in broad daylight, 3  so that the fierce anger of the Lord may be turned away from Israel.” 25:5 So Moses said to the judges of Israel, “Each of you must execute those of his men 4  who were joined to Baal-peor.”

25:6 Just then 5  one of the Israelites came and brought to his brothers 6  a Midianite woman in the plain view of Moses and of 7  the whole community of the Israelites, while they 8  were weeping at the entrance of the tent of meeting. 25:7 When Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, 9  he got up from among the assembly, took a javelin in his hand, 25:8 and went after the Israelite man into the tent 10  and thrust through the Israelite man and into the woman’s abdomen. 11  So the plague was stopped from the Israelites. 12  25:9 Those that died in the plague were 24,000.

1 sn The meaning must be the leaders behind the apostasy, for they would now be arrested. They were responsible for the tribes’ conformity to the Law, but here they had not only failed in their duty, but had participated. The leaders were executed; the rest of the guilty died by the plague.

2 sn The leaders who were guilty were commanded by God to be publicly exposed by hanging, probably a reference to impaling, but possibly some other form of harsh punishment. The point was that the swaying of their executed bodies would be a startling warning for any who so blatantly set the Law aside and indulged in apostasy through pagan sexual orgies.

3 tn Heb “in the sun.” This means in broad daylight.

4 tn Heb “slay – a man his men.” The imperative is plural, and so “man” is to be taken collectively as “each of you men.”

5 tn The verse begins with the deictic particle וְהִנֵּה (vÿhinneh), pointing out the action that was taking place. It stresses the immediacy of the action to the reader.

6 tn Or “to his family”; or “to his clan.”

7 tn Heb “before the eyes of Moses and before the eyes of.”

8 tn The vav (ו) at the beginning of the clause is a disjunctive because it is prefixed to the nonverbal form. In this context it is best interpreted as a circumstantial clause, stressing that this happened “while” people were weeping over the sin.

9 tn The first clause is subordinated to the second because both begin with the preterite verbal form, and there is clearly a logical and/or chronological sequence involved.

10 tn The word קֻבָּה (qubbah) seems to refer to the innermost part of the family tent. Some suggest it was in the tabernacle area, but that is unlikely. S. C. Reif argues for a private tent shrine (“What Enraged Phinehas? A Study of Numbers 25:8,” JBL 90 [1971]: 200-206).

11 tn Heb “and he thrust the two of them the Israelite man and the woman to her belly [lower abdomen].” Reif notes the similarity of the word with the previous “inner tent,” and suggests that it means Phinehas stabbed her in her shrine tent, where she was being set up as some sort of priestess or cult leader. Phinehas put a quick end to their sexual immorality while they were in the act.

12 sn Phinehas saw all this as part of the pagan sexual ritual that was defiling the camp. He had seen that the Lord himself had had the guilty put to death. And there was already some plague breaking out in the camp that had to be stopped. And so in his zeal he dramatically put an end to this incident, that served to stop the rest and end the plague.



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