Israel settled down and remained in Shittim, and the people began to play the harlot with the daughters of Moab,
2 Who invited the [Israelites] to the sacrifices of their gods, and [they] ate and bowed down to Moab’s gods.
3 So Israel joined himself to [the god] Baal of Peor. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel.
4 And the Lord said to Moses, Take all the leaders or chiefs of the people, and hang them before the Lord in the sun [after killing them], that the fierce anger of the Lord may turn away from Israel.
5 And Moses said to the judges of Israel, Each one of you slay his men who joined themselves to Baal of Peor.
6 And behold, one of the Israelites came and brought to his brethren a Midianite woman in the sight of Moses and of all the congregation of Israel while they were weeping at the door of the Tent of Meeting [over the divine judgment and the punishment].
7 And when Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose up from the midst of the congregation and took a spear in his hand
8 And went after the man of Israel into the inner room and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel and the woman through her body. Then the [smiting] plague was stayed from the Israelites.
9 Nevertheless those who died in the [smiting] plague were 24,000.
10 And the Lord said to Moses,
11 Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned my wrath away from the Israelites, in that he was jealous with My jealousy among them, so that I did not consume the Israelites in My jealousy.
12 Therefore say, Behold, I give to Phinehas the priest My covenant of peace.
13 And he shall have it, and his descendants after him, the covenant of an everlasting priesthood, because he was jealous for his God and made atonement for the Israelites.
14 Now the man of Israel who was slain with the Midianite woman was Zimri son of Salu, a head of a father’s house among the Simeonites.
15 And the Midianite woman who was slain was Cozbi daughter of Zur; he was head of a father’s house in Midian.
16 And the Lord said to Moses,
17 Provoke hostilities with the Midianites and attack them,
18 For they harass you with their wiles with which they have beguiled you in the matter of Peor, and of Cozbi, the daughter of the prince of Midian, their sister, who was slain on the day of the plague in the matter of Peor.
The king of Midian, Balak, was afraid of the Israelites and wanted Balaam, a well-known fore-teller, to prophesy against Israel. God wouldn’t allow enchantment against His people and instead turned Balaam’s prophesies into foretelling of the coming Messiah. Balak was furious and sent Balaam away without rewarding him as promised.
Balaam wanted the promised money for bringing down Israel and suggested that the Midianite women could seduce the Jewish men and compromise their loyalty to the Israeli God. That plan worked very well indeed, and God in His outrage struck His people with a sudden contagious plague (“smitting plague” in the King James).
Right in front of the weeping, praying elders gathered before the Tabernacle, a couple challenged the broken Jewish leaders and Moses. Phinehas, grandson of Aaron, grabbed up a javelin and killed both the Jewish man and the Midianite woman.
Already the Jewish leaders had put to death the defiled leaders who were involved with the Midianite women, but now Moses ordered the dead bodies to be hung up where all Israel could see God’s response to their unfaithfulness to Him. The parallel to our nation is striking!
2 Peter 2:12-19 Like unreasoning beasts, mere creatures of instinct, born [only] to be captured and destroyed, railing at things of which they are ignorant, they shall utterly perish in their [own] corruption [in their destroying they shall surely be destroyed],
13 Being destined to receive [punishment as] the reward of [their] unrighteousness [suffering wrong as the hire for their wrongdoing]. They count it a delight to revel in the daytime [living luxuriously and delicately]. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions and carousing together [even] as they feast with you.
They have eyes full of harlotry, insatiable for sin. They beguile and bait and lure away unstable souls. Their hearts are trained in covetousness (lust, greed), [they are] children of a curse [exposed to cursing]!
15 Forsaking the straight road they have gone astray; they have followed the way of Balaam [the son] of Beor, who loved the reward of wickedness.
18 For uttering loud boasts of folly, they beguile and lure with lustful desires of the flesh those who are barely escaping from them who are wrongdoers.
19 They promise them liberty, when they themselves are the slaves of depravity and defilement—for by whatever anyone is made inferior or worse or is overcome, to that [person or thing] he is enslaved.
Look at verse 8 of Numbers 25. “Then the smitting plague was stayed from the Israelites.”
A smitting plague or pestilence is a contagious disease that comes suddenly. An example is the Bubonic plague that is presently threatening West Coast cities. Another example is the Wuhan Flu otherwise known as Covid-19. Have you noticed that children rarely get Covid-19. Have you wondered why?
My prayer is that God would use persons or events to provoke hostilities with our enemies, to purge them from our nation so that we can renew our vows of faithfulness to our God. If both Balak and Balaam were killed in the destruction of Midian, then surely judgment can be sought for those who attempt enchantments and divinations against the United States of America! But if America refuses to bow before the King of kings and the Lord of lords, our nation will suffer much for our pride and rebellion.