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Go to Bible: Numbers 25
“began to prostitute themselves with the daughters of Moab.” This would involve both physical sex and also being pulled into the worship of pagan gods. Much of the worship of pagan gods involved ritual prostitution.(top)
“they invited the people of Israel to the sacrifices of their gods.” The worship of the pagan gods involved ritual sex, as we see from Numbers 25:1. That was a major reason it was so attractive to the Israelite men. The verb “they invited” (more literally, “they called”) is a feminine plural verb, so it was the women who invited the men of Israel to the sex and sacrifice.
“and the people ate.” That is, they ate of the sacrifices that were offered to the pagan gods, thereby participating in the worship of those pagan gods, and they bowed down to them, that is gave them the reverence that should have been Yahweh’s alone.
“bowed down.” The common biblical way of bowing down before people or God was to fall to one’s knees and bow the upper body to the earth. It is the same Hebrew word as “worship.” [For more on bowing down, see commentary on 1 Chron. 29:20].(top)
“yoked.” A very unusual word occurring only here and Psalm 106:28. The word likely has a specific cultic meaning in this context, but that meaning is lost in history. The major sin involved in the worship of Baal-peor, the “Baal” that was worshiped at Peor, was sexual, as the Bible makes clear. Philip Budd (The Word Biblical Commentary) writes: “Clearly some formal recognition by the Israelites of the Baal localized at Peor is implied. Baal was widely recognized in Canaan as the fertility god.”
“Baal-peor.” The text could be translated, “Baal of Peor.” Baal was the god and Peor was the place. The worship, rituals, and beliefs about the gods could differ from place to place even if the name of the god, and much about him, were generally the same. The specific beliefs and rituals about Baal of Peor are not known. However, the fact that the god was related to Baal shows the kinds of evil acts were likely involved, such as human sacrifice and ritual sex.(top)
“leaders.” The Hebrew is simply “heads,” referring to the top men, but saying “the heads of all the people” could be seriously misunderstood.
“hang them up.” This would usually be done by impaling the person on a tree, not by hanging by a rope. A branch would be cut off and the person simply impaled on the cut branch. Sometimes the person was executed first and then the dead body was hung up. The text is unclear as to whether that was the case here.
“broad daylight.” The Hebrew is more literally, “in front of the sun,” but it means when the sun is shining on them, thus, “in broad daylight.”(top)
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“zealous with my zeal.” The same Hebrew phrase can be “jealous with my jealousy.” Everett Fox (The Schocken Bible) translated it such that Phinehas was zealous with God’s jealousy, which makes sense because God is the jealous God because His Israel, with whom He had a covenant, was being won over by a pagan god, and Phinehas was zealous to defend God’s honor. Fox wrote that Phinehas was “being zealous with my [God’s] jealousy.”(top)
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