Numbers 25: Idolatry & Israel

God didn't choose the Israelites because they were perfect, He chose them because Abraham (who also wasn't perfect) had faith. Similarly, we are chosen because of Jesus; as long as we maintain our faith and relationship with Him, we will find our way back to God.


Numbers 25 recounts yet another outburst of sin in which the Israelites partake. Moses illustrates the imperfections of the Israelites not just to show us what angers God, but also to remind us that when we mess up God will forgive us. God didn't choose the Israelites because they were perfect, He chose them because Abraham (who also wasn't perfect) had faith. Similarly, we are chosen because of Jesus; as long as we maintain our faith and relationship with Him, we will find our way back to God.

The Incident

This incident focuses on another lapse to idolatry for Israel; this time, they succumb to worshipping Baal. Moses pinpoints the cause of idolatry to the Israelites committing "whoredom" with the daughters of Moab. Marriages are not mentioned, so I wonder if these were improper relationships even without the idolatry. Due to these relationships, the Israelites sacrifice and bow to the Moabites' false gods, which angers God. Thus, He sends a plague to punish the people for their disobedience. God tells Moses (who tells the elders) to kill anyone who worships Baal.

One of the Israelites brings a Midianite woman before the tabernacle, but unlike Zipporah whose Midianite family worshiped the God of Abraham, this woman was pagan. We can make this conclusion based upon the context-clues and reaction of the Israelites. When the Israelite man brings this Midianite woman to the tabernacle, the faithful Israelites are there weeping before God for the atrocities being committed and the subsequent wrath it has induced.[1] Phineas, the son of Eleazar, kills both the man and the woman. After we are told of their fate, the man is identified as Zimri, a prince of the Simeonites, and the woman is identified as Cozbi. The only reasons I can think of for identifying the couple by name (and status) is that it was a way to shame the two for all eternity and a show that earthly titles do not exempt you from God's wrath.

Phineas' stand for God not only earns Him a reward from God, but also appeases God's anger, resulting in God withdrawing his plague. Through this ordeal, Phineas proves himself worthy to God and receives a covenant of everlasting peace as his reward.

Relating to Today

This passage is basically an example of God's people not abiding by 2 Corinthians 6:14-17.
14Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 15And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 16And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.2 Corinthians 6:14-17 KJV
When the Israelites began marrying the Moabites, they were mixing with people who did not believe as they did and it caused them to stray from God's law. Essentially, the Israelites were choosing their women's desires over God's. This relationship between man and woman has not changed over time. Both men and women are often willing to change for their spouse (or in today's society, even a boyfriend/girlfriend). It isn't difficult to love someone who is different than you, but it is difficult to persuade them their actions are unGodly. It's also easy to simply overlook unGodly practices and get caught up in making excuses that lead you into the same state.

When a believer and atheist fall in love, where does God fit in the relationship? How do God's laws manifest in the home? Do you keep the Sabbath holy? Do you pray over your food? What do you teach your children? With a Christian and a Buddhist, do you allow the Buddhist to bring idols of Buddha into your home?

When two people believe vastly different things, they aren't walking in the same direction. You wouldn't get in a southbound car if you were trying to go north would you? Then why would you follow someone who is walking away from God when you're trying to walk closer to God?
Photocredit: Supinskaya

Today, we have an even higher probability of falling in to this trap, particularly in a country as diverse as America. I have met people from all walks of life and have made great friends who believe in various things. Whether it's your best friend or your boyfriend, it is easy to make connections with people whose religious beliefs differ from yours—even within the same religion. Luckily, from Jesus' teachings in the New Testament, neither I nor my friends have to be killed for associating with each other. However, these should not be my closest and most trusted friends that I seek out for advice.

Whether my closest friends are Christians or atheists who think it is ok to get drunk, how long will it be before I'm being pressured to drink as much as they do at our outings? If my friends are atheist, they may not scoff at your religious practices out of respect for your friendship, but when you ask for advice in a situation, they aren't going to pray or give you Biblically sound advice. Sometimes they may not even be purposefully trying to steer you in the wrong direction, but because they don't study the Word or consult God, following their advice may lead you in the opposite direction than you want to go.

I don't think you will find people who believe exactly the same things you do—it's very hard to be on the same page all the time—but it is not difficult to find people who have very similar beliefs and respect the differences. When I go to my closest friends for advice, they always respond with "have you prayed on it?" or "I'll pray for you." I know that they are praying to YHWH, the God of Abraham, and even if we don't agree on every interpretation, they're going to reference the Word for me to see where their interpretation come from, which gives us a chance to discuss the issue. They aren't going to encourage me to curse people out when I'm mad, or continue drinking when I've had too much. We all view the Bible as the source of God's word and discuss the different interpretations we have questions about.

Don't get me wrong, I think it's important to have friends with different views, as well. These people can also help us to grow in Christ. Sometimes they pose questions you wouldn't have entered your mind otherwise. Other times, the encourage you to stay in the Word so that you have an answer ready for their challenges. On even more occasions, they prove the Word of God to you—sometimes by fulfilling prophecy, other times by showing you the dangers of sins God has warned us about. I love these people deeply, but I remember not to put them in such a place in my life that their ideals and opinions have a hold on my life. They aren't such close friends that when they call me a lame for not going to the club or not knowing the latest vulgar dance moves, I care about their opinions. I don't hang out with them every night, and find myself in unGodly predicaments wondering how I got there. I don't want to be "yoked" to these people because we aren't going in the same direction.


  1. "Numbers 25:6". Bible Hub. 2016

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