Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
1. Israel abode in Shittim--a verdant meadow, so called from a grove
of acacia trees which lined the eastern side of the Jordan. (See
3. Israel joined himself unto Baal-peor--Baal was a general name
for "lord," and Peor for a "mount" in Moab. The real name of the idol
was Chemosh, and his rites of worship were celebrated by the grossest
obscenity. In participating in this festival, then, the Israelites
committed the double offense of idolatry and licentiousness.
4. The Lord said unto Moses, Take all the heads of the people, and
hang them up--Israelite criminals, who were capitally punished, were
first stoned or slain, and then gibbeted. The persons ordered here
for execution were the principal delinquents in the Baal-peor
outrage--the subordinate officers, rulers of tens or hundreds.
before the Lord--for vindicating the honor of the true God.
against the sun--that is, as a mark of public ignominy; but they were
to be removed towards sunset
5. judges of Israel--the seventy elders, who were commanded not only
to superintend the execution within their respective jurisdictions, but
to inflict the punishment with their own hands.
6, 7. behold, one of the children of Israel . . . brought . . . a
Midianitish woman--This flagitious act most probably occurred about
the time when the order was given and before its execution.
who were weeping before the door of the tabernacle--Some of the rulers
and well-disposed persons were deploring the dreadful wickedness of the
people and supplicating the mercy of God to avert impending judgments.
8. the plague--some sudden and widespread mortality.
9. those that died in the plague were twenty and four thousand--Only
twenty-three thousand perished
from pestilence. Moses includes those who died by the execution of the
11-13. Phinehas . . . hath turned my wrath away--This assurance was a
signal mark of honor that the stain of blood, instead of defiling,
confirmed him in office and that his posterity should continue as long
as the national existence of Israel.
14. Zimri, . . . a prince . . . among the
Simeonites--The slaughter of a man of such high rank is mentioned
as a proof of the undaunted zeal of Phinehas, for there might be
numerous avengers of his blood.
17. Vex the Midianites, and smite them--They seem to have been the
most guilty parties. (Compare
Nu 22:4; 31:8).
18. they vex you with their wiles--Instead of open war, they plot
insidious ways of accomplishing your ruin by idolatry and corruption.
their sister--their countrywoman.