Numbers 25:1
And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
XXV.

(1) Abode in Shittim—i.e., Abel-Shittim (Numbers 33:49). (See Note on Numbers 22:1.)

Numbers 25:1. Israel abode in Shittim — And this was their last station, from whence they passed immediately into Canaan. This is noted as a great aggravation of their sin, that they committed it when God was going to put them into the possession of their long-expected land. The people — Many of them. Whoredom — Either because these women prostituted themselves to them upon condition of worshipping their god, or because their filthy god was worshipped by such filthy acts as Priapus and Venus were. The daughters of Moab — And of Midian too; for both these people being confederated in this wicked design, the one is put for the other, and the daughters of Moab may be named, either because they began the transgression, or because they were the chief persons, probably the relations, or courtiers of Balak.

25:1-5 The friendship of the wicked is more dangerous than their enmity; for none can prevail against God's people if they are not overcome by their inbred lusts; nor can any enchantment hurt them, but the enticements of worldly interests and pleasures. Here is the sin of Israel, to which they are enticed by the daughters of Moab and Midian. Those are our worst enemies who draw us to sin, for that is the greatest mischief any man can do us. Israel's sin did that which all Balaam's enchantments could not do; it set God against them. Diseases are the fruits of God's anger, and the just punishments of prevailing sins; one infection follows the other. Ringleaders in sin ought to be made examples of justice.The records of the neighboring cities of the plain, and the circumstances of the origin of Moab (Genesis 19:30 ff) suggest that the people among whom Israel was now thrown were more than ordinarily licentious. CHAPTER 25

Nu 25:1-18. The Israelites' Whoredom and Idolatry with Moab.

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 Nu 33:49).The Israelites’ whoredom and idolatry: God commands the guilty to be put to death, Numbers 25:1-5. A plague: Phinehas’s zeal; for which God promises him the priesthood, Numbers 25:6-15. God commands the Midianites to be slain for this their treachery in drawing the people to sin, Numbers 25:16-18.

Shittim; a place called more largely Abel-shittim, Numbers 33:49, it being usual with the Hebrews to abbreviate long proper names, as Hermon is put for Baal-hermon, Judges 3:3, Tholad for El-tholad, Joshua 19:4, Nimrim, Isaiah 15:6 for Beth-nimrim, Numbers 32:36. And this was their last station, from whence they passed immediately into Canaan. So this is here noted as a great aggravation of their sin, that they committed it when God was going to put them into the possession of their long-expected and much-desired land.

The people; not all, but many of them, as appears from Deu 4:3,4 1 Corinthians 10:8.

To commit whoredom, both corporally and spiritually, either because they prostituted themselves to them upon condition of worshipping their god; or because their filthy god was worshipped by such filthy acts, as Priapus and Venus were.

Of Moab, and of Midian too, as is evident from Numbers 25:6,17,18 Num 31:16; for both these people being confederated in this wicked design, the one is put for the other; and the daughters of Moab may be named, either because they began fine transgression, or because they were the chief persons, possibly, the relations or courtiers of Balak king of Moab.

And Israel abode in Shittim,.... A place in the plains of Moab, so called from the shittim wood, which grew here in great abundance, so often mentioned in the building of the tabernacle; which was a sort of white thorn, or rather the acacia tree, since there was scarcely any thing else grew in the deserts of Arabia; see Gill on Exodus 25:5 its full name was Abelshittim, Numbers 33:49, here the Israelites abode even to the death of Moses, for this was their last station in the wilderness; they were now on the borders of the land of Canaan, and just ready to enter into it, which is an aggravation of the sins they here fell into, and are next observed:

and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab; and of Midian also, as appears from Numbers 25:6 by the advice of Balaam, the Moabites and Midianites found ways and means to become familiar with the Israelites, and to introduce their daughters into their company and conversation, and being ensnared and enamoured with them, they were drawn to commit lewdness with them, and hereby were led on to commit other abominations, which brought the divine displeasure upon them; so that what they dared not attempt by war, and could not effect by sorceries and divinations, they accomplished by those iniquitous arts, namely, bringing the wrath, the curse, and plague of God upon them.

And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the {a} daughters of Moab.

(a) With the women.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1. abode in Shittim] The name has the definite article, and means ‘the Acacias.’ The site is uncertain, but it lay somewhere in the steppes of Moab. The full form Abel-Shittim occurs in Numbers 33:49. It is perhaps to be identified with Abila, which Josephus locates 60 stadia from the Jordan. This verse may be considered the J E parallel to Numbers 22:1 (P ). Notice that the possession of the territory by the Amorites is, as before (see on Numbers 22:41), disregarded, for the Israelites here come into contact not with Amorites but with Moabites.

1–5. The Israelites sinned with the women of Moab, and were invited by them to the sacrificial feasts of the local god (J E ). 6–15. An Israelite brought a Midianite woman into the camp, and Phinehas, for his zeal in killing them both, received the promise that his descendants should perpetually possess the priesthood (P ). The narratives are quite distinct, but both express condemnation of the immorality of the Israelites in consorting with foreign women. The interest of the former is prophetic, and is concerned with the struggle between the pure worship of Jehovah and the native local cults. The interest of the latter is ecclesiastical, and is concerned with the succession of the Aaronite priesthood.

Verse 1. - Abode in Shittim. For a considerable time; from their first arrival in the Arboth Moab until the crossing of the Jordan. Shittim is the shortened form of Abel-Shittim, "Field of Acacias" (Numbers 33:49). It seems to have been the northernmost part of the last encampment of Israel on that side Jordan, and the head-quarters of the host (Joshua 2:1; Joshua 3:1). Began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab. This commencement of sin seems to have been made by Israel without special provocation. The very victories won, and the comparative ease and affluence now enjoyed, after long marches and hardships, may well have predisposed them to this sin, for which they now for the first time found abundant opportunity. Numbers 25:1The Lord had defended His people Israel from Balaam's curse; but the Israelites themselves, instead of keeping the covenant of their God, fell into the snares of heathen seduction (Numbers 25:1, Numbers 25:2). Whilst encamped at Shittim, in the steppes of Moab, the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab: they accepted the invitations of the latter to a sacrificial festival of their gods, took part in their sacrificial meals, and even worshipped the gods of the Moabites, and indulged in the licentious worship of Baal-Peor. As the princes of Midian, who were allied to Moab, had been the advisers and assistants of the Moabitish king in the attempt to destroy the Israelites by a curse of God; so now, after the failure of that plan, they were the soul of the new undertaking to weaken Israel and render it harmless, by seducing it to idolatry, and thus leading it into apostasy from its God. But it was Balaam, as is afterwards casually observed in Numbers 31:16, who first of all gave this advice. This is passed over here, because the point of chief importance in relation to the object of the narrative, was not Balaam's share in the proposal, but the carrying out of the proposal itself. The daughters of Moab, however, also took part in carrying it out, by forming friendly associations with the Israelites, and then inviting them to their sacrificial festival. They only are mentioned in Numbers 25:1, Numbers 25:2, as being the daughters of the land. The participation of the Midianites appears first of all in the shameless licentiousness of Cozbi, the daughter of the Midianitish prince, from which we not only see that the princes of Midian performed their part, but obtain an explanation of the reason why the judgment upon the crafty destroyers of Israel was to be executed upon the Midianites.

(Note: Consequently there is no discrepancy between Numbers 25:1-5 and Numbers 25:6-18, to warrant the violent hypothesis of Knobel, that there are two different accounts mixed together in this chapter-An Elohistic account in Numbers 25:6-18, of which the commencement has been dropped, and a Jehovistic account in Numbers 25:1-5, of which the latter part has been cut off. The particular points adduced in proof of this fall to the ground, when the history is correctly explained; and such assertions as these, that the name Shittim and the allusion to the judges in Numbers 25:5, and to the wrath of Jehovah in Numbers 25:3 and Numbers 25:4, are foreign to the Elohist, are not proofs, but empty assumptions.)

Shittim, an abbreviation of Abel-Shittim (see at Numbers 22:1), to which the camp of the Israelites in the steppes of Moab reached (Numbers 33:49), is mentioned here instead of Arboth-Moab, because it was at this northern point of the camp that the Israelites came into contact with the Moabites, and that the latter invited them to take part in their sacrificial meals; and in Joshua 2:1 and Joshua 3:1, because it was from this spot that the Israelites commenced the journey to Canaan, as being the nearest to the place where they were to pass through the Jordan. זנה, construed with אל, as in Ezekiel 16:28, signifies to incline to a person, to attach one's self to him, so as to commit fornication. The word applies to carnal and spiritual whoredom. The lust of the flesh induced the Israelites to approach the daughters of Moab, and form acquaintances and friendships with them, in consequence of which they were invited by them "to the slain-offerings of their gods," i.e., to the sacrificial festivals and sacrificial meals, in connection with which they also "adored their gods," i.e., took part in the idolatrous worship connected with the sacrificial festival. These sacrificial meals were celebrated in honour of the Moabitish god Baal-Peor, so that the Israelites joined themselves to him. צמד, in the Niphal, to bind one's self to a person. Baal-Peor is the Baal of Peor, who was worshipped in the city of Beth-Peor (Deuteronomy 3:29; Deuteronomy 4:46; see at Numbers 23:28), a Moabitish Priapus, in honour of whom women and virgins prostituted themselves. As the god of war, he was called Chemosh (see at Numbers 21:29).

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