And they called the people to the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)And they called the people . . . —The Moabitish women invited the Israelites to their sacrificial feasts, which were celebrated in honour of Baal-peor, who was worshipped in the city of Beth-peor (Deuteronomy 3:29). He is supposed to be identical with Chemosh, the Moabitish god of war.Numbers 25:2. They called — The Moabites, being now neighbours to the Israelites, and finding themselves unable to effect their design by war and divination, fell another way to work, by contracting familiarity with them, and, perceiving their evil inclinations, they, that is, their daughters, invited them unto the sacrifices — Unto the feasts which were made of their parts of the sacrifices, after the manner of the Jews and Gentiles too, the participation whereof was reckoned a participation in the worship of that God to whom the sacrifices were offered. Of their gods — Of their god Baal-peor, the plural Elohim being here used, as commonly it is for one God.
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).They called the people: this may be noted, either,
1. As the consequent of their whoredom, an invitation to further society in their sacred feasts; or rather,
2. As the cause or occasion of their whoredom, the Hebrew vau here signifying for, as it oft doth. The Moabites being now neighbours to the Israelites, and finding themselves unable to effect their design against Israel by war and witchcraft, they now fell another way to work, by contracting familiarity with them; and perceiving their evil and lustful inclinations, they, i.e. their daughters, last mentioned, invited them to their feasts.
Unto the sacrifices, i.e. unto the feasts which were made of their parts of their sacrifices, after the manner of the Jews and Gentiles too, the participation whereof was reckoned a participation in the worship of that god to whom the sacrifices were offered, 1 Corinthians 10:18, and therefore was forbidden to the Israelites when such feasts and sacrifices belonged to a false god, Exodus 34:15. Yet this was a less and more modest kind of idolatry, and therefore is fitly used to usher in what was more gross and impious.
Of their gods, i.e. of their god, Baal-peor, the plural elohim being here used, as commonly it is, for one god.
Bowed down; which properly notes the outward act of worship, which here consisting in or being accompanied with filthy serious, may either signify or connote them.
To their gods; before their gods, or, to the honour and worship of their gods.
and the people did eat: of the things sacrificed to idols, and so became guilty of idolatry, even by so doing, and then when they had eaten and drank, and were merry, they were led on to other acts of idolatry:
and bowed down to their gods: which was a plain and open act of idolatry, whereby they testified their faith in their divinity, their reverence of them, and their homage and obedience to them: Jarchi says, when the evil concupiscence or lust was strong in them, and they solicited the daughters of Moab to hearken to them, and comply with them, they used to take the image of Peor out of their bosom, and said, worship this, signifying that on that condition they would gratify them; and thus whoredom led them on to idolatry, and they committed the one for the sake of being indulged in the other.And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)2. for they called] and they called. The writer relates that the Israelites first came into immoral relations with the women, and then that the women, very naturally, invited them to join in their local religious festivities.Verse 2. - And they called, i.e., the women of Moab, encouraged to do so by the licentious intercourse which had sprung up. Without such encouragement it is difficult to suppose that they would have ventured on such a step. And the people did eat. Gluttony added its seductions to lust. No doubt this generation were as weary of the manna and as eager for other and heavier food as their fathers had been (see on Numbers 11:4; 21:5). Genesis 15:19), as there are no other Kenites mentioned in the whole of the Old Testament, with the exception of Genesis 15:19, than the Kenites who went to Canaan with Hobab the brother-in-law of Moses (Numbers 10:29.: see Judges 1:16; Judges 4:11; 1 Samuel 15:6; 1 Samuel 27:10; 1 Samuel 30:29); so that there are not sufficient grounds for the distinction between Canaanitish and Midianitish Kenites, as Michaelis, Hengstenberg, and others suppose. The hypothesis that Balaam is speaking of Canaanitish Kenites, or of the Kenites as representatives of the Canaanites, is as unfounded as the hypothesis that by the Kenites we are to understand the Midianites, or that the Kenites mentioned here and in Genesis 15:19 are a branch of the supposed aboriginal Amalekites (Ewald). The saying concerning the Kenites runs thus: "Durable is thy dwelling-place, and thy nest laid upon the rock; for should Kain be destroyed until Asshur shall carry thee captive?" This saying "applies to friends and not to foes of Israel" (v. Hoffmann), so that it is perfectly applicable to the Kenites, who were friendly with Israel. The antithetical association of the Amalekites and Kenites answers perfectly to the attitude assumed at Horeb towards Israel, on the one hand by the Amalekites, and on the other hand by the Kenites, in the person of Jethro the leader of their tribe (see Exodus 17:8., Exodus 18). The dwelling-place of the Kenites was of lasting duration, because its nest was laid upon a rock (שׂים is a passive participle, as in 2 Samuel 13:32, and Obadiah 1:4). This description of the dwelling-place of the Kenites cannot be taken literally, because it cannot be shown that either the Kenites or the Midianites dwelt in inaccessible mountains, as the Edomites are said to have done in Obadiah 1:3-4; Jeremiah 49:16. The words are to be interpreted figuratively, and in all probability the figure is taken from the rocky mountains of Horeb, in the neighbourhood of which the Kenites led a nomade life before their association with Israel (see at Exodus 3:1). As v. Hoffmann correctly observes: "Kain, which had left its inaccessible mountain home in Horeb, enclosed as it was by the desert, to join a people who were only wandering in search of a home, by that very act really placed its rest upon a still safer rock." This is sustained in Numbers 24:22 by the statement that Kain would not be given up to destruction till Asshur carried it away into captivity. אם כּי does not mean "nevertheless." It signifies "unless" after a negative clause, whether the negation be expressed directly by לא, or indirectly by a question; and "only" where it is not preceded by either a direct or an indirect negation, as in Genesis 40:14; Job 42:8. The latter meaning, however, is not applicable here, because it is unsuitable to the עד־מה (until) which follows. Consequently אם yl can only be understood in the sense of "is it that," as in 1 Kings 1:27; Isaiah 29:16; Job 31:16, etc., and as introducing an indirect query in a negative sense: "For is it (the case) that Kain shall fall into destruction until...?" - equivalent to "Kain shall not be exterminated until Asshur shall carry him away into captivity;" Kain will only be overthrown by the Assyrian imperial power. Kain, the tribe-father, is used poetically for the Kenite, the tribe of which he was the founder. בּער, to exterminate, the sense in which it frequently occurs, as in Deuteronomy 13:6; Deuteronomy 17:7, etc. (cf. 2 Samuel 4:11; 1 Kings 22:47). - For the fulfilment of this prophecy we are not to look merely to the fact that one branch of the Kenites, which separated itself, according to Judges 4:11, from its comrades in the south of Judah, and settled in Naphtali near Kadesh, was probably carried away into captivity by Tiglath-Pileser along with the population of Galilee (2 Kings 15:29); but the name Asshur, as the name of the first great kingdom of the world, which rose up from the east against the theocracy, is employed, as we may clearly see from Numbers 24:24, to designate all the powers of the world which took their rise in Asshur, and proceeded forth from it (see also Ezra 6:22, where the Persian king is still called king of Asshur or Assyria). Balaam did not foretell that this worldly power would oppress Israel also, and lead it into captivity, because the oppression of the Israelites was simply a transitory judgment, which served to refine the nation of God and not to destroy it, and which was even appointed according to the counsel of God to open and prepare the way for the conquest of the kingdoms of the world by the kingdom of God. To the Kenites only did the captivity become a judgment of destruction; because, although on terms of friendship with the people of Israel, and outwardly associated with them, yet, as is clearly shown by 1 Samuel 15:6, they never entered inwardly into fellowship with Israel and Jehovah's covenant of grace, but sought to maintain their own independence side by side with Israel, and thus forfeited the blessing of God which rested upon Israel.
(Note: This simple but historically established interpretation completely removes the objection, "that Balaam could no more foretell destruction to the friends of Israel than to Israel itself," by which Kurtz would preclude the attempt to refer this prophecy to the Kenites, who were in alliance with Israel. His further objections to v. Hoffmann's view are either inconclusive, or at any rate do not affect the explanation that we have given.)
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