Numbers 25:3
And Israel joined himself to Baalpeor: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel.
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Numbers 25:3. Joined himself — The word implies a forsaking God, to whom they were joined, and a turning to, and strict conjunction with, this false god. Baal-peor — Called Baal, by the name common to many false gods, and especially to those that represented any of the heavenly bodies; and Peor, either from the hill Peor, where he was worshipped, Numbers 23:28; or rather from a verb signifying to open and uncover, because of the obscene posture in which the idol was set, as Priapus was; or because of the filthiness which was exercised in his worship.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.Joined himself - i. e., by taking part in the sacrificial meals as described in the last verse. Compare Exodus 34:15; 1 Corinthians 10:18. The worship of Baal was attended with the grossest impurity, and indeed partly consisted in it Hosea 4:14; Hosea 9:10.

Baal-peor - i. e., the Baal worshipped at Peer, the place mentioned in Numbers 23:28 (compare Baal-meon, Numbers 32:38). (The identification of this god with Chemosh in Numbers 21:29 is now given up.)

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. Joined himself; the word implies a forsaking of God, to whom they were and should have been joined, and a turning to, embracing of, strict conjunction with, and fervent affection after, this false god. Compare Hosea 9:10 2 Corinthians 6:14. Baal-peor, called Baal, by the name common to many false gods, and especially to those that represented any of the heavenly bodies; and Peor, either from the hill Peor, where he was worshipped, Numbers 23:28, or rather from a verb signifying to open and uncover, either because of the obscene posture in which possibly the idol was set, as Priapus was, or because of the filthiness which was exercised in his worship.

Was kindled, i.e. discovered itself in a dreadful plague, Psalm 106:29. And Israel joined himself unto Baalpeor,.... The name of an idol; one of the Baals, Baal being a general name for an idol; and, to distinguish this from other Baals or idols, it was called Peor, either from its opening its mouth in prophecy, as Ainsworth; or from some obscene posture and action used in the worship of it, being, as it is by many thought to be, the same with Priapus; or rather from the mountain Peor, where it was worshipped, as Jupiter is called Jupiter Olympius, Capitolinus, &c. from the mountains where he had a temple, or was worshipped; or from the name of some great personage, called Lord Peor, who was deified after his death; hence these Israelites are said to "eat the sacrifices of the dead", Psalm 106:28. Mr. Bedford (t) takes him to be Mizraim the son of Ham, the Osiris of the Egyptians, and the Priapus of other Heathens: and Father Calmet (u) is of opinion that he is the same with Orus, Osiris, and Adonis; and that Pe is only a prepositive article, and that Or is the name, and no other than Orus; but such a criticism the word will not bear: this idol, the chief god of the Moabites, was, in all probability, the same with Chemosh, who is expressly called the abomination of Moab, 1 Kings 11:7 of whom See Gill on Jeremiah 48:7 so Chemosh and Peor are thought to be the same by our English poet (w): to him the Israelites joined themselves, forsook the true God in a great measure, and were initiated into the rites of this deity, and constantly attended the worship of it, and cleaved unto it with their hearts and directions, and joined with their harlots in all parts of service performed unto it; See Gill on Hosea 9:10,

and the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel; for no sin is more provoking to God than idolatry, that being so directly opposite to his nature, honour, and glory, as well as to his will and worship; and hereby the end of Balaam and Balak was, in a great measure, answered, and Balaam obtained that by his evil counsel which he could not by all his conjuring; this was seen by the plague sent among them; See Gill on Numbers 24:14.

(t) Scripture Chronology, p. 267. (u) Dictionary, on word "Baal". (w) "Next Chemos, the obscene dread of Moab's sons, Peor his other name, -----" Milton, B. 1. l. 406, 412.

And Israel {b} joined himself unto Baalpeor: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel.

(b) Worshipped the idol of the Moabites, which was in the hill Peor.

3. Baal-peor] i.e. the deity who was considered the Lord of the place Peor. See on Numbers 23:28. Names of deities consisting of the name Baal with a local attribute are not uncommon in the O.T., and are found on Phoenician inscriptions. Thus there were many Baals (Baâlîm) in different parts of the country (cf. 1 Samuel 7:4, Hosea 2:17).Verse 3. - Israel joined himself unto Baal-Peor. This is a technical phrase, repeated in verse 5, and quoted in Psalm 106:28, expressing the quasi-sacramental union into which they entered with the heathen deity by partaking of his sacrificial meats and by sharing in his impure rites (cf. Hosea 9:10 and the argument of St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 10). There can be little doubt that Peor (פְּעור, from פָעַר, to open) has the sense of aperiens, in usu obsceno, and that it was the distinguishing name of Baal or Chemosh when worshipped as the god of reproduction with the abominable rites proper to this cultus. For a notice of the same thing in the last days of Israel see Hosea 4:14, and for the practice of Babylonian and (to some degree) Egyptian women, see Herodotus, 1:199; 2:60). The Septuagint has here ἐτελέσθη τῷ Βεελφεγώρ, "was consecrated," or "initiated," unto Baal-Peor, which admirably expressed the sense. The third saying relates to the Kenites, whose origin is involved in obscurity (see at 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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