Numbers 25:5
And Moses said to the judges of Israel, Slay you every one his men that were joined to Baalpeor.
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Numbers 25:5. Slay ye every one his men — Moses having, in conjunction with the judges, searched out such as had been guilty of this lewdness and idolatry, allots to each magistrate his number of malefactors for execution, that they might either put them to death with their own hands, as Phinehas did, (Numbers 25:7,) or by proper officers. It seems probable that the judges were dilatory in executing this order, since God himself thought fit to visit the heads of the idolaters with exemplary punishment, Numbers 25:8.25:1-5 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.Take - i. e., assemble the chiefs of the people to thee (compare the phrase "took men," in Numbers 16:1). The offenders were to be first; slain by the hands of "the judges of Israel" Numbers 25:5, and afterward hung up "against the sun" (i. e., publicly, openly; compare 2 Samuel 12:12) as an aggravation of their punishment. This would be done by impaling the body or fastening it to a cross. Compare Deuteronomy 21:23 note, and 2 Samuel 21:9. 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. (See on [91]1Sa 15:33). Every one his men, i.e. those under his charge; for as these seventy were chosen to assist Moses in the government, so doubtless the care and management of the people was distributed among them by just and equal proportions. And Moses said unto the judges of Israel,.... Either the same with the heads of the people, or the rulers of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens, according to the distribution by the advice of Jethro:

slay ye everyone his men, that were joined unto Baalpeor; all that were under their several districts and jurisdictions, that were found guilty of that crime; these they are ordered to slay, either with their own hands, or rather cause to be slain by proper persons they should appoint to be executioners.

And Moses said unto the judges of Israel, Slay ye every one his {d} men that were joined unto Baalpeor.

(d) Let him execute those that are under his charge.

5. every one his men] Each judge was to execute the offenders that belonged to the division over which he had authority (see Exodus 18:25 f.).Verse 5. - The judges of Israel. אֶלאּשֹׁפְטֵי. This is the first place where "the judges" are mentioned by this name (cf. Deuteronomy 1:16; Judges 2:16), but the verb is freely used in Exodus 18, in describing the functions of the officers appointed at Sinai. Every one his men. The men who were under his particular jurisdiction. This command given by Moses is not to be confounded with the previous command given to Moses to hang up all the chiefs. Moses only could deal with the chief, but it was within the power and the province of the judges to deal with ordinary offenders. It does not, however, appear how far either of these commands was put in practice. The fourth saying applies to Asshur, and is introduced by an exclamation of woe: "Woe! who will live, when God sets this! and ships (come) from the side of Chittim, and press Asshur, and press Eber, and he also perishes." The words "Woe, who will live," point to the fearfulness of the following judgment, which went deep to the heart of the seer, because it would fall upon the sons of his own people (see at Numbers 22:5). The meaning is, "Who will preserve his life in the universal catastrophe that is coming?" (Hengstenberg). משּׂמו, either "since the setting of it," equivalent to "from the time when God sets (determines) this" (ὅταν θῇ ταῦτα ὁ Θεός, quando faciet ista Deus; lxx, Vulg.), or "on account of the setting of it," i.e., because God determines this. שׂוּם, to set, applied to that which God establishes, ordains, or brings to pass, as in Isaiah 44:7; Habakkuk 1:12. The suffix in שׂוּמו is not to be referred to Asshur, as Knobel supposes, because the prophecy relates not to Asshur "as the mighty power by which everything was crushed and overthrown," but to a power that would come from the far west and crush Asshur itself. The suffix refers rather to the substance of the prophecy that follows, and is to be understood in a neuter sense. אל is "God," and not an abbreviation of אלּה, which is always written with the article in the Pentateuch (האל, Genesis 19:8, Genesis 19:25; Genesis 26:3-4; Leviticus 18:27; Deuteronomy 4:42; Deuteronomy 7:22; Deuteronomy 19:11), and only occurs once without the article, viz., in 1 Chronicles 20:8. צים, from צי (Isaiah 33:21), signifies ships, like ציּים in the passage in Daniel 11:30, which is founded upon the prophecy before us. מיּד, from the side, as in Exodus 2:5; Deuteronomy 2:37, etc. כּתּים is Cyprus with the capital Citium (see at Genesis 10:4), which is mentioned as intervening between Greece and Phoenicia, and the principal station for the maritime commerce of Phoenicia, so that all the fleets passing from the west to the east necessarily took Cyprus in their way (Isaiah 23:1). The nations that would come across the sea from the side of Cyprus to humble Asshur, are not mentioned by name, because this lay beyond the range of Balaam's vision. He simply gives utterance to the thought, "A power comes from Chittim over the sea, to which Asshur and Eber, the eastern and the western Shem, will both succumb" (v. Hoffmann). Eber neither refers to the Israelites merely as Hebrews (lxx, Vulg.), nor to the races beyond the Euphrates, as Onkelos and others suppose, but, like "all the sons of Eber" in Genesis 10:21, to the posterity of Abraham who descended from Eber through Peleg, and also to the descendants of Eber through Joktan: so that Asshur, as the representative of the Shemites who dwelt in the far east, included Elam within itself; whilst Eber, on the other hand, represented the western Shemites, the peoples that sprang from Arphaxad, Lud, and Aram (Genesis 10:21). "And he also shall perish for ever:" these words cannot relate to Asshur and Eber, for their fate is already announced in the word ענּוּ (afflict, press), but only to the new western power that was to come over the sea, and to which the others were to succumb. "Whatever powers might rise up in the world of peoples, the heathen prophet of Jehovah sees them all fall, one through another, and one after another; for at last he loses in the distance the power to discern whence it is that the last which he sees rise up is to receive its fatal blow" (v. Hoffmann, p. 520). The overthrow of this last power of the world, concerning which the prophet Daniel was the fist to receive and proclaim new revelations, belongs to "the end of the days," in which the star out of Jacob is to rise upon Israel as a "bright morning star" (Revelation 22:16).

Now if according to this the fact is firmly established, that in this last prophecy of Balaam, "the judgment of history even upon the imperial powers of the West, and the final victory of the King of the kingdom of God were proclaimed, though in fading outlines, more than a thousand years before the events themselves," as Tholuck has expressed it in his Propheten und ihre Weissagung; the announcement of the star out of Jacob, and the sceptre out of Israel, i.e., of the King and Ruler of the kingdom of God, who was to dash Moab to pieces and take possession of Edom, cannot have received its complete fulfilment in the victories of David over these enemies of Israel; but will only be fully accomplished in the future overthrow of all the enemies of the kingdom of God. By the "end of days," both here and everywhere else, we are to understand the Messianic era, and that not merely at its commencement, but in its entire development, until the final completion of the kingdom of God at the return of our Lord to judgment. In the "star out of Jacob," Balaam beholds not David as the one king of Israel, but the Messiah, in whom the royalty of Israel promised to the patriarchs (Genesis 17:6, Genesis 17:16; Genesis 35:11) attains its fullest realization. The star and sceptre are symbols not of "Israel's royalty personified" (Hengstenberg), but of the real King in a concrete form, as He was to arise out of Israel at a future day. It is true that Israel received the promised King in David, who conquered and subjugated the Moabites, Edomites, and other neighbouring nations that were hostile to Israel. But in the person of David and his rule the kingly government of Israel was only realized in its first and imperfect beginnings. Its completion was not attained till the coming of the second David (Hosea 3:5; Jeremiah 30:9; Ezekiel 34:24; Ezekiel 37:24-25), the Messiah Himself, who breaks in pieces all the enemies of Israel, and founds an everlasting kingdom, to which all the kingdoms and powers of this world are to be brought into subjection (2 Samuel 7:12-16; Psalm 2:1; 72, and Psalm 110:1-7).

(Note: The application of the star out of Jacob to the Messiah is to be found even in Onkelos; and this interpretation was so widely spread among the Jews, that the pseudo-Messiah who arose under Hadrian, and whom even R. Akiba acknowledged, took the name of Bar Cochba (son of a star), on consequence of this prophecy, from which the nickname of Bar Coziba (son of a lie) was afterward formed, when he had submitted to the Romans, with all his followers. In the Christian Church also the Messianic explanation was the prevalent one, from the time of Justin and Irenaeus onwards (see the proofs in Calovii Bibl. ad h. l.), although, according to a remark of Theodoret (qu. 44 ad Num.), there were some who did not adopt it. The exclusive application of the passage to David was so warmly defended, first of all by Grotius, and still more by Verschuir, that even Hengstenberg and Tholuck gave up the Messianic interpretation. But they both of them came back to it afterwards, the former in his "Balaam" and the second edition of his Christology, and the latter in his treatise on "the Prophets." At the present time the Messianic character of the prophecy is denied by none but the supporters of the more vulgar rationalism, such as Knobel and others; whereas G. Baur (in his History of Old Testament Prophecy) has no doubt that the prediction of the star out of Jacob points to the exalted and glorious King, filled with the Holy Spirit, whom Isaiah (Isaiah 9:5; Isaiah 11:1.) and Micah (Micah 5:2) expected as the royal founder of the theocracy. Reinke gives a complete history of the interpretation of this passage in his Beitrge, iv. 186ff.)

If, however, the star out of Jacob first rose upon the world in Christ, the star which showed the wise men from the east the way to the new-born "King of the Jews," and went before them, till it stood above the manger at Bethlehem (Matthew 2:1-11), is intimately related to our prophecy. Only we must not understand the allusion as being so direct, that Balaam beheld the very star which appeared to the wise men, and made known to them the birth of the Saviour of the world. The star of the wise men was rather an embodiment of the star seen by Balaam, which announced to them the fulfilment of Balaam's prophecy, - a visible sign by which God revealed to them the fact, that the appearance of the star which Balaam beheld in the far distant future had been realized at Bethlehem in the birth of Christ, the King of the Jews. - The "wise men from the east," who had been made acquainted with the revelations of God to Israel by the Jews of the diaspora, might feel themselves specially attracted in their search for the salvation of the world by the predictions of Balaam, from the fact that this seer belonged to their own country, and came "out of the mountains of the east" (Numbers 23:7); so that they made his sayings the centre of their expectations of salvation, and were also conducted through them to the Saviour of all nations by means of supernatural illumination. "God unfolded to their minds, which were already filled with a longing for the 'star out of Jacob' foretold by Balaam, the meaning of the star which proclaimed the fulfilment of Balaam's prophecy; He revealed to them, that is to say, the fact that it announced the birth of the 'King of the Jews.' And just as Balaam had joyously exclaimed, 'I see Him,' and 'I behold Him,' they also could say, 'We have seen His star' " (Hengstenberg).

If, in conclusion, we compare Balaam's prophecy of the star that would come out of Jacob, and the sceptre that would rise out of Israel, with the prediction of the patriarch Jacob, of the sceptre that should not depart from Judah, till the Shiloh came whom the nations would obey (Genesis 49:10), it is easy to observe that Balaam not only foretold more clearly the attitude of Israel to the nations of the world, and the victory of the kingdom of God over every hostile kingdom of the world; but that he also proclaimed the Bringer of Peace expected by Jacob at the end of the days to be a mighty ruler, whose sceptre would break in pieces and destroy all the enemies of the nation of God. The tribes of Israel stood before the mental eye of the patriarch in their full development into the nation in which all the families of the earth were to be blessed. From this point of view, the salvation that was to blossom in the future for the children of Israel culminated in the peaceful kingdom of the Shiloh, in whom the dominion of the victorious lion out of Judah was to attain its fullest perfection. But the eye of Balaam, the seer, which had been opened by the Spirit of God, beheld the nation of Israel encamped, according to its tribes, in the face of its foes, the nations of this world. They were endeavouring to destroy Israel; but according to the counsel of the Almighty God and Lord of the whole world, in their warfare against the nation that was blessed of Jehovah, they were to succumb one after the other, and be destroyed by the king that was to arise out of Israel. This determinate counsel of the living God was to be proclaimed by Balaam, the heathen seer out of Mesopotamia the centre of the national development of the ancient world: and, first of all, to the existing representatives of the nations of the world that were hostile to Israel, that they might see what would at all times tend to their peace - might see, that is to say, that in their hostility to Israel they were rebelling against the Almighty God of heaven and earth, and that they would assuredly perish in the conflict, since life and salvation were only to be found with the people of Israel, whom God had blessed. And even though Balaam had to make known the purpose of the Lord concerning His people primarily, and in fact solely, to the Moabites and their neighbours, who were like-minded with them, his announcement was also intended for Israel itself, and was to be a pledge to the congregation of Israel for all time of the certain fulfilment of the promises of God; and so to fill them with strength and courage, that in all their conflicts with the powers of this world, they should rely upon the Lord their God with the firmest confidence of faith, should strive with unswerving fidelity after the end of their divine calling, and should build up the kingdom of God on earth, which is to outlast all the kingdoms of the world. - In what manner the Israelites became acquainted with the prophecies of Balaam, so that Moses could incorporate them into the Thorah, we are nowhere told, but we can infer it with tolerable certainty from the subsequent fate of Balaam himself.

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