28 They yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor and ate sacrifices offered to lifeless gods; 29 they aroused the Lord’s anger by their wicked deeds, and a plague broke out among them. 30 But Phinehas stood up and intervened, and the plague was checked. 31 This was credited to him as righteousness for endless generations to come.
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In Numbers 25, because of the Israelites' disobedience of God's direction to them not to become involved in the pagan religious rituals of the nations through which Israel was passing following their exodus from Egypt, God directed Moses to execute all the chiefs of the Israelite tribes by hanging them. Despite this punishment, an Israelite man (named Zimri) openly brought a pagan Midianite woman (named Cozbi) into the Israelite camp to his family (as he would have done with someone whom he intended to marry). This resulted in God sending a plague into the Israelite camp, which killed 24,000 people. Phinehas (the grandson of Moses' brother Aaron, and thus a member of Israel's priestly line) then killed both the Israelite man and the Midianite woman who had brought the plague on Israel by running them through with a spear. This satisfied God's anger, and prevented even more people from being killed by the plague. God then commended Phinehas for having turned God's wrath away from Israel by this action, in which God described Phinehas as being jealous with His (God's) type of jealousy. God also promised that Phinehas and his descendants would therefore always be His priests.
I think I see what Tim Maas meant by "Despite this punishment, an Israelite man (named Zimri) openly brought a pagan Midianite woman (named Cozbi) into the Israelite camp to his family (as he would have done with someone whom he intended to marry)." My NLT PARALLEL STUDY BIBLE, which combines The NLT Study Bible and the Life Application Study Bible, says concerning Numbers 25:6, "That this man 'brought a Midianite woman into his tent' meant that she was brought into his tent for sex. Zimri (Numbers 25:14) so disregarded the law of God that he brought the woman right into the camp." Phinehas ran a spear through an Israelite man and a Moabite woman engaged in sexual intercourse. For this action, the Lord halted a plague He had sent on Israel. See Num. 25:7-11 QSB. Numbers 25:7-11: BAAL WORSHIP AT PEOR 7 When Phinehas o the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose and left the congregation and took a spear in his hand 8 and went after the man of Israel into the chamber and pierced both of them, the man of Israel and the woman through her belly. Thus the plague on the people of Israel was stopped. 9 Nevertheless, those who died by the plague were twenty-four thousand. THE ZEAL OF PHINEHAS 10 And the Lord said to Moses, 11 "Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, has turned back my wrath from the people of Israel, in that he was jealous with my jealousy among them, so that I did not consume the people of Israel in my jealousy.”
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