The Baal of Peor

Numbers 25 – The Baal of Peor and Israel’s Apostasy
Numbers 26 – The Second Census

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One Reply to “The Baal of Peor”

  1. Immediately my first question is this: what is “the Baal of Peor?” Baal is one of those worshipped by pagans, though it’s difficult to relate to given our current modern society and Peor is not on my maps! Here we read of a tragedy in the Israelite camp,

    “Each of you must put to death those of your people who have yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor” (Numbers 25:5).

    It appears that Balaam of the previous chapter, the one who couldn’t curse the Israelites with his divination-for-hire service was in fact able to poison the Israelites after all. In Numbers 31:16 Balaam is credited with advising the Moabite women to indulge in sexual immorality with the Israelites: the Peor Incident, in which “the people ate the sacrificial meal and bowed down before these gods. So Israel yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor” (25:2-3).

    A well known place for those in ancient times, just what is special about Peor? For Balaam’s third message, Balak (King of Moab) “took Balaam to the top of Peor, overlooking the wasteland” (23:28), apparently a particularly poignant place. Hosea provides a horrible depiction in his declaration against Israel:

    “They have sunk deep into corruption, as in the days of Gibeah [the Golden Calf]. God will remember their wickedness and punish them for their sins. When I found Israel, it was like finding grapes in the desert; when I saw your ancestors, it was like seeing the early fruit on the fig tree. But when they came to Baal Peor, they consecrated themselves to that shameful idol and became as vile as the thing they loved.” (Hosea 9:9-10)

    Wow! What an image of corruption. From finding grapes in the desert to embracing this idol that overlooks the wasteland. These are our ancestors, those chosen by God to carry the light of the world yoked with the pagan god that overlooks the wasteland. How appropriate.

    The result of this transgression is the brutal death of some 24,000 people (Numbers 25:9), stopped by the insightful actions of Phinehas when he “drove the spear into both of them, right through the Israelite man and into the woman’s stomach” (25:8) when they entered the camp.

    The event was pivotal and the people involved are identified in 25:14-18 as Zimri from the tribe of Simeon and Kozbi the Midianite woman. In chapter 26 we find the tribe of Simeon has been reduce from 59,300 to 22,200…a loss of over 37,000 men of age! This was the tribe that Zimri represented, perhaps a fitting tribute of reprehensible behavior.

    Today’s reading for ancient history could certainly be restated in modern language, stories of how we profane the Lord by embracing that which is well known to be morally corrupt. Lord please open my eyes to the modern Peor Incidents and keep me far from the temptations the drove our forefathers into dark places. More than that, help me to help others drawn to this damning light. I take no delight in seeing people fall into these traps. Give me insight and words and actions that will guide them out of these tempations.

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