Numbers 25-26
(The Enemy Within)
February 17th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verses

After the plague God said to Moses and Eleazar son of Aaron the priest, “Number the entire community of Israel by families—count every person who is twenty years and older who is able to serve in the army of Israel.”

- Numbers 26:1-2 (MSG)

Summary of Chapters

These two chapters represent a continuation of two previous themes: Conflict with the people of Moab and an update of the census.

Chapter 25 describes the new strategy of the Moabites and Midianites for defeating Israel. They were not able to defeat them in the military theater, but they were able to infiltrate at a weak point in the ranks. Israeli men became interested in Moabite women, who then invited the men to their pagan worship ceremonies, and eventually the Israelite men found themselves yoked to a fake god – Baal. We find out in a later chapter that Balaam was one of the instigators for this crafty plan. He was the sorcerer who had refused to curse Israel, as described in Numbers 22-24, but apparently joined the dark side and turned against Israel.

The real God was livid, but his angered subsided when Phineas, grandson of Aaron, drove a spear through both Zimri and Cozbi. Zimri was a leader from the Simeonite tribe of Israel and Cozbi was the Midianite whom with whom he had a relationship. His transgression was particularly offensive because he brought this Midianite woman into the Israeli camp and into the tent of his family. The translation in The Message reports that Zimri was "flaunting his behavior in front of Moses and the whole assembly, (and) paraded a Midianite woman into his family tent (Num 25:6 - MSG)." Phineas took action in response to this blatant disregard for Moses and God. The LORD had initiated a plague against the people, but stopped it after Phineas’ action.

    And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,

    Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, hath turned my wrath away from the children of Israel, while he was zealous for my sake among them, that I consumed not the children of Israel in my jealousy.

    Wherefore say, Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace:

    And he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel.

    - Numbers 25:11-13 (KJV)

As for the Midianites, the LORD commanded that Israel should treat them “ ‘as enemies and kill them’ (25:17 - NIV).”

In chapter 26, God tells Moses and Eleazar to conduct a second census, which resulted in the following count:

Second Census - Population by Tribe # of Males
Judah 76,500
Issachar 64,300
Zebulan 60,500
Manasseh (subset of tribe of Joseph) 52,700
Ephraim (subset of tribe of Joseph) 32,500
Benjamin 45,600
Dan 64,400
Asher 64,400
Naphtali 45,400
Total (not including Levites) 601,730

Levi (dedicated to serving at tabernacle) 23,000

The total number of people at this time, including women and children was probably in excess of 2,000,000. Among those millions of people, there were only three remaining who had escaped from Egypt 40 years earlier: Moses, Caleb, and Joshua. Only two of them would be permitted to advance to the Promised Land.

Reflection and Application

The evil forces in our modern world work the same way as the ancient Moabites and Midianites. They might engage us with a full frontal attack, one that we can see coming. Or they may approach us in a more subtle fashion, reaching us at our weak point. In the case of the Israelites, the identified weak point was the passions of the men in their community. Their acquiescence to these passions was the first step on a slippery slope that led to the demise of thousands of their people and threatened the entire nation.

The Devil works the same way on us. He looks for our individual weaknesses, finds a foothold, and tries to send us down the slippery slope. There are unlimited numbers of examples of historical and current leaders and other well-known people who succumbed to their individual weaknesses. For example, United States President Nixon’s weakness was a thirst for power, which drove him to deceive his constituents and then resign in disgrace in 1974. His Vice President’s weakness was greed, which led to his resignation over income tax fraud. These two leaders ruined their own careers and left the country vulnerable for a long period of time.

We all have to be careful and vigilant to prevent Satan from getting his foot in our door. He has effectively scouted our team and knows the weaknesses to attack. If we allow his encroachment we not only endanger our future but the lives of those who depend on us.

By the way, not all Midianites and Moabites were bad. The Midianites were descendants of Midian, a son of Abraham and Keturah, whom Abraham had married after Sarah died (Genesis 25:1-2). The tribes re-connected when Moses married Zipporah, a Midianite (Exodus 2:15-22). As for the Moabites, one of their descendants demonstrated great faith in the God of Israel, and then married Boaz of the tribe of Judah and gave birth to Obed. Obed was the grandfather of David, second king of Israel. This Moabite woman is memorialized by a book of the Old Testament in her name: Ruth. Nevertheless, the bad elements of these nations were continually in conflict with the Israelites.

How did you react to the action taken by Phineas? Was this justified or not? Before any of us take action in anger we need to understand who was wronged and determine the appropriate act. In a civilized society we usually have some form of recourse for serious offenses, and may choose to brush off minor offenses. Unfortunately, in our society, there are many individuals with pent-up anger, one form of which is referred to as intermittent explosive disorder. The Wall Street Journal explained one manifestation of this disorder found in urban areas: Sidewalk Rage. This affliction is a close cousin of the more well-known Road Rage, in which drivers overreact to alleged offenses committed against them on the highway(1).

Phineas’ situation should not be characterized as Camp Rage. He was not reacting to an offense against himself, but to a serious offense against God, as noted by the Creator in 25:11-13. If we are angry because we feel we have been wronged or our pride has been hurt, then we probably want to keep our anger in check, consider forgiving the offender, and finding an appropriate response before we give in to a form of intermittent explosive disorder. Our good Christian leaders remind us that a sign of a mature Christians is the willingness to be truly gracious. This theme is captured poetically in the refrain of the song, "Losing," by the Christian musical group Tenth Avenue North:

    Oh, Father won't You forgive them
    They don't know what they've been doing
    Oh Father, give me grace to forgive them
    Cause I feel like the one losing

    - Tenth Avenue North

We should make a brief note on the second Israeli census from Numbers 26. The women and children were not counted during these census exercises or in other Biblical reports of numbers of people, but every one of them counts equally in God’s eyes. This is a good concept to remember – since everyone counts equally in God’s eyes, we ought to treat everyone equally and with respect and grace, regardless of gender, age, race, or other attributes – even if we find them slowing our progress on the sidewalk or other paths of life. Oh Father, give us the grace to forgive them.

"Losing," performed by Tenth Avenue North

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. What is your favorite culture outside of your native one?
    2. What is your weakness that can make you vulnerable to other forces?
    3. What is the appropriate action to respond to some of the injustices you witnessed or heard about today?
    Recommended Prayer
    Father, please help us to learn how to respond appropriately to injustices that we witness or hear about.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns
    Police officers and others who uphold the law by pursuing law-breakers


    (1) Wang, Shirley S, “Get Out of My Way, you Jerk!” The Wall Street Journal, February 15th, 2011, p D1-D4

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Numbers 27-29 (Passing the Torch)

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