Numbers 25, Psalm 68, Isaiah 15, 1 Peter 3

Numbers 25

Numbers 25:6–8 (ESV) 6 And behold, one of the people of Israel came and brought a Midianite woman to his family, in the sight of Moses and in the sight of the whole congregation of the people of Israel, while they were weeping in the entrance of the tent of meeting. 7 When Phinehas 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.

The people had begun whoring with the daughters of Moab and yoked themselves to Baal of Peor (the local representative of the Baal, the Canaanite god of fertility). The LORD told Moses to hang all the chiefs in the the sun before Him that His fierce anger would turn away from Israel. When Phinehas saw one of the idolatrous Israelites with a Midianite woman, he killed them with a spear and stopped the plague that God had sent into the camp of Israel. At the time the plague was stopped, it had killed 24,000 (Num. 24:9). Interestingly, the sending of this plague by God is not mentioned, only its ending. The combination of God’s decree to hang the chiefs, the plague and Phinehas’ actions to assuage His wrath all point to the depth God’s righteous anger toward idolatry.

Psalm 68

Psalm 68:34–35 (ESV) 34 Ascribe power to God, whose majesty is over Israel, and whose power is in the skies. 35 Awesome is God from his sanctuary; the God of Israel—he is the one who gives power and strength to his people. Blessed be God!

The word “power” is repeated three times in these two verses. The Hebrew word used means “strength, power, might, i.e., a condition in which one can exert great force or withstand great force, with a focus of having ability to do what is desired, intended, or necessary”. When applied to God, this power is of the highest degree and David describes how His power is given to His people. God’s power is awesome and we do not thereby possess all of it when given to us, but by His Spirit we are empowered with the strength to face every circumstance and for this we are to bless our great God.

Isaiah 15

Isaiah 15:6–7 (ESV) 6 the waters of Nimrim are a desolation; the grass is withered, the vegetation fails, the greenery is no more. 7 Therefore the abundance they have gained and what they have laid up they carry away over the Brook of the Willows.

Isaiah prophecies that Moab would soon experience economic and ecological disaster. Whatever abundance they gained would be carried off by the enemy as spoils of war, likely a result of an Assyrian campaign. Among many things, this speaks to the fleetingness of accumulating earthly possessions. As Matthew Henry says, “Those who are eager to get abundance of this world, and to lay up what they have gotten, little consider how soon it may be all taken from them.” Let us then lay up for ourselves a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.

1 Peter 3

1 Peter 3:3–4 (ESV) 3 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— 4 but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.

Peter gives admonition to husbands and wives on proper conduct and first approaches wives on how their adorning should be internal rather than external. The theme of God looking on the heart is significant throughout Scripture. We see that “man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” (1 Sam. 16:7) and that God gives “strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.” (1 Chron 16:9). It is the hidden qualities of the heart that are most precious to God. The shimmer of externals will pass away but the beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit is imperishable.

Carson on Numbers 25

…if we recall that under the agreed covenant of this theocratic nation, the stipulated sanction for both blatant adultery and for idolatry was capital punishment, and if we perceive that by obeying the terms of this covenant (to which the people had pledged themselves) Phinehas saved countless thousands of lives by turning aside the plague, his action appears more principled than barbaric. Certainly this judgment, as severe as it is, is nothing compared with the judgment to come.

Carson gives proper context to Phinehas’ killing the Israelite man and Midianite woman. On its own, it could be construed as barbaric, but Phinehas’ actions stopped the plague of God’s righteous judgment. Phinehas was aligned with God—jealous with God’s jealousy—to which God responded by speaking of Phinehas, “‘Behold, I give to him my covenant of peace, and it shall be to him and to his descendants after him the covenant of a perpetual priesthood, because he was jealous for his God and made atonement for the people of Israel.’” (Num. 25:12-13).