Numbers 31:16 – Balaam Succeeds


Numbers 31:16


When he was not able to curse the Israelites directly, Balaam then turned to cynical use of Midianite and Moabite women as inducements to idolatry, leading to the removal of God’s protection of Israel, temporarily.


The seer who did not see so clearly saw his way to curse the Israelites after all. Balaam was not allowed to pronounce a curse on Israel, but he did figure out a way to remove God’s protection. The Midianite women used sex as a pretext to induce the Israelite men to worship their god, the Baal of Peor. Absolute disaster was narrowly headed off by the violent reaction of the priest Phinehas to an Israelite man having sex with a Midianite woman as the rest of Israel was weeping in front of the tabernacle. (Some commentators speculate that the ‘tent’ which the couple are in is the tabernacle itself, which would explain the zealous rage of Phinehas, since they are defiling the sanctuary.) Phinehas kills Zimri and the Midianite princess Cozbi with one spear, averting God’s wrath and stopping the plague that killed 24,000 Israelites (Numbers 25:1-15). Paul will later conflate the sins of idolatry and sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 10:7-8).