BALAAM WAS unable to curse Israel, but the people were lured into worshiping a god called Baal-Peor—with disastrous consequences.
In His anger, God sent a plague that killed 24,000 Israelites. It was only stopped when Aaron’s grandson, Phinehas, speared a young Israelite man and Midianite woman engaged in what was probably a fertility rite.
We explain why this conflict was more than meets the eye, especially from our modern perspective. The Baal of Peor, a name that means something like “lord of the gates of hell,” was connected to veneration of the Rephaim, demonic spirits of the Nephilim called “Travelers” by the pagans in the Levant. This is reflected in the names of a station of the Exodus, Iye-Abarim (“ruins of the Travelers”), which was in the vicinity of Mount Nebo—which itself was called “this mountain of Abarim [Travelers]” (Num. 27:12).
We also explain why we believe Baal-Peor was a title given to the creator-god of the Canaanites, El, who we believe is to be identified as Shemihazah, chief of the Watchers who came to earth and commingled with human woman—the story briefly described in Genesis 6:1–4 (see also 2 Peter 2:4–10 and Jude 6–7).
In short, the episode recorded in Numbers 25 (with further explanation in Psalm 106:28–29) is spiritual warfare against the spirits of the Nephilim and the chief of the rebellious “sons of God” who created them.
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