MOSES CONTINUES his review of the Law and the history of the Israelites from the time Yahweh brought them out of Egypt. We discuss the land of Bashan and its evil reputation, the hints in the text that argue for its authenticity (like Moses complaining to the people that “the Lord was angry with me because of you”), and the prophecy of Deuteronomy 4, which foreshadows Israel’s future dispersal among the nations.
The Brazen Serpent on Mount Nebo
We also detour into a brief discussion of Mount Nebo, from which Moses would see the Promised Land, and prophecies in Amos 9 and Jeremiah 30 that show God’s unconditional promise to restore Israel to the land someday.
JUST AS Israel seemed to be on a spiritual high, the people found a way to squander the blessings of God. Again.
Last week, we looked at the effort of Balak, king of Moab, to curse the Israelites through Balaam, a pagan prophet-for-hire. Instead, Yahweh pronounced three blessings on Israel. But before Balaam left, he apparently counseled Balak on ways to entice the Israelites to curse themselves, which led the Israelites “to whore with the daughters of Moab.”
The Israelites began to worship Baal of Peor, whose rites were apparently sexual. This provoked the wrath of Yahweh, who sent a plague that killed 24,000.
If that wasn’t bad enough, Zimri, a prince from the tribe of Simeon, brought a princess from Midian into the camp and had relations with her–possibly inside the Tent of Meeting itself. (Remember, Baal was a fertility god.) Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron, grabbed a spear and killed the couple in the act, which turned back God’s wrath.
This is an incident identified by skeptics as proof of the murderous nature of Yahweh. That shows only that they don’t understand the spiritual war being fought by the rebellious bene elohim or the high stakes involved–no pun intended.