Well, first of all, when I said back in Num 21-22 that all of the unbelieving generation had perished in the wilderness through judgments and trials, that was not accurate – I apologize! There were 24,000 left of the unbelieving generation, who committed idolatry, in a trap laid for them by the women of Moab.
Israel obviously knew that YHVH was God. Why was idolatry such a trap for them? We, who are so far removed from ancient paganism, do not have a concept of the depth of its depravity. But one of the tenets of ancient paganism, was that life and everything that was created, came into being by the union of the heavens with the earth. The earth was the “female” of the two, and this is why we still see terms like mother earth or mother nature even in our culture today. So this is the lie that Nimrod taught at Babel – that the earth became pregnant by the heavens, and brought forth every living thing. In fact, modern darwinism is just ancient paganism dressed in a lab coat.
So, as part of the religious observance of paganism and idolatry, there were temple prostitutes. Idol worship involved immorality as a requirement, as a rite of worship, as a picture of the original act of the gods who were to have brought life into existence. When the women of Moab enticed the men of Israel, this is what they enticed them with, and this is why the man of Israel took the woman of Midian into his tent, and this is why Phinehas was able to kill them both with one javelin.
When the Scripture says, “So Israel was joined to Baal of Peor,” (Num 25:3) it means both literally and figuratively; physically and spiritually. Notice that it was just a minority in Israel who entered into idolatry – the rest, while all this was going on, were weeping at the door of the tent of meeting (Num 25:6).
Scripture reveals to us that this trap was suggested to Balak king of Moab by Balaam, when the whole cursing plan fell through (Mic 6:5, Rev2:14). In other words, Balaam found a way to lay a curse on Israel, without technically going beyond the word that the LORD commanded him to speak. Is it any wonder that it is such a grief to the Holy Spirit when we obey the letter of the Law while ignoring the heart that inspired that letter?
But in this plague, when 24,000 died, the last of those whose hearts were divided in their loyalites to the LORD, fell in the wilderness, and now the children of Israel were renumbered, “all who are able to go to war in Israel,” (Num 26:2), because the wilderness wanderings are over, and Israel is preparing to enter the land again.
For further study: Find the original numbering of the people in the first chapters of Numbers. How do the numbers of the children’s generation compare? Also, it might be possible that these two numberings are repeated elements that form a pair in a chiastic structure – one that would encompass most of the book of Numbers. Can you find the structure?
Finding Messiah: The leaders of those who offended the LORD, who sinned against the LORD, were hung before the LORD that His wrath might be turned away from Israel (Num 25:4). Messiah Yeshua had laid upon Him the sins of the world, and was hung before the LORD, and His wrath was turned away from Israel.
Do we realize what this means, that the fierce anger of the LORD because of sin, has been turned away from His people, because Messiah Yeshua turned it away? He acted as both offender, and priest, for He was zealous with the LORD’s zeal for Him, and so voluntarily offered Himself to be hung before the LORD, to turn His wrath from His people.