While Israel lived in Shittim, the people began to whore with the daughters of Moab. These invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel yoked himself to Baal of Peor. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel. And the LORD said to Moses, “Take all the chiefs of the people and hang them in the sun before the LORD, that the fierce anger of the LORD may turn away from Israel.” And Moses said to the judges of Israel, “Each of you kill those of his men who have yoked themselves to Baal of Peor.” Numbers 25″1-5
The Lord looked upon the ‘whoring’ of the sons of Israel as a national
rebellion, not an individual one. As such, God orders that the chiefs
or heads of the people be punished first.
The Hebrew word used here is rosh which is usually taken to mean the
tribal princes (literally the top man over each of the 12 tribes) and
possibly some clan leaders as well. And the type of punishment to be
meted out was to be in accordance to Deuteronomy 21:22…”If a man is
guilty of a capital offence and is put to death, and you impale him on
a pole, you must let his corpse remain on that pole overnight, but
must bury him in the same day.”
But did God really order the execution of all the tribal leaders of
Israel? Yes He did. The execution of the leaders serves not just as a
punishment for national idoltary, but also as an atonement for Israel.
As it is stated at the end of verse 4, these men should die in order
that “the Lord’s wrath may turn away from Israel”.
This is a principle that the modern Church has done everything to
disavow. We’ve even gone as fas as to say that the New Testament God
doesn’t punish us any more. I challenge you to find that principle
anywhere in the Scriptures.
Moses however turned around and ordered only that people who had
actually participated in the pagan rituals should be punished. This
was not the first time Moses has veered away from God’s direct
command, so it should not taken as a precedent. Why did he do that?
Moses’ behavior might be strange to us but it was common in his day.
What you see here is a typical behavior of tribal leaders who will
sacrifice any amount of their people to maintain their own position
and power. This is the essence of the tribal system. Like it or not,
these tribal instincts are still very much alive today, even in the
When a local church is not growing, who gets blamed? When there is sin
in the congregation, who is disciplined? When was the last time
pastors and leaders were held morally accountable for the condition of
the flock? God is not blind. He will hold spiritual leaders
accountable for the moral decline of their nations