Numbers 25:1-9


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25:1 VA YESHEV YISRA-EL BA SHITIM VA YACHEL HA AM LIZNOT EL BENOT MO-AV

וַיֵּשֶׁב יִשְׂרָאֵל בַּשִּׁטִּים וַיָּחֶל הָעָם לִזְנוֹת אֶל בְּנוֹת מוֹאָב

KJ (King James translation): And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab.

BN (BibleNet translation): And Yisra-El abode in Shitim, and the people began to commit harlotry with the daughters of Mo-Av.


SHITIM: Acacia-wood, and so an odd name for a location; having said which, we have witnessed acacia as the principal material for the Ark (see Exodus 30 especially), so it is high likely that this means an acacia grove, ie a holy place, or even a shrine made from acacia. Given that every location to date had proven to be a site of pilgrimage rather more than just an oasis and/or a caravanserai...

LIZNOT: As noted in Numbers 23:28 ff, Ba'al-Pe'or, where Bil'am went to obtain the third of his oracles, was a renowned shrine of the orgiastic practices of Ba'al-worship. But once again we need to recignise that LIZNOT is a loaded statement, for what should really be KADSHUT - in the way that our media today speak of "goverments" in countries we support, but"regimes" in countries that we do not.

Generally when the Bible complains about whoring, it doesn't mean the menfolk going off to local strip-clubs and brothels, but male and female participation in the highly sexual rites of the fertility cult - this will also be the principal complaint of Yesha-Yahu (Isaiah) and other prophets later on. But the very name of the place gives this away.


25:2 VA TIKRE'NA LA AM LE ZIVCHEY ELOHEYHEN VA YOCHAL HA AM VA YISHTACHAVU LE ELOHEYHEN

וַתִּקְרֶאןָ לָעָם לְזִבְחֵי אֱלֹהֵיהֶן וַיֹּאכַל הָעָם וַיִּשְׁתַּחֲווּ לֵאלֹהֵיהֶן

KJ: And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods.

BN: And they called the people to the sacrifices to their gods; and the people ate, and bowed down to their gods.


ELOHYHEN: Note the feminine - the fertility rites were always focused on the goddess rather more than the god, in this case Anat, the wife of Ba'al

YOCHAL: Eat what? Treyf?


25:3 VA YITSAMED YISRA-EL LE VA'AL PE'OR VA YICHAR APH YHVH BE YISRA-EL

וַיִּצָּמֶד יִשְׂרָאֵל לְבַעַל פְּעוֹר וַיִּחַר אַף יְהוָה בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל

KJ: And Israel joined himself unto Baalpeor: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel.

BN: And Yisra-El joined himself to the Ba'al of Pe'or; and the anger of YHVH was kindled against Yisra-El.


PE'OR: And the man who just delivered, or failed to deliver, an oracle on behalf  of the Beney Mo-Av was named?... Bil'am ben Be'or, which may not be the correct pronunciation of his name anyway; in 
Yehudit it is בְעֹר, or an explanation of which see my notes to Numbers 22:5. But my real question here is: are Be'or and Pe'or in fact the same name, but one of them mis-heard or mis-pronounced? Gesenius reckons Pe'or means "hiatus", but gives no explanation. Brown-Driver-Briggs reckon it might even be "BA'AL ME'OR בַּ֫עַל מְּעוֺר proper name, masculine Numbers 25:3,5; Deuteronomy 4:3 (twice in verse); Psalm 106:28; Hosea 9:10, Baal of Peor (VB) i.e. worshipped at מְּעוֺר q. v.; or Baal-P. (whence Peor as proper name, of a location); compare Di Numbers 25:3 BaudStud. ii. 233BaeRel 14, 210."
Can we assume, regardless of the solution to the above, that what is happening now is connected with Bil'am and his prophecies? After all, listening to oracles is one of the things you do when you go to acacia groves for the fertility rites. 


25:4 VA YOMER YHVH EL MOSHEH KACH ET KOL RASHEY HA AM VE HOKA OTAM LA YHVH NEGED HA SHEMESH VA YASHOV CHARON APH YHVH MI YISRA-EL 

וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל מֹשֶׁה קַח אֶת כָּל רָאשֵׁי הָעָם וְהוֹקַע אוֹתָם לַיהוָה נֶגֶד הַשָּׁמֶשׁ וְיָשֹׁב חֲרוֹן אַף יְהוָה מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל

KJ: And the LORD said unto Moses, Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up before the LORD against the sun, that the fierce anger of the LORD may be turned away from Israel.

BN: Then YHVH said to Mosheh: Take all the leaders of the people, and hang them in the face of YHVH, in the face of the sun, that YHVH's fierce anger may turn away from Yisra-El.


Oh dear, here he goes again! It is fascinating, scrutinising these pages in close detail rather than simply listening to the buzz of words as they pass through one's ears in synagogue, and then, usually, without even looking at the script, to recognise how very different was the god of Mosheh from the god of the prophets, from the god of the Talmudic Rabbis, from the god of the mediaeval Rabbis (and very different too, in the Sephardic and Ashkenazi worlds), from the various concepts of the deity that now exist in the multitude of worlds that have almost nothing else in common but their claims to originate in tales like this one. Jews who refuse to pronounce any of the god's names, saying only Ha Shem or the made-up Elokim, Jews who have chosen to christen their deity God... but this deity, this Life-and-Nature-god who rages constantly, stamping his tectonic feet and lavating the eruptions of his blood pressure, spewing flood-water from his inflamed nostrils, this deity is not the one whom any modern Jew would recognise, or Christian either. Where Mosheh and the prophets saw in him an explanation of those parts of the world they could not comprehend or control, so in fact do we, but what we do not understand is very different, mostly abstract, rather more human, the absence of Peace, Justice, Mercy and Compassion in the world, of Shalom, in its broadest sense, which is why the construct of the Messiah has become so central.

   But this is theology, and TheBibleNot has supposedly eschewed theology...

Note that at no time does YHVH blame Mosheh for poor leadership and demand his head; nor does Mosheh ever accept that his poor leadership may be the reason for all these murmurings and wanderings from the zigzag path of YHVH's desert journey of the soul.


25:5 VA YOMER MOSHEH EL SHOPHTEY YISRA-EL HIRGU ISH ANASHAV HA NITSMADIM LE VA'AL PE'OR

וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה אֶל שֹׁפְטֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל הִרְגוּ אִישׁ אֲנָשָׁיו הַנִּצְמָדִים לְבַעַל פְּעוֹר

KJ: And Moses said unto the judges of Israel, Slay ye every one his men that were joined unto Baalpeor.

BN: And Mosheh said to the judges of Yisra-El: Slay every one his men that have joined themselves to the Ba'al of Pe'or.


This is not actually the instruction given to Mosheh. Nor is it in any way halachically acceptable, by the laws that Mosheh has been given in the previous chapters. He does not have authority to tell the judges how to rule; they have that authority, and are instructed on how to handle the courts, with a minimum of two witnesses; and the precise punishment for idol-worship, such as the one for adultery, or for going with temple prostitutes, whether male or female, is not hanging. What in fact we have is Mosheh, if I may put it this way, "trumping" YHVH.


25:6 VE HINEH ISH MI BENEY YISRA-EL BA VA YAKREV EL ECHAV ET HA MIDYANIT LE EYNEY MOSHEH U LE EYNEY KOL ADAT BENEY YISRA-EL VE HEMAH BOCHIM PETACH OHEL MO'ED

וְהִנֵּה אִישׁ מִבְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בָּא וַיַּקְרֵב אֶל אֶחָיו אֶת הַמִּדְיָנִית לְעֵינֵי מֹשֶׁה וּלְעֵינֵי כָּל עֲדַת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְהֵמָּה בֹכִים פֶּתַח אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד

KJ: And, behold, one of the children of Israel came and brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping before the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.

BN: And, behold, one of the Beney Yisra-El came and brought to his kinsmen a woman of the Bene Midyan, in full view of Mosheh, and in full view of all the congregation of the Beney Yisra-El, even while they were making their complaint at the door of the tent of meeting.


Let us not forget that Tsiporah, Mosheh's first wife, is a Bat Midyan (and an odd coincidence, that her name was Tsiporah, meaning "little bird", and the king of Mo-Av in our story is Balak ben Tsipur). Then, we have been told, the Beney Yisra-El have gone off whoring with Banot Mo-Av, but this woman isn't Bat Mo-Av. And why are they "weeping" outside the Ohel Mo'ed? I have translated it as "complaining", because the intention may be that they have come to Mosheh to demand he do something about the "whoring", and even then, at that moment. But I might also venture to suggest that a different answer lies in Ezekiel 8:14, though it may lie in Jeremiah 31:15


25:7 VA YAR PINCHAS BEN EL-AZAR BEN AHARON HA KOHEN VA YAKAM MITOCH HA EDAH VA YIKACH ROMACH BE YADO

וַיַּרְא פִּינְחָס בֶּן אֶלְעָזָר בֶּןאַהֲרֹן הַכֹּהֵן וַיָּקָם מִתּוֹךְ הָעֵדָה וַיִּקַּח רֹמַח בְּיָדוֹ

KJ: And when Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose up from among the congregation, and took a javelin in his hand;

BN: And when Pinchas ben El-Aazar, the grandson of Aharon the priest, saw it, he rose up from the midst of the congregation, and took a spear in his hand.


Clearly Mosheh has lost all authority, if even the son of the High Priest (we witnessed El-Azar's initiation in that role in Numbers 20:25 ff) is going to form a one-man lynch-mob and carry out summary justice with a spear.


25:8 VA YAVO ACHAR ISH YISRA-EL EL HA KUBAH VA YIDKOR ET SHNEYHEM ET ISH YISRA-EL VE ET HA ISHAH EL KAVATAH VA TE'ATSAR HA  MAGEPHAH MEY AL BENEY YISRA-EL

וַיָּבֹא אַחַר אִישׁ יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶל הַקֻּבָּה וַיִּדְקֹר אֶת שְׁנֵיהֶם אֵת אִישׁ יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאֶת הָאִשָּׁה אֶל קֳבָתָהּ וַתֵּעָצַר הַמַּגֵּפָה מֵעַל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל

KJ: And he went after the man of Israel into the tent, and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her belly. So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel.

BN: And he speared the man of Yisra-El through the stomach, both of them indeed, the man of Yisra-El, and the woman through her belly. So the plague was stayed from the Beney Yisra-El.


KUBAH: Where does King James get "tent" from. The root is KAVAH, and it is quite simply the stomach; the word is mostly used for the stomachs of ruminatings animals (see for example Deuteronomy 18:3)

MAGEPHAH: what plague? A plague of whoring? Of venereal disease consequent upon whoring? Of leprosy sent by YHVH in his tantrum? This episode does not add up. But it also requires us to go back to the "Ten Plagues" of Mitsrayim, and the volcanic eruption that was described as a plague in Numbers 12, and recognise that what we mean by plague and what the Tanach means by plague are as different as - as AVODAH and AVODAH for "slavery" and "worship".


25:9 VA YIHEYU HA METIM BA MAGAPHEH ARBA'AH VE ESRIM ALEPH

וַיִּהְיוּ הַמֵּתִים בַּמַּגֵּפָה אַרְבָּעָה וְעֶשְׂרִים אָלֶף

KJ: And those that died in the plague were twenty and four thousand.

BN: And those who died by the plague were twenty-four thousand.



Does that include the ones who were hanged by the judges? But again, what plague? None has been mentioned, or described, until these last two verses.

pey break


Sedra Balak ends here.


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