Sin of Peor

Dot McGinnis
Reproduced with Permission

There are many temptations that plague us, as Christians, because we live in the permissive society that we do. Sexual sins like fornication, adultery, and homosexuality are some of the ones that are most prevalent. Even those in position of leadership, within the body of Christ, need not think that they are beyond being tempted in these areas.

In 1 Corinthians 10:12 it says, "Therefore, let any one who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall" (RSV). In the book of Numbers, chapter 25, we see a perfect example of this when the leaders, of the people of Israel, found themselves caught up with the sexual permissiveness that pervaded their day. Their experience is commonly referred to as the seduction of Israel, or the sin of Peor, and it speaks very harshly to those involved in sexual immorality -- especially those in positions of leadership.

Before Israel could cross over the Jordan river, to enter into the land of Canaan, they had one last mountain to climb; the mount of Peor. It was the only thing that stood between them and the promised land.   Peor was located near the mount of Pisgah and overlooked the land of Jeshimon; a wilderness that embraced both sides of the Dead Sea. While they were staying in the land of Shittim, near the mount of Peor, the Israelite men began to indulge in sexual immorality with the Moabite and Midianite women. They attended their sacrifices and bowed down, and worshipped their god (the god of Peor); causing the Lord's anger to burn against them.

Because Israel had allowed themselves to be seduced by the Moabites and Midianites, the Lord instructed Moses to take the leaders of the people, kill them, and expose them in broad day light; so that His wrath would be appeased.   When Moses and the Israelites heard God's decree, they all wept before Him at the tent of the meeting ... all of them, that is, except for one Israelite man named Zimri. He blatantly defied the Lord by bringing a Midianite women into his tent, in front of Moses and the whole assembly of Israel, parading his lust before them as they were weeping.   Moved by righteous indignation, Phinehas, the priest, followed Zimri into his tent, took a sword in his hand, and drove it through him and into the Midianite woman's body; killing them both. Zimri, the Israelite man who was killed, was a leader of a Simeonite family. The Midianite woman, Cozbi, was a daughter of Zur; a tribal chief of Midian.

The meaning of the names, that are mentioned within this passage, are very suggestive and might be able to help us understand, more fully, all that occurred in the seduction of Israel. Peor, the name of the mountain Israel faced, for example, means "opening." Pisgah, the peak which stood near by, means "fortress."    Anytime we allow an unsurrendered area to remain within our lives, we provide Satan with an opening; a means of entering in. Once he's given access to a certain area, he is then able to enter in and build a fortress or stronghold there. There is a possibility that this is exactly what Zimri did.

In Deuteronomy 1:15 and Numbers 23:9, we see where Zimri was once a wise and respected man among the community of Israel. He was someone who had separated himself unto the Lord and was chosen by Moses to occupy a position of leadership among the people. Zimri's name means"celebrated" and, being a man of his standing, he would have indeed been celebrated among his peers. He appears to be someone who had everything going for him -- until he met Cozbi.   Cozbi's name means "deceitful" and Zimri's lust for her presented Satan with the opening he needed. Before Zimri knew it, he'd been caught up in the deceitfulness of sin and was hopelessly ensnared by his own passions and lusts. It's interesting to note that Cozbi, the woman responsible for Zimri's downfall, was the daughter of Zur; which means, "the rock." Cozbi was a daughter of the rock.

Even though Zimri knew the requirements God placed upon his chosen ones, it appears as if he momentarily lost sight of who he was and what was expected of him. Nothing seemed to be more enticing to him than thoughts of being with Cozbi.   His relationship with the Lord, his family, and his position in the community all seemed to have lost their importance. Nothing seemed to matter anymore. He appears to have had no concern about what effect his actions would have on the community of Israel. He gave no thought to the lives that would be destroyed on his account. It seems as if Zimri's eyes were temporarily blinded and, in the heat of lustful passion, he could see no further ahead than the moment at hand -- a moment that demanded the satisfaction of his lusts.

Phinehas used a sword to kill Zimri and Cozbi. Through out scripture the sword is often symbolic of either the wrath of God, the written Word of God, or the spoken Word. The sin, in Zimri's life, was exposed by the sword of a righteous man.   Those, who find themselves entangled in the grips of sexual immorality, should take heed. For, sin will eventually be exposed. It might be through the wrath of a righteous God. For, sin cannot dwell in His presence. It might be through His Word that exposes the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12-13). Or, it might be through the words of a righteous man ( 2 Samuel 12).

Our God has a standard of holiness and he expects those in positions of leadership to measure up to it. They, sometimes though, fall short of the mark and yield to temptation with their eyes wide open, fully aware of what they're doing and the consequences involved; yet, yielding still.   Just like Zimri, they end up taking the values and moral standards they've embraced, for years, and willingly abandon them -- all for a moment of pleasure; a pleasure that is short lived, however. For, our God is righteous and holy, and he demands that those who walk before him, as his representatives, walk uprightly and blamelessly.

Those who choose to disgrace and defile the office of leadership that has been bestowed upon them, as Zimri did, will eventually reap their due reward. They will not go unpunished forever. This is, perhaps, the most sobering truth contained in the sin of Peor.

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