Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Numbers 25:4

The Lord said to Moses, "Take all the leaders of the people and execute them in broad daylight before the Lord , so that the fierce anger of the Lord may turn away from Israel."
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Anger;   Fellowship;   Israel;   Judgments;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Alliance and Society with the Enemies of God;   Midianites;   Punishments;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Balaam;   Harlot;   Idol, Idolatry;   Midianites;   Moabites;   Phinehas;   Simeon;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Balaam;   Phinehas;   Priest;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Destroy, Destruction;   Kill, Killing;   Marriage;   Prostitution;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Hanging;   Phinehas;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Mephibosheth;   Punishments;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Beth-Peor;   Chief;   Crimes and Punishments;   Midian, Midianites;   Numbers, Book of;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Beth-Peor;   Moses;   Numbers, Book of;   Phinehas;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Sanhedrin;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Baalpeor ;   Punishment;   The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary - Balaam;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Baal;   Shittim;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Ba'al,;   Punishments;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Peculiarities of the Law of Moses;   On to Canaan;   Moses, the Man of God;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Pentateuch, the Samaritan;   Punishments;   Redeemer;   Zimri (1);   Kitto Biblical Cyclopedia - Baal;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Balaam;   Chastity;   Judaism;   Sidra;   Simeon, Tribe of;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

Take all the heads of the people, etc. - Meaning the chiefs of those who had transgressed; as if he had said, "Assemble the chiefs and judges, institute an inquiry concerning the transgressors, and hang them who shall be found guilty before the Lord, as a matter required by his justice." Against the sun - in the most public manner, and in daylight. Dr. Kennicott has remarked that the Samaritan and Hebrew texts must be both taken together, to make the sense here complete: And the Lord said unto Moses, Speak unto all the heads of the people; And Let Them Slay The Men That Were Joined To Baal-Peor; and hang them up before the Lord against the sun, etc.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Numbers 25:4". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/numbers-25.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Take - i. e., assemble the chiefs of the people to thee (compare the phrase “took men,” in Numbers 16:1). The offenders were to be first; slain by the hands of “the judges of Israel” Numbers 25:5, and afterward hung up “against the sun” (i. e., publicly, openly; compare 2 Samuel 12:12) as an aggravation of their punishment. This would be done by impaling the body or fastening it to a cross. Compare Deuteronomy 21:23 note, and 2 Samuel 21:9.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Numbers 25:4". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/numbers-25.html. 1870.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And the Lord said unto Moses,.... Being provoked with the sins of the people, he called to him out of the tabernacle, or out of the cloud:

take all the heads of the people, the princes of the tribes, not to hang them, but to judge those that worshipped Peor, as Jarchi interprets it; though some think that these having sinned, were ordered to be taken and hanged, and made public examples of; but it can hardly be thought, though there were some that might be guilty of the above sins, as Zimri, yet not all of them:

hang them up before the Lord against the sun; that is, those that were guilty of idolatry: the meaning is, and which all the Targums give into, that these heads of the people were to assemble at some proper place, the court of judicature, and order the delinquents to be brought before them, and try, judge, and condemn those they found guilty, and cause them to be hanged somewhere near the tabernacle, and before it, having neglected the worship of God there, and served an idol; and this was to be done openly in the daytime, that all might see and fear; and if it was the sun that was worshipped in this idol, as some think, they were hanged against the sun, to show that the idol they worshipped was not able to deliver them; but, in the face of it, and as it were in defiance of it, they were ordered to be hanged up; and this, according to the Targum of Jonathan, was in the morning against the rising sun, and where they hung all day, and were taken down at sun setting:

that the fierce anger of the Lord may be turned away from Israel; when justice had taken place, and proper punishment was inflicted upon the criminals, whereby a just resentment was made against sin, and God glorified.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
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Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Numbers 25:4". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/numbers-25.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

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

(c) Openly in the sight of all.
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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Numbers 25:4". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/numbers-25.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

The Lord said unto Moses, Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up — Israelite criminals, who were capitally punished, were first stoned or slain, and then gibbeted. The persons ordered here for execution were the principal delinquents in the Baal-peor outrage - the subordinate officers, rulers of tens or hundreds.

before the Lord — for vindicating the honor of the true God.

against the sun — that is, as a mark of public ignominy; but they were to be removed towards sunset (Deuteronomy 21:23).

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This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Numbers 25:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/numbers-25.html. 1871-8.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

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.

Take all the heads — Take, that is, apprehend, all the heads, that is, the chief, of the people, such as were chief in this transgression, and in place and power, who are singled out to this exemplary punishment for their concurrence with others in this wickedness, which was more odious and mischievous in them.

Hang them up before the Lord — To the vindication of God's honour and justice.

Against the sun — Publickly, as their sin was publick and scandalous, and speedily, before the sun go down.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
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Wesley, John. "Commentary on Numbers 25:4". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/numbers-25.html. 1765.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Numbers 25:4 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.

Ver. 4. Take all the heads.] The chieftains: their greatness might not bear them out. Potentes potenter torquebuntur. Hell is paved, said one of old, with the bald pates of shavellings, and with the crests of great commanders, who had ever opposed with crest and breast whatsoever stood in the way of their sins and lusts.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Numbers 25:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/numbers-25.html. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Numbers 25:4. Take all the heads of the people, &c.— The next verse very fully explains what is meant by this expression; namely, all those who had joined themselves unto Baal-peor: others, however, would interpret it, take unto thee, that is, unto thy assistance, all the heads of the people; that is, all the judges: but the word them in the next clause will, under this interpretation, be very harsh. It is probable, for the reason we shall suggest by and by, that a thousand of the Israelites underwent this punishment.

REFLECTIONS.—Balaam's counsel, before he left Moab, produced a worse effect than his intended curse could have done. The alluring arts of lascivious beauty are the strongest witchcraft of the devil. Observe,

1. The crying sins that Israel committed; whoredom and idolatry. The daughters of Moab, armed with more offensive weapons than Balak's mighty warriors, with eyes full of adultery, which cannot cease from sin, and tongues smoother than oil, yet sharper than drawn swords, beset them, and (shameful to tell!) prevail. Bound in these silken cords of pleasure's lure, they run to those sacrifices which they before abhorred; for the gratification of bestial appetites they deny their God, and sacrifice to the abomination of the Moabites. Blind to the happy land before them, even at Shittim, in full view of it, they prefer a present lust to all the promises of a covenant God. Dreadful and aggravated crime! Note; (1.) They who tempt others to sin, are the most guilty instruments of the devil. (2.) The lures of women are the most dangerous of temptations. (3.) Flight is the only conquest. (4.) If once the heart be ensnared, there are no lengths into which the miserable slave of lust and beauty may not be led. (5.) Nothing more strongly tends to effect the soul's final apostacy from God, than yielding to the solicitation of the flesh.

2. The judgment of God upon them. They will buy pleasure dear, who purchase it at the price of God's displeasure and eternal damnation. Execution is immediately done upon them. They are hung up before the Lord, and a plague consumes the people. Note; (1.) The fire of lust and the flames of hell are inseparable. (2.) The plagues of God will quickly turn the sweets of forbidden pleasure into the gall of asps, and the gnawings of the worm which never dies.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Numbers 25:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/numbers-25.html. 1801-1803.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

The sense is, either,

1. Take, to wit. to thyself and thy assistance,

all the heads, i.e. the judges, as they are called Numbers 25:5, or rulers,

of the people; and in their presence, and by their help,

hang them, i.e. the people, now mentioned, to wit, such of them as were guilty, as was said Numbers 25:1. And this sense seems to be favoured by the next verse, where the execution of this command is mentioned, Moses said unto the judges of Israel, whom he had taken to himself and called together, Slay ye every one his man, i.e. each. of you execute this command of God, and hang up the delinquents under your several jurisdictions. Or,

2. Take, i.e. apprehend,

all the heads, i.e. the chief, of the people, such as were chief, either in this transgression, or rather in place and power, who are singled out to this exemplary punishment either for their neglect in not preventing, restraining, or punishing the offenders according to their power and duty, or for their concurrence with others in this wickedness, which was more odious and mischievous in them than in others. And then this must be necessarily limited to such heads as were guilty, which is evident from the nature of the thing, and from the words of the verse. And so these

heads of the people differ, as in name and title, so in place and dignity, from the judges of the people, Numbers 25:5, which may seem to note the superior magistrates, even the seventy elders, which, being persons of great worth and piety, chosen by God, and endowed with his Spirit, most probably kept themselves from this contagion, and therefore were fitter to punish others; and the heads of the people seem to be the inferior magistrates, the rulers of tens or hundreds, or the like, who as they did many of them partake with the people in other rebellions, so probably were involved in this guilt. Now these are to be hanged up as other malefactors and condemned persons were, Deuteronomy 21:23 2 Samuel 21:6.

Before the Lord; to the vindication of God’s honour and justice.

Against the sun, i.e. publicly, as their sin was public and scandalous; and speedily, before the sun go down. But withal this phrase may signify, that these also must be taken down about sun-setting, as other malefactors were, Deuteronomy 21:23.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Numbers 25:4". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/numbers-25.html. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

THE IDOLATERS PUNISHED, Numbers 25:4-9.

4.Take all the heads of the people — This command is not only to put to death the guilty Israelites, but as a strong expression of loathing and a seeming aggravation of punishment, (note, Leviticus 20:14,) as well as a most impressive warning against future idolatry, their bodies were to be impaled and publicly exposed. Dr. Kennicott remarks that the Samaritan and the Hebrew texts united make the sense of this verse complete. Speak unto all the heads of the people; and let them slay the men that were joined to Baal-peor; and hang them up before the Lord, etc.

Before the Lord — Literally, for Jehovah, that is, to placate him.

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Numbers 25:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/numbers-25.html. 1874-1909.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Numbers 25:4. Take — That is, apprehend; all the heads (or chief) of the people — Such as were chief in this transgression, and in place and power. These are singled out to this exemplary punishment for their concurrence with others in this wickedness, which was more odious, and of more pernicious tendency in them. Hang them up before the Lord — That is, either before the sanctuary, as men who had forsaken the worship of God, and were by his sentence adjudged to die; or, to the vindication of his honour and justice. Others interpret the words thus: Take unto thee, or to thine assistance, the heads, or judges of the people, and hang them up; that is, hang up such as have joined themselves to Baal-peor. This interpretation seems to be justified by the next verse, in which Moses directs the judges to do their duty by punishing the offenders. Against the sun — Publicly and openly, as their sin was public and scandalous, that all the people might see, and fear to sin; and speedily, before the sun went down. It was provided by the Jewish law, that the bodies of malefactors should hang no longer than till the evening of the day on which they suffered, Deuteronomy 21:22-23.

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Numbers 25:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/numbers-25.html. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

People. Assemble the judges, and by their sentence, hang them who have been most guilty. (Onkelos) --- If any of the judges, or princes themselves, have gone astray, let them not be spared. (Haydock) --- The Jews assert, that the malefactor was always killed before his body was hung on a gibbet; and that crucifixion was not known among them. But the contrary is asserted by many. It is not clear whether these criminals were hung by the neck, or crucified, after they had been first stoned, as guilty of idolatry, or whether they were fastened to the gibbet alive, for greater torment and disgrace. (Calmet) --- Sun; publicly. See 2 Kings xii. 11. (Menochius)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Numbers 25:4". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/numbers-25.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

said. See note on Numbers 3:40.

heads: i.e. chiefs or princes of the People. The number not stated here, but must have been 1,000, and included in the 24,000 of Numbers 25:9, and excluded in 1 Corinthians 10:8. The 23,000 mentioned in 1 Corinthians 10:8 "fell in one day": the day of the plague, verses: Numbers 25:9, Numbers 25:18. And those who were hanged prior to that (verses: Numbers 25:4, Numbers 25:5) are not included.

hang them up: i.e. impaled or nailed to a stake, as in crucifixion (Vulg, renders it "crucify", which means the same thing).

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Numbers 25:4". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/numbers-25.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

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.

Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up. The language is somewhat ambiguous, and may mean either that Moses was to take measures, with the help of "all the heads" - i:e., the judges (Numbers 25:5) - for putting to death the most noted and flagrant offenders in each of the tribes; or that the persons here ordered for execution were the officers-subordinate, but still public officers-rulers of tens and hundreds, who might have been concerned in the infamous deeds at Peor, and who, as from their dignity and power they ought to have preserved the people in their integrity, were to be consigned to a violent and ignominious death as a public warning. Israelite criminals who were condemned to capital punishment were first stoned or slain, and then gibbeted.

Before the Lord - i:e., for vindicating the honour of the true God and the fundamental principle of the national covenant.

Against the sun - i:e., as a mark of public ignominy; but they were to be removed toward sunset (Deuteronomy 21:23).

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Numbers 25:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/numbers-25.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(4) Take all the heads of the people.—The “heads” or “chiefs” of the people seem to be identical with the “judges” of the following verse. Some understand by “all the heads” those only who had been the chief offenders, whilst others understand the word “take” as equivalent to “assemble,” or “bring before thee,” and refer the word “them” to the offenders.

Hang them up . . . —It is obvious from Numbers 25:5 that the punishment of impaling or crucifying was not to be inflicted until after death. The LXX. renders the Hebrew verb which is here used (and which is found also in 2 Samuel 21:6; 2 Samuel 21:9) by the same word which occurs in Hebrews 6:6, and is there translated “to put to an open shame.”

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Numbers 25:4". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/numbers-25.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

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.
all the heads
14,15,18; Exodus 18:25; Deuteronomy 4:3; Joshua 22:17; 23:2
and hang
Dr. Kennicott remarks, that the Samaritan and Hebrew texts must be united to make the sense of this verse complete: "And the Lord said unto Moses, Speak unto all the heads of the people; and let them slay the men that were joined to Baal-peor; and hang them up before the Lord, against the sun," etc.
Deuteronomy 13:6-9,13,15; 21:23; 2 Samuel 21:6,9; Esther 7:9,10
that the fierce
11; Deuteronomy 13:17; Joshua 7:25,26; Psalms 85:3,4; Jonah 3:9
Reciprocal: Numbers 1:4 - GeneralNumbers 25:9 - GeneralDeuteronomy 21:22 - GeneralJoshua 10:26 - hanged;  2 Kings 10:6 - take ye;  Ezra 10:14 - the fierce;  Hosea 14:4 - for

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Numbers 25:4". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/numbers-25.html.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

4.And the Lord said unto Moses. We have often seen before how God executed His judgments by His own hand, as if He put it forth from heaven; He now imposes this office on Moses, although it is evident from the context that he was not appointed to execute it alone, but that the other judges were associated with him; for it immediately follows that Moses intrusted the same charge to them, and thus, what was obscure, on account of the brevity with which it is recorded, is more clearly expressed. At any rate, it was a notable judgment of God Himself, though He employed men as its ministers. Nor does Paul in vain exhort (184) us by this example to beware of fornication.

The mode of the punishment, however, was diverse, for the lower orders were slain (by pestilence,) but the leaders were hanged upon the gallows, that the sight might awaken more terror; for by “the heads of the people” he means those of the highest repute, whose ignominy must have been most notable, because the eyes of all men are generally upon the great and noble. Hence, also, they deservedly incur the heavier punishment, because obscure persons do less harm by their example, nor are their acts so generally the objects of imitation. Let, therefore, those who are held in esteem beware lest they provoke others to sin by their evil deeds, for, in proportion to each man’s pre-eminence, the less excuse he deserves. Others interpret it differently, as if Moses were commanded to fetch the princes to give their sentence against the criminals; thus by the pronoun “them” they understood whosoever should be convictcd; but it is hardly probable that so great a multitude were hanged, and therefore I do not doubt but that reference is made to their peculiar punishment:.

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Numbers 25:4". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/numbers-25.html. 1840-57.