The Israelites worship false gods
1 The Israelites were staying in Shittim. The men began to have sex with the women from Moab. 2 The women from Moab took Israelite men to watch them as they offered sacrifices to the gods of Moab. The Israelite men joined with the Moabite women to eat at their feasts. They also worshipped the gods of Moab. 3 The Israelites joined the Moabite women to worship their god, Baal of Peor. So the Lord became very angry with them.
4 The Lord said to Moses, ‘Take hold of all the leaders of these people. Hang them up during the day so that they die and people see them. Do what I tell you, so that I will no longer be angry against the Israelites.’
5 Moses told the officers of the Israelites, ‘Each of you, kill the men who have worshipped the god, Baal of Peor.’
6 Moses and all the people were at the door of the Tent of Meeting. They were weeping. While they were there, an Israelite man brought a Midianite woman into his tent. Moses and all the people could see them. 7 Phinehas, the son of Eleazar and grandson of Aaron the priest, saw what happened. So he stood up among all the people and he took a spear in his hand. 8 He went into the man's tent. He pushed the spear through the body of the man and the Midianite woman. When he did that, the bad illness that was killing the Israelites stopped. 9 But 24,000 people had already died as a result of the illness.
10 The Lord said to Moses, 11 ‘I am no longer angry with the Israelites. That is because of what Phinehas, the son of Eleazar and grandson of Aaron the priest, did. He did not want the people to worship any god except me. Because of him, I did not kill all the Israelites. 12 So you must tell him that I have promised that my peace will be with him. 13 That promise will be for him and for his descendants after him. They will always be priests. That is because he did not want the people to worship any god except me. He has removed the sin of the Israelites so that I could forgive them.’
14 The name of the man that Phinehas killed with the Midianite woman was Zimri. He was the son of Salu. Salu was the leader of a clan from the tribe of Simeon. 15 The name of the Midianite woman was Cozbi. She was the daughter of Zur. Zur was a leader of a Midianite clan.
16 The Lord said to Moses, 17 ‘Attack the Midianites and destroy them. 18 They have deceived you and they have become your enemies. They took some of you to worship their god Peor. They used Cozbi to make you do a wrong thing, and she was the daughter of a Midianite leader. Phinehas killed her on the day when the bad illness killed many Israelites at Peor mountain.’