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also, was the death of Balaam. So that this corrupt and unprincipled man was, at length, overtaken and destroyed by his own machinations.
We are told that, after uttering his last remarkable prophecy, "Balaam rose up, and went and returned to his place: and Balak also went his way." It is most probable, that we are to understand by this, his intention merely to go to Mesopotamia, his native country; for it is certain that, in a very short time after, he was among the Midianites, and then came to his untimely end.
Some have endeavored to cast the mantle of charity over parts of Balaam’s conduct, and to rescue him from the charge of being a very
bad man. But the whole tenor of the history is quite at variance with such a view of his character. Besides, the express declarations of Scripture place the matter beyond all doubt. Does not the apostle Peter say, speaking of some of the vilest und most abominably sinful persons, that they "are gone astray, following the way of Baluam, who loved the wages righteousness.” Does not Jude pronounce a wo on those equally corrupt and licentious sinners whom he describes,-because " they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core.” Must not he whom divine inspiration thus classes with the most vile and sinful, himself have been a very wicked man !
His ruling passions, the love of wealth and of worldly distinction, proved his ruin. He had light enough to guide him in the path of duty. A divine command forbade him to visit Balak. Madly persisting to do it, one obstacle after another was thrown in his way, and he told by a messenger from heaven, that he was grievously sinning against God. But he kept on. He would, if possible, pronounce the awful curse. Thrice he made the attempt, and was as often defeated, and constrained to utter blessings. A base and wily statagem was adopted, that he might prove his fidelity, to the last, to the interests of the king. And what was his reward, what the real wages of his unrighteous deeds? No royal favors of which we have any account. Or, if they were bestowed, they were unsatisfying and of short duration. The curse of God rested upon Balaam, the same curse which he would inflict
upon others, -and a speedy death closed his guilty, mortal career!
My young friend, ponder well this instructive history. See the rapid progress of sin, when the plain path of duty is forsaken, and the voice of conscience disregarded. What is your most powerful, sinful passion ? Every unrenewed heart is under the dominion of some one; and even the christian, alas ! has long to contend with sin before through grace he gains the victory.
Beware lest this ruling passion prove the ruin
soul. If it is still your master, your danger is tremendous. Struggle against it. Pray against it. Beseech God to create within you a clean heart, and to renew within you a right spirit.
The sin of the Israelites with the Moabites. Zimri. The
people numbered. Moses warned of his approaching death.
The Israelites were still encamped in the plains of Moab, near the river Jordan, and over against Jericho. Balaam, as we have seen, had devised a plot for leading them into the commission of great wickedness. The temptation succeeded; and in addition to other gross offences, many of the Israelites were enticed by the women of Moab and Midian, to unite with them in the sacrifices made to their Moses, having received a divine direction to that effect, ordered the magistrates in the several tribes and families, to take the principal men who had fallen into these grievous sins, and put them to death, by hanging them up in sight of all the people. A plague, too, it seems was spreading at the time, and making dreadful havoc. In the midst of this distress, and while the congregation of the Israelites were humbling themselves before the Lord, and weeping in front of the door of the tabernacle, Zimri, a prince of the tribe of Simeon, was guilty of a very bold and provoking sin. Defying the divine justice, and, as it were, to mock the penitential sorrow of his countrymen, he conducted to his tent a Midianitish woman, in full view of Moses, and of the people. It was a most outra. geous insult upon God himself; upon the government which he had established over the Israelites; and upon the judicial sentence that had just been inflicted upon those guilty of a similar offence.
Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, and grandson of Aaron, himself a priest, and probably one of the persons directed by Moses to bring the guilty to justice, rushed from among the congregation, with a javelin in his hand, and pursued Zimri. Following him into the tent, he despatched him, and the Midianitish woman, on the spot. She, too, was of distinguished rank, Cozbi by name, the daughter of Zur, a prince of Midian. Their elevated station
rendered the infliction of this summary act of jus. tice upon
them the more necessary. The plague was now stayed, twenty-four thousand persons having perished; one thousand of - whom, it is supposed, suffered by the arm of the law, in the public execution.
We are told, that the decided conduct of Phinehas was the occasion of the divine anger being thus turned away from the Israelites; and that the Lord was so much pleased with the zeal which he exhibited, that he conferred upon him very peculiar favors. He made with him a covenant of peace," ensuring to him the divine friendship and blessing both in this world and the next, and engaging that the office of high-priest should be perpetually held by himself and his descendants.
Moses, at this time, received a special command from God, to inflict condign punishment upon the Midianites, who seem to have been the most conspicuous in seducing the Israelites to sin, which, as we shall see, he afterwards fully carried into effect. Directions were also given to him and Eleazar, to have another enumeration of the people made from twenty years old and upwards, of all