All texts from NKJV

Numbers 22:2

2 Now Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites. 3 And Moab was exceedingly afraid of the people because they were many, and Moab was sick with dread because of the children of Israel. 4 So Moab said to the elders of Midian, “Now this company will lick up everything around us, as an ox licks up the grass of the field.” And Balak the son of Zippor was king of the Moabites at that time.

Numbers 25:1

1 Now Israel remained in Acacia Grove, a and the people began to commit harlotry with the women of Moab. 2 They invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. 3 So Israel was joined to Baal of Peor, and the anger of the LORD was aroused against Israel.

Numbers 25:14

14 Now the name of the Israelite who was killed, who was killed with the Midianite woman, was Zimri the son of Salu, a leader of a father’s house among the Simeonites. 15 And the name of the Midianite woman who was killed was Cozbi the daughter of Zur; he was head of the people of a father’s house in Midian.

It's clear from the above texts that it was Moab who initiated the whole incident.Both the Moabites & Midianites women must have been involved in this harlotry.When God finally executed his judgement it was the Midianites only who were punished (Numbers 31:1ff).

Why didn't God also punish the Moabites?

  • This site may provide some useful info re your question: contradictionsinthebible.com/baal-peor-moabites-or-midianites
    – tblue
    Jun 2, 2018 at 16:03
  • Because Moab, even though they had their military to defeat Israel, decided to confer to the Midianites to curse them (Numbers 22:4). And the Midianites agreed and decided to be part of Moab's forces hence why in Numbers 25, the women who had sex with the Israelites were called "daughters of Moab" even though a few verses later, it's revealed that their ethnic background is Midianite. Sep 1, 2019 at 11:15

5 Answers 5


Good question. Here are two explanations that I found interesting. Will leave it to others who are more scholarly to say how viable either might be.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Vex the Midianites, and smite them. Go to war with them, and smite them with the sword; not the Moabites, but the Midianites, though they were both confederates against Israel; but God had given a charge not to contend in battle with Moab, Deuteronomy 2:9, [(KJV) 9 And the Lord said unto me, Distress not the Moabites, neither contend with them in battle: for I will not give thee of their land for a possession; because I have given Ar unto the children of Lot for a possession.] they were spared for the sake of Lot, from whom they sprang; and, as Jarchi says, for the sake of Ruth, who was to come from them; and so in the TalmudF12; though they did not entirely escape the divine resentment, as appears from Deuteronomy 23:3 but the Midianites were the first that advised to send for Balaam, and with them he stayed and was entertained, after he had been dismissed by Balak; and it seems as if it was to them he gave the wicked counsel, to draw Israel into fornication, and so into idolatry, and thereby bring the curse of God upon them; which advice they communicated to the Moabites, and both were concerned in putting it into execution; see Numbers 22:4.



Identified verse by verse and explained using the most up-to-date scholarly information about the Bible, its texts, and the men who wrote them — by Dr. Steven DiMattei

*#297. Who led the Israelites to worship Baal of Peor: the Moabites OR the Midianites? (Num 25:1-2 vs Num 25:16-18, 31:15-16)

*#298. What was their punishment: they were impaled OR killed by plague (Num 25:4-5 vs Num 25:8, 25:18)**

   As noted previously (#287), the Balaam pericope (Num 22-24) and the Baal Peor apostasy (Num 25) both present a viable Moabite force in

northern Moab, contradictory to the traditions preserved in the Yahwist which spoke of an Amorite presence and Amorite territory. See also #282-285.

Similarly, the present story of the Israelites’ apostasy and attachment to the cult of Baal at Peor clashes pretty heavily with the rather positive presentation of the Israelites as loyal to Yahweh throughout Numbers 21-24, on account of which Yahweh had granted them a victory against the Canaanites at Hormah (but see #271-273), a victory against the Amorites in northern Moab (#282-285), a victory against the desired cursing of the Israelites by the Moabite king Balak, and future victories against Moab and Edom, and pronouncements against the Amalekites, the Kenites, and the Assyrians, but not Israel, in Balaam’s final oracle.

Theologically, then, Numbers 21-24 display no divine knowledge of the impeding apostasy here represented in Numbers 25, nor for that matter does Numbers 25 display any knowledge of the Balaam incident, nor the fact that this territory was Amorite, not Moabite according to the earlier J tradition. In other words, the present story, like the Balaam pericope, comes from a different textual tradition and was for whatever reason placed in its present position by later editors.

Additionally, there seems to be two traditions here: an earlier version where the Moabites, specifically Moabite woman, lead the Israelites into the cult of Baal, and a later reworking where the Midianites are added into the mix. For instance, the primary account of the Baal Peor incident, Numbers 25:1-5, records that the affair only involves Israelites and Moabites, But in Numbers 25:16-17 and 31:15-16 it now becomes the Midianites, exclusively, who have led the Israelites into apostasy. Furthermore, in connection with the Moabite woman of Numbers 25:1-5, the Israelites who become associated with Baal Peor “are impaled to Yahweh” facing the sun. But in reference to the Midianite storyline, Yahweh sends a plague (Num 25:8-9, 18). And while in the Midianite storyline, their role in leading Israel to apostasy is given as the pretext to exterminate all Midianites save virgin girls (Num 31:1-20), nothing is said about the Moabites!

Biblical scholars have long recognized on both thematic and linguistic grounds that the story starting at Numbers 25:6, as well as all of chapter 31, belongs to the Priestly source, and that it was the Aaronid priests themselves who added the Midianites into this story to serve their own ideology.

This should not come as a surprise. We have already seen in numerous other Priestly reworkings of earlier JE material the degradation of the Midianites, and/or the omission of both Moses’ and Yahweh’s association with Midian. So, by way of review:

• In P’s retelling of the Sinai revelation, Yahweh reveals himself to Moses while he is still in Egypt, thus not in Midian (#87). In fact, in P’s retelling there is no Midianite sojourn; Moses never goes to Midian in P!

• P ignores the tradition that Moses’ wife was a Midianite. Indeed, in the present context one wonders if Moses’ wife is among those Midianite woman commanded to be slain: “kill every woman who has known a man” (Num 31:17)

• P (as well as D) expunges from the historical record any mention of the Midianite Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, as the first priest to officiate sacrifices to Yahweh, while Aaron stood by (Ex 18:12)—an Elohist text!

• And now here in the retelling of the Baal Peor incident, P exchanges the guilty Moabite woman for Midianite woman, and thus mandates, using this as a pretext, the complete exterminate of all Midianites!

In light of these rewritings, and P’s subtle slighting of Moses at times (e.g., #93, #95, #105), scholars surmise that the Aaronid priesthood must have been uncomfortable with Moses’ Midianite connections, and what that implied—i.e., that Yahwism came from Midian! So what did the Priestly writers do? They rewrote the tradition—nay, they rewrote “history.” P completely omits Moses’ Midianite sojourn; ignores the tradition that Moses’ wife was Midianite; eliminates the Midianite priest of Yahweh, Jethro; changes the Moabite foes into Midianite foes in the story now preserved in Numbers 25:6-19; and mandates the wholesale slaughter of Midian in Numbers 25:16-18 & 31:1-20.

We might speculate that the Aaronid Priestly writer was attempting to purge Yahweh from any connections he may have had in the earlier sources to the Canaanite El or a Midianite deity or origin. What P’s El Shaddai covenant passages effectively do is claim that the deity whom the earliest Israelites-Canaanites worshiped when they built altars for El was in fact Yahweh as El Shaddai (see #11, #27, #294-296)! Likewise purging Yahweh from any sort of Midianite connection was also a way of presenting Yahweh as more Israelite in character and origin. I’ll end this with an excerpt from William Propp (Exodus 19-40, 750):

Because of Moses’ familial relationship with Jethro the priest of Midian [Yahweh’s priest!], because of Midian’s proximity to mount Sinai, because Yahweh is said to come from the south both in the Bible (Deut 33:2; Judg 5:4-5; Ps 68:8-9, 17-18) and in an inscription from Kuntillet ‘Ajrud, “Yahweh of Teman,” and because the Egyptians encountered “Yahweh Shasu” [Egyptian texts from the reigns of Amenophis III, Ramesses II, Ramesses III mention seminomads called the “Shasu of yhw3” located in the vicinity of Midian]… a popular scholarly theory is that Israel learned to worship Yahweh from Midian.

Although this view is favored, and even indorsed somewhat, by the earlier Elohist tradition and older traditions now found in the Psalms and elsewhere in the Bible, the Priestly writer sought to expunge this tradition from the historical record! Little did he know however that the new “history” he wrote to replace these older traditions would one day be assembled together with these older traditions and even centuries later labeled as “the Book” by readers who knew nothing of the Priestly writer’s agendas, concerns, worldviews, and beliefs!


They were punished as the following shows:-

Jeremiah 48:25-32 NWT "The strength of Moʹab has been cut down; His arm has been broken,’ declares Jehovah. 26 ‘Make him drunk, for he has exalted himself against Jehovah. Moʹab wallows in his vomit, And he is an object of ridicule. 27 Was Israel not an object of ridicule to you? Was he found among thieves, So that you should shake your head and speak against him? 28 Leave the cities and live on the crag, inhabitants of Moʹab, And become like a dove that nests along the sides of the gorge.’” 29 “We have heard about the pride of Moʹab—he is very haughty— About his arrogance, his pride, his haughtiness, and the loftiness of his heart.” 30 “‘I know his fury,’ declares Jehovah, ‘But his empty talk will come to nothing. They will do nothing. 31 That is why I will wail over Moʹab, For all Moʹab I will cry out And moan for the men of Kir-heʹres. 32 With more than the weeping for Jaʹzer, I will weep for you, O vine of Sibʹmah. Your flourishing shoots have crossed the sea. To the sea, to Jaʹzer, they have reached. Upon your summer fruit and your grape harvest The destroyer has descended.

2 Chronicles 20:22, 23 NWT "Jehovah set an ambush against the men of Amʹmon, Moʹab, and the mountainous region of Seʹir who were invading Judah, and they struck each other down. 23 And the Amʹmon·ites and the Moʹab·ites turned against the inhabitants of the mountainous region of Seʹir to destroy and annihilate them; and when they finished with the inhabitants of Seʹir, they helped to destroy one another." Therefore as surely as I am alive,” declares Jehovah of armies, the God of Israel,

Zephaniah 2:9 NWT "Therefore as surely as I am alive,” declares Jehovah of armies, the God of Israel, “Moʹab will become just like Sodʹom, And the Amʹmon·ites like Go·morʹrah, A place of nettles, a salt pit, and a permanent wasteland. The remaining ones of my people will plunder them, And the remnant of my nation will dispossess them."


From the tribe of Zipora the midianites God expect more. Why? Cause they allready knew God. This is the reason that they punish. We all know that the Moabites born by sin, so what one can expect from them?


God did not punish the Moabites because the Moabites are not God's chosen people and he did not give them or the other nations The Law.

In Exodus Chapter 19 Verse 5-6 God says:

Now therefore if you will obey my voice indeed, and keep my my convenant, then you shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine. And you shall be unto me a kingdom of Priests, and a holy nation. These are the words which though shalt speak to the children of Israel.

If you continue reading Exodus Chapter 19, God gives the children of Israel the 10 commandments. The law is only for the children of Israel.

  • Welcome to BHSX. Thanks for your contribution. Does your answer mean that only Israelites need keep the 10 commandments and thus, "gentiles" need not keep the 10 commandments (and the anarchy that entails) despite the fact that the NT encourages law keeping (Luke 16:17, Rom 3:21, 31, 7:7, 12-14, 21, James 2:8?
    – user25930
    Oct 29, 2018 at 21:50

No Ammonite or Moabite or any of their descendants may enter the assembly of the Lord, not even in the tenth generation. 4 For they did not come to meet you with bread and water on your way when you came out of Egypt, and they hired Balaam son of Beor from Pethor in Aram Naharaim[a] to pronounce a curse on you. 5 However, the Lord your God would not listen to Balaam but turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the Lord your God loves you. 6 Do not seek a treaty of friendship with them as long as you live.- Deuteronomy 23:3-6

In other words, the Moabites did receive their punishment. Except this time, they remain alive, knowing that they could never step foot into the Lord's assembly.

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