Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
The records of the neighboring cities of the plain, and the circumstances of the origin of Moab (Gen 19:30 ff) suggest that the people among whom Israel was now thrown were more than ordinarily licentious.
And they called - i. e., "the daughters of Moab called."
Joined himself - i. e., by taking part in the sacrificial meals as described in the last verse. Compare Exo 34:15; Co1 10:18. The worship of Baal was attended with the grossest impurity, and indeed partly consisted in it Hos 4:14; Hos 9:10.
Baal-peor - i. e., the Baal worshipped at Peer, the place mentioned in Num 23:28 (compare Baal-meon, Num 32:38). (The identification of this god with Chemosh in Num 21:29 is now given up.)
Take - i. e., assemble the chiefs of the people to thee (compare the phrase "took men," in Num 16:1). The offenders were to be first; slain by the hands of "the judges of Israel" Num 25:5, and afterward hung up "against the sun" (i. e., publicly, openly; compare Sa2 12:12) as an aggravation of their punishment. This would be done by impaling the body or fastening it to a cross. Compare Deu 21:23 note, and Sa2 21:9.
A Midianite woman - literally, "the Midianite woman," the particular one by whom he had been enticed (compare Num 25:15 and Num 31:18). Her high rank proves that Zimri had not fallen in with her by mere chance, but had been deliberately singled out by the Midianites as one whom they must at any price lead astray.
Weeping before the door of the tabernacle - The plague Num 25:9 had already broken out among the people: and the more God-fearing had assembled at the door of the tabernacle of God (compare the marginal reference.) to intercede for mercy, when Zimri committed the fresh and public outrage just described.
Into the tent - The inner recess in the tent, fashioned archwise, and appropriated as the sleeping-chamber and women's apartment.
Twenty and four thousand - Paul Co1 10:8 says "three and twenty thousand," following probably the Jewish tradition which deducted one thousand as the number slain by the hands of their brethren.
Hath turned my wrath away - The signal example thus made of a leading offender by Phinehas was accepted by God as an expiation (literally in Num 25:13 "covering;" see the note at the typical significance Lev 1:4), and the exterminating wrath which had gone forth against the whole people was arrested Psa 106:30.
The act of Phinehas must be regarded as exceptional. It was an extraordinary deed of vengeance, justified by the singular atrocity of the crime which provoked it; but it does not confer the right to every man to punish summarily any gross and flagrant breach of divine law committed in his presence. Compare the act of Mattathias (1 Macc. 2:24-26).
The act was its own justification. Its merit consisted in the evidence it gave that the heart of Phinehas was right before God. He was "zealous with God's zeal," and abhorred the presumptuous wickedness of Zimri, as God abhorred it. He therefore risked his own life by dealing according to their deserts with two influential and defiant evil-doers; and his act, done in the face of Moses and the people, and for them, was accepted by God as a national atonement; and rewarded by the people (compare the leadership assigned to him in Num 31:6; Jos 22:13).
My covenant of peace - Equivalent to "the covenant of My peace." God established with Phinehas in particular that covenant which He had made generally with all his people; and among its blessings peace is especially mentioned, because of the peace between God and the congregation which Phinehas had brought about. As an additional gift there is assigned to him and his seed forever the office of peace-making, the legitimate function of the priesthood (compare Eph 2:14); and the covenant was thus to him a covenant not only of peace but of life (compare the marginal reference). Phinehas became highpriest after the death of his father Eleazar, and the office, with a short interruption from the days of Eli to those of David, when for unknown reasons it was filled by the descendants of his uncle Ithamar, was perpetuated in his line; nor indeed is it known to have departed from that line again until the typical priesthood of the sons of Aaron was merged in the actual priesthood of the Saviour of mankind.