The exposition vpon the .xxv. Chapter of Numeri.
THe offence that is described in thys chapter to haue bene committed by the childrē of Israel, may seme to be wrou∣ghte by the * wicked policie of the false prophet Balaā,* who seeing before that the fauor of god was much enclined to the Israelites, did aduertise the Moabites, to suffer their wiues & daughters to be carnally abused by them, to the end that their God being * displeased with their whooredome & adulterie,* might forsake them,* and so leaue them to the daunger of theyr eni∣mies.*Page 202 This was a maruellous way wardnesse in the Israelites,* that neyther with aduersitie,* nor prosperity they could be reteined in their du∣tie toward God.* In aduersitie, they * sundry ty∣mes murmured against God.* And now in pro∣speritie being come to a * fertile coūtrey,* and ha∣uing great successe of * victorie,* they are caryed away with loosenesse and wanton lust towarde straunge women,** and thereby prouoke the hea∣uie * wrath of God against them.*
Wherfore by this example, we are admoni∣shed in bothe states of Fortune to beware, and to call earnestly vnto God for the assistaunce of his grace, that wee be not caryed from the re∣membrance of our dutie, eyther with the griefe of the tone, or with the pleasauntnesse of the tother. In this example also wee haue to ob∣serue howe perillous the companie of * wicked women is,* not onely for the grieuousnesse of whoordome it selfe,* but also for the perill: that is,* least we be ledde also by the poysoned plea∣sure therof vtterly to * forsake God,* and to con∣temne his holy lawe and true worship.*
Iustly doth Saincte Paule.* 1. Corinth. 10. admonishe vs to beware of whooredome and fornication, least the lyke perill of Gods wrath doe lyghte vpon vs also.
Page [unnumbered] The common multitude of the offenders were slayne by hande, as a•ter doth appeare: but the heades and ryngleaders of the people to that wickednesse, that is, the Princes, Magistrates, and rulers,* who shuld haue stayed and punished this foule offence,* are by God commaunded to be hanged vp against the sunne,* that their * pu∣nishement mighte be the more grieuous,* to the terror of other.* For the prince or greate person offendeth double, bothe in the filthinesse of the deede it selfe, and also in the example whereby he draweth a number to the lyke naughtynesse. Suche as the greate persons are, suche com∣monly are the people. Wherfore wel saith wise∣dom cap.* 6 The mightie persons shal myghtily be punished. A notable lesson is here to be gathe∣red of al them, which at this day make so smal accompt of fornication, whooredome, and adul∣terie, as though it were no synne at all: yea as though it were a praise or glorie to them to be knowne and taken to be suche persons.
This was a notable spectacle of the cōtempt of God and all good men, when Moyses and the people were before the doore of the Taber∣nacle bewayling and lamenting the wickednesse that was encreased among them, and by their prayers & tears, sought to turne the displeasure of God frō thē: this mā, as it were in despite of Page 203 them all, and of God himselfe, in their syghtes brought a straunge strumpet into his tent to be abused of himselfe and of his children. By this example it may appeare,* that wickednesse was growne to a very * high degree among them, seing that they had therin caste away al shame * and feare of God.* This was none of the com∣mon sort of people that cōmitted this outrage.* He was a lorde, and a noble man of the house of Simeon, & the strumpet also was a Lady or Gē∣tlewoman, the daughter of Sur, an head ruler of the Madianites. Wherby it appereth, what kinde of persons doe soonest breake out to suche foule examples of the contempt of God. And as the offence committed was greuous, so was the Authour and manner of the punishment extra∣ordinarie.
For Phinees was a priest and no ciuile Magi∣strate:* his * office was to serue God in the tēple,* and not by death to punish offenders: yet bicause the example of the wickednesse was horrible, he was stirred vp vndoutedly by the spirit of God, in the vehemencie of his zeale for Gods cause, to vse an extraordinarie punishmēt of those per∣sons, that with such despite of Gods lawe and true worship, did grieue the heartes of all good men in their heuie distresse. And therfore though this fact of Phinees be greatly praised both here and in other * places of the holy Scripture,* yet being but a peculiar instinction of God in this one cause,** it is not to be taken as an example cō∣monly Page [unnumbered] of all persons to be folowed. For if euery priuate man should take vpon him to punish of∣fences, and that by death, it would grow to very greate disorder. But Magistrates and they to * whom God hath committed the sworde,* may here learne, with how earnest zeale they should see to the repressing and punishing of synne and wickednesse, and not as commonly they doe, ey∣ther winke at it without punishment, or so tri∣flingly punishe it, that it is rather a mockerie than a punishment.
By this God sheweth, that Phinees was led by his instinction to the zelous execution of that punishment, & therfore doth not only shewe him selfe to lyke well of it, but also rewardeth him with the * perpetual annexing of the high priest∣hood to him and to his house & posteritie.* Here good princes and magistrates, may learne, that God with great blessing, will rewarde the iust, and with sharp punishment correct the authors of wickednesse and vice.