Is Cozbi in the House?
Brian D. Dykstra, teacher at Hope PR Christian School in Walker, MI
“And the name of the Midianitish woman that was slain was Cozbi, the daughter of Zur; he was head over a people, and of a chief house in Midian” (Num. 25:15).
The Israelites were camped just east of the Jordan River. The fulfilment of God’s promise to give Abraham’s children the Promised Land was near. The anticipation and excitement of the people were palpable. Israel defeated the Amorites, possessing their land and living in their cities. Better things were yet to come!
Israel was now in Shittim. Since the people did not complain about a lack of food or water, which they did not hesitate to do, we can assume Israel was supplied with both. As there was no struggle to obtain the basic necessities of life, perhaps there was some leisure time to explore the offerings of the world around them. Numbers 25:1 tells us, “the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab.”
Israel was the peculiar treasure of God. From the descendants of Terah, Jehovah established His covenant with Abraham, not Lot and his son Moab. God then distinguished among the offspring of Abraham, decreeing that the covenant seed would be called in Sarah’s son Isaac, not Hagar’s son Ishmael or Keturah’s son Midian.
God gave Israel His commandments and the laws which governed His people’s social and religious life. God was not to be worshipped the same way the heathen worshipped their idols. The nations around Israel were supposed to be able to tell that God’s people were a separate and distinct nation.
Moab heard what God had done to Egypt. Moab knew of Israel’s recent destruction of the Amorites. Though the Israelites were the descendants of slaves and had spent nearly forty years as nomads in the wilderness, it was clear Israel was a serious threat. Moab had enmity for God’s covenant people. Moab, though witnessing the blessings of Jehovah resting upon Israel, did not repent, put away her idols and ask to participate in some way in Israel’s covenant life. Moab would repeatedly oppose Israel through the rest of her history.
The Midianites joined Moab in hostility against God’s people. The Midianites were also distant relatives of Israel. The Midianites were nomads, not having any fixed territory of their own. From time to time, they lived near Moab. Now these nations had a common interest in opposing Israel. Did Midian bear a grudge against Israel? Was the record of Genesis 25:5-6 told from father to son? “And Abraham gave all that he had unto Isaac. But unto the sons of the concubines, which Abraham had, Abraham gave gifts, and sent them away from Isaac his son, while he yet lived, eastward, unto the east country.” Can you hear the Midianites complain, “What! You mean our forefather wasn’t even deemed worthy to be in the same area as Abraham’s precious Isaac but was sent away!”
Moab’s king, Balak, knew something must be done to stop Israel. Balak had enough sense not to fight Israel on the battlefield, so he sent for the prophet Balaam. What made Israel so fearsome was that Israel was blessed by Jehovah. All that needed to be done, therefore, was to have Jehovah’s curse placed upon Israel. Israel would then be no different from any other nation and Balak could take his chances against them in war. Balaam found he could not curse those whom God had blessed. Balaam pronounced God’s blessing upon Israel, spoke of Israel’s coming glory and the destruction of Israel’s enemies.
Balaam, however, was not finished yet. God’s church could not be destroyed by pronouncing God’s curse to be upon them but what could be done was to corrupt God’s church so that the church could no longer be distinguished from the world. The Israelites could be enticed into idolatry by encouraging relationships with Moab’s women. The women of Midian were willing to join in this effort. The Zondervan Bible Encyclopedia has this in its entry regarding Balaam, “His teaching involved the most contemptible action ever conceived in an unregenerate heart. Corrupt a people you cannot curse and God will have to chasten them. In short, this means to take a people under divine blessing and deliberately lead them into sin to strip them of the divine blessing.”
It worked. God punished Israel with a plague and twenty-four thousand people died. Those who feared God were weeping before the door of the tabernacle. Did they feel too corrupt to enter to bring their supplication to God? While these people wept, Zimri, a son of one the important families of Simeon, brazenly took a Midianite woman to his tent. No imagination was required to determine what Zimri had in mind.
The Midianite woman was Cozbi. She was not a daughter of some low-level goat herder. She was the daughter of a man who was the leader of an important house in Midian. She was a princess. In our day, Zimri, one of the elite in Simeon, and Princess Cozbi would be among the trend setters, those pursued by the paparazzi.
Phinehas the priest followed them into the privacy of Zimri’s tent and killed them both with a javelin. The plague was stayed and the Lord’s anger was turned. God rewarded Phinehas for being zealous and God told Moses to fight Midian so this could not happen again.
Satan continues his attempts to corrupt God’s people. It has worked before. Satan has had success in the areas of heresy, doctrinal indifference and false ecumenism. The boundary between what calls itself the church and the world is continually blurred.
Yet I am convinced an area in which Satan enjoys great success is in the various dramatic presentations of Hollywood. Satan would have us grow accustomed to the vilest of sins by having them presented so often that we hardly even notice. We know we are to be distinct as God’s people but being different from the world does not come easily to our nature. Hollywood is a great teacher when it comes to setting examples about how to act, talk, dress and what to value in life. Not watching the productions of Hollywood can make us appear to be as outdated as zipperless clothes and the Amish buggy, beard and wimple. Who wants to be as weird as that?
How much of Hollywood’s drama enters the privacy of our homes through television, cable services, videos and DVDs? Are these corruptions made pure by taking them into the privacy of covenant homes? Is it nobody else’s business? Is there no adverse effect on Christ’s people?
Zimri thought he could do as he pleased in the privacy of his tent. Nobody else should care. Zimri thought, “I will have my sinful pleasure in my tent, and the rest of you prudes can go right ahead and weep in front of the tabernacle as much as you please.” Phinehas thought differently. Zimri’s action did have an effect on the covenant community at large. Are we corrupting ourselves with worldly entertainment? The actresses of Hollywood are as so many Cozbis to instruct us and our children in the ways of the world. Is Cozbi in the house?