Numbers 25:1-5 illustrates why it’s so important not to leave anyone alive when you invade a city, a lesson Joshua will take to heart in upcoming battles. While occupying Shittim, it seems there are some Israelite men so eager for some Moabite strange they’re willing to bow down to the Moabite god for a shot at some happy sexy time.
I think we’ve all seen this before. A teenage boy goes gaga over a girl who goes to a different church, and since the kid is a writhing mass of hormones, he’s perfectly willing to change his religion for a chance to enter her holy of holies. That crap may fly with today’s undisciplined youth, but not when God was hobnobbing with mortals, no sir! His response is just what we’ve come to expect from a jealous psychopath, the immediate execution of anyone who bowed down to the Moabite god, Baal-Peor.
There isn’t any explanation for what kind of god Baal-Peor is or what he stood for, but from what we’ve learned from the study of religion in the ancient Middle-East, he probably wasn’t that different from Yahweh. Sure, the races were a bit more segregated then, but it would probably be like comparing a Roman Catholic to a Greek Orthodox today.
Think about what would happen if the Pope called for the execution of any Catholic seen at an Orthodox church! There would be a public outcry, a religious protest, people would leave the church faster than if the Vatican told bishops that they shouldn’t report child-raping priests to the police.
The truth is, today’s Jews and Christians may call Muslims barbarians for thinking that apostates should be executed, but this commandment shows, plain as day, that the same holds true in their religion as well. What does it say about a god or religion that requires the murder of anyone who no longer believes what they are told to believe?