The Moabites could not accomplish much with Israel by war, but they took a more manipulative tactic by seducing them into idolatry. (And of ALL people, Balaam was the one who suggested they do it! See Numbers 31:16 and Revelation 2:14!) It started out with sexual immorality with Moabite women. Sacred prostitution was common in Canaanite culture. This eventually led down the slippery slope to the worship of the Moabite gods.
God is a jealous God, and he wanted all the guilty men killed. Amid God's judgment, Zimri brought a Midianite (descended from Midian, son of Abraham, by Keturah, Genesis 25:1, 2.) woman into the camp (probably for sex). In a zealous response for God's honor, Phinehas killed them both. By doing so, he made atonement for those God was killing as a result of their idolatry, and the plague was stopped.
God honored Phinehas and his descendants because he was, per many translations, "zealous" for God's honor. The New American Standard Bible says that he was "jealous with [God's] jealousy among them,'" and I think that gets more to the heart of the Hebrew word.
Because of this incident, the Israelites were to treat the Midianites as enemies and kill them, and we will see this in Numbers 31.
For you shall not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. (Exodus 34:14)
You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God. (Exodus 20:5)
The Hebrew word for jealousy in 25:11 is qana'. It expresses a "very strong emotion whereby some quality or possession of the object is desired by the subject . . . zeal for one's own property"
(The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament).
The central meaning relates to "jealousy" in the marriage relationship. God is, essentially, Israel's husband and idolatry is spiritual adultery. Adultery in the human marriage relationship was punishable by death (Leviticus 20:10). The same was true in the spiritual relationship between God and His people. Sadly, we will see spiritual adultery committed repeatedly as we continue to make our journey through the Old Testament.
A few years ago, Oprah made some comments about God jealousy that has caused an uproar. She obviously does not understand what the jealousy of God means. We often look at it in human terms and see jealousy as a humanly negative emotion. It is not so with God.
Here is a clip of what Oprah said:
God Being a Jealous God and Oprah
God is not jealous OF Oprah, but He is jealous FOR Oprah. He wants her whole heart for her benefit!
The Scarlet Thread and New Testament Link
For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. (2 Corinthians 11:2)He was exhorting the Corinthians to let nothing distract them from pure, unadulterated devotion to Christ in this passage.
Is there anything that is leading you into spiritual adultery? Are you purely devoted to your one Husband?
Lord, rip out the idols in our lives so that we might be simply and purely devoted to You. Help us not to relax our standards in order to satisfy our desires. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.