1 Corinthians, Lesson 15: Baal of Peor

Moses dealing with the Israelites who had joined in the worship of Baal (610x352)In this lesson, we only covered 1 Corinthians 10:8.  A good discussion took place about the implications of Paul’s line of thinking on communion at the Lord’s Table.

We’ll continue, Deo Volente!, with the rest of 1 Corinthians Chapter 10 net week.


Paul continues to deal with the issue of whether it’s okay to eat the meat that was earlier sacrificed to idols. To deal with this issue, he continues to use Old-Covenant Israel as an example of what not to do and how not to approach God, all within a chiastic structure.

A 8:1-13 Dealing with food sacrificed to idols

.     B 9:1-10:13 Paul (9:1-27) and the Old-Covenant Israelites (10:1-13) as examples

A’ 10:14-11:1 Dealing with food sacrificed to idols

In the previous lesson, we looked into Israel and their attempt to worship God through an adopted Egyptian worship form: The golden calf. God rejected such worship, calling it idolatry and play.


Old-Covenant Israel as an Example: Baal of Peor

Paul now goes back to an incident with the Israelites, recorded in the book of Numbers. An event took place when Israel was at Shittim, before they crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land.

Read Numbers 25:1-9

Read 1 Corinthians 10:8

Remember, the Septuagint was the Greek-language Old Testament for Jesus, His Apostles, and the Church at Corinth. It connects more directly what Paul wrote about the Israelites in this section. The Septuagint says, “They [the Moabite women] invited them [the Israelites] to the sacrifices of their idols, and the people ate of their sacrifices and worshiped their idols” (Numbers 25:2, LXX). The Masoretic text uses the word “god” (Elohim).

In this case, Israel’s idolatry of a false god included sexual immorality. Paul had earlier written:

Do you not know that someone who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” But the person who unites himself with the Lord becomes one spirit with him. [1 Corinthians 6:16-17]

  • What had the Israelites done by, not just having sex with Moabite women, but by doing so within the context of false worship?


 Lesson 15, Baal of Peor


The Israelites also ate of sacrifices offered to Baal, and by this act they were joined—in both sexual and meal communion—with this false deity.

  • Apply this same warning to such eating and drinking when it involves false worship?


  • Run though the implications of this at communing at a Christian altar where you know that they are NOT celebrating the Lord’s Supper that Jesus instituted for His Church (This is my body = this is not my body; it’s only a symbol).


Excursus: Biblical Inerrancy

If you read Scripture, you will notice a discrepancy between Number 25:9 and 1 Corinthians 10:8. Numbers states that 24,000 people died in both the Masoretic text and the Septuagint. Paul mentions 23,000 in 1 Corinthians 10:8. Some have attempted to harmonize the differences. The most common way is to suggest that both Moses and Paul used round numbers (Moses did, for most likely, exactly 24,000 people did not die). But that doesn’t make sense since Paul’s Old Testament has 24,000.

This is how some have handled such discrepancies within Scripture.


Lesson 15, Biblical Inerrancy


So, how should we deal with this discrepancy, especially since we hold to “biblical inerrancy”?

Perhaps, this can help us think through biblical inerrancy in a proper way: The original texts of Scripture, the “autographs,” say what God wanted them to say in the way He wanted it said. In that sense, they are without error.

Scripture may or may not be “inerrant” based on expectations or requirements that we place on the text that God Himself did not place there. This error is not with God but with us. What God has revealed to us, through human writers, in Scripture is also to shape how we read Scripture. For example, if a writer employed poetry, we do not read it as prose. Reading it as prose would place a set of interpretational lenses on how we would understand that text, distorting or changing its meaning for us.

The Bible has within it numerous literary genres, which also help convey what God wants us know. These different forms affect us in different ways:

  • intellectually (the information of the text),
  • emotionally (forms of literary genre, including repetition, imagery, hyperbole, understatement),
  • for further meditation (poetry, implication, leaving things unstated),
  • and for the text to do what it says (performative language).

Over time, scribes have introduced errors while transcribing texts. That is why proper “textual criticism” has value. (Overall, these differences are minimal.) In the case of Paul and 1 Corinthians 10:8, the difference does not seem to be an error in transcribing the text.

To help us understand the truth that God wants us to take in about the example that Paul used with the Israelites as Baal Peor, we look to these other text of Scripture:

  • Deuteronomy 4:3: [Moses speaking to the Israelites before they entered the Promised Land:] “You saw with your own eyes what the Lord did at Baal Peor. The Lord your God destroyed everyone who followed Baal of Peor.”
  • Psalm 106:28-29: They yoked themselves to Baal of Peor and ate sacrifices offered to lifeless gods. They provoked the Lord by what they did, and a plague broke out against them.
  • Hosea 9:10: The Israelites went to Baal Peor, consecrated [LXX: alienated] themselves to shame, and became as detestable as what they loved.


  • What is the point that Paul makes concerning those who died?


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