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And the LORD said unto Moses, Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up before the LORD against the sun, that the fierce anger of the LORD may be turned away from Israel.

New Defender's Study Bible Notes

25:4 heads of the people. The “heads of the people” were their leaders (compare Numbers 7:2) whom God held responsible for the sudden apostasy. The priests of Baal had inveigled many of the people to participate in a pagan feast to their fake god, one of the temptations being the prostitution which was part of the “worship.” Both the idolatry and the fornication were contrary to God’s law, and were the very sins which God had commissioned His people to exterminate from the promised land. It was essential, especially at this crucial juncture of their mission of conquest, that these gross and presumptuous sins be severely punished, before the corruption could spread further.

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