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Torah Commentary Blog

Parashat Matot (July 19, 2014)
by Sherry Nehmer

WHO WERE THE MIDIANITES?

The history of the Midianite people is interwoven with that of the Israelites. Midianites are related to Israelites through Abraham; his second wife (or some say concubine) was the mother of six boys, one of whom is the Midianite ancestor. Joseph was sold by this brother to Midianites. Moses spent his years of voluntary exile in Midian and took Zipporah, a Midianite woman, for his wife. In the parashah Pinchas, we learn of Cozbi, daughter of the Midianite chief Zur, who was speared by Pinchas together with Zimri, the son of a Simeonite chief whom she seduced. Midianite seductions of Israelites, in which the Israelite men begin to worship the Midianite god Baal-peor, are stated as an offense to God worthy of death.

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