The Scriptures record that it was Balak, the king of Moab, who actually initiated a plan to curse Israel by paying Balaam, the prophet of Mesopotamia, to come to where Israel was and curse the nation. Yet, the Bible records that Israel fought against the Midianites, defeated them and burned their cities. At least according to the Bible, Israel never attacked Moab. What exactly occurred, and is God being fair, or does he choose his enemies indiscriminately?
First of all we need to remember that both Moab and Midian sent messengers to Balaam (Numbers 22:7), for Moab and Midian were allies (Numbers 22:4). Throughout Numbers 22 to 24 Moab seems to have taken the lead role to threaten Israel with Midian taking the minor role. However, in Numbers 25 their roles seem to have reversed. Moab is now supporting the Midianite plan to undermine Israel (Numbers 25:6). Notice, too, that these events are unprovoked, because Israel had already passed by their lands and is now poised near Jericho and ready to enter the Promised Land. So, whatever is going on here, it is particularly devious.
It appears that the Israelite men began to have sexual relations with the Moabite and Midianite women (Num 25:1,6). How such liaisons began we can only guess, but they seem to be connected with the bad advice given to the Moabites by the prophet Balaam, son of Beor. Prior to this event, the king of Moab had hired Balaam to curse the people of Israel; because of the strong hand of God on his life, however, Balaam had only been able to bless them. Apparently still bent on helping the Moabite king, Balaam had stayed on in the land of Moab and Midian. Numbers 31:16 informs us that ‘[the Midianite women] were the ones who followed Balaam’s advice and were the means of turning the Israelites away from the LORD in what happened at Peor, so that a plague struck the LORD’s people.’ (Apparently the Midianites were in Moab giving military advice to the Moabites at this time). [emphasis mine]
Notice that in Numbers 25:17-18 it was the Midianites who were responsible for the plague brought on Israel. It was the Midianites who practiced deceit against Israel and ended up deceiving many. The event involving the women (Numbers 25:1, 6) was conspired by the Midianite leadership at the advice of Balaam, the prophet. Balak wished to curse Israel outright and failed, but Midian sought how to corrupt Israel into effectively defecting to Baal-Peor, abandoning Yahweh as their God. In doing this Yahweh’s blessing would have no effect upon them. They would have abandoned him and any blessing God wished to bestow upon his people. For example, Abraham Lincoln wanted to put General Robert E. Lee in command of the Union Army, but when Virginia (Lee was a Virginian) joined the Confederacy, Lee defected and led the Confederate armies against the Union. Lincoln was, therefore, unable to bestow any honor (blessing) upon Lee or Virginia. Likewise, the Israelites who participated in the defection, were in the state of rebellion against their Covenant God, whether or not they realized the gravity of their actions. The Scriptures conclude they were deceived in the matter of Peor (Numbers 25:18), so they may not have fully understood the gravity of their sin.
Therefore, this matter seems to reveal itself as doubly evil. Not only had Midian tried to curse Israel when Israel was poised to enter the Promised Land (in other words not threatening Midian or Moab), but Midian took the lead role by actively participating in seducing Israel, causing her to abandon her Covenant God, so that God’s blessings would have no effect.
 This study is based upon a much larger study of Glenn Miller’s who hosts the Christian Think Tank website. His study can be found HERE. Although I have based my study on Glenn Miller’s, he may not fully endorse my conclusions or my interpretation of his work. The reader should consult Glenn’s studies and draw his own conclusion.
 Kaiser/Davids/Bruce/Brauch, Hard Saying of the Bible (IVP:1996) page 169.