I am having a hard time connecting/understanding Parashot Balak, Pinchas, and Matot. These seem like rather difficult parashot and based on some of the commentaries I read, it seems like understanding Hebrew and the connotations associated with certain words make a big difference in the understanding of the Parashot, so I apologize in advance for the plethora of questions I have regarding these 3 Parashot.
In Parsha Balak, Balak tries to get the Israelites cursed through the prophet Balaam, he ends up blessing them instead. When Balak and Bilaam part ways, it fast forwards to the Israelites being immoral with the Midianite women, who then invite the Israelite men to worship their pagan god Baal-peor. HaShem tells Moshe to order the judges to kill everyone who was immoral with the Midianite women. Then we see a man who was caught with a Midianite (who we later find out is Zimri Ben Salu and Cozbi bat Zur). Pinchas kills them both. The “plague” then stops
Question 1) Why were they killed for sexual immorality and not Avodah Zara?
Question 2) Why was Pinchas praised for killing them both? I understand Zimri, but why Cozbi, did she know any better? Is there a Halacha that permits this (I think I read in a Chumash commentary that there is such a Halacha, but I don’t have a Chumash with me)
Question 3) Is the “plague” referring to the judges killing all the men who were being immoral as opposed to the modern definition that connotes a widespread sickness?
After learning of the identity of the 2 people Pinchas killed, HaShem tells Moshe to go to war with Midianite and says (according to the Sefaria translation) “ for they assailed you by the trickery they practiced against you —because of the affair of Peor, and because of the affair of their kinswoman Cozbi … who was killed at the time of the plague on account of Peor”
Question 4) What is the trickery being referred to, is it the sexual immorality or is it the Avodah Zara that followed/ “came” from the sexual immorality (commentaries seem to indicated that the sexual immorality enticed the Israelities to worship Baal Peor)?
Question 5) In my previous paragraph, I mention how HaShem ordered the death of all those who were sexual immoral, but here it says “the plague on account of Peor” which seems to indicate it was because of the Avodah Zara, so which one is it?
Later in Matot, the Israelite army fights the Midianites and kills all the men, they come back from battle and Moshe is angry because they spared the Midianite women “Yet, they are the very ones who, at the bidding of Balaam, induced the Israelites, to trespass against HaShem in the matter of Peor, so that HaShem’s community was struck by the plague. Now, therefore, slay every male among the noncombatants, and slay also every woman who has known a man carnally.”
Question 6) Where did Balaam tell the women to seduce the men?
Question 7) Why all the male non combatants, what did they have to do with it? Some commentaries say they men sent their wives and children to be immoral with the Israelite men, but from where are they making that assumption?
Question 8) I understand that the women are killed because of sexual immorality, but did they know what they were doing is wrong? I am under the impression that if you don’t know Halacha or what’s immoral/moral, you’re not liable if you do the wrong thing (ex. If you don’t know the laws of Kashrut, you aren’t liable for punishment since you didn’t know about them), does this not apply here? Does it change anything that the Midianites are Pagan? The Midianites knew of what HaShem did for the Israelites, but as far as I’m aware, the Midianites (including the Midianite women) didn’t know the laws HaShem gave to the Jewish people, so why are they liable?
Again I apologize for so many questions, but I would appreciate any and all insight, thanks everyone!