Zimri, a leader among the Simeonites, brazenly takes a Midianite cult prostitute into his tent—in broad daylight—in front of Moses. (Num. 25:14)
Sexual sin normally begins "under the radar," but Zimri's boldness is an act of public defiance. In essence, he is saying, "I will do what I want to do, when I want to do it, where I want to do it, and with whom I want to do it. And no one is going to stop me!"
Zimri's insolent action costs his own tribe dearly. God sends a plague that takes the lives of 24,000 men, mostly Simeonites.
Comparing the second census with the first census taken 40 years earlier reveals that seven of the tribes increased (several dramatically), and four tribes decreased minimally. The Simeonites, however, decreased dramatically—from 59,300 in the first census to 22,200 in the second census. Public, flagrant sin diminished the tribe numerically. Sadly, this tribe reflects the rashness of their forefather, Simeon, who boldly and publicly vindicated the rape of his sister Dinah during the Patriarchal Era by killing not just the perpetrator, but all of the male Shechemites (Gen. 34).
Had Phinehas, Israel's high priest, not taken action against Zimri when he did, an entire tribe could have been wiped out. Had not the High Priest, Jesus Christ, taken bold action by taking man's sin upon Himself, the entire human race would have been wiped out. Thank God for one man's action!
Private sin—under-the-radar sin—is inexcusable, but public sexual sin within leadership brings reproach upon an entire people.
The wisdom writer captures an important truth regarding sin in a community, "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people" (Prov. 14:34).
Read Revelation 2:14. What counsel had Balaam given Balak?
Moses takes a census of all those who survived the forty years in the wilderness. How does this census differ from the one taken forty years earlier (Numbers 1)?
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