Zimri, a leader among the Simonites, brazenly takes a Midianite cult prostitute into his tent. In broad daylight. In front of Moses.
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 Simonites.
Comparing the second census with the first census taken 40 years earlier reveals that seven of the tribes increased (several increased dramatically) and four tribes decreased minimally, while the Simonites decreased dramatically—from 59,300 in the first census to 22,200 in the second census. Public, flagrant sin diminished the tribe of Simeon 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 (Genesis 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” (Proverbs 14:34).
Older Post"While Israel was staying in Shittim, the men began to indulge in sexual immorality with Moabite women, who invited them to the sacrifices to their gods. The people ate and bowed down before these gods." (Numbers 25:1-2)
"Abstinence isn't realistic at all," said Bristol Palin in response to an interview about her teenage pregnancy. What Bristol Palin is saying is, "I have no self-control in this area of my life and that is okay." She is stating, "The flesh, not God, rules my life," and that "obeying God isn't realistic at all."
This philosophy leads us to ask the following question: Why is God so hard on sexual immorality? God gave the children of Israel many dietary regulations without explaining why He did so. It was always a faith issue: will I trust God with what I don't understand? Paul, however, answers that question in 1 Corinthians 6:13, 15, 16, 18:
"Food is for the stomach and the stomach for foods, but God will destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body . . . Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not! . . . Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For ‘the two,’ He says, ‘shall become one flesh’ . . . Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body."
Paul's explanation indicates that a spiritual violation occurs when a man engages in sexual relations with a harlot. Sexual immorality flows out of idolatry. When your heart drifts away from God your physical and sexual passions soon follow. Sexual revolution is just that: it is a revolt against God.
Paul lists the sexually immoral (fornicators, adulterers, homosexuals, and sodomites) alongside idolaters, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers and extortionists; he declares that none of them will inherit the kingdom of God. Thankfully he describes what happens when the sexually immoral encounter Christ: "And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Cor. 6:9-11).
The Gospel of Jesus Christ promises cleansing and change. So abstinence is realistic for those belonging to Jesus Christ.
Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
- What accompanies sexual immorality in this narrative?
- What does this tell you about an immoral woman's influence?
- What happens that provokes such strong action from Phinehas?
- How does God view Phinehas' response?
- What does sexual immorality cost Israel?
- When does this event occur in Israel's timeline?
- What does the second census reveal?
- In the division of the land, how does God ensure that the division is fair?
Turning truth into prayer:
Pray for the marriages in your church and for your youth as they navigate in a sexually-driven culture.