Today, I am reading and commenting on Numbers 25-26.
Reading this passage again today, I realized that the men who had sexual relations with Moabite and Midianite women did not consider it to be anybody’s business but their own what they did. Since the women they were have sex with were not Israelites they did not think the Israelite community had any say in their behavior toward them. This attitude is reflected in the behavior of the man who brought a Midianite woman to his tent in front of the gathering of the people, despite Moses having called out such behaviors. We are accountable to our community for our behavior, even if the “victims” of our bad behavior are outside of our community. That wording does not adequately convey the lesson from this passage. Phinehas’ actions seem rather harsh, yet 24,000 people among the Israelites died from the plague spread because of men behaving the same as the man whom Phinehas killed. I do not advocate that we follow Phinehas’ example, but we need to hold our fellow believers accountable, and allow our fellow believers to hold us accountable, for being faithful to God’s commands.