After the mountain top.
We’ve had two chapters of praise for the blessedness, prosperity and might of the Israelites and the one true God by their enemies’ seer, full of God’s spirit. Now we return to the Israelites camp and the contrast could not be greater.
This is such a biblical theme. We had it after Sinai, and after Jesus’ transfiguration.
They are weak messy and compromised by worshipping foreign Gods and breaking their strict moral code with the Moabite women.
This is a strange chapter where some of the story seems untold. A leader of the tribe of simeon brazenly brings a midianite woman to a gathering of the people. He and the woman are named, she’s the daughter of a Moabite leader, so it’s probably a political and religious alliance as well.
They are both killed by spear in their tent by a priest, who earns eternal honour by the deed. At the same time there is reference to a plague, which takes 24000 people and is stopped by the killing. Not sure if it’s a disease born by the Moab people or judgement from God or both.
In any event, it’s a tragic and dramatic contrast to how God sees them though the spirit in the previous chapter.
The Bible is a book full of mercy, but it is merciless in showing us how corrupt the human race can be. So much grace, so much need of it.