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Are conservative Christian theology and liberal politics compatible?
Sunday, 10 January 2010
Zimri ben Salu, a true modern American in ancient Israel
Topic: Where in the Bible

The story of the modern American who had the misfortune of living among the Israelites during the lifetime of Moses is found in the Bible in Numbers 25.  The Moabites, and, as is stated later, the Midianites, attempted to defeat Israel by seducing its young leaders--first into sexual immorality with foreign women, then into worship of their new girlfriends' gods.  The result was predictable: "and the Lord's anger burned against them." Numbers 25:3.  Because God's wrath was burning, there was a plague among the people.  Numbers 25:8.

God instructed Moses to end the plague by exposing publicly the men who had joined in worshipping false gods, and commanding the judges to put these men to death.  Numbers 25:4-5. 

Nevertheless, a family leader named Zimri brought a Midianite woman to his family right before the eyes of Moses while the people were mourning.  Numbers 25:6. 

However, it is Flavius Josephus who adds a description of what Zimri said on this occasion that makes him sound like a true modern American:

"Yes, indeed, Moses, thou art at liberty to make use of such laws as thhou art so fond of, and hast, by accustoming thyself to them, made them firm; otherwise, if things had not been thus, thou hadst often been punished before now, and hadst known that that the Hebrews are not easily put upon; but thou shalt not have me one of thy followers in thy tyrraanical commands, for thou dost nothing else hiterto, but, under pretense of laws, and of God, wickedly impose on us slavery, and gain dominion of thyelf, while thou deprivest us of the sweetness of life, which consists in acting according to our own wills, and is the right of free men, and of those that have no lord over them.  Nay, indeed, this man is harder upon the Hebrews that were the Egyptians themselves, as pretending to punish, according to his laws, every one's acting what is most agreeable to himself; but thou thyself better deservest punishment, who presumest to abolish what every one acknowledges to be what is good for him, and aimest to make thy single opinion to have more force than all the rest; and what bI do now, and think to be right, I shall not hereafter deny to be according to my own sentiments.  I have married, as thou sayest rightly, a strange woman, and thou heares what I do from myself as from one that is free, for I truly did not intend to conceal myself.  I also own that I sacrificed to those gods to whom you did not think fit to sacrifice; and I think it right to come at truth by inquiring of many people, and not like one that lives under tyranny, to suffer the whole hope of my life to depend on one man; nor shall any one find cause to rejoice who declares himself to have more authority over my actions than myself."

Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book IV, Ch. 6 (W. Whiston, Tr.) (italics added).

While the writings of Josephus are not Scripture, Josephus' account of Zimri's speech shows Zimri to be a true American, concerned above all things with what he wanted, felt, and believed to be right.  Zimri's self-centered attitude is highly prized in America.

Moses, however, did not prize Zimri's attitude, and neither did God.  The plague among the people ended when Phinehas, son of Eleazar the high priest, followed Zimri into his tent and put a spear through Zimri and his new wife together.  Numbers 25:7-9. 


See also, Substantive Errors Involving Individual Believers.

Posted by ian_j_site2 at 9:21 PM EST
Updated: Sunday, 10 January 2010 9:32 PM EST

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