While the Israelites are encamped at Shittim, they begin to sin with the daughters of Moab, joining in their idolatrous practices. God instructs Moses to take the tribal leaders and mete out justice against the sinners.
As Moses instructs the judges to slay those who have sinned, one man brings forth a Midianite woman and sins with her in public, causing great distress. The congregation responds by weeping and only Phineas, son of Eleazar the priest, fights back, killing both man and woman with a spear and stopping the plague. We are told a total of 24,000 people fell in the plague God sent in his wrath.
Virtual Classroom Discussion
Until Phineas acts, the Torah does not mention a plague going on. Why do you think that is?