Parasha Pinchas (Phinehas)
Numbers 25:10–29:40 (30:1); 1 Kings 18:46–19:21; Mark 11:27–12:37
“The men began to indulge in sexual immorality with Moabite women, who invited them to the sacrifices of their gods. The people ate the sacrificial meal and bowed down before these gods. So Israel yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor. And the Lord’s anger burned against them.” (Numbers 25:1–3)
Last week, in Parasha Balak, the king of Moab attempted to hire the well-known pagan prophet Balaam to curse the Israelites so that he could have a military advantage by weakening God’s people through sorcery.
Although Balaam found that he could not curse the Israelites directly since God had blessed them, he did advise Balak on how to lead the Israelites into sin so that God’s wrath would come on them.
The strategy of Balaam did bear some fruit in that the Israelites were led into idolatry and immorality, and a plague decimated their numbers.
Pinchas, the grandson of Aaron, appeared at the end of last week’s Parasha as the zealot who effectively stopped the plague by thrusting a spear right through Zimri, an Israelite leader, and his Midianite mistress as they were in the act of fornication.
Their sin of fornication was not the only reason for Pinchas’ righteous indignation and zeal; it was the fact that they did so bli busha (without shame) in the sight of Moses and the whole community of Israel as they wept at the Tent of Meeting.
Because of this violent killing, Pinchas, the namesake of this week’s Parasha, threw Israel into upheaval and controversy.
It seems that his act, or even his right to act, were considered suspect.
This is hinted at in the repetition of the phrase “Pinchas the son of El’azar, the son of Aharon the Cohen” in verses seven and 11 of Numbers 25. At a time when a man’s ancestry generally mentioned only the father’s name, Pinchas’ lineage seems to be emphatically traced to his grandfather, Aaron.
Pinchas became the subject of much debate because of his questionable lineage. Why? It is likely because his mother was a descendant of Yitro, a pagan priest.
Perhaps to legitimize Pinchas as a holy man after God’s heart, the Torah traces his lineage to Aaron, the first High Priest (Cohen haGadol).
The Lord spoke to Moses saying, “Pinchas the son of El’azar, the son of Aharon the Cohen has deflected My anger from the people of Israel by becoming as zealous as I am, so that I didn’t destroy them in My own zeal.” (Numbers 25:11)
It is from Aaron that Pinchas derived his righteous zeal, which pleased God.
One Righteous Person Saves a Nation
“Therefore tell him I am making My covenant of peace with him. He and his descendants will have a covenant of a lasting priesthood, because he was zealous for the honor of his God and made atonement for the Israelites.” (Numbers 25:12)
In last week’s Parasha, sin and disobedience caused separation from God and as a result, 24,000 Israelites died in the plague.
Yet, one righteous man willing to take a public stand to uphold God’s holy ways saved the entire Israelite community from certain death.
But while the actions and motivations of Pinchas were being examined by the Israelites, God, who can see to the very core of a person, understood that his motives were pure.
He was so pleased with Pinchas’ holy anger and zeal for God’s honor that He rewarded him and his descendants with a covenant of peace and a covenant of a lasting priesthood.
While the actions of Pinchas are not to be upheld as a means to rid the world of immorality, and are still scrutinized and discussed, we can measure our own spiritual temperature using his zeal as a thermometer.
Today, sexual immorality runs rampant, not only in most nations of the world, but also within the community of Israel. The gay community often acts bli busha—without shame—openly flaunting in the streets of Tel Aviv that which God calls an abomination.
In fact, Tel Aviv’s annual gay pride event is now being promoted as a top tourist attraction for the world’s gay community.
Where are the zealots today who are willing to take a radical stand for holiness and righteousness and thereby turn away God’s wrath?
One example of Messianic Believers standing up for truth in this arena is the recent case heard before the Israeli courts of the faith-based community of Moshav Yad HaShmona.
When a gay couple, who were legally married in England, wanted to renew their vows and hold a reception at the Messianic Israeli moshav, they were turned away with the explanation that the owners follow the Bible and, therefore, could not participate in such a venture.
During the hearing, the community cited Scripture and told the judge that hosting such events would not only violate their beliefs, but ruin their business which caters to Believers.
“We do not hate homosexuals or lesbians. We love them. We simply told the court that it is God’s word in the Bible that calls homosexuality an abomination,” Ayelet Ronen, the general secretary of the village told Israel Today.
The court upheld the right of the couple to use the facility and awarded them more than $20,000 in damages.
A flood of requests from same-sex couples now wishing to use the facility has resulted in the closing of the banquet hall to avoid additional legal problems.
While some may question why a business would turn away paying customers because of their stand for the Bible, we see in this Parasha that Pinchas was not rewarded with an eternal priesthood and covenant of peace because of compromise or passivity; it came through radical action.
Yeshua (Jesus) is often seen as passively walking toward his enemies like a lamb to the slaughter, and He did selflessly and courageously offer Himself in obedience to His Father for our benefit.
But Yeshua also displayed righteous zeal for the Lord. When He cleansed the Temple of moneychangers, chasing them out by force with a whip, His disciples, witnessing His zeal, remembered these prophetic words:
“Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up (consumed me).” (John 2:17; Psalm 69:9; Psalm 119:139)
Jealousy and Zeal
The Hebrew word for zeal (kinah) is often translated as jealousy.
“Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, has turned My anger away from the Israelites. Since he was as zealous [jealous-kinah] for My honor among them as I am, I did not put an end to them in My zeal [jealousy]. (Numbers 25:11)
God considers being “zealous for My honor” a righteous jealousy and a cause for reward. In fact, one of the names of God is El Kanah (God is Jealous).
God’s jealousy is not like our own, which can quickly degrade into being suspiciously fearful of a person taking what belongs to us, for instance, our marital partner, or our business, position, fame, or fortune.
While it is wise to be good stewards and protect the relationships and possessions that God has entrusted to us, when we face such challenges, we should also remember that everything belongs to God.
Such challenges are a good time to check if we have made an idol of something meant to be a blessing.
After all, among the very first commandments are the statements “Thou shall have no other God’s before Me” and “You shall not make for yourself an idol.” (Exodus 20:3–4)
As the Creator of the Universe, God alone has the power and right to expect complete devotion. He alone has the right to be angry when His children are honoring and worshiping idols, money, pleasure, or anything other than Himself, for no person or thing is worthy of such devotion.
“The fear of the Lord is to hate evil.” (Proverbs 8:13)
Sin in the Leadership
“The name of the Israelite who was killed with the Midianite woman was Zimri son of Salu, the leader of a Simeonite family. And the name of the Midianite woman who was put to death was Kozbi daughter of Zur, a tribal chief of a Midianite family.” (Numbers 25:14–15)
The Israelite that Pinchas killed, Zimri, was the son of the leader of the Simeonite tribe. As the son of a tribal leader, people looked to him as an example of how they, too, should behave.
Zimri’s father, the tribal leader, should have brought up his son in the ways of the Lord and put a stop to Zimri’s elicit actions, but it seems that he had no Godly influence over his son.
Today, in some areas of the world, family members kill family members to protect their own “family honor” and supposedly God’s honor. But God is not in favor of any such honor killings, and the act of Pinchas should not be confused with them.
The worship of Baal by the Israelites was not a private sin within any one family. Idolatry, eating food sacrificed to gods, and fornication were rampant throughout the nation of Israel.
Zimri brought his sin not only into the Simeon family but also into the entire camp of Israel. Word would soon spread among his clan about what he was doing in his tent with a daughter of a Moabite tribal chief. If he could act out these perversions with her, why not they?
God wanted the madness to stop, so “Moses said to Israel’s judges, ‘Each of you must put to death those of your people who have yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor.’” (Numbers 25:5)
By the time Pinchas took action, the plague had already killed 24,000 people as a direct result of the nation’s sin.
The Bible, however, does not record anyone else who had enough zeal to say, “This is not right!” and follow through with Moses’ command, standing against the forces of evil that were destroying the entire nation.
The prophetic writings of the Tanakh (Old Testament), however, tell of another man with similar zeal.
Haftarah (Prophetic Portion): Taking a Stand for God
This week’s prophetic reading tells of the prophet Elijah, who also had a great zeal for protecting God’s honor.
In Haftarah Pinchas, in order to protect God’s honor among the entire nation of Israel, Elijah acts in a similar fashion to Pinchas, killing hundreds of false prophets of Baal who were leading the Israelites into false worship. In response, Queen Jezebel sends her men to find and kill him.
Elijah becomes disheartened, saying to the Angel of God:
“I have been very jealous [kinah–zealous] for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, thrown down Your altars, and slain Your prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.” (1 Kings 19:10)
Standing up for what is right is not popular with those who want to do wrong.
Hatred, lies, fines, imprisonment, or even death may result. But allowing an entire community to be led into certain death by worshiping false idols is like standing up for the enemy of God who is seeking the destruction of the entire human race.
Every Believer must choose appropriate ways in today’s culture to stand up for God. Elijah did that in his day, and God stood up for him, giving him relief from his stress by protecting his life and anointing a successor, Elisha.
When we stand up for God in righteousness, we can rely on Him standing up for us.
“Whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God. But whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God.” (Luke 12:8–9)
Receiving Our Inheritance
Later in this Parasha, we read about the laws of inheritance (yerusha), as a census is taken and the land divided in accordance with birthright.
Five tenacious sisters, the daughters of Zelophehad (who had no sons), were determined to receive their inheritance in the Land.
Moses brought their appeal to the Lord and He upheld their request, resulting in a change of Israel’s inheritance laws to include women when a father dies without a male heir.
If these women had not made their request known, they would have never received their father’s inheritance in the Land.
How often do we not receive simply because we fail to ask? The Word says, “You have not because you ask not.” (James 4:2)
Yeshua invites us to ask for what we need and desire, “Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16:24)
God can always say no, but if we don’t ask, sometimes there is no movement. As the saying goes, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Moreover, God wants us to come to Him, the Source of all good things, with our requests.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7)
Be bold in answering God’s invitation to ask for what you need, and trust Him to bring it to pass in His way and His time.
“And this is the confidence that we have in Him, that, if we ask any thing according to His will, He hears us: and if we know that He hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him.” (1 John 5:14–15)
We see from God’s attention to the request of these women that He is sometimes willing to set convention on its ear so that our needs are met.
There is nothing so small, so insignificant, or so trivial that God does not care about it, if it concerns us. While He cares for the nation as a whole, He also has His eye on each and every person within it. God’s eye is not just on the big picture, it is on the mundane details of our lives.
“He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him.” (Psalm 145:19)