Bamidbar (Numbers) 25:10–30:1
My dear brothers and sisters, I know I’ve said it before, but I am saying it again: please take time to read the Word of God! Even if you’ve read it many times before! His Word is living and breathing; He can reveal new things to you in every period of your life. I can share from personal experience that since I started writing this blog on the parasha (the weekly Scripture portion), which is read in synagogues throughout the world, I am constantly amazed by new insights the LORD gives me, even though I’ve read these portions many times before.
As I was reading this week’s portion about Pinchas (“Phinehas” in English), I wondered how we would respond to his actions in this day and age:
Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned away My wrath from the sons of Israel, in that he was jealous with My jealousy among them, so that I did not destroy the sons of Israel in My jealousy. Therefore say, ‘Behold, I give him My covenant of peace; and it shall be for him and his descendants after him, a covenant of a perpetual priesthood, because he was jealous for his God, and made atonement for the sons of Israel.”
In order for us to fully understand the story here, we need to revisit the end of our reading from last week:
While Israel remained at Shittim, the people began to play the harlot with the daughters of Moab. For they invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel joined themselves to Baal of Peor, and the LORD was angry against Israel. And the LORD said to Moses, “Take all the leaders of the people and execute them in broad daylight before the LORD, so that the fierce anger of the LORD may turn away from Israel.” So Moses said to the judges of Israel, “Each of you slay his men who have joined themselves to Baal of Peor.”
Then behold, one of the sons of Israel came and brought to his relatives a Midianite woman, in the sight of Moses and in the sight of all the congregation of the sons of Israel, while they were weeping at the doorway of the tent of meeting. When Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he arose from the midst of the congregation, and took a spear in his hand; and he went after the man of Israel into the tent, and pierced both of them through, the man of Israel and the woman, through the body. So the plague on the sons of Israel was checked. And those who died by the plague were 24,000.
In our day and age, Pinchas’ actions would be considered extremely heinous; it would probably be looked upon as premeditated murder. However, in God’s eyes, this act of jealousy or zealousness was an act of courage and faith; as a result, He rewarded Pinchas with a “covenant of peace”.
While I by no means suggest that killing a person, regardless of the motive, is right, I believe that this parasha (as well as the end of last week’s) shows us how easy it is to fall away from God’s Word and His instructions. God clearly instructed Moses to execute the leaders of Israel who allowed such sin to enter the camp. However, what Moses did was a bit different than what God had told him to do. He told the judges, i.e. leaders, to slay any man who partook in idol worship.
Now, I don’t mean to be harsh on Moses. He was an amazing leader of Israel but he was not perfect. Once again, we see how Moses failed to follow God’s clear instructions. However, Pinchas’ zeal for the Lord was great and he killed the Israelite man who had brought the Midianite woman into his tent. Pinchas’ zeal for God's commands ended up saving more lives by satisfying God's wrath on behalf of the entire nation of Israel.
God’s Word is clear; we either choose to accept his statutes, or not. We either apply them into our lives, or not, to receive them or not.
Are you zealous for the Lord and for His Word?