This portion begins with YHVH commending Phinehas for being zealous for Him and thus grants him a covenant of peace, an everlasting priesthood to him and his seed. What did Phinehas do to be granted such favor? The story starts at the beginning of chapter 25. If you read the portion last week you will remember that Phinehas killed a fellow Israelite (Zimri) and a woman of Midian (Cozbi). This one act stopped a plague of YHVH that at that point had killed 24 thousand Israelites. It seems illogical, but we can commend Phinehas for doing what he had because we know it stopped the plague. I have heard and read this passage before and have wondered how Phinehas knew to kill Zimri and Cozbi, was he taking matters into his own hands? Would we know what to do in this situation? When I read through the passage again I learned that this story is not a matter of having to figuring out what to do to stop the plague, it is a matter of obeying that stopped the plague. This is a good lesson for us today. Lets examine the passage to see why Phinehas was simply being obedient.
We gather from the text that the Israelites had started to fornicate with the daughters of Moab. (Num 25:1). The fornication that the children of Israel were getting into was not just with the women of Midian, but also with their gods (v2). They were serving Baal-peor (v3). We must never forget that YHVH does not take this lightly. “Well,” you might think, “I’m safe, I don’t serve any other gods.” I believe the things in this life we put first, the things that we devote ourselves to, these are our gods. Serving other gods brings forth anger in YHVH, that is why he sent a plague to kill them. Praise Yah for his mercy and patience for we are still here today (Psalms 103:8). Do not grow complacent though, we will all be judged for our works (Mal 4:1-3).
So again, how did Phinehas know what to do? Let’s look further. First we see YHVH telling Moses that He is angry for what the Israelites are doing and He instructs Moses to hang the leaders in the open (v4). Moses next instructs the judges to kill the men joined to Baal-peor. (v5) Then Phinehas sees Zimri and Cozbi before the weeping congregation (v6). Not much is said in verse 6 but I get the impression of pride and arrogance from Zimri. Phinehas, without apparent hesitation, goes after and slays the two in the tent room (v8). From these verses I conclude that Phinehas, being a priest (judge)(v11) killed Zimri (a ruler of the Simeonites v14) thus obeying as both YHVH and Moses instructed. So it was only a matter of obedience to YHVH. This story is a lesson we should take to heart, it helps to show us the Jealousy of YHVH and advocates that we obey only Him without hesitation. If we are close to YHVH, put Him first in our lives, and are willing to do as he commands, no matter how hard the task, we should be able to do as Phinehas did, and He will bless us for it.
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