Parashat Pinchas - July 15th

פינחס Pinchas

Numbers 25.10—30.1

The end of parashat Balak and the beginning of parashat Pin’khas (Numbers 25.11, 13), confront us with an all-out participation in idolatry and harlotry on the part of the Children of Israel. “The people began to commit harlotry with the women of Moab. They invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel was joined to Baal of Peor.” (Numbers 25.1-3).

Upon such infidelity and defilement, committed by those who belonged to him (see Leviticus 20.26), God’s justice and righteousness had to be appeased (Leviticus 26.15-18). He therefore commanded Moses to hang in broad daylight the leaders of the people, whom he held responsible for this flagrant transgression (vs 4). Moses, for his part, failed to follow these orders completely (vs 5). Hence, another audacious scene ensued. This time a leader from the tribe of Simeon dared to fornicate with a Midianite princess, right in front of the Tabernacle and in sight of all the congregation of Israel (vss 6, 14-15).

Phinehas the Priest took it upon himself to mete out justice, by piercing to death the two wrongdoers. He thus brought to an end the plague that had taken a severe toll of 24,000 souls (vv. 8, 9). Had the leaders of the people been hung, as God had originally ordained, the punitive curse would have fallen on them. But when that did not occur, and further sin was performed, it was the execution by piercing (‘spilling of blood,’ see Exodus 12.13; Deuteronomy 21.8b) which prevented further consequences. And so we read: “Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned back my wrath from the children of Israel, because he was zealous with my zeal among them, so that I did not consume the children of Israel in my zeal. . . . He was zealous for his God, and made atonement for the children of Israel” (Numbers 25.11,13 italics added).

Humanity’s sin was laid upon Jesus when he hung on the tree. “Having become a curse for us (for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’)” (Galatians 3.13, Deuteronomy 21.23; see also 1 Peter 3.24); by giving up his life blood, Jesus averted the all-pervasive judgment and curse of death that had been incurred by Adam’s race (Romans 3.25, 5.9,14; Ephesians 1.7 etc.). While hanging on the tree Jesus, as prophesied in Zechariah 12.10, was also pierced in his side (John 19.34).

Thus, in line with God’s righteous requirements (Romans 3.22, 25), Jesus the “Mediator” (1 Timothy 12.5; Hebrews 8.6, 9.15, 12.24) and High Priest (Hebrews 6.20, 7.24) interposed, atoned, and propitiated (Romans 3.25) for sin. The Son of God, as the Prince of Peace, made it possible for man to be reconciled to his Creator (Isaiah 9.6; Acts 10.36; Romans 5.1). It is no wonder, therefore, that when “Phinehas stood up and intervened, and the plague was stopped . . . that [it] was accounted to him for righteousness” (Psalms 106.30-31 italics added). Moreover, Phinehas’ reward was “a covenant of peace, and it shall be to him and his descendants after him a covenant of an everlasting priesthood” (Numbers 25.12-13 italics added), foreshadowing not only the mediating and atoning death of the Prince of Peace, but also his everlasting priesthood (after the order of Melchizedek), as expressed in Hebrews 6.20 and 7.24.

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Numbers 27.15-17: “Moses said to the Lord, ‘Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation, who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in; that the congregation of the Lord may not be as sheep which have no shepherd.’”

The Messiah, son of David, will be a shepherd to the sheep of Israel. “He will feed his flock like a shepherd, he will gather the lambs in his arms, he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” (Isaiah 40.11; see also Ezekiel 34.8-24.)

“As he went ashore he saw a great throng, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.” (Mark 6.34). “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10.11)

[BSI/rp]

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Haftarah: 1 Kings 18.46—19.21

Shabbat Shalom!

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