Parashah #41: Pinchas B’midbar (Numbers) 25:10-30:1

Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah#41 (Pinchas) B’Midbar 25:10-30:1
Haftarah: M’lakhim Alef (1 Kings) 18:46-19:21
B’rit Chadashah: Mattityahu (Matthew) 26:1-30

As I was writing this parashah, an interesting pattern came to mind regarding dominant character attributes of some of the main biblical characters featured in our parashot. Abraham was considered the quintessential example of hospitality; Isaac associated with justice; Jacob with confidence and charisma; Moshe associated with humility; Aaron considered the peacemaker, and Pinchas for his zealousness for G-d described by the L-rd. These character attributes combined describe those virtues that all true believers should strive to develop for G-d’s use and ultimate glory.
This week’s parashah is a continuation of the previous in that we are discussing Pinchas who was introduced in the last parashah. Why is there a break from one parashah to another? The sages say this is to show us that in matters of divine zeal, one should not expect immediate reward. In fact, we should not expect any rewards for our service to G-d. It is our reasonable service (Rom. 12:1)
Recall that The Children of Israel began whoring with the Moabite women, making sacrifices to their gods, and were bowing down to them. An Israelite brought a Midianite woman to his family’s tent, and this was more than Pinchas could stand. He impaled them both with a single thrust of his spear and the plague instituted by Adonai against the people suddenly stopped. Twenty-four thousand people were killed by the plague. In his zeal for Adonai, Pinchas “atoned” for the people, deflecting G-d’s anger (Num. 25:10). G-d made a covenant of Shalom with Pinchas who was one of Aharon’s sons, promising that he and his descendants will retain the office of cohen forever (Num. 25:12-13).
This action may cause us to ask why Pinchas was not guilty of murder according to the sixth commandment. First, we must understand what it means to be a Cohen or Priest. Secondly, we should understand that true believers are Priests according to 1 Peter 2:9: “But ye are a chosen generation (nation) a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” Thirdly, we should ask ourselves, what is the function and nature of a priest since we are now a royal priesthood? Finally, what does the 6th commandment really mean?
Aharon was chosen as the first Cohen because he “loved and pursued peace” according to the Pirkay Avot 1:12 (Sayings of the Fathers). He devoted his life to the ideal of peace. Never considering it beneath his dignity to foster love and understanding. He pursued peace between man and man, and in his role as the Cohen Gadol (High Priest), he continued his role in the Mishkan (Tabernacle) between man and YHVH. Aharon came to symbolize the ideal Cohen, the man of YHVH Elohim who strived for the welfare of others with no though of personal gain. This example typifies Yahshua, who as the perfect High Priest was obedient unto death that we might be saved.
Within the human realm, Pinchas put his own life at risk when he rushed into Zimri’s tent because there was a plague ravaging the nation. YHVH commends Pinchas for atoning for the Israelites. Pinchas acted to bring about peace between man and YHVH just like a Cohen Gadol who serves in the Mishkan. His desire to create shalom (the whole peace of G-d) between man and G-d demonstrated his worthiness of the enormous responsibility of fostering peace and understanding within the nation. The etymology of Pinchas is mixed. From the Egyptian it translates as “Nubian, or negro.” From the Hebrew it translates as “mouth of a snake,” “oracle,” or “to be complete.” Whatever the true meaning, G-d made it clear that Pinchas was not a murderer as accused by the people. Rather, he committed an act that saved countless lives. The concept of murder includes killing another human without regard for the commands of G-d such as abortion for convenience rather than ultimate danger to a woman’s or fetus’ health, but also addresses the prohibition against character assassination such as that which results from gossip.
To show the magnitude of Pinchas’ deed, the name of the Israelite man and the Midianite woman are provided. (Num. 25:14-15). Zimri was the leader of his tribe, and the woman was the daughter of a prince. Her status illustrates the Midianite hatred for the Israelites. Even her father, a prince, readily abandon his daughter to harlotry in order to seduce Israel.

Aharon’s overriding quality was his selfless desire to create shalom between man and man, one of his dominate character attributes. However, YHVH selected Pinchas, for preserving the connection between Himself and man. Both qualities demonstrate a love for the people, which reflects back on the 6th commandment. Because of this, YHVH gave to Pinchas “his pledge of peace” and appointed him and all his descendants as Cohanim in Israel. Accordingly, we who are the new priesthood (1 Pet. 2:9) should develop the same kind of love toward YHVH and for every other believer. Note that loving your brother, neighbor, and “loving” your enemies are two very different types of love. I invite you to explore this subject for your continued learning (Hint: start with defining brother, neighbor, and enemy according to the biblical definition and the Hebrew meaning of these words).

Haftarah: M’lakhim Alef (1 Kings) 18:46-19:21

Pinchas is acknowledged as the first zealot if Israel. In this Haftarah, we learn that this quality still exists within B’nai Yisra’el and is one of the characteristics of a great prophet. As Eliyahu (Elijah) 19:10, 14 reads: I have indeed been very zealous for Adonai, the G-d of armies: because the people of Israel have abandoned your covenant, broken down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword.” Elijah echoed the same sentiment and motivation for his zealous act as did Phineas.
This raises another very important point: We are to be zealous for the L-rd, but with knowledge and wisdom; not out of a rebellious, anti-Torah attitude. There is a huge difference between the two. Sh’aul addresses this very issue in Romans 10:2 “Brothers, (he is speaking to the Messianic community in Rome) my heart’s deepest desire and my prayer to G-d for Israel is for their salvation; for I can testify to their zeal for G-d. But it is not based on correct understanding; for, since they are unaware of G-d’s way of making people righteous as instead seek to set up their own, they have not submitted themselves to G-d’s way of making people righteous.” Similarly, we must remember that it is not by might nor power, but by my Sprit says the L-rd (Zech. 4:6). This is to say that the answer for what is happening in our country today is not hoarding weapons, ammunition, and planning rebellion. We are to pray, fast when we are led, study, internalize, and live Torah. Yahshua spent much time teaching his talmidim (disciples) then and us now how to prepare for what is to come. The Torah (instructions) from G-d is ALL we need. Let us not confuse zealous acts by men such as Elijah and Pinchas with many of the current movements spearheaded by those who know nothing of G-d and his Torah and think we can promote righteousness through the sword.

B’rit Chadashah: Mattityahu (Matthew) 26:1-30

In this chapter, Yahshua speaks to his talmidim (disciples) about his coming execution and Pesach (Passover, Ex. 12:1-13;16) two days hence. The central event of the original Passover was the slaughtering of a lamb “without blemish or spot” by each Israelite family, whereupon YHVH spared the firstborn sons of Israel but slew the firstborn of Egypt. When Yochanan the Immerser (John the Baptist) speaks of Yahshua as the “lamb of YHVH (John 1:29), he is evoking the imagery of the Temple and Pesach. In the B’rit Chadashah this event is called the “Last Supper,” and is so rendered in most English translations and understood to mean a Passover meal or Seder by most scholars. There is great debate about whether this “Last Supper” was Pesach, but without getting into the controversy surrounding when and what this last meal was, this event (vv.17-30) is rich with Pesach themes that provide deeper levels of meaning for the believer. Below is a list of prophecies implied from verse 24 relating to the death of the Messiah in the Tanakh and their fulfillment in the B’rit Chadashah, once again demonstrating that the Old and “New” Testaments are inextricably related.
Prophecy (the Messiah would be) Prophecy in Tanakh Fulfillment in NT
Hated without a cause Isaiah 49:7 John 15:24-25
Rejected by the Rulers Psalm 118:22 Matthew 21:42, John 7:48
Betrayed by a friend Psalm 41:9 Mt. 26:21-25, 47-50; John 13: 18-19
Sold for Thirty Pieces of Silver Zechariah 11:12 Matthew 26:15
Subject to having his price given for a potter’s field Zechariah 11:13 Matthew 27:7
Forsaken by His Talmidim Zechariah 13:7 Matthew 26: 31-56
Struck on the cheek Micah 4:14 Matthew 27:30
Spat on Isaiah 50:6 Matthew 26:67, 27:30
Mocked Psalm 22:8-9 Matthew 26: 67-68, 27:31, 39-44
Beaten Isaiah 50:6 Matthew 26:67; 27:26, 30
Executed by crucifixion Psalms 22: 17 Matthew 27:35; John 19:18,37:20:35
Executed without having a bone broken Exodus 12:46; Psalm 34:21 John 19:33-36

Thirsty during the execution Psalm 22:16 John 19:28
Given vinegar to quench thirst Psalm 69:22 Matthew 27:34
Considered a transgressor Isaiah 53:12 Matthew 27:38
Buried with the rich when dead Isaiah 53:9 Matthew 27:57-60
The One whose death would atone for the sins of mankind Isaiah 53:5-7, 12 Mark 10:45; John 1:29, 3:16; Acts 8:30-35
Raised from the dead Isaiah 53:9-10, Psalms 2:7, 16:10 Mt. 28:1-20; Acts 13:33; 1 Cor. 11:4-6
Ascended to the right hand of YHVH Psalms 16:11, 68:19, 110:1 Luke 24:51; Acts 1:9-11, 7:55; Hebrews 1:3
“Cut off, but not for himself,” 69×7 years after rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem Daniel 9:24-26 Romans 5:6; Peter 3:18

Interesting Facts: Pinchas managed to stop YHVH’s anger by killing the perpetrators which earned him the covenant of peace, shalom in Hebrew, written with the letter vav.

In the Torah, this particular vav is written with a small gap between the top and the rest of the letter. Why? The Sages say it is because YHVH wanted to show us that although peace was achieved, it was not complete because two people died in the process and every life is sacred.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart