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

Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue

Parashah#41 (Pinchas) B’Midbar 15:10-30:1

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

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

Before we begin, I want to share a little story that relates to our perception of peace:G-d promised Pinchas a “covenant of shalom.” The prophet Isaiah said that one day there will be universal peace, when “the lamb will lie down with the lion” (Isaiah 11:16).One beautiful Sunday, Berel decided to go to the local zoo with his wife and children. As he neared the lion’s cage, he was astonished to see a lamb lying peacefully with a lion beside her. “That’s wonderful,” he cried. “Finally, Isaiah’s prophecy is realized.” Berel ran to the zookeeper. “My congratulations! You have finally made everyone see that peace is at hand. But tell me, how do you make the lion lay down with the lamb?”“It’s no problem,” replied the zookeeper. “Every morning, I simply put another lamb in the lion’s cage!”

The moral of this story is that sometimes we might think we have peace about us, but until Messiah’s return this kind of peace is only an illusion. This is the type of peace Israel will experience during the first 3 ½ years of the Tribulation. Still, we must continue to do everything we can to usher in G-d’s peace in the world This is known as Tikkun olam; repair of the world.

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. Recall that The Children of Israel began whoring with the Moabite women, started 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. 24,000 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 makes a covenant of Shalom with Pinchas who is 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.” Finally, we should ask ourselves, what is the function and nature of a priest, since we are now a royal priesthood?

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.

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. YHVH on the other hand, selected Pinchas, for preserving the connection between YHVH and man. Both qualities demonstrate a love for the people. Because of this, YHVH gave to Pinchas “his pledge of peace” and appointed hem 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).

Another section of this parashah I want to call to your attention is Chapter 27 1-11. This is where we learn of just one example of how G-d treated women fairly. It was the custom to pass land, possessions, and position from father to son. However, M’nasheh had no sons, only five daughters, thus disqualifying them from inheriting land. They were brave enough to speak up and question the custom and G-d honored them. This is why Moshe gave land to the daughters of M’nasheh as scripture states in Numbers 32. Furthermore, G-d sets the rules for passing an inheritance through the family that was and is to “be the standard for judgment by the people of Israel, as Adonai ordered Moshe.” However, as many of us know, man has diverged from this standard as evidenced by the fighting we read of among families when a family member leaves this world. Sadly, some of you may have experienced this yourselves. It is a sad testimony to the way man has lost sight of life’s priorities according to G-d’s Torah.

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 invoking 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 a continuing 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. **

** The table cannot be inserted in its proper format on the website. If you would like to see it, please e-mail me and I will be happy to send it to you.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Tamah Davis