Welcome to our study of Pinchas (Phinehas), the weekly Torah portion that will be read in every synagogue around the world during this week's Shabbat (Saturday) morning service.
May you be blessed as you read along with us!
PINCHAS (Phinehas / Dark Skinned)
Numbers 25:10–29:40 (30:1); Jeremiah 1:1–2:3; 1 Peter 3:8–4:19
“Pinchas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, has turned my anger away from the Israelites. Since he was as zealous for my honor among them as I am, I did not put an end to them in my zeal." (Numbers 25:11)
Last week’s Parasha (Balak) concluded with a man named Pinchas ending a devastating plague that had come on Israel and already killed 24,000 Israelites. The plague resulted from the Israelites participating in sexual immorality with the Midianite women.
The death toll ended when Pinchas (the grandson of Aaron) killed the Israelite Zimri, a Simeonite leader who openly brought a Midianite princess into his tent.
Pinchas entered his tent and plunged a spear through both of them.
God Honors Zeal for Himself
In this week’s Parasha, we see that Pinchas’ action not only brings salvation to his people by ending the plague, he also obtains a great reward for himself from God.
God honors Pinchas with both the priesthood and an eternal covenant of shalom (peace). (Numbers 25:12–13)
It seems unthinkable that such an act of violence could bring about a covenant of peace with God, but that is what happened.
What might we learn from Pinchas? Certainly it is not that God honors violence. But what was He honoring?
God was honoring zeal for Himself.
Pinchas has been compared by the rabbis to Elijah, who also walked in Godly zeal and passion for the Lord. He boldly confronted the false prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel to prove that YHVH is Elohim.
God also honored Elijah’s zeal by promising to send him to usher in our Messianic redemption, as it is written:
“I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the coming of the great and awesome day of God.” (Malachi 4:5)
God Honors Those Who Honor Him
After the devastation of this plague, the Lord commanded that a census be taken.
Like a shepherd, whose flocks have been depleted by an attack of wolves, when the catastrophe is over, the shepherd lovingly counts his sheep to determine how many are left alive. (Rashi)
As well, the census would help prepare each tribe to receive their fair share of inheritance once they enter their promised land.
The census revealed that some clans survived even though God’s wrath had consumed their ancestors.For instance, the ancestors of Korach, the Levite who led a rebellion of 250 chieftains against Moses and tried to take over the priesthood, survived.
Korach, his home and the men with him were consumed by an earthquake and fire, yet the Scriptures say that “the sons of Korach died not.” (Numbers 26:11; see also Numbers 16:32)
These sons became the founders of a guild of psalmists whose writings are still with us today, filling a portion of the book of Psalms (Tehillim). It is generally believed that Psalms 42, 44–49, 84–85, 87–88 were written by these sons. (Aish)
Their praises were not just written, they were shouted. In preparation for warfare, they “stood up and praised the LORD, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice.” (2 Chronicles 20:19)
Like Korach's descendants, we are not destined to follow in the footsteps of our bloodline. We can choose to rise above our backgrounds, even the sin or rebellion of our own parents, to become devoted followers of God.
God Honors Women with an Inheritance
As Moses prepared to divide up the land, the daughters of Zelophehad asked for their inheritance, as their father had died without sons. God loves men and women equally and, therefore, decreed justice for the daughters by granting them their father's land (Numbers 27:1–11).
Women, even single women, can inherit what is rightfully theirs.
In a spiritual sense, the Lord is our portion, He is a God of justice and will give us our inheritance if we boldly ask for it and believe that we deserve it.
But what if the daughters of Zelophehad didn’t think they were worthy, or that because everyone else who received an inheritance were men, that they shouldn’t even ask? They would not have received their portion of the land that was due to them.
Let us not be timid, but bold in carrying out God’s invitation to ask for what we desire and trust Him to bring it to pass in His way and His time if it is His will.
We will not know if it is His will unless we ask. Yeshua (Jesus) invites us to ask for what we desire, in His name: “Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16:24)
We see from God’s attention to these women’s request, that there is nothing so small or big that God does not care about if it is something that concerns us.
He cares not just for the nation of Israel as a whole, but also for each and every individual within His Kingdom: “He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him.” (Psalm 145:19)
In his last days, Moses also had a desire, he asked the Lord to appoint a new shepherd for his sheep.
God Honors Godly Leadership
“The LORD said to Moses, Take you Joshua (Yehoshua) the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay [samach] your hand on him; And set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation; and give him a charge in their sight. And you shall put some of your honor on him, that all the congregation of the children of Israel may be obedient." (Numbers 27:18–20)
In this portion of Scripture, God delivered news that must have been a devastating blow to Moses. He was told that although he would be allowed to see the promised land, he would never be allowed to enter. (Numbers 27:12–14)
Moses still showed concern for the flock, even when he knew he would not be the one taking them into the land, so he asked the Lord to appoint a man over the assembly.
God asked Moses to transfer his authority of leadership to Joshua (Yehoshua) by the laying on of hands. This is a physical act to symbolize the transference of authority.
In Hebrew, the word for lay is samach, from which is derived the noun, smichah, the act of rabbinic ordination.
A related word, samchut, means authority. The root of this Hebrew word s-m-ch, means to trust, to support, or to rely on.
Being anointed for leadership over a group of people is a sacred trust that we may not take lightly.
We all need Godly leadership; we were created to be governed, to come undersamchut (authority). Without a shepherd, we are scattered and helpless sheep, exposed to attack on all sides.
Even though God is the ultimate authority, and Yeshua is our Great Shepherd, He will also ordain leaders to help guide and support us in our walk with Him, as did the great Biblical leadership of Moses and later Joshua.
Moses anointed Joshua, whose name Yehoshua means the Lord saves, to lead the people of Israel into their promised land.
God anointed Yeshua (shortened form of Yehoshua) to lead His followers into the promised Messianic Era.
Let us pray for the leaders of our nations and especially for the leadership of Israel to govern us with Godly wisdom and integrity in these last days. Let us also pray for the return of Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Messiah).
God Honors Israel
Between the 17th of Tammuz and the 9th of Av on the Jewish calendar (July 24 and August 14), the Jewish people are observing a period of three weeks to pause and reflect on why so many tragedies have come upon us throughout our history.
We are also to consider our own personal behavior, attitudes, and relationship with God.
On each Sabbath that falls during these three weeks, we read special prophetic portions called Haftarot of Admonition, which are meant to disturb our false sense of peace.
In fact, the word translated as admonition is d’puranuta, which means to disturb.
It is often easy to think that we are living in peace here in the Holy land. Children play in the streets and most of us dwell in cities without walls and fortifications.
Then a 13-year-old girl is stabbed to death while sleeping, a siren blasts, a rocket explodes; our sense of peace is shaken, and we must face the reality of living in a land set apart by God Himself.
In this week's Haftarah (Jeremiah 1:1–2:3), Israel is compared to the first fruits that were set apart as holy (kadosh), to be offered up to the Lord.
“Israel is the Lord’s hallowed(kadosh—קדש) portion, His first-fruits of the increase. All that devour him shall be held guilty, evil shall come upon them, says the Lord.” (Jeremiah 2:3)
It is clear that God opposes any person, nation, or force that seeks to destroy Israel.
Today, and throughout history, there is certainly a desire to see Israel, God’s holy portion, destroyed through war, terror attacks and slanderous accusations of war crimes, blood libel, human rights violations, and apartheid.
However, the Word out of Zion is this: those who seek to attack Israel are admonished to cease and desist while there is still time before even greater evil comes upon them.
“‘For I am with you,’ says the Lord, ‘to save you; though I make a full end of all nations where I have scattered you, yet I will not make a complete end of you.’” (Jeremiah 30:11)
God Honors Truth in Action
We must not think we are too weak or too timid or too young or too old, or whatever excuse we use, to fulfill our mission in God’s plan. If God is in it, He will give the strength, grace, wisdom, and boldness to do His will.
Pinchas, for instance, was not yet an elder in the community, yet he was the only one who took action against the sin that was destroying his own people.
Others had witnessed the open sin in the community, but they apparently did nothing (even Moses, Aaron and his sons).
When we stand by and wait for our leaders or friends to confront sin or the slanderous attacks against Israel in front of us, the sin or the lie just grows and infects more people. As it is said, a little yeast leavens the whole lump.
While God is not calling us to respond with spears in the backs of sinners or our enemies, we are also not to remain silent and passive.
Sometimes God is calling us to help correct a problem by speaking life into the situation, speaking truth, writing truth, living lives filled with truth is a powerful weapon against sin, especially lies.
As well, speaking blessings and words of life over those who are courageously speaking truth can bring anointing and power to them that they may not have had access to before. It builds them up in strength and helps them to persevere in the storm that comes to all who stand for righteousness.
You may be slandered for speaking life, but “even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened. But in your hearts revere Messiah as Lord. ... For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” (1 Peter 3:14–15, 17)
In addition to speaking the truth about Israel, we can speak the truth that brings eternal life by sharing the truth about who Yeshua HaMashiach is with those who do not yet know Him.
“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in the Messiah may be ashamed of their slander.” (1 Peter 3:15–16)