Lesser known characters :: Phinehas (son of Eleazar)

Numbers 25 in the Bible records the story of Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the high Priest who was the son of Aaron, Moses’ brother. Phinehas is known to be a man who was zealous for the Lord. When the Israelites dwelt in the land of Shittim, they start to indulge in sexual immoralities with the Moabite women, who lured and deceived the Israelites to draw away from God and turn to the worship of Baal. For this, a plague broke out among the Israelites as the Lord asked Moses to have all the men who were adulterous in following Baal, to be put to death. Amidst the grief for the loss, in the presence of the congregation of Israel, one of the Israelites, Zimri, the son of Salu, who was a leader (prince) of the chief house of Simeon, openly and blatantly brought into his tent, Cozbi a Midianite women. Phinehas, could take this atrocity no longer and he took a javelin in his hand, entered the tent of Zimri and killed both Zimri and Cozbi, by impaling them. The plague of death of the Israelites was stopped.┬áThe number of people who died that day was twenty four thousand. Because of Phinehas’ act, the Lord told Moses, that the zealous act of Phinehas turned away the jealousy of God and stopped his wrath on the Israelites (Numbers 25:11). The Lord also promises a covenant of peace and everlasting priesthood, stating that there will be always someone from the house of Phinehas, to serve him, because Phinehas was zealous for his God and made an atonement for the children of Israel (Numbers 25:13). The Psalmist reiterates the act of Phinehas in Psalm 106:28-31 and states that the act of Phinehas was credited to him as righteousness.

What can we learn from Phinehas?

Holiness and wickedness cannot commune and when sin is openly tolerated and indulged with, we must be zealous like Phinehas and act. Our actions to stand up for God can turn his wrath away from his people. Phinehas impaled those who were sinful and made atonement, but our sin had Jesus impaled on the Cross, who made the atonement for all sin. The covenant of peace and everlasting priesthood was promised to Phinehas by God and God made that possible though his Son Jesus Christ, who like Phinehas was zealous to do the will of God the Father, and turn God’s jealously and wrath, away from us sinners. Phinehas emulated the atoning work of Jesus to stay God’s wrath from his people. Can we be like Phinehas?

Numbers 25:1-18 (KJV)
1 And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab.
2 And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods.
3 And Israel joined himself unto Baalpeor: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel.
4 And the LORD said unto Moses, Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up before the LORD against the sun, that the fierce anger of the LORD may be turned away from Israel.
5 And Moses said unto the judges of Israel, Slay ye every one his men that were joined unto Baalpeor.
6 And, behold, one of the children of Israel came and brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping before the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
7 And when Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose up from among the congregation, and took a javelin in his hand;
8 And he went after the man of Israel into the tent, and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her belly. So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel.
9 And those that died in the plague were twenty and four thousand.
10 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
11 Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, hath turned my wrath away from the children of Israel, while he was zealous for my sake among them, that I consumed not the children of Israel in my jealousy.
12 Wherefore say, Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace:
13 And he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel.
14 Now the name of the Israelite that was slain, even that was slain with the Midianitish woman, was Zimri, the son of Salu, a prince of a chief house among the Simeonites.
15 And the name of the Midianitish woman that was slain was Cozbi, the daughter of Zur; he was head over a people, and of a chief house in Midian.
16 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
17 Vex the Midianites, and smite them:
18 For they vex you with their wiles, wherewith they have beguiled you in the matter of Peor, and in the matter of Cozbi, the daughter of a prince of Midian, their sister, which was slain in the day of the plague for Peor’s sake.

Psalm 106:28-31 (KJV)
28 They joined themselves also unto Baalpeor, and ate the sacrifices of the dead.
29 Thus they provoked him to anger with their inventions: and the plague brake in upon them.
30 Then stood up Phinehas, and executed judgment: and so the plague was stayed.
31 And that was counted unto him for righteousness unto all generations for evermore.