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The Soul of a Nation-Phinehas: Zealous Patriot

Many countries have legends of their founders and the brave acts they undertook to ensure the survival of their fellow countrymen and beloved nations. These stories serve to underscore the ideals that are valued by the peopleand hold up examples of model citizens. A very public killing was at the center of this patriot’s imminent fame, but his accomplished career as a political and religious leader molded the establishment and future of Israel.

As the tribes of Israel were traveling to the plains of Moab, they camped along the Jordan across from Jericho. The King of Moab, Balak, son of Zippor, sent messengers to Balaam, son of Beor, asking him to divine a curse against the Israelites, whom he feared because of their multitudes. But because God had blessed them, Balaam could not curse them (ref. Numbers 22:1-20). Even after seven attempts to curse Israel, every one of Balaam’s curses were turned to blessing towards Israel as they left his lips (ref. Numbers 23-24).

Despite his failure to curse Israel, Balaam devised a plan to corrupt the Israelites (ref. Numbers 31:16; 2 Peter 2:15; Jude 1:11; Revelation 2:14) so that God would punish them Himself. The Diviner Balaam convinced King Balak to have the Moabite women seduce the Israelite men into indulging in sexual immorality, making sacrifices to their gods, eating of food offered to their idols, and worshiping their idols. God’s anger burned against them because they yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor and He unleashed a plague upon them which killed tens of thousands (ref. Numbers 25:1-3).

God explained to Moses that in order for His fierce anger to be turned away, they must “take all the leaders of these people, kill them and expose them in broad daylight before the Lord”. While Moses was explaining what needed to be done, a prince of the tribe of Simeon named Zimri, son of Salu, defiantly brought a Midianite woman, implied to be a temple prostitute of Baal of Peor, into the camp. This was not a secretive act, was done “right before the eyes of Moses and the whole assembly of Israel while they were weeping” over the deaths of those who had fallen due to the plague (ref. Numbers 25: 4-6).

When Phinehas, son of Elazar, the son of Aaron the High Priest, saw this, he left the assembly, took a spear in his hand and followed Zimri into the tent. He drove the spear into both the Israelite prince and into the woman’s stomach, ending the plague” (Numbers 25:7-8; Psalm 106:30).

God declared that Phinehas’ actions turned away His Righteous Anger because Phinehas was focused on preventing more of his countrymen’s deaths and restoring the Fear of God within Israel. God established His Covenant of Peace: an everlasting priesthood for Phinehas and his children after him; because he was zealous for his God, and made atonement for the children of Israel (ref. 25: 11-13).

This was just the beginning of the heroic acts Phinehas conducted on behalf of Israel.

To avenge the events of Peor which led to the plague, Moses raised an army to wage war against the Midianites, with Phinehas helping to lead the charge with the holy instruments and the sounding trumpets in his hand (ref. Numbers 31:4). The campaign was so successful that not a single person of the 12,000 man army was lost (ref. Numbers 31:48-49).

Because of this military victory, and the fact that “the Lord was with him” (ref. 1 Chronicles 9:20), Jewish tradition holds that Phinehas was one of the two spies sent to scout the walled city of Jericho.

Later, as the Israelites began to settle into their respective territories, the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh, set up a monument to commemorate their conquering the land. Because the Jordan River divided these tribes from the rest of Israel, it was misinterpreted that they were forming a separatist movement and a competing center of worship in revolt against God’s Tabernacle at Shiloh. Phinehas was again chosen to lead the military to confront the supposed insurrectionists in order to preserve the nation (ref. Joshua 22:10-13).

Though Prince Zimri’s insubordination was blatant and obvious and Phinehas’ actions were swift and just during the Peor Incident, Phinehas instead took the time to confront the leadership of the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh and ask why the altar had been built. Phinehas’ patience and wisdom prevented his fellow Israelites from going to war with each other needlessly due to a misunderstanding (ref. Joshua 22:14-33).

When faced with a legitimate crisis during the Benjamite Rebellion, Phinehas again showed that he was not a blood thirsty man, but one who went to God asking “Shall I yet again go out to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother, or shall I cease?” It was obvious he was dreading fighting his fellow countrymen and seeking another solution as he’d been presented early, but was obedient when the Lord instructed him to “Go up; for tomorrow I will deliver them into thine hand.” (Judges 20: 28)

Though Phinehas is known for his zeal confronting Prince Zimri’s disrespectful affront to people mourning those who died in the plague, Moses’ leadership, and God’s Laws, he was not a man eager to kill. His actions were done to save his fellow countrymen from further destruction from the plague and out of his zealousness for God’s Honor. When avenging the events at Peor, he ensured that every single one the 12,000 men under his command returned home. If Jewish tradition is correct, he put himself in the way of great danger as a spy within Jericho to gather intelligence, so that many of his fellow Israelites would not die en masse trying to scale the walls. When it was incorrectly believed that the commemorative altar the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh erected was a challenging religious center, Phinehas did not attack mindlessly, but was deliberate with his first understanding why they’d built their monument to prevent a needless battle. Even when war was necessary during the Benjamite Rebellion, Phinehas did not take joy in it, and inquired of God if there was a way the fighting could end. When another battle was necessary, Phinehas carried out God’s Will, even though it meant fighting his fellow Israelites.

Phinehas served as a model example of leadership and someone who placed the needs of his countrymen above his own feelings or concerns. He was not only the hero who stopped a deadly plague, but saved his nation multiple times. Because he was focused on his fellow citizens and God’s Honor, he was chosen by God to be honored by his countrymen.

Prepared by, Kent Simpson, Apostolic Prophet & Eric Sepulveda, PMT Administrator

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