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Parashat Pinchas - Quick Summary

Weekly Torah Reading

Parashat Pinchas ("Phinehas")

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Brit Chadashah


Numbers 25:10-30:1

1 Kings 18:46-19:21

Romans 11:2-32

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Torah Reading Snapshot:

Last week's reading (Balak) introduced us to Pinchas (Phinehas), the son of Eleazar the priest (and grandson of Aaron), who, during the rebellion at Baal Peor, zealously removed evil from Israel by driving a spear through a tribal prince who was fornicating with a Midianite princess. On account of Pinchas' zeal, God stopped the plague and Israel was delivered from destruction.


This week's parashah begins with the LORD rewarding Pinchas by granting him a "covenant of peace" (בְּרִיתִי שָׁלוֹם) and brit kehunat olam, the covenant of perpetual priesthood.

The parashah begins:

Numbers 25:10-11 (BHS)

And the LORD said to Moses,"Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, has turned back my wrath from the people of Israel, in that he was jealous with my jealousy among them, so that I did not consume the people of Israel in my jealousy. (Numbers 25:10-11)

Pinchas - A Type of Messiah

When Aaron received the promise of the priesthood from the LORD, it meant that his children and their descendants would be part of the Kohanim (priestly) class. However, since his grandson Pinchas had already been born, he did not automatically receive this honor, especially since his father Eleazar (the son of Aaron) was married to a Gentile bride (i.e., Eleazar married a Midianite daughter of Jethro [Putiel] as mentioned in Exod. 6:25).

When Pinchas risked his life by killing Zimri the nassi (prince) of the tribe of Simeon, the LORD rewarded him by making him a kohen (priest) and promising him a "covenant of peace."  The LORD further promised him - and his descendants after him - brit kehunat olam, a "covenant of a perpetual priesthood, because he was jealous for his God and made atonement (kafar) for the people of Israel." This is a clear picture of Yeshua the Mashiach and His greater priesthood (i.e., His descendants of whom He is Firstfruit).

The broken Vav and Yeshua

Soferut (i.e., the laws concerning the scribal arts of writing Sefrei Torah) requires that all Hebrew letters be "well-formed" - that is, no letters can touch other letters and no letters can be malformed, broken, or otherwise illegible. However, there is a strange exception to these rules regarding the Vav that appears in the word "shalom" Numbers 25:12:

Numbers 25:12 (BHS)

"Behold, I am giving to him my covenant of peace."

In a Torah scroll, the word shalom is written like this:

Broken Vav

On a "sod" level we can further think of this broken Vav as picture of the brokenness of the Messiah for our ultimate deliverance. How so? Well, since Vav represents the number of Man, the broken Vav represents a man that is broken. In this particular pasuk (verse), the man has been broken for the sake of a covenant of peace that brought atonement to Israel - a clear picture of Yeshua the Mashiach and His ultimate deliverance for us. Note further that the broken word shalom could also be read as שׁלים, meaning "complete," indicating that the covenant is one of completion, finality, and perfection.

According to Jewish midrash, God's promise of blessing upon Pinchas meant that he would never die! Some of the more esoteric of the sages claim that Pinchas was still alive at the time of the Judges and that Pinchas and Eliyahu haNavi (Elijah) are actually the same people! (thus in Jewish tradition, Eliyahu (who was "taken" up into heaven was transformed into an angel) now reveals himself to great tzaddikim on occasion). As Messianic believers, however, we understand that the promise to Pinchas was actually a foretelling of the glory of the greater priesthood of Yeshua, indestructible and everlasting, and it is His resurrection glory that is sometimes revealed to those whom the Father calls.  May the LORD God of Israel open the eyes of the heart to see this...

Another Census

After the plague ended, the LORD commanded Moses and Pinchas' father Eleazar to conduct another census of the people (this was 39 years after the Exodus from Egypt). After listing the tally for each of the various tribes, the total number of those counted -- men between the ages of 20 and 60, not counting the tribe of Levi -- was 601,730 (1,820 less than the previous census, which numbered 603,550).

Note that after the census was taken, the Torah tells us that not one of the original people over the age of 20 were included in the tally (Num 26:4). According to midrash, the original generation died as follows: Every year until the fortieth year, on the eve of the Ninth of Av, Moses would command them, "Go out and dig!" The people would then go out of the camp, dig themselves graves, and sleep in them overnight. The next morning, a messenger would proclaim, "Let the living separate from the dead!" Many people died that night, but the others would return to the camp for another year. This continued until Ninth of Av of the 40th year.

The daughters of Tzelafchad then asked about their inheritance rights, since their father had died in the wilderness and they had no brother to carry on the family name.  Moses consulted the LORD who included provision for these women to receive an inheritance in the promised land. In other words, the LORD gave exception to the laws of yibum (levirate marriage) by allowing these daughters to inherit the land.

Joshua selected to succeed Moses

The LORD then commanded Moses to climb mount Avarim to "see the land which I have given to the children of Israel... And you shall see it; and then you shall be gathered to your people, as Aaron your brother was gathered...." Moses was not allowed to enter the land, you recall, because at Kadesh he struck the rock twice (Num 20:7-11), a sin that dishonored the true Rock, Yeshua the Mashiach (1 Cor 10:1-5).

Moses then appealed to the LORD as Elohei haruchot l'chol-basar (God of the spirits of all flesh) and solicited Him for a successor to his leadership. God instructed that Yehoshua bin Nun (the "fish") be commissioned through semikhah (formal laying on of hands) before Eleazar the High Priest and all the people of Israel.  Yehoshua (a type of Yeshua) led the people into the land of Promise, not Moses...

According to Midrash, Moses assembled all Israel together, put a crown and robe on Yeshoshua's head, and seated him on a golden throne. Moses then sat with the rest of the people like a student before his teacher. All Israel listened as Yehoshua taught from the Torah. Moses did this every day for 30 days before his death.

Additional Laws of Korbanot (sacrifices)

The last two chapters of the Parashah provide a detailed list of the offerings to be made at the Mishkan. Daily offerings, with additional offerings for Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh (new moon), and the festivals of Passover, Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Shemini Atzeret are all listed here.

  • Tamid - The daily sacrifice. Every morning the kohanim had to offer a lamb as an olah offering on the mizbe'ach (altar). This offering must be followed by a minchah (flour) and nesekh (drink) offering. Note that there were actually two tamid offerings: a morning offering and an afternoon offering. Tamid offerings were also made on Shabbat (despite the melakhah involved). Today Tamid refers to daily prayer services said in the synagogue.
  • Musaf - Additional offerings made on Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh, and on each Jewish holiday (the mo'edim). Today Musaf refers to an additional service associated with special Shabbats and festivals. Normally, an addition is made to the Shemoneh Esrei that includes reference to the particular holy day or its rituals.

Haftarah Reading Snapshot:

The haftarah for Pinchas is from Melakhim Aleph (1 Kings). The prophet Elijah's earlier power encounter with the false prophets of Baal was reported to evil Queen Jezebel, who then issued a death warrant for his life.  Elijah ran all the way to Beersheba and then went into the desert. Exhausted and forlorn, he asked the LORD to take his life and then went to sleep. But the Angel of the LORD twice came to Elijah's aide and gave him food and drink, and he then rose up and traveled "in the strength of that food" forty days and nights to Mount Sinai (Horeb), where he sought the LORD.

At Sinai, Elijah found a cave and there waited. After awhile, there was a great and strong wind, but the LORD was not in the wind; a little later, there was an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake; later still, there was a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire...  Finally, Elijah heard the sound of a whisper - kol demamah dakkah - and the prophet knew it was the voice of the LORD.

After pouring out his lament, the LORD commissioned Elijah to anoint Hazael as king of Syria, Jehu as king of Israel, and Elisha to succeed him as prophet. "Whoever escapes the sword of Hazael shall be slain by Jehu, and whoever escapes the sword of Jehu shall be slain by Elisha." However, the LORD would leave in Israel a chosen remnant of 7,000 -- "every knee that has not knelt to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him."

The haftarah ends with Elijah finding Elisha and throwing his cloak upon him - a token that he had been chosen as Elijah's successor.

Brit Chadashah Snapshot:

The Apostle Paul referred to the Haftarah portion when teaching the church at Rome about the chosen remnant of Israel (she'arit Yisrael):

    God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel?  "Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life." But what is God's reply to him? "I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal." So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. (Romans 11:2-5)

A chosen remnant of Israel has survived down to this day, namely those Jews who have believed from the heart the message of the gospel and received Yeshua as their promised Mashiach. Over the centuries Gentiles have been made partakers of the grace given to this remnant of Israel, but God has always reserved for Himself a portion of Israel that have "not bowed the knee to Baal."

Speaking metaphorically, Paul compared the people of Israel to a cultivated olive tree. Because of unbelief, many of the olive tree's branches had been broken off, and "wild olive branches" had been grafted to the stock. This is an unnatural act, performed by the sovereign hand of God. However, Gentiles are to be humble because they are grafted in on the basis of their faith, and not by means of any merit they have in themselves. In fact, Gentiles ought to be careful not to boast in their position even as grafted in believers, since they are supported by the "root" - namely father Abraham and his family - and not by means of their own lineage or merits: "Remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you."

In either case, then - whether natural descendant of Abraham or a Gentile - the metaphor of the olive tree illustrates that the "branches" are those who come to the LORD by trusting in His promises of deliverance, just as did father Abraham. May the LORD help us all truly trust in Him...


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Numbers 25

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Numbers 29

Numbers 30

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