A New Generation, A New Leader

My Parshah Journal Paul Ikonen
1 July 2010

Portion: Pinchas Numbers 25:10-29:40 1. More on the Story of Pinchas (25:10-19) The portion begins with more information concerning the actions of Pinchas, the son of the High Priest Eleazer, grandson of Aaron. Pinchas had just played the part of judge, jury and executioner to a member of Israel and a Midionite woman. His reasoning was because of their blatant act of disobeying God in front of not only the assembly but in front of Moses himself. So Pinchas, with great zeal for God, took a spear and killed the offenders. We can learn a lot about Pinchas from other sources in the Tanakh (Hebrew Scriptures) that will help to understand why Pinchas acted the way he did and why God approves and blesses his action even though what he did was not in line with God’s commands. The first discovery I found was that the role of Pinchas in the community was as the leader of the gatekeepers to the Tent of Meeting. The role of gatekeeper was established by God through Aaron after the rebellion of Korah. God commanded Aaron to station men at the entrance to forbid foreigners access (Numbers 18:1-7), the fact that this was after the rebellion suggests that it is an office designed to protect the sanctity of the Tent of Meeting and by relation, the covenant made with the people. We learn that Pinchas had a special part in this group in 1 Chronicles 9:20 – “Pinchas son of Eleazar was the chief officer over (the gatekeepers) in time past; the LORD was with him.” With

this information we can understand why Pinchas was armed, why he was in position to see the action unfold, and given his family being committed to the holiness of God, why he acted out so brazenly. Because of the act of zeal, God blesses Pinchas with a covenant of peace and guarantees his lineage of priesthood. One would think that this priesthood would have already been secured since his father was the current High Priest of Israel but when you look at his family you notice a flaw to his place in the priestly line. The Midrash (the Homiletic Teachings) reference Pinchas as the grandson of one of Jethro’s daughters. Jethro was a Middianite priest (the woman killed was a Middianite also) and because of this there would have been reason to keep Pinchas from entering the ranks of priesthood. But because of his heroic act to stop the degradation of God’s people, God gives him a blessing of perpetual priesthood over his family. It is also worth noting that Pincas, because he killed the two, he was in touch with a dead body which made him unclean but God supersedes even this in His pleasure with Pinchas’s action. One last interesting point that came up from studying these verses is the link that Judaism gives to Pinchas and Elijah. Some traditions see their actions so similar that they believe they are one and the same. There is a lot that can be unfolded here but I leave these notes with this thought. If Pinchas is like Elijah in his zeal for Adonai, what relationship can we find between Pinchas and John the Baptist who was the Elijah figure preparing the way for Messiah Jesus. One connection I can find right away is the priestly line, John’s father was a priest and his mother’s ancestry can be followed back to the daughters of Aaron (see the beginning of Luke’s gospel). John should have been a priest

and for reasons debatable, did not assume that role; Pinchas was not given a priestly role and God ordained him. Directly following His blessing of Pinchas, God calls for the sons of Israel to take action and defeat the Midianites for their plans to destroy Israel (through assimilation, I believe). This story picks up again in chapter 31 but before that three other stories are recorded. 2. The Second Census (26:1-65) The first story before the war against Midian concerns the census that God commands Moses and Eleazar to take. This may have been to count how many troops they had available because in 26:2 notes that they are counting those who are “able to bear arms.” What follows the description of countable people is a list of clans that came out of the twelve tribes. The division into clans was done as to approximate what allotment of land they will receive based on their size (26:52-56). Of all the men and their clans listed, only Joshua and Caleb are mentioned who were included in the people coming out of Egypt. 3. Daughters of Zelophehad (27:1-11) The daughters of Zelophehad had a problem that they took to Moses and the assembly in front of the Tent of Meeting. Their father had died and there were no sons born to him. Because of that, the land that would have been given to their clan would not stay in their tribe and the daughters felt that to be unfair. Moses apparently sees the problem involved so instead of giving a decision, he goes before the LORD and brings the case of Zelophedad’s daughters. God declares their plea just and awards them the holding of land. God decrees from here on out that if a

man dies with no sons, than the daughter should be transferred the property and if there are no children than it shall go to his brothers, if no brothers than to his father’s brothers. If in the off chance the father had no brothers, than the property is to be assigned to the nearest relative in his own clan. The reason for this decree is because if daughters received land from their father and she marries outside her tribe, the allotment of land will eventually become meaningless as every tribe will eventually have a piece of every allotment. The regular occurrence is when a daughter is married, that woman is taken into the new family and has rights to her husband’s holdings. The fact that God heard the plea and acted in favor of the daughters is further evidence of God’s love for all his people and not putting to the side women showing an inequality with men. 4. A New Leader for a New Generation (27:12-23) The next story we read is when God takes Moses to the top of Mount Abarim to view the land He is giving these people. He tells Moses that when he sees it he will be gathered to his people like Aaron and reminds him that this is happening because of his action in the wilderness. Being the leader that he is, Moses takes this time before the LORD to request that He appoint a leader in his place so that there is no point at which the people are without a shepherd. God’s choice is Joshua son of Nun, it is interesting to me that God starts using this name for Joshua as it isn’t his given name but a name that Moses had given him. His original name is Hosea which is a name that means “salvation” is changed to Joshua or in

Hebrew – Yeshua, which means “God saves”. (Numbers 13) Yeshua is the Hebrew equivalent to the name Jesus which has taken on many ethnicities over time. God appoints Joshua (God’s Salvation) to replace Moses (the Drawn Out One) as leader of the people. He commands Moses to place his hands on him in front of Eleazar and the whole community, to be commissioned in their sight. The text says that God has Moses invest him with your authority, the word authority here is the Hebrew word Semikha. In their Midrash of these verses, First Fruits of Zion had this to say of Moses passing of authority: “Like one who lights one candle with another, [the leaders of Israel] were filled with the Holy Spirit. They were filled with the Holy Spirit taken from the spirit of Moses, but the Spirit of Moses was not diminished. This is like the case of a man who lights one candle with another. The one candle ignites but the flame on the other candle is not diminished. (Numbers Rabbah 21:15; 13:20)…The transfer of the Holy Spirit from Moses to his disciple Joshua enables us to better understand why the disciples of Yeshua were invested with the Holy Spirit after His ascension. In the same way that Joshua was to take on the mantle of Moses after his departure, the disciples of Yeshua are responsible for carrying on His work.” 5. A Calendar for Public Offerings (28:1-30:1) The closing chapter in this week’s Parshah is a calendar for the offerings that are to be given to God at His appointed times. From the festivals to the weekly Shabbat, every offering is detailed as to what the people are to do. These commands are conditional on the people entering the land as it is not until they can sow seeds, harvest and herd cattle that they will be able to offer these sacrifices to the LORD. God is continuing to train them for when they take the land.

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