Today’s Reading: Numbers 23-25
Today’s Reflection: Numbers 25:10-13
10) And the Lord said to Moses, 11) “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. 12) Therefore say, ‘Behold, I give to him my covenant of peace, 13) and it shall be to him and to his descendants after him the covenant of a perpetual priesthood, because he was jealous for his God and made atonement for the people of Israel.’”
Subject: Phinehas, son of Eleazar
History: Phinehas the son of Eleazar, was also the grandson of Aaron, Moses’ brother. He was part of the Levite priestly line and was closely acquainted both by tribe and by family with the importance of the duties of serving God. That Phinehas would intercede on behalf of Israel, as described in Numbers 25:10-13, and save them from God’s wrath through a display of Godly character is not a surprise. The surprise, perhaps, is what Phinehas did to earn God’s favour (and by extention what Israel had done to earn God’s wrath).
A jealous man in service of a jealous God: At the beginning of Numbers 25, Israel had turned to the worship of the false God Baal of Peor. Moab, a people from the land of Midian who worshiped this idol, enticed the men of Israel with their women. Moabites got themselves invited to Israel’s sacrifices and feasts, and convinced Israelites to bow to their god. Because of this sin, God brought a deadly plague upon Israel and commanded the execution of those who had bowed to the false God. In the midst of Israel’s mourning over those who had been executed and lost to the plague, an Israelite man boldly brought a Midianite woman into his home. The very cause of Israel’s suffering was being flaunted in front of all of the nation, including its leadership and the tabernacle of the Lord. Phinehas could not stand it. While the man and woman were in his chamber, Phinehas drove a spear through both of them, executing them on the spot.
Not exactly what most of us would consider Godly behaviour.
But God praised Phinehas for understanding God’s jealousy and acting on it. In essence God praised him for understanding God’s heart towards Israel. Phinehas remembered what many in Israel had forgotten. Right from the start of God’s leading, all Israel had promised to do whatever God commanded (Exodus 19:7-8). This was a binding agreement for Israel to be God’s people and for God to be Israel’s Lord, and failure had consequences. Because Phinehas embodied God’s protective jealousy and justice, God blessed him and entrusted him with a chief role in the priesthood—Phinehas continued to minister before Israel and the Lord right into the book of Judges.
Lesson: God is a jealous God, and that’s a good thing. When people are jealous it’s usually because we have an inflated sense of self: we don’t think anyone could be as good for someone else as we are. When God is jealous it’s because He knows nothing and no one is as good for us as He is. He knows only He can be our God, meet our needs and guide us through life all the way to eternity. And God knows any other god, idol or person who claims they are worthy of our worship will only lead us to disappointment, destruction and ultimately death. God’s jealousy is for our benefit. Those who chased after other gods (the text describes them as ‘whoring’, like unfaithful spouses) had to suffer severe consequences, lest others follow their example and also be led down a path to death and destruction.
Exodus 34:14 – (for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God)