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This week’s portion continues the account of Phinehas and his zeal. It is important to emphasize that not only did Phinehas slay the 2 perpetrators defiling the “chamber” but he also halted the plague in the process. (Num. 25:8) This plague was even more deadly than the plague after Korah’s rebellion. Also, look at the prodigious difference in the census results regarding the tribe of Simeon.

“those listed of the tribe of Simeon were 59,300.” Numbers 1:23

“These are the clans of the Simeonites, 22,200.” Numbers 26:14

Zimri the son of Salu (the man slain by Phinehas) belonged to the tribe of Simeon. The decreased number of people was, by far, the most drastic out of the other tribes. In fact, several tribes including Judah had increased in number. The Bible does not say that only the tribe of Simeon sinned, but the statistics are potential evidence that more Simeonites died because of sin. The Bible also specifically mentioned Zimri’s father and lineage as if to connect the sinful act of Zimri and the sinful community to which he belonged. The census results should serve as a warning to those who believe they are impenetrable to the destructive influences of a community. It is far easier to succumb to fleshly desires when most associations take pleasure in sinful indulgences. We should heed the wise words spoken by the Moses in Numbers 16 and “…depart, please, from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs…” (Num. 16:26)

In conclusion, there are a couple textual anomalies found in this portion. One in Numbers 25:11 and the other in Numbers 27:5. For the sake of time let’s look at the first one.

“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 25:11

In Hebrew Phinehas’s name contains a small yod. It is difficult to perceive the difference until the small yod is compared to a normal yod. Once the comparison is made it is easy to see the yod in Phinehas’s name is notably smaller. The yod is already the smallest letter in the entire Hebrew alphabet! Why is the yod even smaller in Phinehas’s name? Perhaps the text is subtlety demonstrating a character trait of Phinehas. “In Paleo-Hebrew it(yod) is symbolic of a strong right arm, work, a deed, or to make.”1 Based on this description of the letter yod it would seem that the text is implying Phinehas’s strong right arm or his deed was smaller. As compared to what? Look at the description of this portions’ zealous action in Psalm 106.

“Then they yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor, and ate sacrifices offered to the dead; they provoked the Lord to anger with their deeds, and a plague broke out among them.  Then Phinehas stood up and intervened, and the plague was stayed.  And that was counted to him as righteousness from generation to generation forever.” Psalm 106:28-31

Due to the grand compliments paid to Phinehas for his zealous action it is easy to overlook G-d’s participation. As the verse in Psalm 106 says Phinehas’s righteousness was not earned it was counted to him. G-d empowered Phinehas then blessed him with a covenant of peace and a covenant of eternal priesthood. Phinehas knew this and demonstrated humility. His zeal was not followed by bragging, or a feast in his honor. G-d was the only one to even mention that what Phinehas did was a good thing. As compared to G-d and His majesty, Phinehas’s zeal was even smaller than the smallest letter. The small yod seems to imply a minimization of Phinehas’s deed and his strength in favor of glorifying G-d and His faithfulness. In every situation it is our responsibility to redirect praise and honor from us to the original Source. HaShem Eloheim. It is only in Him that live, move and have our being. (Acts. 17:28)



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