Parashat Pinchas

Pinchas, the grandson of Aaron the priest, is the hero of the Parsha this week which is Numbers 25:10 to 31:1.

Last week in Parshat Balak we studied how Pinchas had stopped the plague that was the result of the Israelite men joining in the worship of Peor the Midianite god, and its associated immoral fertility rites. Pinchas had killed Zimri who was from the tribe of Simeon and the Midianite woman Cozbi the daughter of one of the Midianite tribal chiefs.

God rewarded the zealous action of Pinchas with an eternal covenant of peace. Moses commands that the Midianites should be struck down for leading the people astray in this way.

Moses and Aaron then are instructed to take a census of the people which was the next generation born in the wilderness. Everyone of military age from twenty years upwards were counted.

In the tribe of Reuben they counted 43,730. This included the sons of Korah. Korah died along with 250 others who spoke against Moses. Dathan and Abiram died with all their families when the earth swallowed them up. but although Korah died, his sons survived.

The tribe of Simeon numbered 22,200.

The tribe of Gad numbered 40,400.

The tribe of Judah numbered 76.500. Two of Judah’s sons Er and Onan were wicked and died. Judah’s sons were Shelah, Zerah and Perez and his grandson through Perez was Hezron.

The tribe of Issachar numbered 64,300.

The tribe of Zebulon was 64,500.

The tribe of Joseph comprising both half tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh.

The half tribe of Manasseh numbered 52,700. The great grandson of Manasseh named Zelophehad bore no sons, only five daughters.

The half tribe of Ephraim numbered 32,500.

The tribe of Benjamin 45,600.

The tribe of Dan numbered 64,400.

The tribe of Asher numbered 53,400.

The tribe of Naphtali numbered 45,400.

The total added up to 601,730. I checked that it added up, but you can check as well.

Each tribe was allotted an inheritance of land according to the size of the tribe. The place of the lands of each tribe was decided by lot but the area allocated was decided according to the numbers in each tribe.

The tribe of Levi were counted differently since they had no land inheritance. All males from one month old and upwards were counted. Levi had three sons namely Gershom, Kohath and Merari. Kohath became the father of Amram who married Jochebed who was also al daughter of Levi. They had three children namely Moses Aaron and Miriam. Aaron had four sons namely Nadav, Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. Nadav and Abihu died while offering strange fire to the LORD. The total number of Levites counted was 23,000. The list was prepared by Moses and Eleazer the priest. No one who was counted in the first census taken after Israel left Egypt which we studied in Parshat Bamidbar appeared on this census. They had all died except for Joshua the son of Nun from the tribe of Ephraim, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh from the tribe of Judah.

The daughters of Zelophehad

Zelophehad from the tribe of Manasseh had no sons only daughters and he died in the wilderness. He had nothing to do with Korah’s rebellion so the women approached Moses saying that they should not lose the family inheritance because there was no male heir. Moses consulted the LORD and came back with this ruling. If a man dies without sons, the inheritance is to go to the daughters. If there are no daughters, the inheritance is to go to the deceased’s brothers.  If the man has no brothers, the inheritance is to go to the man’s uncles. If he has no uncles, the inheritance is to go to the nearest next of kin in his clan.

The commissioning of Joshua

God speaks to Moses and tells him to go up on a mountain and view the land He was going to give to the people of Israel. When he had seen the land, he would die because he disobeyed God in the incident at the waters of Meribah studied in Parshat Chukat where he smote the rock instead of speaking to it.

Before this he was to lay hands on Joshua in front of all the people and appoint him as his successor.

The offerings

Every day a male goat was to be offered in the morning and the evening along with about a kilo (two pounds) of fine flour and a litre and a half (three pints) of olive oil with a drink offering to constitute a food offering to the LORD.

An additional two yearling lambs with the grain offerings of flour and drink offerings were to be sacrificed as a burnt offering on Shabbat.

At Rosh Chodesh the New Moon, two bulls a ram and seven yearling lambs were to be offered as burnt offerings with the associated flour, oil and drink offerings. In addition, a male goat was to be sacrificed as a sin offering.

At Pesach Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month, unleavened bread was to be eaten for seven days and the same sacrifices that were made at Rosh Chodesh were to be repeated each day for seven days in addition to the regular daily offerings. The first and the last days of Pesach were to be solemn assemblies with no wok to be done.

At Shavuot the Feast of Weeks, the day that the new grain is offered to the LORD is to be a holy gathering and no work is to be done. Two bulls a ram and seven yearling lambs with the associated grain oil and drink offerings were to be sacrificed in addition to a goat for a sin offering and the regular daily offerings.

At Rosh Hashana the Feast of Trumpets on the tenth day of the seventh month there was to be a holy gathering with no work done. A bull, a ram and seven yearling lambs were to be sacrificed along with their associated grain, oil and drink offerings as well a goat for a sin offering. This was in addition to the Rosh Chodesh offering and the regular daily offerings.

Yom Kippur the Day of Atonement was to be a holy convocation with no work done. It was to be a day of self-deprivation.  One bull, one ram and seven yearling lambs and the associated grain oli and drink were to be offered along with the sin offering for atonement. This was in addition to the regular daily offerings.

On Succoth the Feast of Tabernacles on the fifteenth day of the seventh month there was to be a holy gathering and no work was to be done. Each day for seven days two rams and fourteen yearling male lambs were to be offered with the associated grain oil and drink offerings.  In addition to this as well as the regular daily offerings: –

Thirteen bulls and their associated grain oil and drink offerings were to be made on the first day of the festival.

Twelve bulls and their associated grain oil and drink offerings were to be made on the second day of the festival.

Eleven bulls and their associated grain oil and drink offerings were to be made on the third day of the festival.

Ten bulls and their associated grain oil and drink offerings were to be made on the fourth day of the festival.

Nine bulls and their associated grain oil and drink offerings were to be made on the fifth day of the festival.

Eight bulls and their associated grain oil and drink offerings were to be made on the sixth day of the festival.

Seven bulls and their associated grain oil and drink offerings were to be made on the seventh day of the festival.

Shemini Atzeret, The Eighth day was to be a solemn assembly when no work was to be done. A bull a ram a goat and seven yearling lambs with the associated grain oil and drink offerings were to be made as well as a goat for a sin offering and the regular daily offerings.

Moses explained to the people all the offerings decreed by God at the appointed times.

Haftarat Pinchas                                          הפטרת פ׳נחס 

The Haftarah portion associated with the Parsha this week is 1 Kings 18:46 to 1 Kings 19:21 . The connection between the Torah portion and the Haftarah portion is the commissioning of a new leader. Moses commissions Joshua in the Torah portion and Elijah commissions Elisha in the Haftarah.

After securing a great victory against the prophets of Baal in the contest on Mount Carmel the three-year drought comes to an end and Elijah runs back to Jezreel ahead of Ahab. Ahab had sent messages to his wife Jezebel telling her everything Elijah had done to the prophets of Baal. On the wa,y he gets a message from Jezebel informing him he is going to become mincemeat because she vowed to make Eligah suffer the same fate as the prophets of Baal did.

Elijah is totally demoralized and goes into the wilderness, finds a nice shady tree and goes to sleep. An angel wakes him, and he finds a freshly baked loaf and a jar of water. Elijah eats and drinks and goes back to sleep. Again, the angel wakes him up and tells him to eat because otherwise he would not have strength for the journey. On the strength of that meal Elijah travels for forty days and nights until he reaches Mount Sinai. When he gets there, he finds a cave to spend the night in. In the morning God appears and tells him to go out onto the mountain because the LORD was going to pass by.

Elijah went out onto the mountain and there was a mighty wind which shattered the rocks but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind came an earthquake but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire but the LORD was not in the fire. After the fire came a small still voice which asked.

“What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1Kings 19:13)

Elijah replies that he has been very zealous for God, he’s the only one left and they are after his life.

God tells Elijah to go back the way he came. He had two Kings to anoint as well as finding Elisha to succeed him. He found him ploughing a field with twelve pairs of oxen. Elijah throws his mantle over Elisha who says goodbye to his parents and slaughters the oxen and cooks them over a fire made from the wood of the plough and follows Elisha.

Messianic Message  

Yeshua did not just appear out of nowhere, but his ancestry is traced back to the Torah. In this week’s Parsha we note that Perez the son of Judah became the father of Hezron (Numbers 26:21). If we fast forward to the Good News according to Matthew, we see how that fits into the genealogy of Yeshua (Matthew 1:3), A couple of verses further down in Matthew we read about Boaz the husband of Ruth becoming the great grandfather of King David.

The redemption of the land owned by Elimelech the late husband of Naomi could not have taken place without the law of inheritance that the daughters of Zelophehad established in connection with the redemption of the land by the nearest next of kin of the same clan. (Ruth 3:9). So, without this proviso in the Torah for inheritance Messiah would not have been born.

There is another aspect to the connection between the Torah and the Haftarah portions which is the issue of zeal for God. Pinchas was zealous and was rewarded with a covenant of peace. Elijah was zealous for God but faced discouragement to the point that he just wanted to give up and die.

What did God say to Elijah as he wallowed in self-pity? Go back to where you left off because I’ve got work for you to do.

He did get up and go and found Elisha. Elisha left all and followed him. He burned his plough and slaughtered his oxen. He had left home to follow Elijah. He could not now go back.

Was Elijah the only one who served God in Israel? Elijah thought so but God told him that there were seven thousand others.

How many Messianic Believers think they are the only one. There has always been a faithful remnant.

Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me’? And what was God’s answer to him? ‘I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal. So too, at the present time, there is a remnant chosen by grace (Romans 11: 3-5)

It’s so easy to get discouraged and run away like Elijah did. God’s word is “get up, go back, there’s work to be done.”

This article originally appeared on the BMJA website and reposted with permission.