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Numbers 25:10-18

Context
The Aftermath

25:10 The Lord spoke to Moses: 25:11 “Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned my anger away from the Israelites, when he manifested such zeal 1  for my sake among them, so that I did not consume the Israelites in my zeal. 2  25:12 Therefore, announce: 3  ‘I am going to give 4  to him my covenant of peace. 5  25:13 So it will be to him and his descendants after him a covenant of a permanent priesthood, because he has been zealous for his God, 6  and has made atonement 7  for the Israelites.’”

25:14 Now the name of the Israelite who was stabbed – the one who was stabbed with the Midianite woman – was Zimri son of Salu, a leader of a clan 8  of the Simeonites. 25:15 The name of the Midianite woman who was killed was Cozbi daughter of Zur. He was a leader 9  over the people of a clan of Midian. 10 

25:16 Then the Lord spoke to Moses: 25:17 “Bring trouble 11  to the Midianites, and destroy them, 25:18 because they bring trouble to you by their treachery with which they have deceived 12  you in the matter of Peor, and in the matter of Cozbi, the daughter of a prince of Midian, 13  their sister, who was killed on the day of the plague that happened as a result of Peor.”

1 tn Heb “he was zealous with my zeal.” The repetition of forms for “zeal” in the line stresses the passion of Phinehas. The word “zeal” means a passionate intensity to protect or preserve divine or social institutions.

2 tn The word for “zeal” now occurs a third time. While some English versions translate this word here as “jealousy” (KJV, ASV, NASB, NRSV), it carries the force of God’s passionate determination to defend his rights and what is right about the covenant and the community and parallels the “zeal” that Phinehas had just demonstrated.

3 tn Heb “say.”

4 tn Here too the grammar expresses an imminent future by using the particle הִנְנִי (hinni) before the participle נֹתֵן (noten) – “here I am giving,” or “I am about to give.”

5 tn Or “my pledge of friendship” (NAB), or “my pact of friendship” (NJPS). This is the designation of the leadership of the priestly ministry. The terminology is used again in the rebuke of the priests in Mal 2.

6 tn The motif is reiterated here. Phinehas was passionately determined to maintain the rights of his God by stopping the gross sinful perversions.

7 sn The atonement that he made in this passage refers to the killing of the two obviously blatant sinners. By doing this he dispensed with any animal sacrifice, for the sinners themselves died. In Leviticus it was the life of the substitutionary animal that was taken in place of the sinners that made atonement. The point is that sin was punished by death, and so God was free to end the plague and pardon the people. God’s holiness and righteousness have always been every bit as important as God’s mercy and compassion, for without righteousness and holiness mercy and compassion mean nothing.

8 tn Heb “a father’s house.” So also in v. 15.

9 tn Heb “head.”

10 sn The passage makes it clear that this individual was a leader, one who was supposed to be preventing this thing from happening. The judgment was swift and severe, because the crime was so great, and the danger of it spreading was certain. Paul refers to this horrible incident when he reminds Christians not to do similar things (1 Cor 10:6-8).

11 tn The form is the infinitive absolute used in place of a verb here; it clearly is meant to be an instruction for Israel. The idea is that of causing trouble, harassing, vexing Midian. The verb is repeated as the active participle in the line, and so the punishment is talionic.

12 tn This is the same word as that translated “treachery.”

13 sn Cozbi’s father, Zur, was one of five Midianite kings who eventually succumbed to Israel (Num 31:8). When the text gives the name and family of a woman, it is asserting that she is important, at least for social reasons, among her people.



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