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Numbers 25:6-15

Context

25:6 Just then 1  one of the Israelites came and brought to his brothers 2  a Midianite woman in the plain view of Moses and of 3  the whole community of the Israelites, while they 4  were weeping at the entrance of the tent of meeting. 25:7 When Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, 5  he got up from among the assembly, took a javelin in his hand, 25:8 and went after the Israelite man into the tent 6  and thrust through the Israelite man and into the woman’s abdomen. 7  So the plague was stopped from the Israelites. 8  25:9 Those that died in the plague were 24,000.

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 9  for my sake among them, so that I did not consume the Israelites in my zeal. 10  25:12 Therefore, announce: 11  ‘I am going to give 12  to him my covenant of peace. 13  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, 14  and has made atonement 15  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 16  of the Simeonites. 25:15 The name of the Midianite woman who was killed was Cozbi daughter of Zur. He was a leader 17  over the people of a clan of Midian. 18 

1 tn The verse begins with the deictic particle וְהִנֵּה (vÿhinneh), pointing out the action that was taking place. It stresses the immediacy of the action to the reader.

2 tn Or “to his family”; or “to his clan.”

3 tn Heb “before the eyes of Moses and before the eyes of.”

4 tn The vav (ו) at the beginning of the clause is a disjunctive because it is prefixed to the nonverbal form. In this context it is best interpreted as a circumstantial clause, stressing that this happened “while” people were weeping over the sin.

5 tn The first clause is subordinated to the second because both begin with the preterite verbal form, and there is clearly a logical and/or chronological sequence involved.

6 tn The word קֻבָּה (qubbah) seems to refer to the innermost part of the family tent. Some suggest it was in the tabernacle area, but that is unlikely. S. C. Reif argues for a private tent shrine (“What Enraged Phinehas? A Study of Numbers 25:8,” JBL 90 [1971]: 200-206).

7 tn Heb “and he thrust the two of them the Israelite man and the woman to her belly [lower abdomen].” Reif notes the similarity of the word with the previous “inner tent,” and suggests that it means Phinehas stabbed her in her shrine tent, where she was being set up as some sort of priestess or cult leader. Phinehas put a quick end to their sexual immorality while they were in the act.

8 sn Phinehas saw all this as part of the pagan sexual ritual that was defiling the camp. He had seen that the Lord himself had had the guilty put to death. And there was already some plague breaking out in the camp that had to be stopped. And so in his zeal he dramatically put an end to this incident, that served to stop the rest and end the plague.

9 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.

10 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.

11 tn Heb “say.”

12 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.”

13 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.

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

15 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.

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

17 tn Heb “head.”

18 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).



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