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
25:13 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, 3 and has made atonement 4 for the Israelites.’”
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 The motif is reiterated here. Phinehas was passionately determined to maintain the rights of his God by stopping the gross sinful perversions.
4 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.