Phinehas, grandson of Aaron, was rewarded for zealously killing an Israelite and Midianite couple engaging in sexual sin.
We previously established how Balaam taught Balak to have the Midianites tempt Israel into sexual sin and idolatry. During Israel's sin, Scripture records an incident where Phinehas, grandson of Aaron, Israel's first high priest, killed an Israelite man and Midianite woman who were committing this great sin.
1 Now Israel remained in Sattin, and the people were defiled by committing fornication with the daughters of Moab. 2 They invited them to the sacrifices of their idols; and the people ate their sacrifices and worshiped their idols. 3 So Israel consecrated themselves to Baal of Peor; and the Lord was very angry with Israel. 4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Take all the rulers of the people and make a public example of them for the Lord, that the anger of the Lord’s wrath may be turned away from Israel.” 5 So Moses said to the tribes of Israel, “Each one of you kill any member of his household who was consecrated to Baal of Peor.”
6 Now behold, a man of the children of Israel came and brought his brother to a Midianite woman in the sight of Moses and all the congregation of the children of Israel; and they were weeping at the door of the tabernacle of testimony. 7 Now when Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw this, he rose from among the congregation; and taking a spear in his hand, 8 he went after the man of Israel into the chambers and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her womb. So the plague was stopped among the children of Israel. 9 But those who died in the plague were twenty-four thousand.
(Numbers 25:1-9 OSB)
Rather than punishing Phinehas for shedding this blood, GOD was pleased with Phinehas and rewarded him.
10 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 11 “Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, stopped My wrath from among the children of Israel when he was zealous with My zeal among them. So I did not utterly destroy the children of Israel in My zeal. 12 Therefore say, ‘Behold, I give to him My covenant of peace; 13 and there shall be to him and his seed after him a covenant of an eternal priesthood; because he was zealous for his God and made atonement for the children of Israel.’” 14 Now the name of the man of Israel who was struck down together with the Midianite woman was Zimri the son of Salu, the ruler of a house of a Simeonite family. 15 The name of the Midianite woman who was struck down was Cozbi the daughter of Zur, the ruler of the nation of Ommoth, of the house of a Midianite family.
16 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 17 “Be at enmity with the Midianites and strike them; 18 for they themselves are at enmity with you in their deceit, inasmuch as they dealt treacherously with you in the matter of Peor and in the matter of Cozbi, the daughter of a ruler of Midian, their sister, who was struck down in the day of the plague because of Peor.”
(Numbers 25:10-18 OSB)
For many, GOD's rewarding Phinehas feels inconsistent with GOD's loving nature. How could GOD reward bloodshed, especially that of an Israelite?
The answer, of course, is in seeing as GOD sees. The Israelite was willfully sinning and disobeying GOD. This wicked attitude and behavior made him an enemy of GOD, just as the wickedness of the Canaanites had brought upon themselves GOD's judgment of genocide. By contrast, Phinehas was motivated by zeal for GOD and perhaps love for his fellow Israelites, as his quick actions resulted in the stopping of the plague which had broken out among Israel.
To understand GOD's actions, we must understand His character. As we have previously established:
- GOD is love.
- GOD is holy.
- GOD is just.
- Sin is unrighteousness.
- GOD hates sin.
- Sin separates us from GOD.
- All sin must be punished.
- Blood is the guilt payment for sin.
- Idolatry is sin.
- Sex outside of marriage is sin.