Phinehas (Sir 45:23-45:25)

“Phinehas

Son of Eleazar

Is the third in glory.

He was zealous

In the fear of the Lord.

He stood firm,

When the people turned away.

In the noble courage of his soul,

He made atonement for Israel.

Therefore a covenant of peace

Was established with him.

He should be the leader of the sanctuary.

He should be the leader of his people.

He with his descendants

Should have the dignity

Of the priesthood forever.

Just as a covenant

Was established with David,

Son of Jesse,

Of the tribe of Judah,

That the king’s heritage

Passes only from son to son,

So the heritage of Aaron

Is for his descendants alone.”

This story of Phinehas was based on Numbers, chapter 25. It is strange that Sirach has given him such an important place. In fact, Sirach says that he ranks 3rd behind Moses and Aaron. Phinehas was the grandson of Aaron via Eleazar, the son of Aaron. However, his claim to fame was that he stopped a plague among the Israelites by killing a fellow Israelite who was having sex with a Midianite woman at Peor. Thus he made atonement for the Israelites who were involved in intermarriage situations with the Midianites. Yahweh rewarded Phinehas with a perpetual covenant of friendship. He then became the leader of the future sanctuary so that his descendants would be priests forever. However, he already was in the line of Aaron. This covenant was like the later covenant with David and his descendants. Thus the descendants of the Phinehas often became the head high priest of Jerusalem.