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.

Advertisements

The plague among the Israelites (Ps 106:28-106:31)

“Then the Israelites attached themselves to the Baal of Peor.

They ate sacrifices offered to the dead.

They provoked Yahweh to anger with their doings.

A plague broke out among them.

Then Phinehas stood up.

He interceded.

Then the plague was stopped.

That has been reckoned to him as righteousness

From generation to generation forever.”

Once again Yahweh was angry with the Israelites as they sacrificed to the pagan god Baal at Mount Peor in Numbers, chapter 25. They had sex with the local women and began to worship the local gods of Baal on their way into the Promised Land. This proved Yahweh to anger again, so that a plague broke out among the Israelites. Phinehas, who was the grandson of Aaron, stood up and killed an Israelite who brought a local Midian woman into his family. He also killed her with a sword in front of everybody. With that, the plague that had killed 24,000 Israelites stopped. Thus his name, Phinehas, is still honored for generations. This killing was considered righteousness because of the wicked Israelites.

Mattathias reminds his sons about their ancestors (1 Macc 2:51-2:60)

“Remember the deeds of the ancestors.

What they did in their generations.

Then you will receive great honor and an everlasting name.

Was not Abraham found faithful when tested?

It was reckoned to him as righteousness.

Joseph in the time of his distress kept the commandment.

He became lord of Egypt.

Phinehas our ancestor,

Because he was deeply zealous,

He received the covenant of everlasting priesthood.

Joshua, because he fulfilled the command,

He became a judge in Israel.

Caleb, because he testified in the assembly,

He received an inheritance in the land.

David, because he was merciful,

He inherited the throne of the kingdom forever.

Elijah, because of great zeal for the law

He was taken up into heaven.

Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael believed.

They were saved from the flame.

Daniel, because of his innocence

He was delivered from the mouth of the lions.”

Much like Jacob at the end of Genesis, chapter 49, the dying Mattathias reminded his sons about their great ancestors, although there is no explicit mention of Jacob. It is interesting to note which ancestors he cited. Abraham and Joseph from Genesis were obvious examples. There is no mention of Moses, but there is a mention of Phinehas from Numbers, who was the grandson of Aaron. Then he mentioned Joshua and Caleb because of their fighting spirit. David, the great king, and Elijah, the great prophet, were obvious choices. Finally, there is the mention of Daniel and the 3 Judeans. This gives some idea of the people that Mattathias and this biblical author admired.

Mattathias kills the Jew offering a sacrifice (1 Macc 2:23-2:26)

“When Mattathias had finished speaking these words, a Jew came forward in the sight of all to offer sacrifice upon the altar in Modein, according to the king’s command. When Mattathias saw it, he burned with zeal. His heart was stirred. He gave vent to righteous anger. He ran and killed him on the altar. At the same time he killed the king’s officer who was forcing them to sacrifice. He tore down the altar. Thus he burned with zeal for the law, as Phinehas did against Zimri the son of Salu.”

I guess that I did not see this coming. This is real dramatic. This Jew, Israelite, or Judean was willing to offer the sacrifice to the idol. Mattathias was filled with righteous anger. Wow! What would unrighteous anger be like? He killed the man offering the sacrifice and the Syrian inspector official. Then he tore up the whole altar. The reference to Phinehas is to Numbers, chapter 25. In Numbers, Moses said that God wanted them to kill anyone who had sex with the women of Peor who were Baal worshippers. Phinehas saw an Israelite with a Median woman, so he killed both of them. Somehow that killing stopped a plague. Maybe he thought that this killing would stop the Syrians.

Those who came with Ezra (Ezra 8:1-8:14)

“These are the family heads. This is the genealogy of those who went up with me from Babylonia, in the reign of King Artaxerxes. There was the descendent of Phinehas, Gershom. There was the descendent of Ithamar, Daniel. There was the descendent of David, Hattush. There were the descendents of Shecaniah. There were the descendents of Parosh, Zechariah with one hundred fifty registered men. There were the descendents of Pahath-moab, Eliehoenai son of Zerahiah with two hundred men. There were the descendents of Zattu, Shecaniah son of Jahaziel with three hundred men. There were the descendents of Adin, Ebed son of Jonathan with fifty men. There were the descendents of Elam, Jeshaiah son of Athaliah with seventy men. There were the descendents of Shephatiah, Zebadiah son of Michael with eighty men. There were the descendents of Joab, Obadiah son of Jehiel with two hundred eighteen men. There were the descendents of Bani, Shelomith son of Josiphiah with one hundred sixty men. There were the descendents of Bebai, Zechariah son of Bebai with twenty-eight men. There were the descendents of Azgad, Johanan son of Hakkatan with one hundred ten men. There were the descendents of Adonikam, those who came later, their names being Eliphelet, Jeuel, and Shemaiah with sixty men. There were the descendents of Bigvai, Uthai and Zaccur with seventy men.”

Once again, we have the use of the singular personal pronoun “with me.” This no longer is a story about someone else but a personal eye witness account. It is the story of Ezra himself, or someone pretending to be him. These are the people who were with him, about 1,500 men. If you count women and children then this would be about 5,000, about a 10% the size of the group that set out under King Cyrus in 537 BCE, under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Jeshua. A number of these families seem to have only 1 person since there is no number given unlike the others with specific numbers. Thus the descendents of Phinehas, Ithamar, David, and Shecaniah have either one or no one listed. Phinehas and Ithamar were the son and grandson of Aaron. This Shecaniah is virtually unknown since a lot of biblical people had that name. Most of these people were the descendents of those who had come to Jerusalem in chapter 2 of this book 80 years earlier. Thus the descendents of Parosh only had 150 men instead of 2,172 men 80 years earlier. The descendents of Pahath-moab are only 200 instead of 2,800. The descendents of Zattu were 300 instead of 945. The descendents of Adin were 50 instead of 445. The descendents of Elam were 70 instead of 1,294. The descendents of Shephatiah were 80 instead of 372. The descendents of Bani were 160 instead of 642. The descendents of Bebai were 28 instead of 623. The descendents of Azgad were 110 instead of 1,222. The descendents of Adonikam were 60 instead of 666. The descendents of Bigvai were 70 instead of 2,256. There was no mention of the descendents of Arah, Zaccai, Ater, Bezai, Hashum, or Jorah that were in chapter 2. The only new group here was Joab with 218 men.

The genealogy of Ezra (Ezra 7:1-7:5)

“After this, in the reign of King Artaxerxes off Persia, Ezra son of Seraiah, son of Azariah, son of Hilkiah, son of Shallum, son of Zadok, son of Ahitub, son of Amariah, son of Azariah, son of Meraioth, son of Zerahiah, son of Uzzi, son of Bukki, son of Abishua, son of Phinehas, son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the chief priest.”

Over half way through this book, we now run into Ezra. This was during the reign of King Artaxerxes from 465-424 BCE, which gets us closer to the reign of King Darius II, his son from 424-404 BCE. Ezra had a strong pedigree. He claimed to trace his ancestors back to Aaron, via Eleazar, Phinehas, Abishua, Bukki, Uzzi, Zerahiah, Meraioth, Azariah, Amariah, Ahitub, Zadok, Shallum, Hilkiah, Azariah, and Seraiah. These were some of the great high priests. There was a strong emphasis on the priestly lineage here. This purports to get through 16 people in about 800-1000 years, which is possible, but not probable.

The gatekeepers return (1 Chr 9:17-9:27)

“The gatekeepers were Shallum, Akkub, Talmon, Ahiman, and their kindred. Shallum was the chief, stationed previously at the king’s gate on the east side. These were the gatekeepers of the camp of the Levites. Shallum son of Kore, son of Ebiasaph, son of Korah, and his kindred of his ancestral house, the Korahites, were in charge of the work of the service. They were the guardians of the thresholds of the tent, as their ancestors had been in charge of the camp of Yahweh, guardians of the entrance. Phinehas son of Eleazar was chief over them in former times. Yahweh was with him. Zechariah son of Meshelemiah was gatekeeper at the entrance of the tent of meeting. All these, who were chosen as gatekeepers at the thresholds, were two hundred twelve. They were enrolled by genealogies in their villages. David and the seer Samuel had established them in their office of trust. So they and their descendents were in charge of the gates of the house of Yahweh, that is, the house of the tent, as guards. The gatekeepers were on the four sides, east, west, north, and south. Their kindred who were in their villages were obliged to come in every seven days, in turn, to be with them. The four chief gatekeepers, who were Levites, were in charge of the chambers and the treasures of the house of God. They would spend the night near the house of God. On them, lay the duty of watching. They had charge of opening it every morning.”

This is somewhat strange since there is an attempt to tie King David with the new inhabitants of Jerusalem. In actuality, King David did not build the temple, it was Solomon. Also, since the temple had not been restored, what treasures were they guarding? These are clearly ceremonial gatekeepers, since there was nothing to watch. They recall the time of their ancestors, since they were the descendents of them. This task belonged to the Korahites, who were both the singers and porters of the Kohathite branch of the Levites. This Shallum was clearly in charge, but he is not the King Shallum of Israel (743 BCE), since there were many people with this name. Kore was a Levite at the time of King David. His father was Ebiasaph, the son of Korah. Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron, had been in charge of the gatekeepers who were on all 4 sides of the tent and the tabernacle, east, west, north, and south. Their job was to spend the night and open the temple in the morning. There were apparently 212 of these gatekeepers with nothing to guard. The 3 other gatekeepers Akkub, Talmon, and Ahiman were not as important as Shallum.