At the time that God appointed Aaron to be the High Priest and instructed that his sons and all the generations that were to be born to them henceforth were to be priests, Aaron had only one grandson, Pinchas (often anglecized to Phineas). Because he was already alive at the time of the appointment of priests, Pinchas grew up as the only non-priest in a family of priests. Imagine how this could have affected him when his father, uncles and all of his younger brothers and cousins were busy either performing the holy service in the Mishkan (Tabernacle) or training to do so. Pinchas could have been bitter or apathetic, but instead he was zealous in his devotion.

When Balaam, the enemy of Israel, convinced the Midianite women to go out and seduce the Israelites, Pinchas was distraught. Numbers 25:7, states: “He [Pinchas] stood up from amid the assembly and took a spear in his hand.” Pinchas slew Zimri, a prince from the Tribe of Simeon and a leader in the licentiousness, as he committed an act of harlotry with a Midianitess named Cozbi.  From the simple statement that “he stood up from amid the assembly,” it is understood that the leaders of Israel were trying to decide what to do in the situation and that, of all those present, only Pinchas basically walked out, fed up with all the talk, and took action.

Whereas Pinchas’ actions may have surprised, and possibly even enraged, some of the Israelites, the Torah records that God said that Pinchas “turned back My wrath from upon the Children of Israel, when he zealously avenged Me…” (Numbers 25:11). God then declared that Pinchas and all his descendants would join in the priesthood.

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