BIBLE STUDY SERIES #395, 396 and 397

20 June, 1999

ZIMRI, COZBI AND PHINEHAS

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our regular sequence of on-going Bible Studies, starting a number of years ago with The Call by The Almighty God to Abram in Genesis 12 has followed his progeny down to the Tribes of Israel who are presently on the border of the Promised Land.

Israel had marched past the land presently occupied by Moab, and had attacked and taken the land held by Sihon king of the Amorites, which had previously belonged to Moab. Balak, the king of Moab saw what Israel had done to the Amorites, and, fearing these newcomers who were now spread out in their encampment within sight of the high ground of his border, he had sought the services of the notable prophet, Balaam, in order to bring curses upon these newcomers, so that, thus weakened, they might be forced to withdraw from the land of north Moab, which he wished to recover. Balaam, however, had to transmit those blessings upon Israel which God had dictated to him, but he later gave advice leading to the moral and spiritual subversion of the Israelites.

Our Scripture text for today is taken from Numbers 25, of which the first five verses were examined on the last study. Let us review them briefly now.

1. And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab.
2. And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods.
3. And Israel joined himself unto Baalpeor: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel.
4. And the LORD said unto Moses, Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up before the LORD against the sun, that the fierce anger of the LORD may be turned away from Israel.
5. And Moses said unto the judges of Israel, Slay ye every one his men that were joined unto Baalpeor.

Under the heading "The Aftermath of the Balaam Incident, xxiv. 25 - xxv. 18", The New Bible Commentary states: "a. Seduction (xxiv. 25 - xxv. 5) - If it were not for Nu. xxxi. 16 and Rev. ii. 14, we would not realize the close connection between chapter xxv and the three preceding chapters. Balaam returned to his place (xxiv. 25), but this can hardly mean his home in distant Mesopotamia, since Nu. xxxi. 8 states that he died with the kings of Midian; evidently his place here means his tent among the Midianites. In xxxi. 16 we learn that the havoc wrought among the Israelites in chapter xxv was due to Balaam's evil counsel. He had spoken exactly what God wanted him to say and had performed the part of a true prophet, yet his heart was evidently far from right. Although bound by his determination not to prophesy anything which God did not command, he sought some other way to win the rich rewards that Balak had offered. Not fully realizing the great truth that salvation cannot be earned, but is a gift of God's free grace (Eph. ii. 8), he reasoned that the Moabites and Midianites might gain their end through seducing the Israelites into such immorality and idolatry that a holy God would have to wipe then out of existence. His logic was correct to this extent, that God did destroy great numbers of Israelites who fell into this trap. But the carrying out of God's plans is not dependent on the righteousness of man. God intervened to check the progress of the seduction, and accomplished the purposes which He had determined and which Balaam had himself predicted. Baal-peor (3, 5) was a deity worshipped with immoral rites, particularly on Mount Peor. It is no wonder that the anger of the Lord was kindled, when the people committed wickedness. Verses 4 and 5 contain Moses' orders for cleansing the camp. To modern ears the commands in these two verses may seem barbarous. Yet we hang murderers, and the sin of these people, if not checked, would have brought misery and death to great numbers of Israelites. If a surgeon is justified in cutting off a limb to save a life, the action of destroying such wickedness to save the nation was even more justified. Certain facts, however, should be remembered, before making any general application to our own day. First, the destruction of these malefactors was specifically ordered by God. Human governments, being made up of sinful and fallible men, are apt to err, and we do well to give each man freedom of thought, since God alone is the lord of the conscience. Second, this was involved in a special act of God, in bringing His people into the Promised Land, as a centre where His Word might be given, and from which it might spread. The situation was more vital to His kingdom than anything in our day is apt to be. Third, while it is God's desire that each of us should be very strict in condemning sin in ourselves (Heb. xii. 4), He wants us to be charitable of others, and to try to help them, rather than to condemn them (see Jn. viii. 7; I Cor. vi. 9-11; Gal. vi. 1)."

6. And, behold, one of the children of Israel came and brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping before the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
7. And when Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose up from among the congregation, and took a javelin in his hand;
8. And he went after the man of Israel into the tent, and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her belly. So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel.
9. And those that died in the plague were twenty and four thousand.
10. And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
11. Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, hath turned my wrath away from the children of Israel, while he was zealous for my sake among them, that I consumed not the children of Israel in my jealousy.
12. Wherefore say, Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace:
13. And he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel.
14. Now the name of the Israelite that was slain, even that was slain with the Midianitish woman, was Zimri, the son of Salu, a prince of a chief house among the Simeonites.
15. And the name of the Midianitish woman that was slain was Cozbi, the daughter of Zur; he was head over a people, and of a chief house in Midian.
16. And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
17. Vex the Midianites, and smite them:
18. For they vex you with their wiles, wherewith they have beguiled you in the matter of Peor, and in the matter of Cozbi, the daughter of a prince of Midian, their sister, which was slain in the day of the plague for Peor's sake.

The Companion Bible notes at verse 8: "tent. Heb. kubbah, a high and vaulted pleasure tent, used in the worship of Baal. Occurs only here. belly. Heb. kobah, the part between the ribs and loins. Occurs only here... ."

The name Phinehas is given several meanings in a variety of references. The New Bible Dictionary, under this item, says "A name of Egyptian origin, p'-nhsy, 'the Nubian'; popular in Egypt during the New Kingdom (16th to 12th centuries BC). It is borne in the Old Testament by three individuals." Young's Concordance gives the meaning of the name as "oracle" while Nelson's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Bible Facts gives the meaning as "mouth of brass", a derivation which is likewise given by Gesenius' Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament.

The New Bible Commentary notes: "b. The zeal of Phinehas (xxv. 6-15) - When people of special prominence sanction evil, their influence is far greater than that of others. If not checked, it can ruin a nation. Hence God gave special praise to the man who took action in such an instance. Most men, however zealous in ordinary cases, might have been glad to look the other way when so outstanding a person was involved (14). Yet his influence would be especially great, if not stopped, since he did not sin in secret, but in the sight of all Israel (6). It is to be noted that Phinehas was not acting from any private jealousy or sense of personal wrong. His interest lay in the honour of God and the safety of God's people. God promised to give to Phinehas 'my covenant of peace: and he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood' (12-13). Except for a short period in the times of the Judges, Phinehas and his descendants held the office of High Priest throughout Jewish history. ['Jewish' is an anachronism. It ought to read 'Israelitish'.] The Hebrew word, shalom, has a much fuller meaning than our English word, peace. It involves the total condition of prosperity and well-being. Cf. its use in Ex. xviii. 7 ('welfare'); I Ch. xviii. 10, etc.."

It is noteworthy that some of the leaders of Israel were, as it so often seems as we pursue the course of the history of that people, and the nation, among the chief in bringing in the sin which was directly contrary to God's Commandments to the nation. One such commandment, - and it ought to be noted, this was a commandment to the nation as a newly-married "wife" to Yahweh (Jehovah) as well as to each individual within it, specified that these must not, either nationally, or as individuals, commit adultery. Now that word, "adultery" is related to the word "adulterate", and it specifically imposes the obligation of avoidance of the adulterating of the racial as well as the religious components of their marriage vows. To adulterate means to contaminate by bringing in some foreign or forbidden relationship to destroy the sanctity of that married condition. It is in fact, a commandment strictly enjoining against every sense of "multi-cult", and we are in dire circumstance when we break God's specific commandment in this area of life. This sets the Words of The Almighty in direct confrontation against the whole humanistic "togetherness", "one-world", "Multicult" agenda to which most of today's political leaders demand allegiance by the populace of the nation.

The New Bible Commentary, under the sub-heading "c. The command to smite the Midianites (xxv. 16-18)" states: "In this case the purpose of the Israelite campaign would not be to repel an armed attack, as on most previous occasions, but to remove a danger to their nation far worse than any military aggression. Probably the campaign was not undertaken immediately, since it is not described until chapter xxxi."

We may have further to add on this subject in the next study.

27 June, 1999

THE PHINEHAS CONTRIBUTION

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our regular sequence of on-going Bible Studies, starting a number of years ago with The Call by The Almighty God to Abram in Genesis 12 has followed his progeny down to the Tribes of Israel who are presently on the border of the Promised Land.

Israel had marched past the land presently occupied by Moab, and had attacked and taken the land held by Sihon king of the Amorites, which had previously belonged to Moab. Balak, the king of Moab saw what Israel had done to the Amorites, and, fearing these newcomers who were now spread out in their encampment within sight of the high ground of his border, he had sought the services of the notable prophet, Balaam, in order to bring curses upon these newcomers, so that, thus weakened, they might be forced to withdraw from the land of north Moab, which he wished to recover. Balaam, however, had to transmit those blessings upon Israel which God had dictated to him, but he later gave advice leading to the moral and spiritual subversion of the Israelites.

On our last study, we saw how the Midianites and Moabites were confederated in seeking the downfall of Israel through subversion of their religious commitment to Yahweh, Who was the God with whom they had agreed a covenant of national marriage at Sinai. The Moabites had arranged through the sexual advances of their temple prostitutes, (the "daughters of Moab" of Numbers 25:1) to invite Israel to sin by serving the false idols of the Moabitish religion, and thus to bring down upon Israel the anger of Yahweh (Jehovah) their protecting deity.

Following this, even while the sentence of death upon those who had sinned in this manner was being established, there came into the midst of the congregation of Israel one of their own chiefs, a Prince of the Tribe of Simeon, who brought to his tent in the sight of all Israel a Midianitish woman, daughter of a Midianitish chief, in order, as Keil and Delitzsch put it, "to commit adultery with her in his tent." Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron had slain both these transgressors in the tent, for which action, God gave His approval and a promise regarding the continuing of the seed of Phinehas in the office of High Priest through the time to come.

14. Now the name of the Israelite that was slain, even that was slain with the Midianitish woman, was Zimri, the son of Salu, a prince of a chief house among the Simeonites.
15. And the name of the Midianitish woman that was slain was Cozbi, the daughter of Zur; he was head over a people, and of a chief house in Midian.

Nelson's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Bible Facts gives the meaning of the name Salu, as "miserable; unfortunate", and his son, Zimri had a name which meant "celebrated." The Bible record contains mention of three others who also bore that name. That reference also states the meaning of "Cozbi" as "deceitful" and makes reference to her being a Midianitish woman slain by Phinehas at Shittim (Num. 25:6-18). Young's Concordance agrees with those meanings for Salu, Zimri and Cozbi.

Keil and Delitzsch have some comments regarding these events which I might add, as we did not have time on the last study to complete the picture. They state of this action by Zimri, and what followed "This shameless wickedness, in which the depth of the corruption that had penetrated into the congregation came to light, inflamed the zeal of Phinehas, the son of Eleazar the high priest, to such an extent, that he seized a spear, and rushing into the tent of the adulterer, pierced both of them through in the very act... ." Here they explain that the Hebrew word used means "arched, or arch", and continue, stating that it "is applied here to the inner or hinder division of the tent, the sleeping-room and women's room in the larger tents of the upper classes - vers. 8, 9. Through this judgment, which was executed by Phinehas with holy zeal upon the daring sinners, the plague was restrained, so that it came to an end. The example which Phinehas had made of these sinners was an act of intercession, by which the high priest appeased the wrath of God, and averted the judgment of destruction from the whole congregation... . Twenty-four thousand men were killed by this plague. The Apostle Paul deviates from this statement in 1 Cor. x. 8, and gives the number of those that fell as twenty-three thousand, probably from a traditional interpretation of the schools of the scribes according to which a thousand were deducted from the twenty-four thousand who perished, as being the number of those who were hanged by the judges, so that only twenty-three thousand would be killed by the plague; and it is to these alone that Paul refers."

They go on to state "For this act of divine zeal the eternal possession of the priesthood was promised to Phinehas and his posterity as Jehovah's covenant of peace." The thought is that the zeal of Phinehas had served to avert the zeal of Jehovah which had manifested itself in the plague. A footnote in that reference gives us the additional note "Upon this act of Phinehas, and the similar examples of Samuel (1 Sam. xv. 33) and Mattathias (1 Macc. ii. 24), the later Jews erected the so-called "zealot right" ... according to which any one, even though not qualified by his official position, possessed the right, in cases of any daring contempt of the theocratic institutions, or any daring violation of the honour of God, to proceed with vengeance against the criminals."

The reference goes on to explain regarding the Midianite woman "The father of Cozbi, the Midianitish princess, was named Zur, and is described here as 'head of the tribes ... of a father's house in Midian,' i.e. as the head of several of the Midianitish tribes that were descended from one tribe-father; in chap. xxxi. 8, however, he is described as a king, and classed among the five kings of Midian who were slain by the Israelites."

Keil and Delitzsch make the point that "The 19th verse belongs to the following chapter, and forms the introduction to chap. xxvi. 1."

That statement now brings us to the study of Numbers 26, a rather long chapter of some 65 verses, and we will not have time remaining today to even read the whole passage, let alone comment fully thereon. However, we may make a beginning on the new Scripture passage now before us. We are now arriving at another step in the preparation to enter the Promised Land. When Israel of the former generation had just completed their Exodus out of Egypt, about forty years before, you will remember, that God had instructed Moses that he should number the people. Now, with the passage of the years, and the deaths of nearly all those who formed that former generation, it is time to make a further census of the people.

Under the heading "Mustering of Israel in the Steppes of Moab. - Chap xxvi." Keil and Delitzsch explain "Before taking vengeance upon the Midianites, as they had been commanded, the Israelites were to be mustered as the army of Jehovah, by means of a fresh numbering, since the generation that was mustered at Sinai (Chap. i. -iv.) had died out in the wilderness, with the sole exception of Caleb and Joshua (vers. 64, 65). On this ground the command of God was issued, "after the plague," for a fresh census and muster. For with the plague the last of those who came out of Egypt, and were not to enter Canaan, had been swept away, and thus the sentence had been completely executed. - The object of the fresh numbering, however, was not merely to muster Israel for the war with the Midianites, and in the approaching conquest of the promised land with the Canaanites also, but was intended to serve at the same time as a preparation for their settlement in Canaan, viz. for the division of the conquered land among the tribes and families of Israel. For this reason (chap. xxvi.) the families of the different tribes are enumerated here, which was not the case in chap. i.; and general instructions are also given in vers. 52-56, with reference to the division of Canaan. - The numbering was simply extended, as before, to the male population of the age of 20 years and upwards, and was no doubt carried out, like the previous census at Sinai, by Moses and the high priest (Eleazar), with the assistance of the heads of the tribes, although the latter are not expressly mentioned here. - The names of the families correspond - with very few exceptions, which have been already noticed ... to the grandsons and great-grandsons of Jacob mentioned in Gen. xlvi."

While we will have to leave further review for the next Study, perhaps I might just put some thoughts before you for a meditation. We are, in this present generation, giving attention to those things which naturally concern us in our own time. We are prone to forget that we have not arrived on the stage of history in which we now find ourselves without roots which comprise racial (tribal), cultural, religious, and national strands connecting us to ancient peoples who today may seem very distant in both time and space. The Biblical story seems to be one which happened in a land long ago and far away. But for many of us, these are our ancestral roots, and words spoken by our Patriarchal forefathers still apply. Prophetic statements were made in ancient time which are addressed to those living in "the last days", and it is wise to seek them out, if we are to gain fresh views and understanding of our present situation, for God the "Ever-Existent One" does not change, and His prophetic word is true, whether we pay attention to it or not. May you find food for thought in that consideration for this week.

4 July, 1999

CENSUS

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our regular sequence of on-going Bible Studies, starting a number of years ago with The Call by The Almighty God to Abram in Genesis 12 has followed his progeny down to the Tribes of Israel who are presently on the border of the Promised Land. Having passed out of Egyptian bondage through the marvellous miracles of the Signs and Wonders by which the Tribes of Israel were released, that former generation of Israelites, although they had experienced the commitments of Sinai, and the lessons of The Tabernacle, had stumbled in their approach to this borderland of Canaan. It has been left to the present generation, children of those who failed forty years before, to make good God's Word regarding His intent to given them the Promised Land as their inheritance.

On leaving Egypt, and experiencing the new freedom the Tribes had of necessity been organized Tribe by Tribe, in their square encampment, and the leader, Moses, had been given orders by The Almighty, to number the people. Now, with the passage of the years, and the expiry of those of that former generation who had failed to move forward in God's strength to take the land, and who had, in consequence, been condemned to wander in the wilderness until death claimed them, a new population cohort had taken their place. These were now, like their parents, in need of a review census, to establish the present situation regarding their numbers, and the organization needed for mustering to war, and division of the land, once occupation had begun. In Numbers 26, we find the Scriptural passage which details this Census for us, and, while numbers may at first seem a somewhat dry subject for a study passage, we may yet find some aspects as we read which bring enlightenment where in might not be expected to appear. In places, the record provides a short review of certain historic occurrences connected with particular members of a genealogy. The New Bible Commentary introduces this section of Scripture under the heading "Preparation for Entrance into Canaan xxvi. 1 - xxxvi. 13" and the sub-heading "XVII. Preparation for the Conquest and Apportionment of the Land. xxvi. 1 - xxvii. 23". It states "In comparison with the stirring events which have been described thus far, the remaining eleven chapters of the book of Numbers may seem dull and almost anticlimactic. Although forming a necessary preparation for the thrilling experience of entrance into the Promised Land, some of their parts are not particularly interesting in themselves."

Well, perhaps the information contained herein might have been a bit more interesting to the writer of the Commentary if that person had understood that these ancient records pertain directly to ourselves. We, who expound the British-Israel view of Scripture interpretation, are in possession of an important key to Biblical understanding which brings light to each corner of the ancient Scriptures. Another point which may be entirely missed by commentaries devoted to the orthodox view is that some members and segments of these Tribes of Israel may well, and indeed from certain evidences apparently did, take ship and leave Egypt before the actual time of oppression and The Exodus. Prior to The Exodus, Israel was living in Goshen, which is in the Nile Delta, and some Israelite families, particularly those less inclined to animal husbandry or less endowed by seniority of birth, could well have felt displaced as inheritance passed from father to eldest son, and so sought employment by engaging in seaborne traffic as sailors and colonists elsewhere along the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea, and beyond, making their way to various Islands, and perhaps to Greece and Spain, for example. Dan, Asher, Judah and Simeon in particular could well have participated in such a population dispersal. Although less likely, it is even possible that post-Exodus numbers in some of the Tribes could conceivably also have been slightly depleted through members of some tribes, disenchanted at being forbidden to enter The Promised Land, finding their way, as individuals or in small groups, to join these earlier colonists overseas. We may make further use of The New Bible Commentary note covering the entire chapter after the conclusion of our readings in that passage. As usual, I shall draw in comments as appropriate, along the way, as we read, starting at Numbers 26:1:

1. And it came to pass after the plague, that the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest, saying,
2. Take the sum of all the congregation of the children of Israel, from twenty years old and upward, throughout their fathers' house, all that are able to go to war in Israel.

Here, The Companion Bible notes of the words "Take the sum", "For the order of the tribes see Ap. 45. Moses received them by number, Ex. 38. 26; so now when preparing to die, he delivers them over by number. This was the third numbering. children=sons." Of "their fathers' house", it says "i.e. the families. These shown here to be forty-seven. In Gen. 46 they are fifty-two; so five are extinct (one of Simeon, one of Asher, and three of Benjamin)." That Appendix 45 is in the form of a table which lists the twenty listings of the twelve tribes, as found from Genesis to Revelation in Scripture, and it shows that these vary according to the different objects with which they are given, and the different connections in which they stand, according to birth: mothers, encampment, numeration, blessing, geographical relation, etc.

3. And Moses and Eleazar the priest spake with them in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho, saying,
4. Take the sum of the people, from twenty years old and upward; as the LORD commanded Moses and the children of Israel, which went forth out of the land of Egypt.
5. Reuben, the eldest son of Israel: the children of Reuben; Hanoch, of whom cometh the family of the Hanochites: of Pallu, the family of the Palluites:
6. Of Hezron, the family of the Hezronites: of Carmi, the family of the Carmites.
7. These are the families of the Reubenites: and they that were numbered of them were forty and three thousand and seven hundred and thirty.

Here, The Companion Bible points out an interesting fact. In Numbers 1:21 the number of the tribe is 46,500, so the drop in those intervening forty years to 43,730 means a decrease of 2770 to the tribe. The reference adds "This is an undesigned evidence of accuracy: an uninspired writer would have made an increase." Continuing Reuben's descendants at verse 8:

8. And the sons of Pallu; Eliab.
9. And the sons of Eliab; Nemuel, and Dathan, and Abiram. This is that Dathan and Abiram, which were famous in the congregation, who strove against Moses and against Aaron in the company of Korah, when they strove against the LORD:
10. And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up together with Korah, when that company died, what time the fire devoured two hundred and fifty men: and they became a sign.
11. Notwithstanding the children of Korah died not.

Here, The Companion Bible notes of these children of Korah "Cp. 16. 32, 35. They were Assir, Elkanah, and Abiasaph (Ex. 6. 24). Their descendants were prominent in the Temple-worship (1 Chron. 6. 22-38). Of them came Samuel (cp. 1 Chron. 6. 33. 4 with 1 Sam. 1. 20) and Heman (cp. 1 Chron. 6. 33 with 25. 4, 6). Two groups of Psalms are associated with them (42-49 and 84-88)

12. The sons of Simeon after their families: of Nemuel, the family of the Nemuelites: of Jamin, the family of the Jaminites: of Jachin, the family of the Jachinites:
13. Of Zerah, the family of the Zarhites: of Shaul, the family of the Shaulites.
14. These are the families of the Simeonites, twenty and two thousand and two hundred.

Here The Companion Bible notes a decrease. "In Num. 1. 23 = 59,300, a drop of 37,100."

15. The children of Gad after their families: of Zephon, the family of the Zephonites: of Haggi, the family of the Haggites: of Shuni, the family of the Shunites:
16. Of Ozni, the family of the Oznites: of Eri, the family of the Erites:
17. Of Arod, the family of the Arodites: of Areli, the family of the Arelites.
18. These are the families of the children of Gad according to those that were numbered of them, forty thousand and five hundred.

In former studies, we have mentioned the possibility that some members of the Tribe of Gad came to reside in the north of Italy at a later time. It seems that between the numbering given in Numbers 2:15 and our present passage, there is a drop from 45,650 to 40,500, a loss of some 5,150, as pointed out in The Companion Bible note to this verse. Perhaps we have covered sufficient of our Scripture portion for today, so I shall leave with you, as I have on former similar occasions, a few ideas for your meditation. The Bible gives quite concise information concerning those who were still in the tribal encampments of Israel in the wilderness. Can we state positively that no descendants of Jacob's tribes left Egypt in the earlier years, before the change in government which brought to power that pharaoh "who knew not Joseph" and the oppressive regime which ensued? Could not some of Israel be found elsewhere, beyond the immediate scope of the Biblical record, having made their way to other areas across The Mediterranean Sea? We shall continue our studies next week.

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