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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae
Numbers 25



Verses 10-13



Numbers 25:10-13. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 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. Wherefore say, Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace: 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.

SATAN is incessant in his endeavours to destroy the people of God: and, if one device fail, he has recourse to another: nor is he ever at a loss for a succession of expedients, whereby to accomplish his malignant ends. He had laboured hard, in concert with Balaam his willing agent, to bring a curse upon Israel: but he had been foiled in every attempt. What, however, he could not effect by the sword of Moab, he more successfully essayed to do through the influence of their own corruptions, and the fascinations of abandoned women: and, if the zeal of Phinehas had not intervened to arrest the arm of divine vengeance, we know not to what an extent the calamities of Israel might have reached.

In considering what is here recorded concerning Phinehas, we shall notice,

I. The act for which he was rewarded—

A most grievous iniquity was committed in the camp—

[Balaam had advised Balak to ensnare the Israelites by means of the Midianitish women [Note: Numbers 31:16; Revelation 2:14.]. An intercourse between them had been opened: the Israelites fell into the snare; and were drawn into unlawful connexions with them, and then into idolatry itself. Thus God was incensed against his people; and after having protected them from the imprecations of Balaam, became himself the executioner of heavy judgments upon them. In addition to the plague which he himself inflicted upon the people, he ordered Moses to send forth and slay the chief offenders, and to hang them up in the sight of all the congregation.

Whilst these judgments were executing, and the unoffending part of the congregation were “weeping before the door of the tabernacle,” behold, a man of distinction in one of the tribes brought a Midianitish woman to his tent, in the very sight of Moses and of all the congregation. The guilt of such an illicit commerce would under any circumstances have been exceeding great; but at such a time, and in such a manner, was criminal in the highest degree: it was shameless in the extreme: it was an open defiance both of God and man.]

To punish it as it deserved, Phinehas stood forth with holy zeal—

[He seized a javelin, and followed the abandoned criminals to the tent, and pierced them through in the midst of their guilty pleasures. This might appear to have been an usurpation of legal authority: but it was not so: for the chief magistrate himself had given the command to all the judges of Israel: moreover, being the son of the high-priest, it is reasonable to suppose that Phinehas was himself a magistrate: at all events, he acted by a divine impulse, and was “God’s minister, a revenger to execute wrath upon these evil-doers.” Such an act in us would be unjustifiable; because we have received no such commission either from God or man: but the spirit from which it proceeded, would be commendable in whomsoever it were found: we ought to be filled with a zeal for God’s honour: we ought to feel indignation against sin: we ought to be penetrated with compassion towards those who are in danger of perishing through the impiety of others: and we ought to be ready to assist the civil magistrate in the suppression of iniquity.]

God’s approbation of his conduct was strongly marked in,

II. The reward conferred upon him—

Instantly was God pacified towards his offending people—

[Already had twenty-three thousand persons fallen by the plague, and another thousand by the sword of justice [Note: Compare ver. 9 with 1 Corinthians 10:8.]: but, on the execution of this signal vengeance, God stopped the plague, and commanded the sword of justice to be sheathed. He accepted this as “an atonement for the children of Israel.” Not that there was any thing in the blood of the victims, that could expiate sin; but their death was considered as a sacrifice to divine justice; and God took occasion from it to return in mercy to his repenting people. What a glorious reward was this! Not a family throughout all the tribes of Israel could help feeling its obligations to him, and acknowledging him as its benefactor.]

Immediately too did “God give him his covenant of an everlasting priesthood”—

[True it was, that Phinehas was next in succession to the priesthood; but it was not ensured to him, and his seed, till God now gave it to him by an express promise. The covenant of priesthood is called “a covenant of peace,” both because it was a testimony of divine acceptance to Phinehas himself [Note: Psalms 106:28-31.], and (as long as the priesthood should last) the means of maintaining peace between God and his people: it also shadowed forth that better priesthood, which should be the means of reconciling the whole world to God, and God unto the world.

This priesthood, we know, was typical of Christ; but, whether the giving of it in consequence of “the atonement made” by Phinehas was typical of him, we cannot say: but this is clear, that the giving of the priesthood to Phinehas, as a reward for the zeal he had exercised, was intended to shew, to the remotest ages, that “it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing [Note: Galatians 4:18.];” and that they who serve God with their whole hearts, shall have the most intimate access to him in this world, and participate his glory in the world to come: “they shall be kings and priests unto their God for ever and ever.”]

We cannot reflect on this history without seeing in a striking point of view,

1. The danger of indulging sin in ourselves—

[Whilst the Israelites were obedient to the divine commands, they were safe: God turned all the execrations of their enemies into blessings [Note: Deuteronomy 23:5.]. But when they allowed themselves to be tempted by the Midianitish women, they fell from one sin to another, and provoked God himself to become their enemy. Happy will it be for us, if we learn from their experience to resist iniquity in its first approaches; lest we fall and perish after their example. And let not this caution be deemed unworthy the attention of any. If David, and Solomon, were betrayed into the most grievous iniquities by means of their ungoverned appetites, who is he that shall think himself secure? Solomon’s description of an abandoned woman is but too just; “Her heart is as snares and nets, and her hands as bands [Note: Ecclesiastes 7:26.]:” he tells us too, that “many strong men have been slain by her; and that her house is the way to hell [Note: Proverbs 7:24-27.].” Many who once appeared to be in the way to heaven, have found this to their cost: and many of us who are yet out of hell, owe it more to the long-suffering of God than to any virtue of our own. Let such persons then be thankful to God for his mercy; and, “if any man think that he standeth, let him take heed lest he fall.”]

2. The duty of restraining sin in others—

[Wherefore were these rewards conferred on Phinehas, but to shew the world the acceptableness of such services as his? And to what purpose has he committed the power of the sword to magistrates, if they are not to be a terror to the workers of iniquity? This power is a talent for which magistrates are responsible to God: and, if they shrink not from using it, because the exercise of it would subject them to the reproaches of the ungodly, let them bear in mind, that they shall receive commendations from their God; and that, by every friend of piety and of order, they will be reckoned, like Phinehas, the truest patriots of their day. Ministers also, in their respective spheres, should use influence for the suppression of iniquity; boldly rebuking it in public, and using every lawful method of discountenancing it in private. Persons too in every sphere of life should co-operate for the same benevolent purpose; assured that, by obstructing the progress of sin, they approve themselves the best friends both of God and man.]

3. The greatness of our obligations to the Lord Jesus Christ—

[If Phinehas was so great a benefactor to his country, and deserved the thanks of all, for sacrificing the lives of two licentious profligates, what thanks are due to the Lord Jesus Christ, who offered his own life a sacrifice for us! Here was love unsearchable, and zeal unparalleled. To him must every human being confess his obligations: to him must every one that shall finally be saved, render everlasting praise and honour. O let every one throughout the camp of Israel behold his Benefactor: let every one contemplate Jesus as appeasing the wrath of God, and effecting our reconciliation with him: and, inasmuch as “for his obedience unto death God hath highly exalted him, and given him a name above every name,” let every heart acknowledge him; let every knee bow to him; and every tongue be occupied in ascribing glory to his name.]


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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Numbers 25:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. 1832.

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Sunday, December 8th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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