Messianic Education Trust
(Num 25:11 - 30:1(29:40))

B'Midbar/Numbers 25:13   And it shall be for him and for his seed after him a covenant of everlasting priesthood

View whole verse and interlinear translation ...

We have to start by asking what the 'it' that is to be a covenant of everlasting priesthood for Pinchas and his descendants might be. As the verb - the 3fs affix form of the root , to be, with a vav-reversive - is feminine, so literally "and she will be", the answer can be found in the previous verse: "My covenant of peace" (B'Midbar 25:12, ESV, NASB, NIV, NRSV). The Name ...

HaShem: literally, Hebrew for 'The Name' - an allusion used to avoid pronouncing the Tetragrammaton, the so-called 'ineffable' name of G–d
HaShem is giving Pinchas and his heirs a covenant of peace and priesthood that will last forever. We know that Pinchas himself lived well into the time of the judges; the last but one chapter of the book of Judges tells us that "the ark of the covenant of G-d was [in Bethel] in those days and Pinchas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron, ministered before it" (Judges 20:27-28, ESV). Jewish tradition and the Scriptures also tell us that Zadok was a descendant of Pinchas, that the Zadokites held the position of High Priest well into Second Temple times ( Who Is ...

Chizkuni: Rabbi Hezekiah ben Manoah (13th century), French rabbi and exegete; his commentary on the Torah was written about 1240 in memory of his father, based principally on Rashi, but using about 20 other sources
Chizkuni) until Israel lost control of the position. The New Covenant records the Zadokites as the Sadducees who, as clients of Roman patronage, remained largely in control of the Temple and the priesthood almost until the destruction of the Second Temple at the Hurban. The priestly line and descent is still carefully preserved within the Jewish people today.

The use of the first person singular possessive pronoun to describe the covenant is important, because according to Jacob Milgrom, this is one of just five covenants issued by G-d: "the promise to Noah that humanity will not be destroyed, promise of seed and soil to Avraham, the Torah to Moshe (and Israel), and dynasties to Pinchas and David." The nature of 'everlasting' may be grasped by hearing G-d's words through Jeremiah - "Thus says the L-RD: If you can break My covenant with the day and My covenant with the night, so that day and night will not come at their appointed time, then also My covenant with David My servant may be broken, so that he shall not have a son to reign on his throne, and My covenant with the Levitical priests My ministers" (Jeremiah 33:20-21, ESV) - and the Psalmist: "My steadfast love I will keep for him forever, and My covenant will stand firm for him. I will establish his offspring forever and his throne as the days of the heavens. If his children forsake My law ... then I will punish their transgression ... but I will not remove from him My steadfast love or be false to My faithfulness. I will not violate My covenant or alter the word that went forth from My lips. Once for all I have sworn by My holiness; I will not lie to David. His offspring shall endure forever, his throne as long as the sun before Me" (Psalm 89:28-36, ESV). Interestingly, Milgrom points out, the biblical notion of an eternal covenant is also attested in extra-biblical sources, such as What Is ...

Akkadian: A semitic language, spoken in ancient Mesopotamia, particularly by the Babylonians and Assyrians, named from the city of Akkad, a major city of Mesopotamian civilisation. Written in cuneiform; spoken for several millenia but probably exinct by 100CE
Akkadian documents.

Other commentators ask why Pinchas needed to be given a covenant as he was already a grandson of Aharon and the son of Eleazar the priest. Who Is ...

Rashi: Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (1040-1105 CE), French rabbi who wrote commentaries on the Torah, the Prophets and the Talmud, lived in Troyes where he founded a yeshiva in 1067; focuses on the plain meaning (p'shat) of the text, although sometimes quite cryptic in his brevity
Rashi responds that "even though priesthood had already been given to the offspring of Aharon, it had been given to none but Aharon and to his sons who were anointed with him, and to the progeny they would beget after their anointing." That excludes Pinchas, who was born before then, but had not been anointed with them. He had not, says Rashi, "entered the class of priesthood up to this point." If Pinchas was to be able to serve as a priest, he needed to be included one way or the other. But there is a significant difference between the way that Aharon and his sons were brought into the priesthood and the words used in our text. The Who Is ...

Ramban: Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman of Gerona or Nachmanides (1194-1270 CE), Spanish rabbi, author and physician; defended Judaism in the Christian debates in Barcelona before making aliyah
Ramban points out that "this is not what Aharon's other priestly descendants were told - that their anointing would 'their anointing shall serve them for everlasting priesthood throughout the ages' (Shemot 40:15, NJPS). Rather, G-d gave Pinchas 'the covenant of an everlasting priesthood, with peace.'" An anointing is not the same thing at all as a covenant. When the anointing and the covenant came together, then there would be powerful ministry and life poured out for those who received it. Yeshua was the perfect exemplar: His earthly ministry was the fulfillment of covenant and He was anointed with the Spirit at His baptism, the "the Spirit descending on him like a dove" (Mark 1:10, ESV).

We often see HaShem operating in a multi-generational way: covenants apply not just to the generation to whom they are given or spoken. G-d calls Himself, "the G-d of your father, the G-d of Avraham, the G-d of Yitz'khak, and the G-d of Ya'acov" (Shemot 3:6), a text quoted almost in its entirety by Yeshua: "haven't you read in the book of Moshe ... how G-d said to him, 'I am the G-d of Avraham, the G-d of Yitz'chak and the G-d of Ya'akov?" (Mark 12:26, CJB). Later on, HaShem shows how multi-generational relationship is part of His character: "The L-RD! the L-RD! a G-d compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and faithfulness, extending kindness to the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; yet He does not remit all punishment, but visits the iniquity of parents upon children and children's children, upon the third and fourth generations" (Shemot 34:6-7, NJPS). We can see Rav Sha'ul hinting at the same thing when he tells the Corinthians that "the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy" (1 Corinthians 7:14, ESV). G-d's grace is extended within families and across generations. We need to be careful not to over-play this so that it takes away the need for each person to have their own faith connection to the L-rd, but we cannot deny that there is something important going on here that is consistent with G-d's declared name and character.

So when, if ever, does a multi-generational covenant stop? When a generation - or an individual representing a generation within a family - rejects the covenant and walks away from it. We can see this principle at work in families and nations. A godly man can bring up his children in the way of the faith, but his children have to pick it up and walk in it for it to become their own. His grandchildren are then affected by their parents; if they are not brought up in a household of faith, it will be more difficult for them to learn and understand about the L-rd. With each successive generation that turns away, the distance and the inheritance becomes harder - but not impossible - to pick up. Similarly, nations founded on godly principles and with a few generations of faithfulness can turn away from those principles and change the nation from one that acknowledges and follows G-d, to one where the iniquity of the parents is visited on the children and grandchildren. Justice becomes perverted with evil being called 'good' and good being called 'evil'; society's values are turned upside down and exploitation of the poor, the orphans and widows becomes commonplace.

On the other hand, what about Yeshua's words to the disciples: "I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20, ESV). Surely He meant what He said? Absolutely; that is consistent with all that has gone before. Yeshua promised that He would always be with His disciples and - in the immediate context of the Great Commission He has just given them to go and make more disciples - each successive generation of disciples that follow Him and walk in His ways. The core thread in Yeshua's teaching at the Last Supper about Himself as the vine is that we - as His followers - have to abide in Him, so that we bear fruit, have our prayers answered, glorify the Father and prove to be His disciples. How do we abide in Him? He said, "If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love" (John 15:10, ESV), which then matches what He told the disciples to do: "teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:20, ESV). As we build observant and obedient communities of faith, passing on Yeshua's teaching and practice to both spiritual and physical generations, He will be with us, to the thousandth generation! Exactly the same exit criteria apply: if a generation, or individuals representing a generation, walk away from Yeshua, then they remove themselves and subsequent generations from His promise, which can only be re-instated for a subsequent generation by that generation or individual coming to faith in Yeshua as a first-generation believer.

Building and maintaining multi-generational families and communities of faith doesn't just happen. It requires specific intention and deliberate action. Much prayer is essential to anchor and ground people and relationships; but consistent choices, standards and practice are also necessary to demonstrate what we do and to develop habits that will last a lifetime. G-d said, "I have chosen [Avraham], that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the L-RD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the L-RD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him" (B'resheet 18:19, ESV) and Yeshua told the disciples that "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit" (John 15:16, ESV). The next generation is our most important fruit; let us renew our commitment to serving both them and the L-rd today.

Further Study: Malachi 2:5-9; Isaiah 54:9-10; Romans 11:1; Ephesians 6:4

Application: Are you involved in multi-generational building? Are you seeing the fruit of successive generations walking in faith and righteousness as a witness to the world in our day? Perhaps it is time to realise the importance of the next generation and commit yourself to seeing that fruit emerge.

Comment - 16:55 02Jul18 Diana Brown: We are "getting them ready" at our congregations ... reaching out to train and equip the families with children and young adults who will pick a mate and marry. One neglected area is equipping the saints ... the 60 and older folks who are steadfast in their faith but lose contact with the community when their physical bodies begin to break down. They have wisdom which must be shared as well so they don't see their value to the community as simply a tithe-giver, no longer a sage.

Comment - 07:17 07Jul18 David Wright: I found this useful and thought provoking. The Messianic covenant through David - Yeshua can be applied to all believers (noting your generational comments). How do we see the priestly covenant through Pinchas? Is this specifically Jewish?

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© Jonathan Allen, 2018

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