Religion is a Two-edged Sword

Religious zealotry and fanaticism has no place among the disciples of Yeshua outside of our "zeal for the Torah" and "zeal for good deeds."

The Bible and a two-edged sword (Image © Bigstock/SeaversPhotography)

Pinchas

Regular Shabbat Readings

Read / Listen to these Portions

  • Pinchas (פנחס | Phinehas)
  • Torah: Numbers 25:10-30:1
  • Haftarah: 1 Kings 18:46-19:21
  • Gospel: John 2:13-22

Note: The regular readings are often interrupted with special readings on Jewish holidays, special Sabbaths, and Rosh Chodesh. Refer to the annual Torah Portion schedule for these special portions.

Portion Outline

  • Torah
    • Numbers 25:10 | The Zeal of Phinehas
    • Numbers 26:1 | A Census of the New Generation
    • Numbers 27:1 | The Daughters of Zelophehad
    • Numbers 27:12 | Joshua Appointed Moses' Successor
    • Numbers 28:1 | Daily Offerings
    • Numbers 28:9 | Sabbath Offerings
    • Numbers 28:11 | Monthly Offerings
    • Numbers 28:16 | Offerings at Passover
    • Numbers 28:26 | Offerings at the Festival of Weeks
    • Numbers 29:1 | Offerings at the Festival of Trumpets
    • Numbers 29:7 | Offerings on the Day of Atonement
    • Numbers 29:12 | Offerings at the Festival of Booths
  • Prophets
    • 1Ki 18:41 | The Drought Ends
    • 1Ki 19:1 | Elijah Flees from Jezebel
    • 1Ki 19:11 | Elijah Meets God at Horeb
    • 1Ki 19:19 | Elisha Becomes Elijah's Disciple

Portion Summary

Pinchas (פנחס) is the Hebrew name translated in English Bibles as Phinehas. It is also the name of the forty-first reading from the Torah because of the second verse of the reading, which says, "Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned away My wrath" (Numbers 25:11). In this Torah portion, the LORD makes a covenant of peace with Phinehas and his descendants, orders a second census, settles questions about inheritance, appoints Joshua to succeed Moses and lists the sacrifices for the appointed times.


Religion is a two-edged sword. On the one hand, faith in God, trust in Messiah and obedience to God's commandments is the narrow path that leads to life. It brings peace, joy and purpose to existence. On the other hand, religious convictions can become a source of strife, enmity and hatred between people and nations.

Parashat Pinchas is named for Pinchas (Phinehas), the zealous grandson of Aaron the priest who turned aside the LORD’s wrath by publicly skewering two flagrant transgressors. The LORD rewarded Phinehas with a “covenant of peace.” He became the progenitor of the priestly line.

The LORD said, “He was jealous with My jealousy among them, so that I did not destroy the sons of Israel in My jealousy” (Numbers 25:11). The Hebrew word kin’ah (קנאה), which we ordinarily translate as “jealousy,” also means “zeal,” a better translation in this context.

This explains why the Master had a disciple named “Simon the Canaanite” in the King James Version of the Bible. The Greek text of Matthew and Mark introduce one of Yeshua’s disciples as “Simon the Canaanean (Καναναῖος).” Translators and scribes stumbled over the unusual word. Some scribes mistakenly tried to correct it as “Simon man of Cana.” The King James translators chose to translate it as “Simon the Canaanite.” Thanks to the error, Simon has the embarrassing honor of being the only Gentile disciple among the twelve—and a Canaanite at that!

Actually, the mysterious Greek word attempts to transliterate of the Semitic kanana (קנאנא), which means “the Zealot.” The anti-Roman, Jewish revolutionaries of first-century Judea called themselves Zealots. Luke recognized the word and translated it as “Simon the Zealot.” In modern vernacular, we would call him Simon the Terrorist.

Judea and Galilee were filled with political and religious zealots who regularly resorted to violence to advance their purposes. They emulated Phinehas, and used his story to justify terrorism.

Terrorists like the Zealots prove that zeal can be misplaced. Paul is another example of misplaced zeal. Prior to his Damascus road encounter, Paul pursued the believers with a Phinehas-like zeal. In his epistle to the Philippians, he mentioned his history as a persecutor of the believers as evidence of his “zeal” for God.

Rather than imitating Phinehas, we do far better to emulate the Master who was zealous for His Father’s house (John 2:17) and for His Father’s will. We should imitate the first-century Jewish believers who were “zealous for the Torah” (Acts 21:20). We should be “zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:14), and zealous for Messiah and the kingdom. This means ruthlessly rooting out from of our lives those things that lead us to sin and cause us to stray.

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