Moses raised an army of twelve thousand Israelites and sent them to make war on the Midianites. He also sent Phinehas into battle along with several holy items.
Moses sent them, a thousand from each tribe, to the war, and Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, to the war with them. (Numbers 31:6)
Although Phinehas led the army into the battle, he was not the high priest. His father Eleazar had the office of the high priesthood, but the Talmud refers to Phinehas as one “Anointed for War (Meshuach Milchamah, משוח מלחמה).” We might also translate the term as “War Messiah.” The “Anointed for War” was a priest that marched out with the armies of Israel and served as their intercessor and representative of the Almighty on the battlefield.
Typically, the Anointed for War was not the high priest but a deputy of the high priest. As the army prepared for war, the priest designated as Anointed for War rallied the soldiers, encouraged them, emboldened them, prayed over them, and accompanied them to the battlefield (see Deuteronomy 20).
The “Anointed for War” alludes to King Messiah who will take the battlefield like David His father and fight the wars of the LORD. He fights with supernatural weapons: “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit” (Zechariah 4:6). The Almighty anoints Him with the Spirit of power to overcome the enemies of Israel.
The Torah says that Phinehas brought “the holy vessels and the trumpets for the alarm” with him into battle. The supernatural weapons prevailed in the battle.
What are “the holy vessels”? Jewish tradition explains that Phinehas carried the high priest’s breastpiece with the Urim and the Thummim in them so that the army could consult with the Almighty on the field of battle. The Talmud explains that the “holy vessels” refers to “the ark with the tablets which were in it.” The ark represented the presence of God on the battlefield. When the ark would set out, Moses said, “Rise up, O LORD! And let your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate You flee before You” (Numbers 10:35).
Phinehas also carried the silver trumpets created for rallying the nation and sounding the battle cry. The trumpets invoke the coming of Messiah when “a great shofar will be blown” (Isaiah 27:13). Psalm 110 depicts the Messiah as both priest and warrior. He is the priest “according to the order of Melchizedek,” but He also shatters kings and leaves foreign nations filled with corpses:
“You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” The Lord is at Your right hand; He will shatter kings in the day of His wrath. He will judge among the nations, He will fill them with corpses, He will shatter the chief men over a broad country. He will drink from the brook by the wayside; therefore He will lift up His head. (Psalm 110:4-7)