Pinchas and the Nature of Peace

Numbers 25.1-18

It is fashionable to define peace as the absence of war or fighting. This always popular definition gained currency among the generation in the US which defined itself by draft dodging during the Vietnam War. That generation is now thumping the tub in opposition to the war in Iraq and is appalled that Israel is using force to defend itself against its own Islamic terrorists. As we see in Parasha Pinchas, God has a different perspective on peace.

The story is simple, Balak, unable to curse Israel through Bilaam, sent women into the camp to seduce the Israelite men. Part of the consummation involved idol worship. To get the full impact of the scene in the camp, picture the Janet Jackson--Justin Timberlake performance during the Super Bowl. Now imagine that a rabbi, furious at what was happening in front of his children, jumps from the stands, grabs a yardage marker and pins Janet and Justin to the stage. To complete the picture, imagine how this would be reported on the evening news. The TV anchor and the perky anchorette with grave looks on their faces, "It was horrible, this religeous fanatic robbed us of their youth, talent and energy. The nation is in shock and mourning."

With this thought experiment in your mind, now turn to Numbers 25:12 where God says, "Behold, I give to him (Pinchas) my covenant of peace." So God's idea of peace is something very different than the definition above.

To understand, let's start with the Hebrew letters forming the word 'shalom'. They are shin, lamed, vav, mem. The Hebrew alef bet is actually a set of pictographs, each letter standing for a concept. The shin represents teeth meaning to devour or destroy. The lamed is a shepherd's staff meaning authority. The vav is a nail meaning to fix or fasten. The mem is water, meaning chaos or instability. Putting it all together, shalom means to 'destroy the authority which causes chaos'.

There is a spiritual authority in this world which delights in causing chaos and confusion. We see that authority at work all around us. It seeks to 'fuzz up' the clear moral distinctions drawn in God's word. It is the father of lies, situational ethics and other 'new paradigms'. True peace only comes when that authority is bound and destroyed.

Unfortunately chaos works through people. As we see in this parsha and many other places in Scripture that societies can become so corrupt that the merciful thing is to wipe them out. When God deals with the Sodomites or the Amelekites, He does so as YHVH, not as Elohim. That means that He is dealing in mercy rather than in judgment.

Scripturally, God judges nations as well as individuals. Daniel was a righteous man yet he grew up in Babylon because he was carried away along with the rest of the nation. I pray that God's people will bind the authority causing chaos in this country so that God will not have to clean things up Himself. Either way, there will be peace.

Ray talked about this during his message on Shabbat and both he and I got the outline from Kol Yaakov, Give War a Chance on