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the tabernacle.'' He was so far from paying regard to what Moses had ordered, that he acted in open defiance of it; and instead of appointing the judges of his tribe to punish those, who were under their jurisdiction, as God had commanded, he openly, and in the face of the congregation, abetted by his own practice, what he ought to have used his authority to correct and suppress. Therefore something extraordinary was here necessary to be done, to punish a crime, which appeared too daring to be corrected, in the practice of a person, Who seemed too great to be called to account for it. And indeed, 3. We do not read, that the judges did at all exert themselves in executing the orders, which Moses had given them. Moses had required them to slay every one his man, who uere joined unlo Baal-peor;' but we hear of none who fell for this wickedness, except this Zimri and those who died of the plague.k The transgression was too universal to be corrected by a judiciary proceeding; and as Moses was once before obliged to summon the Levites in an extraordinary manner to punish a sin, in which great numbers of persons, and high in station and authority, had engaged;' so in this case something of a like nature was absolutely necessary to bring the offenders to condign punishment. But, 4. Since there is no lawful and justifiable pozcer, but of God ;m since in every government the povcers that have a right to command or to punish, must be
h Xxy. 6. 'Numb. Xxy. 5. k Ver. 9.
1 JSxod. xxxii. 26. m Rom. xiii. 1.
ordained of God," cither by deriving their authority from the constitution of such government; for thus every ordinance of man ° may have a right of authority, and be the ordinance of God ;p or by being appointed by immediate revelation, and an express commission from heaven; and since Phincas had no au» thority to punish Zimri from any law or constitution in the Jewish oeconomy, I must confess that, unless he bad a divine command for what he did in this matter, I should think his taking vengeance in the manner, in which he signalised himself, must want a further justification than what we could offer for it, from the plea of a warm but well-meant zeal to assert the glory of Goo, and to put a stop to the insolence and wickedness of the people; and he ought certainly, notwithstanding such a plea, to have been called to answer for it before the proper judges. If, 5. Goo had not in an extraordinary manner declared his acceptance and approbation of the death of Zimri. As soon as Zimri was dead, the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Phineas 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 ever* lasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his
God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel.'1 God declared this to Moses by a special revelation. And that God indeed did reveal it; and that it was not a pretence of Moses to protect Phineas, was apparent to the congregation, being sufficiently attested by the plague's censing as soon as Zimri was dead.' I am sensible that what is already offered, is suilicient to vindicate the behaviour of Phineas. If God himself declared him to be acquitted, who should condemn him? And his example can lay no foundation for a dangerous imitation; for it will in no wise prove, that can illegal action, though proceeding from a most upright heart, zealously affected in a good thing, is ever to be justified, unless God, by an express and well-attested revelation from heaven, declares his patronage and acceptance of it. But, 6. I might add further, that what Phineas did, was not only the effect of zeal, but rather God revealed himself to him before he attacked Zimri, and required him to cut off that high offender; and consequently Phineas had as clear and full a commission for what he did, as Moses had for the discharge of the offices unto which Goo appointed him, though Moses and the congregation were not at first, apprised of it. Phineas is said, by the death of Zimri, io have mndc an atonement for the children of Israel." Hut what merit could there be in the death of Zimri? How could that expiate the sins of the congregation? Or what
i Numb. xxv. 10, 11, 12, 13. 'Ver. 8.
3 Num. x.xv. 13.
had Phineas to do in pretending to make atonement, unless God had appointed him? For no man taketh this honour to himself, nor can perform this office with any effect, but he that is called of God as was Aaron.1 Or if Phineas had been entitled to endeavour to procure a reconciliation of Gon to his people, he must surely have attempted it in some way which God appointed; and not by a strange service, which Gon commanded him not," and which must therefore have been more likely to offend than to please him.* But all these difficulties arc fully cleared by what Moses was ordered to declare to the Israelites: Where* fore say, Behold I give unto him my covenant of peace.y The verse is injudiciously translated. The Hebrew words, hinneni Nothcn h Barithi Shalom, signify, behold it was I, who gave to him my covenant of peace ,•* and the declaration was intended to inform the congregation that Phineas had not done a rash action, moved to it by a mere warmth of heart, but that God had directed him to what he had performed; made him an express covenant upon his per
■ I, . I, i ■■ . ■' iU
• Jleb. v. 4. ° See Lev. x. 1. &c.
* See the case of Nadab and Abihu, b. xi. » Numb. xxv. 13.
, The Hebrew text is thus written and pointed:
cs'hv- 'fins n« iS jn: -un
T . •j V "...
t. o. Ecce me dantcm ill! pactum meum pacis. Ecce, me, dantem, i. e. Ecce me, qui dabam, The participle is of the imperfect tense as well an of the present.
forming it; assured him, that the doing it should obtain pardon for the people; and that upon the death of Zimri and Cozbi slain by his hand, the wickedness, which had been committed in the camp, should be forgiven. In this view of the fact all is clear, and it is easy to see how a covenant of peace was given to Phineas; how he was enabled to miike atonement for the people; and in what sense the death of the offenders slain by him was such atonement; and what he did stands clear of the objections which can be offered against an irregular zeal; for it was not an instance of such a zeal, but of one more defensible, namely, of a zealous and intrepid performance of what God by an express rc« velatiori had required of him.
God was indeed pleased to promise here, ver. 13. by Moses, an addition to the favour before granted to Phineas. God before gave him his covenant of peace; but this extended no further than to the making him the instrument of obtaining pardon for the sin, upon account of which the people were under his displeasure. But now, because Phineas was zealous for his God, and had performed the service to which lie was called, with a ready heart; God was pleased to promise that the grant made to him should stand in force, until it conveyed the priesthood to him, and to his seed after liim." Our translators render the 13th verse, And lie shall have it, and his seed after him, even the cove
* Numb. xxv. 13.