When I was a little boy, there was a TV cartoon character named Phineas J. Whoopie (voiced by actor Larry Storch), who could dispense good advice and interesting information. Like many names of biblical origin, I didn’t know about the Bible character Phinehas until years later. The wonderfully intelligent cartoon character would have known all about him!
The plague story in Numbers 25, involving Moses and his grandnephew Phinehas and a crisis situation, is an interesting, rather gruesome narrative that raises more questions than answers.
The story alludes to a theme of holiness, which carries across both testaments. This is certainly affirming for our faith.
Also affirming for our faith is the fact that plague lead to an affirmation of the Israelite priesthood, which is not only important in Old Testament heritage but in New Testament heritage as well.
Themes that push our faith and invite our reflection is the topic of God’s jealousy, a distressing quality in humans which, nevertheless, is biblically affirmed to be an attribute of God.