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Phinehas (Hebrew פִּֽינְחָ֑ס, mouth of a serpent) (ca. 2513 AM–fl. 2580 AM–ca. 2603 AM) (ca. 1492-fl. 1425-1402 BC) was the son of Eleazar, grandson of Aaron, third High Priest of Israel, and a man highly renowned for his faithfulness and zeal.

Life and family

Phinehas was likely born in Egypt in the last year before the Exodus of Israel. The Bible (Exodus 6:25 ) names Phinehas among the men of the house of Levi before describing the Ten Plagues and the Exodus. His father was one of the four sons of Aaron, and thus he was born into the Aaronic priesthood. The Bible names no other son of Eleazar.[1][2][3]

Because his uncles Nadab and Abihu died on the tenth day of their service when they offered "strange fire" to God (Leviticus 10:1-10 ), his father was next in line after Aaron to become high priest. So Phinehas must have known for as long as he could remember that he was destined to the high priesthood himself.

Early distinction

On 1 Av 2552 AM (13 August 1452 BC), Aaron died and Eleazar succeeded to the high priesthood. The camp of Israel mourned Aaron for thirty days. Almost immediately thereafter, Israel was at war, and would remain at war for seven years. In the first year of this war, the Israelites conquered Heshbon, the capital city of King Sihon the Amorite. This provoked King Balak of Moab to hire Balaam, a rebellious prophet, to try to curse the people of Israel.

Balaam could not do this, because a true prophet, no matter how rebellious, cannot pronounce a curse on anyone whom God calls blessed. But Balaam suggested to Balak that he lure the people of Israel into fornication and then into idolatry. This Balak was able to do, and it provoked God to send a plague against the people of Israel.

God ordered Moses to execute any of the tribal leaders who had committed fornication with the Moabite women. While this was taking place, a certain Zimri, a Simeonite minor clan leader, took a Midianite concubine with him into his tent. (Actually she was Cozbi, daughter of Zur, a Midianite minor clan leader.) He did this in full view of the people. Phinehas saw this and abruptly left the assembly at the Tabernacle tent, took a spear, and entered Zimri's tent. There he thrust his spear through Zimri's body and into Cozbi's body, thus killing them both. Twenty-four thousand Israelites had already died from the divine plague, but after Phinehas had summarily executed Zimri and Cozbi, no other plague deaths occurred. For this act, God gave to Moses a special message: that Phinehas would be the progenitor of a line of high priests that would last until the end of the world.[1][2][3][4] (Numbers 25 )

Military command

Later in that same year, Phinehas led a force of 12,000 men, 1000 from each tribe, into battle against the Midianites. They won a great victory and took great spoil.[1][2][3][4] (Numbers 31:1-12 ) The Bible says that Moses would die soon afterward, and further says that Moses delivered his final address to the people on the first day of the eleventh month in the fortieth year after the Exodus. This date is 1 Shevat 2253 AM (6 February 1451 BC). James Ussher estimates that the Midianite battle took place in the autumn of 2553 AM,[5] so it probably took place on or soon after 1 Kislev 2253 AM (9 December 1452 BC).

After the seven years of war were ended, Phinehas led a delegation of Israelites to parley with a combined company of Reubenites, Gadites, and Manassites who had built a large semi-permanent altar on the eastern side of the Jordan River. Joshua and Eleazar were much afraid that these three tribes had already turned renegade and erected a pagan altar. The Reubenites assured the delegation that this was not their intention.[1][2][3] (Joshua 22 )

High priesthood

In 2280 AM (1425 BC), Phinehas buried his father in a land that he had received for his inheritance, and succeeded him as high priest. Joshua died in that same year. Thereafter a council of elders governed Israel, and Phinehas continued to function as high priest until his own death, probably twenty-three years later.

In 2601 AM (1403 BC), the slaying of a Levite's concubine in Benjamite territory provoked a civil war in Israel. Twice the other tribes of Israel went into battle against the Benjamites, and twice they were defeated. Finally they came to Phinehas at Bethel and wept and fasted before the Tabernacle. Phinehas then delivered them a clear message from God that their third attack against the Benjamites would end in victory.[1][2][3]


The Bible does not connect the death of Phinehas with any other event. But his death likely took place at least a year before the conquest of Israel by King Cushan the Canaanite in 2604 AM (1400 BC). Israel would remain subject to Cushan until the next Judge, Othniel, would deliver the Israelites and give the land rest.[6]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Hirsch EG, Seligsohn M, Ochser S, et al., "Phinehas," The Jewish Encyclopedia, n.d. Accessed December 11, 2008.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Konig, George, "Phinehas, son of Eleazar,", n.d. Accessed December 11, 2008
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Dolphin L, "Phinehas: Justified by his Faith," Lambert Dolphin's Library, July 13, 2006. Accessed December 11, 2008.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Reagan DF, "The Zeal of Phinehas," Learn The Bible University, 2002. Accessed December 11, 2008.
  5. James Ussher, The Annals of the World, Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2003, pgh. 291
  6. Jones, Floyd N., The Chronology of the Old Testament, Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2004, pp. 80, 81, 278

See also