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Religion is a Two-edged Sword

Thought for the Week:
Religion is a two-edged sword. On the one hand, faith in God, trust in Messiah and obedience to God’s commandments is the narrow path that leads to life. It brings peace, joy and purpose to existence. On the other hand, religious convictions can become a source of strife, enmity and hatred between people and nations.


Parashat Pinchas is named for Pinchas (Phinehas), the zealous grandson of Aaron the priest who turned aside the LORD’s wrath by publicly skewering two flagrant transgressors of Torah. Without trial and without due process, Phinehas rose up as a court of one—the witness, the judge, and the executioner. The commentary in Torah Club Volume Oneaddresses the troubling ramifications of the story. For our purposes, we simply note that the Almighty praised Phinehas for his zeal. The LORD rewarded Phinehas with a “covenant of peace.” He became the progenitor of the priestly line.

The LORD said, “He was jealous with My jealousy among them, so that I did not destroy the sons of Israel in My jealousy” (Numbers 25:11Numbers 25:11
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

11 Phinehas, 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. for...: Heb. with my zeal  

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). The Hebrew word kin’ah (קנאה), which we ordinarily translate as “jealousy,” also means “zeal,” a better translation in this context.

This explains why the Master had a disciple named “Simon the Canaanite” in the King James Version of the Bible. The Greek text of Matthew and Mark introduce one of Yeshua’s disciples as “Simon the Canaanean (Καναναῖος).” Translators and scribes stumbled over the unusual word. Some scribes mistakenly tried to correct it as “Simon man of Cana.” The King James translators chose to translate it as “Simon the Canaanite.” Thanks to the error, Simon has the embarrassing honor of being the only Gentile disciple among the twelve—and a Canaanite at that!

Actually, the mysterious Greek word attempts to transliterate of the Semitic kanana (קנאנא), which means “the Zealot.” The anti-Roman, Jewish revolutionaries of first-century Judea called themselves Zealots. Luke recognized the word and translated it as “Simon the Zealot.” In modern vernacular, we would call him Simon the Terrorist.

Judea and Galilee were filled with political and religious zealots who regularly resorted to violence to advance their purposes. They emulated Phinehas, and used his story to justify terrorism.

Terrorists like the Zealots prove that zeal can be misplaced. Paul is another example of misplaced zeal. Prior to his Damascus road encounter, Paul pursued the believers with a Phinehas-like zeal. In his epistle to the Philippians, he mentioned his history as a persecutor of the believers as evidence of his “zeal” for God.

Rather than imitating Phinehas, we do far better to emulate the Master who was zealous for His Father’s house (John 2:17John 2:17
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

17 And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.  

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) and for His Father’s will. We should imitate the first-century Jewish believers who were “zealous for the Torah” (Acts 21:20Acts 21:20
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

20 And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law:  

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). We should be “zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:14Titus 2:14
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.  

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), and zealous for Messiah and the kingdom. This means ruthlessly rooting out from of our lives those things that lead us to sin and cause us to stray.

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