No, not at all - temptation and disobedience instead. The daughters of Moab seduced Israel, inviting them to sacrifices, sharing meals, and even bowing down to Baal. They literally married a foreign god. The furious God of Israel visited a plague on them that killed 24,000.
God’s stated intent was to execute all the leaders who allowed this insult, so that his anger could be turned away. But Phineas halted the plague with a violent response to blatant disobedience in front of the holy tent of meeting.
God did not penalize Phineas for having killed the offenders. It leaves us wondering how God could condone such actions. Instead, God ended the plague instantly, saying, “Phineas turned away my wrath…in that he was jealous with MY jealousy…so that I did not destroy [all of] them in MY jealousy” (Numbers 25:11, NASB). God even made an eternal covenant of peace with Phineas – the exact opposite of judgment.
What’s going on?
A clarification on how “jealousy” is used here helps. I use the NASB because its translation of each word is closest to the original language. But sometimes the word is archaic and hard to apply today. The NIV was written for this very purpose, so the two together are priceless. The NIV translates the latter part of the verse by saying Phineas “was [as] zealous for MY honor as I AM.”
The lesson of the Cycle here is not that violence in the name of God is correct, although in conditions such as being under attack in war, it may be. But on a personal basis, Jesus came to teach a better way, loving each other and our enemies.
Jesus also taught that zealousness is the nature of a true believer, abiding in him, proclaiming his good news, loving each other in perfect unity – no matter what.
“Jealousy” may have bad connotations; “zealousness” for God, for Jesus, for the Holy Spirit represents the very heart of God.
As we journey together, we should focus not only on a white-hot “zealousy” for God, but also the realization that our failure to do so in perfect unity breaks his heart so badly that he feels terrible anger and betrayal.
If you think this reasoning is a stretch, consider that two chapters later, God tells Moses again that he will not enter the Promised Land, but will die within sight of it. Why? Not because he killed an Egyptian slave master in defense of his brothers long ago. It was because Moses had “…rebelled against my command to treat me as holy before their eyes” when he banged his staff angrily at the rocks of Meribah, rather than trusting the word of God as a holy and absolute promise to provide water.
Do we trust the word of God zealously or do we try to do it ourselves – jealously?