First level of meaning of Phinehas and the heresy of Pe’or
Phinehas was a high priest in the Old Testament era who had earned both God’s covenant of peace and the right to expiate for the sins of the Israelites, because his zeal for the Word of God (the Law of Yahweh) led him to slay the heresy of Pe’or (in the form of Zimri as the apex of its embodiment); concurrently atoning for the following of such heresy by many of God’s people. Such slaying of, and atonement for, the heresy both stopped God’s wrath and punitive consequences in its tracks with regard to the Israelites, sparing the rest of His people from the punishment decreed them of total annihilation. Meanwhile, the covenant of peace that God granted Phinehas contained within it the assurance of everlasting priesthood: that is, the right to Phinehas and his lineage to perpetually carry the Word of God and expiate for the Israelites, in reward for having actively defended His Law.
God granted to Phinehas and his lineage the covenants of peace, everlasting priesthood, and right to expiate for God’s people because Phinehas had manifested two qualities: zeal for the Word of God – thus true zeal both for the souls, and to safeguard said souls, of his brethren – and atonement to God for his brethren’s sins. So in forcefully combating and slaying the heresy of Pe’or – that is, by substituting action for words at a time to slay the lie which had become fully embodied and perpetrated, when almost all of Israel had remained silent – Phinehas both stopped God’s wrath as well as punishment in their tracks and won favor for the rest of his brethren, as well as his lineage. Phinehas’ zeal additionally aroused those brethren of his with similar virtues to end their silence and inaction, causing them to similarly return to defend the Word of God. So Phinehas’ action also served to revive the seeds of faith among God’s people, at a time when it was being abandoned on a widespread basis.
The heresy of Pe’or: Violating the sixth commandment to totally violate the first
The heresy of Pe’or was comprised inherently of two heresies: that of the ‘right’ of freedom of sexual expression and the ‘right’ of freedom of worship; rights that typified many pagan cultures at the time. However, the Israelites were no longer pagan: they had become God’s holy people through the covenant made originally with Abraham; ratified by and through Moses (Ex. 3:7-18, 19:1-8), as epitomized by and embodied in the Decalogue (Ex. 20:1-17). Thus, the Israelites had voluntarily pledged their obedience to God and His precepts, renouncing in their manner of being and living precisely those lifestyles typical of the surrounding pagan cultures at the time (Ex. 19:1-8). When many of the Israelites decided to accept and follow the heresy of Pe’or – that is, they (1) engaged in great sexual depravity, (2) worshipped a false god, (3) desecrated themselves, and (4) consecrated themselves to the Ba’al of Pe’or – the Israelites not only gave up their state of holiness by violating both (a) their purity and (b) covenant of exclusive worship to God. They additionally both (c) desecrated themselves and (d) consecrated themselves to Death instead of Life who was God (Gn. 1:1-30), as well as (e) through the apex and embodiment of Zimri, carried out such desecration at the very foot of God’s Temple. In so doing, the Israelites incurred God’s burning wrath and decree of annihilation because, in essence, they had gone from being His holy people to becoming the people of Satan – God’s adversary since He had created him (Ez. 28:12-15) in the beginning of time (Gn. 3:1-4). Meanwhile, the process used by the Moabites to entice the Israelites to sin in order to be fully overcome was that of getting the latter to violate the sixth commandment, to ultimately persuade them to fully violate the first commandment.