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Pinhas’s Burial of the Hatchet

God gave the priest called Pinhas the covenant of peace,
the greatest gift on earth, much coveted, since nothing in the world can match it,
thus echoing Elijah the great prophet, not expiring ever since his lease
of life was more than lifelong, buried only metaphorically, like a hatchet.

Num. 25:11 explains why God gives Pinhas the covenant of peace:

יא  פִּינְחָס בֶּן-אֶלְעָזָר בֶּן-אַהֲרֹן הַכֹּהֵן, הֵשִׁיב אֶת-חֲמָתִי מֵעַל בְּנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל, בְּקַנְאוֹ אֶת-קִנְאָתִי, בְּתוֹכָם; וְלֹא-כִלִּיתִי אֶת-בְּנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל, בְּקִנְאָתִי. 11 ‘Pinhas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, hath turned My wrath away from the children of Israel, in that he was very jealous for My sake among them, so that I consumed not the children of Israel in My jealousy.

James Kugel points out that the last verse of Joshua, Josh. 24:33, states that Pinhas’s ancestor Eleazar was buried in a territory named for Pinhas:

לג  וְאֶלְעָזָר בֶּן-אַהֲרֹן, מֵת; וַיִּקְבְּרוּ אֹתוֹ, בְּגִבְעַת פִּינְחָס בְּנוֹ, אֲשֶׁר נִתַּן-לוֹ, בְּהַר אֶפְרָיִם.  {ש} 33 And Eleazar the son of Aaron died; and they buried him in the Hill of Pinhas his son, which was given him in mount Ephraim.

The last verse of what some scholars call the Hexateuch therefore contrasts the way that Pinhas’s father, Elazar, died and was buried, with his son Pinhas, who according to the rabbis was reincarnated as Elijah, a prophet  who according to 2 Kings 2:11, was taken to heaven and therefore never required burial!

About the Author
Gershon Hepner is a poet who has written over 25,000 poems on subjects ranging from music to literature, politics to Torah. He grew up in England and moved to Los Angeles in 1976. Using his varied interests and experiences, he has authored dozens of papers in medical and academic journals, and authored "Legal Friction: Law, Narrative, and Identity Politics in Biblical Israel." He can be reached at gershonhepner@gmail.com.

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