Saturday, October 31, 2009

56: Boundaries

Numbers 33-34
Numbers 33 is just a review of their journey from Egypt. It's just a bunch of lines that say "They left [place] and camped at [place]".

Numbers 34 just spells out the boundaries of Canaan, which they are about to plunder. They are then going to divide it up among the Israelite tribes.

I realize this is the shortest post ever, but there's not much else to say about these sections and I have Halloween things to do today. Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 30, 2009

55: Vengeance

Numbers 31-32
I've decided my posts need more interesting titles. "Entry [number]" is boring and not very descriptive. I will be going through my old posts over the next couple of days/weeks and giving them new exciting titles. Check them out if your interested. Hopefully today's section will be exciting since it has a new exciting title... "Vengeance"...

God commands Moses to go take vengeance on the Midianites. Is this because the Midianite women put out? That's all I can figure out that they did. So they need to go kill all the men, because the women have sex with Israeli men? Ulterior motives maybe?

Moses sends 12,000 men into battle and they kill all the men of Midian, this includes Balaam. Was God not just having a conversation with this guy? Now, the Israelite army spares the woman and children. This doesn't excuse them killing all the men, but I guess it's better than just offing everyone. So they steal all of Midian's belongings and take the women, children, and plunder back to Moses.

So Moses is happy right? Job done? Wrong... Moses is angry that they haven't slaughtered the women and children. Really? This isn't the worst part. All the women who have "slept with men" and all the boys are to be killed, but they are going to keep the girls (the bible says girls not women) who "haven't slept with men". We can pretty much boil this down to "Kill the women and children, keep the virgins". These are the most righteous people in the world? This is the most just God that allows this to happen?

At the end of Numbers 31 they "divide the spoils", the spoils being animals and virgins. The bible says they give a certain number of the spoils as a "tribute" to God. As I understand it, tribute usually implies sacrifice. But a certain number of virgins (32) were given as "tribute for the Lord". So were they burnt offerings? I guess that wouldn't be that much more crazy than just killing them.

The officers of the army go through and count everyone, the Israelis had not lost a single person. What was the point of going and slaughtering a group of people that were obviously no threat to you? (hot virgins?) Again, this is the most just God we can find?

Numbers 32 is about the people not wanting to go to the promised land (again). Again they ask if they can just settle where they are. Moses says that they can only settle here if they go ahead to the promised land and fight for Israel. It's terribly convenient that "God" is always upset when the people don't loyally follow Moses. By the way, how long is Moses going to live? It says everyone from his generation has died (because God made them wander around in the desert), and he couldn't have been that young when he came out of Egypt. I'm sure some biblical scholar will know this answer.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

54: Vows

Numbers 28-30
I'm pretty sure the book of Numbers could be chopped down to 3-5 chapters. But no, we have to repeat everything.

Numbers 28 is about offerings. The same offerings. They haven't changed. I don't even know what to say any more. Just burn lots of animals and you should be covered.

Numbers 29 is about various feasts and celebrations that have already been talked about. Does anyone in the Jewish community still do this? The feast of the tabernacle alone kills hundreds of animals. The first day of the feast of the tabernacles you sacrifice 13 bulls, the second day 12, the third day 11 and so on until the seventh day. That is 70 bulls, and that's not counting any of the other animals. I don't imagine that even huge ranch owners could afford to sacrifice 70 bulls per year (and keep in mind that this is only one of many festivals). Let's hope this is for the entire Israelite community and not per tribe.

Numbers 30 is mildly interesting. If a man takes a vow to God he mustn't break it no matter what. If a woman makes a vow, on the other hand, and her husband (or father) forbids her from doing it, then it's as if she hasn't made a vow. Really bible? Sexist much? Oh wait, yes, the bible is pretty much a sexist manifesto. I keep forgetting.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

53: Census - Part II

Numbers 26-27
Oh no! Another census. Moses counts everyone again. Somehow these are all new people, only Moses, Caleb and Joshua were left from the original Israelis that were counted. There are still a little over 600,000 Israelis, probably because God kills them off constantly.

Numbers 27 is about who should inherit your belongings when you die. Pretty unexciting. The last section in Numbers 27 is about Joshua inheriting the leadership of Israel from Moses. God is apparently still mad about the whole water from the rock thing (I never did figure out what Moses and Aaron did) so he is going to kill Moses. They supposedly didn't follow God's orders about the water from the rock. Seems like they followed his orders just fine to me.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

52: Skewered

Numbers 23-25
Balaam has the Moabites build him altars and make sacrifices. He then speaks to God, who refuses to curse Israel. The Moabites, in their infinite wisdom, decide they weren't in the right location for God to curse the Israelites. Twice they relocate and build altars, and twice God says no. Balaam then tells the Moabites that they will be destroyed by the Israelis.

In Numbers 25 Israeli men start having sex with Moabite women. God, of course, goes with his first instinct when something goes wrong and tells Moses to kill everyone. One of these Israeli men actually brings one of the women home. Oh no! I think we know how this is going to end. Aaron's son leaves the assembly, gets a spear, and returns to skewer the Israelite man and the woman at the same time. Because of this God stops the killing and blesses Aaron's son. So God doesn't just stay silent on this one. He approves of skewering two people if they are from the wrong country.

Unfortunately this only stops the killing of the Israelis, the Moses is told to continue killing the Midianites.

Monday, October 26, 2009

51: Talking to His Ass

Numbers 21-22
Ok, this post wins for craziest post yet.

Arad attacks Israel as the Israelites come near them. Of course Israel wins, or we wouldn't be reading this. The Israelites again start complaining about their lack of good food, so God sends poisonous snakes after them. Moses prays for God to stop. God tells Moses to carve a bronze snake and put it on a stick. Whoever looks at the snake stick will not die. Ok, that's pretty crazy, but we haven't gotten to the crazy part yet.

The Israelites ask to go through a few more countries and they are denied every time. If the people of the country come after them, the Israelites happily pillage and destroy them with God's blessing. Because apparently our all knowing God knows nothing about diplomacy.

Numbers 22 is interesting for a couple of reasons. First, we are switching narrators. We are now reading from the point of view of the Moabites. Second, this section is full of crazy. The Moabites see the Israelites coming and know they are going to get destroyed. To prevent this they summon Balaam, who can also somehow talk to God. The Moabites tell Balaam to curse the Israelites. Balaam goes to God in an attempt to curse the Israelites but God says no, because the Israelites are his favorite.

God, after saying no to Balaam, tells him to go with the Moabites but to only do what he (God) says. Balaam does just as God says, he saddles up a donkey and goes with the Moabites. Two sentences later; however, God is angry with Balaam for going with the Moabites. I'm officially confused. Anyway, God is so angry with Balaam for going that he sends an angel to stand in the road in front of him. Balaam's donkey sees the angel's sword and runs away. Balaam beats the donkey and the angel again goes after them and stands in their path. Twice more the donkey tries to flee and twice more Balaam beats her (the donkey) senseless.

The donkey has had enough. She opens her mouth, and says "What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?". Just to reiterate, the donkey is talking. Un-phased, Balaam goes on to have a conversation with a donkey. This nonsense starts at Numbers 22:28 if you think I'm making this up. Someone please try to convince me this isn't completely ridiculous, I dare you. Am I reading this out of context? No. Am I reading this out of the context of it's time? Maybe, but that doesn't excuse talking donkeys. Am I somehow skewing this with a liberal bias? Hell no, it's a talking donkey. Would I understand it better in Hebrew? No. It's a donkey, and it's talking.

God then tells Balaam to go back to the Moabites and tell them to do something. I guess this is to be continued in Numbers 23.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

50: Cleansing You Say?

Numbers 18-20
Of course, every couple of days the bible has to totally repeat itself for several chapters.

Numbers 18 goes over what the priests and the Levites should do in relation to the tabernacle. If there are subtle differences in the instructions I can't find them. The second half of Numbers 18 is the offerings for priests and Levites, again. I think if I hear about offering the first born animals to God one more time I'm going to die (don't hold me to that).

Numbers 19 is about how to make the water of "cleansing". Here's how you make it, let me know how clean you think this water is. You slaughter a red heifer and you burn it whole (the bible specifically mentions you leave the intestines in). Then you throw some random wood, plants, and wool on the burning heifer. You then put the ashes in water and use it to wash yourself. Then you're clean? Metaphorically clean I guess.

At the beginning of Numbers 20 Moses creates water from a rock again. Not very creative Moses.

Israel tries to pass through Edom. They say that they will go through the main road and not touch anything (keep in mind there are 600,000 Israelis). Edom says no. Good call, God would probably have found some reason to kill them. You know, on that thought, I wonder why God doesn't immediately kill the people of Edom for not letting Israel pass. I guess God is staying out of this one.

At the end of Numbers 20 God kills Aaron. Maybe you could argue that he dies naturally but I don't think so. God orders Aaron to the top of the mountain saying "[Aaron] will die here". God then tells Aaron to take off his clothes and he dies. This is because Aaron rebelled against God, in relation to the water coming out of the rock. How? I re-read the beginning of Numbers 20 and I can't see how Aaron rebelled against God in any way.
 

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