I am continuing to have difficulty making sense of the Bible especially when it comes to the things god does and expects people to do. I realize that I am reading it from the point of view of a biased non-believer. Because I am posting my discoveries and perceptions online, I have tried to be as objective as possible. I really am trying, but sometimes it is very hard.

Anyway, here’s the first installment of Numbers.

The title is obvious because the first several chapters deal with a census and how the different tribes will locate themselves around the tabernacle while travelling. We learn that this family originally consisting of the 12 sons of Jacob has now grown to 603,550. And that is just the 20-60 year old men, the ones fit to go to war. That means there were upwards of 3 million or so people on this journey. I won’t quibble with the logistics of that number.

Then we get a really interesting method of determining what to do if you suspect your wife of being unfaithful. Take her to the priest. He will concoct a bitter water of some kind and force her to drink it. If she is innocent, nothing will happen. If she is guilty her belly will swell and her thighs will rot. That an ancient tribe might believe this is understandable. But this method was told to Moses by God. Trial by ordeal was used throughout the Middle Ages to prove guilt or innocence, often in the case of witchcraft. We look back and wonder what were they thinking? So what was God thinking when he prescribed this method? And what can a wife do if she suspects her husband of infidelity? Nothing. And what happens to a man whose suspicions were ungrounded? Nothing. And what happened to death to adulterers which was set out in Leviticus. New rule. More reason for my confusion.

Like Leviticus, there are a number of decrees given by god. However, there is also much intrigue as the people begin to question both God and Moses. There is a brief episode where Miriam and Aaron (siblings of Moses) are upset that Moses had married an Ethiopian. (This marriage took place way back before Moses returned to Egypt so I am not sure why they are complaining now. Perhaps I missed a rule about marrying Ethiopians.) They wonder aloud if the lord speaks only through Moses. Apparently others have had dreams. God is angry, takes them aside, and berates them. Then he makes Miriam leprous. Of course Aaron – remember Aaron, the guy who was not punished for making the golden calf and lying about it – gets no punishment at all. To his credit Moses asks the Lord to heal Miriam which he does but not until after she has suffered and been banished for seven days.

Questioning Moses is one thing. Questioning God is another matter. The people have been out in the desert for a year of so. The Lord has provided them with manna and water for survival. Still, they complain. They want meat. (My first thought was quit sacrificing all the bulls, rams and goats but I digress.) God gets angry and basically says “If you want meat, then here’s meat.” What he actually says is “You will not eat one day or two days or five days or ten days or twenty days but a whole month until it comes out of your nostrils.” Then he sends a massive amount of quail, but still angry, and “while the meat was yet between their teeth … the Lord smote the people with a very great plague.”

OK, a bit of an overreaction, but I actually get this story. God has led the people out of slavery. He has fed and sheltered them. They still complain. I can understand God’s frustration. He must have thought “everything I have done for them and this is the thanks I get.”

The people’s lives have been improved considerably and they should be grateful for what they have. In today’s world, despite, how much we have and how lucky we may be, we make ourselves unhappy and stressful, trying to get more. And sometimes the consequences of getting that extra may not turn out to be exactly as we planned. At the same time though, I think of poor Oliver Twist asking for more. Did the people deserve God’s response for hoping for a slight improvement to their lives?

A weekend in Vancouver, four days of work and a new book with a Biblical theme (Samson) could be my excuse for not posting sooner. However, Numbers, while an interesting book to read (just for the killings), is also a hard one to comment upon. Much of it is God telling Moses to tell the people something and then getting angry when that something is not done to his liking. If not that, then the people are complaining about something and end up facing God’s response to their complaints.

For examples:

One member from each of the 12 tribes goes into the Promised Land to spy it out. They find it flowing with milk and honey. They find a branch so filled with grapes that it has to be carried by two men. It’s all that they can want, but the land is well fortified by its inhabitants. When they return to Moses and the congregation they tell of the beauty they have seen. When one of the spies suggests that they should move in immediately, 10 of them, fearful of battle, retract their statement and say that the land is horrible. The people start murmuring again and wonder why they came here in the first place. They even suggest that they find someone who will lead them back to Egypt. God is angered that the people don’t trust him and threatens to destroy them all. Moses intercedes once again and God relents, but not before killing the 10 spies with a plague and telling the Israelites that none of those who murmured against him would see the Promised Land. They will spend 40 years wandering in the desert until all those who murmured are dead. Realizing their error, some of them decide to move into the Promised Land anyway, but without the Lord’s help they are beaten in battle. (Lesson: Trust the Lord; he has a plan.)

Some poor sucker is found gathering sticks on the Sabbath. They put him in custody and ask Moses what to do. Moses asks the Lord who tells Moses to have the entire congregation stone the man to death. (Lesson: Don’t pick sticks on the Sabbath)

Then 250 leaders complain that Moses and Aaron are standing above the congregation, that all people can approach God. The three main leaders and their families are swallowed by the earth and the other 250 are killed. When the people complain to Moses about these killings, God sends a plague. Moses rushes into the midst of the plague and stands between the living and the dead, stopping the plague but not before 14,700 people have died. (Lesson: Don’t question your leaders and certainly don’t question God’s murderous behaviour.)

Next the people again complain about a lack of water. God tells Moses to take the rod and TELL the rock to yield its water. Moses HITS the rock, saying “shall WE bring forth water…” which it did. In other words Moses disobeyed God’s instructions and took credit for the miracle. As a result God tells Moses that he won’t enter the Promised Land. By the way, you have to read some of these passages carefully. I had to look up the reason for Moses being punished. I couldn’t figure out what he had done and still find the punishment excessive. In fact why did God allow the water to flow if Moses did it all wrong? (Lesson: Follow God’s words exactly and make sure you don’t take credit even unwittingly.)

Even after God helps the Israelites utterly destroy a Canaanite city, they are still unhappy. They complain about the lack of water and food and question the decision to leave Egypt. In response, God sends fiery serpents who “bit the people so many people died.” Moses again intercedes and God tells Moses to put a bronze serpent on a pole so “if a serpent bit any man, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.” (Lesson: Quit complaining. You know the consequences by now!)
As we conclude the middle section of Numbers, God is still with his people. With God’s help they battle Sihon, king of the Amorites. “They slew him, and his sons, and all his people, until there was not one survivor … and they possessed his land.” (Lesson: If you think God is tough on his chosen people, try being one of the other guys.)

This god is a pretty rough guy. Doesnt run a democracy I see. Its no wonder people fear him. All these people that he slew, do they go to heaven or hell?

Ketchup, mustard, mayo, salsa, hot sauce, HP, relish, tartar, horseradish, soy…
Moses brings down the Ten Condiments

Hmmpff. The bible, the Koran, Old Testiment, New Testiment - they are all tainted by the hands of men.

The only true God is the one you believe in, and no other man does. And when you find two men that believe in the same God, you had best be leary of the outcome and institution they are destined to build.

Hi DWhite, you might enjoy checking out the following website
John Shore is a very talented and an extremely funny writer. Also check out his 4 part series on old testament celebrities. Good stuff!!

[quote=“MeepMeepZoom”]Hmmpff. The bible, the Koran, Old Testiment, New Testiment - they are all tainted by the hands of men.

The only true God is the one you believe in, and no other man does. And when you find two men that believe in the same God, you had best be leary of the outcome and institution they are destined to build.[/quote]

I agree!!! Organized religion brings followers of the one interpreting the Bible, not the One who inspired it.

I didnt even bother to read dwhites posts for I seen the word “bible” in the first one or two sentences.
I choose not to partake in that activity.
But i have the ability to make that decision…I can just scroll on down.
The jehovahs come to my door, I can choose to slam it.
being a big fan of the hbo series Big Love …I like speaking to mormons.
What really gets my goat and offends me to now end is how the religous will post baptist paraphenlia in the work place. If some one was a wicken would the baptist stand for it? C’MON PEOPLE!!
You want to peddle religion do it door to door …NOT in the work place.

I am sticking to the main stories and leaving out most of the rules that continue to show up. By the way, Aaron died in the last section, but there was nothing interesting about his death.

As the Israelites get closer to the Promised Land, people living in the vicinity are fearful of this large group of people moving through their lands, especially after the destruction of Sihon. Balak the king of the Moabites decides to be proactive and asks for a diviner who will curse the Israelites. He sends emissaries to Balaam who refuses them after the Lord tells him in a dream that the Israelites are blessed. More emissaries arrive and again Balaam refuses. This time, God tells Balaam that if they come again, he is to go with them, but Balaam, for whatever reason, leaves without the extra invite. The Lord is angry and a humorous story follows.

While travelling, Balaam’s ass, but not Balaam, sees an angel with a sword blocking the path. The ass moves into a field. Balaam beats it. The next time the angel appears, the path is narrow and the ass moves against a wall pressing Balaam’s foot. Balaam beats it again. The final time, the ass can’t get around the angel at all so it lies down. Again Balaam beats it. Finally God gives the ass a voice and he asks Balaam “What have I done to you that you have struck me?” Balaam says “You have made sport of me.” And when the ass points out that he has always been faithful, Balaam’s eyes are opened and he sees the angel who tells him if it weren’t for the ass, Balaam would be dead. Balaam realizes his sin and asks for forgiveness.

I suppose the story is pointing out to the Israelites that God has been faithful and why do they continue to mistrust him. I just find it odd that God is metaphorically compared to an ass.

Now the story gets serious. Balak demands that Balaam curse the Israelites. But he cannot. He can only bless them. Four different times he blesses them summing up with “By Jacob shall dominion be exercised and the survivors of cities be destroyed.”

Of course the Israelites can’t leave things well enough alone. Soon, “the people began to play the harlot with the daughters of Moab.” God is infuriated. He tells Moses to hang all the chiefs. He then sends a plague. When Aaron’s grandson, Phinehas, took his spear and stabbed both an Israelite and his new Midianite wife with one thrust through her belly the plague is removed. Unfortunately 24,000 people had already died. For his loyalty, Phinehas and his descendents are rewarded with a perpetual priesthood.

Another census is taken. There are now 601,730, down from the 603,550 when they first started. (I think we can guess why.) Moses is told to climb a mountain to look at the Promised Land that he will never enter because of the rock incident. Joshua is named his successor.

As they prepare to enter the Promised Land more rules concerning offerings etc. are included, but one interesting legal problem occurs. Several verses detail which tribe will get which territory when they move into Canaan. Some of the women come forward. Their fathers have died and there are no sons. Should the women inherit the property promised to the father? Surprisingly the answer is yes, but with a small catch. They cannot marry outside of their tribe because the land would then go to the husband’s family/tribe. Still, an early victory for women’s rights! At the same time, however, vows made by women could be overturned by the father or husband so there was not total equality.

There is also a section about cities of refuge and what should happen to manslayers under various circumstances. Sometimes, it is considered an accident, but if you strike someone with iron or a stone or a weapon of wood and the person dies, then you are a murderer and should be put to death. There is no mention of what should happen if a multiple killer uses fiery serpents or a plague.

Finally we get to see what it will be like for the inhabitants of the Promised Land when the Israelites enter. It isn’t pretty. God tells Moses to avenge themselves of the Midianites who live just outside Canaan. They “slew every male … and … took captive the women of Midian and their little ones… All their cities … and all their encampments they burned with fire”. It gets even worse. Moses then tells his officers to “kill every male among the little ones and kill every woman who has known man by lying with him. But all the young girls who have not known man by lying with him keep alive for yourselves.”

Where is the Geneva Convention when you really need it?

hhmmmmmm… I am asking myself, the purpose of this post ?

It gets even worse. Moses then tells his officers to “kill every male among the little ones and kill every woman who has known man by lying with him. But all the young girls who have not known man by lying with him keep alive for yourselves.”

So is this like the muslims and their 40 virgins?
I’m still wondering who goes to heaven and who gets the inferno? Is the promised land heaven ? If it is Moses got shafted, but then again he ordered all these killings. Is it cause hes pissed for not getting into the promised land?

I’d hate pop bubbles and step on toes, but God was FEMALE! Don’t believe me? Go and ask her!

I hate to burst your bubble there Mister Ferman, but the poster doesn’t believe in a god… LOL

Explains the mood swings !

I’m still wondering who goes to heaven and who gets the inferno? Is the promised land heaven ? If it is Moses got shafted, but then again he ordered all these killings. Is it cause hes pissed for not getting into the promised land?[/quote]

The Promised Land is an area of land that was promised by God to Abraham and his descendants. I am not sure if any exact boundaries are mentioned but present day Israel is close enough.

As to the metaphorical Promised Land – Heaven – I don’t know if the people of that time considered an afterlife, but the treatment of Moses is a curious situation.

Leaving aside the Christian belief that you can only get to Heaven through Christ (and Moses died well before Christ), what must a person do to get into Heaven? I am just guessing here, but Moses seems to qualify because he believed in God and did everything that God required of him. Except for the Egyptian he killed, way back when, any killing that he ordered would have been at God’s command. In fact Moses prevents a lot of death by convincing God to be more merciful.

It seems that Moses’ big mistake was hitting the rock instead of talking to it. That keeps him out of the Promised Land. If it also keeps him out of Heaven, there isn’t much hope for the rest of us.