Sunday, February 20, 2011

Numbers 9-14: Arrival at the promised land, some actual story

So now it's a year and one month after they left Egypt, even though Numbers started off a year and two months after Egypt. Can't this shit even be chronological? It's confusing enough as it is.

They are also still, in fact, at Mt. Sinai. Seriously.

God says, "you people be fucking sure to celebrate the passover, even though I've told you about it 10,000 times already!" Small point of order: what if I've become unclean because someone close to me died? Can I still celebrate the passover? The answer is yes, but one month later.

In their travels, God apparently controlled when they traveled and when they camped. When there was a cloud that also looked like fire (huh?) over the tabernacle, they camped until the cloud left (so what, they didn't even disassemble it to carry it? Or did God just descend upon the wagon that the pieces of the tent were in...). When the cloud left, they immediately set out again, even if it was the middle of the night. They camped as long as the cloud stayed, "Whether the cloud stayed over the tabernacle for two days or a month or a year." And hence a journey of a few months dragged out for 40 years, apparently.

God handily suggests they make trumpets for letting people know when it's time to set out. Interestingly, God himself seems to not have either the will or the ability to let more than just a few people know when it's time to go. He also suggests they use the trumpets for other things, such as communicating in battle, or celebrating festivals. What a handy God.

Now they travel from Sinai to the Desert of Paran. And they give the marching order, again. Ugh.

People complain, and God burns some of them to death. Then Moses prays and the fire dies down. Aww.

Now here's a fantastic story. People are complaining about the manna...they want meat. Moses complains to God about how the people are upset and it's all too much for him, and he never asked to be in charge anyway. So God says he's going to help Moses out by "taking some of the power of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them [70 Israelite elders]. They will share the burden of the people with you so that you will not have to carry it alone." Um, what Spirit? The Holy Spirit? This is the first we've heard of it...and far from being in everybody, as I was taught, it seems to only be in a select elite. Wonderful.

Now God turns his attention to everyone else and their complaining about not having meat. God, in an incredibly spiteful move, promises to give them so much quail to eat for the next month, that "it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it." Really? So, God makes a wind that blows the quail in from the sea, and quail cover the ground 3 feet thick for at least a day's walk in any direction from their camp. And then, for even more spite, just when they are about to eat some of it, God suddenly smites them with a plague. And all sorts of people die. Seriously. What the fuck is that all about?

Here's another weird story. Aaron and Miriam (Moses and Aaron's sister) talk about Moses behind his back. Apparently God overheard, because he calls all 3 of them together and says "Moses is my prophet! How dare you speak poorly of him!" Then he gets mad and leaves. Suddenly, Miriam has leprosy. (Why not Aaron too?) Moses asks God to heal her. God says, "I'll do it in 7 days. Let her suffer til then!" So she has to go outside the camp for 7 days, and they all have to wait. Again, what the fuck.

So now they're at Paran. God tells Moses to send some people out to scout Canaan. So what...are they there already? No idea. They return in 40 days though, so I guess they can't be far. They come back and report on all the awesome fruit that grows there, and they have an argument about whether they could conquer the people or not. (So, what, they're not even going to try talking to these people before they attack? I knew that's what they were going to do, but it still seems ridiculous.) Anyway, they describe the cities as large and fortified, and the people as so large that "we seemed like grasshoppers." Yep, you could totally take them.

The people hear this report, and suddenly Moses has an uprising on his hands. The people don't want to die in battle, and who can blame them. Some wanted to elect a new leader and go back to Egypt. (Yeah, I'm sure you'll get a warm welcome there.) Joshua and Caleb (2 of the guys in the scouting party) tell everyone again how incredibly awesome the land is and reassure everyone that they will totally win, because God is on their side. The people react to this inspiring speech by wanting to stone them to death (lol).

God comes along and says "WTF? I'm going to kill all the Israelites with a plague and start again." Cause that's his answer to everything...wipe it out and start over. Once again, Moses talks him out of it (I still don't get how it is even possible to talk God out of something). Interestingly, part of Moses' plea to God was this: "just as you have declared: ‘The LORD is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion'" Lol, when did God, or anyone, ever say that? I don't remember it. And it sure as fuck is not evident in his actions.

So God says, "Yeah, alright, I forgive them. BUT! Everyone who is at least 20 years old and has grumbled against me will die before we get to the promised land...which is pretty much everybody except for Joshua and Caleb." Yep, that is surely true forgiveness. Err, wait, I mean that is "God getting exactly what he wanted in the first place," except he spared the children. I still think God (OT God, anyway) is literally incapable of forgiveness.

Also, all of the 12 men who went scouting and came back with a "bad report" (i.e. a realistic report) about it, which started this whole thing...they were all struck with a plague right then and there. That's all of them, except for Joshua and Caleb. Wonderful. God apparently would prefer blind optimism over reality. Actually, that's not so surprising.

So Moses tells all this to the Israelites, they get upset (presumably because they don't want to die, and who can blame them), so they are like "we've learned our lesson, we want to go to the promised land now!!!" So they went on without Moses or the tabernacle, and in the direction God told them not to go. Why? I dunno. Maybe they panicked. Maybe Moses forgot to tell them the part about which direction they were supposed to go next while he was telling them that God is going to kill them soon. Anyway, they get attacked by the people living in the area, and I assume, many were killed. Fantastic.

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