Friday, March 11, 2011

Numbers 15-19: God kills some more Israelites

Right, so we've just gone from Mt. Sinai to the promised land (or at least near the promised land) in like 2 chapters, God almost kills everyone a couple of times on the way there, then they get there and have a fight about whether they can conquer the natives, God tries to kill everyone again, but gets talked into doing it later rather than now. Action packed, that was.

But now, it's boring again. God demands more sacrifice now that they're in the promised land, but doesn't say why. Maybe it's because they have more because the land is so great. But I think it's because God thinks he deserves a reward for his fine behavior thus far. That seems more in line with his nature anyway.

Here's a charming little story about how the Israelites found some random guy gathering wood on the sabbath. It's not clear to me, but it looks like this guy isn't even Israelite, so he's probably not even aware of their stupid laws. Nonetheless, God decrees that everyone has to stone him to death. So they do. Aww.

I don't get why gathering wood counts as working on the sabbath, but throwing rocks and someone until their body is a useless pile of pulp is not working on the sabbath. Oh well.

Then God tells Moses that everyone has to put blue tassels on the "corners of their garments," as a continual reminder of God and his petty commandments. Random.

In chapter 16 God kills some more Israelites. Seriously, God has killed more Israelites than he has killed anyone else so far, and they are his chosen people!! WTF?!

Chapter 16 starts with Korah and 250 others who think that the privileged priest class is unfair, and that everyone is holy and thus should be equals. Lol, I think Jesus said something like that; sadly for Korah, he is way ahead of his time. Moses's solution to this obviously terrible problem is to have the dissenters and all the priests offer incense to God, and see who God picks. (But how will they tell? It doesn't say, but later we learn it's the ones that don't burn to death that are the winners.) So they do that, and God shows up and tells the priests to stand clear so he can destroy the dissenters. Apparently God has not lost his flair for the dramatic. Moses pleads with God to only destroy the leaders and spare the rest (this shit is so predictable). So God makes a hole in the earth to swallow up the leaders, and their families (God is, yet again, murdering innocent children). Then God goes ahead and burns the rest of the 250 dissenters to death, in a big "fuck you!" to Moses.

Interestingly, the bible has this to say about the hole he made for the dissenters to fall into:
They went down alive into the realm of the dead ... the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from the community.
Is this the first mention of some sort of afterlife? Or is this the first mention of hell? I don't really get that.

Anywho, after this happens, all the Israelites get upset, thinking that they're going to be next. Moses has another uprising on his hands. God shows up and starts smiting everyone with a plague. Moses, what a quick thinker, has Aaron make atonement for the Israelites. Apparently just when he does that the plague suddenly stops, but not before 14,700 people died.

Er, God? Just a thought...maybe if you didn't habitually murder your own people, they wouldn't "grumble" about you so much.

Chapter 17, God gets this brilliant idea for getting the people to stop their grumbling. He gets Moses to collect a staff from each of the 12 tribes and put them in the God-tent. Then, "The staff belonging to the man I choose will sprout, and I will rid myself of this constant grumbling against you by the Israelites." What the fuck is this supposed to prove?

So they do that, and surprise surprise, it's Aaron and the Levites staff that blossoms. And grows acorns, no less. So Moses shows this to everyone, then puts the Levites staff back in the tabernacle. "Put back Aaron’s staff in front of the ark of the covenant law, to be kept as a sign to the rebellious. This will put an end to their grumbling against me, so that they will not die."

I still have no idea what the fuck this is all about.

Apparently the Israelites don't get it either, because the story ends with this: “We will die! We are lost, we are all lost! Anyone who even comes near the tabernacle of the LORD will die. Are we all going to die?" Guess that didn't work.

Chapter 18 is all about the duties and privileges of the Levites and the priests. Nothing we haven't heard before really, except that they aren't going to get any land in Canaan.

Chapter 19 gives the recipe for "water of cleansing." Take one red heifer outside the camp and burn it with cedar, hyssop, and scarlet wool. Collect the ashes and mix with water.

Why, oh why, would anyone want to make this, you ask? Why, it is used to cleanse people who are unclean because they've been in contact with dead bodies. (That is so specific. I remember like 30 ways to become unclean, but you only use the "water of cleansing" for one of them?) There's a bunch of ritual given involving sprinking the water on the unclean person, and presto, clean again!

No comments:

Post a Comment