Sunday, May 8, 2011

Numbers 26-34: 8 chapters and nothing happened

God says, look, I know you're all busy with the conquest and whatnot, but I demand you do another census! And they count every male older than 20 years, and it was boring. It makes some statement about how not a single person counted last time is still alive, except Caleb and Joshua (and Moses I suppose). God promised that they would all be dead by the time they reached the promised land, and I guess that's one promise he actually kept. Wonderful.

Then God gives the Israelites some inheritance law. This is prompted by some uppity woman complaining to Moses about how she should get her father's inheritance, and for some reason God agrees with her. I am shocked.

For his next act, God orders Moses to climb a mountain and die, just like Aaron. And he names Joshua the new leader. But first, God spends a chapter reiterating some of the rules from Exodus and Leviticus. Just reliving those good old times, I suppose. There's actually a new rule here: if a woman makes a vow and her father or husband forbid her from actually making good on it, God will release her from the vow. Random, as ever.

Hmm, actually, before Moses can die God wants him to "take vengeance on the Midianites." For what, I don't know. So the Israelites killed every Midianite man, and took all the woman and children and goods for themselves, and burned everything else down. But that's not good enough for Moses, he tells them to kill every boy and every woman who isn't a virgin. And they do. Yay.

Then there is half a chapter about what they looted (including the virgins!) and how much, and how it was all split up. This is Numbers, after all, I suppose. I'm just surprised it wasn't longer.

I continue to be amazed at how the bible can be so horrifically violent, and yet so boring, all at the same time. I've never read anything else quite like it.

So they are about to cross the river Jordan, which is seemingly the official boundary of the "promised land." (So why have they been killing so many people on their way here? I thought the point of all that killing was so they could take over the promised land. But it seems it was just some pointless slaughtering of innocents, just for fun! Cause they weren't staying there...they just killed everyone and moved on. WTF.) A couple of clans come up to Moses (who for some reason isn't dead yet) and say they want to stay here. Moses calls them cowards for not going into battle with the rest. As a compromise, Moses agrees that their women and children can stay here because it's safer, but their men have to come help with the fighting, and they can't come back here until the whole promised land is conquered.

Interesting tidbit here... we finally find out the time scale of their trip now. I know it was supposed to take 40 years, but I've been wondering when (or if) that happened. So a few chapters ago, they just got near the promised land and sent scouts out, and God got upset about their realistic reports and killed them, and also promised that anyone who had "grumbled" would die in the wilderness before they get there. Apparently it is now 40 years since that happened...God's solution for killing them off in the wilderness was apparently to just make them wander around until that generation died of old age. I guess this is what God not killing people looks like (remember he promised not to kill them?) Brilliant loophole. Excellent story telling too. I had absolutely no idea that the seemingly random wandering of the past few chapters was supposed to have taken 40 years.

Anyway...then we get a chapter long recap of their journey so far. Boring. God takes the opportunity to once again tell them to fucking kill everybody. Or he will kill them and you. Somebody needs a nap.

Then God tells them what the boundaries of their land will be. And he tells them who will decide which clan gets what land. Can't these people decide anything for themselves?

By the way, Moses is still not dead.

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