Sunday, August 30, 2009

NUMBERS: Chapter 15

Chapter 15
Summary:God speaks to Moses telling him to speak to the people of Israel. Moses is to tell them that when they (meaning those who are actually allowed to enter the "promised land") are offering animal sacrifices by fire, whether a "burnt offering", a sacrifice in performing a vow, a "freewill offering", or a sacrifice during solemn feasts, to make a "sweet savor" for God, the animal must come from one of the Israelite's herds or flocks.

Each sacrifice by fire is also to be accompanied by a "grain offering":
  • When sacrificing a lamb, the "grain offering" is to contain a tenth of a deal* of flour mixed with a fourth part of a hin* of olive oil, and is to be accompanied by a fourth part of a hin* of wine for a "drink offering".
  • When sacrificing a ram, the "grain offering" is to contain two tenth deals* of flour mixed with a third of a hin* of olive oil, and is to be accompanied by a third of a hin* of wine for a "drink offering".
  • When sacrificing a bull, the "grain offering" is to contain three tenth deals* of flour mixed with a half of a hin* of olive oil, and is to be accompanied by a half of a hin* of wine for a "drink offering".
These rules apply both to those born in the "promised land", as well as to any foreigners, who wish to sacrifice by fire - for a "sweet savor" - to God. There is to be only one law for both native Israelis and for foreigners, and it is a law that shall be true forever from generation to generation.

God also states that once the people of Israel inhabit the "promised land", and "eat of the bread of the land", that they will have to make a "heave offering" to God. The Israelite will have to offer up a loaf of bread from the first of their dough, each year, which is a permanent law throughout the generations.

God continues on, stating that if the people of Israel have erred and have not observed these commandments that he has given to Moses, due to ignorance, then they will have to offer a young bull for a "burnt offering" - which is a "sweet savor" to God - along with a "grain offering", "drink offering", and a young goat as a "sin offering". The priest will make atonement for the people of Israel and they'll be forgiven as long as they sacrifice some animals by fire.

If any single person sins by ignorance, then they'll have to bring a female yearling goat to the tabernacle for a "sin offering". The priest will make atonement for them and they will be forgiven - for the price of sacrificing a yearling female goat. (This applies whether the person was born in the land, or is a foreigner living amongst the people.)

However, anyone who "sins" deliberately is to be excommunicated from their people, as apparently they "despise" God's word by breaking their commandment, and their iniquity will be upon them.

Meanwhile, as the people of Israel were camped in the wilderness they spotted a man gathering sticks on the sabbath day. The man was brought to Moses and Aaron in front of all of the people of Israel, and was subsequently jailed as it was not declared what should be done to him.

God tells Moses that the man is to be dragged out to the outskirts of the camp and stoned to death. The people of Israel then brought the man outside of the camp and stoned him until he died.

God now tells Moses to have the people make fringes upon their garments attached with blue ribbons (which is to be continued to be practiced by future generations) as a reminder of God's commandments. God continues, stating that the people of Israel are to follow all of God's commandments and not to seek after their own hearts and their own eyes - after which they "use to go a whoring". The fringes are again to remind the people to remember and follow God's commandments to be "holy" unto him.

God once again reminds the people of Israel that he brought them out of Egypt to be their god.
Notes:1.) Approximately three quarts.
2.) Approximately three pints.
3.) Approximately six quarts.
4.) Approximately four pints.
5.) Approximately nine quarts.
6.) Approximately six pints.
Thoughts:After our last chapter in which God had told the people of Israel that none of them over the age of twenty will live to inherit the "promised land", he now sets out some guidelines for the people who will be allowed (eventually - aside from Joshua and Caleb) to "inherit" the land. Perhaps it's just me, but I find this a bit bizarre that after sentencing the people of Israel to wander around in the desert for forty years, to allow the current generation to die off, that God immediately gives a bunch of laws to Moses concerning the "promised land", and tells him to relay these to the people, of whom the majority will never live to see the "promised land".

Anyways, not surprisingly, the laws are more regulations regarding animal sacrificing. The first of which being that the sacrificial animal must come from one of the Israeli flocks or herds - apparently non-Israeli animals won't do.

Next up God demands that all sacrifices by fire (which again are noted to be a "sweet savor" to God) are to be accompanied by a "grain offering" (flour mixed olive oil) and a "drink offering" (wine) set to a sliding scale based on the size of the animal being sacrificed.

When sacrificing a lamb, the "grain offering" is to contain three quarts of flour (a tenth of a deal) mixed with three pints of olive oil (a fourth of a hin), accompanied by three pints of wine. Whereas sacrificing a bull requires a "grain offering" to contain nine quarts (three tenths a deal) of flour mixed with six pints of olive oil, and accompanied by six pints of wine. We can probably assume that this sliding scale is to ensure that the rather earthly priests have enough side dishes and wine to wash down the meal you've given them with your animal sacrifices.

God tacks on that his sliding scale of side dishes and drinks apply to both the people of Israel and the foreigners living amongst them, and is to be a permanent law.

God's next law for the people who actually get to reside in the "promised land", is that they'll also be expected to offer up a loaf of bread for a "heave offering" annually from the first of their bread dough. Basically each year they'll have to bring their first loaf of bread down to the tabernacle to wave around in the air, which of course the priests will benefit from getting to eat the bread afterward. This too is a permanent law to be observed by all future generations.

God now states that if the people of Israel "sin unintentionally" then they can be forgiven as long as they sacrifice a young bull as a "burnt offering", a young goat as a "sin offering", and bring along a "grain offering" with some wine. A single individual "sinning" through ignorance can be forgiven for the price of sacrificing a female yearling goat, but anyone who "sins" deliberately is to be excommunicated for "despising" God's laws.

Next up we're treated to a story about a man found gathering sticks on the sabbath day - which seems fairly reminiscent of the story from Leviticus Chapter 24 about the "blasphemer". The stick gathering man is brought before Moses and Aaron and then jailed, with the chapter stating that "it was not declared what should be done to him" - which brings into question the time line of this story, as God clearly states both in Exodus 31:14-15:
31:14 Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people.
31:15 Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD: whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. well as:Exodus 35:2:
35:2 Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you an holy day, a sabbath of rest to the LORD: whosoever doeth work therein shall be put to death.
Perhaps this story we're being told here - or perhaps even this whole chapter - might possibly occur before Exodus Chapter 31, but it's curious as to why it is included here in the book of Numbers considering that it has been repeated numerous times throughout Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers God's stressed importance on his laws concerning the sabbath. In this context, this story (and actually the entire chapter) seems out of place with the continuity of our story.

Of course, considering that we've already read both Exodus Chapter 31 and Exodus Chapter 35, it comes as no surprise that God's answer as to what to do with the man caught gathering sticks on a Saturday is to drag him out to the outskirts of the camp and stone him to death. I suppose that's one way to get him to stop picking up sticks on Saturdays, but one can't help but question that perhaps keeping him in jail would accomplish the same thing with a lot less bloodshed.

God immediately shifts gears away from stonings to now tell Moses to have the people create fringes on their garments to remind them of God's commandments. However, I would think the blood stains on their garments from stoning people to death would serve as a much more effective reminder.

In any event, God states that these fringes will remind the people of Israel to follow God's laws instead of following their heart's desires, which he states leads them to "go a whoring".

He ends the chapter by once again reminding everyone that he was the guy who got everybody out of Egypt - which although God has stated this numerous times throughout Exodus and Leviticus, we oddly haven't yet heard God state this in the book of Numbers. This may be yet another reason to suspect that this chapter may actually occur prior to Exodus Chapter 31.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

NUMBERS: Chapter 14

Chapter 14
Summary:All of the people of Israel began wept that night, voicing complaints against Moses and Aaron. The people complained that dying in Egypt, or dying out in the wilderness they were in, would be an easier fate than dying at the hands of the sword from the "promised land" God was bringing them to, endangering their wives and children as well. The people argued that they'd actually be safer returning to Egypt, and decided to appoint a "captain" (or leader).

Moses and Aaron "fell on their faces" before the congregation, while Joshua and Caleb (two of the spies from Chapter 13) tore at their clothes in frustration.

Joshua and Caleb tried to tell the people of Israel that the "promised land" was in fact a good land, "flowing with milk and honey", while telling the people not to rebel against God, nor fear the current inhabitants of the land, as God will ensure their victory against them. The congregation however decided to condemn Joshua (and Caleb) to death by stoning, when God appeared in the tabernacle before all of the people of Israel.

God spoke to Moses asking him how long will these people provoke him, not believe in him, despite all the signs God has shown them all? He then tells Moses that he's simply going to kill them all with pestilence, disinherit them, and make Moses' lineage a greater nation than the people of Israel. Moses however tells God that if he does this, then the news of this will spread to Egypt and Canaan, and that people will then believe that God simply decided to slay his people out in the wilderness because he was unable to bring them into the land he had promised them.

Moses begs God not to kill all of the people, asking him to show mercy and forgive their "sins". Moses acknowledges that by no means should God clear the guilty, and that Moses understands that "sin" is to be punished not only to the father, but upon children of unto third and fourth generations, but again he begs God to show mercy upon the people.

God agrees to pardon the people of Israel, but adds that because they've witnessed God's "miracles" and have disobeyed God ten times, that they will not see the "promised land". God makes an exception for Caleb, as he had followed God fully, and states that he will bring Caleb into the "promised land".

God tells Moses that tomorrow he is to lead the people of Israel back into the wilderness towards the Red Sea. Moses and Aaron are also to tell the people of Israel that they will die out here in the wilderness, and that every man over the age of twenty who has rebelled against God shall not enter the "promised land" - with the exception of Caleb and Joshua. Those younger than twenty will inherit the land that their elders have "despised", and therefore everyone over the age of twenty will not enter the "promised land", but will die out in the wilderness.

God continues, stating that the children of the people of Israel will wander in the wilderness for forty years until their elders have all died off in the wilderness. God states that each of these forty years will be punishment for each of the forty days that the spies had searched out the "promised land" - one year for each day. God states that the people will bear this "sin" and shall remember the breach of their promise to God as they are consumed and die out in the wilderness.

God sends a plague to kill off all of the spies (minus Caleb and Joshua) whom he felt turned the people of Israel against God and brought "slander" upon the "promised land". All of the spies died from this plague, except Caleb and Joshua.

Moses delivered this message to the people of Israel, and they mourned greatly their "sins". The people rose early in the morning and climbed the mountain proclaimed to obey God's will, acknowledging their "sins", and stated that they were ready to enter the "promised land".

Moses however tells the people that they are now disobeying God's commandment by not returning to the wilderness (to die out there) and tells them to turn back. Moses tells them that if they invade the "promised land", God will not be with them and they will perish at the hands of their enemies inhabiting the land. Moses states that the Amalekites and the Canaanites will crush them because the people of Israel have turned against God, and God will not help them in battle.

The people of Israel went up the hill top anyways, despite that Moses and the ark of the covenant stayed in the camp. The Amalekites and Canaanites attacked them and chased them to Hormah.
Thoughts:Faced with discouraging news that the spies (that God had Moses pick out and selected himself) brought back when they scoped out the "promised land", the people of Israel became discouraged and began blaming Moses and Aaron for getting them into what they perceived as an unwinnable situation. The people reasoned that they were better off dying in their Egyptian slavery, or even out in the wilderness, rather than die at the hands of the "giants" currently inhabiting the "promised land". The people felt that it was a better idea to return to Egypt and decided to appoint themselves a leader.

Apparently, this displeased Moses and Aaron, as they both "fell on their faces", while two of the spies, Caleb and Joshua tore at their clothes in frustration. Joshua tried to reason with the growing rebellion, and told them that they shouldn't fear invading the land as God would protect their armies. However, the congregation of people didn't want to listen and instead decided that they should stone Joshua to death.

Meanwhile, God spoke with Moses wondering why these people keep acting so rebellious and keep doubting, despite all the "miracles" God has shown them. One has to question here whether God's repeated malevolence of plagues, setting people on fire, and giving people leprosy might possibly have anything to do with negating some of the positive "miracles" God has performed.

God decides once again (just like he did when Aaron crafted a "golden calf" for the people to worship) that he's going to kill all of the Israelites and make Moses' lineage into a great nation instead.

Moses also again, begs and pleads for God not to kill everybody, by basically stating that God's reputation will suffer if he does. God's reputation. The only concern Moses seems to have is for God's reputation not to be tarnished by killing several million people - or at least 603,550 of them. Moses tell God that he's concerned that if he commits genocide against the Israelis that word will travel back both to Egypt and Canaan that God killed everyone because he wasn't strong enough to deliver his own people into the "promised land".

God apparently seems to agree that perhaps he shouldn't build upon his reputation as a mass murderer, as he agrees to change his mind once again. This is the second time God has managed to talk God out of killing everyone, which again demonstrates that God's judgments are not necessarily as "perfect" as believers will attest to, when Moses can find faults in God's judgments and again, get God to change his mind. Unfortunately, this time Moses didn't point out to God that killing over half a million people was "evil" - as he had done back in Exodus: Chapter 32.

God decides that although he'll spare the lives of these disobedient Israelites, that none of them over the age of twenty will be allowed to enter the "promised land". God plans to have them wander around in the desert for the next forty years until the current generation dies off. God makes two exceptions - Caleb and Joshua.

God states that each of the forty years spent wandering the desert will be punishment for each of the forty days the spies had spent searching out the "promised land" and that they are to remember this as they all slowly die off in the wilderness of the desert.

He then kills off the other ten spies, save for Caleb and Joshua, with a deadly plague because he felt they were responsible for scaring the people of Israel into rebelling in the first place.

When Moses told the people of Israel that God's punishment for rebelling against God's plan to enter the ""promised land was"for them to wander the desert for forty years until they all died off, the people became remorseful. They got up early the next morning and told Moses that they were now ready and willing to invade the promised land, but Moses tells them that they're too late now and that any invasion will fail, because God won't protect them in battle. He further explains that not agreeing to die out in the desert would be disobeying God, and that the Amalekites and Canaanites will crush them without God's assistance.

The people went ahead with their invasion plan anyways, leaving Moses and the ark of the covenant back at the camp, and the Amalekites and Canaanites wound up attacking them and chasing them to the city of Hormah.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

NUMBERS: Chapter 13

Chapter 13
Summary:God tells Moses to appoint and send out one man from each tribe of Israel to search the land of Canaan.

Moses sent out from the wilderness of Paran the following men from each of the twelve tribes of Israel:
  • Tribe of Reuben: Shammua, son of Zaccur
  • Tribe of Simeon: Shaphat, son of Hon
  • Tribe of Judah: Caleb, son of Jephunneh
  • Tribe of Issachar: Igal, son of Joseph
  • Tribe of Ephraim: Oshea, son of Nun
  • Tribe of Bejamin: Palti, son of Raphu
  • Tribe of Zebulun: Gaddiel, son of Sodi
  • Tribe of Joseph (via the Tribe of Mannaseh): Gaddi, son of Susi
  • Tribe of Dan: Ammiel, son of Gemalli
  • Tribe of Asher: Sethur, son of Michael
  • Tribe of Naphtali: Nahbi, son of Vophsi
  • Tribe of Gad: Geuel, son of Machi
Moses sent these men to spy out the land, and at this time also renamed Oshea to Jehoshua (Joshua). Moses told the men to head southward and to travel up the mountain to see the land and judge the land and the people living there. Moses tells them to determine whether the people are strong or weak, few or many; whether the land that they dwell in is good or bad; what cities they dwell in, whether they live in tents or fortified strongholds; whether the land is fertile or not, and whether there are trees or not. He tells the men to be brave and to bring back a sample of the crops from the land, pointing out that the first of the grape harvest is in season.

The men went up the mountain and searched the land from the wilderness of Zin, to Rehob, and into Hamath. They ascended by the south and came into Hebron, where Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai (the children of Anak) were. The chapter notes that Hebron was built seven* years before the Egyptian city of Zoan*.

They came unto the brook of Eschol and cut down a branch with a single cluster of grapes that was so large that it had be carried on a pole by two men. They also gathered some pomegranates and figs. The people of Israel named the valley "Eschol" (meaning "cluster") because of the cluster of grapes they found.

The men returned from searching the land after forty days and reported back to Moses, Aaron, and the people of Israel, showing them the fruit they had brought back with them. They told Moses that the land they had surveyed indeed "flowed with milk and honey", but that the people that dwelled in the land were strong, lived in walled cities, and large. Moreover, they told Moses, that they saw the "children of Anak" there.

The men continued on, reporting that the Amalekites dwelled in the south; the Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites dwelled in the mountains; and that the Canaanites dwelled by the sea, by the coast of Jordan.

Caleb then suggested before Moses and the people of Israel, that they should go and attempt to conquer the land, to which the other spies negated, pointing out that the inhabitants are stronger than the armies of Israel.

The spies report on the land was negative, and they repeated that the land was well armed, and that the people that inhabited it were giants. The spies said that they saw the giants - the sons of Anak - and that the spies themselves were comparatively the size of grasshoppers to the size of the giants.
Notes:1.) Another appearance of the mystical number of seven in the bible.
2.) The city of Zoan is an older Hebrew name for the Egyptian city of Tanis.
Thoughts:We begin the chapter with God telling Moses to assemble a team of spies, consisting of one man from each of the twelve tribes of Israel, to spy upon the land of Canaan.

The most obvious question is if God is allegedly omnipresent and omniscient, why does he need to form a band of human spies to figure out what is going on in the land of Canaan? Why is he unable to swoop down in the form of a cloud and take a peek around himself and instead have to rely on a team of human spies?

The chapter goes on to list the names of the twelve men selected as spies, as well as each of their father's names. As with the census taking, the twelve tribes are technically only eleven - as the Levites are removed from the list of the sons of Israel due to their work in the tabernacle. In order to preserve the number of twelve, the tribe of Joseph is divided in half by his sons Ephraim and Mannaseh. After the names are listed, Moses inexplicably changes the name of one the spies (Oshea from the tribe of Ephraim, who is also Moses' servant) to Jehoshua (or Joshua, depending on your bible's translation).

Moses has the men travel southward and up the mountain to report upon the land and the inhabitants living there. He wants to know how strong or weak their armies are, how many there are, the condition of the land, how fortified their cities are, and whether the land is fertile or not. He also tells the spies to bring back a sample of some of the crops growing in the land, noting that it's the beginning of the grape harvest season.

So the spies travel up the mountain, and searched the land from the wilderness of Zin, to Rehob, and into Hamath. They finally came into Hebron, which is home to the tribes of Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai. It's also noted that Hebron was allegedly founded "seven" years before the Egyptian city of Zoan, now known as Tanis.

Apparently the spies came upon a brook and cut down a branch containing a single cluster of grapes that was so large that it had to be carried by two men on a pole. Yes, folks, giant grapes for whom we find out at the end of this chapter - the "children of Anak" are in fact, a race of giants. According to the bible, around 1494 BC Canaan not only produced giant grapes, but was inhabited by a race of giants(!)

Giants were briefly touched upon in Genesis: Chapter 6 in verse four, where it is also mentioned that the "sons of God" mated with the "daughters of men" and bore children from this union. Initially, I had found that the consensus thought about Genesis 6:4 was that this was simply referring to the lineage of Seth (the "sons of God") mating with the lineage of Cain (the "daughters of men"), where Cain's "evil" lineage was seducing and corrupting the "good" lineage of Seth. However, others see this verse much differently, and use their interpretation as an explanation for giantism.

According to this alternate line of thought, the "sons of God" are actually referring to "fallen angels" or "demons", mating with "the daughters of men" - meaning human women. The hybrid offspring of "demons" and human women produced giants, according to this line of thought.

However, a more realistic stance that is held by some is that simply the spies in this were simply afraid and over exaggerating - but this doesn't explain the "giant grapes" they encountered and dragged back home on a pole.

Anyways, the people of Israel named the valley "Eschol" (meaning "cluster") after the giant cluster of grapes they found.

The spies returned after forty days (another curious number in the bible) and reported their findings back to Moses, Aaron, and the rest of the people of Israel.

Caleb (the spy from the tribe of Judah) then suggests that they go ahead and invade the land, to which the rest of the spies disagree with due to the fact that the cities in the land are well fortified and that the inhabitants seem stronger than the Israeli armies could manage. They repeat their story of the giant sons of Anak, and say that they themselves appeared to be the size of a grasshopper in comparison to the size of the "giants".

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

NUMBERS: Chapter 12

Chapter 12
Summary:Moses' sister Miriam* and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married. They said aloud to themselves questioning whether God has spoken only through Moses, and not also through themselves as well - and God heard this.

(The chapter - in verse 3 - briefly notes that Moses, was supposedly very meek, and in fact the meekest man on earth, but there are many examples of Moses' behavior that do not line up with any definition of "meek" - murdering an Egyptian in cold blood and hiding his body in the sand, being one of them.)

God spoke suddenly to all three siblings - Moses, Aaron, and Miriam - and told them all to come out to the tabernacle, which they did. God descended from the form of the cloud above the tabernacle and stood at the doorway, and called Aaron and Miriam forward.

God said to them both that even when speaking to prophets, God makes himself known in visions and dreams, yet he does not do this with Moses, whom he speaks to face to face and allows himself to be seen by him. God then asks them both why they were not afraid to criticize Moses.

God gets fierce with anger and departs from them, and as the cloud departed Miriam became stricken with leprosy, white as snow. Aaron looked upon Miriam and could clearly see that she was indeed stricken with leprosy.

Aaron said to Moses that Miriam and himself should not be punished for this sin, as they had been foolish, and begged that Miriam not be "as one dead, of whom the flesh is half consumed when he cometh out of his mother's womb".

Moses cried out to God, begging him to heal Miriam. God responded to Moses telling him that "if her father had but spit in her face" that she would be "unclean" for seven days. He tells Moses that Miriam is to be exiled from the camp for seven days, and that afterward she could come back again.

Miriam was ejected from the camp for seven days, and the people of Israel waited until she had returned before continuing to travel again. Once Miriam returned, the people left Hazeroth and camped in the wilderness of Paran.
Notes:1.) Miriam is Moses' sister who we last encountered in Exodus 15 singing a "victory song".
Thoughts:This rather short chapter packs a wallop of hypocrisy and sexism into a brief story about Moses and his siblings Aaron and Miriam.

God overhears Miriam and Aaron complaining about Moses being married to an Ethiopian woman and began questioning what exactly is so special about Moses, when God has also spoken through Aaron and Miriam (both being implied through "prophecy").

The chapter then notes how Moses is allegedly the meekest man on earth, despite many examples that Moses defies any definition of "meek" we're accustomed to. Even more curious is that the "Torah" (the first five books of the bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) is accredited to having been written by Moses himself, which would mean that Moses himself wrote this line proclaiming himself to be the "meekest man on earth":
12:3 (Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.)
Would a supposedly "meek" man speak so highly of himself, or was this inserted by another author? If this was in fact inserted by another author, then we have to question as to what else perhaps has been "added in" to the bible. How can we tell apart what was the "divine" word of God as written by Moses and what was merely tacked on afterward?

Author and skeptic Marshall Brain discusses this point at length in article about slavery in the bible, comparing the "addition" of non-divinely inspired passages to the Tylenol scare of the 1980s. This is an argument that is hard to refute - that if any one part of the bible is in question to have been written or inspired by man, how can we tell which parts were "added" by mere men, and which are the true inspired words of God?

If Moses wrote "Numbers 12:3", then this would negate his own humility. A humble and "meek" man could not possibly give himself such self-praise for being the "meekest man on earth". If Moses did not write this, then who did? And what else in the Torah might this person(s) have added, embellished, or changed? When even one small simple verse, such as this one, comes into question, we now have to question the entire thing. In this way, Marshall Brain's Tylenol analogy is very compelling - if we can't tell the poisoned Tylenol capsules from the safe ones, then we must pull all bottles of Tylenol from store shelves. We have the same problem here, if someone else aside from Moses wrote "Numbers 12:3", how can we know whether he, or anyone else aside from Moses, added anything else to the Torah? The whole authenticity of authorship of the Torah comes into question when we're faced with this problem.

Back to our story, God summons Moses, Aaron, and Miriam out to the tabernacle for a little chat. He pulls Aaron and Miriam aside and tells them how dare they criticize Moses about his status with God. God points out that prophets receive God's messages through visions and dreams, whereas God has chosen to speak to Moses face to face.

God becomes angry and storms off, but not before inflicting Miriam with leprosy. Once again, Aaron gets off the hook - much like he did when he forged an idol in the image of a "golden calf" for the people of Israel to worship and thereby "sin" against God.

There are many possible explanations for why Miriam was singled out, some believing that she was the instigator (which is an assertion not made clear as written here) thus her "sin" was worse than Aaron's, secondly that Aaron's priesthood somehow cuts him some slack (much like our judicial system tends to be more lenient on police officers committing crimes versus the average citizen), and lastly, being a woman, she should have realized her place that she is not anywhere near as equal to a man "serving God" - thus her "pride" in thinking of herself as "equal" in stature to Moses and Aaron was her "sin", as well as her "jealousy" of God bending the rules on Moses' behalf.

As for the bible itself, women are often depicted in a worse light than men which promotes the stereotype that men are the superior sex, as sexism was common place in bronze age societies when the bible was originally written. Women were generally not considered much more than property as "baby-making machines", and their depictions in the bible are usually sparse and mostly used to reinforce the stereotypes of women being arrogant, foolish, mischievous, and otherwise lesser than their male counterparts.

Back to our story, Aaron now pleads to Moses that neither him or Miriam should be punished for their "sins" (despite that no punishment is mentioned for Aaron, and only Miriam was struck with leprosy) and admits that they both acted foolishly and have "sinned".

Moses then pleads to God for Miriam's leprosy to be healed, but God points out an analogy that if she had become "unclean" from having her father spit in her face, that she would bear that shame for seven days. Thus God proclaims that Miriam will have to suffer in exile for seven days in her leprous condition.

Miriam gets shut out of the camp for the following week and the people of Israel didn't continue their journey to the "promised land" until Miriam was allowed back into the camp. The people then packed up from Hazeroth and camped in the wilderness of Paran.

Monday, August 17, 2009

NUMBERS: Chapter 11

Chapter 11
Summary:When the people of Israel complained, it displeased God. When God heard them complain, it rekindled his anger, and he set forth fire which burnt and consumed the people that were in the uttermost parts of the camp. The people cried unto Moses, and when Moses prayed, the fire was quenched. Moses named the place they were camped Taberah (meaning "The Place of Burning") due to the fire God burned the people with.

The people again "fell a lusting", this time the people of Israel wept for their desire to eat meat again. They reminisced about the fish that were plentiful in Egypt, as well as cucumbers, melons, leeks, onion, and garlic. The people were growing weary and tired of eating manna everyday.

The "manna" was about the size of a coriander seed, and the color was similar to that of bdellium*. The people gathered it and ground it in mills or pounded in mortars, and baked it in pans, making cakes from it - the results of which tasted like fresh olive oil. When the dew fell upon the camp at night, the manna appeared upon it.

Moses heard the people weeping in their tents, and while God's anger rekindled greatly, Moses was also displeased. He complains to God and asks why he has to bear the burden of the people of Israel. Moses asks God rhetorical questions such as asking if he is the father of these people, and is that the reason that Moses has to nurse them along like infants until they arrive in the promised land?

He tells God that the people are pleading to eat meat, and asks God what it is that he could possibly do about their complaints. Moses tells God that the burden is too much for him, and that it would be more merciful if God were to kill him rather than leave him with this kind of burden.

God tells Moses to summon seventy of the elders of the people of Israel and to bring them to the tabernacle to stand beside Moses. God tells Moses that he will come down and speak with him there, and he will also take some of the "spirit" which is upon Moses, and disperse it amongst the elders so that Moses will not have to bear the burden of the people of Israel alone.

He tells Moses to tell the people of Israel to sanctify themselves for they will have meat to eat the following day. Moses is also to tell them that God has heard their tearful complaints about the food items they had left behind in Egypt, and therefore God will give them the meat that they desire, and that they shall eat it. God continues saying that they will eat it not just for a day, nor two days, nor five, ten, or twenty days - for an entire month, the people will eat until they're vomiting meat "out of their nostrils" and it becomes loathsome to them - explaining that because the people of Israel have despised God and wept before him, longing for their past lives in Egypt.

Moses respond to this by pointing out that there is over 600,000 men alone, yet God has promised to feed everybody meat for an entire month. Moses says that even if they slaughtered their entire flocks that it wouldn't be enough, and says to God that they would have to catch all of the fish in the sea to manage this feat. God responds by asking Moses if God's own hand was "waxed short", and that Moses will see whether God's word will come true or not.

Moses went out, told the people what God had said, gathered the seventy elders and set them around the tabernacle.

God came down in the form of a cloud, spoke to Moses, and took the "spirit" that was upon him, dispersing it amongst the seventy elders. When God did this, the seventy elders began to "prophesize", and did not stop.

However, two of the elders - a man named Eldad, and the other man named Medad - remained in the camp and did not go out to the tabernacle. Eldad and Medad instead were given the "spirit" in the camp and they began to prophesize there. A young man ran and told Moses what was happening within the camp.

Joshua - the son of Nun, and the servant of Moses - asked Moses to make Eldad and Medad stop. Moses however asked Joshua if he was jealous, and Moses then stated that he wished that everyone were prophets of God. Moses then returned to the camp with the elders of Israel.

God caused a wind to bring forth quails from the sea, letting them fall by the camp. As far as one could walk in a day in any direction, there were quails two cubits* high upon the face of the earth.

The people spent all day and night, as well as the following day hunting quails, each person gathering no less than ten homers* of quails. The people of Israel began drying and curing the quail meat around the camp.

As the people began eating the quail meat, God became enraged and cursed the people of Israel with a great plague.

The place where they were camped was named Kibrothhattaavah (meaning "The Place of Graves Caused by Lust") because it was there that they buried the people that lusted (after the luxuries they had in Egypt).

The people then journeyed from Kibrothhattaavah to Hazeroth, and camped at Hazeroth.
Notes:1.) Bdellium is an aromatic gum that is exuded from the bark of trees.
2.) Two cubits are approximately three to four feet, or about one meter.
3.) Approximately one hundred bushels.
Thoughts:At this point in our story, the people of Israel had been wandering around in the desert for over two years and began to complain about their misfortunes. Complaining apparently makes God angry, and God's "just" and "benevolent" response to complainers is to begin setting them on fire. Obviously terrified by seeing their friends and relatives set ablaze, the people of Israel began pleading with Moses to make God stop, and when Moses prayed to God, God stopped setting people on fire.

Some people can justify in their minds that somehow "crimes" like "blasphemy", working on Saturdays, having homosexual sex, and children being unruly to their parents somehow deserve capital punishment by method of being stoned to death, but it completely baffles me how people can call God a "benevolent", "compassionate", and "loving" deity, when faced with verses like these where he sets people on fire for complaining about how badly camping in the desert for two years kind of sucks.

Complaining is a natural way at venting our frustrations against what we perceive as not living up to what we feel is better. We complain if our heating bills go up, we complain if we're stuck in traffic, and we complain about how much better life was ten or twenty years ago, amongst other things. It's a way to vent our frustrations whether we are right or wrong in what we're complaining about. If someone complains to us, sometimes we can calm them down when we explain why things aren't going their way, as sometimes it may be out of our control. Sometimes we have to make concessions for the greater good that may not be comfortable for everyone. However, under no circumstances is it ever right to set someone on fire for complaining, regardless if they are completely wrong concerning what they're complaining about. If we complain to the government about a law we feel is unfair, under no circumstances would setting someone on fire ever be a proper and just response. One only needs to see how dictators like Stalin, Hitler, Mao Tse Tung, and Sadaam Hussein dealt with their detractors to know how wrong this is - yet some people are somehow able to give God a pass on this for doing exactly the same thing.

Anyways, after Moses somehow gets God to stop setting people on fire for their complaints, he names the campsite Taberah, which means "The Place of Burning" in Hebrew.

Despite some of their compatriots having just been set on fire for complaining, the people of Israel now began to complain about the food God was providing them with - the "manna" first described in Exodus 16:15. They missed the taste of all the fish they used to eat back in Egypt, along with other foods like cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic.

God once again started getting enraged, but Moses upon hearing the people weeping in their tents decided to confront God. Moses essentially complains to God himself (yet doesn't get set on fire) that he can't deal with the stress of everybody complaining to him. He basically tells God that he feels like he's got the burden of being a father-figure to the people, and that he's being forced to nurse them along like infants until they all reach the "Promised Land". He tells God that the people are all pleading to him about their desires to eat meat again, and asks what God might be able to do for them. Apparently, the stress is too much for Moses and he tells God that he'd rather be dead than have to deal with the burden of having to listen to all these complaining people all the time.

God tells Moses to gather up seventy of the elders of Israel and bring them out to the tabernacle, and that God will meet and speak with Moses there. God explains that he will take some of the "spirit" that Moses has and disperse it amongst the elders, so that Moses will not have to bear his burden alone.

God has Moses deliver a message to the people for them to sanctify themselves, as God will be delivering them meat the following day. However, God also says that they'll be eating so much meat over the following month that they'll be getting sick of it and eating it until they vomit meat "out of their nostrils". Basically, because the people weren't crazy about the menu consisting solely of "manna", God interprets that as the people of Israel "despising" him, and is therefore going to punish the people by giving them exactly what they asked for, but in excessive quantities until they're repulsed by it. Almost a bit like the famous short story "The Monkey's Paw", God's behavior here seems closer to what most people tend to personify in a "Deal with the Devil", with the moral being "be careful what you wish for".

It's of note that God's actions here are very tyrannical, meaning that if you don't appreciate the food God has graciously given (the "manna") and would prefer something else instead (like the various fish the people were accustomed to eating while living in Egypt), voicing a complaint justifies God being vindictive - whether it be setting you on fire, or actually giving you what you want, but in excess that will make you sick. It's comparable to a child not wanting to eat his vegetables and preferring candy, while a parent's response is to make the child eat candy until they are physically sick. While the child may "learn a lesson", the punishment is sadistic, and no rational person could ever justify a parent doing that to their own child - however, when the "parent" is instead a deity, somehow people can "rationalize" and "justify" away sadistic behavior.

Moses, however doesn't seem to understand how God will be able to pull off the feat of providing the entire tribe of Israel (mentioning that there's over 600,000 Israeli men alone) with enough meat for a month, stating that even if they slaughter all of their flocks, this would be impossible. Moses adds that the people would have to drain the sea of fish to feed them all for a month. God responds with a "who do you think you're dealing with" type of an answer, and tells Moses to wait and see.

Moses goes out and gathers the seventy elders and brings them to the tabernacle - well, actually it turns out that he only gathered sixty eight, as two men named Eldad and Medad were still at the campsite. God takes some of Moses' "spirit" and gives it to the seventy elders, which begins to make them "prophesize" non-stop.

Meanwhile, Eldad and Medad also inflicted by the "spirit" began "prophesizing" in the campsite, which apparently alarmed people and caused several men to go seek out Moses to tell him what was happening. Moses' servant Joshua was one of the men, and pleaded with Moses to make Eldad and Medad stop. Moses however accuses Joshua of being jealous and tells Joshua that he actually wished that everyone could "prophesied" for God.

God then causes a wind that starts bringing quails to and surrounding the Israeli campsite. It is claimed that the quails were so abundant that they were about 3 or 4 feet deep across the land. The people began hunting quails day and night, and even into the next day, with each person gathering no less than 100 bushels(!) of quail meat, which they began to dry and cure throughout the camp.

As the people began eating the quail meat, this enraged God, so he decided to send a deadly plague amongst them. God basically baited the people into hunting these quails and then responds with anger when they take the bait. This is like having a child whine for candy when you're trying to get them to eat their vegetables, and then putting loads of candy in front of a child - and then getting upset when the child starts eating the candy. Again, the mental gymnastics a believer has to go through not to see how obviously sadistic God is behaving is baffling.

The place where the people of Israel were camping became named Kibrothhattaavah (meaning "The Place of Graves Caused by Lust") - as apparently, the people of Israel "lusted" after the luxury foods that they were accustomed to in Egypt.

Soon after the people of Israel packed up and camped at Hazeroth.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

NUMBERS: Chapter 10

Chapter 10
Summary:God tells Moses to make two trumpets that are to be made from a whole piece of silver. These trumpets are to be used for calling an assembly of the people of Israel, and to signal the moving of the camp.

When both trumpets are blown, the people will be to gather at the door of the tabernacle. If only one trumpet is blown, then only the "princes" - meaning the leaders of the various tribes of Israel - are to gather at the door of the tabernacle.

When an "alarm" is blown with the trumpet, the camps that lie to the east shall go forward first; when the "alarm" is blown a second time, the camps that lie to the south shall go forward. When gathering the people of Israel, the trumpets will be blown, but differently from the sound of the "alarm".

Only Aaron and his sons, the priests, will be allowed to blow the trumpets - this is a permanent law to be followed from generation to generation.

If war breaks out in the "Promised Land" between the people of Israel and the enemy tribes, an alarm shall be blown, which God will hear and will save the people from their enemies.

The trumpets are to be sounded in times of joy, times of sorrow, and on the first day of each month. The trumpets are also to be sounded over "burnt offerings" and "peace offerings", to be a memorial before God.

On the twentieth day of the second month* in the second year since the exodus from Egypt, the cloud lifted from over the tabernacle. The people of Israel left the wilderness of Sinai and followed the cloud until it rested in the wilderness of Paran. This was their first journey according to God's commandment through Moses.

At the head of the march was the tribe of Judah, led by Nahshon, son of Amminadab. They were followed by the tribe of Issachar, led by Nethanel, son of Zuar; and the tribe of Zebulun, led by Eliab, son of Helon.

The tabernacle was taken down, and the people of the Levite tribes of Gershon and Merari followed next in the march, carrying the tabernacle with them.

They were followed next by the tribe of Reuben, led by Elizur, son of Shedeur; the tribe of Simeon, led by Shelumiel, son of Zurishaddai; and the tribe of Gad led by Eliasaph, son of Deuel.

Next came the Koathites, bearing the items from the inner sanctuary of the tabernacle. By the time the Koathites would arrive, the tabernacle would already be set up in the new campsite.

Following the Koathites, was the tribe of Ephraim, led by Elishama, son of Ammihud; the tribe of Manasseh, led by Gamaliel, son of Pedahzur; and the tribe of Bejamin, led by Abidan, son of Gideoni.

Following in the flank, was the tribe of Dan, led by Ahiezer, son of Ammishaddai; the tribe of Asher, led by Pagiel, son of Ocran; and lastly, the tribe of Naphtali, led by Ahira, the son of Enan.

These were the orders in which the people of Israel marched from Sinai to Paran.

Moses then asks Hobab, the son of Raguel the Midianite, Moses' father in-law, to join them in their journey to the "Promised Land", but Hobab declines stating that he's going back to his own land to live amongst his own kindred. Moses begs Hobab not to leave them, pointing out that Hobab is more knowledgeable about the wilderness and would be a great help to the people of Israel. Moses says to Hobab, that if he will join the Israelis, then he will be able to share in all the the "goodness" God will do for them.

The group departed from Mount Sinai, in a journey that would take them three days. carrying the ark of the covenant before them in order to search out a resting place. The cloud that God controlled was upon them by day when they left the camp at Mount Sinai, and as they carried the ark forward, Moses cried out to God, asking him to "Rise up" and "let thine enemies be scattered, and let them flee before thee". When the ark was set down, Moses asked God to return to the "many thousands of Israel".
Notes:1.) Approximately May 5th by our current calendar.
2.) There is a good amount of debate towards who Hobab truly is in relation to Moses. He is either considered to be Moses' brother-in-law (with Rageul being another spelling of Reuel, the name of Moses' father-in-law given in Exodus: Chapter 2), or that the name Hobab is yet another alternate name for Reuel/Jethro, making him Moses' father-in-law. The theory that Hobab is yet another name for "Reuel/Jethro" is supported by the following passage in Judges Chapter 4 verse 11:
"Now Heber the Kenite, which was of the children of Hobab the father in law of Moses, had severed himself from the Kenites, and pitched his tent unto the plain of Zaanaim, which is by Kedesh.
Thoughts:God tells Moses that he'll have to make a pair of trumpets out of a single piece of silver, with the intention of these trumpets being used to both assemble the people of Israel, and to signal that it's time to pack up the camp and move forward on their journey to the "Promised Land". Obviously, these will have to be some rather large instruments to be able to be heard by well over 625,000(!) people.

God begins listing to Moses all the various different ways to blow the trumpets to signify different things. When both trumpets are blown, this is to signify to the all of the people of Israel to gather at the door of the tabernacle; if only one trumpet is blown, then only the leaders of the tribes are meant to gather at the door of the tabernacle.

God then states that a different trumpet sound, meant as an "alarm" is to signify that it's time for the people of Israel to move ahead in their journey. The first "alarm" blast is to signal that the tribes camped in the east are to go ahead and move, while the second blast is to get the southern camps moving.

Of course, God states that only the priests get to sound the trumpets, but fails to tell Moses what the punishment might be for a non-priest fooling around with the trumpets - but I'm sure we can assume it probably means something pretty ugly like either a stoning or perhaps excommunication.

God also states that in the event of a war breaking out with an enemy tribe once they've settled in the promised land, they'll only need to blast an "alarm" sound on the trumpet, and God will hear this and thus save the Israelis from their enemies.

The trumpets are also to be sounded during times of joy and sorrow, as well as on the first day of each month. They're also to be sounded when performing "burnt offering" or "peace offering" animal sacrifices, as a memorial statement to God.

While the people of Israel had been camping out in the wilderness of Mount Sinai for the past two years, on the twentieth day of the second month (around May 5th) the cloud lingering above the tabernacle finally moved. The people of Israel followed the cloud to it's resting spot in the wilderness of Paran. This was the first time they've traveled since leaving Egypt and camping in Mount Sinai two years prior.

The eastern tribes of Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun led the way, while the Levite tribes of Gershon and Merari followed behind carrying the tabernacle that they had dismantled. The southern tribes of Reuben, Simeon and Gad followed them, and behind them were the Koathites carrying the items from the inner sanctuary of the tabernacle (by the time the Koathites would arrive in Paran, the rest of the tabernacle would already be set up and ready to place the items the Koathites were carrying into it). Following the Koathites, the northern tribes of Ephraim, Mannasseh, and Benjamin followed. Lastly, the western tribes of Dan, Asher, and Nephtali held up the rear of the march.

While the tribes were preparing to go, Moses begs his in-law Hobab to join them. There's however a puzzling question of who Hobab really is in relation to Moses. The King James Version of the bible says in verse 29:
And Moses said unto Hobab, the son of Raguel the Midianite, Moses' father in law, We are journeying unto the place of which the LORD said, I will give it you: come thou with us, and we will do thee good: for the LORD hath spoken good concerning Israel.
The way this is written here, we would assume that Hobab is the son of "Raguel", and that "Raguel" must be yet another name for Reuel/Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, rather than interpreting Hobab to be another name for Reuel/Jethro. However, Hobab is also brought up once more in the bible later on in Judges Chapter 4, verse 11:
"Now Heber the Kenite, which was of the children of Hobab the father in law of Moses, had severed himself from the Kenites..."
This would appear to support the theory that Hobab is in fact yet another name for Moses' father-in-law Reuel/Jethro. However, has another interesting theory about what is actually meant by the term "father-in-law" as used here in Judges. Their theory is that:
In Judges 4:11, the word rendered "father-in-law" means properly any male relative by marriage...and should be rendered "brother-in-law,"
Which indeed would clear up the apparent contradiction, but begs the question as to why something that could easily be fixed by updating this minor change in the development of our language is left to appear contradictory and confusing. While I can understand why believers are hesitant to reword even the slightest bit of the bible, I just can't fathom why they would want to leave something completely confusing to modern readers that could easily be cleared up without distorting the context.

In any event, however Hobab is related to Moses, he's apparently pretty savvy about traveling in the wilderness, and because of that Moses tries to get him to travel along with them. Hobab doesn't seem very interested in the prospect and thinks he needs to go back home to live amongst his own people. Moses begs Hobab to join them, and promises that if joins them (and presumably if he helps them) then Hobab will be able to share in all the "goodness" God will do for them. If this "goodness" requires sacrificing animals for every small mistake like touching the wrong animal or a dead body, and even worse - working on a Saturday and finding yourself stoned to death, maybe we can't really blame Hobab's lack of enthusiasm here. Unfortunately, the chapter doesn't make it clear whether Hobab decided to join them or whether he wisened up and went back home, as we won't hear about him again until the brief mention of him in Judges 4:11.

The people of Israel marched ahead following the cloud and carrying the ark of the covenant before them, as somehow the ark is stated to have helped them figure out where to go. As the cloud left Sinai that day, Moses cried out to it and asked for "God the cloud" to scatter the people of Israel's enemies. When they set the ark back down, however, Moses cried out again asking God to return back to the people of Israel.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

NUMBERS: Chapter 9

Chapter 9
Summary:God speaks to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the first month* of the second year after leaving Egypt, and commands that the people of Israel prepare to celebrate "Passover".

God states that on the fourteenth day of the month* at evening, "Passover" is to be celebrated according to all of the rules and regulations God had previously stated. Moses conveyed this message to the people of Israel, and they celebrated "Passover" as they were commanded on the fourteenth day of the month.

However, there were certain men who were "defiled" by the dead body of another man, that they could not celebrate "Passover" on that day, so they came before Moses and Aaron. The men told Moses about their situation, and Moses replied to the men to "stand still" and he would consult with God about what to do.

God's response was that anyone who had "defiled" themselves from contact with a dead body, or if they were away on a journey, then they will be expected to celebrate "Passover" on the first day of the second month*, and are to eat the lamb meat with unleavened bread that evening. None of the lamb is to be left until the next morning, nor must any of the bones of the lamb be broken, and all of the usual laws of celebrating "Passover" must be observed.

However, anyone that isn't deemed "unclean" by God, or "off on a journey", and does not participate in the "Passover" celebration on the fourteenth day of the first month*, the person will be excommunicated from their people as a consequence of their "sin".

If a foreigner is living amongst the people of Israel and opts to observe "Passover", then they must do so according the same rules and regulations as those who are born in the land - as God claims that only a single law will apply.

On the day that the tabernacle was set up, it was covered by a cloud - more specifically, directly over the area where the ark of the covenant was contained. In the evening the cloud changed to the appearance of fire, and remained that way until the morning. This would continue throughout the people of Israel's journey - a cloud hovering over the tabernacle by day, and the appearance of fire at night.

When the cloud lifted, the people of Israel followed it to wherever it came to rest and camped there. In this way God, lead the people of Israel through their journey. If the cloud came to rest for many days, the people of Israel remained camped where they were until the cloud moved again. If the cloud stayed for a long time, so did the Israelis; if the cloud stayed only briefly, the people left when it did. Day or night, whenever the cloud moved, so did the people of Israel. Whether the cloud stayed for several days, a month, or a year, the people only moved ahead when the cloud did.
Notes:1.) Approximately mid-March by our current calendar.
2.) Approximately the first of April by our current calendar.
3.) Approximately the first of May by our current calendar.
Thoughts:This chapter begins once again with God chatting away with Moses in the wilderness of Sinai. It's the two year anniversary of God leading the people of Israel out of Egypt, and God tells Moses to prepare the people for the celebration of "Passover", and that all of the rules laid out in Exodus: Chapter 12 are to be followed on the 14th day of the first month.

However, there were a couple of men who realized that they had "defiled" themselves by being near a dead body and were therefore weren't sure what they should do. They plead their case to Moses and Aaron, and Moses told them to hang tight while he asks God what to do.

God's response is that anyone who has "defiled" themselves by being in contact with a dead body - or anyone who might be "in a journey of afar" - has to celebrate "Passover" a month later on the fourteenth day of the second month.

I guess the first thing that comes as a surprise is that God is even okay with a person going out on a journey anywhere near the time of "Passover" in the first place. God generally doesn't appear to concern himself with whether his laws are an inconveniece upon people's lives, so I suppose we could chalk this up to one of God's better laws. If you miss "Passover" due to having to go out and travel somewhere important, no worries, you can make it up next month.

However, this raises some questions that God didn't have the foresight to address. What if you miss "Passover" due to being off on a journey in the first month, and then "defile" yourself by having someone drop dead around you before you can celebrate "Passover" in the second month? Do you get another month, or is that it?

God does however, let us know what happens if you're not "off on a journey", haven't gotten off on a technicality by "defiling" yourself with a dead body, and forget to, or opt not to, celebrate "Passover" in the first month - the person is to be excommunicated for their "sin". I suppose one found guilty of this "sin" should be grateful God doesn't dole out his usual punishment of demanding your death by stoning or immolation.

God adds that foreigners living in the land are welcome to come celebrate "Passover" as well if they wish, but that they must follow the same rules (most likely refering to that they'll have to be circumcised).

The chapter closes out explaining that once the tabernacle was erected, God appeared as a cloud above it, which became a giant fireball at night. God basically leads the people by having them follow the cloud/fireball whenever he moves it, but also only when he moves it. If God parks the cloud/fireball for a few days, a month, or a year, the people of Israel are to stay where they are until the cloud starts moving again. If fireball starts moving in the middle of the night, then everyone has to be woken up to move after it once it starts on its way. Basically, a game of "follow that cloud!"

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

NUMBERS: Chapter 8

Chapter 8
Summary:God speaks to Moses giving him instructions for Aaron on how to light the lamps in the tabernacle. God tells Moses that when Aaron lights the lamps, the seven* lamps are to give their light over the lampstand. As Aaron did so, he lit the lamps as commanded by God.

It is repeated that the lampstand is made from beaten gold, including the shaft of the stand and the floral pattern adorning it that God had specified when it was built.

God now tells Moses to set apart the Levites from amongst the rest of the people of Israel, and that Moses is to cleanse them. Moses is to sprinkle "purifying water" over the Levites, shave their entire bodies, and to have them wash their clothes to make themselves clean.

The Levites are then to take a young bull, along with a "grain offering" (consisting of fine flour mixed with olive oil), and yet another young bull for a "sin offering". Moses is then to bring the Levites to the door of the tabernacle, while the rest of the people of Israel are to gather around to watch. The rest of the people of Israel (all 603,550 of them?) are to place their hands upon the heads of the Levites, as Aaron offers the Levites as a gift to God on behalf of all of the people of Israel, so that the Levites may serve God on behalf of all of the people of Israel.

The Levites (all 22,300 of them?) shall lay their hands upon the heads of the young bulls, while one bull is to be offered as a "sin offering" animal sacrifice, while the other is to be offered as a "burnt offering" animal sacrifice, to make atonement for the Levites. The Levites themselves are then to be set before Aaron and his sons, and are to be offered to God (presumably, symbolically and not a "human sacrifice"). This apparently will separate the Levites from amongst the rest of the people of Israel and they will then belong to God. Afterward, the Levites shall go into service of the tabernacle after being cleansed and offered to God.

God further explains (and repeats) that the Levites belong to him and are given instead of the firstborn children of the people of Israel, and repeats his claim that firstborns (both man and animal) have belonged to him since he killed every first born in the land of Egypt. He continues, explaining that he has given the Levites as a gift to Aaron and his sons to do the service work for the transport of the tabernacle, and to make atonement for the rest of the people of Israel, so that there will no plague amongst them.

Moses, Aaron, and the people of Israel did as they were commanded in regards to the Levites, and the Levites were purified, washed their clothes, and were offered to God, while Aaron made atonement for the rest of the people of Israel through them. Afterward, the Levites went to do their service work for the tabernacle under Aaron and his son's supervision.

God tells Moses that the Levites are to begin serving the tabernacle when they reach the age of twenty five, and continue to serve until they reach the age of fifty. After they reach the age of fifty, they may help out with any light work, but will have no responsibility to do so.
Notes:1.) Another appearance of the mystical significance of the number seven in the bible.
Thoughts:While the chapter briefly starts out with a minor instruction from God to Aaron about how to light the lamps in the tabernacle, the bulk of the chapter concerns the consecration of the Levites, and God repeating his rationale that the Levites "belong" to him as an exchange for all the firstborn men and animals that he justifies he is entitled to since he killed all of the Egyptian firstborn in the book of Exodus.

God tells Moses to round up the Levites, bathe them by sprinkling them with "purifying water", shave off all of their body hair, and have them wash their clothes. Apparently, God does not like arm, leg, and pubic hair on his chosen folk, and wants their clothes fresh and clean.

It couldn't be a "holy" ceremony without a few animal sacrifices, so the Levites are to gather up a pair of young bulls along with some grains for a "sin offering" sacrifice at the tabernacle, and has the rest of the people of Israel gather around to watch the slaughter.

Curiously, God states that the "children (meaning, the people) of Israel shall put their hands upon the Levites" which seems rather ludicrous to assume that 603,550 people could somehow to be able to place their hands upon 22,300 people (try getting 60 people to place their hands upon two people for a small example to how ridiculous this would be to attempt). It can perhaps be assumed that God actually means that the leaders of the twelve tribes of Israel are to place their hands on the leaders of the three tribes of the Levites, but this is not specified and is only an educated guess at best.

A similar problem in wording follows when the Levites (22,300 of them) are to place their hands upon the two bulls before they are sacrificed. Again, it would seem to make more sense if the three clan leaders were the ones required to do so, but again, the wording does not specify this.

Anyways, one bull is to sacrificed as a "sin offering", while the other is a "burnt offering", which is to atone for the Levites. Following that, the Levites themselves are to be "offered" (not as a human sacrifice, but symbolically) before God by Aaron and his priestly sons, and that this offering will be on behalf of the rest of the people of Israel.

God then re-gifts the Levites to Aaron and his sons to work in the transport of the tabernacle as laid out in Numbers: Chapter 3.

So, after this ceremony Moses and Aaron send the Levites out to their duties in regards to the tabernacle, and God tacks on a provision that all Levites from the ages of 25 to 50 are to serve these responsibilities. Once they're past the age of fifty, they may help out with some of the light lifting if they wish, but they are no longer required to haul the tabernacle through the desert with the rest of the Levite men.

Monday, August 10, 2009

NUMBERS: Chapter 7

Chapter 7
Summary:Moses finally had fully set up the tabernacle and anointed and sanctified it, as well as the altar and all of the utensils contained within the tabernacle. The leaders of the tribes of Israel - who helped Moses with the census - brought their offerings to the tabernacle. They brought six covered wagons drawn by twelve oxen - each tribe supplied one ox, and every pair of tribes contributed a wagon; and they brought them before the tabernacle.

God told Moses to accept these gifts from the tribe leaders, use them in service for the tabernacle, and to give them to the Levites for whatever needs they have. Moses took the wagons and gave them to the Levites. He gave two wagons and four oxen to the Gershonites, four wagons and eight oxen to the Merarites, but gave none to the Kohathites - as their duties required them to carry their loads upon their shoulders.

The leaders also brought dedication gifts for the altar on the day it was anointed, placing them before the altar. God told Moses to have the leaders give their offering on separate days for the dedication of the altar.

Each of the twelve days, each leader brought:
  • a silver platter weighing 130 shekels (roughly two pounds) filled with fine flour mixed with olive oil for a "grain offering"
  • a silver bowl weighing 70 shekels (roughly one pound) filled with fine flour mixed with olive oil for a "grain offering".
  • One spoon of ten shekels of gold, full of incense
  • For a "burnt offering":
    • one young bull
    • one ram
    • one yearling lamb
  • one male goat for a "sin offering"
  • For a "peace offering":
    • two oxen
    • five rams
    • five male goats
    • five yearling lambs
  • On the first day Nashon, the son of Amminadab, leader of the tribe of Judah, brought his offering.
  • On the second day Nethanel, the son of Zuar, leader of the tribe of Issachar, brought his offering.
  • On the third day, Eliab, the son of Helon, leader of the tribe of Zebulun, brought his offering.
  • On the fourth day, Elizur, the son of Shedeur, leader of the tribe of Reuben, brought his offering.
  • On the fifth day, Shelumi-el, the son of Zuri-shaddai, leader of the tribe of Simeon, brought his offering.
  • On the sixth day, Eliasaph, the son of Deuel, leader of the tribe of Gad, brought his offering.
  • On the seventh day, Elishama, the son of Ammihud, leader of the tribe of Ephraim, brought his offering.
  • On the eighth day, Gamaliel, the son of Pedahzur, leader of the tribe of Manasseh, brought his offering.
  • On the ninth day, Abidan, the son of Gideoni, leader of the tribe of Benjamin, brought his offering.
  • On the tenth day, Ahiezer, the son of Ammishaddai, leader of the tribe of Dan, brought his offering.
  • On the eleventh day, Pagiel, the son of Ochran, leader of the tribe of Asher, brought his offering.
  • On the twelfth day, Ahira, the son of Enan, leader of the tribe of Naphtali, brought his offering.
The combined offerings of the twelve tribes were:
  • 12 silver platters (weighing 130 shekels each)
  • 12 silver bowls (weighing 70 shekels each)
  • twelve spoons of gold (weighing ten shekels each)
The total amount of weight of silver was 2,400 shekels (roughly 36 pounds of silver), and the total amount of gold was 120 shekels (roughly 3 pounds).

For the animal sacrifices, 12 bulls, 12 rams, and 12 yearling lambs were brought for "burnt offerings"; 12 male goats were brought for "sin offerings"; and 24 young bulls, 60 rams, 60 male goats, and 60 yearling lambs were brought for "peace offerings". This totaled 252 slaughtered animals(!)

When Moses went into the tabernacle, he heard the voice of God speaking to him from the "mercy place", over the ark of the covenant, between the two cherubims.
Thoughts:This rather tedious chapter in the book of Numbers basically sees Moses anointing the altar in the tabernacle, and all twelve leaders of the tribes of Israel (Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Reuben, Simeon, Gad, Ephraim, Manasseh, Benjamin, Dan, Asher, and Naphtali) bringing gifts of silver, gold, grain, incense, and plenty of animals to sacrifice for twelve consecutive days. Before they give these gifts, the tribes also give six covered wagons, each being drawn by a pair of oxen, to the tabernacle. God tells Moses to give them to the Levites to aid them in transporting the tabernacle, and while he gives two wagons to the Gershonites and four wagons to the Merarites, the Koathites get the shaft - as they are mandated to physically carry their loads on their shoulders.

In this chapter, the name of each tribe is mentioned, as is the name of the leader, the leader's father (all of the same information provided in the census detailed in Numbers: Chapter 1), and for each tribe, the exact same list of items that each leader brought is written out verbatim twelve times - making it quite a headache to read.

All in all, a grand total of 2,400 shekels of silver (about 36 pounds) and 120 shekels of gold (about 3 pounds) are given to the tabernacle, and 252 animals are sacrificed over the twelve days. It would seem that the priests probably ate pretty well over these twelve days, seeing as only Aaron, Eleazar, and Ithamar (and possibly Moses) along with their wives, children, and slaves would be allowed to eat the animal meat and the grains contained in the silver bowls and platters.

The chapter closes out with Moses heading back into the tabernacle to speak to God, and he hears God's voice speaking to him from the "mercy place" above the ark of the covenant.

NUMBERS: Chapter 6

Chapter 6
Summary:God speaks to Moses, giving him more laws for the people of Israel.

When either a man or a woman(!) decides to commit themselves to a vow of a Nazarite*, they are to obstain from wine and "strong drink", vinegar, vinegar from "strong drink", liquor made with any kind of grape, or grapes themselves (natural grapes or raisins). Nothing made with grapes is to be consumed, not even the seeds or skins of grapes.

During the duration of the vow, the person is not to cut their hair* until the vow is fulfilled. God considers Nazarites "holy", and therefore they are to let their hair on their head grow.

One is also not to go near a dead body during the duration of the vow, and is not allowed to make themselves "unclean" even if the dead body is that of their father, mother, brother, or sister - because the consecration of God is upon the individual's head, and the person is considered "holy" through the duration of their vow.

If a person drops dead by a Nazarite, and is therefore "defiled", then the Nazarite must shave their head seven days later. On the eighth day the Nazarite is to bring two turtle doves, or two young pigeons to a priest at the door of the tabernacle. The priest is to sacrifice one bird as a "sin offering", and the other as a "burnt offering", to make atonement for the Nazarite who "sinned" by simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time - as having someone die in front of you while you're taking a vow of a Nazarite is somehow your fault. The person will also have to renew their vows from the beginning, and any time they've already served will have to be served again due to their "defilement". The same day, the Nazarite shall have to also bring a yearling lamb to be sacrificed as well as a "guilt offering".

When the Nazarite's vow is completed, they will have to bring a yearling lamb - without defect - to the tabernacle for a "burnt offering", a yearling ewe lamb - also without defect - for a "sin offering", and a ram - also without defect - for a "peace offering" animal sacrifice. In addition to the animal sacrifices, the Nazarite is also to bring a basket of unleavened bread, cakes of fine flour mixed with olive oil, wafers of unleavened bread spread with olive oil, and an accompanying "grain offering" and "drink offering".

The priest is to then bring these animal sacrifices and "offerings" before God, beginning with the "sin offering" and the "burnt offering". Next the priest shall sacrifice the lamb, and then "offer" the basket of bread, "grain offering", and "drink offering" to God.

After the priest has finished sacrificing animals and "offering" the rest of the food and wine to God, the Nazarite is to shave their head at the door of the tabernacle, and afterward gather their hair and put into to the fire under the "peace offering" sacrifice (the ram).

The priest shall then take a roasted shoulder of the lamb, one unleavened cake out of the basket, and one unleavened wafer and place them into the hands of the Nazarite. The priest shall then wave the items in the air before God, as this is "holy" for the priest, along with the ram's breast and shoulder. After this is complete, the Nazarite may drink wine again.

This is the law of the Nazarite, and their offerings to God. The Nazarite must also bring any further offerings they had promised at the time the vow was begun.

God says to Moses, that he is to speak to Aaron and his sons that they are to bless the people of Israel, saying to them that God blesses them, that God will make his face shine upon them, will be gracious to them, and give them peace. God finishes off by stating that the people of Israel shall put God's name upon themselves, and in turn, God will bless them.
Notes:1.) Although not described, a "Nazarite" is a specific vow of abstinence from various "pleasures", and is derived from the Hebrew word nazir, meaning "consecrated" or "separated".
2.) Numbers 6:5 reads " razor shall come upon his head..."
Thoughts:This chapter of Numbers basically deals with the procedures which a person is to follow if they make a special vow to God, as a Nazarite.

One of the first things that stands out is that in the second verse, it is mentioned that either a man or a woman may make this vow (although all of the pronouns that follow reference the male gender). It's rather unusual to see an instance of equal opportunity in the bible for both sexes.

As mentioned in my footnotes, although the term Nazarite is not explained within the chapter (or in the previous chapters we've read either), the term is derived from the Hebrew word "nazir", meaning "consecrated" or "separated". A vow of the Nazarite is basically a limited time vow of abstinence from wine and grape products and a special dedication of oneself to God.

No grape products (including anything made with the seeds or skins) or "strong drinks" are to be consumed during this vow, nor is the person to cut the hair on their head - they are to let their hair grow long and flowing as a sign of dedication to their vow.

However, you'll also have to take extra care not to go anywhere near a corpse - not even the corpses of your parents or siblings, if they by chance die during your vow. If somebody happens to drop dead in your presence, then God is not only going to make you shave your head and start your vow all over, you'll also have to gather up some animals for some good old animal sacrificing.

Apparently God considers you the "sinner" if somebody else happens to drop dead in your presence - which is a shining example of why the concept of "sin" is pretty much ridiculous. Theists will tell you that sin equates to a "crime against God". defines the word "sin" with the following definitions:
1. transgression of divine law: the sin of Adam.
2. any act regarded as such a transgression, esp. a willful or deliberate violation of some religious or moral principle.
3. any reprehensible or regrettable action, behavior, lapse, etc.; great fault or offense: It's a sin to waste time.
–verb (used without object)
4. to commit a sinful act.
5. to offend against a principle, standard, etc.
–verb (used with object)
6. to commit or perform sinfully: He sinned his crimes without compunction.
7. to bring, drive, etc., by sinning: He sinned his soul to perdition.
Even putting aside the silliness of the notion of having a "law" against intentionally going near a dead body, "punishing" someone for something that they have absolutely no control over - such as a person suddenly dying in their presence - is not a "crime" or "transgression" by any sense. Any "moral" judge would not punish a person for something that they had absolutely no negligence for or any control over. The notion of "sin" is preposterous simply because it punishes the innocent as well as the guilty. Women allegedly (according to the bible) are punished for the sin of their mythical ancestor Eve by means of painful childbirth and menstruation, and Nazarites are apparently punished for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. God punishes people for very mundane and ridiculous reasons even when they are clearly not at fault.

People sometimes die very suddenly from strokes, heart attacks, or unknown illnesses, and unless you completely avoid human contact altogether, there is no way you could guarantee to anyone that you will never be in the presence of someone who has died. It simply is an unfair "law", and would be akin to making it a crime to be in the same room at the same time that someone has sneezed. It is laws like these that show that God simply cannot be described as the "perfect judge" as the theist will claim him to be.

Anyways, it comes as no surprise that along with the Nazarite having to shave their head and start their vow all over again, God's punishment for having the misfortune of being in the presence of someone who has died, is the good old standby of animal sacrifice. Eight days after being in the presence of the dead, the Nazarite will have to bring either a pair of turtledoves, or a pair of young pigeons, down to the tabernacle. One bird is for a "sin offering", the other is for a "burnt offering". In addition to the birds, you'll also need to bring along a yearling lamb for a "guilt offering".

When the Nazarite is done with their vow, it'll be time for more animal sacrificing. This time you'll need a yearling lamb, a yearling ewe, a ram, a basket of unleavened bread, cakes of flour mixed with olive oil, wafers of unleavened bread, some grain, and some wine. The priests sure are going to eat well with this feast you'll have to hand over - "for God".

After the priest sacrifices the animals, the Nazarite has to shave off all their hair and place it into the fire inside the tabernacle - presumably giving it to a priest to do this for them, as non-Levites are not allowed inside the tabernacle. The priest then takes the shoulder and the breast of the ram that was sacrificed, along with one cake of bread and one wafer from the basket, and places them into the Nazarites hands. The priest is then to wave these items in the air as a gesture of offering them to God. Afterwards, the priest gets to keep all the food, and the Nazarite is free from his vow and can once again drink wine and consume grape products.

Anything else the Nazarite might have pledged to give to God (more aptly, to the priests) he is to give them at this time.

God closes out the chapter by telling Moses to have Aaron bless the people of Israel. God says that he will make his face shine upon the people, will be gracious to them, and bring them peace. He concludes by saying that the people of Israel shall put God's name upon themselves and God will bless them in return - as long as they follow his laws to a tee, otherwise he's got other plans for them.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

NUMBERS: Chapter 5

Chapter 5
Summary:God commands Moses to rid the camp of lepers, anyone that has open sores, and even those who have "defiled" themselves by touching a corpse. This applies to men and women alike, as God does not want these outcasts "defiling" the camps where God dwells. The people of Israel complied with God's command and kicked out all of these people from their camp site.

God then says to Moses that when a man or woman commits a "sin" betraying a "trust" against God, and are found guilty of doing so, that person shall confess that "sin" and repay
for their wrongs, adding a "fifth part" (20% interest) to their re-compensation. If the person he has wronged is dead and has no living relatives, then the payment must be made to God via a priest, where he is also to bring a ram for an animal sacrifice "atonement". Any gift offering or gift of animal sacrifice that the people of make to God will belong to the priests.

God tells Moses, that if any man's wife commits adultery - "lies with another man carnally" - yet it cannot be proven, there are no witnesses, and the husband becomes jealous and suspicious of her alleged infidelity, then the man is to bring his wife to a priest along with a tenth part of an ephah (about a tenth of a bushel) of barley meal. The barley meal is not to contain oil or frankincense, as it is a "jealousy offering" - which supposedly will bring out the truth.

The priest shall bring the man's wife and set her before God, taking holy water from a clay pot, and placing dust from the floor of the tabernacle into the water. The priest shall set the woman before God, and uncover her head (taking her hair down also), and put the "jealousy offering" into her hands. The priest shall hold in his hands the bitter water that supposedly contains "the curse". The priest shall then make the woman swear by an oath that she is innocent -
5:19 "...if no man has lain with thee, and if thou hast not gone aside to uncleanness with another instead of thy husband, be thou free from this bitter water that causeth the curse."
5:20 "But if thou hast gone aside to another instead of thy husband, and if thou be defiled, and some man have lain with thee beside thine husband,"
then the priest shall charge the woman with an "oath of cursing" and the priest shall say to the woman:
5:21 "The LORD make thee a curse and an oath among thy people, when the LORD doth make thy thigh to rot, and thy belly to swell;"
5:22 And this water that causeth the curse shall go into thy bowels, to make thy belly to swell, and thy thigh to rot."
The woman shall reply with an "amen", and the priest shall write these curses into a book and wash them off into the bitter water. (When the priest later makes the woman drinks this "bitter water", it will cause the curse to enter her and become bitter.)

The priest shall then take the "jealousy offering" from out of the woman's hand, and shall wave it in the air before God before offering it upon the altar. The priest shall take a handful of the offering and burn it upon the altar, afterward making the woman drink the "bitter water".

After the woman drinks the water, if she has truly defiled herself and has "trespassed" against her husband, then the water's curse shall cause her belly to swell and her thigh shall rot, and the woman shall be a curse amongst the people of Israel. If the woman has not been "defiled" then she shall be set free, and will become pregnant.

This, God declares, is the "law of jealousies" - when a wife goes aside to another instead of her husband and is defiled - or if her husband merely suspects that she's committed adultery.

The husband shall remain guiltless from "sin", as it's his wife's fault for her "sins" - not his.
Thoughts:Moses' first duty in this chapter is to get rid of all the unsightly lepers, people with sores, and anyone who has "defiled" themselves by touching a dead body. God does not want these undesirable people amongst the people of Israel's camp - simply because if God has to live amongst the people of Israel, he doesn't want to be around a bunch of lepers, people with sores, or anybody who's touched a corpse. The people of Israel complied with this request and rid their camp of all of these undesirables.

The problem here, obviously, is that the sick and the ill are lumped together with the "sinners" (those who touch corpses, being guilty of "sin") and are unceremoniously dumped out to the outskirts of the camp, left to suffer and die alone in the middle of the desert - simply because God doesn't want them to "defile" his camp. Quite a departure from God's claims of being a merciful deity, he insists that the sick are no different than the sinners and should simply be abandoned out in the desert. Even more troubling, is that we learn in Leviticus: Chapter 13 that it is priests, and not someone with a better understanding of medicine that makes the judgment on whether someone is infected with leprosy or not - basically, based on the colors of the blemishes in the skin. Perhaps we can justify the quarantine of the ill from the healthy people, but to leave them alone to die in the outskirts of the camp without anyone (aside from maybe the sinners who were exiled as well) to take care of them is simply cruelty.

God follows his bout of cruelty concerning the sick with a law demanding that anyone who has cheated someone or stolen something from another will have to repay that "trespass" with the full value with 20% interest tacked on. However, if the person you wronged is no longer living and has no living relatives to recompensate, then the money is to go into the pockets of Aaron and his sons - along with a ram that's needed for some good old "animal sacrificing" fun.

God spend the rest of the chapter serving up another law chocked with a big helping of misogyny - concerning what to do if you're suspicious that your wife might have cheated on you, yet there's no evidence or witnesses to support your "jealousy".

God states that a jealous husband will have to bring his allegedly unfaithful wife out to the tabernacle along with a tenth of a bushel of barley meal - which is considered a "jealousy offering". God explains that because this "jealousy offering" will supposedly somehow bring out the truth, it's not to contain oil or frankincense - the reasoning behind this is unclear. Meanwhile, the priest is to take some "holy water" from a clay pot and mix in some dirt from the floor of the tabernacle. The woman is to hold the barley meal in her hands, while the priest is to "uncover her head" (meaning to remove any head-wear she might be wearing and let down her hair) and is to hold the pot of dirty water. Then he makes the suspected adulteress swear to an oath that she hasn't cheated on her husband.

The priest is then to write down the "curses" that the dirty water is to contain and to wash the ink away into the dirty water. He is then to take the "guilt offering" from the woman, wave around it in the air for a bit, and then set a handful of it on fire upon the altar.

The woman is then required to drink the "holy water" - contaminated with dirt from the floor and ink - and if she's indeed guilty then "her belly will swell" and "her thigh will rot" and will become an outcast among her people. If it instead turns out that she's innocent of her accused adultery, then her "reward" is that she will become pregnant.

Apparently if you have problems conceiving a child, all you would really have to do is accuse your wife of being unfaithful and bring her and a tenth of a bushel of barley meal down to the tabernacle, and after your wife drinks some filthy water, she'll either become pregnant or her legs will rot off if she's cheated on you unbeknowst to you. Either way, it's a win-win situation, if you're right, you get vengeance, and if you're wrong you get a baby - which if you're like an ancient Israelite, had better be a boy, but you could always accuse your wife of being unfaithful again to try for another chance.

The ridiculousness of this "law" is obvious, as is the sexism contained within it, but what's also troubling is that God apparently has no problem with men falsely accusing their wives of cheating on them as he states in the last three verses of this chapter. So a woman has to go through this humiliating experience of drinking dirty water while proclaiming her innocence and hoping that she doesn't get sick in any way, thereby "exposing" her guilt. As for God, and his supposed omniscience, couldn't he think of a better way to judge a woman's guilt or innocence than by some ridiculous degrading ritual? Couldn't he just strike her dead - as he requires adulteresses to be stoned to death anyways?

I simply find it baffling how religious women can read verses like these in the bible and be okay with how God deems it acceptable to treat women in such ways.