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.

No comments:

Post a Comment