Friday, November 6, 2009

NUMBERS: Chapter 34

Chapter 34
Summary:God speaks to Moses, telling him to speak with the people of Israel concerning setting borders for the "promised land" in Canaan.

The southern border will be the wilderness of Zin, along the coast of Edom, and the southern border will also lie among the outmost coast of the Dead Sea. The southern border will continue to the ascent of Akrabbim, pasing on to Zin, going forth from the south to Kadeshbarnea, on to Hazaraddar, and on to Azmon. From Azmon, it will follow the river of Egypt out to the Mediterranean Sea.

The western border will be the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea.

The northern border will begin at the Mediterranean Sea and head eastward to Mount Hor, then to the entrance of Hamath, and through Zedad and Ziphron, to Hazarenan.

The eastern border will begin from Hazarenan and follow south to Shepham, continuing to Riblah on the east side of Ain. The border shall then descend and reach unto the side of the sea of Chinnereth, following down to the Jordan River, and ending at the Dead Sea.

Moses tells the people of Israel that the land within these borders God has specified is what they shall inherit by lot by the nine and a half tribes (the tribes of Gad and Reuben, along with the "half tribe" of Manasseh were allowed to take up land in Gilead outside of the "promised land").

God now tells Moses that in addition to Eleazar, and Joshua (the son of Nun), that he has appointed one leader from each tribe to assist with dividing up the land:
  • Judah: Caleb the son of Jephunneh
  • Simeon: Shemuel the son of Ammihud
  • Benjamin: Elidad the son of Chislon
  • Dan: Bukki the son of Jogli
  • Manasseh: Hanniel the son of Jephunneh
  • Ephraim: Kemuel the son of Shiphtan
  • Zebulun: Elizaphan the son of Parnach
  • Issachar: Paltiel the son of Azzan
  • Asher: Ahihud the son of Shelomi
  • Naphtali: Pedahel the son of Ammihud
Thoughts:In this chapter God basically sets the borders for the "promised land" and has Moses tell the people of Israel that this portion of land is to be divided up amongst all of the Israelite families.

In addition to Eleazar and Joshua, God appoints a representative from each tribe - making an exception for the tribes of Gad and Reuben, along with the "half tribe" of Manasseh who were allowed to take up land in Gilead outside of the "promised land" in Numbers: Chapter 32. God specifies that without these two and a half tribes, there will be representatives from the other nine and a half tribes, however when we look at the list God comes up with, somehow the "half tribe of Manasseh" is listed amongst them - which appears to be either a mathematical or logical error.

If we look at the most basic mathematics, we have 12 tribes of Israel; technically the Levites are one of the twelve tribes, but in their absence due to their tabernacle duties, the "half tribes" of Joseph are split by his sons Ephraim and Manasseh so that the total equals twelve. The tribes of Gad and Reuben wanted the lands of Gilead instead of an inheritance in Canaan, so they're taken away from the total, as well as the "half tribe" of Manasseh who helped conquer the lands of Gilead.

The logistical problem is whether to count the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh as either a full number or a half number. When we takes the Levites out of the equation, we have to count the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh as full numbers to equal twelve. However, here in Chapter 34 we're mistakenly assuming that each tribe (Ephraim and Manasseh) should be counted as a half number - and without the Levites, we'd have a total of 11 tribes. Taking away 2 and a half tribes (three individual tribes) away from a total of twelve, would leave 9 and a half tribes (ten individual tribes), but we would need thirteen individual tribes to begin with, meaning we would have had to include the Levites - which wouldn't make sense as the Levites were not allowed to be given an inheritance. If we're excluding the tribes of Gad and Reuben from representing themselves because they aren't inheriting land in the "promised land", then we also must exclude the tribes of Levi and Manasseh for the same reasons.

Why the "half tribe" of Manasseh shows up in the list seems to simply be a mathematical and logistical error to simply preserve the illusion of there always needing to be "twelve tribes" of Israel. The reader sees 2 and a half tribes are ineligible, and therefore logically thinks that there must be 9 and a half tribes that are eligible, which simply isn't true unless we include the Levites amongst the numbers.

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