I did my homework today, then went to the park, hung my hammock and read a book for a couple hours. It was a beautiful day and I greatly enjoyed myself.
Now, however, I’m ready for sleepy times but still need to do my daily Bible reading. I know I could skip, but that’s a slippery slope towards giving up. Numbers defeated me once; never again!
Chapter 18- After the events of chapters 16 and 17, the people are afraid that they’ll all be killed for coming near the tabernacle. God reiterates the duties of the priesthood and the Levites, so they know what he expects.
Remember me asking a few days ago if every first born son had to be redeemed? I found an answer! I get excited when there are answers to my questions! Verses 15 and 16 here say that firstborns belong to God, but they shall be redeemed for five shekels. Of course, this chapter also says that any non-Levite who approaches the tabernacle will die, so I assume that the redeeming fee is mandatory. It appears to boil down to a first baby tax.
Verse 22, “Hereafter the children of Israel shall not come near the tabernacle of meeting, lest they bear sin and die.” How are they supposed to bring their sin offerings, peace offerings, tithes, etc to the tabernacle if they can’t go near the tabernacle? Maybe there’s a drop box a safe distance away.
Chapter 19- Instructions for making an offering in general, and specific details about how long one is unclean after touching a dead body/ how to become clean again.
So, I was thinking maybe there was some sense to the “unclean” after contact with the dead rule. If a person dies of some contagious disease, other people in the vicinity could become infected, and marking them as unclean could help prevent spread of the illness. But then it turned out that the unclean rule also applies with corpses of people who died in battle. Battle wounds are not contagious for 7 days, so there goes that theory.
In the process of offering sacrifices, the priest who slaughters the animal becomes unclean until evening, as does the person who burns the animal, and the one who gathers the ashes. In the case of a purification done by sprinkling water on a person, the one responsible for the sprinkling becomes unclean. It seems a little ridiculous to make 4 people unclean for the cleansing of one.
Chapter 20- Miriam dies. The people complain that there is no water. God tells Moses to speak to a rock to make water come out; Moses hits it with his rod instead. The people get water, but as a consequence of not following the instructions exactly, Moses and Aaron will not be allowed to enter the promised land. Moses asks the king of Edom for permission to travel through his land. The king says no. Aaron’s son Eleazar becomes high priest when Aaron dies. The people mourn.
This journey into the desert sounds like one big clusterfuck. Not enough food, no water, no safe route of passage, people dying left and right. I can’t say I blame the people for complaining.
I’m sad that nobody mourned for Miriam, but not surprised.
I think the main lesson we can take away from this story is that no matter how faithfully you serve God, one mistake can ruin everything. Even being related to a mistake maker can ruin things for you. Moses has been God’s right hand man through thick and thin so far, but one slip up of rock-hitting instead of rock-speaking and he’s out of the promised land for good, and his brother Aaron too for good measure. God’s a jerk.
When Aaron dies, I can’t quite tell if it was a natural death, or if God murdered him gently. Verses 24-28:
“Aaron shall be gathered to his people, for he shall not enter the land which I have given to the children of Israel, because you rebelled against My word at the water of Meribah. Take Aaron and Eleazar his son, and bring them up to Mount Hor; and strip Aaron of his garments and put them on Eleazar his son; for Aaron shall be gathered to his people and die there.” So Moses did just as the Lord commanded, and they went up to Mount Hor in the sight of all the congregation. Moses stripped Aaron of his garments and put them on Eleazar his son; and Aaron died there on the top of the mountain. Then Moses and Eleazar came down from the mountain.”
You tell me: Nice setting for a death from old age, or God striking him down in private for an offense he didn’t even commit?
Also, do the Bible editors have any idea how semicolons actually work?