Happy Friday!!! It’s been a long week full of long hours in the library, and I am so relieved to finally have a little down time. I’m very much looking forward to a weekend of abundant sunshine and limited studies.
Chapter 23 & 24 (I’m combining chapter summaries here since these two chapters are part of the same story)- Balaam has Balek build 7 altars and offer a bull and ram on each alter. God puts words into Balaam’s mouth, and he blesses the Israelites, which doesn’t make Balak happy since he hired Balaam to curse them. This process of altar building, sacrifice, and blessing is repeated in two other locations. Balak is really mad at Balaam at this point. God has Balaam prophesy that the Israelites will rise up and destroy the Moabites, Edomites, Amalekites, Kenites, et al.
These chapters make several references to Balaam being an oracle/ using sorcery, so I’m still a little unsure as to why God is such good pals with Balaam. I guess maybe since Balak asked for Balaam specifically, God used the guy who was already en route to the situation.
23:19 says, “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man that He should repent.” I think that, given the context, this means that God doesn’t feel the slightest bit bad about murdering all the native people who are in the way of the Israelites’ manifest destiny.
23:24, “Look, a people rises like a lioness, and lifts itself up like a lion; It shall not lie down until it devours the prey, and drinks the blood of the slain.” Brutal.
After the third time Balaam blesses Israel, Balak tells him to flee. Instead, Balaam adds some lighter fluid to the situation by announcing that Balak’s people are doomed. Then 24:25 says they both departed and went their separate ways. Am I really supposed to believe that Balak went from angry to totally calm after that? The cliche “don’t kill the messenger” is a cliche for a reason, and I’m skeptical that Balak just let Balaam waltz away untouched.
Chapter 25- The Israelites begin to “commit harlotry” with the Moab women, and to worship their god Baal. God gets mad, and has Moses hang the offenders. As the people are weeping at the tabernacle over the latest round of deaths, Phinehas the priest takes a javelin and stabs a man and his Midianite lover. This pleases God, who then stops the plague against Israel, and rewards Phinehas with the promise that all his descendants will also get to be priests. God tells Moses to attack the Midianites.
This chapter is only 18 verses, but whoa! There’s a lot going on here.
For a tl;dr summary of this chapter: sex with non-Israelites, Baal worship, hangings, javelin, end of plague. Do you see the problem with this progression of events? A plague ends, but it never says that a plague started. I tried looking back to previous chapters to see if a former plague was on-going, but the last plague was resolved with the bronze snake on a stick.
I think, perhaps, “plague” here means Moses hanging people at God’s command. Seems to me that the easy way to end that plague would be to stop hanging people, not to murder a couple more.
I’d like to take you back to little known verse in Exodus: “You shall not murder.” Exodus 20:13. (And by “little known” I actually mean, “one of the most famous verses, that people insist on engraving on monuments because it’s the basis upon which our society has any semblance of morals.”)
Instead, I think Ex 20:13 would be more accurate if it said, “Thou shalt not murder, unless thou art a holy priest of the tabernacle and thine people are having relations with women thou do not likest. Then, thou shalt brutally slay them with a quick thrust of thine pointy javelin. And thus shalt thou be richly rewarded.”
Whatever happened here, between the hangings, javelin deaths, and mysterious plague, 24 thousand more people died. Yahweh is hard ass, who yet again shows his complete intolerance for dissent.