Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Numbers 33-36: Getting Ready to Go In

We're going to finish Numbers today!  I'm so excited.  And tomorrow I think I'll get caught up to where I am in my reading.  Yay.

So these final chapters are kind of a summary of what's already happened, along with a few final instructions on what to do with Canaan once the people get there.  Chapter 33 is basically a roadmap - it tells where the Israelites traveled, where they camped, and to some extent when they were there.  I would really love to see how many of these locations we know about for sure.  Many Bibles (especially Zondervan Bibles like mine) have maps in the back, one of which shows a possible route from Exodus to Sinai to the conquest of Canaan; the only problem with this map is that we don't know where Mt. Sinai is.  Many locations - I'm talking 30 or so - have been suggested at one point or another, and our current "traditional" location (Jebel Musa), the one that has a monastery on it and everything, we only consider to be Mt. Sinai because somebody claimed on their deathbed that it was, or something like that.  It most likely is not Mt. Sinai because the physical description of the mountain and surrounding area in the Bible don't match up with it.  Anyway, I've only read up on one other theoretical Mt. Sinai, Jebel al Lawz, in a very interesting book called In Search of the Mountain of God.  I don't kno for sure if I think that is the real Mt. Sinai, but it is a very interesting book and the findings in that book, if it's all true, are very promising.

At the end of chapter 33, God gives the people a warning to drive out the Canaanites from the land when they go in, or else later on those people will get them in trouble and pull them away from God, and then God says that what He plans to do to them, He'll do to Israel if they don't obey this command.  In the words of the immortal Strong Bad: "One, two, three, foreshadowing!"

So then we get into the rules for what they have to do when they get into Canaan.  First of all God gives them the boundaries of their country so they know exactly how much land they have, which is probably a really helpful thing.  Then he appoints leaders for each tribe, who will give out land to the people in their tribes once those borders are set.

The next chapter is about cities.  Since the Levites didn't get their own chunk of land, and since they were the priests for the whole nation, they were supposed to get a few cities in each tribe in which to live, and a few of those cities were also to be cities of refuge.  Now, I don't remember if these were described earlier.  Cities of refuge were places where a guy could go if he had killed somebody accidentally - manslaughter - and be safe.  The law was that if you murdered somebody, then you would be killed, and you could be killed by a relative of the person you murdered.  If you killed somebody accidentally, the person's relatives might still want you dead, but if it was manslaughter, you could go to one of the conveniently spread out cities of refuge and as long as you stayed there, you were safe.  If you left the city, the relative of the dead person could still kill you and not be prosecuted, so you had to stay there until the current high priest died, and then your term was up, so to speak, and you could go home and nobody could kill you.  I have always thought this was a really interesting law.  I think it works.

I have to say, I really like how this book ends.  Remember Z's daughters?  They're back.  They know they're going to get a portion of land that would have belonged to their father, but now their problem is that when they get married, if they marry outside their tribe, their land will be absorbed into the other tribe.  So they ask Moses what to do, and he asks God what to do, and he says that people in this situation just have to marry within their tribe, so that's what they do, and that way their inheritance stays within the family.  I like that the book ends with a chapter about women.  I also like that Z's daughters are an example of how the rest of Israel should have behaved when they had a complaint.  Israel has spent the last forty years whining and griping about this and that, and it's gotten them plagues and snakes and the ground eating them up and not getting to go into the Promised Land.  These girls had complaints, but they went to Moses to get his advice and propose their own solution, rather than saying "Woe is us, we are going to lose our father's inheritance! We should have died!"  So the moral of this story is, don't be a drama queen when there is something wrong.  Try to think of a solution, ask somebody else for help, and it will probably turn out that there is a way to fix your problem.  Learn from Z's daughters.

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