Welcome back! This will be part three of the series on Numbers. Again, this is a bit incongruous, but it does lead somewhere this time. The Israelites are finally getting out of Mt. Sinai! They’ve been there for a while, which surprised me.
This is where the evidence of being at Mt. Sinai a while shows up. In case you weren’t paying attention (like I wasn’t) to the time it probably took to construct everything for the tent of meeting, this chapter opens with “the first month of the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt”. God goes on to remind them to do the Passover feast at the “appointed time”, but there’s some commotion about it. Not everyone is “clean” for it and those who don’t celebrate Passover are supposed to be caste out.
The only cleanliness that is addressed here is that from touching a dead body. God adds the travel bit. But what about that cyclic thing that would likely happen on the fourteenth of the second of the month if it happened on the fourteenth of the first month? Yep, I’m talking about a period. What if you just happen to get your cycle in the middle of the month? Or had a baby and were still in that unclean period over both months?
Sadly, this is not addressed. It then begs the question of are women even involved in the Passover feast? They probably prepare the meal, but it seems to have little to do with them beyond that. It’s not like being a firstborn daughter would have impacted this festival. It’s also not mentioned anywhere that an unclean person wasn’t supposed to be a part of the festival in the first place. Did these guys assume that? Was it in something that wasn’t passed along to the rest of us? Also, it appears that it was the sole duty of the man of the household to make the offering and that was the main concern for cleanliness and that his failure to do so affected his entire family which could not be counted without him making the offering. This perhaps makes other kinds of uncleanliness for women not pertinent to the story.
If anyone has any other ideas about what this passage means, please comment with them!
The rest of the chapter goes on to talk about how the Israelites only moved when the cloud/fire of God moved from over the tabernacle.
This chapter focuses on the creation of a pair of silver trumpets that are to be sounded for quite a few reasons. It starts out with being sounded for camp movement but goes on to include going to war with this quote:
The trumpets shall be to you for a perpetual statute throughout your generations. And when you go to war in your land against the adversary who oppresses you, then you shall sound an alarm with the trumpets, that you may be remembered before the LORD your God, and you shall be saved from your enemies.
But it also adds some feasts and offerings to the mix. In short, they’ll be hearing these trumpets a lot. It’s also interesting to note that the trumpets going into battle alert God of their of Him.
The chapter goes on to detail leading the camp out of Mt. Sinai and Moses asking one of his brothers-in-law to come with them and scout the land for them. It ends with that Moses would say this encantation when the ark would set out and when it would rest:
And whenever the ark set out, Moses said, “Arise, O LORD, and let your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate you flee before you.” And when it rested, he said, “Return, O LORD, to the ten thousand thousands of Israel.”
I’d like to prefice this next chapter by admitting that I am a parent in the throes of food trouble with my five year old. He doesn’t want to eat what we eat, he wants to eat “kid food” and is willing to go on a bit of a hunger strike to avoid all else. I don’t know where he got the idea that some food is for kids and others are just for adults and that adult food is inherently gross to kids, but it’s in his head and we’re stuck with it.
The reasons why I had to admit that little bit is because this is the chapter where God gets really hot, and I mean burning hot, with His people about their complaining about food. They were brought out of slavery and promised a land of milk and honey and botched that part already. After a year at Mt. Sinai, eating the magical bread that God has provided them, manna, this same group of people have the gall to complain to Moses that they were better off in Egypt (they leave off the “as slaves” part that to me is kind of important) because they have not had meat in forever.
Now, I understand getting sick of eating a certain kind of food. I do. I grew up on Cuban food and have gone through spells in my life where I thought I might never eat rice again. But I ate it if it was what was presented to me. Dealing now with my own son, I have experienced a little piece of the anger over this that was kindled and caused this:
the fire of the LORD burned among them and consumed some outlying parts of the camp.
These people complain so much to Moses that he prays and asks for death rather than continue to deal with these people. He admits that the burden is too great to deal with them. Remember that this was a guy who was raised a prince that was never going to rule, who at first denied being capable of leading them out of Egypt or anywhere. He cannot deal with this any longer. The exact prayer goes like this:
“Why have you dealt ill with your servant? And why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me? Did I conceive all this people? Did I give them birth, that you should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a nursing child,’ to the land l that you swore to give their fathers? Where am I to get meat to give to all this people ? For they weep before me and say, ‘Give us meat, that we may eat.’ I am not able to carry all this people alone; the burden is too heavy for me. If you will treat me like this, kill me at once, if I find favor in your sight, that I may not see my wretchedness.”
I love it because he’s just sick of the complaining. He’s dealt with it for long enough. He tried to deal with it on his own and is just frustrated and tired of it. This is corroborated by the fact that God’s solution was to take seventy other men and redistribute the burden or spirit that was on him, to the others as well. And not just any seventy men, but the tribe leaders. God even gives some to the elders who didn’t show up and thought they could get out of it by staying in the camp. (Okay, I don’t know why they weren’t there, but that’s the reasoning I came up with)
I mean, wasn’t there a point where five people could have helped share the burden? Moses held onto it so long that it took seventy other people for it to not totally weigh him down to the point of wishing for death. These were some grumbling people. And God was so annoyed and angered that he promised them enough meat for a month to make them sick.
I heard of a woman once who willingly gave her kid all the sweets he could eat after annoying her about having them. She just loaded him up and sat back for the show. They say he never asked for sweets again. It’s a parenting story I’ve heard many times but would never try out. I just want my kid to try new things, eat what’s put in front of him instead of complaining that he wants something else. Apparently, I am not alone in that feeling.
God has quail rush the camp and they take a bunch home to cook and eat and then get hit by a severe plague before they’re even done with it. But it says that it’s only the people who had the craving that caused the whole scene in the first place.
That’s some next level pisstivity.
This chapter made me think of a quote from Former Secretary of State and Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright:
There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.
This chapter almost makes me think that God agrees with her sentiment. After Moses marries a Cushite woman, Miriam (his sister and a prophetess) and Aaron “spoke against” Moses for marrying her. Now, I do recall there being some very specific guidelines on who the Levite leaders are supposed to marry, but none of it appears to apply to Moses.
I’m not entirely sure why they thought it would. God clearly had a favorite here and Moses appeared to be a good man trying to do good things and he clearly had a relationship with God where he might have been warned if that were going to be bad. This is especially so since He just called them out without them trying to go to Him first. God gets mad at them for talking bad about their brother and leader, but He also makes Miriam leprous.
Not Miriam and Aaron, just Miriam. Hence the Albright quote. Why didn’t Aaron get leprous too? Or punished in any way? It doesn’t say and it won’t do to speculate. Perhaps he got his due some other way. Of course, it isn’t that Miriam just didn’t help the other woman, but what were they trying to do? Get the marriage annulled or something? Or did they just want to trash talk and make the woman’s life harder? Again, that’s where the quote came to mind for me.
The final verse in this chapter lets the reader know that it was at this point that they went on to Paran from the place where the plague had struck on account of the meat.
So there are my feelings and impressions on chapters 9-12 of Numbers. Have you read it? What do you think?