Part seven is kind of a disjointed mess again. This one does get a little crazy about the women, and not always in a good way, but not always bad either.
The new census. The numbers are lined out pretty simply, but there is a note that one of the sons in the clan of Manasseh didn’t have any sons, only daughters, and the names of these daughters are spelled out in the same manner the sons of the others are. There is one other woman or “daughter” named and she is Serah, the daughter of Asher. There’s no indication of why she is named while others were not. We also finally learn the name of Moses’s mother, she was Jochebed.
God instructs Moses on how to divide up the inheritance of land among the tribes. While listing the sons who would inherit, there is a reminder that goes back to chapter fourteen that only Caleb and Joshua will possess the promised land.
The daughters from the clan of Manasseh in the last chapter don’t just take all this inheritance stuff quietly. To all the other clans, there is a piece of land that will be given to them according to their size but the descendants of Zelophehad were about to get nothing because they were all daughters. These women go to the entrance to the tent of meeting and plead their case.
Their father was not among the group that should not posses the promised land and had died previously “for his own sin”. This leads God to amend the succession of inheritance to include that daughters would inherit in this scenario and that these women shall. The succession goes on to a man’s brothers if he has neither sons nor daughters, then on to his father’s brothers and then to the nearest kinsman of his clan.
Afterward, Moses is relieved as the sheperd of Israel by Joshua. He doesn’t die here, but God reminds him that he isn’t supposed to enter the promised land because of what happened with the water and the rock chapter twenty. He has Joshua take over some of his authority here.
These are a series of offerings to add to what they already offer. There are daily, monthly, Sabbath and Passover offerings, plus offerings for several feasts and the Day of Atonement.
This chapter irked me. It even started a not-so-friendly discussion with my husband about what it all means.
Men are given the responsibility to carry out their vows and pledges once they are made to the Lord. Women are not.
Well, widows and divorced women are, but no woman who lives under her father’s roof or with her husband. This second set of women can have their pledges opposed or voided by the men in their lives. No matter how this may seem like this gives women an out, it’s not. An “out” implies the person having it wants it, for starters. Beyond that, the woman’s ability to make or keep a vow or pledge is not wholly given to her as it is the man. I’ve been incredibly apologetic about many things (if you doubt it, check out posts on Leviticus), but this one just doesn’t make any sense to me.
God could have said from the beginning, what he says at the end about husband’s who oppose these vows after the day they hear of it. The person who opposes her vow bears the iniquity. But that didn’t happen. A father or husband can oppose or void a vow or pledge by a woman. Further upsetting to me is that her hypothetical vow is called a “thoughtless utterance of her lips by which she bound herself” (v. 8). It’s yet another extension of the slippery slope that women have been on when it comes to being seen as equally capable of doing things as their husbands.
Now, I will mention that I do understand that women of the time were treated like the property of their husbands and parents. I recognize that perhaps they were not always educated enough for the particular vow or pledge that they were making, but still. We aren’t talking about whether or not it’s a good idea, we’re talking about whether or not the father or husband approves of it. All the little addendums are in relation to when the man hears and is complicit. It has nothing to do with whether or not the woman is capable of the vow. That would be understandable, if it were about whether or not she was educated enough to know her vow was possible. But, again, this is about the husband or father’s choice, not the woman’s.
Remember those ladies that were blamed for the Israelite men going astray back in chapter twenty five? They’re about to be dealt with, sort of. The whole army isn’t assembled for this one, just 1000 from each tribe. They’re sent in to put down the entire Midian people, but they don’t get it right on the first try. God doesn’t just want all the war-fighting men of Midian killed. They are basically instructed to commit genocide. The exception to this genocide? The virgin women. Supposedly, if they are virgins, they were not part of tempting the Israelite men before. Again with the idea of the women being responsible for the men’s actions. But I digress.
The soldiers don’t do it right the first time and Moses has to send them back to finish off all the males and the women who were not virgins, or old enough to be suspected of not being one. The women or girls that were kept were allowed to be slaves, but there were specific guidelines for the way to keep slaves that is not the legacy that we typically think of for slavery in the US. They were covered in Leviticus.
The men of Israel fall into disrepute because of the “temptations” of the women of Midian, and all the people of Midian need to be put down? Oh, except their young girls who are most likely virgins. While I’m not entirely sure how all this makes sense as a cause to go to war, I do recognize that it wasn’t unusual for ancient warfare in any part of the world to kill all the men and take the women as slaves.
After that there are some details about the soldiers having to clean themselves, the way the spoils are to be shared, and the soldiers noticing that none of them died in combat. The soldiers decide to give extra “as a memorial for the people of Israel before the Lord.”
Two of the tribes, and half of another, decide to settle where they are. Unlike some of the other mishaps along the way, this group is respectful. They don’t want to live there because they are unhappy with God’s promise. As far as they’re concerned, this is the promised land. They agreed to help the others continue on and get the rest of the lands, but they really like that one and wanted to let their families stay there and it was granted to them, just like that.
This chapter begins by recounting the journey so far. It goes camp by camp, all the places they had been. Then it includes God’s instructions on what to do when they cross the Jordan and get to the land of Canaan. They have to drive out all the inhabitants currently there and destroy everything. When it’s theirs, they are to divide it up in what sounds like proportional size to each clan. But there’s also a warning:
But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then those of them whom you let remain shall be as barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall trouble you in the land where you dwell. And I will do to you as I thought to do to them.
Again, this chapter covers two things. The first one is the borders of the whole land that they are to inherit and the second is who can divide everything up except for the Levites.
This one addresses the inheritance for the Levites and then there are the cities of refuge. I had never heard of this, but it’s interesting. The distinction is made in this discussion of these cities who deserves refuge and who doesn’t. It includes the distinction between murder and manslaughter. Refuge is for manslaughter and execution is for murder. There is also mention of an avenger of blood who gets to be the one to kill the murderer. But the “manslayer” has to stay in the city or else the avenger of blood can still kill him. With this, there’s some talk of witnesses to crimes.
Here we find some information on what is to happen after the daughters from chapter twenty seven get married. There’s concern about the inherited lands getting moved around to other tribes once they get married, so now they have to get married within the tribe to not do that. It must have been disappointing to have such a restriction on who you can marry, at the same time, these women clearly understood the significance of the land they were inheriting. It stands to reason that even they would appreciate ensuring the land they ensured the tribe received remained within it as future generations had the advantage of this ruling.
So there are my feelings and impressions on chapters 26-36 of Numbers. Have you read it? What do you think?