Surprisingly, this book did return to the story format for most of it’s chapters. I had previously been under the impression that nothing relevant really happened in this book and it was just laws that no one had to abide anymore. Yes, I get how insulting that is, but allow me to dispell that thought for others. Despite that I’ve never heard anyone preach out of it, nor does it get quoted with credit, there is some important stuff that happens here. Incidents from this book are the reason the original group of Israelites don’t get to the promised land, not the golden calf. I had been taught it wrong my whole life. Or understood it wrong, to give my teachers the benefit of the doubt.
- the daughters of Zelophehad – who claimed their inheritance for their father despite that there were no sons
- Miriam – I know she was mentioned last book, but she passes during this one, so she bears mentioning again
- Serah – who bore mentioning in the census even though we were never given a reason for it
- The women of Moab who were blamed for the actions of Israel
- Water from the rock
- God gets really mad at the Israelites a few times and plagues and fires and craziness abounds
- First few battles
- Balaam supporting God and His people
- Genocide of the Moab people
- the tribes of Gad and Reuben and half the tribe of Manasseh settle down
- two complete censuses of the Israelite fighting force
This book gets a little rugged sometimes but isn’t altogether awful. Remember that we are still in an Old Testament book and therefore at the beginning of this story, so no judgement yet.
Places where it’s a little rugged on the ladies:
- the test for adultery
- doesn’t specify cleanliness of the women on their periods during Passover (which would be likely to still hit them up at the same time the following month when the men who had touched dead bodies would get to celebrate)
- disproportionately punishing Miriam for turning on Moses because of his new wife; not sure what the reason was but maybe there was an actual good one
- blaming the women of Moab for the actions of the Israelite people
- voiding vows
*I do remember chapter eighteen where not all the food can be eaten by the women, and while it could be annoying, I’m not calling it inherently oppressive. It’s more a symptom of other oppressive behaviors than one itself.
All that said, allow me to reiterate that this is far too early in the whole of the Bible, and even the Old Testament, to judge the whole thing. I feel like there’s a character arc here that we don’t appreciate when we sling verses at each other as if they were complete sentiments without the need for context in history, the story, or the writer’s point of view.