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Episode 212: Pete Enns – Pete Ruins Numbers



You’re listening to The Bible for Regular Individuals, the one God-ordained podcast on the web. I’m Pete Enns.


And I’m Jared Byas.

[Jaunty Intro Music]


Hey, welcome everybody. Earlier than we get began, two fast bulletins, please. First: You most likely know by now that Jared wrote one other e book, blah blah blah, he gained’t cease speaking about it. It’s actually annoying. Anyway, it’s Jonah for Regular Individuals and it’s truly actually, actually good. In the event you’ve had an opportunity to learn it, would you contemplate doing us a favor? Simply head over to Amazon and go away a evaluation. These evaluations will assist Jonah for Regular Individuals rank increased in Amazon’s search outcomes and can assist different individuals uncover this masterpiece. That’s why we do that. [Sarcastically] Now, that is ONLY in case you’ve learn it AND cherished it. In the event you hated it, simply use it as a coaster and hold that type of detrimental speak to your self, okay?

However now transferring on to much more essential issues, I’m educating a category this Thursday as a part of our Summer time College sequence, and it’s referred to as “The Error of Inerrancy.” And I’ve present in my travels that when individuals must work by numerous stuff as they’re rising and evolving and creating of their religion is studying methods to take a look at the Bible that differ from, let’s say, their inherited religion. In order that’s what we’ll be doing and it’s this Thursday, July 21st at 8 PM Jap Time. Okay? Jap Time, I can’t stress that sufficient. It will likely be recorded in case you can’t make it stay, so don’t fear about that, and as at all times, it’s pay-what-you-can. To enroll or for extra data, go to us at thebiblefornormalpeople.com/summerschool. Hope to see you there!

[Jaunty intro music]

Teaser excerpt of Pete speaking: “In Numbers, we’re dealing right here with one thing that’s extra like Israel’s self-portrait trying again on the previous and writing a narrative the place they painting themselves in a sure manner. It’s not what we would name a ‘pure historic account.’ We’re studying right here how an historic tribal Iron Age individuals, the Israelites, how they understood God of their context and their world.”


Our subject at the moment is Numbers and my ruining it, so let’s simply get proper to it.

So first, why name it Numbers? Nicely, the Hebrew title is Bemidbar—which suggests within the wilderness—which is the 5th Hebrew phrase of the e book. And numerous the motion takes place within the wilderness, and we’ll get to all that.

Now the English title Numbers, effectively it comes from the Latin translation referred to as the Vulgate, Numeri. Keep in mind, Latin was the official language of the western church, the one primarily based in Rome, since concerning the fourth century. The Latin identify relies on the sooner Greek identify Arithmoi (which is the place we get arithmeticfrom). And only a fast reminder that Greek grew to become the principle language of Judaism after Alexander the Nice conquered the land of Judea round 332 BCE. And that led to the necessity to translate the Hebrew Bible into Greek—so Jews might truly learn it. And by the way in which, that’s additionally the rationale why the New Testomony is written in Greek despite the fact that it’s a Jewish textual content. So anyway, Latin grew to become the language of the church, and English Bibles take their names of the books from the Latin titles. In order that’s the place we get the title of the e book Numbers.

Now the thought of “numbers” comes from the truth that there are some numbers on this e book: two census lists, one in Chapter 1 and the opposite in Chapter 26. By the way in which there are 36 chapters in all in Numbers, and simply as a facet subject, as a result of I point out this sort of factor in different episodes, the Hebrew textual content is split otherwise that the English chapter divisions. The Hebrew is split into 9 parts, or parashot as they are saying in Hebrew, and so they don’t correspond to our chapter divisions. It’s an entire completely different manner of doing it, and numerous occasions I believe it’s far superior to the English chapter divisions which appear to have no rhyme or purpose in anyway.

Anywho, these two census lists present a very nice construction to the e book. You’ve bought Chapters 1-25 that pertain to the Exodus era (those that left Egypt), and Chapters 26-36 pertain to the subsequent era—and let me clarify that right here rapidly and we’ll come again to it in a bit. The massive plot line of Numbers is that the primary era, the Exodus era, died off within the 40-year wilderness wandering interval due to rebel. Then the subsequent era takes over and a second census is taken, and they’re those who enter Canaan underneath Joshua’s management after Moses dies. We’ll get to that, however that’s why we have now two census lists that act as kind of like a construction for this e book.

Okay, now lists of names—no matter what you name them, a census or family tree, no matter—lists of names are tedious to learn, in fact, let’s not child ourselves, however getting the gist of their perform is at all times worthwhile.


And these lists, once more the 2 chapter 1 and 26, they’re not simply, you already know, bureaucratic lists for, you already know, normal details about individuals. We now have to consider them extra as theological statements; Theological statements of confidence and likewise thanksgiving to God for being so blessed. You understand, kind of like, “Right here we’re, that is us, that is the place we got here from—God has introduced us right here and we’re able to take the subsequent step.”

Now, every census was taken of all males of army age—that’s 20 and older. The variety of the primary census, the entire quantity, involves 603,550, which is numerous males of army age, and students will inform us repeatedly {that a} whole inhabitants of about 2 million is what we’re speaking about in case you embody ladies and youngsters and people not of army age. And just about everybody agrees that traditionally talking, that is an exaggeration. The numbers are simply too large. However once more, it’s an exaggeration that serves a function: “God is blessing us.” We’re kind of again to Genesis 1 with the entire fruitful and multiplying factor. They’re actually fruitful and multiplying, “Issues are transferring in the fitting path, nothing can cease us now.” And the second census—once more, after the catastrophe of the 40-year interval—is barely barely smaller: 601,730. Quite than pull over and get your calculator out, it’s a distinction of about 1,800, which is a few mere 3% drop. The purpose is that this second era is likewise blessed, regardless of the entire mission nearly going off the rails.

So these numbers will not be traditionally helpful, however they’re theologically revealing. Now some would possibly reply, and I’ve heard this, “Now why would anybody make up such non-round numbers? They appear reliable exactly as a result of they’re not spherical. They appear historic.” Nicely the reply is, you already know, why? Why not make up these non-round numbers? You understand, we have now good spherical numbers which have symbolic worth within the Bible (like 40, 12, and seven to say three of them)—however that doesn’t imply that these giant odd numbers are routinely historic. And I believe that’s actually a really fashionable mindset, once more, that kind of provides a default expectation to precision. Truly, quantity exaggeration —that alone may be very well-known in antiquity. And oddly particular numbers give the story some tooth, some sense of realness to the story, what they name verisimilitude. So that they carry out a perform there too. The oddness of the numbers doesn’t converse to their historic worth.

Proper, let’s hold transferring and let’s have a look at the construction of the e book however from one other angle, past the 2 census lists. And I like this construction, I’ll inform you that proper off the bat right here. The e book may also be organized round three geographic areas the place the motion takes place: Mt. Sinai, then the Wilderness between Mt. Sinai and the Promised Land, after which the area in and round Moab, referred to as the plains of Moab, which is simply throughout the Jordan River on the opposite facet, the japanese facet, of Canaan. So you’ve gotten these three sections right here: Sinai, Wilderness, Moab. There’s lot of wandering in Numbers. I believe they need to have referred to as it “wandering” as a substitute of Numbers. And anyway, I like this construction higher. It provides a visible part to the construction—which is useful to me and I like that. And if you already know me, I like getting on the large image really feel for a e book of the Bible as a result of it helps give the e book’s particulars some construction too. And something that may assist us with the construction I believe is gonna assist us with the main points. Particularly in case you go on and proceed to learn Numbers by yourself, you already know aside from podcasts and issues like that.

Okay, so, right here’s what I wish to do for the remainder of the podcast. I wish to briefly describe every of those three phases, after which I wish to make a short remark—as a result of it at all times comes up—on the authorship on Numbers, after which I wish to circle again although and spend more often than not going by the three components; kind of highlights of what I really feel is essential to know and likewise some issues that could be extra acquainted to lots of you.

S0, first, let’s describe every of the three phases briefly.

  1. First stage, Sinai, that begins in Chapter 1 (duh) and it goes into concerning the midpoint of Chapter 10, verse 11. And this part issues the preparation to depart Sinai after being there for eleven months. Keep in mind, they bought there, in case you keep in mind from earlier podcasts, they bought to Sinai in Exodus Chapter 19.


They’re there all by the remainder of Exodus (the second half of Exodus), all Leviticus, and now they keep there till Chapter 10 within the e book of Numbers. Now, to not beat a useless horse—I checked out this very briefly in my final episode on ruining Leviticus—however the 4 books of Torah the place Moses is the principle character (that’s Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) these are 139 chapters lengthy. Sixty of them are spent at Mt. Sinai. Huge focus in Torah on the receiving of the legislation and likewise directions on correct worship. These are two of the central points for Israel’s existence, or lack of existence if you wish to speak concerning the Exile. Kings and commoners can be judged by God and the prophets by how effectively they deal with these two points. Mt. Sinai is de facto about getting ready the Israelites to enter Canaan as Yahweh’s distinct and obedient individuals. Alright, so these ten chapters, roughly ten chapters, they cowl a few 19-day interval.

  • Subsequent, the Wilderness part is roofed in Chapter 10, it begins in verse 12, and it goes till concerning the center of Chapter 21, verse 9. And this was to have been a comparatively transient journey to Canaan. From Sinai they had been to move due north to the southern border of Canaan, invade, and conquer. However once more it became a 40-year ordeal. Why? As a result of the individuals rebelled, which led God to maintain them within the Wilderness for 40 years to permit time for that depraved era to die out, particularly, all these 20 years previous and older. And that rebel occurred a mere 3 months after they left Sinai, and this second part, these 12 chapters, it covers about 38 years. A whole lot of floor is roofed.
  • The third part happens within the Plains of Moab and it runs from 21:10, the center of Chapter 21, to the tip of the e book in Chapter 36, and it covers about 4 to 5 months of the fortieth yr, proper? We’re within the final yr, it covers a number of months of that, and likewise Deuteronomy (it’s exhausting to truly hold Numbers and Deuteronomy separate when you begin speaking about them) can even happen all inside that fortieth yr. Moab is on the japanese facet of the Jordan River, throughout from Jericho, and right here is the place they keep from this level on all through Deuteronomy till they invade Canaan underneath Joshua. So the subsequent e book, Deuteronomy, takes place, once more, within the Plains of Moab, and all of that is Moses’s ultimate speech—one thing of a pep speak—to this new era, which features a retelling of the Sinai legislation for the advantage of this second era that wasn’t at Mount Sinai. Very attention-grabbing stuff, Deuteronomy, which we’ll get to within the subsequent solo episode. However for right here, let’s proceed with the subject, which is Numbers.

So like I stated, I like breaking Numbers down geographically. I can simply visualize it higher. And if it’s new to you, it’s effectively value taking a look at a map at the back of a Bible you might need or simply Googling one, as a result of having a visible undoubtedly helps. I discover simply studying the textual content with one thing visible in thoughts that I do know is concrete and, let’s say, correct is useful for simply taking in data that in any other case would possibly simply look like a bunch of gobbledy-gook.

Okay. All that is introductory stuff. Now, a fast phrase concerning the composition of the e book of Numbers, which suggests how was it written and when it was written as greatest as students can inform. And with this we’re getting into an enormous subject that impacts Torah as an entire, Numbers being only one a part of it. And I don’t wanna get into all that right here, as a result of we lined this in different podcasts and I wish to offer you a number of to hearken to, effectively at the very least one in all them is Episode 125, that’s a very good one to go to. So let me simply boil it down right here for Numbers, all this authorship stuff that impacts the entire Pentateuch and now impacts the e book of Numbers.

Like the opposite books of Torah, Numbers is just not a e book created out of entire material by one particular person in a single sitting. On this planet of biblical scholarship, what I simply stated is under no circumstances controversial—it’s in reality reasonably apparent. It’s like saying molecules are made up of atoms. Quite, the e book of Numbers as we all know it was edited collectively in some unspecified time in the future in Israel’s historical past from varied earlier sources, and people sources had been most likely oral and written.

Most of Numbers is from the so-called Priestly supply or the Priestly custom, which is normally known as P—not probably the most thrilling designation, nevertheless it is smart.


Priestly supply, proper? And that’s additionally the supply that makes up numerous the e book of Leviticus and a good quantity of the e book of Exodus as effectively. That is the custom that’s referred to as Priestly as a result of it makes use of commonplace priestly phrases and ideas that distinguish it from different traditions that make up Torah. It has issues like authorized codes and rules for formal worship. We additionally see in Numbers different sources, some that may’t be simply categorized, however others that do pop up additionally in Genesis and Exodus—and these are known as J and E sources—these will not be authorized traditions however they’re narratives.

Now, Nerd Alert right here of us, if that is TMI, please simply ignore it however give me 30 seconds right here. J stands for the Yahwist supply as a result of this creator tends to check with Israel’s God as Yahweh—and it’s referred to as J as a substitute of Y as a result of Germans spell Yahweh with a J, and they’re those who got here up with this concept. E stands for the Elohist supply as a result of this creator tends to check with Israel’s God as Elohim, which is translated in English Bibles as merely as God sometimes. It’s a frequent view amongst students that the P tribe introduced collectively the older J and E narrative materials and formed it of their strategy to help a priestly standpoint, a priestly ideology. I do know that’s a mouthful, however there are numerous transferring components right here. However I did warn you and say it is a Nerd Alert, okay? So ignore it if it didn’t assist.

Much more to say on authorship, of us, however let me direct you to 4 podcast episodes which will assist: Episode 48, once more 125 that I discussed earlier than, 171, and 204.

Let’s focus for the remainder of our time on some highlights of every of the three sections of Numbers.

So first, the interval at Mt. Sinai. This part is all about getting ready the Israelites to depart Sinai and head to their new dwelling, the land of Canaan. It begins with the census, as we’ve seen, although the tribe of Levi is just not included right here on this census. It’s one of many twelve tribes, proper? However that’s as a result of they’re the particular priestly tribe set aside for particular priestly duties over the tabernacle and they won’t get their very own territory in Canaan—they get the tabernacle. They usually have their very own census, and we discover that in Chapters 3 and 4. So that they’re like a separate factor solely.

So after the census of Chapter 1, we examine how the tribes had been organized into camps across the tabernacle for the aim of marching into Canaan. And that is apparently an enormous deal. On the heart of the camp is the tabernacle itself, the place God’s holy presence resides (at the very least typically). Now suppose in phrases, simply visually, suppose when it comes to concentric circles. Instantly surrounding the tabernacle on its 4 sides was the tribe of Levi, that set aside tribe. On the japanese facet you’ve gotten Moses, Aaron, and Aaron’s sons—keep in mind that is the priestly line and the excessive priestly line from the sons of Aaron. That is just like the particular pleasure of place facet, the japanese facet, that is apparently probably the most prestigious facet. The opposite Levite clans, not clergymen however Levites—once more, we speak about this within the Pete Ruins Leviticus episode of some weeks in the past—however the Levite clans, not the priestly clans, they’re on the western, northern, and southern sides. And the three clans are the clans of Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. See? So we have now the tribe of Levi, divided into 4 sections across the tabernacle’s 4 sides. Okay? With the excessive clergymen/priestly ones on the japanese facet, apparently probably the most prestigious and essential facet.

Now, across the Levitical tribes—once more, concentric circles right here, of us—across the Levitical tribes had been the opposite tribes of Israel, the twelve tribes themselves. How are they organized? Nicely, good query. Keep in mind Jacob? Again in Genesis he has twelve sons by 4 ladies: his two wives, Leah and Rachel, and likewise by every of their so-called “maidservants” (Zilpah and Bilhah are their names)—and by the way in which I’ll by no means take into consideration this entire factor the identical manner after watching The Handmaid’s Story however that’s one other factor solely. Anyway, Jacob along with his first spouse Leah had six sons, seven if you wish to embody Levi however we don’t. [Levi’s tribe is] already accounted for, okay? They’ve bought their very own factor occurring across the tabernacle. So the six sons that stay, three of these six will march on the japanese facet (aha!) and three on the southern facet.


So keep in mind east was the identical facet as that of the excessive priestly line—it’s the place the highest canines march. So that you would possibly anticipate who to march on the japanese facet? Nicely most likely Leah’s eldest sons, proper? That is smart. Satisfaction of place to the elder sons not the youthful sons. However that’s not what occurs. Her two eldest sons, Reuben and Simeon, are on the south facet together with a later son, Gad. Which sounds a bit disrespectful. I imply, why are the elder sons not honored? Nicely, Genesis tells the story of how Reuben and Simeon misplaced their locations within the pecking order—Reuben for sleeping along with his father Jacob’s concubine Bilhah, and Simeon for tricking after which massacring the Shechemites. So that they misplaced their locations within the pecking order. The third son of Leah within the pecking order is Levi, and once more, he’s faraway from the pecking order by being set aside by God for priestly duties.

That leaves the fourth son, Judah, who together with the 2 remaining sons of Leah, Issachar and Zebulun, they march on the east facet. Hmm. So of all of the sons of Leah’s, seven of them, solely three of them wind up marching on the east facet. Oh effectively, that’s the way in which it’s. See, you would possibly recall from different podcasts that Judah is de facto highlighted and fronted in Genesis as God’s particular tribe, as a result of from Judah will come guess who? King David and all of the kings of Judah. And Judah’s crucial within the Hebrew Bible as a result of Judah will change into the lone tribe that survives exile. The remaining are gone. See, Judah’s specialness is one thing that the writers of Numbers and Torah are bearing in mind as a result of they’re writing lengthy after these things occurred. They’re writing already with the data of what occurred with exile, and the way Judah survived, and so Judah will get woven into the tales of Torah, you already know, as a result of these tales had been written partially to recount the story of Judah’s survival. And I can level you right here to episode 172 in case you’re interested by listening to a bit bit extra about this.

So anyway, you’ve gotten then the north, we have now the three sons of Jacob and the handmaid Zilpah, and that’s Dan, Naphtali, and Asher. And on the western facet we have now the sons of Rachel, Jacob’s beloved spouse. Now Rachel, you might recall, had solely two sons, Joseph and Benjamin. That’s solely two—we want three to spherical out the twelve, proper? Three on all sides. Nicely, Genesis takes care of that little downside. As he lay dying, Jacob summons Joseph and his two sons, Joseph’s two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. And Jacob, what does he do? Nicely he adopts the boys as his personal. So these two sons substitute Joseph. Joseph is without doubt one of the sons of Jacob, he doesn’t have any territory, he doesn’t have land. Joseph is changed by his two sons Ephraim and Manasseh—that’s what provides us a complete of twelve. You understand there actually is numerous leapfrogging occurring in Genesis and within the Hebrew Bible as an entire. Once more, episode 172 would possibly assist.

That is par for the course. In the event you’re acquainted with the Hebrew Bible, watching this kind of leapfrogging of youthful sons happening of elders and issues like that, it’s a reasonably frequent factor.

Okay, effectively anyway, these earlier tales in Genesis are echoed right here within the ordering of the tribes across the tabernacle. Now, I don’t wish to get into the entire query of historical past right here, once more at the very least in any element, however let me simply throw it on the market that students usually agree (I’d say overwhelmingly agree) that every one this enterprise about well-organized tribes marching round appears to be probably not a historic snapshot however extra reflecting an idealized previous on the a part of the later authors and compilers of Numbers. And you already know, that is the case with the opposite books of Torah as effectively, there are numerous areas the place the historical past of all of it is questioned, and never with out purpose. We do speak about that in different podcasts and within the weblog posts, so reasonably than at all times majoring in that, I simply wish to point out it right here as a reminder that we’re dealing right here in Numbers with one thing that’s extra like Israel’s self-portrait trying again on the previous and writing a narrative the place they painting themselves in a sure manner. It’s not what we would name a “pure historic account.” The tales of the deep previous had been instructed actually to touch upon the author’s current, and the place they’re and the place they’re going. An analogy that I’ve used, and I hope this helps, it helped me rather a lot after I first noticed it—


…I bought this from Gary Rendsburg (and have a look at episode 195, we had him on the podcast)—however there’s an analogy right here with one thing like Arthur Miller, who wrote The Crucible within the 1950’s. And he wrote it concerning the Salem Witch Trials nevertheless it’s actually not about that in any respect. It’s about Miller casting judgment on McCarthyism, which was a witch hunt of its personal within the 1950’s. See once more the previous is employed to touch upon the current. And this appears to be occurring fairly a bit in Torah and occurring within the e book of Numbers.

Anyway, I took the time right here, I took numerous time right here, to speak concerning the ordering of the tribes across the tabernacle as a result of (1) the tabernacle is a central subject in Leviticus and Numbers and it touches on some essential scholarly points, and secondly I did this since you and I each know that in case you ever learn Numbers, that is the half that you just skip. So I figured I’d power you to consider it. See, you’re welcome. Anyway…

Now, as for the remainder of this primary part, a lot of it overlaps with Leviticus in that we learn concerning the duties of the clergymen, like purity within the camp and different such issues. And this part ends with God’s guiding presence in cloud and hearth. Keep in mind they’re touring, proper? And that in fact may be very a lot an echo of the exodus story with the cloud and the fireplace. See the purpose right here is that the exodus isn’t over simply because they bought out of Egypt. The cloud and hearth stay with them till they do what? Enter the land. See, that is when the journey is full. Solely when that occurs are they carried out touring. Till then, the God of Exodus continues to be with them. Every time the cloud by day or the fireplace by night time strikes, the camp is to comply with in response to the marching orders that we checked out.

Aside from that, there are two different highlights from this part that I simply wish to point out, partially as a result of these may be acquainted to a few of you.

The primary is in Chapter 6, the place we have now the priestly benediction, often known as the Aaronic benediction, proper?

The Lord bless you and hold you;

the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;

the Lord raise up his countenance upon you, and offer you peace.

It’s an exquisite part of the e book of Numbers, very well-known passage most likely to many people. And what it’s, is the Lord’s command to Moses which he’s to relay to Aaron and his sons for after they bless the Israelites, “That is the way you do it.”

Now right here is why I point out it. There are all types of issues we might speak about in Numbers, I simply wished to say this as a result of this blessing was discovered inscribed on two silver amulets from a spot referred to as Ketef Hinnom. They usually had been found in 1979 and are dated to concerning the yr 600 BCE. So what? Yeah, right here’s the so what…This makes them the oldest recognized fragment of a biblical textual content, almost 400 years older than the oldest manuscripts from the Lifeless Sea Scrolls.

And you already know of us, I believe that is fantastic, however I convey it up simply as kind of a cautionary story right here. Let’s be a bit bit cautious about this. Simply because a fraction of what we name Numbers 6:22-27 dates to 600 BCE, simply because we have now that doesn’t essentially imply that the e book of Numbers was already in existence by then. Huh? Yeah. It doesn’t imply that. It might have been, in entire or possibly simply partially, however we don’t know that and it doesn’t essentially imply that the e book of Numbers existed. In different phrases, we don’t know that these silver amulets had been primarily based on the e book of Numbers, that somebody was quoting “The Bible.” See, we predict that manner as a result of we put Bible verses on mugs, t-shirts, pens, no matter. However these two amulets will not be essentially quoting the Bible. Personally, I’d be joyful if that could possibly be established—I’d be thrilled, frankly—however it may’t be. It could be good to say that Torah existed by the seventh century BCE and already had sufficient authority that Israelites would quote it and put it on an amulet. That MAY be the case, however we will’t inform and we shouldn’t presume. All we will say is that the Aaronic blessing seems in a late seventh century inscription AS WELL AS showing in what would change into the e book of Numbers. That will not be as a lot as we’d prefer to say, nevertheless it’s nonetheless an enormous deal.

Second, given the present political local weather in America now over Roe v. Wade, I believe you’d by no means forgive me if I omitted Numbers 5:11-29, for this passage has been introduced up rather a lot not too long ago.


By the way in which, I’m recording this episode about two weeks after the Supreme Court docket’s draft opinion on Roe v. Wade was leaked, so it’s on all people’s thoughts, it’s throughout social media. Now this passage has been introduced up, and understandably so, by “pro-choice” advocates. Now in case you’re not acquainted with the story, that is the essential gist of it. It describes a authorized process. Let’s get the state of affairs down. If a husband feels he has purpose to suspect his spouse of unfaithfulness, he’s to convey her earlier than the priest. As a take a look at of whether or not she was untrue or not, she is to drink a concoction made up of mud from the ground of the tabernacle (why? is an effective query and an entire different factor we might speak about for half an hour) combined with holy water. First on this process, this ceremony, she swears she was not untrue after which she drinks. If she is harmless, nothing occurs. If responsible, then one thing occurs, and the entire query is: What’s that one thing that occurs? The Hebrew is just not tremendous exact. Based on the Hebrew of verses 21-22, if she is responsible, right here’s what’ll occur: her thigh or possibly her loin falls, or drops, or sags, and her stomach swells. Okay, so what does that imply? Nicely, that’s not altogether clear.

It has been taken to imply, on TikTok and different varied authoritative social media websites, that the girl was impregnated by this different man and God’s punishment is that the girl has a divinely induced miscarriage. Some Bible translations help this view. So this then is supposedly an instance of a divinely induced abortion. So, “don’t say God is towards abortion if God lays out a circumstance the place an abortion is a authorized final result.”

This isn’t a ridiculous interpretation, however I don’t suppose it’s proper and let me inform you why. For one factor, the husband solely suspects that his spouse has been with one other man and he turns into jealous. There isn’t any indication within the story that his concern, or anybody’s concern, is that she may be pregnant by this different man. So all this loin dropping and stomach swelling enterprise would possibly simply be a matter of not a miscarriage however a pressured infertility, proper? “Due to your infidelity, the punishment is just not you’ll miscarry, however you’ll by no means have kids.” That is supported, to me that is the clincher, that is supported in verse 28, the place we learn that if the girl is harmless of adultery, she can be immune from the potion and “be capable to conceive kids.” See, in different phrases, the impact of the potion appears to be pressured infertility, not a pressured miscarriage. I believe the one strategy to learn this as a divinely induced miscarriage is to imagine that the girl is pregnant, which isn’t not possible, nevertheless it’s not said both, and it actually appears to run afoul of verse 28 which I simply cited.

So all that being stated, let me be very clear right here that I’m not entering into the abortion debate on this podcast. I simply wish to speak about Numbers. So please don’t presume to know what I take into consideration abortion primarily based on this little dialogue of Numbers Chapter 5. Now I occur to imagine firmly that no argument regarding abortion on both facet of the controversy will be primarily based merely in Bible verses. That’s I believe the place the large downside is. I believe the true enviornment for the controversy is on this planet of theology and Christian ethics—which is a vastly extra attention-grabbing and very important strategy, one which’s truly constructed to deal with the complexities of all types of points we face at the moment, and does a a lot better job than proof-texting which I believe extra distorts issues than clarifies. And I do wish to remind you too that there are completely different choices on the market for find out how to deal with this passage. Mine is just not the one one. The miscarriage interpretation, I discussed this earlier than, it occurs—it’s not unusual, I see it in Bible translations. However so far as I see it, punishment right here is infertility (not miscarriage)—that appears to be the clear focus of the textual content, and I believe studying this as an abortion proof-text might be asking it to bear far an excessive amount of weight than it’s in a position to bear.

Okay, let’s transfer into some highlights from the second part, the Wilderness part.

First, to repeat, the Israelites wind up spending an sudden 40 years wandering round within the wilderness.


The unique plan was to maneuver immediately from Sinai north to the southern border of Canaan and start the hostile takeover from there. So that they despatched out spies—a very good transfer, you already know, this isn’t a silly factor to do—they despatched out spies to see what’s up, and so they got here again 40 days later. What’s with 40, by the way in which? It retains popping up. Anyway, they got here again 40 days later with some excellent news and a few dangerous information. The excellent news was that, sure, it is a good spot for us to settle—it’s certainly flowing with milk and honey. What an incredible place. What a paradise. The dangerous information is that we will neglect about it. We’re outmatched, the persons are robust, the cities are giant and fortified, and there are even some giants there.

By the way in which, these giants are effectively, they’re the Nephilim (which suggests “the fallen ones”) who might be the half-divine, half-human descendants of the divine beings who cohabited with human ladies again in Genesis Chapter 6. That is how the flood story begins. Be that as it could, we’re not going to untangle that knot right here. It’s a extremely attention-grabbing story and once more, with a bunch of transferring components. However the principle level is that the Israelites checked out all these things and so they bought chilly toes, all besides Joshua and Caleb. And this angered God and sentenced that era to a 40-year timeout to offer that era time to die off.

The theme of rebel, disgruntledness, complaining is outstanding in Torah and particularly in Numbers. We see it already in Exodus, the place the Israelites problem Moses’s management from nearly the start. In Numbers 11 they’re complaining about manna, so God provides them quails. However then immediately, Miriam and Aaron (Moses’s brother and sister) they begin difficult Moses’s management—like, “Why does he have all of the say?”—which additionally made God very offended. And now right here in Chapter 14 is the large rebel on the border of Canaan. They’re nearly there, and that led Moses to intercede for the Israelites as soon as once more. It’s fairly a multitude, however some kind of rebel towards God or God’s chosen authority determine is a standard theme within the Hebrew Bible, together with not listening to the prophets. And for you Christians on the market, that theme culminates within the New Testomony the place Jesus likewise is despised and rejected together with the apostles. It’s a theme within the Christian Bible, each testaments.

Anyway, within the midst all this rebel enterprise, we come throughout a verse that I wish to point out, that is Numbers 12:3, this has to do with authorship which is why I’m mentioning it. So right here’s the verse: “Now the person Moses was very humble, extra so than anybody else on the face of the earth.” It definitely appears, to most individuals at the very least, that Moses didn’t write this. Proper? You comply with me? This calls into query the normal view that Moses wrote the Pentateuch. “How might Moses have written this?” Now, to get round that, I’ve heard defenders of what’s referred to as Mosaic authorship say that, “Nicely hear, Moses was a particular man. And if Moses had been certainly probably the most humble man on earth, he might say one thing like this and nonetheless be humble.” However of us, that simply is unnecessary to me. That simply sounds just like the type of argument you don’t wish to guess your life on. Plus Moses could be saying it within the third particular person, speaking about himself…I don’t know. It simply makes me really feel like I’m listening to a postgame NBA interview the place some guard who scores 50 factors talks about himself within the third particular person…that’s not an indication of humility.

Anyway, I don’t wish to make a federal case out of this, however Numbers 12:3 is just not the one place students level to for proof towards Mosaic authorship in Numbers. The principle argument is the presence of sources and traditions that we talked about earlier which are in Numbers as they’re within the different books of Torah. And collectively it is a conclusive argument, at the very least in response to biblical scholarship at the moment and for a really very long time, it’s a conclusive argument that nobody particular person at one time limit wrote Numbers, and whoever did lived at a a lot later time.

There are additionally a few incidents in Numbers that students level to as extra proof of Torah having been edited over a protracted time period—centuries, in reality. I simply wish to point out two very very briefly. One I simply talked about earlier than is Moses’s intercession in Numbers 14 (the rebel scene) in comparison with Moses’s intercession in Exodus 32 (the golden calf episode). These two tales are very comparable, they’re referred to as double narratives. This stuff occur sufficient within the Bible they’ve a reputation.


Double narratives. And one other is the 2 tales of the miraculous provide of water from a rock within the wilderness, which occurs in Exodus 17 after which in Numbers 20. These double narratives are, at the very least to the liking of biblical students, they’re greatest defined as coming from two writers or two editors who lived a while aside. Now you would possibly say, that’s not a essential conclusion—no it’s not, from what I simply stated, however the place biblical scholarship goes with this, trying and analyzing the Hebrew and all that kinda stuff, and evaluating with different issues throughout the Hebrew Bible, it actually looks as if the perfect clarification is that it is a later editor coming alongside utilizing an earlier motif and reproducing it at a special time limit. Once more, that may be TMI, however hey—it’s what we do round right here, overwhelm you.

Okay, anyway. A few different scenes value mentioning right here on this part. One is the miraculous budding of Aaron’s workers as an indication that the Levites and Aaron’s line are set aside for priestly service. One other is the deaths of Miriam and Aaron, they each die on this e book, and that occurs close to the tip of the 40-year interval. And another is that this odd incident of a bronze serpent, that is in Chapter 21. After a divinely aided army victory towards Arad, the individuals—as soon as once more, what do they do? They complain about not having sufficient meals and water. So what does God do? God sends toxic serpents to chunk them and thus kill them. Now simply, you already know, linguistically this can be attention-grabbing to you, I don’t know. However the phrase “toxic” is the Hebrew phrase seraphim, and it’s a plural noun from the foundation that sometimes means “burning” and so some translate this extra actually, extra woodenly, as “fiery serpents.” However does that imply they’re on hearth? Who is aware of. However the divine beings that encompass God’s throne in Isaiah 6 are additionally referred to as seraphim, they’ve six wings, and a few students suppose they’re kind of serpent like and so they’re related to hearth. And that’s all wonderful and good, just a bit background to possibly what Numbers 21 means. However in Numbers 21 they’re clearly serpents and that act in a seraphim-ish manner [chuckles] proper? They usually chunk, and their bites result in loss of life, and that’s why I believe “fiery serpents” is possibly too literalistic. “Toxic” is smart, and appears to be what’s occurring right here. They’re poisoned and so they die. That looks as if a warranted translation.

So what occurs? The individuals repent and ask Moses (as soon as once more) to intervene with God, and God instructs Moses to make a bronze serpent—which is a very nice wordplay in Hebrew, for the reason that phrase serpent and the phrase bronze sound very comparable (nekhash and nekhoshet). That’s bronze serpent. The purpose is that these bitten by toxic serpents might look upon the bronze serpent and be healed. Now why undergo all this rigamarole of punishing them by loss of life after which saying now wait a minute, simply have a look at this bronze serpent and also you’ll be healed? Like, why does God act like that? Can he simply not do this to start with as a substitute of doing it after which taking it away? However once more, these are historic methods of pondering and speaking and conceiving and so they have causes for being within the story the way in which that they’re, and typically it’s not solely clear to us what these tales are doing. However this does appear to be at the very least a method of taking a look at it: a narrative of wrath that’s adopted by mercy. Once more, why have the wrath to start with? Good query. There’s one thing that God will get so mad at these individuals however then at all times finds a manner ahead to maintain them going. As a result of keep in mind, Judah does survive exile, proper? So that they must hold going, and so they deserve wrath however they get mercy. And in John’s gospel, that is Chapter 3 verses 14-15, Jesus refers to this incident as a metaphor for his being raised up on the cross. See, one other instance of divine mercy. So possibly there’s one thing about that occurring right here in Numbers.

Okay, that’s additionally the final incident partially 2 of Numbers. Let’s take a few stabs on the third half, Chapters 21-36. From the center of 21 to the tip of 36, to be particular.

Okay, so right here we’re. The place are we? The plains of Moab, the final cease earlier than invading Canaan from east of the Jordan River. The primary battles happen right here, now that’s in Chapter 21, towards King Sihon of Heshbon and King Og of Bashan. Now, the proof, the archeological proof, is sparse, however usually talking, from an archaeological standpoint—


…this Transjordan space of Heshbon and Bashan had been doubtless not closely populated till the Iron Age, which is later, like between 1200-1000 BCE. And that’s too late for these tales, like within the logical sequence, it’s too late for these tales in Numbers to be occurring. There appears to have been no kingdoms to overcome at the moment on this area. In different phrases, that is one other little bit of proof that accumulates with all the opposite proof we have now that Numbers was written from a later standpoint when these areas had been closely populated. And so it could inform us one thing extra concerning the political geography, in reality I believe it does inform us extra concerning the political geography of the Israelites in the course of the time of the writing of all these things, reasonably than giving us kind of like an correct historic snapshot of one thing that transpired a whole bunch of years earlier.

Additionally, one other historic tidbit right here on this chapter—the author quotes from one thing referred to as The E book of the Wars of Yahweh, which appears to have been a poetic assortment of army exploits. However we don’t know, as a result of we don’t have it. This e book doesn’t stay. If solely it did! That will be a lot enjoyable, however we don’t have that. We don’t understand how previous it was, we don’t know when it was written, or the rest about it. A very good guess is that it was one thing like a royal file of wonderful battles. So this may occasionally have been one thing a lot a lot nearer to the occasions themselves than what we have now within the Bible, and once more it’s a disgrace we don’t have it. However the creator of Numbers right here appeals to this file in writing his personal story of the previous. However once more, we don’t know something about what it incorporates or the rest.

Now most likely the perfect recognized a part of part three is the story of Balaam. Why? As a result of it additionally encompasses a speaking donkey (Chapters 22-24). And that is the second and ultimate time an animal talks within the Bible, the primary being the serpent within the Backyard of Eden. And in neither place, and I’ll simply put it on the market, in neither place is the incident of a speaking animal meant to be taken actually. That’s my opinion and I’m sticking with it. A speaking animal is what we name a style clue—”Hey of us, a speaking animal, possibly it is a story, not a historic account.” The query is, what’s the factor that the author is attempting to say?

The story is about Balak, king of Moab, who’s freaking out concerning the Israelites hanging out in his kingdom. They’re a deal with to him. So he hires this prophet Balaam to ship upon the Israelites a divine curse. The story itself, it’s a bit convoluted—specifically it’s not clear whether or not Balaam is an effective man or dangerous man, however he does refuse to do Balak’s bidding. What persuaded him partially at the very least was his donkey speaking him out of it. See what occurred is on the way in which to do the cursing, 3 times the donkey stopped in his tracks and refused to maneuver ahead as a result of the Angel of the Lord was blocking the trail. Now Balaam, a prophet thoughts you, surprisingly doesn’t see the Angel however the donkey does, and so he proceeds to beat the donkey for being disobedient. Now the third time this occurred apparently the donkey had had sufficient, so he turned to Balaam and stated, “Am I not your donkey, which you’ve gotten ridden all of your life to this present day? Have I been within the behavior of treating you this fashion?” And Balaam stated, “No.”

I simply love this informal dialog [chuckles] between a prophet and his donkey, you already know. If a donkey begins speaking to me, I wouldn’t simply say “No,” I’d run the opposite manner. I simply wouldn’t, I don’t know…that’s simply me. Okay so anyway, there appears to be a degree right here apart from “wow, look, an animal is speaking.” It is just now that Balaam is ready to see what the donkey has seen all alongside. So, some prophet he is, see? It’d assist to know that we all know one thing about this Balaam man from one other historic supply. It’s an inscription that dates to the ninth or eighth centuries BCE and was present in 1967 in a spot referred to as Deir ‘Alla, in Jordan. This inscription mentions Balaam son of Beor, which appears to be the identical Balaam son of Beor talked about in Numbers. So one tackle this story is that maybe Balaam was a recognized determine, a recognized literary determine and possibly historic determine—why not historic determine, proper? It could possibly be each historic and literary, proper?


However the biblical author picks up on it with a view to make his personal level: even well-known Balaam, the prophet for rent, can not thwart our God’s functions. Anyway, this story is worthy of its personal podcast, imagine me. Perhaps someday we’ll get to that too.

Okay, a few extra issues to say right here briefly on half 3 as we convey this to a detailed.

First, right here is the place Joshua is appointed Moses’s successor. He doesn’t truly take over till the ultimate verses of Deuteronomy after Moses dies, however right here in Numbers 27, we’re nearing the tip of the 40 years and Moses is pushing 120 years previous. So time to consider the longer term. Joshua is called as his successor.

So second, Chapter 31 incorporates a very tough, actually horrific scene regarding violence towards the Midianites. What occurs is that God instructions Moses to execute God’s vengeance on them for an earlier incident the place the Israelites had been induced by the Midianites to worship idols (that occurs in Chapter 25). So God sends them to go wreak vengeance on them, which suggests you gotta kill lots of people. So Moses, he instructs—apparently by God’s blessing, as a result of nowhere will we learn any of this that God disapproves of what Moses stated, and Moses is God’s mouthpiece, there’s nothing right here about, you already know, doing the fallacious factor or no matter. However you’ve gotten Moses tells the individuals to kill the boys, ladies and youngsters—to wipe them out utterly, although with the next exception: don’t kill the virgins ladies. The ladies who aren’t virgins, they had been those who led the Hebrew males astray to worship different idols. So kill everybody, simply not the virgin ladies or younger ladies. They’re to be “saved alive for yourselves.” That’s the half, proper? Take into consideration what that may imply. After the battle, what occurs is the Israelites divide the plunder, the livestock and the individuals, specifically the younger virgin girl/ladies, and this has prompted no little quantity of consternation amongst Bible readers. However let me collapse right here, as a manner of explaining this, not explaining it away, simply coping with the realities of the Bible. Let me collapse right here two of the factors I make in a e book I wrote a number of years in the past, The Bible Tells Me So,about divine violence. They usually’re associated factors.

  1. These are ideological, geopolitical tales, not depictions of precise occasions. I don’t suppose the God of the infinite cosmos tells males to maintain virgin ladies for themselves.
  2. Secondly, associated to the primary, we’re studying right here how an historic tribal Iron Age individuals, the Israelites, how they understood God of their context and their world. God is sort of a warrior, proper? So we’re listening to what their understanding of God of their context, I don’t suppose we’re getting a tackle, “that is what God is like perpetually and at all times.” Now I do know speaking this fashion can upset or possibly fear some people who find themselves involved concerning the Bible’s authority and meaning being traditionally correct, and if it says God stated this or did this, then it means God did it, and wonderful—I get that. However I wanna flip the tables a bit bit. It at all times surprises me how overly involved some are to guard biblical inerrancy, however to do this on the expense of God’s character. I’m not gonna get into that entire subject right here, that’s an enormous dialogue hermeneutically and theologically. However take into consideration what we’re doing there after we kind of shield these sections of the Bible reasonably than critique them.

Alright. Shifting to the tip right here. After this incident, the Israelites conquer the Transjordan, which is the realm east of the Jordan River—not the land of Canaan. In the event you look on a Bible map you’ll see that the tribes of Rueben, Gad, and half of Manasseh settle there. And once more, as I hinted earlier, the archaeological proof is just not in favor of conquest tales like this occurring at the moment, earlier than the twelfth century inhabitants will increase within the space. That’s actually what occurred. Across the 12th century the populations elevated—all types of historic causes for that and that’s once you begin having these bigger inhabitants areas with fortresses and issues like that. Earlier than that point it was a lot smaller, way more sparsely populated. That’s why archeologists have an issue studying these tales right here as representing historic occasions. However you see, all that apart, the ethical of this story appears to be a reminder of what occurred that final time they had been going to invade and take land. In the event you learn this part, it’s actually you already know, they rebelled leading to 40-year timeout—so don’t let this occur once more. Be robust, be brave, go in there and do that. And it appears to be one thing of a costume rehearsal for the principle occasion, which is the conquest of Canaan underneath Joshua.


Now the remainder of the e book, the previous couple of chapters 33-36, they’re largely ultimate preparations for getting into the land, which can once more, be interrupted by the e book of Deuteronomy—which is Moses’s ultimate speech to the second era earlier than his loss of life and the conquest underneath Joshua. So there, too, the message is take coronary heart, to not lose braveness as you probably did nearly 40 years in the past, this land I promised to Abraham is yours. Maintain transferring ahead.

Okay, as at all times, I say this each podcast on the finish, however there may be a lot extra to say on the e book of Numbers. And I hope this overview of some highlights has been useful, possibly even given you some new data to consider. And keep tuned for Deuteronomy in my subsequent solo episode, and don’t neglect Jared’s e book and my class developing. Thanks for listening, of us.

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You simply made it by one other whole episode of The Bible for Regular Individuals. Nicely carried out to you! And effectively carried out to everybody who helps us by score the podcast, leaving us a evaluation, or telling others about our present. We’re particularly grateful for our producer’s group, who help us over on Patreon. They’re the rationale we’re in a position to hold bringing podcasts and different content material to you. So an enormous because of: Jason and Lisa Carignan, Greg Jones, Wealthy Speeney, Jonathan Lee, Hannah Paxton, Jeff Payments, Jeff Paulus, Joe Johnson, Eric Letasse, and Ryan Bond. If you want to assist help the podcast, you’ll be able to head over to Patreon.com/Thebiblefornormalpeople the place for as little as $3/month, you’ll be able to obtain bonus materials, be a part of a web based neighborhood, get course reductions, and way more. We couldn’t do what we do with out your help.


Our present was produced by Stephanie Speight, Audio Engineer Dave Gerhart, Artistic Director Tessa Stultz, Advertising Director Savannah Locke, and Net Developer Nick Striegel. For Pete, Jared, and the whole Bible for Regular Individuals crew, thanks for listening!

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