Cover-to-Cover – Week 7

The American Dollar – Anything You Synthesize (HT: Taylor Hall)

We have covered a lot of ground in Numbers this week.  Kadesh Barnea.  The earth swallows Korah, Dathan, and Abiram’s households.  Miriam Dies.  Aaron Dies.  Strange incident with snakes.  Balaam’s talking donkey.  Joshua is chosen as Moses’ successor.   Sprinkle several more offerings and a census in there are you’ve got a full week.

However, I was particularly drawn to two other episodes.

The first is when God and/or Moses calls forth water from a rock.  It is the “and/or” that seems to be of issue here.  God tells him to speak to the rock and it will happen.  Moses chooses to hit it twice with his staff.  And for this seemingly minor change of plan, Moses is told that like most of the rest of Israel, he himself won’t cross into the Promised Land.  The passage isn’t very explicit on what Moses’ sin was.  God does tell Moses that he did not trust Him enough to honor Him in the sight of Israel.  It appears that in doing what God had directed, Moses sought to draw attention to or honor himself rather than God.  An ever present danger for people doing “God’s work.”

But the other thing I loved in this section was Zelophehad’s daughters.  You remember them.  They were five daughters whose father had died son-less.  And so they pose the question, “to whom will his property go?”  And God tells Moses that it should go to them.  In a culture that was notorious for treating women as second-class citizens, we see God affirming their right to own property.

Now, I’m not pretending that this is the magic wand that makes all the other troubling passages we’ve read about women any easier to palate.  No less than three chapters later, we discover that a woman’s vow isn’t as good as a man’s.  But reading about Zelophehad’s daughters helps to balance the others out a bit.

I’ve had a few interesting conversations this week about God’s accommodation to culture.  There is certainly a sense in which it appears that God accepts/condones/commands behavior that we would find immoral today.  Tough stuff to work out, but perhaps there is a sense in which God meets people – entire cultures in history – on their terms or in ways they could understand.  Don’t hurt yourself thinking too much about that last thought.  I’m not even sure it is right.

2 Replies to “Cover-to-Cover – Week 7”

  1. I think my eyes still bug out like they did as a little kid reading about Korah’s rebellion in Numbers 16 – earth swallowing people, people instantly incinerated, and mass plague – all punishing people’s unfaithfulness, rebellion, and general lack of respect for God. It makes one feel fortunate that we live in a period of grace rather than judgement.

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