Saturday, May 3, 2008

Numbers 20

1 Then came the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, into the desert of Zin in the first month: and the people abode in Kadesh; and Miriam died there, and was buried there.

2 And there was no water for the congregation: and they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron.

3 And the people chode with Moses, and spake, saying, Would God that we had died when our brethren died before the LORD!

4 And why have ye brought up the congregation of the LORD into this wilderness, that we and our cattle should die there?

5 And wherefore have ye made us to come up out of Egypt, to bring us in unto this evil place? it is no place of seed, or of figs, or of vines, or of pomegranates; neither is there any water to drink.

6 And Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they fell upon their faces: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto them.

7 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

8 Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink.

9 And Moses took the rod from before the LORD, as he commanded him.

10 And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?

11 And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also.

12 And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.

13 This is the water of Meribah; because the children of Israel strove with the LORD, and he was sanctified in them.

14 And Moses sent messengers from Kadesh unto the king of Edom, Thus saith thy brother Israel, Thou knowest all the travail that hath befallen us:

15 How our fathers went down into Egypt, and we have dwelt in Egypt a long time; and the Egyptians vexed us, and our fathers:

16 And when we cried unto the LORD, he heard our voice, and sent an angel, and hath brought us forth out of Egypt: and, behold, we are in Kadesh, a city in the uttermost of thy border:

17 Let us pass, I pray thee, through thy country: we will not pass through the fields, or through the vineyards, neither will we drink of the water of the wells: we will go by the king's high way, we will not turn to the right hand nor to the left, until we have passed thy borders.

18 And Edom said unto him, Thou shalt not pass by me, lest I come out against thee with the sword.

19 And the children of Israel said unto him, We will go by the high way: and if I and my cattle drink of thy water, then I will pay for it: I will only, without doing anything else, go through on my feet.

20 And he said, Thou shalt not go through. And Edom came out against him with much people, and with a strong hand.

21 Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his border: wherefore Israel turned away from him.

22 And the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, journeyed from Kadesh, and came unto mount Hor.

23 And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron in mount Hor, by the coast of the land of Edom, saying,

24 Aaron shall be gathered unto his people: for he shall not enter into the land which I have given unto the children of Israel, because ye rebelled against my word at the water of Meribah.

25 Take Aaron and Eleazar his son, and bring them up unto mount Hor:

26 And strip Aaron of his garments, and put them upon Eleazar his son: and Aaron shall be gathered unto his people, and shall die there.

27 And Moses did as the LORD commanded: and they went up into mount Hor in the sight of all the congregation.

28 And Moses stripped Aaron of his garments, and put them upon Eleazar his son; and Aaron died there in the top of the mount: and Moses and Eleazar came down from the mount.

29 And when all the congregation saw that Aaron was dead, they mourned for Aaron thirty days, even all the house of Israel.
#1: The Israelites came to the desert of Zin and lived in Kadesh. Miriam (Moe and Double-A's sister) died and was buried there.

#2: There was no water, and whiners that they are, the congregation "gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron."

#3: The people chided Moses (actually, it says they "chode" Moses, but that kind of language could really taint this thing), saying they wish God had killed them when he was lovingly murdering their brethren.

#4: Why, they ask, did you bring us godly folks into the wilderness, where we and our cattle are gonna die? (Who do they think they are, Helen Thomas?)

#5: Why, they ask, did you make us leave Egypt "to bring us in unto this evil place," this infertile land bereft of figs, vines, and pomegranates. And water, that, too. (Complain, complain, complain!)

#6: Moses and Aaron "fell upon their faces" at the tabernacle door, "and the glory of the LORD appeared unto them."

#7: YHWH told Moses...

#8: "Take the rod," and while Aaron and the whole assembly looks on, talk to the rock. It "shall give forth his water," so the people and the animals can drink. (Who knew that desert rocks were full of water? Ah, the power of sticks and stones!)

#9: "And Moses took the rod from before the LORD, as he commanded him." (Is this the rod he used in Exodus or a new God rod?)

#10: He took 'em over to the rock and said "Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?" (Apparently, going without drinking water was a viable option.)

#11: Moses banged his rod against the rock twice. A ton of water came out, and the people and their beasts drank.

#12 : YHWH said to Moses and Aaron that because they didn't believe Him, they won't get to escort the congregation to the Promised Land. (Hmm, it seems that all they did was "fall on their faces." Did that annoy the Lord during his nappy time or something, alerting him to the fact that his chosen people were parched with thirst in the desert he waylaid them in? A tough crowd, God is.)

#13: "This is the water of Meribah; because the children of Israel strove with the LORD, and he was sanctified in them." (Yet another location name-origin story).

#14: Moses sent messengers to the king of Edom, saying that you know all the trouble your "brother Israel" is facing... (Edom is the nation of Esau, the brother whom Jacob/Israel cheated out of his birthright).

#15: Moe figures that the King o' Edom must know how the Israelites' fathers had a tough time in Egypt...

#16: "And when we cried unto the LORD, he heard our voice, and sent an angel, and hath brought us forth out of Egypt: and, behold, we are in Kadesh, a city in the uttermost of thy border." (Hmm. The very behavior, crying about their problems, that has sent YHWH into endless murderous hissy fits is what got them this attention to begin with. At this point, though, it's seeming like "chosen people" might be an unexpectedly ominous double-entrendre like "To Serve Man.")

#17: Moses asks the King to let the Israelites cross through Edom, saying "we will not pass through the fields, or through the vineyards, neither will we drink of the water of the wells: we will go by the king's high way, we will not turn to the right hand nor to the left, until we have passed thy borders."

#18: Edom (I'm assuming they're calling Edom's current king "Edom," and the original Esau/Edom is long-since dead, but it's hard to know in a book where some people live several hundred years) said he'd come at them with a sword if they tried.

#19: "And the children of Israel..." (just the messengers, or did they all use a speaker phone?) reiterated their plan to use the highway and said they and their cattle might drink some of their water but would pay for it. They'll just walk through, and that's that. (Is requesting additional accommodations a good way of "getting to yes"? Also this section frequently switches between "us" and "I." I'm not sure if "I" means Moses, as represented by his proxies, or if it means "any of us.").

#20: Edom says no dice, and "Edom came out against him (Moses?) with much people, and with a strong hand."

#21: Edom having refused to give them access, "Israel turned away from him." (Literally, the Israelites take a different route, but ever since Jacob finagled the birthright away from [slightly] older bro Esau/Edom, Israel has "turned away" from him/them in another sense, though Jacob did try to give him a consolation gift, which he graciously refused. Since then, the only reference we've encountered is that Edom is "amazed," and not in a good way, along with other peoples whom God is screwing on the Israelites' behalf.)

#22: The Israelites left Kadesh and, er, "came unto mount Hor." (You can't make this stuff up, folks.)

#23: YHWH spoke to Moses and Aaron "in mount Hor, by the coast of the land of Edom, saying..."

#24: "Aaron shall be gathered unto his people (apparently "gathered" means buried): for he shall not enter into the land which I have given unto the children of Israel, because ye rebelled against my word at the water of Meribah." (Wow, in some subtle way, Aaron expressed his concern that the Israelites whom God dragged into the desert were dying of thirst. The great and merciful Lord who torched two of his kids for lighting unauthorized incense summarily now condemns his personal Ari Fleischer to die).

#25: "Take Aaron and Eleazar his son, and bring them up unto mount Hor:" (hey-o!)

#26 "And strip Aaron of his garments (hey-o!), and put them upon Eleazar his son: and Aaron shall be gathered unto his people, and shall die there."

#27: "And Moses did as the LORD commanded (not a peep... certainly not his brother's keeper): and they went up into mount Hor in the sight of all the congregation."

#28: "And Moses stripped Aaron of his garments (hey, what happens in Hor stays in Hor), and put them upon Eleazar his son; and Aaron died there in the top of the mount: and Moses and Eleazar came down from the mount."

#29: "And when all the congregation saw that Aaron was dead, they mourned for Aaron thirty days..."

Yet another S&M lesson, like when Yahweh made Abraham debase himself to the ultimate extreme rather than protest the most loathsome of directives.

The people speak up about their dire thirst. God gives them what they need. And then He goes a-killin'.

YHWH wants us to suffer in silence. If we're deprived of even the most fundamental of Maslow's needs (like, say, poultry), we must be patient until God ponies up with the goods. If we doubt or complain, He'll give us what we ask for... and then heads roll.

So, it's true, isn't it? God is a Republican. He wants those in need to shut up (or else!), until good fortune trickles down upon them.

The Christian Scientists have it right, it seems. If our children have cancer, we shouldn't do anything about it. At the last minute, all will be well.

Impatient boys sometimes miss milk and honey!

4 comments:

terry said...

it looks like another "the Bible, chapter by chapter" endeavor is dying in the barren wastes of Numbers. and Deuteronomy won't be any more exciting.

shooda started with the New Testament, dude.

Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy said...

Au contraire, mon frère.

Between real life and campaign-related blogging, things have gone glacial here for a time, but as long as the FSM keeps me on this mortal coil, I'll be chippin' away here.

Now that, IMHO, the Democratic nomination fight is all but over, I should be able to pick up the pace a little.

terry said...

c'est à voir. :-)

Anonymous said...

If you remember back in exodus 17, the Elohist text contains a narrative about the waters of Meribah, and the Jahwist text parallels it with a narrative about the waters of Massah; the combined Jahwist-Elohist text therefore tells a story about the waters of Meribah and Massah. This chapter is the Priestly Source's version of the narrative about Meribah; its not just "another location-name story" but is in fact the same one.

In the Elohist text back in Exodus, Moses is told to strike the rock with his rod, but here, the priestly source's version spins this in an anti-Moses way by claiming that Moses was only told to speak to the rock, and instead he disobeyed and struck it.

Note that although Aaron is also condemned, Aaron's death at Mount Hor is an older tradition that the Priestly writer couldn't change; the text is quite clear in making Aaron appear more of a bystander caught up in Moses' wickedness.

The Edom narrative (14-21) is from the earlier Jahwist-Elohist text. The Jahwist version (mainly 14-18) is more literary, with a big speech, but no show of force. The Elohist version is basically "They said 'Just passing through', but the edomites turned out in force, so they went round instead".

"The King's highway" was an ancient Caravan route, rather than a major road.