Background Probability

The Agnostic Popular Front has moved to its new home at Skeptic Ink, and will henceforth be known as Background Probability. Despite the relocation and rebranding, we will continue to spew the same low-fidelity high-quality bullshit that you've come to expect.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Number 16:1-18:32 (Korach)

Herein we have the first egalitarian uprising in the Bible, in which Korah (great-grandson of Levi) and many of men of renown (altogether two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly) rise up against the autocracy of Moses and Aaron, declaring that "all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them" which sounds to me an awful lot like the idea of a priesthood of all believers which would later be adopted by many Christians.

Evidently, the God of the Moses isn't ready for anything like a universal priesthood yet, and He responds by opening up the Earth and swallowing up Korah and "all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods" who "went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them." Now this sounds unpleasant enough, but the 250 princes of the assembly are burnt alive by God Himself, "there came out a fire from the LORD, and consumed the two hundred and fifty men that offered incense." Just as in the case of Nadab and Abihu, if you offer incense in the wrong way, God will burn you alive. Catholics, consider yourself warned.

Chapter 17 has yet another affirmation of the divine ordination and unquestionable authority of the Aaronite priesthood, which has become a running theme by now, especially in Leviticus and Numbers. The following chapter lays forth (yet again) instructions for bringing the best food to the priests to eat, or else redeeming it with hard currency.

"All the best of the oil, and all the best of the wine, and of the wheat, the firstfruits of them which they shall offer unto the LORD, them have I given thee. And whatsoever is first ripe in the land, which they shall bring unto the LORD, shall be thine; every one that is clean in thine house shall eat of it. Every thing devoted in Israel shall be thine."

I should point out here that the two major competing hypotheses for the Torah are (1) The Creator of the entire Cosmos inspired this book or (2) The Hebrew priests compiled it based on traditions and myths adapted over time to serve the needs of the priesthood. If the former hypothesis were true, we might expect all manner or timeless wisdom and insights into how to live well. If the latter, we might expect a good deal of talk about how important it is to respect the priesthood, never to question their authority, and to bring loads of food and money to them. I leave it to the reader to decide which sort of writing is more dominant in this book.

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