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.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Numbers 30:2-32:42 (Matot)

Numbers 30:2-32:42 (KJV)

In chapter 30 we find that male and female vows (even vows unto the L-rd) are not created equal, because the women is subject to the authority of her father or husband. Of such vows, the KJV says that "her husband may establish it, or her husband may make it void." So, one may well suppose Paul's famously misogynist writings are just another thread in a long rabbinical tradition of sexual inequality and female subjugation.

Then we come to Numbers 31, possibly the most barbaric chapter in the entire Torah. It is here in which we have Moses thundering at the soldiers for not being more thoroughly genocidal, "Have ye saved all the women alive? Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the LORD!" Moses then provides very specific instructions on whom is to be killed and spared alive, "Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves." Keep for yourselves? To what end, one may well ask. The exegetical key here is that they are virgin girls and there is already a Biblical procedure in place for sexually enslaving "marrying" captive women and thereby multiplying one's tribe all the more fruitfully. The overall message of this chapter can be summed up thusly: "Kill everyone, destroy everything, but keep the young girls for raping and the cattle for eating. Oh, and don't forget to give the priests their share of the booty." Some claim that this represents timeless wisdom from a perfectly moral transcendant being, but it might easily be mistaken by an impartial observer to be naught more than ethics of a barbarous people bent upon regional conquest.

After such gory details as these, chapter 32 is a bit of a bore, laying out the logistics of making war, the obligations of military service, and which tribes eventually ended up with which bits of land. Do not fear, though, there are many more stories of all-consuming holy war yet to come!

No comments: