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.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Numbers 4:21-7:89 (Naso)

Numbers 4:21-7:89

Here we have another chapter with nothing but census data, preserved from time immemorial down the generations to provide you with wisdom and encouragement in your walk with God. Then we get to a few bits about ceremonial cleanliness, and how to provide (even more) sacrifices to the priests in a novel situation which is somewhat difficult to briefly explain.

Then we come to 5:11-31, which looks to be a ceremony which combines ritual actions, audible incantations, the and medical administation of an oral abortifacient, all in an effort to punish a wife suspected of marital infidelity. I'm going to break from my personal preference to quote the NIV here, because it is significantly more comprehensible than more literal translations from the Hebrew:

If she has made herself impure and been unfaithful to her husband, this will be the result: When she is made to drink the water that brings a curse and causes bitter suffering, it will enter her, her abdomen will swell and her womb will miscarry, and she will become a curse. If, however, the woman has not made herself impure, but is clean, she will be cleared of guilt and will be able to have children.

Wow . . . just . . . wow. Try teaching this one to the fourth-grade sunday-schoolers sometime. In any event, it makes sense that people who thought that magical spells and potions like this really worked would take the threats posed by witches and wizards so damn seriously.

After this, we get the details of undertake the vow of a Nazarite, to separate oneself unto the LORD. Personally, I wish we'd bring this one back into contemporary usage, if only so we can spot hardcore religious fundamentalists at a fair distance by their unusually long hair. If we can appeal to the Torah for the Ten Commandments, well, why not the Nararite vow as well? It is somehow less timeless than the proscription of seething a kid goat in it's mother's milk? G-d forbid!

Chapter 7 can bascially be summed up in these lines: “[T]hey brought their offering before the LORD… And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Take it of them...and thou shalt give them unto the Levites." The chapter provides a very detailed list of all sorts of things that are considered worthy to give unto the Levites. I will remind the reader again at this point that the two most popular competing hypotheses for the authorship of this book are (1) the Creator of the Cosmos and billions of galaxies or (2) Levitical scribes redacting Levitical traditions justifying Levitical authority and Hebrew supremacy. Dear reader, I leave it to you to make the call, after reading the material yourself.

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