Chapters 1 through 4
It turns out that the name of this book is pretty accurate. It starts off with God asking Moses and Aaron to take a census of the entire congregation of Israelites…but only if they’re male…and over twenty years old…and able to go to war. This isn’t a census, it’s a draft.
The book goes on to list all of the individual tribes and the number of able-bodied men who will be going to war. I will not be adding up all of those numbers because I really don’t want to. The Levites will not be counted with the Israelites because they have to guard the tabernacle.
Chapter 2 is nothing but marching orders…seriously. The order and direction that the tribes will set out.
Chapter 3 is the all about the Levites. It talks about their duties, such as setting up and furnishing the tent of meeting. Then there’s another census, this time of the Levites. There is also the redemption of the firstborn of the Levites which God is now willing to accept. It’s a money grab.
Chapter 4 is about taking yet another census of yet more tribes. It describes the duties of these groups ad nauseum, including very, very detailed instructions about how to lay the cloths on the altar. It’s gripping stuff really.
This chapter is one that makes me cranky. It starts off with directions for “unclean” people, both male and female. Anyone who is leprous or has a discharge, or anyone who had contact with a corpse will be sent out of camp because the defile it. The camp must not be defiled while the Lord is living there.
Confession and restitution comes next. A person who is wronged will be reimbursed the value of the wrong, plus one-fifth. If the injured party has no next of kin, then the restitution goes to the priest. Makes me wonder who’s writing this book.
The next section, and the section that makes me really cranky, is about an unfaithful wife. The worst part about this section is that a man need only have a feeling of jealousy that his wife was unfaithful. Perhaps in some cases she didn’t have her period when she should have or she was pregnant when it would not have possible if she was faithful to her husband. These things need not happen, he just has to notice that maybe she looked at the neighbor for a little too long, even if nothing happened between them. Anyway, if this happens, the husband brings the wife and a grain offering of jealousy. The priest will set her before the Lord and mix water and some dirt from the floor of the tabernacle. She will hold the grain offering and repeat an oath and then she has to drink the cursed potion (the water and tabernacle dirt). If she was not unfaithful, then nothing will happen to her. However, if she was unfaithful then the priest, at the instruction of God himself, will make her drink a potion that will cause an abortion to occur.
27When he has made her drink the water, then, if she has defiled herself and has been unfaithful to her husband, the water that brings the curse shall enter into her and cause bitter pain, and her womb shall discharge, her uterus drop, and the woman shall become an execration among her people.
Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (p. 292). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
There is no other way to describe this passage. God is condoning abortion. “But wait,” I hear you ask, “what if a husband is unfaithful?” That’s a good question. If a husband has been unfaithful to his wife, the first sign will be a new girl/woman in the harem.