Numbers Chapter 21

Like much of the Bible so far, Chapter 21 is pretty unhinged. Let’s see if I get the gist of it. First, the king of Arad (a Canaanite) fought against the Israelites and held some of them captive. The non-captured ones swore to God that they would utterly destroy their towns if they could get their brethren back. God handed over the Canaanites and the Israelites killed them and destroyed the towns. I looked back at the chapter and this pretty well matches up with the first paragraph.

Then they set out again to go around Edom because they weren’t allowed to go through and they started with their whining again. So, God sent poisonous serpents down to bite the Israelites because…of course he did. Moses prayed to God (who was responsible for this) and God told him to make a poisonous serpent and put it on a pole and when anyone who was bitten looked at would live. Does this make any sense? Please, tell me I’m not the only one who is a tad bit confused.

Then we get a travel log from Oboth to the wasteland overlook before heading into the land of the Amorites. They sent messengers to King Sihon with the usual request, let us pass, no drinking, no stopping, yada yada. King Sihon got an army together and went to fight Israel, but Israel won and took his land. They did the same to King Og.

Didn’t God tell them that they wouldn’t get the land that he promised them? I guess he was just having a cranky day and needed a cookie. The Bronze Serpent thing was the only interesting part of this chapter. I’m looking forward to moving on from the Pentateuch because this section is long.

…Was the Woman’s Place

I am dipping back into the trove of tracts that I received from “Secret Satan #1”. The tract I am looking at today is called, “The Home From The Beginning” and it is interesting to say the least. One thing I think we can all agree is that the Bible is quite one-sided when it comes to marriage, but I’ll get into that.

The tract starts off with Matthew 19:3-6 where the Pharisees ask Jesus about divorce:

3And there came unto him Pharisees, trying him, and saying, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? 4And he answered and said, Have ye not read, that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, 5and said, For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh? 6So that they are no more two, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. (American Standard Version)

Bible Gateway, ASV

Basically, the Pharisees ask Jesus if it’s lawful for a man to divorce (put away) his wife for any cause. Jesus quotes Genesis as a wordy way of saying, “Nope.” He does go on further to say that a man who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another commits adultery. However, if a man commits sexual immorality…oh, wait, that’s not possible in the Bible. A man can have as many wives and concubines as he can afford.

The next section is a short one called (they all start with the tract title), “…Was a Divine Home”. Apparently it was divine because God cloned Adam to make Eve (he used Adam’s rib to make Eve) which means that Adam would essentially procreate with his twin sister. This is followed by “…a Father and Mother Leaving Home”.

This section makes little sense in the context of Genesis because it talks about Adam and Eve being one and leaving mother and father…except that they didn’t have parents. Adam was, according to Genesis, made from dust. I mean, it makes genealogy really easy. It goes on to talk about how they were united as one. After that, we get to the part that’s used to justify same-sex marriage.

“The Home From the Beginning Was Between a Man and a Woman”, except when it wasn’t. There are several examples in Genesis alone where one of the main players (like Abram/Abraham) is permitted to take a servant or his wife’s sister (See: My Biblical Marriage List  for more). Marriage is not between one man and one woman in the Bible, but it is between one woman and one man. That is, a woman can only serve one husband, but she has to share him if he so desires. The tract mentions that man was not made for man or woman for woman. It lists verses both from the Old and New Testaments that purportedly condemn homosexuality. I want to talk about this further in next week’s Saturday Sermon. It goes on to the section, “…Was the Place to Have Children”.

According to this tract, God told the first parents to “be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth,” which is from Gen. 1:28. The problem is that the prior verse says:

27And God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

Bible Gateway, ASV

It is clear by reading Genesis that Chapters 1 and 2 were written by different author and in different traditions. The tract skips all of Chapter 2 and 3 and jumps straight to Chapter 4 and the conception of Cain and Abel and then skips to the end of chapter to the bearing of Seth. Really, none of this has anything to do with the topic at hand which is trying to justify what a home is. This is cherry-picking a narrative story. It concludes with, “This is God’s plan for bringing children into this world. But today, about one half of children are born out of wedlock, with no father figure to be seen.” There’s no father figure to be seen in Genesis. Using the story of Genesis is a really crappy example because it says nothing about the “raising” of Cain, Abel, and Seth. It simply speaks broadly of the procreative process and that’s it. Also, there’s no mention of marriage in Genesis at all. Adam took Eve to be his wife, no ceremony, no contract, no “I do’s”.  The next section, “…Was to be a Headship-Subjection Affair” meaning that the man was the head of the household and he shall rule over the wife.

Finally, I get back to the one-sidedness argument for the Bible with the section, “…Was to be as Long as We Both Shall Live”. Well, Johnie Edwards (the author of this tract) really sees only what he wants to read. He quotes Romans 7: 2-3 as his justification.

2For the woman that hath a husband is bound by law to the husband while he liveth; but if the husband die, she is discharged from the law of the husband. 3So then if, while the husband liveth, she be joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if the husband die, she is free from the law, so that she is no adulteress, though she be joined to another man.

Bible Gateway, ASV

Notice that it says nothing about the man being bound by law to his wife. Also, if the husband dies, the woman (or women) is practically required to find another husband for survival at that point. Women couldn’t inherit property or have their own money, so they had to find a husband. On the other hand, if the wife dies, the man probably has a few in reserve, so that’s not a problem.

So that is my look at this tract, “The Home From The Beginning”. I hope you enjoy these in-depth looks from my own perspective. If you have tracts that you would like to share, DM me on Twitter (@AlienBiblical) and either send me a link or I will let you know where you can send them.

I Have Returned

Yes folks, I am back to writing the blog again. I decided to take an extended hiatus, however, that did appear to cost me some traffic, but I’m not concerned because I have a day job. Also, I was working on a couple electronics projects and that was taking up a considerable amount of time, but it was so worth it. Anyway, I am going to make a concerted effort to get back to a regular schedule while working on electronics projects.

I would also like to take some space in this post to welcome David Chafin to the world of blogging over at Skin Of My Teeth. As of this writing, he has one introductory post, but I am looking forward to what he has to say.

So this week the blog stormed back to life as I picked up where I left off in Numbers. Many of my thoughts written about these first five books are based around a “plain reading” of the texts as those who take literally tend to do. I realize that there is a lot more to chapter 20 than God being petty and taking back the promised land because Moses didn’t do exactly as he was told.

I am writing my thoughts out after having read the text a few times and thinking about it. Sometimes, such as the above-mentioned chapter, I will look for extra-Biblical sources for some assistance in unwrapping it. While I am doing this project because evangelical and fundamentalist Christians tend to say things like, “all of the answers are in the Bible,” when it comes to the Pentateuch (or Torah), I will go to sources that specialize in Hebrew, Rabbinic, and Jewish traditions.

Most of the time, I will not get into the details that I learn since I am, again, doing this as a plain reading. However, when it comes to such things as that certain verse in Leviticus (Lev. 16:13) I will do my best to explain it because of its significance. Also, the blog is not the only place where these posts are kept. I will usually return to OneNote where the originals are and update them as I find new information or as I have new thoughts about them. I may update the old posts and then send out a link or pin them.

Final point of business, I am going to get back to my tract commentary that I only have one of so far. I still have plenty of material, but I’m always looking for new stuff. I love these things.

Have a pleasant weekend.

Numbers Chapter 20

Is the God of the Old Testament petty? Well, after reading this section…yes.

Once again, the Israelites are mad at Moses and Aaron because they brought them out into the wilderness and there is no water. So they go off to the tent of meeting to tell God why the people are mad at them this time.

7The LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 8Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and your brother Aaron, and command the rock before their eyes to yield its water. Thus you shall bring water out of the rock for them; thus you shall provide drink for the congregation and their livestock.

Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (p. 324). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Simple enough. Now let’s continue…

9So Moses took the staff from before the LORD, as he had commanded him. 10Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Listen, you rebels, shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” 11Then Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his staff; water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their livestock drank.

Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (p. 324). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

There we go. Moses did the thing that resulted in the thing happening and now the people are happy. Let’s see what’s next…

12But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me, to show my holiness before the eyes of the Israelites, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.” 13These are the waters of Meribah, where the people of Israel quarreled with the LORD, and by which he showed his holiness

Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (p. 324). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

What? OK, it took me a couple times reading this through and then having to look up a scholarly explanation of this section. It turns out that because Moses hit the rock twice with his staff, it showed a lack of faith in God and, therefore, the Israelites won’t be allowed to take over the land of Canaan. Do I think God is petty in this case? YES!

So then the Israelites are refused passage through Edom in what sounds like it was probably a poem or the refrain of a song. They promise to stay on the King’s road, eyes forward, taking nothing, and looking at nothing. But the king threatens them with the sword. Then he shows them the sword. The Israelites turn and walk away.

Finally, Moses takes Aaron up to Mount Hor and is stripped of his vestments and they are given to his son Eleazar is. I guess means that he is now a high priest. Israel mourns for thirty days.

Numbers Chapter 19

I’ve been wondering how I’m going to tackle this chapter. On one hand, it’s another directive from God that involves the slaughter of an animal for a purpose that seems completely unrelated to the purpose of the animal. I mean, nobody is going to eat it or use its hide for clothing or shelter. Instead, it’s being destroyed to ash for a purification ritual.

On the other hand, this chapter is seen by some religious groups as an end times prophecy. Apparently, when the perfect, flawless red heifer is found, then the tribulation is sure to follow. I may read up more about this and save it for a special post down the line.

I think one of the reasons why it might be seen as a prophecy by some is that it doesn’t have a corresponding chapter where the ritual is carried out. Many of the rituals described in the Bible are followed either in the same chapter or the following chapter with a nearly word for word account of that ritual being done. Not so in this case.

The Thing That Scares Me Most

I watch a lot of horror channels on YouTube, like Nexpo, Barely Sociable, and the like. They show off some the weirdest, creepiest, and scariest stuff on the internet. It’s cool stuff to see for entertainment and it’s a little distraction from the rest of the internet.

Then I follow Hemant Mehta, Telltale, and Christian Nightmares on Twitter, and then the real scary stuff comes out. These accounts show allegedly-Christian preachers who spew hate for their congregations. I won’t name names here because I don’t want to attract the wrong audience to my blog. The preachers aren’t scary part, though.

The hate preachers are cowards. They stand up at their pulpits and they scream at their congregants about this group or that group and how they deserve to face “God’s judgement and wrath” and they do this week in and week out. They yell and scream and carry on, some even jumping up on their pulpits. But that’s all they’ll do. They won’t do anything else because all they care about at the end are that their sheep tithe well. No, the preachers in and of themselves are cowardly little men who wouldn’t know how to back up their words.

The scariest part are the other voices in the room. The voices saying, “Amen!” and “Preach!” These are the scariest ones of all. The preacher will do his little act up at the pulpit, but the congregants are the ones who pay to hear these little, angry men. They’re the ones most likely to act on the preachers’ words and cause great harm to others.

That to me is the scariest thing out there. The nameless, faceless people out of the camera’s view expressing their agreement to bad and dangerous ideas. This should scare you too, reader, especially if you care about people in any of the minority groups targeted by these hate-filled people claiming to be Christians.

Saturday Sermon: Compassion

As I write this, we are a day away from the 21st anniversary of the September 11 attacks. It will also be a day of great hypocrisy for many of a certain ilk as they make loud proclamations  about the senseless loss of life from one day in 2001, but have been and will continue to be mum about the senseless loss of lives over the past 2+ years from a virus that could have been stemmed.

Case in point is a tweet from Vernon Jones in Georgia (US, not Europe, but then again…):

“Democrats and @JoeBiden don’t want you to remember this!” followed by a picture of Trump photoshopped onto a gas station sign showing $1.22 gas.

Twitter

I responded to this tweet which you can read here, https://twitter.com/AlienBiblical/status/1568205621161238528. Warning, I do drop an f-bomb in the final tweet in the thread (but I am nice about it).

It’s obvious to me that Vern cares more about low gas prices than human life, although he will claim to be “pro-life” because he believes in stripping women of their bodily autonomy. The situation that would lead to these low gas prices was not a good sign at all. The pandemic was about to crash land directly atop the US, sending privately owned gas stations, much like the one Jones posted into near financial ruin. That’s because gas station really don’t make money off of gas, but from snacks, drinks, beer, and cigarettes. Well, with people not driving and not stopping at gas stations as often, that’s an economic problem, but we have cheap gas like Vern said.

Is that really what matters most, Vern? To you it does, I have no doubt. That’s because to you and your ilk, the only human lives that matter are the ones that give big money to your campaigns and PACs and the ones who can afford to purchase your influence. You are truly a repugnant example of a compassionate human being and I truly meant that last tweet in the thread because there is no other way to put it.

Then we move on to the next tweet that set me off, which is from a right wing rag and attempts to disparage President Biden’s appointee for monkeypox czar, Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, because he is gay, “performs HIV screenings in sex clubs” and “gives meningitis in drag”. OK, so what’s the problem? This man is a champion to a community that could really use more heroes. Everything I’ve read about him from people who have met him is that he is a kind, compassionate doctor who listens and who, as the right sees as a negative, helps those who need it most.

Those who subscribe to the right wing rag I quoted above also (pre)tend to subscribe to Christianity and the teachings of Jesus. While I will not compare Dr. Daskalakis to Jesus, I will say that the former does more embody the teachings found in the gospels than anyone on the right. He goes to where a need is not being met and does what he can to help. I have nothing but respect for the guy and wish him great success and would like to say, “Thank you for your compassion.” We need more people like Dr. Demetre Daskalakis and less like the people who hate him. Also, to respond to people posting his shirtless Instagram photos, if you got it, flaunt it. I wish I had a body I could post shirtless (trust me, you don’t want to see it, I’ll keep wearing my custom shirts). Also, how many thousands of photos of shirtless men did these anti-gay people have to wade through to find these. I’m not judging.

Numbers Chapters 17 & 18

First off, let me chuckle at the title of the first section of Chapter 17:

The budding of Aaron’s rod

OK, it’s out of my system now. Anyway, quick summary of Chapter 17 is that God wants to stop all the complaints of the Israelites toward Moses by choosing the staff of one of the leaders of the twelve houses, including Aaron who will represent the House of Levi. God will do this by causing one of the staffs to sprout. Gee, I wonder who will win. Obviously, Aaron’s is the chosen staff.

So, I have a problem with these two chapters because it gives away the game. Moses and Aaron were already the defacto leaders of this group and were the only ones who God “spoke” to and who had access to the tent of meeting. So they could have set this all up like a parlor trick in order to keep their hold on power.

In Chapter 18 God tells Aaron that, as the one responsible for the sanctuary, he and his Levite brothers have the right to eat the offerings of the people because they are holy. These offerings include the first fruits of the harvest, the best animals, and shekels of silver (obviously they won’t eat those). They are told that only they are to approach the tent of meeting and that anyone else that approaches will die. That’s a good way to keep people away, by issuing a stern warning and a threat of death.

Numbers Chapter 16

Three guys took a group of two hundred fifty Israelites to tell Moses that they were just as holy as everyone else in the congregation. Moses told them to prepare their censers with incense and gather at the tent of meeting when God will decide who is holy and who isn’t.

This is another chapter of repetition as the same things are repeated at least twice. The paragraphs following the order above is the action being carried out in the same amount of detail instead of the author saying, “and they did just that.” Is that easier? Maybe I’ll rewrite the Bible and call it the Plain, Everyday Language EditionTM.

Anyway, long story short, the two hundred fifty-three men show up armed with censers and are ready for a smoke-off with Aaron and Moses for God’s affection. Well, God already picked his winner and it’s Moses. The families and possessions of the families of the three men, including slaves and animals were swallowed up by the earth and sent down to Sheol alive.

I was reading another of the tracts that were sent to me by a SecretSatanTM and according to the author of that tract, Sheol is Hell. According to Hebrew scholars, it is not, it is sort of a (my term) waiting room for the dead. Guess which one I tend to believe more? (if you’re new here, the answer is the Hebrew scholar).

Continuing on, God isn’t done killing people. After the first wave of death, Eleazar gathered up the now holy censers and pounded them out as another decoration for the altar. This was to remind everyone that only a descendant of Aaron is permitted to offer incense to God. Well, the rest of the congregation didn’t like the fact that the earth opened and swallowed up all those people, so they let it be known. And God, who is a reasonable and thoughtful listener of complaints…who am I kidding? God started killing all of them until Aaron stepped between God and the congregation to make atonement for the people. Anyway, more than fourteen thousand died before Aaron could light up the censer. So I’m guessing that somewhere in the neighborhood of fifteen thousand people died in that chapter.

Guitar Solos For Christ

Courtesy of Secret Satan #1 (Mr. 666)

I received a care package of Bible tracts from a fan (name and location withheld) and now I have new material for the blog to go with the Bible study and Saturday Sermons (I know, I haven’t done one lately). If you would like to point me to an online version of a tract, send me a Twitter DM (@AlienBiblical). If you have physical copies that you would like to send me, hold onto them and if or when I get enough responses, I will set up a PO Box for shipping. Of course, if we know each other, DM me and we’ll make arrangements. With that out of the way, I have a quick one.

This tract, “Why Sing and Not Play in Worship?” is a stellar example of why I find tracts so amusing. The opening question is, “Should we sing and play a mechanical instrument of music or just sing in worship?” It goes on to say that there are only two kinds of music, vocal and mechanical/instrumental. Really? What about the combination of the two which is what most popular music is since forever? That would then make an additional kind of music since I am assuming vocal includes a Capella, choir, chorale, barbershop, and ululation.

The author then goes on to state, “We have been discharged from the laws of Moses!” Problem: as far as I can find on the Internet, the only place in the Old Testament that seems to “command” instruments be used in worship is in Psalms which is not the law of Moses, it’s poetry. The tract lists passages where it says sing or some variation. None of these passages, however, command that ONLY voices be used and none of them explicitly or implicitly forbid the use of instruments (with the exception of one, which I will get into). They are also single verses within a larger context of a chapter. I can go through any book, pull out a line, and say that this is what the author said (people do it all the time with Orwell and Huxley).

The idea of this tract is to say, “The Bible tells us to only sing and not play instruments, so when it tells us anything we have to listen to it.” To me, when somebody states a petty rule like this, they are saying that they are petty and nothing more. Reading through the titles of the rest of the tracts by this same author, I can tell that he wrote them to stroke his own ego. Maybe you’re saying that I’m going after the low-hanging fruit here, but I contend that the author is instead.

This tract (like all other tracts) is for a narrow audience and that is the people who go to the same churches who would order these tracts and put them on display. Perhaps they could be used to try to sway someone from a church such as my girlfriend’s that do play instruments in worship (they have a quite accomplished stable of musicians, including my girlfriend). I could read deeper into this tract and make some inferences about it, but I think I’ll save that for later.

One final note on the exception that I mentioned above. The very first passage listed is Matthew 26:20 and says that it uses the word “sung”, but when I looked it up, it said no such thing. It turns out that it should have been Matthew 26:30, but then the people for whom these are written are not going to question the author because he is, apparently, an authority. While I may have typos in this post, I can correct them on the fly. That’s not so easy to do when the pamphlets have been printed and distributed.