Numbers Chapter 15

When it comes to the offerings to the Lord that are outlined, I’m pretty sure that’s the priests of the temple writing those up so that the people will give them their best food. “The Lord wants your most fatted calf, your choicest grains, your finest wine.” Actually, the priests probably want to have a party paid for by the congregants. There are a lot of offering rules given here and I’m not going through them all.

Whoever wrote this book had no system for organizing the subject matter, and after the previous section on offerings to the Lord upon entering the new land, we have a section on the penalty for violating the sabbath, and it’s just slightly more than a slap on the wrist.

32When the Israelites were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the sabbath day. 33Those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses, Aaron, and to the whole congregation. 34They put him in custody, because it was not clear what should be done to him. 35Then the LORD said to Moses, “The man shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him outside the camp.” 36The whole congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death, just as the LORD had commanded Moses.

Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (p. 315). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

This is a totally measured and completely sane…who am I kidding? My first question is, is the man that was gathering sticks even a member of the congregation or was he just some rando who was unaware that this particular god existed? Because this passage is not at all clear about that, and that’s the whole passage verbatim. And actually, it’s not the actual penalty that is the worst thing about this chapter, it’s the matter-of-fact telling of it. I would wonder if anyone thought that this penalty was a bit fucked up, but the way the Lord acted in the last chapter, I’m pretty sure people were only trying to think happy thoughts as if God was little Anthony Fremont from the Twilight Zone.

It’s at this point that I have to ask, if evangelicals and fundamentalists take this book literally, why do they seem to skip this law? I’m not saying that I want anyone to want to enforce this law, but why pick Leviticus 20:13 and not the above passage? I think it’s because the people who preach the Bible want the lessons to fit their prejudices.

So we go in a single chapter from offerings to God, to stoning people who gather sticks to fashion rules, this book is disjointed. It’s as if someone is just making it up as they go along. The final part of this chapter talks about fringes on the corners of garments so that they will remember all of the commandments that God has given them. Does this include the rules that will be made after this point?

Genesis Chapters 4 and 5

Chapter 4

The man and his wife, Eve, had sex and she bore Cain and then Abel. There is no time for discussing growing up, because they’re already men and working in the fields. Abel is tending to the livestock and Cain is tilling the ground and growing fresh veggies. They both make offerings to God, but God didn’t recognize Cain’s offering. Cain get mad at Abel and lures him out to the field to kill him. Eventually, God finds out and curses Cain by making leave and go wandering (Nod is “wandering”), but nobody can kill him or else they will receive a sevenfold punishment.

There is no explanation as to why God did not accept Cain’s offering. Is he not a vegetable fan? I can see why God chose Abel’s offering. I mean, some fresh young animals are perfect for a barbecue. But why does Cain get mad at Abel and kill him? He should be mad at God for not giving a reason for his decision. As an aside, from AJ Jacobs’ book, The Year of Living Biblically, there is a hierarchy of sacrifices and animals are number one on that list.

I will bring this story up again in a couple posts because I see it as telling that Cain gets off pretty easy for murder. OK, I mean, he hasn’t been given any commandments or anything, so maybe he didn’t realize that murder was wrong. Oh, right, except that humans know the difference between good and evil thanks to mom and dad eating from that tree in the last chapter.

Chapter 5

It’s a tree…

“Cain knew his wife…” Huh? This would only make sense if the first chapter creation narrative is included and God created humankind and not just one human and a rib woman. Anyway, I’m not going to get hung up on this. We get genealogy of Cain, then we return to Adam and Eve knowing one another and producing Seth because Cain killed Abel. Seth had a son Enosh.

We get yet another genealogy, this time of Adam which is actually a genealogy of Seth. This one has some common names to Cain’s lineage, including Lamech and Enoch. The latter of which is interesting in that, despite having only a few lines written about him in this book, spawned an entire volume known as the Book of Enoch. It is only found today in the Ethiopian Orthodox Bible and as a separate book. There is a great video on this book on the YouTube channel, Religion For Breakfast.

Ages in the bible are interesting. Methuselah lived until he was nine hundred sixty-nine years old. The idea of ages in the Bible is one that has confused me for a long time, and it still does because of the counting system used. There is an excellent primer on the BioLogos blog that breaks down how to calculate the ages in years of the patriarchs in the Bible (https://biologos.org/articles/long-life-spans-in-genesis-literal-or-symbolic/). Quick and dirty explanation: It’s most likely based on a base-60 counting system and “years” are most likely months, which would make sense since the moon cycle would be a better measure of time back in those days since the full phases could be observed. Also, the Jewish calendar is based on months, and the Christian holiday of Easter moves based on when Passover falls.

And to think, I didn’t think I would say anything about the genealogy chapters.