IS IT GOD'S WORD?

CHAPTER 5

THE FORTY YEARS IN THE WILDERNESS

SEGMENTS:

R R THE FORTY YEARS IN THE WILDERNESS R R THE MISTAKE ABOUT THE PRIESTS R R THE TWO CENSUSES IN THE WILDERNESS

R R SOME CENSUS ODDITIES R R THE LEVITES R R THE MOTHERS OF ISRAEL R R THE PUZZLE OF "SAME" OR "NOT SAME"

R R THE TABERNACLE AND ITS ACTIVITIES R R SACRIFICES R R MORE OF THE PRIESTS AND LEVITES R R SOME JAHVISTIC MURDERINGS

R R THE RAPE OF MIDIAN R R THE WONDERFUL LAST DAYS OF MOSES R R MOURNING FOR AARON R R WAR WITH CANAAN

R R TEN ENCAMPMENTS R R WAR WITH AMORITES R R WAR WITH JAAZER R R WAR WITH BASHAN R R THE EPISODE OF BALAAM

R R SPORTING WITH MOAB R R CENSUS TAKING R R EXPEDITION TO MIDIAN R R "MOPPING UP"

R R RETURN TO THE INDEX OF CHAPTERS

 

IN the third month after the hegira from Egypt the hosts of Yahveh came to the "desert of Sinai, and pitched in the wilderness, and camped before the mount" (Ex. 19: 1, 2 ). This was Mt. Sinai (named for the pagan moon-god Sin), also confusedly called Horeb, and sacred as the "Mount of God,"-though in Hebrew it is called Harha-Elohim, the "Mount of the Gods."

Mt. Sinai is said by the Bible dictionary, with a marvelously developed bump of locality, to be "156 miles southeast of Cairo, Egypt"; but the Encyclopedia Britannica says that the sacred writers locate the place "only by aid of the imagination" (Vol. 25: p. 138 ), and that the "Mount of Yahveh" has never been identified. Even the identification of Sinai, however, would prove none of the stories of Yahveh to be true, any more than Olympus proves the existence of Zeus.

But if anywhere, Mt. Sinai was in Midian, in the country of Jethro, and near the site of the burning bush; for Yahveh had said:

"When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve ha-Elohim [the Gods] upon this mountain" (Ex. 3: 12 ). And it was in the "great and terrible wilderness," at a choice locality where the 3,000,000 Chosen People could spread their 12-mile square camp and corral their vast herds of sheep and cattle; and a mountain of such special and peculiar shape that the Chosen could build a fence around it (if they had the timber), or in some other way "set bounds about the mount" to keep the people and the cattle away from its fatal sides, lest Yahveh "break forth upon them, and many of them perish." It was also fearfully fenced off with a taboo of terror from the curious: "whosoever toucheth the mount shall surely be put to death," stoned or shot through, even beasts, declared Yahveh (Ex. 19: 12, 21-24 ).

After these remarkable precautions for mystery and secrecy, the Chosen were required to be "sanctified," an operation consisting of washing their clothes (Ex. 19: 10 ) -- though where in the wilderness they got the water for laundering when they were rioting for water to drink is not revealed-and of three days' mortification of the flesh by abstaining from their one and only recorded pleasurable pastime in the wilderness the carnal knowledge of their women (19: 15 ). These mystic directions were given by Yahveh to Moses on the day of arrival at Sinai, when Moses, without being invited, and apparently without knowing that Yahveh was there, made two informal calls on Yahveh (19: 3, 8 ). On the second Yahveh said that he would "come down in sight of all the people" on the third day thereafter. But it was not Yahveh alone whom Moses visited on these occasions; the Hebrew text distinctly says: "And Moses went up to the Gods [ha-Elohim], and Yahveh called unto him from the mountain" (19: 3 ).

Just how these things did pass at that mysterious place, the different appearances of Yahveh and the numerous errand-boy trips of eighty-year-old Moses up and down the steep mountain during a year's time, is a veritable Chinese puzzle, which we need not try to work out. In any event, Moses went down and "sanctified the people" in the manner and form indicated, and built the fence. On the third day, Yahveh, amid thunders and lightnings, descended in fire upon the mountain, which "was altogether on a smoke"; and Moses went up for the third visit (19: 20 ).

When Moses had hardly got to the top of the mountain, Yahveh, without so much as "Good morning, Moses," told him: "Go down, charge the people" about washing up and sanctifying and making the fence around the mountain (19: 21, 22 ). Moses expostulated that this had already been done (19: 23 ); but Yahveh cut him short, saying: "Away, get thee down" (19: 24 ); so, meekly enough, "Moses went down unto the people, and spake unto them" (19: 25 ), though apparently he did not tell them of Yahveh's peculiar command to do what had already been done three days before, as Moses had reported to him (19: 23 ).

THE MISTAKE ABOUT THE PRIESTS

Before seeking to unravel what next is related, we may note another big mistake that Yahveh made. In sending Moses back to do what had already been done, Yahveh expressly commanded: "And let the priests also, which come near to Yahveh, sanctify themselves" (19: 22 ); and he told Moses that Brother Aaron might come up with him next time; but, said Yahveh, "let not the priests and the people" try to come up (19: 24 ). This is a remarkable slip on the part of Yahveh, for there were no priests at that time; the priesthood was not instituted until later in the Sinaic proceedings, when Aaron and his four sons were designated to be the first priests (Ex. 28: 1 ), and it was made death for any one else to presume to act as priest. As further proof of there being no priests yet, we find Moses, after delivering the first batch of "law" (Ex. 24: 4, 5 ), himself building an altar under the hill, twelve phallic mazzeboth, and sending "young men of the children of Israel" to do the priestly job of making burnt offerings and sacrificing peace-offerings unto Yahveh; for all the Chosen were at that time "a kingdom of priests" (Ex. 19: 6 ) -- every man his own priest. And Brother Aaron, as a priest, during Moses' next forty-day sojourn up on the mountain, made gods of the golden calves, and sacrificed to them, thus again proving that there was no "law" as to "priests of Yahveh," and that "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" was not yet law.

The puzzles of the giving of the law, and the ten commandments, here at Sinai, we reserve for consideration in another chapter, and will proceed with the wonders of the wanderings in the wilderness.

THE TWO CENSUSES IN THE WILDERNESS

Before leaving Sinai, in the beginning of the second year of the exodus (Num. 1: 1 ), Yahveh ordered a census to be taken of "every male from twenty years old and upward, all that are able to go forth to war in Israel" (1: 3 ); and they were so numbered by Moses and Aaron. If the all-knowing Yahveh, who is reputed to number even all the hairs of the head, had simply stated the number himself, it would have saved his inspired recorder much trouble besides some suspicions of padded returns. Indeed, this is exactly what we are surprised to find is revealed as having happened, in very curious anticipation of the formal and tedious census enumeration. For, at Sinai, some months before the taking of the first census, Yahveh ordered assessments to be laid on the people for the expenses of making and outfitting the holy ark and tabernacle; and he commanded: "When there thou takest the sum of the children of Israel after their number, then shall they give every man a ransom for his soul unto Yahveh, that there may be no plague among them when thou numberest them" (Ex. 30: 11, 12 ) -- a very persuasive argument to pay up. Consequently there was levied upon every soldier of Israel "a bekah for very man, that is, half a shekel, ... for every one that went to be numbered, from twenty years old and upward, for 603,550 men" (Ex. 38: 26 ) -- the exact number disclosed by the first census when it was later taken. So the whole labor was unnecessary.

The census was taken by tribes, and curiously enough, every single tribe polled even numbers of hundreds except one, Gad, which had an odd fifty in its tally.

Again, at the end of the forty years' wandering in the wilderness, and just after the massacre of the plague of fiery serpents, another like census was taken in the plains of Moab, near Jordan; and here the inspired total is rightly given as 601,730 (Num. 26: 51 ). Evidently the birth-rate had not quite kept pace with the natural mortality and the frequent large massacres by Yahveh of his Chosen. In neither census were the Levites numbered in these totals, as we shall presently notice.

SOME CENSUS ODDITIES

Several curiosities of these two censuses may be briefly noticed. We have seen how extraordinary are the inspired vital statistics which serve as the basis of the accepted figures showing that seventy persons had expanded in only four generations into quite two and a half millions or more. The editor of the Self-Interpreting Bible appends a note to the first tabulation of returns, saying: "If to this number (603,550 ) we add the Levites, and all the women and children below twenty years of age, it will make about three millions of Israelites, besides the 'mixed multitude'"! But in order not to impose upon Providence, we will be content with our more modest figures.

One of the sons of Jacob migrating into Egypt was Dan. For him, the first generation was one son, Hushim (Gen. 46: 23 ), and he had no other, for in the second census lists (Num. 26: 4-2 ) the "sons of Dan" constitute but one family, here called Shuhamites. In the returns of the first census, however, the number of Danites, males of military age, was 62,700 (Num. 1: 39 ): in the second census their number is recorded as 64,400 (26: 43 ): all these offspring (only males over twenty fit for war), of one son in three generations! To accomplish this prodigy, Hushim or Shuham and each of his sons and grandsons must each have had over eighty children of both Sexes. And it is curious that the offspring of the one son of Dan should be nearly twice as many as those of the ten sons of Benjamin, who numbered only 35,400 warriors in the first census (Num. 1: 3,7 ), and 45,600 in the second (26: 41 ).

THE LEVITES

As the sons of Le6: or the Levites, came early into prominence, we may briefly follow their family genealogy. In Genesis, "the sons of Levi: Gershon, Kohath, and Merarill (46: 11 ), are among the 70 Jacobites who migrate to Egypt; these three were the first generation, named again in Exodus (6: 16 ). The second generation is enumerated by names in Exodus 6: 17-19: two sons of Gershon, four sons of Kohath, and two sons of Merari; a second generation of eight persons. The third generation is partly accounted for in Exodus 6: 20-23. Three of the four sons of Kohath (6: 18 ) increased to eight: two sons of Amram (Aaron and Moses); three sons of Izhar; and three of Uzziel. The fourth, Hebron, is not credited with any sons; thus the third generation so far as named is only eight persons. The same names of these generations are recorded in Numbers 3. Assuming that the two sons of Gershon and the two of Merari showed the same increase, four each, then all the male Levites of the third generation would be sixteen persons. For the fourth generation, we have only the record of the two sons of Amram, Moses and Aaron, the first of whom had two sons, the latter four. At the same rate of increase, the sixteen males of the third generation would amount, in the fourth-that is, at the first census-to 48 persons (male and female) -- or, rather, to 44, as the four sons of Aaron were numbered, not with the Levites, but as priests. Yet the inspired word of Yahveh says that the number of Levites of "service age," from thirty to fifty years, amounted to 8580 (Num. 4: 47, 48 ), and all the males (Levites) "from a month old and upward," were 22,000 (Num. 3: 40 ); at the second census they numbered 23,000 (26: 62 ). And this was only the males; there would naturally be about the same number of females, or some 45,000 Levites. We have seen that the total number of male "sons of Levi" of this fourth generation was approximately forty-four souls.

THE MOTHERS OF ISRAEL

We have noted already the returns of the first census, at Sinai, giving 603,550 warriors over twenty years of age, 22,000 male Levites, and an estimated total of nearly 2,500,000 the hosts of Yahveh. Now the credit of this whole story is impeached by another inspired contradiction. Yahveh had first claimed to himself, as sanctified, or devoted, "all the firstborn, whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast: it is mine" (Ex. 13: 2 ), in commemoration of his massacre of the first-born of Egypt (13: 15 ). But later Yahveh changed his mind (Num. 3: 41, 45 ), and said: "Take the Levites for me, instead of all the first-born among the children of Israel"; and he ordered Moses: "Number all the first-born of the males of the children of Israel from a month old and upward, and take the number of their names" (3: 40 ). Moses did so, and reported the number of male first-born to be 22,273 (3: 43 ). These first-born were not simply the first-born sons of their fathers, who might polygamously have many other sons by different mothers; they were the first-born of the mothers as well-"the first-born that openeth the womb." Thus there could have been, at the very most, 22,273 mothers of Israel in the host who had sons, and naturally a like number- 22,273 -- of fathers.

Now, the male sons of all order of birth, "from twenty years of age and upward, able to bear arms in Israel," (who of course included many first-born sons), are averred to have been 603,550: the other males, those under twenty years of age and over military age and the unfit for service, would bring the total males to approximately one-half of the total host of 2,414,200, or about 1,207,100 males; all of whom must of course have had Hebrew mothers. For 22,273 mothers to have 1,207,100 sons would require every mother in Israel to have an average of fifty-five sons; and, naturally, about as many daughters! But as the average mother of Israel has been seen to have averaged three or four sons-but the whole thing is too preposterous to be worth more figuring: and with only 22,273 son-bearing women to 1,207,100 men, about one man in some scores could have a wife and male children! We change the subject.

THE PUZZLE OF "SAME" OR "NOT SAME"

When Yahveh first spoke to Moses in regard to the Chosen People, he said: "I am come down to deliver them and to bring them" to the land of promise (Ex. 3: 8 ); and he told Moses to lead them thither, and assured him: "Certainly I will be with thee" (3: 12 ). At Sinai, just after the golden calf incident, Yahveh said to Moses: "Depart, and go up hence, thou, and the people, unto the land which I swore I will give thee" (Ex. 33: 7 ); but, said Yahveh: "I will not go up in the midst of thee, for thou art a stiff-necked people." He promised, however, to send his angel, and hornets to drive out the inhabitants (23: 23, 28 ) -- the "seven nations more and mightier" than Israel. Thus, in the year 1491 B.C., the land was promised distinctly and positively to this identical "host of Yahveh" which had just come out of Egypt, and Yahveh promised Moses that he, Moses, should lead the hosts into the promised land.

Now for the performances. We pass to the Book of Numbers. The hosts left Sinai and marched forward promptly and without much incident to very near the borders of the promised land, quite ready to enter it, and camped at Kadesh (Num. 13: 2,3 ). Kadesh (Heb., holy) is thus the first station of the forty-two in the wilderness; but in the list of stations in Numbers 3i3: Kadesh is the last, just before Mount Hor (33: 36, 37 ). The arrival at Kadesh, the first Station, was a little more than a year after the Israelites left Egypt (Num. 10: 11, 33; 20: 1 ). From Kadesh Moses, at the command of Yahveh (Num. 13: 1-3 ), sent the twelve spies "to spy out the land of Canaan." The majority report of the spies was of an alarming nature: "We saw giants there, in whose sight we were as grasshoppers" (13: 33 ). Thereupon all the people "lifted up their voice and cried, and wept that night," crying: "Would to God we had died in Egypt, or in the wilderness" (14: 1, 2 ), and they wanted to elect a captain and go back.

Yahveh had now one of his frequent bursts of anger, and said:

"I will smite them with pestilence," and kill them all; but Moses cajoled Yahveh out of his fatal purpose by an argument to his divine vanity, saying: "Now, if thou shalt kill all the people as one man, then the nations which have heard of the fame of thee will speak, saying, Because Yahveh was not able to bring this people into the land which he swore unto them, therefore he hath slain them in the wilderness" (14: 16 ). Yahveh, seeing the force of this, compromised by swearing: "As I live. ... surely they shall not see the land which I swore unto their fathers, ... save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun. But your little ones, ... them will I bring in; ... but as for you, your carcasses, they shall fall in this wilderness. And your children shall wander in the wilderness forty years" (14: 21, 23, 30-32 ). So Yahveh commanded Moses, "To-morrow turn you, and get you into the wilderness by the way of the Red sea" (14: 25 ).

We need not here follow their unhappy rambles of nearly forty years, until "in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month" (Deut. 1: 3 ), we find the "hosts of Yahveh" -- Yahveh only knows where. According to verse 1, "These be the words which Moses spake [at this time] unto all Israel on this side of Jordan in the wilderness, in the plain over against the Red sea"; that is, west and south of Jordan, and yet a long way from the promised land. But in verses 3 and 5, it is averred that all the following words, chapter after chapter long, (the same as those referred to in verse 1 ) "Moses spake unto the children of Israel, on this side Jordan, in the land of Moab," which is to the east of the Dead Sea, very near their promised goal; so near, indeed, that Moses says (9: 1 ) in that same speech: "Hear, O Israel, Thou art to pass over Jordan this day, to go in to possess" the land. Moses guessed wrong, as it was not till some six months and more later, after his death, that the children of Israel crossed over, under Joshua. Nothing short of Infinite Wisdom can, it is believed, unravel all these inspired tangles of revelation. Wherever it was, there Moses delivered his famous harangue, reviewing first the forty years' wanderings, and falling into inextricable contradictions of statement. As to the identity of the "hosts of Yahveh" now assembled with those who came out of Egypt, the inspired record reads much like the maiden's game, plucking daisy petals and reciting, "He loves me, he loves me not, he loves me"- different with every sacred page we turn, and frequently different in several ways on the same page.

Moses begins (Deut. 1: 6 ) as if he were speaking to the identical host which left Egypt forty years before and encamped under Sinai: "Yahveh our God spake to us in Horeb"; "And I spake unto you at that time" (1: 9 ); "And I commanded you at that time all the things which ye should do" (1: 18 ); "And when we departed from Horeb" (1: 19 ) we did this and that, and ye suggested, and I sent spies to spy out the land; and "ye murmured in your tents" (1: 26 ) and "Yahveh heard the voice of your words, and was wroth, and swore, saying: Surely there shall not one of this evil generation see that good land" (1: 34 ); and "Moreover, your little ones, they shall go thither, and unto them will I give it" (1: 39 ); and so on through this and the next chapter; "we" and "ye" did this and that, until "the space in which we came from Kadesh-Barnea, until we were come over the Brook Zered, was thirty-eight years; until all the generation of men of war were wasted out from among the host, as Yahveh swore unto them" (2: 14 ). First, "ye" and "we" are the same host that left Egypt; then that host is all dead, and "ye" and "we" are a different host altogether: id est, the now-grown-up "little ones" of the original host and the after-born. Later (5: 2, 3 ) in the same harangue, it is positively stated that the host to whom Moses was then and there speaking was the identical host whom he had led out of Egypt, and who hadn't died off at all: "Yahveh our God made a covenant with us in Horeb [at Sinai, thirty-eight years before]. Yahveh made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day"! Either these are bald contradictions, or there was an unrecorded resurrection of all the dead whose "carcasses fell in the wilderness" to hear this swan-song of Moses, and his review of their manifold sins and shortcomings.

Again (8: 2, 4 ) in the same harangue the inspired historian contradicts his former story of the death of the original hosts during the forty years, and explicitly admits that they are alive:

"And thou shalt remember all the way which Yahveh thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness. ... Thy raiment waxed not old upon thee, neither did thy foot swell, these forty years." The original host must have survived, for the clothes and shoes of the original children, which were miraculously preserved and enlarged with the growth of the wearers, would hardly have comfortably fitted, as hand-me-downs, the bodies and feet of the deceased original wearers' children. Again (Deut. 11: 2, 3, 5, 7, 10 ) the assertion of identity is made in unequivocal terms: "And know ye this day: for I speak not with your children which have not known, and which have not seen the chastisement of Yahveh your God, ... And his miracles, and his acts, which he did in the midst of Egypt unto Pharaoh; ... And what he did unto you in the wilderness, until ye came into this place; ... But your eyes have seen all the great acts of Yahveh which he did. ... For the land, whither thou goest in to possess it, is not as the land of Egypt, from whence ye came out." So inspiration has here got its stories mixed again; Yahveh evidently kept not his oath about destroying all his children and scattering their carcasses in the wilderness; the record of the second census cannot be true when it recites: "Among these there was not a man of them whom Moses and Aaron the priest numbered, when they numbered the children of Israel in the wilderness of Sinai. For Yahveh had said of them, They shall surely die in the wilderness. And there was not left a man of them, save Caleb ... and Joshua" (Num. 26: 64, 65 ). A more remarkable "confusion of tongues" is hard to find in all the inspired history, since Babel.

THE TABERNACLE AND ITS ACTIVITIES

Yahveh and Moses spent a good part of forty days on Sinai, again without eating or drinking (Ex. 34: 28 ), engaged in framing plans and specifications for the tabernacle or sanctuary, in which were kept the holy altar and the wonder-working ark, and in devising the whole system of priests and priestly services. The tabernacle, as described in Exodus 26: was a portable tent about 18 feet broad by 54 feet in length, with a door in one end. It and the ark, with their furnishings, must have been marvels of luxurious beauty (or the product of remarkable imagination) -- with gold, and silver, and brass, and blue and purple and scarlet fine linen cloths, and precious stones galore. One may wonder where all this finery-the property of slaves-came from, in the wilderness, unless it was a part of the spoils "borrowed" from the Egyptians; but we are told that the children of Israel hurried off with nothing except their bundles of clothes and kneading-troughs and a little dough (Ex. 12: 34 ).

The tabernacle was to stand in the center of a court, or yard, about 180 feet long by 90 feet broad (100 X 50 cubits; Ex. 27: 11, 12 ), surrounded by silver-fellated pillars about 71/2 feet high. It was known as the tabernacle of the congregation, and was the central point of the camp. The area of the court-yard was 1800 square yards, and that of the tabernacle 108 square yards. Deducting the area of the tabernacle from that of the court-yard leaves a free space within the court-yard of 1692 square yards. Why all these details? All Scripture is important, and several wondrous tales hang thereby.

In Leviticus 8: 3-5, as in many similar passages, Yahveh said unto Moses: "Gather thou all the congregation together unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And Moses did as Yahveh commanded him; and the assembly was gathered together unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation." This congregation, or assembly, as appears in scores of places, was the whole people, the entire "hosts of Yahveh," more than 2,414,200 strong, as is also proved by the verses to be cited below. It is needless to calculate; the millions of the Chosen, packed their tightest, would have extended for miles around the tabernacle, even if the hundreds of thousands of surrounding tents would not prevent such a massing. It cannot be perceived, as the inspired Word relates, how "the assembly was gathered unto the door of the tabernacle."

Here as often elsewhere, it is said: "And Moses said unto the congregation"; in Deut. 1: 1, it is more explicitly stated: "These be the words which Moses spake unto all Israel"; and in 5: 1: "And Moses called all Israel and said unto them"; and, most explicitly, in Joshua 8: 35: "There was not a word of all that Moses commanded, which Joshua read not before all the congregation of Israel, with the women, and the little ones, and the strangers that were conversant among them." A wayfaring man, though a fool, need not be told that Moses could not speak nor Joshua read so that the hundred-thousandth part of "all Israel" could hear them, or get anywhere near the door of the tabernacle: unless, indeed, the truth is that the total horde of fugitive slaves, if it ever existed at all, was no more than the three to five thousand to which nature would have increased the original seventy in four generations.

SACRIFICES

The Book of Leviticus is almost wholly a code of most elaborate and burdensome regulations of priestcraft and bloody sacrifices. One grows dizzy and nauseated in simply scanning the sanguinary catalogue of burnt-offerings, meat-offerings, peace-offerings, sin-offerings, trespass-offerings, of superstitious and blood-reeking butchery, which fills these pages. Nearly every act of life and of death involved some propitiatory sacrifice, thousands of them every day, on the part of these more than two millions of poor victims of their Yahveh. Whole regiments of priests would seem to be required for these holy services. How many priests does divine revelation afford us for these millions? Three!

"Thou shalt appoint Aaron and his sons, and they shall wait on their priest's office: and the stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death" (Num. 3: 10 ); a murderous priestly monopoly in the Moses family, limited to Brother Aaron and his sons in perpetuity, under penalty of death.

Skipping all the other multitudinous kinds of sacrifices which kept this holy trinity busy (if they ever got time to make them at all), let us take one species, upon which we can calculate with some probability from our inspired data. If Yahveh kept his awful word of wrath and killed off the entire original millions who set out with Moses from Egypt, with the exception of the "little ones, your children, which in that day had no knowledge between good and evil," (Deut. 1: 39 ), and if the balance of the millions who reached the promised land were born during the forty years in the wilderness, then, as we have seen, these births must have averaged some 1700 for every day of the forty years.

Now, according to the Holy Law of God, child-bearing was the worst of defilements: the mother was "unclean" for forty or eighty days according as her child was a boy or a girl; for forty or eighty days she must undergo a humiliating "purification"; she must "touch no hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying be fulfilled"! Then, at the end of that God-imposed penance, "she shall bring a lamb of the first year for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering, unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, unto the priest, Who shall offer it before Yahveh, and make an atonement for her; and she shall be cleansed from the issue of her blood" (Lev. 12: 6, 7 ). A sin-atonement and purification for obedience to Yahveh's very first command: "Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth"! But it was good "graft" for the priests who ordained it.

These lambs and turtle-doves must be slain, cleaned, washed, burnt, the blood smeared on the bloody holy altar, and the offal and feathers "carried without the camp" (Lev. 1: 10-17 ), twelve miles there and back. If Aaron and his two sons worked like Trojans every second of their time, day and night, without stopping to eat or sleep, and took only five minutes for each of these elaborate bloody ceremonies, three going on unceremoniously at the same time, they could perform only 36 sacrifices in an hour, or 864 in all the twenty-four hours of the day; for 1700 births 3400 sacrifices would be required, 1700 burnt-offerings and 1700 sin-offerings a day. And where these 1700 spring lambs and 1700 pigeons or turtle-doves per day, and the water to wash them, came from is also a divine mystery -- with the children always crying and rebelling for meat to eat and wailing for water to drink. The Israelites did not carry bird- cages containing turtle-doves in their hasty flight from Egypt, and no miracle of grace, blowing pigeons into camp like the quails, is recorded in sacred Scripture. We needn't go into the details; the poor priests must have worked so fast and furiously killing, skinning, cleaning, cutting up, and sprinkling blood that the motions of their hands and arms, like the spokes of a mighty fly- wheel, could not be followed with the naked eye; only the eye of faith can follow such a performance. They far exceeded the record of Samantha skinning eels-one eel in the air all the time. And all this butcher-work must be performed "in the court of the tabernacle," and "at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation," in the very center of the great camp. The court of the tabernacle would accommodate few scores of people, and probably fewer lambs being led bleating to the slaughter.

But, the divine law of compensation was strikingly exemplified here: the laborer was indeed worthy of his hire. These three poor over-worked bloody drudges of priests were bounteously rewarded, in the matter of eating, if they ever really found time to eat. Out of many bounteous provisions of Yahveh's law for his monopolist priests, one (Num. 18: 9-11 ) may be cited to show the munificence of Yahveh to his holy servants: "This shall be thine of the most holy things, reserved from the fire: every oblation of theirs, every meat-offering, [etc., etc.,] which they shall render unto me, shall be most holy for thee and for thy sons. In the most holy place shalt thou eat it; every male shall eat it." All this and much more "I have given [unto Aaron and his sons], by a statute forever," Yahveh decrees. Aaron at first had four sons, but two of them, Nadab and Abihu, were early slain by Yahveh because they put "strange fire." into their censers (Lev. 10: 1, 2 ); this left but Aaron and two sons and their families to enjoy the daily offerings of the 2,414,200. And as Yahveh had commanded, he must be obeyed: these countless thousands of offerings daily must be eaten, by the three and their families, and "in the most holy place of the sanctuary."

Moses must have suspected that they were violating this divine edict and not eating all they ought to eat: the remains of a goat sin-offering were missing from the sanctuary larder, with no signs that Aaron's sons had done their duty by it. So "Moses diligently sought the goat of the sin-offering, and, behold, it was burnt: and he was angry with Eleazar and Ithamar, the sons of Aaron which were left alive, saying, Wherefore have ye not eaten the sin-offering? ... ye should indeed have eaten it in the holy place, as I commanded" (Lev. 10: 16-18 ). And all this time, with the priests in danger of dyspeptic over-gorging, the millions of Chosen were rioting for "meat to eat" and sighing for the flesh pots of Egypt, while they were being rationed for forty years on the oily manna, "which our soul loatheth." Such is the providence of Yahveh, or the abundant perquisites of priestcraft-or, more likely, the exuberance of inspiration.

MORE OF THE PRIESTS AND LEVITES

A like munificence towards his holy priests is shown by the allotment to them a little later (Josh. 21: 19 ) of "thirteen cities, with their suburbs," when there were but two sons of Aaron, who was now himself dead, and only one of them, Phineas, had a son. The priests were thus as bountifully supplied with residences as with victuals. The Levites, too, received their full share of the bounties of Yahveh. They were the Chosen of the Chosen, as a reward for their holy zeal at Sinai, when Moses was angered about the golden calf: he "stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on Yahveh's side? Let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him"; and at his command they proceeded to "consecrate themselves to Yahveh" by slaying "every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbor," and massacring 3000 [The Vulgate says 23,000.] of Yahveh's naked children (Ex. 32: 26-28 ). Now, if there were 8580 Levites (Num. 4: 48 ), every man of them evidently did not "consecrate himself" in murdering one of only 3000, if there were only 44, the 3000 assassinated would seem to have deserved their fate for submitting to it. It may be noted that Aaron, who made the golden calf, was not among the massacred, nor was he ever punished; the Levites, who did the bloody work, were of his own family.

For this pious service, the Levites were not numbered among the common tribes, but separately; they were then appointed "over the tabernacle of testimony, and over all the vessels thereof, and over all things that belong to it: they shall bear the tabernacle, and all the vessels thereof; and they shall minister unto it, and the stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death" (Num. 1: 47-51 ). At the first census, as we have seen, these Levites, "from thirty years old and upward even unto fifty years old, every one that came to do the service of the ministry ... in the tabernacle of the congregation, even those that were numbered of them" were 8580 -- a whole army brigade to do the kitchen-police work and tend the pots and kettles of this little 18-by-54,-foot tent in the wilderness, and to lug it and its holy ark from place to place, while only three priests were provided to do all the heavy work of the service. And the Levites were made perpetual pensioners on the bounty of all Israel, and were assigned forty-eight cities and their suburbs for their residence (Num. 35: 7 ). How, scattered in forty-eight cities, these 44 or 8580, or 22,000 "sons of Levi" in the fourth generation could be "pitched about the tabernacle," as they were commanded by Yahveh (Num. 1: 53 ), so as to be handy with their daily chores of blood-washing and kettle-scraping, we can only wonder. We may reflect with interest on the providence of Moses in getting Yahveh to settle these rich perquisites in perpetuity and exclusive monopoly upon his own kith and kin: for the priests were his sons and the Levites were his nephews. Here is an inspired precedent for the nepotism of modern politics.

SOME JAHVISTIC MURDERINGS

All the miseries, and rebellions, and abominations of the Chosen People of Yahveh during these forty years in the wilderness, or all the murderings inflicted upon them by their merciful Yahveh, cannot be recounted for number and contradictoriness. Yahveh himself denounced his Chosen as a "stiff-necked and rebellious people"; and on the theory, perhaps, that "whom Yahveh loveth he chasteneth," be made their lives a miserable failure; time and again they wept and wailed and wanted to die. Yahveh liberally answered this prayer; and several special providences to the people of Yahveh assisted in this work of death and destruction.

Two sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, just consecrated priests, and possibly not yet skilled in their new functions, put the wrong kind of fire into their sacred incense-burners, and there came forth ire from Yahveh and devoured them. The compassionate God commanded their bereaved father not to mourn for his murdered sons, "lest ye die, and lest wrath come upon all the people" (Lev. 10:

1-6 ). The son of a widow swore, and Yahveh ordered the congregation to stone him to death (Lev. 24: 11-14 ); and then, wholly ex post facto, for the first time decreed a law against the offense (24: 15, 16 ). The people murmured, saying: "Who shall give us flesh to eat?"; and when Yahveh heard of it, "his anger was kindled, and the fire of Yahveh burnt among them throughout the camp" (Num. 11: 1 ); and later, for a like offense, he smote his people with a very great plague. How many were massacred by the fire and the plague Yahveh, who committed it, only knows. A man gathered sticks on the tabooed sabbath; Yahveh was speedily consulted as to his fate, and he commanded all the people to stone the culprit to death.

Again, Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, and 250 "princes of the assembly" in this "kingdom of priests and an holy nation" wished to act as priests against the monopoly of Aaron and Sons, saying to Moses and Aaron: "Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy." Moses retorted that Yahveh would show them "who is holy." So the "jealous God" caused them all to stand aside "in the door of their tents, and their wives, and their sons, and their little children"; and at his potent word, "the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses [but they were only tents], and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. They ... went down alive into Sheol, and the earth closed upon them; and they perished from among the congregation. ... And there came out a fire from Yahveh, and consumed the two hundred and fifty men that offered incense" (Num. 16: 32-35 ). This is a truly signal vindication of the God of all mercy who "visiteth the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and the fourth generation." But our faith is somewhat affected by the flat contradiction, a few chapters later, where the inspired history is repeated, "notwithstanding, the children of Korah died not" (Num. 26: 11 ). The next day, because "the people murmured" about this massacre, saying: "'Ye have killed the people of Yahveh," the good God said: "Consume them as in a moment," and he sent a plague and murdered 14,700 of them (Num. 16: 49 ). Because Moses smote the rock instead of simply speaking to it, he was prohibited from entering the promised land, despite Yahveh's oft-repeated promises. The Chosen People tired of their steady diet of manna, and said: "Our soul loatheth this light bread"; so "Yahveh sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, and much people of Israel died" (Num. 21: 6 ) -- the statistics of this massacre not being preserved.

Just before entering the land of promise, some of the Chosen took to loving some of the daughters of Moab, "and the anger of Yahveh was kindled against Israel, and Yahveh said unto Moses, Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up before Yahveh against the sun, that the fierce anger of Yahveh may be turned away from Israel" (Num. 25: 4-7 ); and 24,000 of Yahveh's children were murdered and their heads strung up, to appease the angry God.

THE RAPE OF MIDIAN

The most revolting villainy in history, sacred or profane, if it were not attributed to so merciful a God, and one of the biggest fables extant, but for being related in the Holy Word of Yahveh, which is alleged to be unexceptionably true, is recorded in Numbers 31, when Yahveh's valiant warriors warred with Midian, the land, be it remembered, of one of Moses' wives, and of Jethro, his father-in-law, where Moses had lived many years as a fugitive murderer. Midian, as shown on Bible maps, was far away beyond Sinai, in the Arabian desert; the hosts of Yahveh were at this very time, immediately before the death of Moses (31: 2 ), in "the camp at the plains of Moab, which are by Jordan near Jericho"- therefore several hundred miles from Midian, with all the great wilderness of their forty years' misery stretching between. Of a sudden Yahveh said to Moses: "Avenge the children of Israel of the Midianites" (31: 2 ), though only Yahveh knows what the Midianites had done to Israel or to Yahveh to merit the monstrous barbarities now inflicted upon them. Moses told off 12,000 of his warriors, 1000 for each tribe, and "sent them to the war" (31: 6 ).

These are the wonderful accomplishments of the 12,000, which quite pale the exploits of the celebrated 10,000 of Xenophon. They marched across the hundreds of miles of wilderness, "warred with Midian," slew all the male Midianites, slew the five kings of Midian (rather numerous royalty for a small desert tribe), and slew poor old Balaam, him of the talking ass (though be lived hundreds of miles away at Pethor in Mesopotamia); they took all the women of Midian captives, with all their little ones, and took all their cattle, and all their flocks, and all their goods; they burnt all their cities, and all their goodly castles, with fire (it is a question how many "cities" and how many "goodly castles" a tribe of Bedouins living in a corner of the desert would have); and they took all the spoil, and prey, both of men (but they had already slain "all the males"; 31: 7 ), and of beasts; and they brought the captives, and the cattle, and the spoils back hundreds of miles across the wilderness into the camp near Jericho, and delivered all to Moses. And, if anything could be more wonderful, all this was achieved without the loss of a single warrior.

These 12,000 wonderful soldiers of Yahveh took, according to the inspired account, about 100,000 human captives, women and children, over 675,000 sheep, more than 72,000 beeves, and over 61,000 asses (31: 32-34 ), 9, total of over 808,000 head of live animals, and brought them all across the deserts, "where there was no water," for some three hundred miles to the sacred camp. Yet with this addition of live-stock to their already great flocks and herds, "until they came unto the borders of the land of Canaan" (Ex. 16: 35 ), "we have nought save this manna" (Num. 11: 6 ).

When the meek and holy man of God saw the multitude of female captives alive, "Moses was wroth with the officers of the host," and in his holy wrath he demanded: "Have ye saved all the women alive?" (Num. 31: 14, 15 ). Then, in the name of his God, the Merciful, he gave this bloody order, which if given by an Apache war-chief crazed by Christian fire-water, would have damned him and his tribe and the "Great Spirit" of his tribe to execration forever: "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" (31: 17 )! So records the Holy Word of Yahveh, writ by "holy men of old as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." The Chosen of Yahveh, to the eternal glory of God, straightway put into pious execution this holy command, and butchered some 68,000 women and young children; then these "peculiar treasures unto Yahveh" took the remaining 32,000 young virgins to glut their hallowed lusts upon in God-ordained rape! Verily, as the Psalmist sings, "the commandment of Yahveh is pure, enlightening the eyes" (Ps. 19: 8 ). And Yahveh got his fair share of the accursed booty, human and animal alike (Num. 31: 36-42 ).

THE WONDERFUL LAST DAYS OF MOSES

Let us pause here a moment, while we recover as best we may from this inspiring revelation of Yahveh's Holy Word, and cast a rapid glance at the rush of divinely appointed events to their great consummation, the triumphal entry of Yahveh's Chosen-this "kingdom of priests and an holy nation"-into the promised land. Surely, after keeping his Chosen People for forty long years in miserable watchful waiting, Yahveh amazingly expedited events for the bungling finish.

On the "first day of the fifth month of the fortieth year" after the memorable exodus from Egypt, Aaron died in Mount Hor (Num. 20: 28; 33: 38 ); though Moses himself, in amazing contradiction, elsewhere records that Brother Aaron died in Mosera, just after leaving Sinai, thirty-nine years before (Deut. 10: 6 ). However this may be, Moses uttered his last harangue "in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month" (Deut. 1: 3 ), and died promptly thereafter, "on Nebo's lonely mountain, this side of Jordan's wave" (Deut. 3iv). Thus just six months to the day elapsed between the deaths of Aaron and Moses. Let us now see what a miracle or muddle of impossibilities happened, in Yahveh's inspired history, in these short and eventful six months.

MOURNING FOR AARON

1. Upon the death of Aaron, "all Israel mourned for Aaron thirty days" (Num. 20: 29 ). This leaves five months.

WAR WITH CANAAN

2. Then, Arad, King of the Canaanites, made a foray against Israel, and took some prisoners (Num. 21: 1 ). Israel made a vow to Yahveh that if he would deliver the Canaanites into their hand, "then I will utterly destroy their cities" (21: 2 ); Yahveh accepted the bloody bargain, and Israel warred against the Canaanites, "and utterly destroyed them and their cities" (21: 3 ). This, as we shall soon see, is not true; for all through their sacred history we find Israel at war with the Canaanites: in Judges 3: after the "conquest," it is expressly stated: "Now these are the nations which Yahveh left, to prove Israel by them [although he had repeatedly declared he would destroy them all]: ... namely, ... all the Canaanites; ... and the children of Israel dwelt among the Canaanites" (Judges 3: 1, 3, 5 ). But, for the sake of "Proving" the rapid march of the events of our inspired history of the last five months, we will assume the "Gospel truth" of the inspired record. This attack by Arad and the retaliatory war of utter extermination of the Canaanites and all their cities must have reasonably taken a month's time, by ordinary human military campaign standards. This leaves us four months.

TEN ENCAMPMENTS

3. Then the children of Israel "journeyed from Mount Hor by the way of the Red sea, to compass the land of Edom" (Num. 21: 4 ). It may be remarked that, according to Bible maps, the land of Edom lies just east of the Canaanites, and Mount Hor is about between the two countries; each is 150 miles or more from the Red Sea, across the trackless deserts to the west; so that to go from the territory of Canaan by way of the Red Sea to reach Edom, would be much like going from New York City to Albany to get to Brooklyn. On this journey the people "were much discouraged because of the way," and rioted because there was no water nor bread, and declared their loathing of the heavenly manna. Yahveh retaliated by sending fiery serpents, which murdered many thousands of them, until Moses made his famous brazen serpent, which allayed the plague (2; , 4-9 ). They then set forward, and made nine encampments, including that at the well of Beer (21: 16 ), which greatly rejoiced the thirsty children, and which they celebrated by a rather spiritless drinking-song. Ten encampments, allowing but three days for each and the intervening marches, would easily occupy another month. This leaves us three months.

WAR WITH AMORITES

4. From the last encampment, at Pisgah, in the land of Moab (Num. 21: 20 ), farther north of Edom and more distant from the Red Sea, the children sent messengers to Sihon, King of the Amorites, to negotiate passage through his lands, which was refused. The two peoples thereupon went to war; Israel smote the Amorites with the sword, took all their cities, and conquered their whole country; and "Israel dwelt in the land of the Amorites" (21: 21-31 ). One would reasonably allow a month for these diplomatic negotiations and the ensuing war of extermination, to allow nothing for the "dwelling" in the land. Thus two months remain.

WAR WITH JAAZER

5. Then Moses sent spies to Jaazer, fought against it, took all its villages, and drove the inhabitants out (21: 32 ). This conquering expedition may well have taken a couple of weeks. We have then a month and a half remaining.

WAR WITH BASHAN

6. Next the hosts of Yahveh "turned and went up by the way of Bashan," engaged in a war with the redoubtable giant King Og, "smote him, and all his sons, and all his people, until there was none left him alive: and they possessed his land" (21: 33-35 ).

This episode is recorded more in detail in Deuteronomy 3: 3-6:

"We took all his cities, ... three score cities. ... All these cities were fenced with high walls, gates, and bars; beside unwalled towns a great many. And we utterly destroyed them, ... utterly destroying the men, women, and children, of every city." As Og was a great giant who had a bed 16 1/2 feet long (preserved as proof in the Municipal Museum of Rabbath: Deut. 3: 11 ), we may suppose that he and his people, a considerable nation, occupying sixty walled cities, put up a sturdy fight; so that this war of extermination may not unreasonably have cost the hosts of Yahveh six weeks. This would complete the entire tale of six months between the death of Aaron and the great harangue just preceding the death of Moses; and the whole time would appear to have been pretty well filled with these divinely chronicled historical events, all crowded into one chapter (Num. 2i).

But we are surprised to find several more chapters of this History of Numbers filled with exploits recorded to have taken place after the conquest of Bashan and before the swan-song of Moses-events which must have occupied many weary months or years of any history but that of Yahveh.

THE EPISODE OF BALAAM

1. In the very next chapter, Numbers 22: the hosts "Set forward, and pitched in the plains of Moab on this side of Jordan by Jericho" (Num. 22: 1 ). We may observe that the writer, here as so often elsewhere, was hazy about his geography; for, according to all the Bible maps, Moab lay along the lower half of the Dead Sea, east of the sea, and to the south of the brook Arnon, the northern boundary of Moab; "for Arnon is the border of Moab, between Moab and the Amorites" (Num. 21: 13 ), and thus about midway the length of the Dead Sea. Jericho is some distance north and west of the northern end of the Dead Sea, opposite the land of the Ammonites, north of Arnon, and not on the border between Moab and the Amorites, who were far to the south and west, near the wilderness of Paran. We are told that Balak, King of Moab, being greatly frightened at the approach of the devastating hordes of Yahveh, bethought him of the expedient of securing the services of the celebrated prophet of Baal, Balaam, to "come curse Israel," which, to tell the truth, Israel seems to have richly deserved. The story involves several tangled considerations of high improbability.

Balaam may have been a Midianite. The Midianites, as we have seen, inhabited the extreme southeast of the Arabian peninsula, some three hundred miles across trackless deserts from Moab. By some odd chance, "elders of Midian" were visiting "elders of Moab" (possibly a pagan church conference of Baalites). King Balak sent these two companies of elders "with the rewards of divination in their hands" to solicit the religious services of Balaam, a prophet of Baal, to "come, curse me this people" (Num. 22: 6, 7 ). And the elders came unto Balaam, "to Pethor, which is by the river of the land of the children of his people" (22: 5 ); hence, one would suppose from these texts, at his home town in Midian, though no river is known in the deserts of Midian, for there is "the waste howling wilderness, where no water is." But the inspired geographer tells us, to our further surprise, in a reference to this incident, that Balaam was "of Pethor of Mesopotamia" (Deut. 23: 4 ), some hundreds of miles eastward, beyond the River Euphrates. In whatever direction, Balaam's home was several hundred miles from Moab by the Dead Sea. At the very least, it must have taken the messengers some ten (or forty) days to make the trip, on their slow asses, across the deserts.

When they arrived and delivered their message, "God [Elohim, gods] came unto Balaam" (Num. 22: 9 ), and had a dream-talk with him, and asked: "What men are these with thee?"-as if an all-knowing God ought not to know without asking; and God commanded Balaam not to go (22: 12 ). So Balaam "rose up in the morning" (showing it was all a dream), and refused to accompany the ambassadors, now "princes of Balak" (22: 13 ), whereas they were plain pagan "elders" (22: 7 ) when they set out. The embassy returned to Moab, maybe another ten-day journey, and reported the refusal (22: 14 ). But Balak was in sore straits, and sent another embassy of princes, "more, and more honorable" than the first; and they made the ten-day trip again to Balaam, and repeated the invitation and offer of reward. But Balaam, prophet of Baal, loyally replied: "I cannot go beyond the word of Yahveh my God" (22: 18 ); the "Yahveh Elohim" of Balaam being none other than the Midianitish god Baal, the rival and abomination of Yahveh, or El, the Hebrew Deity, although the inspired historian makes no distinction between them. Again "God [Elohim] came unto Balaam at night," and told him in a dream: "If the men [who were spending the night in town before returning] come to call thee, rise up, and go with them" (22: 20 ). So Balaam, taking God at his word, "rose up in the morning, and saddled his ass, and went with the princes of Moab" (22: 21 ); "and Elohim's anger was kindled because he went" (22: 22 ) -- a strange caprice for a just God "in whom there is neither variableness nor shadow of turning." This makes the fourth ten- (or forty-) day trip back and forth, forty days for travel alone, at the minimum reckoning. And when Balaam arrived at last, the long, tedious, and fruitless proceedings of blessing and cursing-both equally ineffective-must have taken up several days additional (Num. 22-24 ). At least a month or six weeks must have been consumed by this Balaam episode, for which we have no available room in the period under consideration. The whole period of action was only five months, for the first month was spent idly mourning for Aaron (Num. 20: 29 ), -- who is twice spoken of as dying thirty-nine years before.

SPORTING WITH MOAB

2. After this failure of strategy, King Balak and Balaam went their respective ways; the hosts of Yahveh entered Moab, "and Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab" (Num. 25: 1 ). To "abide" in a place would seem to indicate a considerable permanence of residence. This indication is strengthened by the fact recorded of the amatory relations of the Chosen with the "daughters of Moab," as it must have taken some time for these strangers to become acquainted and to get into the good graces of the fair daughters of the land, as well as to adopt the worship of the land and become "joined to Baal-peor," so as to "kindle the wrath of Yahveh" (25: 3 ), who was notoriously "slow to anger." Yahveh ordered a great massacre of his children, saying to Moses: "Slay ye every one his men that were joined unto Baal-peor" (25: 5 ), and "Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up before Yahveh against the sun"; and 24,000 of the Chosen were massacred, not, it seems, by cutting off their heads, but by a plague which Yahveh sent (25: 9 ). Here we have an indefinitely long time saddled upon the already overcrowded six months between the deaths of Aaron and Moses.

CENSUS TAKING

3.Then "it came to pass after the plague"-how long after is not revealed-that Yahveh commanded Moses (Num. 26: 2 ) to take a second census of the hosts of Yahveh, "all that are able to go to war in Israel, from twenty years old and upward." As the time required to take the census of 601,730 soldiers is not stated, we will not count it in this score.

EXPEDITION TO MIDIAN

4. After several chapters of new laws said to have been handed down by Yahveh through Moses, we have the inspired history (Num. 3i) of the fearful expedition, already described, of the twelve thousand against Midian, three hundred miles away across the wilderness, and the utter destruction of the Midianites, including the luckless Balaam, who was now evidently in Midian instead of at Pethor of Mesopotamia. Surely such a great military achievement as this, including a march of six hundred miles through scorching deserts, a return trip with thousands of women and children and nearly a million cattle, and the destruction of a whole nation, must have taken a month or six weeks at a minimum allowance,

"MOPPING UP"

5. After all this, time was found for the very elaborate parcelling out and settling of the whole East Palestine country-

"the kingdom of Sihon king of the Amorites, and the kingdom of Og king of Bashan, the land, with the cities thereof in the coasts, even the cities of the country roundabout," all to the east of the river Jordan-upon the tribes of Reuben and of Gad, and the half- tribe of Manasseh, who did not want to go west over the river (Num. 32: 16-42 ). Moses stipulated with them for their military aid in the further conquest, and gave them the land; and they "built" (probably rebuilt, as all the cities of these two kingdoms are said to have been "utterly destroyed") fifteen "fenced cities," named in the text (32: 34-38 ), and a number of "sheep-folds" for their "very great multitude of cattle." Moreover, what is more remarkable (for every city had been utterly destroyed when they captured the kingdoms), they made military campaigns against Gilead, "and took it, and dispossessed the Amorite which was in it" (32: 39 ) -- though every inhabitant had already been massacred; and they captured a number of villages and small towns, and settled their families in all these places throughout the eastern borders of the Jordan before making ready, as they had agreed with Moses, to "go armed before the children of Israel" to help conquer the promised land west of Jordan (32: 32 ). Such operations of allotment, city-building, family-settling, and further conquest must have consumed considerable time, a month, six months, a year-how can one tell, when "the ways of Yahveh are past finding out?" and we have no revelation on the point, except that it was all within the six months already replete with notable events. There was a long delay in order to "build cities," and not only cities, but walled, armed cities, although sixty of them had just been captured (Deut. 3: 3-5 ); and such defended cities were necessary for defense against the inhabitants of the land of Og, King of Baslian-of whom "none was left him alive" (Num. 21: 35 ); for the warriors of the tribes who were going to settle in these eastern districts asked time, before crossing Jordan to the conquest, to build walled cities to leave their families in, so that "our little ones shall dwell in the fenced cities because of the inhabitants of the land" (Num. 32: 17 ).

The closing cantos of Numbers are largely devoted to detailed plans for the allotment and settlement of the territories east of Jordan, among the remaining warrior tribes and the kitchen-police Levites-when the hosts of Yahveh, captained by Joshua and, convoyed by an angel and the hornets, should have triumphantly possessed the land which Yahveh had so often promised to go before and prepare for them. Just how all these divine promises and covenants were performed. we shall soon see. First we pause to consider briefly but wonderingly the Puzzling problem of the giving of the law at Sinai, in the first year of the exodus.

 

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