MIRACLE AND MATHEMATICS
Let us figure a bit on this astonishing fall of quails, and see how far figures, which do not lie, may be an aid, or a handicap, to faith. The quails were stacked up "two cubits high" for a distance of "a day's journey round the camp." A Bible cubit is 22 inches; two cubits are therefore 44 inches. A biblical "day's journey," according to the Jewish Encyclopedia, is 44,815 meters (1 meter is 39.37 inches, or 1.1 yards), which equals 49,010 yards, 27.8 miles. Now, the camp of Israel (laid out as indicated in Numbers ii, and glowingly described by Balaam in Numbers xxiv) was, according to accepted calculations, twelve miles square. It would be crowded, with about 16,800 persons to the square mile; the densest population in the worst slums of any modern city is only some 25,000 to the square mile, in many-storied tenement houses. And this doesn't allow a square foot for the millions of cattle.
Around this camp, twelve miles square, on all its four sides, lay heaped these miraculous quails, piled 44 inches high. Assuming, for the sake of a minimum of miracle, and therefore of strain on faith, that this stack of quails began close to the four sides of the camp and extended for 27.8 miles in every direction, we have a solid square of quails measuring from one outer edge to another 67.6 miles, deducting of course the twelve-mile square occupied by the camp in the center. The solid mass therefore covered 4569.76 square miles, from which deducting the 144 square miles of the central camp leaves us 4425.76 square miles of quails piled 44 inches high. This stack of quails thus covered an area by 500 square miles larger than the whole states of Delaware and Rhode Island, plus the city of Greater New York! Such is the bounty of Yahveh, or such the boundlessness of inspiration. As to the space occupied, one quail, packed tight by the weight of the mass, might be compressed into about 3 inches of space each way, which would amount to 27 cubic inches of space per quail, or 64 quails to the cubic foot of space throughout the mass. Now, a surface of 4425.76 square miles, heaped 44 inches high with objects each occupying 27 cubic inches would make a considerable mass, which we must reduce to terms.
One linear mile contains 5280 feet; one square mile therefore contains 27,878,400 square feet. The whole area of 4425.76 square miles would equal 123,383,107,584 square feet. Each square foot being covered 44 inches, or 3.66 feet, high with quails, each quail occupying 27 cubic inches of space, with 64 quails to the cubic foot, the total would be 452,404,727,808 cubic feet of quails. A bit of ready reckoning, on this conservative basis, gives us just 28,953,902,579,712 quails in this divine prodigy of a pot-hunt! Every soul of the 2,414,200 of the "hosts of Yahveh" therefore had the liberal allowance of 11,993,167 quails. We can well believe, if the Children of Israel had to eat so many quails, even in "a whole month," that, as Yahveh promised or threatened, they would "come out at your nostrils and be loathsome to-you!"
It was a prodigious task to harvest all those quails; indeed, inspiration tells us, "the people stood up all that day, and all that night, and all the next day, and they gathered the quails: ... and they spread them all abroad for themselves round about the camp" (Num. xi, 32). This must mean all around within the camp; for the quails were already spread abroad for 67.6 miles "round about the camp" outside. Indeed, as these wonderful quails stretched for nearly 28 miles, a whole day's journey, on every hand around the camp, an ordinary uninspired mind cannot grasp the process by which the millions of Chosen ever accomplished the incessant going back and forth, out and in, the hundreds of thousands of times necessary to harvest their marvelous crop of quails. And how quails covering compactly an area of 4425 square miles could be "spread abroad," when gathered in, in the 144 square miles of the camp, already crowded with tents and people, or where they ever put the feathers and "cleanings," is another holy wonder -- if the whole affair were not simply a matter of simple faith. And it is curious where the 2,414,200 Israelites stood to be able to get at the quail-picking; and how each person could gather up 11,993,167 quails in 36 hours, which would require them to gather up, each one, 335,366 quails per hour, or 5589 quails ever minute, or nearly 94 quails per second of uninterrupted time, leaving them no time to carry the quails the average 28-miles into camp to spread them abroad, and no time to eat, or sleep, or sacrifice, or die, which over 1700 a day did, or to bury their dead, or to be born, as the comparison of the two censuses shows 1700 a day were, or for any other of the daily necessities of camp-life.
Devoutly conjuring away all these trifling speculations, let us behold the climax of tragedy which capped this miracle of divine bounty. Yahveh had promised his flesh-famishing Children flesh to eat for "even a whole month," until they should be so gorged with eating quail that it should come out loathsomely at their nostrils; and Yahveh's divine word would seem to be inviolable. But when each of the children of Israel had gathered up his ration of twelve million quails, and started with great joy and hunger, as we may imagine, after thirty-six hours' hungry wait, to eat them, lo! "while the flesh was yet between their teeth, ere it was chewed, the wrath of Yahveh was kindled against the people, and Yahveh smote the people with a very great plague" (Num. xi, 33), and untold numbers of the Israelites were slain by their bounteous loving heavenly Father! And this simply because they "lusted" for something to eat besides that loathed, oily-honey manna. Whether the miraculous quails were divinely instilled with miraculous venom and gave Yahveh's Chosen wholesale ptomaine poisoning, or whether it was simply another case of Jahvistic slaying, so abundant in his sacred record, the divine revelation leaves us unadvised. In either event, Yahveh seems to have violated his sacred word, or at best "kept the word of promise to the ear, but broke it to the hope," as his children did not get their promised "flesh to eat for even a whole month," nor at all.
THE MOSES FAMILY
When Moses started on his divine mission extraordinary to the Pharaoh of Egypt, and of course before the exodus, he took along "his wife and sons" (Ex. iv, 20), whose names are not there given. A very few months later, when Moses had led the children of Israel into camp at Rephidim, his father-in-law (Jethro or however named), who lived somewhere near Rephidim, "took Zipporah and her two sons" and went to pay a visit to Moses at the camp. The two sons are now named, according to the Hebrew, American Indian, and other savage usage of naming children in commemoration of some notable event: "the name of the one was Gershom; for, he said, I have been an alien in a strange land: and the name of the other was Eliezer; for the God of my father, said he, was mine help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh" (Ex. xviii, 3, 4). The name of the first son thus commemorated the sojourn of Moses in the land of Midian, whither he fled after he murdered the Egyptian, and where he married Zipporah, daughter of Jethro, heathen priest of Midian. The name of the second son commemorated the exodus from Egypt and deliverance "from the sword of Pharaoh." But as the exodus had taken place only a couple of months before, it is curious how this son of Moses, born we know not how long before Moses left Midian "to go unto Pharaoh," could have a name commemorative of an event which had just, in the providence of Yahveh, come to pass.
WHO PROPOSED THE JUDGES OF ISRAEL?
Another incident of inspired narrative is also connected with this visit of Jethro, as related in Exodus xviii. Moses was very much over-worked with the strenuous task of trying to run the whole encampment alone and to hold in the "stiff-necked and rebellious people," and he "sat to judge the people from the morning unto the evening"; for Moses said: "I judge between one and the other, and I do make them know the statutes of Yahveh and his laws." But this was at Rephidim, before the "hosts of Yahveh" came to Sinai, where the "statutes and laws of Yahveh" are said to have originated; so Moses is mistaken in talking about making known such statutes and laws even before he knew them himself, which, as we shall see, he never did. Moreover he admits that he was very unsuccessful in his teaching, for forty years later he complains to his followers: "Yet in this thing ye did not believe Yahveh your God" (Deut. i, 32).
However, his good pagan father-in-law felt sorry for Moses, and said to him: "The thing that thou doest is not good. Thou wilt surely wear away. ... for this thing is too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone." And Jethro further said: "Hearken now unto my voice, I will give thee counsel"; and this was his advice to Moses: "Provide out of all the people able men. ... and place such over them, to be rulers" over different sections, "and let them judge the people at all seasons. ... So Moses hearkened to the voice of his father-in-law, and did all that he had said. And Moses chose able men, ... and they judged the people" (Ex. xviii, 17-26). Certainly Jethro is entitled to the credit for this plan, which he originated. We might therefore be surprised, if all sense of surprise had not been paralyzed in this search of the Scripture, to find Moses in his harangue to the people by Jordan (Deut. i, 9-19) bragging about the institution of judges as a device all his own and begun at Horeb, at a later date. Moses there says: "I spake unto you at that time, saying, I am not able to bear you myself alone. How can I myself alone bear your cumbrance, and your burden, and your strife? Take you wise men, and I will make them rulers over you. And ye answered me, and said, The thing which thou hast spoken is good for us to do. So I took the chiefs of your tribes, wise men, and known, and made them heads over you." Both of these inspired stories cannot be accurate, whatever one may think as to the historicity of either.
THE TENTS OF ISRAEL
In Egypt the Chosen, though slaves, lived in houses: they escaped the passover massacre by smearing blood on the "door posts of their houses"; the Egyptians, being highly civilized, with great cities, lived also in houses, not in tents. Yet we find the 2,414,200 Chosen, from Succoth on through the forty years' journey, encamped in tents; scores of times these tents are mentioned in the sacred texts. We will inspect these tents with the eyes of faith.
The encampment of spreading tents must have presented a beautiful and impressive spectacle, for, when he saw it, "Balaam lifted up his eyes, and he saw Israel abiding in his tents according to their tribes; and the spirit of Elohim [Gods; Balaam was a pagan] came upon him. And he took up his parable," and said: "How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy tabernacles, O Israel! As the valleys are they spread forth, as gardens by the river's side, as the trees of lign aloes, ... and as cedar trees beside the waters" (Num. xxiv, 2-6). But this glowing record of the encampment of tents flatly contradicts another inspired text, which is the foundation of one of the great sacred festivals of the Chosen even to this day, the Feast of Tabernacles, a little later instituted (Lev. xxiii, 40-43) by Yahveh himself. Here Moses commands the Chosen to take, every year at harvest time, "boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brooks," wherewith to construct "booths"; and, says Yahveh, "ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites shall dwell in booths: That your generations may know that I made the Children of Israel to dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am Yahveh your God." The waste howling wilderness "where no water is," could not, of course, afford trees such as these "goodly" ones, nor any trees at all, and certainly not trees enough to build "booths" for forty years for 2,414,200 Chosen People. However this may be, they never observed the dwelling in booths till after the "discovery" of the Book of the Law, and the return from the captivity -- "since the days of Joshua unto that day had not the children of Israel done so" (Neh. viii, 17). This is an indication that the law of Moses had never existed through all those ages.
If the Israelites were in the wilderness at all, and lived in anything, it was in tents. So for a moment we will consider these tents, and the holy camp, and several curious features connected with their encampments. Where did the Chosen get their tents, and how did they manage to lug them along on their flight out of Egypt? The inspired history tells us that they fled in such haste that they carried only unleavened dough and their kneading troughs bound up in their clothes on their shoulders, without even any victuals (Ex. xii, 39); there is not a word about heavy and cumbersome tents. Tents are heavy, with canvas or hair-cloth, ropes, poles, and pegs; in the U.S. Army a little "dog-tent" merely to shelter two soldiers lying down, is divided between its two occupants as luggage. But these tents of the Israelites must have been big family affairs, for men, women, and children to live in with decency and some degree of comfort, and they must have been very heavy. How did the Israelites carry them? But first, how did they get them? As they lived in houses in Egypt, it would be remarkable if each family, awaiting marching orders for the promised land, which until a single day previously they had no premonition of, should have had a tent in the garret.
And how many tents must they have had? To crowd indecently ten persons, male and female, old and young, sick and dying, into each tent would have required at least 241,420 large and heavy tents, to be lugged in their first flight, and for forty years wandering in the wilderness. We are nowhere told that the children of Israel had horses, or knew how to ride; it seems that 750 years later the Chosen could not ride horses even if they had had them, for Rab-shakeh offered them, on behalf of the King of Assyria, "two thousand horses, if thou be able on thy part to set riders upon them" (2 Kings xix, 23). And while it is said (Deut. xxix, 5) that in the whole forty years "your clothes are not waxen old upon you, and thy shoe is not waxen old upon thy foot," yet we are not told that tents were thus providentially preserved. How the clothes and shoes of the little children who started on the forty-year tramp sufficed for them as they grew larger, unless the clothes and shoes expanded along with their skins from year to year, has become an old joke. No such Providence is recorded as to the Tents of Israel.
1 of 4 parts:THE WONDERS OF THE EXODUS
2 of 4 parts:THE MARCHING ORDERS
3 of 4 parts:MIRACLE AND MATHEMATICS
4 of 4 parts:THE GREAT ENCAMPMENTS
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Revealing the Spiritual duality of the Bible, for it serves neither God nor truth to try and rationalize irrational things the Bible has said of God.