Study Guide

Book of Numbers Allusions

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Literary and Philosophical References

Paradiso by Dante Alighieri
Dante gets a peek at Joshua, whose reward in the afterlife comes in the form of hanging out in the fifth sphere of Heaven on Mars. Hey, it beats wandering in the desert, right, Joshua?

His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman
Lord Asriel gets his name from Numbers 26:31—it's the same name as the Angel of the Lord, who is basically, the Angel of Death. Pullman's Asriel doesn't turn out to be such a swell guy either.

And Did Those Feet in Ancient Time by William Blake
At the end of his poem, Blake adds a quote from Numbers 11:29—"Would to God that all the Lord's people were prophets." You and Moses both, William Blake.

Aaron's Rod by D.H. Lawrence
This 1922 novel, named for the super special rod that Aaron gets in Numbers 17, is about a man who tries to find fame and fortune with a rod of his own—a flute.

The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine
Paine attacks the Bible as "a book of lies," citing Numbers 31:13-47. It's that part where Moses sanctions the murder of children and rape of virgins. Hey, we can't say we blame him for feeling kind of creeped out by those passages.

And the Ass Saw the Angel by Nick Cave
This Southern Gothic novel features a tormented main character who sees visions of angels. The title, of course, refers to Balaam's donkey who sees the Angel of the Lord standing in the road, while Balaam has other things on his mind.

Joshua, Son of None by Nancy Freedman
A boy cloned from the genetic material of the late President Kennedy must figure out his own destiny. The real Joshua (son of Nun) must have known how it felt to stand in a famous leader's shadow.

Pop Culture References

Star Trek
Leonard Nimoy said that he got the idea for the Vulcan Hand Salute from his Jewish background. As a kid, he saw the kohen do a two-handed version of this famous hand signal while he recited the priestly blessing (Numbers 6:24-26) during an Orthodox service. May the Lord make you live long and prosper.

Indians Jones and the Temple of Doom
The Ark of the Covenant makes an appearance at the end of this movie when the Nazis try to open it. Seriously, guys. God was not kidding when he said hands off!

Forever Young
This 1974 Bob Dylan song begins by quoting a version of Numbers 6:24—"May God bless and keep you always."

Deep Impact
Right before a giant world-destroying comet is about to hit Earth, everyone's favorite fictional president (Morgan Freeman) offers the blessing from Numbers 6:24-26 as a little added inspiration. Basically, they're all gonna die.

"I've Been To The Mountaintop"
Martin Luther King, Jr. wasn't talking about climbing Everest when he gave his final speech in 1968. He was giving a little shout-out to Moses. King ends his speech with this allusion to Numbers 27:12-14—"I've been to the mountaintop… And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land!" Like Moses, Dr. King was exactly right. Sadly, the next day, he was assassinated at his hotel in Memphis.

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