Study Guide

Book of Numbers Quotes

  • Community

    The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Command the Israelites to put out of the camp everyone who is leprous, or has a discharge, and everyone who is unclean through contact with a corpse; you shall put out both male and female, putting them outside the camp; they must not defile their camp, where I dwell among them. (Numbers 5:1-3, NRSV)

    The Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Command the children of Israel, that they put out of the camp every leper, and every one that hath an issue, and whosoever is defiled by the dead: Both male and female shall ye put out, without the camp shall ye put them; that they defile not their camps, in the midst whereof I dwell. (Numbers 5:1-3, KJV)

    How's that for community organizing? God doesn't want anyone with skin diseases or who's touched a dead body hanging around the rest of the population. In a way, this makes sense, since these folks could pass their germs onto the rest of the population. It is important to note that this doesn't say these folks are shut out forever. They can rejoin the fold once they're declared clean again. So start scrubbing now!

    The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the Israelites: You shall say to them, The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace. So they shall put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them. (Numbers 6:22-27, NRSV)

    The Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying, On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them, The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace. And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel, and I will bless them. (Numbers 6:22-27, KJV)

    God promises to shower his blessings down on the whole community. Of course, he also reserves the right to send some plagues their way, too.

    The one who presented his offering the first day was Nahshon son of Amminadab, of the tribe of Judah; his offering was one silver plate weighing one hundred thirty shekels, one silver basin weighing seventy shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, both of them full of choice flour mixed with oil for a grain offering; one golden dish weighing ten shekels, full of incense; one young bull, one ram, one male lamb a year old, for a burnt offering; one male goat for a sin offering; and for the sacrifice of well-being, two oxen, five rams, five male goats, and five male lambs a year old. This was the offering of Nahshon son of Amminadab. (Numbers 7:12-17, NRSV)

    He that offered his offering the first day was Nahshon the son of Amminadab, of the tribe of Judah: And his offering was one silver charger, the weight thereof was an hundred and thirty shekels, one silver bowl of seventy shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary; both of them were full of fine flour mingled with oil for a meat offering: One spoon of ten shekels of gold, full of incense: One young bullock, one ram, one lamb of the first year, for a burnt offering: One kid of the goats for a sin offering: And for a sacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five he goats, five lambs of the first year: this was the offering of Nahshon the son of Amminadab. (Numbers 7:12-17, KJV)

    If you remember, this is the first in a long list of twelve days of offerings (one day for each tribe of Israel). Oddly enough, every single tribe gives the exact same gift. If Shmoop showed up at a party with the same gift as the other 11 guests, we would be pretty darned embarrassed. But the author of Numbers clearly sees this as a way to show alignment between the tribes. This is one close-knit community.

    There were certain people who were unclean through touching a corpse, so that they could not keep the passover on that day. They came before Moses and Aaron on that day, and said to him, "Although we are unclean through touching a corpse, why must we be kept from presenting the Lord's offering at its appointed time among the Israelites?" Moses spoke to them, "Wait, so that I may hear what the Lord will command concerning you." The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to the Israelites, saying: Anyone of you or your descendants who is unclean through touching a corpse, or is away on a journey, shall still keep the passover to the Lord. In the second month on the fourteenth day, at twilight, they shall keep it; they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. They shall leave none of it until morning, nor break a bone of it; according to all the statute for the passover they shall keep it. (Numbers 9:6-12, NRSV)

    There were certain men, who were defiled by the dead body of a man, that they could not keep the passover on that day: and they came before Moses and before Aaron on that day: And those men said unto him, We are defiled by the dead body of a man: wherefore are we kept back, that we may not offer an offering of the Lord in his appointed season among the children of Israel? And Moses said unto them, Stand still, and I will hear what the Lord will command concerning you. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If any man of you or of your posterity shall be unclean by reason of a dead body, or be in a journey afar off, yet he shall keep the passover unto the Lord. The fourteenth day of the second month at even they shall keep it, and eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. They shall leave none of it unto the morning, nor break any bone of it: according to all the ordinances of the passover they shall keep it. (Numbers 9:6-12, KJV)

    More rules for being part of the community. This time, we're talking festivals. No one wants to miss Passover, so the members of the group who have to sit out are asking for special privileges. Moses is happy to oblige. Go ahead and celebrate next month. God's cool with it.

    The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Make two silver trumpets; you shall make them of hammered work; and you shall use them for summoning the congregation, and for breaking camp. When both are blown, the whole congregation shall assemble before you at the entrance of the tent of meeting. But if only one is blown, then the leaders, the heads of the tribes of Israel, shall assemble before you. When you blow an alarm, the camps on the east side shall set out; when you blow a second alarm, the camps on the south side shall set out. An alarm is to be blown whenever they are to set out. But when the assembly is to be gathered, you shall blow, but you shall not sound an alarm. The sons of Aaron, the priests, shall blow the trumpets; this shall be a perpetual institution for you throughout your generations. (Numbers 10:1-8, NRSV)

    The Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Make thee two trumpets of silver; of a whole piece shalt thou make them: that thou mayest use them for the calling of the assembly, and for the journeying of the camps. And when they shall blow with them, all the assembly shall assemble themselves to thee at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And if they blow but with one trumpet, then the princes, which are heads of the thousands of Israel, shall gather themselves unto thee. When ye blow an alarm, then the camps that lie on the east parts shall go forward. When ye blow an alarm the second time, then the camps that lie on the south side shall take their journey: they shall blow an alarm for their journeys. But when the congregation is to be gathered together, ye shall blow, but ye shall not sound an alarm. And the sons of Aaron, the priests, shall blow with the trumpets; and they shall be to you for an ordinance for ever throughout your generations. (Numbers 10:1-8, KJV)

    This community is pretty big, so they're gonna need some kind of quick alert system. Since this is way before the invention of the mass text, God tells Moses to use a trumpet and teach everyone what each blast means. Order is good. Chaos is bad. Very bad.

    Moses went out and told the people the words of the Lord; and he gathered seventy elders of the people, and placed them all around the tent. Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders; and when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do so again. Two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the spirit rested on them; they were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. And a young man ran and told Moses, "Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp." And Joshua son of Nun, the assistant of Moses, one of his chosen men, said, "My Lord Moses, stop them!" But Moses said to him, "Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord's people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit on them!" (Numbers 11:24-29, NRSV)

    Moses went out, and told the people the words of the Lord, and gathered the seventy men of the elders of the people, and set them round about the tabernacle. And the Lord came down in a cloud, and spake unto him, and took of the spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders: and it came to pass, that, when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease. But there remained two of the men in the camp, the name of the one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad: and the spirit rested upon them; and they were of them that were written, but went not out unto the tabernacle: and they prophesied in the camp. And there ran a young man, and told Moses, and said, Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp. And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Moses, one of his young men, answered and said, My lord Moses, forbid them. And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the Lord's people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them! (Numbers 11:24-29, KJV)

    Here, God shares some of Moses's gifts with the rest of the community. Far from being jealous, Moses is glad to have the rest of the people pitch in to help once in a while. We guess it's all for one and one for all around there.

    Every native Israelite shall do these things in this way, in presenting an offering by fire, a pleasing odor to the Lord. An alien who lives with you, or who takes up permanent residence among you, and wishes to offer an offering by fire, a pleasing odor to the Lord, shall do as you do. As for the assembly, there shall be for both you and the resident alien a single statute, a perpetual statute throughout your generations; you and the alien shall be alike before the Lord. (Numbers 15:13-16, NRSV)

    All that are born of the country shall do these things after this manner, in offering an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the Lord. And if a stranger sojourn with you, or whosoever be among you in your generations, and will offer an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the Lord; as ye do, so he shall do. One ordinance shall be both for you of the congregation, and also for the stranger that sojourneth with you, an ordinance for ever in your generations: as ye are, so shall the stranger be before the Lord. (Numbers 15:13-16, KJV)

    God has rules for the community, but he's pretty open with who can be part of that. If non-Israelites want to worship and praise Yahweh in the appropriate manner, God doesn't mind a bit.

    Whoever acts high-handedly, whether a native or an alien, affronts the Lord, and shall be cut off from among the people. Because of having despised the word of the Lord and broken his commandment, such a person shall be utterly cut off and bear the guilt. (Numbers 15:30-31, NRSV)

    But the soul that doeth ought presumptuously, whether he be born in the land, or a stranger, the same reproacheth the Lord; and that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Because he hath despised the word of the Lord, and hath broken his commandment, that soul shall utterly be cut off; his iniquity shall be upon him. (Numbers 15:30-31, KJV)

    But the sword cuts both ways. Both Israelites and non-Israelites have a responsibility to be good members of the community. If they drop the ball, well, then it's time to get lost. Literally.

    When the Israelites were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the sabbath day. Those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses, Aaron, and to the whole congregation. They put him in custody, because it was not clear what should be done to him. Then the Lord said to Moses, "The man shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him outside the camp." The whole congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death, just as the Lord had commanded Moses. (Numbers 15:32-36, NRSV)

    While the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man that gathered sticks upon the sabbath day. And they that found him gathering sticks brought him unto Moses and Aaron, and unto all the congregation. And they put him in ward, because it was not declared what should be done to him. And the Lord said unto Moses, The man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp. And all the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died; as the Lord commanded Moses. (Numbers 15:32-36, KJV)

    Yes, this community just killed a guy for picking up sticks. For them, anyone who disregards the laws of God is inviting trouble for everyone in camp. Better stoned than sorry, we guess.

    The Lord said to Moses: Speak to the Israelites, and tell them to make fringes on the corners of their garments throughout their generations and to put a blue cord on the fringe at each corner. You have the fringe so that, when you see it, you will remember all the commandments of the Lord and do them, and not follow the lust of your own heart and your own eyes. So you shall remember and do all my commandments, and you shall be holy to your God. (Numbers 15:37-40, NRSV)

    The Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them fringes in the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put upon the fringe of the borders a ribband of blue: And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the Lord, and do them ; and that ye seek not after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go a whoring: That ye may remember, and do all my commandments, and be holy unto your God. (Numbers 15:37-40, KJV)

    Like tying a string around your finger, these blue cords will remind the Israelites exactly who they're supposed to be following. Today, modern Jews still use these garments, called tallit, during prayer. Way to keep the community strong, guys!

  • Compassion & Forgiveness

    Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: I hereby accept the Levites from among the Israelites as substitutes for all the firstborn that open the womb among the Israelites. The Levites shall be mine, for all the firstborn are mine; when I killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, I consecrated for my own all the firstborn in Israel, both human and animal; they shall be mine. I am the Lord. (Numbers 3:11-13, NRSV)

    The Lord spake unto Moses, saying, And I, behold, I have taken the Levites from among the children of Israel instead of all the firstborn that openeth the matrix among the children of Israel: therefore the Levites shall be mine; Because all the firstborn are mine; for on the day that I smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt I hallowed unto me all the firstborn in Israel, both man and beast: mine shall they be: I am the Lord. (Numbers 3:11-13, KJV)

    God could rightfully claim all the firstborn sons of Israel for the dangerous and demanding job of looking after the tabernacle. They kind of owe him for that whole freeing-them-from-slavery thing. But instead, God lets the Levites stand in. Hey, don't say that God isn't merciful, firstborn sons.

    So Moses said to the Lord, "Why have you treated your servant so badly? Why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me? Did I conceive all this people? Did I give birth to them, that you should say to me, 'Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a sucking child,' to the land that you promised on oath to their ancestors? Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they come weeping to me and say, 'Give us meat to eat!' I am not able to carry all this people alone, for they are too heavy for me. If this is the way you are going to treat me, put me to death at once—if I have found favor in your sight—and do not let me see my misery." (Numbers 11:11-15, NRSV)

    Moses said unto the Lord, Wherefore hast thou afflicted thy servant? and wherefore have I not found favour in thy sight, that thou layest the burden of all this people upon me? Have I conceived all this people? have I begotten them, that thou shouldest say unto me, Carry them in thy bosom, as a nursing father beareth the sucking child, unto the land which thou swarest unto their fathers? Whence should I have flesh to give unto all this people? for they weep unto me, saying, Give us flesh, that we may eat. I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me. And if thou deal thus with me, kill me, I pray thee, out of hand, if I have found favour in thy sight; and let me not see my wretchedness. (Numbers 11:11-15, KJV)

    Moses is fed up with the whining and cries out to God to have some compassion. Or as Uncle Jesse would say, "Have mercy!"

    So the Lord said to Moses, "Gather for me seventy of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them; bring them to the tent of meeting, and have them take their place there with you. I will come down and talk with you there; and I will take some of the spirit that is on you and put it on them; and they shall bear the burden of the people along with you so that you will not bear it all by yourself. (Numbers 11:16-17, NRSV)

    The Lord said unto Moses, Gather unto me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom thou knowest to be the elders of the people, and officers over them; and bring them unto the tabernacle of the congregation, that they may stand there with thee. And I will come down and talk with thee there: and I will take of the spirit which is upon thee, and will put it upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with thee, that thou bear it not thyself alone. (Numbers 11:16-17, KJV)

    God is sympathetic to Moses's dilemma. It is pretty tough dealing with these people and their complaints. God agrees to lighten the burden. Now that's a deity with a heart of gold.

    The rabble among them had a strong craving; and the Israelites also wept again, and said, "If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we used to eat in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at." Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its color was like the color of gum resin. The people went around and gathered it, ground it in mills or beat it in mortars, then boiled it in pots and made cakes of it; and the taste of it was like the taste of cakes baked with oil. When the dew fell on the camp in the night, the manna would fall with it. (Numbers 11:4-9, NRSV)

    And the mixt multitude that was among them fell a lusting: and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat? We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick: But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes. And the manna was as coriander seed, and the colour thereof as the colour of bdellium. And the people went about, and gathered it, and ground it in mills, or beat it in a mortar, and baked it in pans, and made cakes of it: and the taste of it was as the taste of fresh oil. And when the dew fell upon the camp in the night, the manna fell upon it. (Numbers 11:4-9, KJV)

    The people are complaining about the food that God has been good enough to provide for them. From its description, that manna sounds like it would be delicious. They clearly don't know a loving and compassionate God when they see one.

    "Now, therefore, let the power of the Lord be great in the way that you promised when you spoke, saying, 'The Lord is slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children to the third and the fourth generation.' Forgive the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of your steadfast love, just as you have pardoned this people, from Egypt even until now." (Numbers 14:17-19, NRSV)

    Now, I beseech thee, let the power of my lord be great, according as thou hast spoken, saying, The Lord is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation. Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now. (Numbers 14:17-19, KJV)

    Moses has to talk God down (he's in one of his moods). He does this by reminding him what a kind of forgiving guy he is. Sure, the Israelites mess up, but God always has their backs. Right? Right?

    The Lord said, "I do forgive, just as you have asked; nevertheless—as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord—none of the people who have seen my glory and the signs that I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and yet have tested me these ten times and have not obeyed my voice, shall see the land that I swore to give to their ancestors; none of those who despised me shall see it. But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me wholeheartedly, I will bring into the land into which he went, and his descendants shall possess it." (Numbers 14:20-24, NRSV)

    The Lord said, I have pardoned according to thy word: But as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord. Because all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles, which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice; Surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it: But my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and hath followed me fully, him will I bring into the land whereinto he went; and his seed shall possess it. (Numbers 14:20-24, KJV)

    Okay, so this is God's idea of compassion in this story. Some of the Israelites will make it to the Promised Land. The rest? Death. Remember, this is good news.

    If you unintentionally fail to observe all these commandments that the Lord has spoken to Moses—everything that the Lord has commanded you by Moses, from the day the Lord gave commandment and thereafter, throughout your generations—then if it was done unintentionally without the knowledge of the congregation, the whole congregation shall offer one young bull for a burnt offering, a pleasing odor to the Lord, together with its grain offering and its drink offering, according to the ordinance, and one male goat for a sin offering. The priest shall make atonement for all the congregation of the Israelites, and they shall be forgiven; it was unintentional, and they have brought their offering, an offering by fire to the Lord, and their sin offering before the Lord, for their error. All the congregation of the Israelites shall be forgiven, as well as the aliens residing among them, because the whole people was involved in the error. (Numbers 15:22-26, NRSV)

    If ye have erred, and not observed all these commandments, which the Lord hath spoken unto Moses, Even all that the Lord hath commanded you by the hand of Moses, from the day that the Lord commanded Moses, and henceforward among your generations; Then it shall be, if ought be committed by ignorance without the knowledge of the congregation, that all the congregation shall offer one young bullock for a burnt offering, for a sweet savour unto the Lord, with his meat offering, and his drink offering, according to the manner, and one kid of the goats for a sin offering. And the priest shall make an atonement for all the congregation of the children of Israel, and it shall be forgiven them; for it is ignorance: and they shall bring their offering, a sacrifice made by fire unto the Lord, and their sin offering before the Lord, for their ignorance: And it shall be forgiven all the congregation of the children of Israel, and the stranger that sojourneth among them; seeing all the people were in ignorance. (Numbers 15:22-26, KJV)

    See, God isn't such a bad deity. He even has a ritual for fixing things when the community accidently breaks a commandment. Now, purposely breaking a commandment? Well, that's a whole different story.

    The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Take 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. So Moses took the staff from before the Lord, as he had commanded him. Moses 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?" Then Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his staff; water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their livestock drank. (Numbers 20:7-11, NRSV)

    The Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink. And Moses took the rod from before the Lord, as he commanded him. And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock? And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also. (Numbers 20:7-11, KJV)

    The people are complaining about having no water now. In the middle of the desert. It's not a trivial concern, so God is sympathetic. He asks Moses to perform a miracle and give them something to drink. There. Now, stop your whining.

    Balaam looked up and saw Israel camping tribe by tribe. Then the spirit of God came upon him, and he uttered his oracle, saying: "The oracle of Balaam son of Beor, the oracle of the man whose eye is clear, the oracle of one who hears the words of God, who sees the vision of the Almighty, who falls down, but with eyes uncovered: how fair are your tents, O Jacob, your encampments, O Israel! Like palm-groves that stretch far away, like gardens beside a river, like aloes that the Lord has planted, like cedar trees beside the waters. Water shall flow from his buckets, and his seed shall have abundant water, his king shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted. God who brings him out of Egypt, is like the horns of a wild ox for him; he shall devour the nations that are his foes and break their bones. He shall strike with his arrows. He crouched, he lay down like a lion, and like a lioness; who will rouse him up? Blessed is everyone who blesses you, and cursed is everyone who curses you." (Numbers 24:2-9, NRSV)

    Balaam lifted up his eyes, and he saw Israel abiding in his tents according to their tribes; and the spirit of God came upon him. And he took up his parable, and said, Balaam the son of Beor hath said, and the man whose eyes are open hath said: He hath said, which heard the words of God, which saw the vision of the Almighty, falling into a trance, but having his eyes open: 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 which the Lord hath planted, and as cedar trees beside the waters. He shall pour the water out of his buckets, and his seed shall be in many waters, and his king shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted. God brought him forth out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn: he shall eat up the nations his enemies, and shall break their bones, and pierce them through with his arrows. He couched, he lay down as a lion, and as a great lion: who shall stir him up? Blessed is he that blesseth thee, and cursed is he that curseth thee. (Numbers 24:2-9, KJV)

    Sure, God can be hard on his chosen people, but he also loves them a ton. No matter how much they mess up, he sticks with them and blesses them. Now, if they could just stop breaking his laws, they could all live happily ever after.

  • Justice & Judgment

    Now when the people complained in the hearing of the Lord about their misfortunes, the Lord heard it and his anger was kindled. Then the fire of the Lord burned against them, and consumed some outlying parts of the camp. But the people cried out to Moses; and Moses prayed to the Lord, and the fire abated. So that place was called Taberah, because the fire of the Lord burned against them. (Numbers 11:1-3, NRSV)

    When the people complained, it displeased the Lord: and the Lord heard it; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the Lord burnt among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp. And the people cried unto Moses; and when Moses prayed unto the Lord, the fire was quenched. And he called the name of the place Taberah: because the fire of the Lord burnt among them. (Numbers 11:1-3, KJV)

    Right off the bat, God is getting angry. The people are complaining that they're miserable (wandering in the wilderness will do that to you). God hears and starts a huge fire to teach them a lesson. It's not that God is annoyed that they're bummed. It's more that he's sad they don't trust him to help them through these difficult times. Hey, Israel, just lean on him and everything will be okay.

    "And say to the people: Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat; for you have wailed in the hearing of the Lord, saying, 'If only we had meat to eat! Surely it was better for us in Egypt.' Therefore the Lord will give you meat, and you shall eat. You shall eat not only one day, or two days, or five days, or ten days, or twenty days, but for a whole month—until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you—because you have rejected the Lord who is among you, and have wailed before him, saying, 'Why did we ever leave Egypt?'" (Numbers 11:18-20, NRSV)

    And say thou unto the people, Sanctify yourselves against to morrow, and ye shall eat flesh: for ye have wept in the ears of the Lord, saying, Who shall give us flesh to eat? for it was well with us in Egypt: therefore the Lord will give you flesh, and ye shall eat. Ye shall not eat one day, nor two days, nor five days, neither ten days, nor twenty days; But even a whole month, until it come out at your nostrils, and it be loathsome unto you: because that ye have despised the Lord which is among you, and have wept before him, saying, Why came we forth out of Egypt? (Numbers 11:18-20, KJV)

    The old do-it-til-you-hate-it punishment. This would be like eating a whole carton of ice cream in one sitting. At first, it's delicious, but pretty soon you're sick to your stomach and you can't stand to look at a cone for the rest of the summer. Talk about the punishment fitting the crime.

    Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cus***e woman whom he had married[…] When the cloud went away from over the tent, Miriam had become leprous, as white as snow. And Aaron turned towards Miriam and saw that she was leprous. Then Aaron said to Moses, "Oh, my Lord, do not punish us for a sin that we have so foolishly committed. Do not let her be like one stillborn, whose flesh is half consumed when it comes out of its mother's womb." And Moses cried to the Lord, "O God, please heal her." But the Lord said to Moses, "If her father had but spit in her face, would she not bear her shame for seven days? Let her be shut out of the camp for seven days, and after that she may be brought in again." (Numbers 12:1-2, 10-15, NRSV)

    Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married[…] And the cloud departed from off the tabernacle; and, behold, Miriam became leprous, white as snow: and Aaron looked upon Miriam, and, behold, she was leprous. And Aaron said unto Moses, Alas, my lord, I beseech thee, lay not the sin upon us, wherein we have done foolishly, and wherein we have sinned. Let her not be as one dead, of whom the flesh is half consumed when he cometh out of his mother's womb. And Moses cried unto the Lord, saying, Heal her now, O God, I beseech thee. And the Lord said unto Moses, If her father had but spit in her face, should she not be ashamed seven days? let her be shut out from the camp seven days, and after that let her be received in again. (Numbers 12:1-2, 10-15, KJV)

    Miriam complains about God's appointed leader, so he doles out another harsh punishment. She'll have to leave camp for seven days to heal from the skin disease he gave her. Young lady, you march right out to that desert and think about what you did.

    "If the Lord is pleased with us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. Only, do not rebel against the Lord; and do not fear the people of the land, for they are no more than bread for us; their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them." (Numbers 14:8-9, NRSV)

    If the Lord delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey. Only rebel not ye against the Lord, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is departed from them, and the Lord is with us: fear them not. (Numbers 14:8-9, KJV)

    Wise words. As long as the people stay in line, God will judge them to be worthy of the Promised Land. Needless to say, they don't follow this advice. Hope you guys like the wilderness, because you'll be staying quite a while.

    The Lord spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying: How long shall this wicked congregation complain against me? I have heard the complaints of the Israelites, which they complain against me. Say to them, "As I live," says the Lord, "I will do to you the very things I heard you say: your dead bodies shall fall in this very wilderness; and of all your number, included in the census, from twenty years old and upward, who have complained against me, not one of you shall come into the land in which I swore to settle you." (Numbers 14:26-30, NRSV)

    The Lord spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, How long shall I bear with this evil congregation, which murmur against me? I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel, which they murmur against me. Say unto them, As truly as I live, saith the Lord, as ye have spoken in mine ears, so will I do to you: Your carcases shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward which have murmured against me. Doubtless ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein. (Numbers 14:26-30, KJV)

    Um, okay. This seems like a bit of an overreaction, but remember—the Israelites have decided not to fight for the Promised Land. They didn't believe God could help them win. If you don't trust in God, then you're gonna get judged. Sorry. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.

    The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Say to the congregation: Get away from the dwellings of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. So Moses got up and went to Dathan and Abiram; the elders of Israel followed him. He said to the congregation, "Turn away from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, or you will be swept away for all their sins." So they got away from the dwellings of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram; and Dathan and Abiram came out and stood at the entrance of their tents, together with their wives, their children, and their little ones[…] As soon as he finished speaking all these words, the ground under them was split apart. The earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, along with their households—everyone who belonged to Korah and all their goods. So they with all that belonged to them went down alive into Sheol; the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly. (Numbers 16:23-27, 31-33, NRSV)

    The Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the congregation, saying, Get you up from about the tabernacle of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. And Moses rose up and went unto Dathan and Abiram; and the elders of Israel followed him. And he spake unto the congregation, saying, Depart, I pray you, from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of their's, lest ye be consumed in all their sins. So they gat up from the tabernacle of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, on every side: and Dathan and Abiram came out, and stood in the door of their tents, and their wives, and their sons, and their little children[...] As he had made an end of speaking all these words, that the ground clave asunder that was under them: And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation. (Numbers 16:23-27, 31-33, KJV)

    Another super harsh judgment for anyone who dares question the authority of God. Moses has been appointed by God and that should be good enough for everyone. Into Sheol you go, sinners!

    The Lord said to Moses, "Put back the staff of Aaron before the covenant, to be kept as a warning to rebels, so that you may make an end of their complaints against me, or else they will die." (Numbers 17:10, NRSV)

    The Lord said unto Moses, Bring Aaron's rod again before the testimony, to be kept for a token against the rebels; and thou shalt quite take away their murmurings from me, that they die not. (Numbers 17:10, KJV)

    God's giving them fair warning here. Sin again and you will be judged… to death.

    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." These are the waters of Meribah, where the people of Israel quarreled with the Lord, and by which he showed his holiness. (Numbers 20:12-13, NRSV)

    The Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them. This is the water of Meribah; because the children of Israel strove with the Lord, and he was sanctified in them. (Numbers 20:12-13, KJV)

    Whoa, whoa, whoa. Now Moses and Aaron don't get to go into the Promised Land either. All because of a little mix up with a rock? Does one bad deed really wipe out a lifetime of service to God?

    The people spoke against God and against Moses, "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food." Then the Lord sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, "We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord to take away the serpents from us." (Numbers 21:5-7, NRSV)

    The people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread. And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee; pray unto the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us. (Numbers 21:5-7, KJV)

    Again the people complain, and again, they're judged. But this time they realize their mistake and beg Moses to intercede for them. He does have God on speed dial, so this should be simple.

    Then the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road, with his drawn sword in his hand; and he bowed down, falling on his face. The angel of the Lord said to him, "Why have you struck your donkey these three times? I have come out as an adversary, because your way is perverse before me. The donkey saw me, and turned away from me these three times. If it had not turned away from me, surely just now I would have killed you and let it live." Then Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, "I have sinned, for I did not know that you were standing in the road to oppose me. Now therefore, if it is displeasing to you, I will return home." The angel of the Lord said to Balaam, "Go with the men; but speak only what I tell you to speak." So Balaam went on with the officials of Balak. (Numbers 22:31-35, NRSV)

    Then the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and he bowed down his head, and fell flat on his face. And the angel of the Lord said unto him, Wherefore hast thou smitten thine ass these three times? behold, I went out to withstand thee, because thy way is perverse before me: And the ass saw me, and turned from me these three times: unless she had turned from me, surely now also I had slain thee, and saved her alive. And Balaam said unto the angel of the Lord, I have sinned; for I knew not that thou stoodest in the way against me: now therefore, if it displease thee, I will get me back again. And the angel of the Lord said unto Balaam, Go with the men: but only the word that I shall speak unto thee, that thou shalt speak. So Balaam went with the princes of Balak. (Numbers 22:31-35, KJV)

    God sends one of his angels to dole out some justice to Balaam. Luckily, his talking donkey saves him. (Donkeys are good for that, you know.) Balaam is also willing to admit his mistake. That, apparently, goes a long way with God.

    While Israel was staying at S***tim, the people began to have sexual relations with the women of Moab. These invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. Thus Israel yoked itself to the Baal of Peor, and the Lord's anger was kindled against Israel. The Lord said to Moses, "Take all the chiefs of the people, and impale them in the sun before the Lord, in order that the fierce anger of the Lord may turn away from Israel." And Moses said to the judges of Israel, "Each of you shall kill any of your people who have yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor." (Numbers 25:1-5, NRSV)

    And Israel abode in S***tim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab. And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods. And Israel joined himself unto Baalpeor: and the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel. And the Lord said unto Moses, Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up before the Lord against the sun, that the fierce anger of the Lordmay be turned away from Israel. And Moses said unto the judges of Israel, Slay ye every one his men that were joined unto Baalpeor. (Numbers 25:1-5, KJV)

    Second commandment y'all. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. God is the jealous type and violators will be judged harshly.

  • Rules & Order

    Take a census of the whole congregation of Israelites, in their clans, by ancestral houses, according to the number of names, every male individually; from twenty years old and upward, everyone in Israel able to go to war. You and Aaron shall enroll them, company by company. A man from each tribe shall be with you, each man the head of his ancestral house. (Numbers 1:2-4, NRSV)

    Take ye the sum of all the congregation of the children of Israel, after their families, by the house of their fathers, with the number of their names, every male by their polls; From twenty years old and upward, all that are able to go forth to war in Israel: thou and Aaron shall number them by their armies. And with you there shall be a man of every tribe; every one head of the house of his fathers. (Numbers 1:2-4, KJV)

    Right away, God needs a head count. Whoa, this dude likes order. It's actually helpful for everyone to know how many people they're dealing with. Especially how many men are eligible to go to war because that's definitely coming.

    The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying: The Israelites shall camp each in their respective regiments, under ensigns by their ancestral houses; they shall camp facing the tent of meeting on every side. (Numbers 2:1-2, NRSV)

    The Lord spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, Every man of the children of Israel shall pitch by his own standard, with the ensign of their father's house: far off about the tabernacle of the congregation shall they pitch. (Numbers 2:1-2, KJV)

    Sleeping arrangements can be real pain. Here, God settles the seating plan around the tabernacle so that no arguments break out. An orderly community is a happy community.

    When the camp is to set out, Aaron and his sons shall go in and take down the screening curtain, and cover the ark of the covenant with it; then they shall put on it a covering of fine leather, and spread over that a cloth all of blue, and shall put its poles in place. Over the table of the bread of the Presence they shall spread a blue cloth, and put on it the plates, the dishes for incense, the bowls, and the flagons for the drink offering; the regular bread also shall be on it; then they shall spread over them a crimson cloth, and cover it with a covering of fine leather, and shall put its poles in place. They shall take a blue cloth, and cover the lampstand for the light, with its lamps, its snuffers, its trays, and all the vessels for oil with which it is supplied; and they shall put it with all its utensils in a covering of fine leather, and put it on the carrying frame. Over the golden altar they shall spread a blue cloth, and cover it with a covering of fine leather, and shall put its poles in place; and they shall take all the utensils of the service that are used in the sanctuary, and put them in a blue cloth, and cover them with a covering of fine leather, and put them on the carrying frame. They shall take away the ashes from the altar, and spread a purple cloth over it; and they shall put on it all the utensils of the altar, which are used for the service there, the firepans, the forks, the shovels, and the basins, all the utensils of the altar; and they shall spread on it a covering of fine leather, and shall put its poles in place. When Aaron and his sons have finished covering the sanctuary and all the furnishings of the sanctuary, as the camp sets out, after that the Kohathites shall come to carry these, but they must not touch the holy things, or they will die. These are the things of the tent of meeting that the Kohathites are to carry. Eleazar son of Aaron the priest shall have charge of the oil for the light, the fragrant incense, the regular grain offering, and the anointing oil, the oversight of all the tabernacle and all that is in it, in the sanctuary and in its utensils. (Numbers 4:5-16, NRSV)

    When the camp setteth forward, Aaron shall come, and his sons, and they shall take down the covering vail, and cover the ark of testimony with it: And shall put thereon the covering of badgers' skins, and shall spread over it a cloth wholly of blue, and shall put in the staves thereof. And upon the table of shewbread they shall spread a cloth of blue, and put thereon the dishes, and the spoons, and the bowls, and covers to cover withal: and the continual bread shall be thereon: And they shall spread upon them a cloth of scarlet, and cover the same with a covering of badgers' skins, and shall put in the staves thereof. And they shall take a cloth of blue, and cover the candlestick of the light, and his lamps, and his tongs, and his snuffdishes, and all the oil vessels thereof, wherewith they minister unto it: And they shall put it and all the vessels thereof within a covering of badgers' skins, and shall put it upon a bar. And upon the golden altar they shall spread a cloth of blue, and cover it with a covering of badgers' skins, and shall put to the staves thereof: And they shall take all the instruments of ministry, wherewith they minister in the sanctuary, and put them in a cloth of blue, and cover them with a covering of badgers' skins, and shall put them on a bar: And they shall take away the ashes from the altar, and spread a purple cloth thereon: And they shall put upon it all the vessels thereof, wherewith they minister about it, even the censers, the fleshhooks, and the shovels, and the basons, all the vessels of the altar; and they shall spread upon it a covering of badgers' skins, and put to the staves of it. And when Aaron and his sons have made an end of covering the sanctuary, and all the vessels of the sanctuary, as the camp is to set forward; after that, the sons of Kohath shall come to bear it: but they shall not touch any holy thing, lest they die. These things are the burden of the sons of Kohath in the tabernacle of the congregation. And to the office of Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest pertaineth the oil for the light, and the sweet incense, and the daily meat offering, and the anointing oil, and the oversight of all the tabernacle, and of all that therein is, in the sanctuary, and in the vessels thereof. (Numbers 4:5-16, KJV)

    Whoa. Can you tell the tabernacle is important? There are tons of rules for how it is supposed to be cared for, taken down, and transported through the desert. Because the Israelites believed that God himself dwelt in this tent, it's not like they could just throw everything in cardboard boxes and head out. The more rules you see around something, the bigger deal it is to everyone.

    The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Take the Levites from among the Israelites and cleanse them. Thus you shall do to them, to cleanse them: sprinkle the water of purification on them, have them shave their whole body with a razor and wash their clothes, and so cleanse themselves. Then let them take a young bull and its grain offering of choice flour mixed with oil, and you shall take another young bull for a sin offering. You shall bring the Levites before the tent of meeting, and assemble the whole congregation of the Israelites. When you bring the Levites before the Lord, the Israelites shall lay their hands on the Levites, and Aaron shall present the Levites before the Lord as an elevation offering from the Israelites, that they may do the service of the Lord. The Levites shall lay their hands on the heads of the bulls, and he shall offer the one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering to the Lord, to make atonement for the Levites. Then you shall have the Levites stand before Aaron and his sons, and you shall present them as an elevation offering to the Lord. Thus you shall separate the Levites from among the other Israelites, and the Levites shall be mine. Thereafter the Levites may go in to do service at the tent of meeting, once you have cleansed them and presented them as an elevation offering. (Numbers 8:5-15, NRSV)

    The Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Take the Levites from among the children of Israel, and cleanse them. And thus shalt thou do unto them, to cleanse them: Sprinkle water of purifying upon them, and let them shave all their flesh, and let them wash their clothes, and so make themselves clean. Then let them take a young bullock with his meat offering, even fine flour mingled with oil, and another young bullock shalt thou take for a sin offering. And thou shalt bring the Levites before the tabernacle of the congregation: and thou shalt gather the whole assembly of the children of Israel together: And thou shalt bring the Levites before the Lord: and the children of Israel shall put their hands upon the Levites: And Aaron shall offer the Levites before the Lord for an offering of the children of Israel, that they may execute the service of the Lord. And the Levites shall lay their hands upon the heads of the bullocks: and thou shalt offer the one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering, unto the Lord, to make an atonement for the Levites. And thou shalt set the Levites before Aaron, and before his sons, and offer them for an offering unto the Lord. Thus shalt thou separate the Levites from among the children of Israel: and the Levites shall be mine. And after that shall the Levites go in to do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation: and thou shalt cleanse them, and offer them for an offering. (Numbers 8:5-15, KJV)

    Some more important guidelines for how exactly the Levites are prepared for holy service. Because being priestly assistants was such a big deal, God definitely has a ritual for that.

    Also on your days of rejoicing, at your appointed festivals, and at the beginnings of your months, you shall blow the trumpets over your burnt offerings and over your sacrifices of well-being; they shall serve as a reminder on your behalf before the Lord your God: I am the Lord your God. (Numbers 10:10, NRSV)

    Also in the day of your gladness, and in your solemn days, and in the beginnings of your months, ye shall blow with the trumpets over your burnt offerings, and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings; that they may be to you for a memorial before your God: I am the Lord your God. (Numbers 10:10, KJV)

    Rules for work and rules for play. This time, God lays out a bunch of commands about how the Israelites are to celebrate and worship him. Let the structured partying begin!

    The standard of the camp of Judah set out first, company by company, and over the whole company was Nahshon son of Amminadab. Over the company of the tribe of Issachar was Nethanel son of Zuar; and over the company of the tribe of Zebulun was Eliab son of Helon. Then the tabernacle was taken down, and the Gershonites and the Merarites, who carried the tabernacle, set out. Next the standard of the camp of Reuben set out, company by company; and over the whole company was Elizur son of Shedeur. Over the company of the tribe of Simeon was Shelumiel son of Zurishaddai, and over the company of the tribe of Gad was Eliasaph son of Deuel. Then the Kohathites, who carried the holy things, set out; and the tabernacle was set up before their arrival. Next the standard of the Ephraimite camp set out, company by company, and over the whole company was Elishama son of Ammihud. Over the company of the tribe of Manasseh was Gamaliel son of Pedahzur, and over the company of the tribe of Benjamin was Abidan son of Gideoni. Then the standard of the camp of Dan, acting as the rear guard of all the camps, set out, company by company, and over the whole company was Ahiezer son of Ammishaddai. Over the company of the tribe of Asher was Pagiel son of Ochran, and over the company of the tribe of Naphtali was Ahira son of Enan. This was the order of march of the Israelites, company by company, when they set out. (Numbers 10:14-28, NRSV)

    In the first place went the standard of the camp of the children of Judah according to their armies: and over his host was Nahshon the son of Amminadab. And over the host of the tribe of the children of Issachar was Nethaneel the son of Zuar. And over the host of the tribe of the children of Zebulun was Eliab the son of Helon. And the tabernacle was taken down; and the sons of Gershon and the sons of Merari set forward, bearing the tabernacle. And the standard of the camp of Reuben set forward according to their armies: and over his host was Elizur the son of Shedeur. And over the host of the tribe of the children of Simeon was Shelumiel the son of Zurishaddai. And over the host of the tribe of the children of Gad was Eliasaph the son of Deuel. And the Kohathites set forward, bearing the sanctuary: and the other did set up the tabernacle against they came. And the standard of the camp of the children of Ephraim set forward according to their armies: and over his host was Elishama the son of Ammihud. And over the host of the tribe of the children of Manasseh was Gamaliel the son of Pedahzur. And over the host of the tribe of the children of Benjamin was Abidan the son of Gideoni. And the standard of the camp of the children of Dan set forward, which was the rereward of all the camps throughout their hosts: and over his host was Ahiezer the son of Ammishaddai. And over the host of the tribe of the children of Asher was Pagiel the son of Ocran. And over the host of the tribe of the children of Naphtali was Ahira the son of Enan. Thus were the journeyings of the children of Israel according to their armies, when they set forward. (Numbers 10:14-28, KJV)

    There's a reason that Moses felt the need to call out a super specific marching order like this. It's possible that arguments over who's gonna leave camp first and who's gonna walk closest to the tabernacle were breaking out. God finally settles this once and for all.

    The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to the Israelites, and get twelve staffs from them, one for each ancestral house, from all the leaders of their ancestral houses. Write each man's name on his staff, and write Aaron's name on the staff of Levi. For there shall be one staff for the head of each ancestral house. Place them in the tent of meeting before the covenant, where I meet with you. And the staff of the man whom I choose shall sprout; thus I will put a stop to the complaints of the Israelites that they continually make against you. (Numbers 17:1-5, NRSV)

    The Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and take of every one of them a rod according to the house of their fathers, of all their princes according to the house of their fathers twelve rods: write thou every man's name upon his rod. And thou shalt write Aaron's name upon the rod of Levi: for one rod shall be for the head of the house of their fathers. And thou shalt lay them up in the tabernacle of the congregation before the testimony, where I will meet with you. And it shall come to pass, that the man's rod, whom I shall choose, shall blossom: and I will make to cease from me the murmurings of the children of Israel, whereby they murmur against you. (Numbers 17:1-5, KJV)

    Yet another way for God to enforce the rules. The Almighty has appointed leaders in the community, yet they're not being respected. He devises this whole staff test in order to show everyone who's really in charge and who the people should be listening to.

    Those who touch the dead body of any human being shall be unclean seven days. They shall purify themselves with the water on the third day and on the seventh day, and so be clean; but if they do not purify themselves on the third day and on the seventh day, they will not become clean. All who touch a corpse, the body of a human being who has died, and do not purify themselves, defile the tabernacle of the Lord; such persons shall be cut off from Israel. Since water for cleansing was not dashed on them, they remain unclean; their uncleanness is still on them. (Numbers 19:11-13, NRSV)

    He that toucheth the dead body of any man shall be unclean seven days. He shall purify himself with it on the third day, and on the seventh day he shall be clean: but if he purify not himself the third day, then the seventh day he shall not be clean. Whosoever toucheth the dead body of any man that is dead, and purifieth not himself, defileth the tabernacle of the Lord; and that soul shall be cut off from Israel: because the water of separation was not sprinkled upon him, he shall be unclean; his uncleanness is yet upon him. (Numbers 19:11-13, KJV)

    Touching a dead body could be pretty gross. It was also kind of unavoidable what with all the plagues going around. This seven-day ritual functions almost like a quarantine to prevent the spread of disease. After all, if someone had been bitten by a zombie, you wouldn't let them back into your makeshift post-apocalyptic hideout right away, would you?

    The daughters of Zelophehad[…] stood before Moses, Eleazar the priest, the leaders, and all the congregation, at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and they said, "Our father died in the wilderness; he was not among the company of those who gathered themselves together against the Lord in the company of Korah, but died for his own sin; and he had no sons. Why should the name of our father be taken away from his clan because he had no son? Give to us a possession among our father's brothers." Moses brought their case before the Lord. And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: The daughters of Zelophehad are right in what they are saying; you shall indeed let them possess an inheritance among their father's brothers and pass the inheritance of their father on to them." (Numbers 27:1-7, NRSV)

    Then came the daughters of Zelophehad[…] stood before Moses, and before Eleazar the priest, and before the princes and all the congregation, by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying, Our father died in the wilderness, and he was not in the company of them that gathered themselves together against the Lord in the company of Korah; but died in his own sin, and had no sons. Why should the name of our father be done away from among his family, because he hath no son? Give unto us therefore a possession among the brethren of our father. And Moses brought their cause before the Lord. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, The daughters of Zelophehad speak right: thou shalt surely give them a possession of an inheritance among their father's brethren; and thou shalt cause the inheritance of their father to pass unto them. (Numbers 27:1-7, KJV)

    Rules are meant to be broken. The daughters of Zelophehad question the wisdom of only allowing men to inherit property. God decides that they're right and changes his divine mind and laws. You go, girls.

    These six cities shall serve as refuge for the Israelites, for the resident or transient alien among them, so that anyone who kills a person without intent may flee there. But anyone who strikes another with an iron object, and death ensues, is a murderer; the murderer shall be put to death. Or anyone who strikes another with a stone in hand that could cause death, and death ensues, is a murderer; the murderer shall be put to death. Or anyone who strikes another with a weapon of wood in hand that could cause death, and death ensues, is a murderer; the murderer shall be put to death. The avenger of blood is the one who shall put the murderer to death; when they meet, the avenger of blood shall execute the sentence[…] If anyone kills another, the murderer shall be put to death on the evidence of witnesses; but no one shall be put to death on the testimony of a single witness. Moreover you shall accept no ransom for the life of a murderer who is subject to the death penalty; a murderer must be put to death. (Numbers 35:15-18, 30-31, NRSV)

    These six cities shall be a refuge, both for the children of Israel, and for the stranger, and for the sojourner among them: that every one that killeth any person unawares may flee thither. And if he smite him with an instrument of iron, so that he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death. And if he smite him with throwing a stone, wherewith he may die, and he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death. Or if he smite him with an hand weapon of wood, wherewith he may die, and he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death[…] Whoso killeth any person, the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses: but one witness shall not testify against any person to cause him to die. Moreover ye shall take no satisfaction for the life of a murderer, which is guilty of death: but he shall be surely put to death. (Numbers 35:15-18, 30-31, KJV)

    More rulesthis time for murderers. God draws a distinction here between a person who accidentally kills someone (he ran into my knife… ten times) and someone who kills intentionally. He also sets up special cities that an accidental murderer can run and hide out in. George Zimmerman, take note.

  • Visions of the Promised Land

    On the day the tabernacle was set up, the cloud covered the tabernacle, the tent of the covenant; and from evening until morning it was over the tabernacle, having the appearance of fire. It was always so: the cloud covered it by day and the appearance of fire by night. Whenever the cloud lifted from over the tent, then the Israelites would set out; and in the place where the cloud settled down, there the Israelites would camp. At the command of the Lord the Israelites would set out, and at the command of the Lord they would camp. (Numbers 9:15-18, NRSV)

    On the day that the tabernacle was reared up the cloud covered the tabernacle, namely, the tent of the testimony: and at even there was upon the tabernacle as it were the appearance of fire, until the morning. So it was alway: the cloud covered it by day, and the appearance of fire by night. And when the cloud was taken up from the tabernacle, then after that the children of Israel journeyed: and in the place where the cloud abode, there the children of Israel pitched their tents. At the commandment of the Lord the children of Israel journeyed, and at the commandment of the Lord they pitched: as long as the cloud abode upon the tabernacle they rested in their tents. (Numbers 9:15-18, KJV)

    The cloud that settles over the tabernacle is the spirit of God—obviously. That means God is guiding Israel on their journey to the Promised Land. And that means nothing can stop them now. Woo-hoo!

    Moses said to Hobab son of Reuel the Midianite, Moses's father-in-law, "We are setting out for the place of which the Lord said, 'I will give it to you'; come with us, and we will treat you well; for the Lord has promised good to Israel." But he said to him, "I will not go, but I will go back to my own land and to my kindred." He said, "Do not leave us, for you know where we should camp in the wilderness, and you will serve as eyes for us. Moreover, if you go with us, whatever good the Lord does for us, the same we will do for you." (Numbers 10:29-32, NRSV)

    Moses said unto Hobab, the son of Raguel the Midianite, Moses's father in law, We are journeying unto the place of which the Lord said, I will give it you: come thou with us, and we will do thee good: for the Lord hath spoken good concerning Israel. And he said unto him, I will not go; but I will depart to mine own land, and to my kindred. And he said, Leave us not, I pray thee; forasmuch as thou knowest how we are to encamp in the wilderness, and thou mayest be to us instead of eyes. And it shall be, if thou go with us, yea, it shall be, that what goodness the Lord shall do unto us, the same will we do unto thee. (Numbers 10:29-32, KJV)

    This is just the first instance of people wanting to turn back to Egypt. Sure, the Promised Land looks good and all, but this wilderness part is a real bummer. On the flip side, it wouldn't be much of a Promised Land if the Israelites could just waltz right into it.

    They brought back word to them and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land. And they told him, "We came to the land to which you sent us; it flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. Yet the people who live in the land are strong, and the towns are fortified and very large; and besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there." But Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, "Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it." Then the men who had gone up with him said, "We are not able to go up against this people, for they are stronger than we." (Numbers 13:26-31, NRSV)

    They went and came to Moses, and to Aaron, and to all the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the wilderness of Paran, to Kadesh; and brought back word unto them, and unto all the congregation, and shewed them the fruit of the land. And they told him, and said, We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it. Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there. The Amalekites dwell in the land of the south: and the Hittites, and the Jebusites, and the Amorites, dwell in the mountains: and the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and by the coast of Jordan. And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it. But the men that went up with him said, We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we. (Numbers 13:26-31, KJV)

    The spies comes back from Canaan and are supposed to tell Moses how awesome the Promised Land is (they do) and help him come up with a plan for kicking out the current inhabitants (they don't). Instead, these guys chicken out. Oh, wrong move, fellas. Well, except for Caleb. Caleb gets it.

    Your dead bodies shall fall in this very wilderness; and of all your number, included in the census, from twenty years old and upward, who have complained against me, not one of you shall come into the land in which I swore to settle you, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun. But your little ones, who you said would become booty, I will bring in, and they shall know the land that you have despised. But as for you, your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness. (Numbers 14:29-32, NRSV)

    Your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward which have murmured against me. Doubtless ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I swear to make you dwell therein, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun. But your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which ye have despised. But as for you, your carcases, they shall fall in this wilderness. (Numbers 14:29-32, KJV)

    Okay, so the whole Promised Land thing is put off for a while. Say forty years or so. However long it takes for a whole generation of people to die off. As they say, the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away…

    Moses sent for Dathan and Abiram sons of Eliab; but they said, "We will not come! Is it too little that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey to kill us in the wilderness, that you must also lord it over us? It is clear you have not brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey, or given us an inheritance of fields and vineyards. (Numbers 16:12-14, NRSV)

    Moses sent to call Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab: which said, We will not come up: Is it a small thing that thou hast brought us up out of a land that floweth with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness, except thou make thyself altogether a prince over us? Moreover thou hast not brought us into a land that floweth with milk and honey, or given us inheritance of fields and vineyards: wilt thou put out the eyes of these men? we will not come up. (Numbers 16:12-14, KJV)

    These rebels are pretty ticked because Moses hasn't delivered on his promises to them—in other words, no milk and honey in their mouths. They even go so far as to call Egypt the land "flowing with milk and honey." And forced servitude, too, guys. Don't forget that. It's a majorly key detail.

    The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: To these the land shall be apportioned for inheritance according to the number of names. To a large tribe you shall give a large inheritance, and to a small tribe you shall give a small inheritance; every tribe shall be given its inheritance according to its enrollment. (Numbers 26:52-54, NRSV)

    The Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Unto these the land shall be divided for an inheritance according to the number of names. To many thou shalt give the more inheritance, and to few thou shalt give the less inheritance: to every one shall his inheritance be given according to those that were numbered of him. (Numbers 26:52-54, KJV)

    Okay, so the Promised Land is coming soon and it's time to start making plans, particularly when it comes to land. God's plan seems pretty sensible. The leadership will pass out land based on population numbers. Fingers crossed that you get a good spot by some water!

    These were those enrolled by Moses and Eleazar the priest, who enrolled the Israelites in the plains of Moab by the Jordan opposite Jericho. Among these there was not one of those enrolled by Moses and Aaron the priest, who had enrolled the Israelites in the wilderness of Sinai. For the Lord had said of them, "They shall die in the wilderness." Not one of them was left, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun. (Numbers 26:63-65, NRSV)

    These are they that were numbered by Moses and Eleazar the priest, who numbered the children of Israel in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho. But 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 the Lord had said of them, They shall surely die in the wilderness. And there was not left a man of them, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun. (Numbers 26:63-65, KJV)

    Yup, it's time to start heading to Canaan. God's decree has been fulfilled. Everyone from the older generation is dead. Now, it's time for the youth to inherit the Earth. Or at least the Promised Land.

    They came up to him and said, "We will build sheepfolds here for our flocks, and towns for our little ones, but we will take up arms as a vanguard before the Israelites, until we have brought them to their place. Meanwhile our little ones will stay in the fortified towns because of the inhabitants of the land. We will not return to our homes until all the Israelites have obtained their inheritance. We will not inherit with them on the other side of the Jordan and beyond, because our inheritance has come to us on this side of the Jordan to the east." (Numbers 32:16-19, NRSV)

    They came near unto him, and said, We will build sheepfolds here for our cattle, and cities for our little ones: But we ourselves will go ready armed before the children of Israel, until we have brought them unto their place: and our little ones shall dwell in the fenced cities because of the inhabitants of the land. We will not return unto our houses, until the children of Israel have inherited every man his inheritance. For we will not inherit with them on yonder side Jordan, or forward; because our inheritance is fallen to us on this side Jordan eastward. (Numbers 32:16-19, KJV)

    But not everyone is happy. The guys from Reuben and Gad's tribes are kind of fond of the place they've been staying and they're not sure it's worth it to drag their families all the way to this milk and honey paradise. Though the men do agree to go and fight, their families can stay behind in relative safety while they're out helping their brothers fight for what God has given them.

    When you enter the land of Canaan (this is the land that shall fall to you for an inheritance, the land of Canaan, defined by its boundaries), your south sector shall extend from the wilderness of Zin along the side of Edom. Your southern boundary shall begin from the end of the Dead Sea on the east; your boundary shall turn south of the ascent of Akrabbim, and cross to Zin, and its outer limit shall be south of Kadesh-barnea; then it shall go on to Hazar-addar, and cross to Azmon; the boundary shall turn from Azmon to the Wadi of Egypt, and its termination shall be at the Sea. For the western boundary, you shall have the Great Sea and its coast; this shall be your western boundary. This shall be your northern boundary: from the Great Sea you shall mark out your line to Mount Hor; from Mount Hor you shall mark it out to Lebo-hamath, and the outer limit of the boundary shall be at Zedad; then the boundary shall extend to Ziphron, and its end shall be at Hazar-enan; this shall be your northern boundary. You shall mark out your eastern boundary from Hazar-enan to Shepham; and the boundary shall continue down from Shepham to Riblah on the east side of Ain; and the boundary shall go down, and reach the eastern slope of the sea of Chinnereth; and the boundary shall go down to the Jordan, and its end shall be at the Dead Sea. This shall be your land with its boundaries all around. (Numbers 34:2-12, NRSV)

    When ye come into the land of Canaan; (this is the land that shall fall unto you for an inheritance, even the land of Canaan with the coasts thereof:) Then your south quarter shall be from the wilderness of Zin along by the coast of Edom, and your south border shall be the outmost coast of the salt sea eastward: And your border shall turn from the south to the ascent of Akrabbim, and pass on to Zin: and the going forth thereof shall be from the south to Kadeshbarnea, and shall go on to Hazaraddar, and pass on to Azmon: And the border shall fetch a compass from Azmon unto the river of Egypt, and the goings out of it shall be at the sea. And as for the western border, ye shall even have the great sea for a border: this shall be your west border. And this shall be your north border: from the great sea ye shall point out for you mount Hor: From mount Hor ye shall point out your border unto the entrance of Hamath; and the goings forth of the border shall be to Zedad: And the border shall go on to Ziphron, and the goings out of it shall be at Hazarenan: this shall be your north border. And ye shall point out your east border from Hazarenan to Shepham: And the coast shall go down from Shepham to Riblah, on the east side of Ain; and the border shall descend, and shall reach unto the side of the sea of Chinnereth eastward: And the border shall go down to Jordan, and the goings out of it shall be at the salt sea: this shall be your land with the coasts thereof round about. (Numbers 34:2-12, KJV)

    These are some pretty sweet borderlines. They're also somewhat aspirational. Historically, Israel never actually occupied this much land. Too bad (Source 133).

    You shall not pollute the land in which you live; for blood pollutes the land, and no expiation can be made for the land, for the blood that is shed in it, except by the blood of the one who shed it. You shall not defile the land in which you live, in which I also dwell; for I the Lord dwell among the Israelites. (Numbers 35:33-34, NRSV)

    Ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are: for blood it defileth the land: and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it. Defile not therefore the land which ye shall inhabit, wherein I dwell: for I the Lord dwell among the children of Israel. (Numbers 35:33-34, KJV)

    The Promised Land is a special place. God lives there, so it must be. Basically, criminals need not apply.

  • Warfare

    The whole number of the Israelites, by their ancestral houses, from twenty years old and upward, everyone able to go to war in Israel—their whole number was six hundred three thousand five hundred fifty. (Numbers 1:45-46, NRSV)

    So were all those that were numbered of the children of Israel, by the house of their fathers, from twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to war in Israel; Even all they that were numbered were six hundred thousand and three thousand and five hundred and fifty. (Numbers 1:45-46, KJV)

    This is a big reason for all the censuses that fill this book. The people know they're gonna have to fight their way across the wilderness and they need to know how many able-bodied men they have available to draft for the cause. Hey, good organization is the key to any war.

    When you go to war in your land against the adversary who oppresses you, you shall sound an alarm with the trumpets, so that you may be remembered before the Lord your God and be saved from your enemies. (Numbers 10:9, NRSV)

    If ye go to war in your land against the enemy that oppresseth you, then ye shall blow an alarm with the trumpets; and ye shall be remembered before the Lord your God, and ye shall be saved from your enemies. (Numbers 10:9, KJV)

    More housekeeping for the coming battles. Of course, these trumpets not only signal to everyone that it's time to fight. They also are a wake up call to God. Um, a little help here Lord!

    The people who live in the land are strong, and the towns are fortified and very large; and besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites live in the land of the Negeb; the Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live by the sea, and along the Jordan." But Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, "Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it." Then the men who had gone up with him said, "We are not able to go up against this people, for they are stronger than we." So they brought to the Israelites an unfavorable report of the land that they had spied out, saying, "The land that we have gone through as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants; and all the people that we saw in it are of great size. There we saw the Nephilim (the Anakites come from the Nephilim); and to ourselves we seemed like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them." (Numbers 13:28-33, NRSV)

    The people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there. The Amalekites dwell in the land of the south: and the Hittites, and the Jebusites, and the Amorites, dwell in the mountains: and the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and by the coast of Jordan. And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it. But the men that went up with him said, We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we. And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature. And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight. (Numbers 13:28-33, KJV)

    When the twelve spies return from their scouting mission, the majority of them aren't liking their chances against these people "of great size." Yikes! Giants! Caleb thinks they've got this one in the bag, but the rest of the community is convinced that they won't be able to win. Maybe they can get Hagrid to help with the giant problem?

    The Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron; the whole congregation said to them, "Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us into this land to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become booty; would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?" (Numbers 14:2-3, NRSV)

    All the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness! And wherefore hath the Lord brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey? were it not better for us to return into Egypt? (Numbers 14:2-3, KJV)

    Okay, so the people are a little freaked. They think they're gonna get defeated and their families are gonna be taken prisoner. (It's not an unrealistic fear.) But they've forgotten one crucial thing—they've got God on their side. Because the people don't trust him to defend them in battle, they get exiled for the next forty years. Bummer.

    Moses said, "Why do you continue to transgress the command of the Lord? That will not succeed. Do not go up, for the Lord is not with you; do not let yourselves be struck down before your enemies. For the Amalekites and the Canaanites will confront you there, and you shall fall by the sword; because you have turned back from following the Lord, the Lord will not be with you." But they presumed to go up to the heights of the hill country, even though the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and Moses, had not left the camp. Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who lived in that hill country came down and defeated them, pursuing them as far as Hormah. (Numbers 14:41-45, NRSV)

    Moses said, Wherefore now do ye transgress the commandment of the Lord? but it shall not prosper. Go not up, for the Lord is not among you; that ye be not smitten before your enemies. For the Amalekites and the Canaanites are there before you, and ye shall fall by the sword: because ye are turned away from the Lord, therefore the Lord will not be with you. But they presumed to go up unto the hill top: nevertheless the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and Moses, departed not out of the camp. Then the Amalekites came down, and the Canaanites which dwelt in that hill, and smote them, and discomfited them, even unto Hormah. (Numbers 14:41-45, KJV)

    Once they figure out they're grounded for the next forty years, the people do an about face and decide to take the Promised Land after all. Dying in battle doesn't look so bad when you're facing forty years in the wilderness. Naturally, this isn't gonna work because God is super mad at them right now. Seriously, guys. Next time, just listen to God.

    When the Canaanite, the king of Arad, who lived in the Negeb, heard that Israel was coming by the way of Atharim, he fought against Israel and took some of them captive. Then Israel made a vow to the Lord and said, "If you will indeed give this people into our hands, then we will utterly destroy their towns." The Lord listened to the voice of Israel, and handed over the Canaanites; and they utterly destroyed them and their towns. (Numbers 21:1-3, NRSV)

    When king Arad the Canaanite, which dwelt in the south, heard tell that Israel came by the way of the spies; then he fought against Israel, and took some of them prisoners. And Israel vowed a vow unto the Lord, and said, If thou wilt indeed deliver this people into my hand, then I will utterly destroy their cities. And the Lord hearkened to the voice of Israel, and delivered up the Canaanites; and they utterly destroyed them and their cities. (Numbers 21:1-3, KJV)

    War with the King of Arad isn't going so well and Israel has to remind God of his one big job—making sure they don't get beaten down by other nations. God comes to their rescue and everything turns out great (for Israel that is).

    Israel sent messengers to King Sihon of the Amorites, saying, "Let me pass through your land; we will not turn aside into field or vineyard; we will not drink the water of any well; we will go by the King's Highway until we have passed through your territory." But Sihon would not allow Israel to pass through his territory. Sihon gathered all his people together, and went out against Israel to the wilderness; he came to Jahaz, and fought against Israel. Israel put him to the sword, and took possession of his land. (Numbers 21:21-24, NRSV)

    Israel sent messengers unto Sihon king of the Amorites, saying, Let me pass through thy land: we will not turn into the fields, or into the vineyards; we will not drink of the waters of the well: but we will go along by the king's high way, until we be past thy borders. And Sihon would not suffer Israel to pass through his border: but Sihon gathered all his people together, and went out against Israel into the wilderness: and he came to Jahaz, and fought against Israel. And Israel smote him with the edge of the sword, and possessed his land. (Numbers 21:21-24, KJV)

    The Israelites try to play nice, but are forced into battle when the King Sihon won't let them pass peacefully through. Hey, if you mess with the bull, you get the horns.

    They turned and went up the road to Bashan; and King Og of Bashan came out against them, he and all his people, to battle at Edrei. But the Lord said to Moses, "Do not be afraid of him; for I have given him into your hand, with all his people, and all his land. You shall do to him as you did to King Sihon of the Amorites, who ruled in Heshbon." So they killed him, his sons, and all his people, until there was no survivor left; and they took possession of his land. (Numbers 21:33-35, NRSV)

    They turned and went up by the way of Bashan: and og the king of bashan went out against them, he, and all his people, to the battle at edrei. And the Lord said unto Moses, Fear him not: for I have delivered him into thy hand, and all his people, and his land; and thou shalt do to him as thou didst unto Sihon king of the Amorites, which dwelt at Heshbon. So they smote him, and his sons, and all his people, until there was none left him alive: and they possessed his land. (Numbers 21:33-35, KJV)

    This time the people take the fight to their enemies. King Og… and his sons… and all his people figure out that war against God's chosen people is not fun at all.

    Balak son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites. Moab was in great dread of the people, because they were so numerous; Moab was overcome with fear of the people of Israel. And Moab said to the elders of Midian, "This horde will now lick up all that is around us, as an ox licks up the grass of the field." Now Balak son of Zippor was king of Moab at that time. He sent messengers to Balaam son of Beor at Pethor, which is on the Euphrates, in the land of Amaw, to summon him, saying, "A people has come out of Egypt; they have spread over the face of the earth, and they have settled next to me. Come now, curse this people for me, since they are stronger than I; perhaps I shall be able to defeat them and drive them from the land; for I know that whomever you bless is blessed, and whomever you curse is cursed." (Numbers 22:2-6, NRSV)

    Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites. And Moab was sore afraid of the people, because they were many: and Moab was distressed because of the children of Israel. And Moab said unto the elders of Midian, Now shall this company lick up all that are round about us, as the ox licketh up the grass of the field. And Balak the son of Zippor was king of the Moabites at that time. He sent messengers therefore unto Balaam the son of Beor to Pethor, which is by the river of the land of the children of his people, to call him, saying, Behold, there is a people come out from Egypt: behold, they cover the face of the earth, and they abide over against me: Come now therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people; for they are too mighty for me: peradventure I shall prevail, that we may smite them, and that I may drive them out of the land: for I wot that he whom thou blessest is blessed, and he whom thou cursest is cursed. (Numbers 22:2-6, KJV)

    Balak is a little smarter than other kings. He sees that the Israelites are taking down their enemies left and right. So, he tries to get a curse going their way before he goes to the military option. It's a nice thought, but then he happens across a prophet for hire with a soft spot for obeying God.

    They did battle against Midian, as the Lord had commanded Moses, and killed every male. They killed the kings of Midian: Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba, the five kings of Midian, in addition to others who were slain by them; and they also killed Balaam son of Beor with the sword. The Israelites took the women of Midian and their little ones captive; and they took all their cattle, their flocks, and all their goods as booty. All their towns where they had settled, and all their encampments, they burned, but they took all the spoil and all the booty, both people and animals. (Numbers 31:7-11, NRSV)

    They warred against the Midianites, as the Lord commanded Moses; and they slew all the males. And they slew the kings of Midian, beside the rest of them that were slain; namely, Evi, and Rekem, and Zur, and Hur, and Reba, five kings of Midian: Balaam also the son of Beor they slew with the sword. And the children of Israel took all the women of Midian captives, and their little ones, and took the spoil of all their cattle, and all their flocks, and all their goods. And they burnt all their cities wherein they dwelt, and all their goodly castles, with fire. And they took all the spoil, and all the prey, both of men and of beasts. (Numbers 31:7-11, KJV)

    Geez. Israel goes to war with Midian and gives them a pretty good thumping. All the men are killed and women and children are taken prisoner. Yikes. And what does Balaam get for his help? Death. That's what.

    Moses became angry with the officers of the army, the commanders of thousands and the commanders of hundreds, who had come from service in the war. Moses said to them, "Have you allowed all the women to live? These women here, on Balaam's advice, made the Israelites act treacherously against the Lord in the affair of Peor, so that the plague came among the congregation of the Lord. Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known a man by sleeping with him. But all the young girls who have not known a man by sleeping with him, keep alive for yourselves. (Numbers 31:14-18, NRSV)

    Moses was wroth with the officers of the host, with the captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, which came from the battle. And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive? Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the Lord in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord. 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. (Numbers 31:14-18, KJV)

    Yeah, this is pretty bad. Moses is basically ordering genocide here. And we don't even want to think about what's gonna happen to all those poor virgins. Death looks like a pretty good option compared to a life of rape, forced labor, or marriage to your captors. Ugh. Does war have to be this brutal?

    Moses said to them, "If the Gadites and the Reubenites, everyone armed for battle before the Lord, will cross over the Jordan with you and the land shall be subdued before you, then you shall give them the land of Gilead for a possession; but if they will not cross over with you armed, they shall have possessions among you in the land of Canaan." The Gadites and the Reubenites answered, "As the Lord has spoken to your servants, so we will do. We will cross over armed before the Lord into the land of Canaan, but the possession of our inheritance shall remain with us on this side of the Jordan." (Numbers 32:28-32, NRSV)

    Moses said unto them, If the children of Gad and the children of Reuben will pass with you over Jordan, every man armed to battle, before the Lord, and the land shall be subdued before you; then ye shall give them the land of Gilead for a possession: But if they will not pass over with you armed, they shall have possessions among you in the land of Canaan. And the children of Gad and the children of Reuben answered, saying, As the Lord hath said unto thy servants, so will we do. We will pass over armed before the Lord into the land of Canaan, that the possession of our inheritance on this side Jordan may be our's. (Numbers 32:28-32, KJV)

    The guys from the tribes of Reuben and Gad want to break off from the larger group and stay in one of the many places they've already conquered. Moses agrees, but only if they'll still help the rest of the people fight and take the Promised Land. They can't afford to lose any good men.

    In the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho, the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to the Israelites, and say to them: When you cross over the Jordan into the land of Canaan, you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, destroy all their figured stones, destroy all their cast images, and demolish all their high places. You shall take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given you the land to possess[…] But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then those whom you let remain shall be as barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides; they shall trouble you in the land where you are settling. And I will do to you as I thought to do to them. (Numbers 33:50-53, 55-56, NRSV)

    The Lord spake unto Moses in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye are passed over Jordan into the land of Canaan; Then ye shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, and destroy all their pictures, and destroy all their molten images, and quite pluck down all their high places[…] But if ye will not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you; then it shall come to pass, that those which ye let remain of them shall be pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your sides, and shall vex you in the land wherein ye dwell. Moreover it shall come to pass, that I shall do unto you, as I thought to do unto them. (Numbers 33:50-53, 55-56, KJV)

    God gives specific instructions on what exactly is supposed to happen once they get to the Promised Land. Basically, kick everyone out and destroy their homes and towns. Lovely. But the Israelites have every right to do this. After all, God has "given [them] the land to possess." Sounds airtight to us. Have fun storming the Promised Land.