Chapter 4: Numbers
Num:3:9: And thou shalt give the Levites unto Aaron and to his sons: they are wholly given unto him out of the children of Israel.
Here, God instituted a master and slave class. Aaron and his sons were to own the Levites. The Levites were doomed to be the slaves of Aaron and his sons!
There have been numerous eyewitness accounts by explorers and anthropologists relating the extremely generous hospitality shown to strangers amongst many of the people of the Middle East. The Israelites, however, certainly cannot be numbered amongst these loving people; they had strict orders: "the stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death"!
Num:3:40: And the LORD said unto Moses, Number all the firstborn of the males of the children of Israel from a month old and upward, and take the number of their names.
This is just one of the many censuses that God commanded Moses to take. Why would an all-knowing God need a man to count for him?
Num:3:41: And thou shalt take the Levites for me (I am the LORD) instead of all the firstborn among the children of Israel; and the cattle of the Levites instead of all the firstlings among the cattle of the children of Israel.
You may recall that God had previously given strict orders on this subject. He ordered that after the Israelites arrived in Canaan, henceforth all firstborn male cattle had to be killed as a sacrificial offering to himself (with the exception of an ass, for which they could kill a lamb in its stead) and that all firstborn Israelite boys had to be redeemed:
Ex:13:11: And it shall be when the LORD shall bring thee into the land of the Canaanites, as he sware unto thee and to thy fathers, and shall give it thee,
Later, these very same laws were incorporated into the "ten commandments" (Ex. 34:19,20) and were written in stone (see the chapter on Exodus for proof of this). But here, the God who doesn't change (James 1:17), changed his mind. He decided he would be satisfied with just the killing of animals belonging to the Levites, and with just the Levites instead of the firstborn males of every tribe. Why would a perfect, all-knowing God ever change his mind? Wouldn't such a being always come up with the best plan the first time? Such a plan would never need revising, much less reversal. By making this change, God was in effect saying that he was wrong in the first place: the sacrifices he had originally required were erroneous! Too bad he didn't figure this out before all of those innocent animals had been killed.
I wonder if Moses went back to the stone tablets and did some re-chiseling to reflect this change?
Num:3:46: And for those that are to be redeemed of the two hundred and threescore and thirteen of the firstborn of the children of Israel, which are more than the Levites;Num:
Once again, we see that redemption can be bought with cash!
Num:4:14: 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.
How odd to find flesh-hooks counted amongst the sacred items of worship!
In a more enlightened era, ethical people reached the conclusion that killing animals for the sake of fur coats (a luxury item) is immoral. But here, the all-loving God, who supposedly cares about the death of every sparrow (Mt. 10:29-31), ordered that his flesh-hooks and other implements of 'worship' be covered with fur!
Num:5:1: And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
Another ethical idea, which people came up with long ago, is to care for the sick, diseased, and injured. Hospitals were built and staffed with people who underwent extensive training to learn to care for them. But the all-loving God had a much better idea: throw the sick people out of the camp and let them fend for themselves! The only thing that seemed to matter to God was that his presence not be "defiled". If God created everything, then he created leprosy, and it's difficult to fathom how his own creation could somehow "defile" him. Since the Bible gave a graphic demonstration of God instantly causing and curing leprosy (Ex. 4:6-7), wouldn't it have been a more loving thing to have healed these people instead of banishing them?
Num:5:12: Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man's wife go aside, and commit a trespass against him,
This instituted a trial by ordeal. Fortunately for the woman involved it was one of the less harmful of such rituals; she only had to drink dirty water. In the Middle Ages such trials by ordeal reached the pinnacle of harm and absurdity. For example: the accused was made to reach into a boiling cauldron and remove a coin. If their hand and arm remained unburned they were declared innocent. Witches were tried by throwing them into a body of water to see whether they would float or not. Jousting and duels were also forms of legally trying a case. It was assumed that God would miraculously decide such cases by protecting the innocent. By following this Biblical precedent, European courts were little more than a ridiculous mockery of justice for centuries. It was only when enlightened people looked back in time to the "pagan" Roman judicial system that our "modern" system of justice developed.
Num:10:9: And 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.
God got it backwards: this was not their land; it was the Canaanites' land. The Israelites were the oppressors: an invading horde, slaughtering the native people, raping the women, destroying everything in their path, and stealing the land.
Once again, God admited to forgetfulness. He forgets about his "chosen people" and they have to remind him of their existence by blowing a trumpet!
Num:10:29: And Moses said unto Hobab, the son of Raguel the Midianite, Moses' 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.
Due to the poor writing, it is unclear from this whether Moses' father-in-law is Hobab or Raguel, but certainly the passage tells us that it was one of these two men. Elsewhere, we were told that Moses' father-in-law was neither of these two men, but rather one "Jethro":
Ex:3:1: Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb.
Num:11:1: And 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.
Doesn't it seem a trifle harsh to you to exact the death penalty (by burning alive) for the crime of "complaining"? Wouldn't you revolt against a government with laws so unjust and cruel? Yet, we are to believe that this was the action of the "God of love"!
Num:11:11: And 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?
The way Moses speaks of "this people" and "their fathers" is exactly what one would expect if Moses were not one of these people, but rather an Egyptian with an Egyptian father. This makes his legendary origins, as given in Exodus, suspicious.
Num:11:31: And there went forth a wind from the LORD, and brought quails from the sea, and let them fall by the camp, as it were a day's journey on this side, and as it were a day's journey on the other side, round about the camp, and as it were two cubits high upon the face of the earth.
God killed millions of birds to satisfy his "chosen people's" craving for meat. But then, just as they were starting to eat what he had provided, he killed them too! Why didn't he just kill the people to begin with and save the birds lives? Remember, this is the God who cares about the life of every sparrow (Mt. 10:29-31)!
Num:14:11: And the LORD said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me? and how long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs which I have shewed among them?
Once again God was ready to go back on his word and kill all of the Israelites except Moses. He emphatically stated that he would do this. If God is the omnipotent being we are told that he is, then nothing could possibly avert his will. Yet Moses warned God of what people would say if he destroyed his chosen people. Evidently God hadn't thought of this (Moses was smarter than the all-knowing God), and he actually worried about what people would say about him! In the end God's will was changed by a mere man!
Num:14:30: Doubtless ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun.
Here, God unashamedly admitted that he was not going to keep his promise.
Num:14:31: 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.
God said that the Israelites (except for Caleb and Joshua) were "evil". If that were true, why had he chosen them? Why did he bother carrying out the slaughter of the "evil" Canaanites only to replace them with the "evil" Israelites?
Num:15:32: And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man that gathered sticks upon the sabbath day.
The text does not state whether or not the man was an Israelite. Normally, whenever an Israelite is referred to, his name, and often his lineage is given. So, the implication is that this man was not an Israelite, and so was unaware of, and not subject to their laws. Yet the God of love and justice ordered that the man be stoned to death for gathering sticks on a certain day. This was a travesty of justice. But, even if this man were an Israelite, could we honestly say that the punishment fit the crime?
Num:16:19: And Korah gathered all the congregation against them unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto all the congregation.
Once again, God intended to kill the innocent along with the guilty (although in this case, the "guilty" were only guilty of challenging Moses' authority). Once again, a mere mortal man had to give Almighty God a lesson in ethics: pointing out that it was unjust to kill everyone for one man's sin. Too bad Moses wasn't around to instruct God in this simple matter when God was formulating the idea of Original Sin!
Num:16:28: And Moses said, Hereby ye shall know that the LORD hath sent me to do all these works; for I have not done them of mine own mind.
And yet again, on the following day, God forgot his lesson in ethics! Once again he was ready to "consume" his "chosen people" "in a moment"! This time, Moses didn't bother arguing with God, but resorted to ritual to counteract God's will:
Num:16:46: And Moses said unto Aaron, Take a censer, and put fire therein from off the altar, and put on incense, and go quickly unto the congregation, and make an atonement for them: for there is wrath gone out from the LORD; the plague is begun.
14,700 people were killed by God just for having objected to his murdering of Korah and his men (the very same objection I have made'I, however have not been struck with a plague, so God must not be quite so sensitive about criticism these days).
Num:18:11: And this is thine; the heave offering of their gift, with all the wave offerings of the children of Israel: I have given them unto thee, and to thy sons and to thy daughters with thee, by a statute for ever: every one that is clean in thy house shall eat of it.
Maybe I have a suspicious mind, but it has occurred to me that just maybe the priests themselves made this all up so that they could live, as the saying goes, "off the fat of the lamb".
Num:18:15: Every thing that openeth the matrix in all flesh, which they bring unto the LORD, whether it be of men or beasts, shall be thine: nevertheless the firstborn of man shalt thou surely redeem, and the firstling of unclean beasts shalt thou redeem.
Well, now God contradicted himself again. This was the original understanding, as given in Exodus: the firstborn animals were to be killed as a "sacrifice" to God. But God had previously countermanded this order in Numbers 3:41:
Num:3:41: And thou shalt take the Levites for me (I am the LORD) instead of all the firstborn among the children of Israel; and the cattle of the Levites instead of all the firstlings among the cattle of the children of Israel.
But here God changed his mind once again, and went back to the original law.
Num:19:2: This is the ordinance of the law which the LORD hath commanded, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring thee a red heifer without spot, wherein is no blemish, and upon which never came yoke:
One might expect to find such a magical ritual in an occultist's book of spells, or in a book of voodoo practices. A perfectly innocent animal was to be murdered and burned. This would purify the children of Israel of their sins. But it seems to me that killing our fellow creatures for no good reason is probably a worse sin than (for example) picking up sticks on the "Sabbath" (but that sin was evidently too horrendous even for a heifer's death to purify, since God ordered the man's death by stoning).
God stated that this ritualistic murder of an innocent animal as a purification for sin was to be a "statute for ever". Forever means that there will never come a time when this ritual is not a law for the children of Israel. Yet, we read elsewhere in the Bible:
Heb:10:4: For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.
Both statements simply cannot be true. Therefore it is not possible to believe both Numbers and Hebrews. Since these are both books of the Bible, it is not possible to believe the Bible.
Num:20:12: And 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 was immediately after Moses had stood up in front of "the congregation" and declared that water would issue forth from a rock (as God had told him). If this didn't demonstrate that Moses believed God, I don't know what would. I would have to have a pretty firm belief in something like that before I stood up in front of a "murmuring" horde of frustrated, thirsty people who had previously plotted to kill me! Yet God decided that Moses and Aaron (after having witnessed countless spectacular miracles, including the transformation of all water into blood, and the parting of the Red Sea) didn't believe that he could bring water forth from a rock! This was evidently a sin of such great magnitude that God felt justified in going back on his word and breaking his promise to them that he would bring them into the "promised" land.
Why would anyone choose to worship a God who breaks his own promises?
Num:21:1: And 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.
Once again, the invading horde of Israelites, not content merely to conquer the native people, vowed to "utterly destroy" them and their cities. This evidently sat well with God who "hearkened" to their vow and "delivered" the Canaanites to them. This meant that the "God of love" not only approved of the murder of innocent children, babies, and pregnant women, he actually helped carry it out!
Num:21:5: And 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.
Once again, God responded to legitimate grievances with murder.
He had watered his "chosen people" recently (from the rock), and evidently felt that should be enough to satisfy them. He must've forgotten that his creation required water every day: why else would he consider such a request sinful?
In order to counteract his own punishment, God ordered Moses to break one of his own commandments:
Ex:20:4: Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
A bronze serpent is certainly a likeness of something in the earth. Why couldn't God simply have removed the serpents, rather than resorting to a method which involved the breaking of his own law? Could this be yet another instance of sympathetic magic?
Num:21:35: So they smote him, and his sons, and all his people, until there was none left him alive: and they possessed his land.
This is describing what the invading Israelites did to the native Amorites. Would you describe such actions as ethical and humane, or as immoral and inhumane?
Num:22:2: And Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites.Num:22:3: And Moab was sore afraid of the people, because they were many: and Moab was distressed because of the children of Israel.
I have quoted this at such length to ensure that we don't miss a single detail, and so that you can judge for yourself whether the following summary is fair and accurate.
Balak, representing the Moabites and Midianites, saw what atrocities the Israelites had committed against the Amorites. Naturally, he sought to prevent such wholesale slaughter of his own people (if you were in his shoes, wouldn't you do the same?) So Balak sent men to ask the seer Balaam to come and curse the Israelites.
But Balaam didn't immediately accept the offer. He made the entourage wait overnight while he consulted with God. God told Balaam not to go, so in the morning, he dismissed the men with these words: "Get you into your land: for the LORD refuseth to give me leave to go with you."
Balak was determined, and so he sent another entourage, consisting of "more honorable" princes. He also increased the reward to a position of power in his kingdom for Balaam. But once again, Balaam's piety exceeded his greed. He told the princes: "If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the LORD my God, to do less or more."
But this time God told Balaam to "rise up, and go with them" (evidently the first group just weren't "honorable" enough for God to assent, since we know that God can never change his mind). So, Balaam dutifully went with the men.
But now, to our utter amazement we read: "And God's anger was kindled because he went"! This is similar to when God tried to kill Moses immediately after telling him to go to Pharaoh (Ex. 4:24). In both cases God acted contrary to his own plan, and in both cases God's attempted murder was thwarted by some lesser force! In Balaam's case, an ass thwarted the Almighty God's intention to kill him. The angel clearly stated that "unless she had turned from me, surely now also I had slain thee".
Why was the ass able to see the angel immediately, while God had to "open the eyes" of Balaam (after permitting him to mercilessly beat the ass) before he could see the angel? Wouldn't an all-knowing, merciful God have foreseen the beating, and opened Balaam's eyes before it could occur? Since the angel intended to kill Balaam, wasn't the ass thwarting God's purpose? Since Balaam was doing exactly what God told him to do ("rise up, and to with them"), it seems the wrong creature was being chastised here.
Finally, we know that "opening the mouth" of an ass would be insufficient to enable it to speak. An ass simply doesn't possess the proper equipment (cheeks, lips of sufficient flexibility, vocal cords') to utter the sounds of human speech. God would have to have worked several additional miracles by physically transforming the ass in such a way that it would be able to make such sounds. Then God would've had to teach it whatever language Balaam spoke. Then God would've had to teach it the concepts of ownership and time (since knowledge of these concepts is implicit in what the ass says). I wonder if God transformed the animal back again after its little speech, or if Balaam later went on tour with his "wonderful talking ass" to sell-out crowds.
But, even more amazing than a talking ass is what happened next. After attempting to kill Balaam for doing what God told him to do, and after having been thwarted in the murder attempt by a talking ass, the angel told Balaam: "Go with the men: but only the word that I shall speak unto thee, that thou shalt speak." This was the understanding all along. Back in verse 20 God had told Balaam to go with the men but to only do what God would instruct him to do. It seems as though God had neglected to inform this hot-tempered angel of the situation, and it nearly jeopardized the whole mission! That would indicate a communication problem in God's "organization"; the left hand didn't know what the right-hand was doing. It also demonstrates that God's angels can work contrary to God's will and actually kill people through their own ignorance!
Balak tried three times to get Balaam to curse Israel, but each time Balaam told him that he would only say what God would tell him to say, and he ended up blessing Israel and prophesying Israel's conquest of the Canaanites.
Num:24:10: And Balak's anger was kindled against Balaam, and he smote his hands together: and Balak said unto Balaam, I called thee to curse mine enemies, and, behold, thou hast altogether blessed them these three times.
I think it would be fair to say that Balaam took a very firm stand for his faith, and resisted the strong temptation to act contrary to God's orders. Contrast this with Aaron, who made a graven image just because the people asked him to!
Now, let's read what is written about Balaam in other parts of the Bible:
2Pt:2:15: Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;
Jude:1:11: Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core.
Rv:2:14: But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.
How could anyone, having read the story of Balaam as recorded in Numbers, conclude that Balaam "loved the wages of unrighteousness" or that he "ran greedily after error"? How could anyone conclude from reading Numbers that Balaam taught Balak to somehow induce Israel to sacrifice to idols and commit fornication? After being chastised by Balak, Balaam went home. We don't hear a word more about him until we read of the following righteous and holy action by God's chosen people:
Num 31:8 ' Balaam also the son of Beor they slew with the sword.
The account in Numbers concerning Balaam is clearly contradicted 3 times in the New Testament. Which part of the Bible shall we believe?
Num:25:1: And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab.
From this account we can gather that it wasn't the Israelites' fault that they took Midianite "wives" and worshipped the god Baal. The Midianites were to blame for this for tempting them. This is in direct contradiction to another part of the Bible which plainly states that God doesn't allow anyone to be tempted past what they can resist, and that the fault lies with the sinner, not the tempter (1 Cor. 10:13; Jms 1:14).
The Israelite's atoned for their sin and stemmed God's anger by brutally murdering a man and his new wife who were peacefully sitting in their own tent. Phinehas murdered both of them by piercing them with a lance. After that, God couldn't seem to find enough good things to say about Phinehas, and rewarded him with an "everlasting priesthood" for himself and his sons (but being the grandson of Aaron, he already possessed this "reward").
Now we see the kind of moral actions this God of the Bible approves of and rewards. This barbaric action also convinced the God of love to stop the plague that he was inflicting upon his chosen people for having worshipped Baal and taken foreign wives. After killing off thousands of Israelites by the plague, he decided to have the Israelites kill the Midianites instead, so he told Moses to raise an army against them, after which God would kill Moses himself.
Num:31:1: And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
Num:31:7: And they warred against the Midianites, as the LORD commanded Moses; and they slew all the males.
Because the Israelites had found the Midianite women attractive, and also found their religion attractive, they killed all the males, burnt all the cities, and took all the women and children captive. But, brace yourself; you haven't heard anything yet:
Num:31:14: And Moses was wroth with the officers of the host, with the captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, which came from the battle.
Think long and hard about these words of Moses. This "hero of the Bible." This "meekest of men." Do these words sound like something a Nazi war criminal might have said? Moses ordered the cold-blooded murder of women and children. He was evidently acting as God's spokesman when he did this!
Why did Moses commit this atrocity? The reason is steeped in layers of error:
1. Error number one: Moses stated that these women caused Israel to sin. According to the Bible this is an error because no one can cause you to sin. If you sin, it is your own fault because God doesn't allow anyone to be tempted beyond what they can bear (1 Cor. 10:13; Jms 1:14).
2. Error number two: The reason Moses gave for murdering the women did not give any reason for murdering the children.
3. Error number three: Moses stated that these women had acted under the counsel of Balaam. As we've seen, the Bible relates that Balaam blessed Israel and then departed. After that he is not heard of again until the Israelites murdered him. Besides: the Bible says that it was the Israelites who "began to commit whoredom" with the Midianites: it doesn't say that the Midianite women deliberately set out to entice them.
4. Error number four: Moses evidently believed that interracial marriage was a sin. Yet, elsewhere in the Bible we are told that "there is neither Jew nor Greek".
5. Error number five: Moses evidently believed that murdering innocent children was a holy act.
6. Error number six: Moses stated that the reason the women had to be murdered was because the Israelites had "committed whoredom" with them. Yet he tells his men to spare the virgin women for themselves! Why do you suppose virgin women were kept alive for these men? What do you suppose these Israelite men (who seemed so easily to fall for the charms of the Midianite women) did with these women? Doesn't it seem that by this action Moses allowed the very thing he was railing against? Having sexual relations with the Midianites is what caused the plague and the war. Yet, in the end what are we left with? Thousands of people dead, and the Israelite men having sexual relations with Midianite virgins!
After reading these words of Moses, and this horrific act of the Israelites, how can we ever again call Moses "meek", or the Israelites "God's chosen people and a nation of priests"? How can we ever again call the Bible "holy" or "the good book"?
There have been practical consequences to referring to this book of atrocities as "God's Word". During the centuries following the "discovery" of the Americas by Europeans, the genocide of the Native Americans was justified by Biblical accounts such as this. The attack on the Pequot tribe in 1736 -- which consisted primarily of setting women, children, and feeble old men on fire as they lay asleep in their tents -- was described by the two leaders of the attack as follows:
"The Lord was pleased to smite our enemies in the hinder parts, and to give us their land for an inheritance' God was above them, who laughed his enemies and the enemies of his people to scorn'Thus did the Lord judge among the heathen, filling the place with dead bodies!" (John Mason, "A Brief History of the Pequot War" p. 21, 9-10)
"'great and doleful was the bloody sight to the view of young soldiers that never had been in war, to see so many souls lie gasping on the ground, so thick, in some places, that you could hardly pass along' sometimes the Scripture declareth women and children must perish with their parents." (John Underhill, "Newes from America," p. 7, emphasis added)
Following the Midianite massacre, the Bible next relates the dividing up of the "booty":
Num:31:32: And the booty, being the rest of the prey which the men of war had caught, was six hundred thousand and seventy thousand and five thousand sheep,
So there were 32,000 virgins which Moses had told the Israelite men to "keep alive for themselves". Of these, 352 were given to the priests as the "Lord's tribute". What do you suppose the priests did with these "women children"? As it turns out, we don't have to wonder. The Bible relates that God gave specific orders as to what must be done with such people:
Lev:27:28: Notwithstanding no devoted thing, that a man shall devote unto the LORD of all that he hath, both of man and beast, and of the field of his possession, shall be sold or redeemed: every devoted thing is most holy unto the LORD.
So, after they murdered thousands of innocent men, women, and children, and raped thousands of women, God's chosen people sacrificed 352 virgins to their God Jehovah, as he had commanded them through his spokesman Moses. Aren't you thankful for this holy book of moral instruction, which acts as a guide on how to conduct our lives in a manner pleasing to the God of love?