Numbers is as Boring as Actual Counting (Numbers 1-5)

It’s abundantly clear that Numbers is an apt title for the fourth book of Moses.

Numbers 1-4 detail the census that God commands Moses to undertake. He’s supposed to make a count of his people (which only includes males over the age of twenty since everyone else is of little significance). As it turns out, there are 603, 550 Israelites. Good to know. It would have been great if the Bible had just listed this grand total and moved on with the narrative. But no. It goes through all the different tribes. For example, “Of all the people of Benjamin, their generations, by their families, by their fathers’ houses, according to the number of names, from twenty years old  and upward, every man able to go forth to war: the number of the tribe of Benjamin was thirty-five thousand four hundred” (Num 1:38). There are pages like that. So boring. So very boring.

And then, Moses has to count the Levites. But this time God wants him to make a record of all the males, regardless of age. I don’t understand why the criteria changes but it does. There are 22, 000. I think he rounded up. In fact, after counting the Israelites he was probably too exhausted to really count and just eyeballed it.

And then, Moses has to count the Kohathites but only those that are males between the ages of thirty and fifty years of age. There are 2, 750.

And then, Moses has to count the sons of Gershon, whoever that is. There are 2, 630.

And then, Moses has to count the sons of Merari. There are 3, 200.

Finally, in Numbers 5 something interesting comes up. What to do if you’re a jealous husband. If you’re a jealous husband then you can bring your wife to a priest for what could only be described as weird voodoo. To be clear, it doesn’t actually matter if your jealousy is substantiated or not. What happens is you drag your protesting wife to the priest’s and he makes her stand there and let her hair down (for dramatic effect). He gives her some cereal to hold in her hand (maybe oats) while he grabs the “water of bitterness that brings the curse” (Num 5:18). See? Voodoo. She listens to him recite the following: “…if you have defiled yourself, and some man other than your husband has lain with you, then… the Lord make you an execration… when the Lord makes your thigh fall away and your body swell; make this water that brings the curse pass into your bowels and make your body swell and your thigh fall away” (Num 5:20-22). The kicker is she has to repeat some of this with him (I wonder how enthusiastically). If she hasn’t cheated on her husband then nothing happens. I find it hard to believe that this would have been an effective means for smoking out cheating spouses unless the water of biterness contained a vicious and fast-acting strain of the flesh-eating disease.

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Published in: on February 19, 2011 at 7:44 pm  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I wish that cheating test actually worked.

    Also, the google ad on your site right now as I post this comment is “Sex Problems in Marriage? Get Free Advice Immediately. New Alternative to Counseling”. I’d like to think that this new alternative involves the water of bitterness.

    • For most women, the water of bitterness is Pinot Grigio (drank without dinner).


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