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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Day 25 (Talking Donkey)

Today will be a Super Sized Saturday. I realized I will need to occasionally double up if I want to finish before my fortieth birthday. So, first we have the Numbers reading which is from chapter 21 to 29.

Most interesting is this story about Balaam of Midian, which you will surely recall is where Jethro father of Zipporah and father-in-law of Moses is from. It is a crazy tale in which we learn of a non-Hebrew prophet having dialogue first with YHWH and later with a talking donkey. I knew this story, but not where it was located in the Bible, and I missed that the prophet was a Midianite, not an Israelite. If you are interested it is here.

So, the placement of this story in the middle of Numbers is a curious literary choice. It belongs as far as the action goes, the Israelites have been blocked from passing through the land of Esau's descendants (Edom) and are working around the descendants of Lot's daughters (Moabites). The problem is that the following story is how God gets very mad a the Hebrews for "sexual immorality" with Midianite women; one of them even takes a Midianite bride in the open! So, Aaron successor, Eleazar, runs the man and his foreign bride through with a spear, which causes the plague that God had inflicted on the Hebrews to go end.

Did I mention the nationality of Moses's wife? So, lets suspend the critique of a God that sends plagues on his people and that is quite xenophobic from time to time. Why are these two stories located one after another? The first clearly demonstrates that YHWH (also called Shaddai once in the story btw) speaks to other people and other people are righteous. If the problem is that the Hebrews were swinging with the loose Midianite women, then why emphasize their foreign birth and not their looseness?

Were these stories of conflicting message included in the scripture as a dialogue between competing views? Consider the two creation stories. Consider the example I'll post later today.

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