Monday, March 4, 2013

Slogging through Leviticus and Numbers

Well, I said in an earlier post that I would write about the New Testament in my next post. OK. So, I lied. I'm going to hold off on that until I've read all four Gospels. Right now, I am about halfway through the Gospel of Luke.

The Bible reading program that I'm on involves reading the Bible six days a week: three chapters of the Old Testament, one psalm, and one chapter of the New Testament.

Anyway, today, I started reading Deuteronomy. Moses is still trying to deal with the Israelites, which is sort of like herding cats. The Israelites are uncooperative, and they spend a lot of time complaining. They believe that they are in terrible peril on a regular basis and they spend a lot of time reminiscing nostalgically about the good old days when they were slaves in Egypt. Of course, nostalgia is an interesting thing. It can make a truly bad experience seem wonderful, especially after several years have passed, and the unpleasant reality has waned away. Several times, the Israelites talk about returning to Egypt. Why? I don't have a clue. But they don't have much confidence in Moses or in God. At times, they go beyond mere complaining to building and worshiping idols. God, through Moses, had warned the Israelites that he would not tolerate them worshiping idols and graven images but... once again... the herding cats image...

So God becomes mad at the Israelites and he punishes them harshly for their disobedience and their ungrateful attitudes. He sends them plagues. Some of them die abruptly and others are swallowed by the earth. It must have been an enormous sinkhole.

When the Israelites aren't whining and worshiping false idols and planning on returning to all of the fun times in Egypt, they fight wars... one war after another. Ugh! Lots of killing. Not too pleasant. It isn't good for their plan to become as numerous as the stars in the sky or the sands on the beach. In the book of Numbers, the Israelites are counted in two censuses. Well, not all Israelites. The women and children are not counted. The twelve tribes of Israel are counted, but the only ones who are counted are the men, ages 20 and over, who could be soldiers in the army. The Levites are counted separately. They are the priestly clan. They aren't going to be soldiers. Only the male Levites are counted, however. But the little boys, age one month and older, are counted, along with the men. Some of the tribes had a dramatic decline in population between the first and second censuses. The tribe of Simeon saw the most dramatic decline in population. They went from 59,300 men to 22,200, a lost of 37,100 men, which accounted for more than half of their adult male population. On the other hand, the tribe of Manasseh, saw an increase in population. They went from 32,200 to 52,700, an increase of 11,900. But, in terms of total population, the Israelites lost 1,993 males (this includes the Levites).

Can you tell that my dad was a demographer? I learned a lot from him about population trends. I can say that wars and getting swallowed up by the earth does not encourage a nation to be fruitful and multiply.

Yet, other nations were afraid of the Israelites because of their large numbers.

As mentioned earlier, the Israelites were not very well behaved. God sent down, though Moses, massive numbers of rules and regulations, covering every situation possible, from what foods people could eat to how they were to what sort of offerings were acceptable in the temple to how the vestments for the priests were to be made. These rules were very detailed and they didn't offer much room for interpretation. Violating these rules could result in serious penalties.

At any rate, I will learn more about the laws and the rules because they are explained in more detail in Deuteronomy.

More later...

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