Blogging the Bible – The Smiting Begins
I have been following the Blogging the Bible series at Slate, reading a few chapters each week, and today I reached the book of Numbers.
In my past attempts to read the bible, I always enjoyed the Abraham-Isaac-Jacob-Joseph stories (when I was very small I named my fluffy rabbit Benjamin after my favourite of Joseph’s brothers) but they read like ancient myths. I suspect that they were even thought of as ancient myths when they were written down 2700 years ago – much like the Homeric stories provided a background mythology for the religion of the Greeks.
The Moses stuff is interesting too until you get into the laws and the endless wandering in the desert. It’s hard to keep track and that’s usually about when I lose interest and give up. I made it further this time – all the way to Numbers. It helps that I am not actually reading it this time 🙂
Numbers is cool because it documents the founding of Israel as a nation as opposed to a group of tribes wandering in the desert. Those stories provide the reasons for why things are the way they are in the pre-exile lands of Judah and Israel. They also lay the foundation for the next couple of thousand years of Jewish and Christian history. If you believe in the documentary hypothesis (as I do), it is all the more interesting to imagine those stories being written down by the ruling classes and the would-be ruling classes to justify their rule.
Anyway, I am about halfway through Numbers. I haven’t peeked ahead yet to see how far gets. I hope he makes it to the end and that I make it with him.