In amongst all the unfamiliar, the repeating, the not relevant to today’s world (well my experience of it anyway), is a blessing I’m familiar with. Not word for word but then the version I’m familiar with is most likely another translation of the same. Earlier in this section there is also reference to abstaining from drinking wine and beer too. It intrigues me that the Bible is used by difference religions and denominations of religions but each seems to take parts from it that it feels are important to follow while either ignoring other bits or feeling they are not so important, or not even relevant. Who gets to decide this?
With regard to the reference about abstaining from drinking wine and beer, there is also reference to not eating any grapes or raisins too but yet that, as far as I’m aware, has not been given the gravitas which not drinking wine and beer has, or alcohol in general not that spirits are mentioned here. I don’t really have an opinion either way on this issue: I’m writing this with a glass of wine beside me. However, I do feel that there are many people who place too much importance on drinking alcohol, drink too much, and I have no idea to what end they do this. Are they trying to escape from themselves? They certainly don’t seem to have more fun; it only seems to bring more hurt and despair. In many ways it’s enough to make me abstain voluntarily as a reaction to the excess, yet I wouldn’t feel that it was abstinence as it wouldn’t be missed.
The first census numbers are too rounded for my liking to be taken as true but the sheer scale of the numbers themselves are staggering: That this many people were basically on the move and camping out in the desert, and that is without women and children, but yet creating some kind of order and community. You look at displaced people and migrants on the move today and even though it is sometimes said to be on a biblical scale the totals may be biblical but not they are not all in one place and with such order as is described here in the Bible. I have an idea from sports stadia what 50,000 or so people would look like congregated in one place but cannot comprehend this amount of people which would dwarf the population of the town where I live and even the population of my nearest city. Even if I think of the bigger cities I have visited, the scale and logistics of getting from one part to another, it is with a sense of awe that I think of this many people acting on a common goal.
The seventh day is a day of rest for man to worship the Lord. The seventh year is the year of rest for the land (although crop rotation now doesn’t generally go for seven but is more traditionally four years but can be other periods). I do not much go in for the history of things but what is it about the number 7 which means it turns up again and again and not just in the Bible? Many religions make reference to it. Seven notes on a musical scale sounds harmonious. People talk about lucky seven. Then again there are seven deadly sins.
Having taken a couple of days to think about it, I still don’t know that I’ve reached a personal resolution to how I feel about the idea of the Year of Restoration. On the one hand it sounds like a good idea and I wonder why I’ve not had knowledge of it until now and whether it is still practiced in certain circles, on the other hand how does anything move on and evolve if everything is just returned (with a few exemptions) to how it was. Still time to move on, appropriately to Numbers.
A programme on television this morning was going to discuss whether the Bible was still relevant in today’s world as despite being the most bought book in the world the majority of people now would not take it with them if stranded on a deserted island. I did not carry on watching to find out what the guests’ take on it was but I guess that this is something I’m trying to discover for myself through this reading of the Bible too. I have a long way to go but would say that on the whole so far while some is still relevant, much is not. But then can we pick and choose what is relevant and what is not? And who gets to make the ultimate decision on that when we can interpret the same words in different ways?
Talking of relevance, in this section I have come across the command not to tattoo yourself yet more and more people have tattoos now and whilst I don’t have one I’m not convinced of any reason why someone who wants to shouldn’t. The statement that no-one with a physical defect should present an offering to the Lord is again shocking and deplorable. Just because you don’t fit the ‘normal and perfect’ ideal, why does this make you any less worthy? This idea of the perfect body and attainment of it has obviously been around for all eternity, and isn’t this worship of self and therefore a false God? There is no perfect.
My final thought on this section, one of the Lord’s commands is that a man should not take his wife’s sister as one of his wives as long as his wife is living. Didn’t Jacob do just this and marry Rachel while Leah was still alive albeit that when he married Leah he thought it was Rachel?
This idea of unclean appalls me. It is divisive, discriminatory, and incites hatred. Quite frankly, reading it all I wonder if there are many times when I would actually be considered to be ritually clean never mind the fact that I obviously don’t make the offerings to become ritually clean and purified again.
In today’s world where many seem to feel so much peer pressure or from the media and social networks to look a certain way; do things a certain way; like certain things which are just not natural to them, this seems to resonate with me and actually make me angry. I’ve long known I’m not a sheep. I am who I am, and while I don’t expect everyone to be the same as me or even agree with me, I do expect people to have the gumption and respect for themselves, to be who they are, and not do and say things just because everyone else is and telling them that’s what they should be doing and thinking. I want to hear them give a reason for why they think what they think; I want that debate to be open. It might even change my mind about some things.
I haven’t found anything to learn from this section not being an Israelite who is expected to abide by these commands. I am puzzled though by why yeast and honey were not allowed to be used in food offered to the Lord. And this word sacrifice comes up again (many times, and I’m now trying to think when it came to my mind before in a previous post to go and tag it). When did the word sacrifice transfer from this holy meaning to the way it is, often overused, today to indicate that someone has given up something that someone else can’t conceive giving up because they think it is too important in their own life. We all have different things we think are important that we don’t want to give up but actually when you think about it are they really that important. I drive and would consider it a loss of my freedom if I had to give up my car but I could still live: It just may take me longer to get places and it may be more inconvenient for my way of life. I’m not willing to ‘sacrifice’ that, and thankfully don’t need to, but for someone who has never had their own car they probably wouldn’t think of this as a sacrifice at all.
So there was very little questioning and the Lord’s commands for all this decadence for a place of worship were carried out to the very prescriptive wishes. From a practical point of view, I can’t help wondering about whether this structure could have actually stood with the weight of all that precious metal. And people who were previously doubting become completely faithful. It does happen, as we grow and have new experiences we change our views and our choices may become different but for so many to do so unequivocally and seemingly without question is a kind of miracle in its self, but then the Lord changes ‘his’ view and actions too.
I also have to say that I had a little scoff when in Exodus 34 the Lord advises ‘he’ is a God full of compassion and pity, who is not easily angered – that hasn’t exactly been shown to be the case in the two books I’ve read so far. And then just a verse later says ‘he’ will not fail to punish children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generation for the sins of their parents – where is the compassion there?
The Lord is very prescriptive and decadent and quite frankly requests some downright weird rituals to someone with todays eyes and living experience. We’d be committing anyone who demanded these kind of things now. I can see that the decadence shows something special which is to be revered and respected but on the other hand I find so much wanton waste and extravagance appalling. I also find it not to be a good example of not worshipping other idols. In todays world what is actually so different about someone who covets extravagant belongings.
Maybe it’s just me but I’ve always pictured the Ten Commandments to be carved on this big tablet of stone – a myth obviously. The two stones detailing the Lord’s commands are described as being much smaller, and can be carried. And they were broken.
My final thought on this section relates to the description of gemstones to be used on the breast-piece for the High Priest: each gemstone to represent one of Jacob’s sons. Not that I would know if they are in any way equivalent but it brought to mind that to some people today, there are gemstones which relate to the month in which you were born. In both cases it’s a way of trying to group a set of people together by the arbitrariness of their birth.
Not just the ten commandments but many commandments. It would be impossible to comment on them all. Some still very relevant in today’s world, some less so. Some seeming to contradict others, or at least hinting of double standards. The complexity of laws and the need for some sort of judgement to be given has not changed at all. Very pertinently given current world events when increasing populations are on the move and in many cases enforced to escape impossible living conditions rather than necessarily through choice, ‘do not ill-treat a foreigner’ is repeated and seems to stick in my mind.
If this wasn’t being read in a religious context, I would question whether Mount Sinai is in fact a volcano and the thunder and lightning, smoking mountain, cloud, and light which looked like a fire burning on top of the mountain is volcanic activity taking place rather than the Lord. However having carried out minimal research on the internet it appears that while what is now called Mount Sinai has rocks of volanic origin, it is not a volcano its self. I am no expert though so will be happy to be corrected if I’ve deduced incorrectly.
I note that in my version of the Bible there is indication that this section is also covered in Deuteronomy but rather than jump ahead I will wait until I get there to compare and reference.