Friday, August 18, 2006

The Book of Numbers (con't)

I've read more of the Bible since David Plotz started Blogging the Good Book than I ever did as a kid going to Mass every Sunday. I don't quite know what that says about my Generation X, Nintendo cultured rear end, but I'm sure the Big Guy isn't gonna mind too much, long as the work gets done.

I mean, having grown up in the land of literal-interpretation-obnoxiousness and influenced by the inevitable backlash of iconoclastic-religion-haters, I realize that I ought to have tuned both out for a while and did the research myself. It wasn't as if I was hurtin' for access to the source material, after all. Had I done that, I might not have had such a crisis of faith through high school and college.

To find out that Seperation of Church and State is an Old Testament, fire-and-brimsone God design, just dropped my jaw to the floor.

After his look-see at the Promised Land, God has Moses pass on his authority to his successors. Moses divides his powers. Moses lays hands on Eleazar, son of Aaron, and invests him with priestly authority—authority that Eleazar, in turn, will pass on to his descendants. Moses also lays hands on Joshua, a self-made man, and invests him with the power to govern the Israelites—a power that does not appear to be hereditary.
But upon further reading of the passage in the Bible I have, this distinction appears quite nuanced. Though there is no question Joshua is going to be the man in charge, the priest Eleazar is to be consulted so that the priests (in the presence of the Lord) can weigh in on those decisions (Numbers 27: 18-21). I guess that's just a divine implementation of cheques and balances, so that the Priests can never become a true aristocracy and the Kings can't lead the people away from God.

After all of that, so no one can be accused of being too bleeding hearty, the Israelites sally forth to exterminate the Midianites, and in Numbers 31: 13-17, it is Moses and Eleazar (the Priestly class) who order the slaughter of women and chidren captured by that war (who had originally been spared by the army). Reckon there's a lesson to be had there, too.

1 comment:

liberalandproud said...

I've been reading Ezekiel (weird stuff), but put it aside to read Rev. Nelson's "Where would Jesus Put The Sidewalks." If you haven't read it yet, I recommend it.