As you may have guessed, this book of the Bible is called numbers. Because we’re counting stuff. We begin by counting all of the Israelite men above the age of 20 who can fight in the army. Want to know how many? 603,550 men were able to serve in the army. One lucky tribe, the Levites, were left out of that count. The Levites didn’t have to fight, they were to be “given wholly” to Aaron to help with Tabernacle upkeep. Anyone else who came near it would be put to death. Because separating people and arbitrarily putting some over others never ends badly. Then the tribes arranged their tents by their divisions. God even assigned a place in the camp for each tribe and commanded that each tribe fly their own flag over their tents. See?
Let’s talk about the Levites some more. God changes His mind about the whole, I want every Israelite first-born dedicated to me and decides He really just wants all of the Levites. All of them, not only the first-born. When all of the Levites are counted vs every first-born in camp (22,000 vs 22,273), God realizes that He would have gotten 273 more people had He just stuck with the first-born thing. But people=money in the Bible, remember, so the Israelites just paid the difference for the 273 lives, and everyone was square. Out of the Levites, God picked a super-special branch, the Kohathites, to look after the top-secret holy stuff inside the Tabernacle. They also had to carry all of that secret holy stuff around when the camp moved. Aaron and the priests had to cover up all of the holy stuff first, because if the Kohathites messed up and touched or saw the wrong thing, guess what? They would die. If at first you don’t succeed, God probably killed you. Then God nominates two other branches of the Levites to care for/carry some other holy shit. Must be heavy shit, because there were 22,000 Levites, remember? That’s a lot of people to carry stuff around the desert.
Ok, we counted stuff. Let’s get back to rules. Anyone unclean has to be sent outside the camp; God doesn’t want their dirtiness where He dwells. If someone sins, they must confess and make full restitution. Restitution means paying people off and sacrificing rams, of course. If you suspect your wife is cheating, you can take her to the priest. He’ll make some magic God water for her to drink. If she drinks it, and she becomes sick she is guilty. Her thigh will waste away, her abdomen will swell, and everyone will know that she has defiled herself. If she is innocent, the water will not make her sick, and her name will be cleared. Ladies? If your husband is cheating that’s just normal. Get over it.
Apparently, if you want to, you can take the Nazarite vow, which means consecrated or separated. But you can’t drink any alcohol or eat grapes. I’m not really sure what the point of being a Nazarite actually is. Bragging rights probably. The vow doesn’t last forever. You can’t cut your hair during the allotted time (not sure how long that is, maybe you get to pick?), and you have to shave it off and offer the hair to God once your time is up. And sacrifice animals. Always sacrifice animals just to be safe.
Then Moses set up the Tabernacle (I thought we had already done this, but if the Bible is the word of God, God has Alzheimer’s because we go over the same shit a lot). For twelve days it was consecrated, and the leaders of the twelve tribes brought offerings. Lots of gold and silver, lots of dead animals. Then God’s voice came from between the two cherubim on the Indiana Jones Ark thing to talk to Moses. He didn’t say much though, just gave Moses more details about how His holy shit should look.
Then the Levites were officially cleansed (they shaved and washed their clothes) and “set apart.” Aaaaaaaaaaand it’s time for Passover. Anybody unclean can’t participate, but God takes pity on them and gives them a backup day to celebrate. Anyone who doesn’t celebrate gets cut off. Any alien who wants to celebrate absolutely can, they just have to abide by the same rules that the Israelites follow. The more the merrier.
Eventually, it was time to leave the Sinai, so God inhabited the Tabernacle in the form of a cloud. If God’s cloud was over the Tabernacle, the Israelites stayed put, but if the cloud moved, they followed it all around the desert. There were also some fancy trumpets that were made for Aaron and the priests. They were to blow the trumpets to ready the people to move out. God promised that they would also come in handy for battles and ceremonies.
Naturally, some of the Israelites got tired of walking around the desert continually. They complained about it, and God heard them. He got mad and did what God does best, burnt them up in His fire. But they continued to complain. They were upset because they wanted meat instead of the manna that God was providing to them. I’m guessing they had sacrificed most of their animals at this point. Moses got tired of the complaining too, and eventually was like God I can’t do it anymore. I don’t know why you hate me so much that you make me listen to this constant whining. Kill me. Please. So God decided to get Moses some help. He told Moses to gather seventy elders, so that God could put the Spirit in them. So Moses gathered them, and they all became prophets.
God also told Moses to get the people all consecrated up, because they would be eating meat for a month. Moses, ever the doubter, wanted to know where God would get enough meat. To which was like Am I God, or am I God? Then tons and tons of quail flocked to the camp, and the people started to eat them, overjoyed to have meat. Surprise, mfers! God put a plague on that meat. That’ll teach you to complain.
Afterward, there’s a story about how Aaron and his wife, Miriam, get really jealous of Moses and talk about him behind his back. But God can hear it, and calls all three of them to His tent. Then He calls Aaron and Miriam out right in front of Moses, commenting that He only speaks in riddles to His prophets, but with Moses He speaks clearly and face to face. Because Moses is the most faithful servant to Him. Then He makes Miriam completely white with leprosy. (Why just her? Probably because she is wrong and female, which makes her wronger.) Aaron is understandably upset and begs that they be forgiven, and I think they are. It says Miriam gets to come back to camp after seven days, so we’ll go with yes.
Then Lord had Moses pick leaders from each tribe to go explore Canaan (the promised land). They were to find out things like how many people were on the land, was the land fertile, how well fortified were the cities, what kinds of fruits could be grown. Innocent, conquesty things like that. For forty days the twelve leaders explored the land. When they got back, they confirmed that the land flowed with “milk and honey” as God had promised, but they were also 100% sure that the Israelites could never take the land. The people were huge, and the cities were well-fortified.
That night, for about the one-millionth time, the Israelites cried out against God, saying Why did he even bring us out here? Now we’ll just die by the sword. Let’s go back to Egypt. Two guys, Joshua and Caleb, were like Guys, God said He would give us that land. How about let’s trust Him just this one fucking time? The people replied by damn near stoning both of them. But God and His cloud came over the Tabernacle and talked to Moses. As God often does, He wanted to kill everybody with a plague. But Moses used that same If you kill them, the Egyptians will find out and think you aren’t the bestest god ever argument. So God compromised. He struck down the leaders who had gone to explore the land and had come back with doubts with fire. Then He announced that the whiners would never see the promised land. They would wander in the desert for forty years. Only Joshua, Caleb, and the children would live to enter the land that God had promised. Some people tried to go anyway, but God was not with them, and their enemies killed them. As usual, God way overreacts, but damn these Israelites can be irritating. I’m almost tired of feeling sorry for their constant brutal deaths.
More rules. Once the Israelites do get to the promised land, they are to sacrifice a bunch more animals. They are also to let all aliens live among them and sacrifice to God. In fact, “You and the alien shall be the same before the Lord.” All of the same rules apply to both. If the people unintentionally sin, a priest can make a special animal sacrifice, which will cleanse the entire population, even the aliens. If they sin on purpose, he or she should be cut off. Plus, everyone had to wear blue tassels on their garments. God thought it would be a good reminder to everyone not to be a shit head.
While still in the desert, a man was caught gathering wood on the Sabbath. He was taken to the priests, and God decided that he had to die. Obvs. So the entire camp participated in stoning the man. That is a lot of stones.
After a while, some of the Levites became insolent. They were pissy because Moses and Aaron and the priests thought they were just way better than everyone else. They wanted to be priests too. They tried to bring offerings to the Lord, but Moses was like, Hold up, dudes. God set you apart from the Israelites and brought you closer to Himself, and you’re still being dicks. Then Moses told God what they were doing. God opened the earth and swallowed the three main troublemakers. Them, their wives, their kids, their stuff. All gone. Then He sent His fire down on the rest who had tried to sacrifice to Him when they had no right. The rest of the Israelites were a bit upset at all this killing and complained about it. So then God sent another plague. This plague killed 14,700 people before Moses could make the necessary animal sacrifices to God to stop the killing. See, I told you that the whole arbitrarily putting some people over others couldn’t end badly.
Next time, more Numbers. Probably more people will die. People are always dying in this book. Violently.