Read the Bible in One Year: Week 7 (Numbers 5-20)
Why have you brought the assembly of the Lord into this wilderness for us and our livestock to die here? (Num. 20:4)
Chapter 5: Maintaining Order: Cleanliness, Restitution, Martial Dispute
Chapter 6: Nazarite Vow and a Blessing
Chapter 7: Israel’s Offering for the New Tabernacle
Chapter 8: Consecration of Levites
Chapter 9: Passover and Cloud (or Fire) over Tabernacle
Chapter 10: Into the Wilderness: Departure
Chapter 11: Complaining in the Wilderness
Chapter 12: Moses and Sibling Jealousy
Chapter 13: Spies Sent to Canaan
Chapter 14: Fear Filled Rebellion and A Sentence to 40 Years in the Wilderness
Chapter 15: Offerings and Keeping Commandments
Chapter 16: Revolt to Gain Priesthood & Death by Earth, Fire, and Disease
Chapter 17: Aaron’s Budding Rod
Chapter 18: Post-Revolt Priestly Instructions
Chapter 19: Purification Rituals
Chapter 20: Water from a Rock
Just Jealousy? Numbers 5: The law regarding an unfaithful wife is abhorrent to me as a Western woman. A man can bring his wife to a priest on a mere hunch when he suspects unfaithfulness (whether she is guilty or not) There follows a long ritual involving disheveling her hair, forcing her to drink dirty water and accept a curse, saying “Amen.” However, if a woman suspects her husband of infidelity, there are no statues in place to hold him accountable. While this is a very one-sided law, established in a patriarchal society, it does prevent punishment by stoning the woman to death because there is no proof. In response to this passage, the Women’s Bible Commentary adds that this “law invites readers to reflect upon the many ways in which diverse cultures have sought to control women’s sexual behavior, as well as upon the terror reigning among women wherever such customs prevail.” (Sakenfeld, 53)*
Following Fear: In chapters 13-14, God shows the Israelite's the land he promised them, but instead of trusting in God's faithfulness, that is, trusting that God will fulfill his promise to Abraham, Israel followed their fear instead. They rebelled against Moses and demanded a new leader (14:4). Because of Israel's lack of trust, God rerouted them back into the wilderness so they could learn to trust him.
Question for Reflection
Has there been a time in your life when you were pushed beyond your limit--tested in the wilderness, so to say? How did you handle the situation?
*Doob Sakenfeld, Katherine. Women’s Bible Commentary: Expanded Edition. Carol A Newsom. and Sharon H. Ringe, eds. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1998. Print.