Unless you're a fundamentalist whatever, you've probably never heard of this particular chapter. God tells Moses and Aaron to bring forth a red heifer (young female cow) with no spots or blemishes and sacrifice her. Whoever burns her must then take a bath and do laundry. Someone else is to gather up the ashes and keep them for purification water. I read about it in a book called The Year of Living Biblically, in which the author travels to Israel, where some Jews were trying to breed this unblemished heifer in the effort to bring forth the messiah. Some fundamentalist Christians take this even further, thinking that messiah will then bring about the end of days and the rapture. Apparently one was born in 2002 that met with provisional approval, but it was rejected in the end. But they'll keep trying! Kinda like Maryann the Maenad from True Blood last season, who has spent 3000 years trying to get her theology right so Dionysis will return to earth. Yes, that's right. I just compared Christian fundamentalists who believe in the Rapture to a character on a cheesy vampire show who believes in her own rapture.
People who handle the dead are unclean. They have this in Japan and India as well. There are villages that are shunned because they do this work. I've never understood it, though. I mean, someone has to get rid of dead bodies, right? And then we shun them. There's some morality for you. To get clean, they have to purify themselves with heifer-water on the third day, and then they can come back on the seventh.
If someone dies in a tent, the tent and any open pots inside are unclean for seven days. The tent can be made clean by sprinkling the water on the person.
Miriam dies unloved and forgotten.
Next verse, there is no water and the people are angry. Moses and Aaron prostrate themselves before god. God tells Moses to take his staff and order a rock to bring forth water. They gather the people and Moses speaks to them in anger, then hits the rock twice with his staff. God accuses them of not believing them, and punishes them by saying they won't make it into the holy land, either. Well, to be fair, they are about 123 and 127 by now, since we know they were 83 and 87 when they left Egypt and that was 40 years ago. But this just goes to show, you can be pious and holy your entire life and god will still turn on you in a second if you piss him off.
Next the Israelits send messengers to the king of Edom requesting safe passage through his lands. Edom, a descendant of Esau, refuses, probably still smarting from the time Jacob bought his great-great-whatever grandfather's birth right for a bowl of porridge. He in fact threatens to send his army after them, even after they offer to pay. That's some grudge.
Finally, they come to Mount Hor and god says it's time for Aaron to die. He orders him to go up the mountain, strip off his clothing, give it to his son, and lay down there. Jerry compares this to the 'eternal priesthood of Jesus Christ.' Have you heard from him there lately, Jerry? What's that? Not directly? Just some burnt toast and oil slicks? No text messages, even?