Thursday, March 18, 2010

Numbers, Chapters 34-36

Chapter 34

God lays out the borders of the Israelites' future territory and tells them to divide it up by lots. This is still causing controversy today, as the West Bank and Gaza are not accounted for.

Chapter 35

The Levites get the cities and suburbs. Six of them are to be cities for refuge (v. 6) for people who have committed manslaughter. Hey, they had their own version of Australia! The other tribes are instructed to give their tithes to the cities. So the way the refuge thing works is, if you kill someone by accident, his or her closest male relative then becomes the avenger (v. 9) and has to try and kill you. If you can get to the city for refuge before he catchs you, you're home free. Otherwise, you lose. Murderers cannot appeal to the cities for refuge.

The congregation tries manslaughterers, and if they are found to be murderers, they go to the avenger. Otherwise, they can stay in the city. When the high priest dies, they are absolved. Of course Jerry sees this as a sign of Jesus. If the manslaughterer leaves the city, he becomes fair game.

At least two witnesses are needed to substantiate a charge of murder.

The New Yorker wrote about a similar system of tribal justice in Papua New Guinea in 2008. It sounded every bit as gruesome as this, with vengeance killings going on several generations later. I'd link to the article, but it only the abstract is available. Just remember that this is the kind of bible-based 'family values' that Jerry Falwell would have loved to have seen implemented.

Chapter 36

Some of the tribal leaders come to Moses and point out that if daughters are allowed to inherit their fathers' land, then get married, that land will pass out of the tribe and into another. So god then says that women who inherit property have to marry within their own tribe from now on. Of course this doesn't bother Jerry, because he can't imagine a woman from his church marrying anyone else anyway. It has, however, posed a problem for the children of Fred Phelps.

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