19 Apr 2009

Moses Supposes His Blows-It’s Are Roses

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In my (intended) daily chapter reading of the Bible,* I am now in early Deuteronomy. I have always thought this part was hilarious. Moses is near the end of his days, and he is recounting everything that the Israelites have experienced since leaving Egypt. He reminds them of how the Israeli spies came back after viewing the Promised Land and told of how formidable the current occupants were, and thus everybody chickened out. Moses continues with the story:

29 Then I said to you, “Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. 30 The LORD your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, 31 and in the desert. There you saw how the LORD your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.”

32 In spite of this, you did not trust in the LORD your God, 33 who went ahead of you on your journey, in fire by night and in a cloud by day, to search out places for you to camp and to show you the way you should go.

34 When the LORD heard what you said, he was angry and solemnly swore: 35 “Not a man of this evil generation shall see the good land I swore to give your forefathers, 36 except Caleb son of Jephunneh. He will see it, and I will give him and his descendants the land he set his feet on, because he followed the LORD wholeheartedly.”

37 Because of you the LORD became angry with me also and said, “You shall not enter it, either.

I have put the humorous part in bold above. That is a very interesting spin that Moses has given to the story. Here is the way it really went down (Numbers 20):

2 Now there was no water for the community, and the people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron. 3 They quarreled with Moses and said, “If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the LORD! 4 Why did you bring the LORD’s community into this desert, that we and our livestock should die here? 5 Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!”

6 Moses and Aaron went from the assembly to the entrance to the Tent of Meeting and fell facedown, and the glory of the LORD appeared to them. 7 The LORD said to Moses, 8 “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.”

9 So Moses took the staff from the LORD’s presence, just as he commanded him. 10 He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” 11 Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.

12 But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.”

Hmm now that I reread this, it’s not jumping out at me. But I am pretty sure that the Lord was mad because Moses struck the rock twice, instead of just once. (“Is this thing on?!”) So the reason Moses doesn’t get to enter the Promised Land is his own lack of trust, not anything the other Israelites did.

* By the way, I didn’t comment on it at the time, but for all the Old Testament critics out there, check out this chapter, in particular verses 15-18. Yikes. And for those of you who believe, let’s not sweep that under the rug. That is serious stuff.

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