February 20th

Numbers 33-34

  • 33: 1-41— This is a summary of the whole journey- originally this book wasn’t written down, but passed down orally. We often think of oral traditions as being unreliable ways of conveying information (ever play the telephone game in school?), but in reality ancient cultures were exceptionally skilled at passing down information without writing it: several legends told by the native Australians have accurately recorded a rise in sea levels that isolated Australia from the Indonesian islands over 10,000 years ago. Repetitive summaries like this chapter are one of the ways they helped ensure the continued accuracy of the story
  • 33:50-56—These verses are important for understanding the Book of Joshua- note that God doesn’t command the Israelites to wipe out the Canaanites (descriptions of such exterminations in later books are narrative hyperbole) but to drive them out– to clear them out of the land, and to dismantle their culture. This still seems harsh and unfair, but the Canaanites were radically evil- in addition to rampant sexual immorality, they practiced child sacrifice as one of their principle forms of worship. God commands the end of their culture because: a) He doesn’t want the Israelites to be influenced by their practices, especially since they’ve already shown that they’re easily influenced by other cultures, and b) God simply wants to rid the world of their evil.
  • By not ordering the complete extermination of the Canaanites, God is actually showing mercy- if the Israelites can dislodge them from the homes and dismantle their culture they might have a chance at redemption.
  • 34:1-15— For much of Israel’s history they will not hold all of this territory- the amount of land within these God-given boundaries that Israel actually controls will always be directly related to how faithfully they are upholding their covenant with God. During the reigns of David and Solomon, they actually exceed these boundaries in some places.

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