#280. Where are the 1st generation Israelites killed off: in the Wilderness of Paran OR the Wilderness of Paran plus Transjordan OR during the trek southward to the Red Sea and northward around Edom? (Num 14:29-35, 32:13 vs Num 26:1-65 vs Deut 2:14-15)

Chronologically speaking it looks like the Priestly and Deuteronomic traditions are in agreement about when the 1st generation Israelites die off in the wilderness. Yahweh, tradition has it, wiped out 625,548 Israelites during the 38 years spanning the spying of the land till the 40th year. However, since the itineraries of these traditions vary greatly (see #268, #275, #278) where these Israelites are cut down geographically also varies. Again, Deuteronomy 2:14 statesRead More

#279. How long is the journey from Kadesh to the Wadi Zered: months OR 38 years? (Num 20:22-21:12, 33:37-44 vs Num 13-21; Deut 2:14)

As noted in A Brief Introduction to Numbers 21, the Priestly writer’s chronology and geography of the wilderness period does not coincide with the Deuteronomist’s chronology and geography. These geographical differences were treated in #268, #274, and #275, Here we will address the chronological discrepancies. Again, the clearest expression of the Deuteronomic chronology comes from Deut 2:14: And the days that we went from Kadesh-barnea until we crossed the Wadi ZeredRead More

#278. Do the Israelites travel from Hor to Oboth OR to Zalmonah? (Num 21:10 vs Num 33:41)

It would seem that the Priestly tradition itself exhibits some variation and discrepancies with respect to the wilderness itinerary. Notwithstanding the fact that P doesn’t record a skirting around Edom tradition (see #268), the specific movement from Hor directly into Edom is variously represented in Numbers 21 and 33. Numbers 21:10 presents the itinerary as follows: Hor ➔ Oboth ➔ Iyye-Abarim While Numbers 33:41 claims: Hor ➔ Zalmonah ➔ Punon ➔Read More

#276. There is water to drink OR there is not? (Num 20:9-13, 21:16-18 vs Num 21:5)
#277. Who are the “us” of Num 21:5: the 1st generation Israelites OR the 2nd?

As noted in my post A Brief Introduction to Numbers 21, these contradictions are the result of inserting a story from the Elohist tradition (Num 21:4b-9) here in P’s 40th year of the wilderness period. This short story is thematically part of the Elohist “why did you bring us up from Egypt to die in the wilderness” tradition (see also Ex 14:11, 17:3; Num 11:1-6). It is misplaced here and contradictsRead More

#275. Do the Israelites travel around Edom OR through Edom? (Num 20:21, 21:4 vs Num 21:10; Deut 2:6-8, 2:28-29)

Building on previous contradictions (#268, #274), this contradiction is the result of variant views on the skirting of Edom tradition now preserved in Numbers 20-21: Numbers 20:14-21 preserves the Yahwist story of the skirting of Edom—how on account of the Edomites refusal to let the Israelites pass through their territory, the Israelites were obliged to travel eastward around Edom. Numbers 21:4 is a Redactional insert in imitation of J (?) claimingRead More

#274. When do the Israelites leave Kadesh-Hor and travel toward the Red Sea: in the 2nd year after the Exodus OR in the 40th year? (Deut 2:14 vs Num 21:4)

In many regards we’ve already discussed this contradiction, but have not yet numbered it. So here it is. Of the traditions that acknowledge the turning back from the Negeb and heading southward toward the Red Sea (see #268), the clearest comes once again from the Deuteronomic tradition. “And we turned and traveled to the wilderness by way of the Red Sea as Yahweh spoke to me. . . And the daysRead More

#271. Was Hormah conquered by the Israelites under Moses OR under Joshua OR by the Judhites and Simeonites? (Num 21:1-3 vs Josh 12:7-14 vs Judges 1:16-17)
#272. When was Hormah taken: before the conquest of the promised land OR after? (Num 21:1-3 vs Josh 12:14; Judg 1:16-17)
#273. Were the Canaanites of Arad completely wiped out OR not? (Num 21:1-3 vs Josh 12:14; Judg 1:16-17)

Notwithstanding the contradictory Hormah traditions in the book of Numbers (see #242, #269) there are other discrepancies in this tradition when we look beyond the Torah, and these give us variant views on when Hormah was conquered and by whom! Numbers 21:1-3 places the defeat of Hormah at the hands of the Israelites under Moses. Although the exact location of Hormah has not been verified with any certainty by archaeologists (below),Read More

#270. Did the Israelites confront the Canaaite king of Arad OR not? (Num 21:1-3 vs Num 33:40-41)

Besides being an ill-placed episode (#269), this story about a confrontation with the Canaanite king of Arad and the victorious taking of Hormah and other Canaanite cities in the Negeb is absent in the tradition recorded in Numbers 33. There we are simply told that the Canaaite king “heard of the coming of the children of Israel” (Num 33:40). Nothing, however, is said of a confrontation, and furthermore a confrontation thatRead More

#269. When and where do the Israelites enter Canaan, the promised land: through the southern Negeb before the Transjordanian conquest OR from Transjordan after its conquest? (Num 21:1-3 vs Josh 1:10-11:23)

As previously noted (#268), the whole reason for the necessity of the Transjordanian conquest—at least from the perspective of the story itself—is because the Israelites were unable to take Canaan, the promised land, directly from the south. They were defeated at Hormah according to the tradition now preserved in Numbers 14 (#242), and thus pushed back into the wilderness to wander 38 years until Yahweh could finish off this faithless generationRead More

#268. From Mount Hor the Israelites travel northeast into the Negeb OR south toward the Red Sea OR east into Edom? (Num 21:1-3 vs Num 21:4; Deut 2:1; Judg 11:16 vs Num 21:10-12, 33:40-44)

Following the previous post’s brief introduction to Numbers 21 where the textual, geographical, and chronological problems that this chapter poses were set forth, today’s contradiction addresses the geographical inconsistencies evident in the opening of this chapter by the insertion of J’s (?) version of the Hormah battle at Numbers 21:1-3 and P’s (or R’s, the Priestly redactor’s) intermittently inserted itinerary at verses 4 and 10-11. In sum, Numbers 21 preserves 3Read More

A Brief Introduction to Numbers 21

Numbers 21 poses a number of problems for the critical reader, all of which will be examined in detail over the forthcoming entries (about a dozen). Textually from a source-critical analysis, the chapter is a melange of different textual traditions, battle records, archaic poetry, and even a named, now lost source, “the scroll of the wars of Yahweh” (yes, after all source-critical analysis is firmly grounded in how ancient texts wereRead More

#267. When was Moses told that he could not enter the promised land: in the 40th year of the wilderness campaign OR in the 2nd? (Num 20:1-13 vs Deut 1:22-37)

A new year. . . a new (re)start. Let’s see if I can get back on track here. First, Happy New Year! Second, this contradiction continues where we left off—noting the variant traditions concerning Moses’ death and the reasons why, from the perspective of our various scribes (mainly P & D), he was not allowed to enter the promised land. I’m indebted to a reader who pointed this one out toRead More