#297. Who led the Israelites to worship Baal of Peor: the Moabites OR the Midianites? (Num 25:1-2 vs Num 25:16-18, 31:15-16)
#298. What was their punishment: they were impaled OR killed by plague (Num 25:4-5 vs Num 25:8, 25:18)

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As noted previously (#287), the Balaam pericope (Num 22-24) and the Baal Peor apostasy (Num 25) both present a viable Moabite force in northern Moab, contradictory to the traditions preserved in the Yahwist which spoke of an Amorite presence and Amorite territory. See also #282-285.

Similarly, the present story of the Israelites’ apostasy and attachment to the cult of Baal at Peor clashes pretty heavily with the rather positive presentation of the Israelites as loyal to Yahweh throughout Numbers 21-24, on account of which Yahweh had granted them a victory against the Canaanites at Hormah (but see #271-273), a victory against the Amorites in northern Moab (#282-285), a victory against the desired cursing of the Israelites by the Moabite king Balak, and future victories against Moab and Edom, and pronouncements against the Amalekites, the Kenites, and the Assyrians, but not Israel, in Balaam’s final oracle.

Theologically, then, Numbers 21-24 display no divine knowledge of the impeding apostasy here represented in Numbers 25, nor for that matter does Numbers 25 display any knowledge of the Balaam incident, nor the fact that this territory was Amorite, not Moabite according to the earlier J tradition. In other words, the present story, like the Balaam pericope, comes from a different textual tradition and was for whatever reason placed in its present position by later editors.

Additionally, there seems to be two traditions here: an earlier version where the Moabites, specifically Moabite woman, lead the Israelites into the cult of Baal, and a later reworking where the Midianites are added into the mix.

For instance, the primary account of the Baal Peor incident, Numbers 25:1-5, records that the affair only involves Israelites and Moabites,

But in Numbers 25:16-17 and 31:15-16 it now becomes the Midianites, exclusively, who have led the Israelites into apostasy. Furthermore, in connection with the Moabite woman of Numbers 25:1-5, the Israelites who become associated with Baal Peor “are impaled to Yahweh” facing the sun. But in reference to the Midianite storyline, Yahweh sends a plague (Num 25:8-9, 18). And while in the Midianite storyline, their role in leading Israel to apostasy is given as the pretext to exterminate all Midianites save virgin girls (Num 31:1-20), nothing is said about the Moabites!

Biblical scholars have long recognized on both thematic and linguistic grounds that the story starting at Numbers 25:6, as well as all of chapter 31, belongs to the Priestly source, and that it was the Aaronid priests themselves who added the Midianites into this story to serve their own ideology.

This should not come as a surprise. We have already seen in numerous other Priestly reworkings of earlier JE material the degradation of the Midianites, and/or the omission of both Moses’ and Yahweh’s association with Midian. So, by way of review:

  • In P’s retelling of the Sinai revelation, Yahweh reveals himself to Moses while he is still in Egypt, thus not in Midian (#87). In fact, in P’s retelling there is no Midianite sojourn; Moses never goes to Midian in P!
  • P ignores the tradition that Moses’ wife was a Midianite. Indeed, in the present context one wonders if Moses’ wife is among those Midianite woman commanded to be slain: “kill every woman who has known a man” (Num 31:17)
  • P (as well as D) expunges from the historical record any mention of the Midianite Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, as the first priest to officiate sacrifices to Yahweh, while Aaron stood by (Ex 18:12)—an Elohist text!
  • And now here in the retelling of the Baal Peor incident, P exchanges the guilty Moabite woman for Midianite woman, and thus mandates, using this as a pretext, the complete exterminate of all Midianites!

In light of these rewritings, and P’s subtle slighting of Moses at times (e.g., #93, #95, #105), scholars surmise that the Aaronid priesthood must have been uncomfortable with Moses’ Midianite connections, and what that implied—i.e., that Yahwism came from Midian! So what did the Priestly writers do? They rewrote the tradition—nay, they rewrote “history.” P completely omits Moses’ Midianite sojourn; ignores the tradition that Moses’ wife was Midianite; eliminates the Midianite priest of Yahweh, Jethro; changes the Moabite foes into Midianite foes in the story now preserved in Numbers 25:6-19; and mandates the wholesale slaughter of Midian in Numbers 25:16-18 & 31:1-20.

We might speculate that the Aaronid Priestly writer was attempting to purge Yahweh from any connections he may have had in the earlier sources to the Canaanite El or a Midianite deity or origin. What P’s El Shaddai covenant passages effectively do is claim that the deity whom the earliest Israelites-Canaanites worshiped when they built altars for El was in fact Yahweh as El Shaddai (see #11, #27, #294-296)! Likewise purging Yahweh from any sort of Midianite connection was also a way of presenting Yahweh as more Israelite in character and origin. I’ll end this with an excerpt from William Propp (Exodus 19-40, 750):

Because of Moses’ familial relationship with Jethro the priest of Midian [Yahweh’s priest!], because of Midian’s proximity to mount Sinai, because Yahweh is said to come from the south both in the Bible (Deut 33:2; Judg 5:4-5; Ps 68:8-9, 17-18) and in an inscription from Kuntillet ‘Ajrud, “Yahweh of Teman,” and because the Egyptians encountered “Yahweh Shasu” [Egyptian texts from the reigns of Amenophis III, Ramesses II, Ramesses III mention seminomads called the “Shasu of yhw3” located in the vicinity of Midian]… a popular scholarly theory is that Israel learned to worship Yahweh from Midian.

Although this view is favored, and even indorsed somewhat, by the earlier Elohist tradition and older traditions now found in the Psalms and elsewhere in the Bible, the Priestly writer sought to expunge this tradition from the historical record! Little did he know however that the new “history” he wrote to replace these older traditions would one day be assembled together with these older traditions and even centuries later labeled as “the Book” by readers who knew nothing of the Priestly writer’s agendas, concerns, worldviews, and beliefs!

27 thoughts on “#297. Who led the Israelites to worship Baal of Peor: the Moabites OR the Midianites? (Num 25:1-2 vs Num 25:16-18, 31:15-16)
#298. What was their punishment: they were impaled OR killed by plague (Num 25:4-5 vs Num 25:8, 25:18)

  1. I think a more natural reading of the text is that Moses is speaking of the community of Israelites as a whole, rather than as a collection of specific individuals, just as someone might say on the anniversary of D-Day that “we” stormed the beaches at Normandy even though most of us weren’t actually there.

    Robert, good point. It in many cases is a summary of ideas and concepts that Moses’ audience was well aware of. This is also the case, by way of example, in the New Testament book of Hebrews. Language was being used that really, only the “inner circle” of the obedient would appreciate or find useful. The whole exact rendition of, say, the Golden Calf debacle and an exact repetition of the exact details, verbatim (one of the chief doctrines around here, else the “contradiction” epithet is applied), was unnecessary if the people of Israel already knew the outline. The variance was not in seeking to usurp or annul but in giving more detail; amphilication: turning the music up, not playing a new tune. This happens throughout the Bible, by the authors who were directed by their variant backgrounds (some were shepherds or worked in orchards; others were priests and kings). Their witnesses would be part of the way their testimonies were treated, just as would those in a court of law today, for instance.

  2. I don’t think anyone is claiming that Deuteronomy as we now have it says anyone from the first generation of Israelites, with the exception of Caleb and Joshua, entered the Promised Land. I think the implication is that the text as we now have it may not have included the spy story or the detail about the first generation dying in the wilderness. I think a more natural reading of the text is that Moses is speaking of the community of Israelites as a whole, rather than as a collection of specific individuals, just as someone might say on the anniversary of D-Day that “we” stormed the beaches at Normandy even though most of us weren’t actually there. But I’m just guessing. I don’t know any Hebrew, and it could be that the Hebrew grammar favors one interpretation over another. On the other hand, Psalm 78 tells about the Exodus, wandering in the wilderness, and conquest, and does not include the spy story or the first generation dying. Psalm 78 appears to have come from the northern kingdom, so it probably dates from the 8th century or before.

    Now if you come with the belief that the events in the text must have happened exactly as described, then the idea that Deuteronomy comes from a text that was later redacted to include the spy story doesn’t make any sense. However, the belief that the texts are inerrant and historically accurate isn’t really appropriate for secular scholarship.

  3. I guess my job is to point out that, as always, you need to take in the full contextual principle which demands going back a few more verses than you both choose to do. Let’s say, at least go back in this chapter to verses 3-4. There Moses is speaking to those who survived the Baal-peor, “those who held fast to YHVH your Elohim (and) are alive today, every one of you.” Are you saying that, in fact, the promised destruction of the 40 year wandering never took place? As you said, using your logic, these are those “…rebellious against Yahweh since leaving Egypt. Yet the rebellious people being addressed are promised entry into Egypt.”

    One of the reasons that so many “contradictions” come up around here is the perspective that “Allah y’all” cling to as if it will give you eternal life. In this case you say those who died in the wilderness actually enter the Land of Promise. You fail to discern the audience that Moses addresses here (the children of those who died), and you fail to understand that, contrary to your opinion: “… the 40-year wandering was not a punishment to kill off those 20 and above, but was a test by Yahweh “to know what was in your heart” is actually turning everything on its head. It was both. To punish and destroy the rebels (Moses points out that he suffered a lapse like their own and he suffered as well: not being able to enter) and to test those who survived the last failure (Baal-peor) and would also fail if they did not continue to “pass the test” in the future. Read again verses 3-4.

    Deut. 4 opens addressing those who would enter the Land and instructing them that they would succeed if they followed and obeyed. Verse 2 warns them not to add to or take away anything from the “commandments of YHVH your Elohim that I command you.” This site is grossly in violation of this principle that is repeated again and again through out Scripture.

    The main problem is the failure to address the fact that what every single book in the 66 books included in today’s Bible addresses: holiness, righteousness, and a love relationship and proper fear of God and the history of the contrast of those who do and think otherwise. That and the ridiculous premise that we cannot while reading the Bible come to this conclusion. Nor did the original authors intend for anyone to ever think other than what (according to Steve) “they thought.” That somehow this is not what the original (unnamed, non existent) authors of the “inter-testamental period” were stressing, and it is hypocritical of anyone who fails to see all the “infighting/politics/and power struggle” that is the real message of the Bible. That and the fact that its message was/is no different from the paganism of the rest of the world.

    This 300 year old (?) tradition of interpretation is simply that: an interpretive method of reading the Bible. It is especially customized for the atheist at heart.

    So why stay here? Personally, I will talk with anyone about the Bible because it is a subject that when studied and discussed (and honestly obeyed) will ultimately transform a person and conform and consecrate his character and very essence as a human being into the one of Him who Created everything, “ex nihilo”.

  4. Contradiction #266, http://contradictionsinthebible.com/moses-not-allowed-enter-promised-land, also ties in with this line of thinking, especially Deuteronomy 4:20-22:

    20But the Lord has taken you and brought you out of the iron-smelter, out of Egypt, to become a people of his very own possession, as you are now.

    21 Yahweh was angry with me because of you, and he vowed that I should not cross the Jordan and that I should not enter the good land that Yahweh your God is giving for your possession. 22For I am going to die in this land without crossing over the Jordan, but you are going to cross over to take possession of that good land.

    In the conception of this author, Moses bore the sins of the people and was sentenced to die so that the people–the same ones who provoked Yahweh to anger–could “cross over.”

    1. John,

      Good to see you finally enter this conversation! Your observations about Deut 4:21-22 are interesting. That may be indeed how this particular author rationalized the tradition. And it becomes clear from the context of Deut 4 that the “you” here that are going to cross over, are the same “you” that these things are also spoken of:

      “the things that your eyes have seen” (4:9)
      “the day that you stood in front of Yahweh” (4:10)
      you came forward and stood below the mountain” (4:11)
      “Yahweh spoke to you . . . but you did not see a form” (4:12)
      “He commanded you to do the Ten Commandments” (4:13)
      “But Yahweh has taken you, and he has brought you out from the iron furnace of Egypt” (4:20).

  5. I agree that certain strands of Deuteronomy know nothing about, or reject, the tradition of 40 years of wandering as a punishment. As Deuteronomy 9:6-7 states:

    6 Know, then, that Yahweh your God is not giving you this good land to occupy because of your righteousness; for you are a stubborn people. 7Remember and do not forget how you provoked Yahweh your God to wrath in the wilderness; you have been rebellious against Yahweh from the day you came out of the land of Egypt until you came to this place.8 Even at Horeb you provoked Yahweh to wrath, and Yahweh was so angry with you that he was ready to destroy you.

    Verses 7-8 are particularly striking, because as Numbers 14:29-31 and Deut. 1:39 make clear, those under 20 are not considered culpable and “do not yet know right from wrong,” so it couldn’t be those under 20 who “provoked Yahweh to wrath” and were “rebellious against Yahweh” since leaving Egypt. Yet the rebellious people being addressed are promised entry into Egypt. Deuteronomy 8 is also interesting, because it states, contra Numbers 14:29-34, that the 40-year wandering was not a punishment to kill off those 20 and above, but was a test by Yahweh “to know what was in your heart.”

  6. Sabba, you don’t know anything about me, what I believe, my religious background, or my education. I may well be ignorant of scripture, but you are hardly the one to be making that judgment.

  7. Finally, stop with the pejorative ad hominem B.S. And you can address me as Steven or Dr. DiMattei, not Dr. Steven—are we in the 5th grade?

    Could you go into detail, with phrases I have said to prove that I have been using “pejorative ad hominem B.S.”? I went back through my last two posts and the only thing that I can find that is even remotely possible was “false teacher”, Steven. Do you consider “cherry-picking” in this category?

    Or maybe it is this observation: “YOU CONVENIENTLY “FORGET ON PURPOSE” TO TELL YOUR AUDIENCE (THAT LARGELY DOESN’T READ OR UNDERSTAND SCRIPTURE TO START WITH—UNLESS WITH THE CONTRIVED “higher critical” METHOD YOU CHAMPION) that, as always, YOU ARE PURPOSELY (who knows, maybe you are just as ignortant?!) LEAVING OUT DETAILS THAT DON’T BACK UP YOUR VERY SUBJECTIVE PRESUMPTIONS.

    YOU TRIED TO PULL THE SAME BULL WITH YOU NARROWLY FOCUSED CHERRY PICKING OF THE PROPHETS AND KEEP USING EXAMPLES OF MATERIAL ABOUT WHICH YOU CLEARLY KNOW NOTHING:

    That is not pejorative ad hominem. I have said that you are either ignorant of scripture or you are deceiving people like Robert who are. Based on what I have read on this site and its whole premise in its title, that is true, FROM MY PERSPECTIVE. Certainly because I expressed disapproval of you methods, AND WHY I DID SO, doesn’t mean I am calling you names, it means I am telling you the truth. You tell me that all I do is lie. HOG WASH!

    Let me give you a classic example here by simply quoting Robert’s response:

    “His point was that Moses speaks to them at times as if they had been in Egypt and had been to Horeb, which would not be the case if the first generation had all died in the wilderness. You do not come close to addressing that point. Do you even realize this?

    *****ROBERT, I’M ADDRESSING YOU DIRECTLY HERE AS I TALK TO STEVE.*****

    The first generation coming out of Egypt that rebelled and died in the wilderness, were all those in the first census, the men 20 years old and older. That means the 2nd generation, the ones that had to be circumcised were 1-19 years of age at the time. THEY TOO CAME OUT OF EGYPT! AND THEY TOO WERE AT HOREB, and except for the youngest ones, let us say, those younger than 9 or 10 years old, EVERYONE OF THEM COULD REMEMBER THE DETAILS AND KNEW FULL WELL WHY THEIR REBELLIOUS PARENTS HAD TO DIE FIRST!

    So let’s add 40 years to all of them, and the oldest is 59 years old. Simple math. These people and their children were not unaware of what Moses was talking about when he said to start the book of Deuteronomy, ”

    1 These be the words which Moses spake unto all Israel on this side Jordan in the wilderness, in the plain over against the Red sea, between Paran, and Tophel, and Laban, and Hazeroth, and Dizahab.
    2 (There are eleven days’ journey from Horeb by the way of mount Seir unto Kadeshbarnea.)
    3 And it came to pass in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month, that Moses spake unto the children of Israel, according unto all that the Lord had given him in commandment unto them;
    4 After he had slain Sihon the king of the Amorites, which dwelt in Heshbon, and Og the king of Bashan, which dwelt at Astaroth in Edrei:
    5 On this side Jordan, in the land of Moab, began Moses to declare this law, saying,
    6 The Lord our God spake unto us in Horeb, saying, Ye have dwelt long enough in this mount:
    7 Turn you, and take your journey, and go to the mount of the Amorites, and unto all the places nigh thereunto, in the plain, in the hills, and in the vale, and in the south, and by the sea side, to the land of the Canaanites, and unto Lebanon, unto the great river, the river Euphrates.
    8 Behold, I have set the land before you: go in and possess the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give unto them and to their seed after them.

    After Moses recounted the events leading up to their arrival at Kadesh Barnea, they knew what he was talking about when Moses said in verse 26: “Yet you were not willing to go up but rebelled against YHVH your Elohim.” They as a family had set out on the journey. When they as a family had to choose which report they would believe, that of the 10 spies, or that of Joshua and Caleb, these people (NOW 40 YEARS INTO THE FUTURE) could remember full well that those men, 20 years old and all of those older, chose not to obey. BYW, since this was after the Baal peor incident, they knew full well that quite a few of their contemporaries had been killed because of their choice to indulge in the sexual worship that ALL OF THEM HAD BEEN ENTICED INTO SHARING IN. But not all did and these were those that were addressed here by Moses in this last book of Torah.

    Do I have to go into detail about how literature is written?

    When we read that in verses 34 and 35 that YHVH “heard the sound of your words and He was angry” and then as a result emphatically swore that, “not one of these men, this evil generation, shall see the good land”, that this is recounting a scenario that has recently happened. It is taking place 40 years later, according to verse 3. AFTER SIHON AND OG AND WHILE STANDING IN MOAB. That would place this book after the incident with Balaam too.

    To fail to see this is to insist on an agenda, like I said, that insists on finding contradictions when in this case, none exist. This is clearly a different group of people here.

    UNLESS, OF COURSE, YOU DON’T BELIEVE THAT THEIR PARENTS ACTUALLY DIED OFF!

    In other words, you believe that a preposterous lie is being committed here. People who were purported to have died are actually alive and the whole scenario is false and a fraud. That what is being read is a deception committed by people who were not even alive at the time of the events but lived up in the future where they made this up, whole cloth.

    If that is the case, where are the documents that we can read, the ones that support this fraud you insist is true?

    My friend, they don’t exist.

    1. No, Sabba, it is you who are guilty of the charges you hurl at me. Whereas I start with the texts on their own terms, you never do. You start from subjective and culturally un-contextualized assumptions about these texts forged centuries after they were written, and because of that you actually know little to nothing about these texts. And frankly, I know more about these texts, their compositional history, literary contexts, etc. than you could possibly even imagine (quite literally). You have no knowledge nor training in ancient literature including the literature of the Bible. You merely have beliefs about these texts. That’s different than knowledge about them which derives from studying them on their terms—i.e., what the texts themselves reveal about their own compositional history. Indeed, you wouldn’t even bother learning about:

      Who wrote Leviticus? When? To whom? Why? What are the core beliefs of this author? Why did he believe what he did? How did he express these beliefs and his message? How do they compare to his contemporaries? What ideology was he promulgating and why? What was his perception and experience of the world he lived in? What was his views on the sacrificial cult, blood, death, the priesthood, Yahweh, Yahweh’s covenants, foreigners in the land, circumcision, the Passover and Yahweh’s other “eternal” holy days, etc.? What historical circumstances was he seeking to address and why? What historical crisis influenced his composition? What literary conventions did he employ in composing his text? How did his text come about? How does it linguistically compare to other texts of the Bible? What other pieces of literature influenced his composition? What other peoples, guilds, etc. did he see himself in agreement with and disagreement with? Etc.

      When you can answer these and many similar questions, then move on to the book of Deuteronomy and do the same thing, then the books of Kings, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Hosea, Amos, Chronicles, Daniel etc. You can’t answer any of these things, and instead you toss these questions, and the messages of their authors into the waste-bin and replace them with traditional views and beliefs about these texts forged centuries after they were written and substantiate these later beliefs by appeals to God—all at the expense of these texts and their authors’ beliefs.

      I have no subjective interest here; my interests are purely objective, and it’s all about the texts for me, not higher criticism or whatever, but the texts! Not traditional beliefs and views about these texts forged centuries after they were written, but the texts! And my readers, Christians, ex-Christians, atheists, de-converts, etc. all recognize and appreciate this. You and your subjective agenda and reading of these texts, on the other hand, are quite apparent in just about every comment you post. You massage and manipulate these texts so that they miraculously say and reaffirm your beliefs, and again all at the expense of the beliefs—competing and individual—of the authors of these texts. You cannot even see the texts on the terms of their authors; you have replaced them with your own agenda, or alas with the terms imposed on these texts by later readers!

      The premise of this site is the texts, their authors and their beliefs—not the beliefs, views, and theology inherent in a centuries label—“the Holy Bible”—which was imposed by a readership that knew nothing about these texts. It is this centuries-later theological framework that inhibits you from actually acknowledging the individual and competing beliefs and messages of these authors for fear that they will not accord with the beliefs and ideas inherent in the label “the Holy Bible.” But truth be known, you have substituted knowledge about these texts for later beliefs about these texts.

      The agenda here is not finding contradictions, but reading the text at face value and noting, as one scholar put it “its seams and fractures” (David Carr, Reading the fractures of Genesis. I would highly recommend you read this book and actually learn something about the texts!). Again, there is 300 years of biblical scholarship in support of these texts and their authors, but you opt rather to listen to a centuries later interpretive tradition about these texts, and at the expense of these texts’ unique messages, authors, historical contexts, literary precursors, etc.

      You can accept in your own culture that we can tell the Spiderman story with variation and even contradictorily, but you cannot accept (because you lack knowledge about), the fact that ancient peoples, Israelites included, told stories, retold their stories, told them with variation, different purposes, different ideologies, etc. and over a span of 1,000 or more years and these variations scribes later wrote down and purposefully collected! (Stories of the north and the south). Are you kidding me? You are way out of your field here. Read a book about ancient literature, read a book about the text of the Bible and how it came about, rather than relying on the beliefs set by later readers of these texts. We deal with the authors here and their texts and messages, not the beliefs of later readers, unless those later readers are currently NT authors.

      As far as the composition of Deuteronomy is concerned, you are way out of your league here, and you keep avoiding to address the text—what it is saying! In fact there are only two verses in Deuteronomy that pick up on the tradition of the 1st generation of Israelites dying off in the wilderness: Deut 2:14-17 and (I believe there’s another). But contrary to these two verses, there are numerous other verses that either suppress, ignore, or omit this tradition.

      1) “I said to you at that time”; “and you answered and said to me”; “and you came to me”; and “I commanded you at that time.” So the “you” to whom Moses addresses and claims that he said certain things to in the past was not in fact the ‘them’ that were assembled before him on the plains of Moab.

      2) “the day that you stood in front of Yahweh your God at Horeb”; “you came forward and you stood below the mountain”; “Yahweh spoke to you”; “you heard his words”; “he had you hear his voice”; “you heard the sound of words but perceived no shape”; “he told you his covenant that he commanded you to do”; and “he brought you out in front of him from Egypt”; “you saw with your own eyes the signs and portents, the great deeds that Yahweh did at Egypt.”

      The “you” that Moses continuously refers to have all died following the 1st generation died in the wilderness tradition! In other words, the author of this text has Moses refer to the assembled Israelites before him on the planes of Moab as the “you” who left Egypt, arrived at Horeb, and was given the laws, etc. This author, in other words, proceeds as if this tradition did not exist! This becomes even more evident (and baffling) in other statements that Moses makes about those assembled before him. For example, Moses claims,

      3) “Yahweh your God has been with you these 40 years” (Deut 2:7); “remember the long way that Yahweh your God has led you in the wilderness these past 40 years” (Deut 8:2); “Your cloths did not wear out on you and your feet did not swell these 40 years” (Deut 8:4); and “from the day that you left the land of Egypt until you reached this place” (Deut 9:7).

      Robert is clever enough to note the textual problem here. You, valuing your own beliefs about the texts above the text itself, refuse to engage with the text on its terms, and conversely “interpret away” the textual problems and contradictions, which reveal the text’s compositional history and authorial agendas! Or you make this into a subjective duel falsely claiming that I or Robert has “lied” or committed a “falsehood.” I don’t use terms like that; they already rest on faulty assumptions about the text that I do not harbor (for example, that our authors were writing history!). The above passages clearly seem to reflect an author who has disregarded this tradition or has forgotten about it. And if this is the case, then the next question becomes WHY? Why did this author alter the tradition that he himself inherited? And knowing something about this text, who wrote it, to whom, and why, this very question has an answer. We know why this author—the Deuteronomist—altered the tradition. And yes indeed since the text of Deuteronomy witnesses compositional layers, the 1st generation died in the wilderness tradition is also represented in this very text too (Deut 2:14-17), but it is much less pronounced.

      If you want to actually learn about the book of Deuteronomy, for starters attempt this simple reading exercise. Read each story that Moses renarrates in Deuteronomy 1-11—the selection of the judges, the scouting of the land, the Edom tradition, the conquest of the Amorites, the giving of the laws and Ten Commandments, the Golden Calf, the 2nd stone tablets, Aaron’s death, the selection of the Levites, etc.—and find the “earlier” version of all these stories, that is when they happened and were narrated in Exodus or Numbers. Compare the “original” with Moses’ renarrations. What does “Moses” do when he renarrates these stories? Does he change anything? Is he faithful to the original account? If not, why?

      If you could be honest to the texts in this exercise, then this site and biblical higher criticism will all be nothing for you, because the texts themselves will be screaming — Hey we’re multi-authored and our stories were variously told with considerable alteration, modification, and even contradictory details by the particular storytellers that told them throughout Israel’s history. Again, it’s all about the texts and what they themselves reveal about their own compositional history! But if you approach the Torah as written by Moses, then it’s not about the texts anymore; in that case it is all about what a later tradition says about the text. Apparently, however, for you it’s all about what later tradition has dictated to you to believe about these texts, and that all comes at the expense of what the texts themselves are saying literally, and about their compositional histories and authorial agendas. You have substituted later tradition for the text themselves. A shame really, because we could be having a fruitful conversation instead of me continually reiterating: it’s about the texts on their terms, not later traditional beliefs about the text.

  8. His point was that Moses speaks to them at times as if they had been in Egypt and had been to Horeb, which would not be the case if the first generation had all died in the wilderness. You do not come close to addressing that point. Do you even realize this?

    1. Yes, thank you Robert for pointing this out. And Sabba, you must have one of the poorest reading skills that I’ve ever seen, both when it comes to reading my comments and when it comes to reading the biblical texts. As for the latter, the difficulty lies in the fact that you come to these texts with predefined notions and beliefs about these texts dictated to you by a centuries later interpretive framework and understanding of these texts, so any “reading” on your part is merely done to substantiate the presuppositions and a priori beliefs you hold about these texts, even when these texts voice the contrary. So you’re not interested in their stories—competing stories—but in reaffirming your story at the expense of these texts, their authors, and their beliefs.

      My initial comment in this post was an attempt to address merely one of the instances you do this. For you claimed twice in this thread that the 1st generation of Israelites did not die off yet when we get to the Baal Peor episode; you expressed this as your belief about the text. However, the text claims otherwise in multiple places AND these different texts also contradict one another on numerous points. And that is because ancient Israelite storytellers opted to tell these stories differently to suit the needs and concerns of their audiences.

      1) The clearest example—a shame I have to retype my post because of your inability to read and digest it—comes from Deut 2:14. This author believed—against your beliefs—that all the 1st generation died before the Israelites crossed the Wadi Zered, which additionally this author informs us occurred in the 38 year. Deut 1:46 does nothing to change this. So your citing it is irrelevant to the discussion at hand, and more so is just another in a long list exemplifying your inability to read. Furthermore, the author of this text had specific reasons for retelling the story in the manner he did. But, alas, his beliefs, message, historical audience, etc. are of no importance to you. For, as you have amply demonstrated, these texts are no longer about him and his message, but all about you Sabba! I wonder if our author knew that?

      2) Imposing this author’s version of the story onto the narrative of Numbers, leads to the realization that all the 1st generation died before Numbers 21:12, when it is said they cross the Wadi Zered (the border between Edom and Moab)—again against your beliefs about the text. Furthermore, according to the narrative of Numbers 21, this happens on the 40th year, NOT the 38th year as the author of Deuteronomy expressed. Again, Deut 1:46 does nothing to change this! Moreover, Num 26 seems to suggest, contrary to Deuteronomy, that all the 1st generation did not die off until the 40th year before the new census. These are two different traditions, and each one of these authors had their reasons for telling the tradition differently, period. Our goal is to understand their retellings and alterations, not to impose our beliefs onto theirs and interpret them away! You inability to let these authors tell their own stories is appalling and disingenuous towards these texts. And, as I’ve posted elsewhere, these two different textual traditions contradictorily disagree on many other points, especially the geography of the Transjordian itinerary, the time it took, when it happened, and whether there was a conquest of this land or not (#268, #274, #275, #279, #280, #281, #286). But again, your beliefs about these texts are more important, you’ve declared, than the messages of the texts themselves!

      3) Likewise, if for particular reasons endemic to each of these authors’ historical context they opted to retell the wilderness narrative differently, here expressing that they were a paradigm of loyalty and obedience (Jer 2:1-2 & Hos 2:14-15, 9:10) contradictorily to the overall impression we get in Exodus and Numbers, then our responsibility is to understand the whys and hows behind this—not to interpret their messages away under the pretext that they don’t conform to your beliefs about these texts and the homogeneous narrative you’ve imposed on this collection of 60 some texts written over a thousand years! And point of fact, I did quote the whole verse: “they became an abomination” according to this author ONLY AT Baal Peor! That is what the author is claiming! “but when they went to Baal Peor and separated themselves unto that shame, their abominations were according as they loved.”

      There is no cherry-picking here. But rather an attempt to understand this particular author and his message. And if you knew anything about (or even cared to learn about) this author, his historical audience, and the historical circumstances that his text was responding to, then maybe you might realize why he told the story in this manner, and contradictorily to the traditions now in Numbers, which in fact had not even be written yet! Hosea is using the Baal Peor episode because in his current historical time period Israel is presently flirting, “whoring,” with the Baal cult. So our author creates an analogy between a past event and the current situation in an attempt to chastise his audience by pointing out that this was the exact sin that lead the Wilderness generation to their downfall, who prior to their encounter with Baal Peor were as innocent as “grapes” and the “first-ripened figs.” This is our author’s message! And its served his particular purpose to his, and only his, historical audience. So you are the guilty one here with respect to not understanding these texts, cherry-picking them, and imposing your own biased pseudo-narrative framework to this collection of ancient literature, while ignoring any real knowledge about these texts their historical circumstances, authors, audiences, literary conventions, etc. Ditto for the Jeremiah passage. Jeremiah uses the past as an example to emulate to the current historical audience he is speaking to. And in providing an example of when Israel was faithful to Yahweh in order to chastise his current historical audience, Jeremiah re-packages the wilderness generation as an example of loyalty, contrary to his current sinful historical audience!

      So, again, it is you who are cheery-picking and taking liberties with these texts. I come to them with an empty cup, and my goal is to understand their culturally-conditioned beliefs and their historically-conditioned messages and on their terms, that means from within their historical and literary world. YOU, on the other hand, come to these texts with glass already full of assumptions and predefined beliefs handed down to you by a centuries later interpretive tradition, so that in the end you can’t hear these texts and their independent message because you have opted with the later interpretive tradition’s beliefs about these texts. Your argument is not with me, but with the texts. The texts themselves repeatedly and very convincingly refute the claims and presuppositions imposed upon them by this later interpretive tradition. I defend these texts and their messages; you defend what later readers have come to belief about these texts. And you have failed to actually understand this point, digest it, and discuss it. The only interest and purpose that these texts serve you is . . . well that’s it, you! They are mere vehicles to support your beliefs and your beliefs about these texts.

      Finally, stop with the pejorative ad hominem B.S. And you can address me as Steven or Dr. DiMattei, not Dr. Steven—are we in the 5th grade?

  9. OK, time to pick up and digest you last point above, #7. And you only have to go to Deut. 4:3-4 where the next generation, the children who, as predicted, were about to enter the Land, were reminded of the “case of Baal-peor”. Proof that they were the ones and not their parents is in verse 4. Some of them were destroyed. “But you who held fast to YHVH your Elohim are alive today, every one of you.”

    In other words, not all of the next generation would enter the Land. Those that were disobedient were destroyed. The rest, the large majority of those numbered there (Numbers 26: “…on the plains of Moab by the Jordan of Jericho…” which was AFTER DEFEATING SIHON AND OG, and before destroying the Midianites in the area: Numbers 25: 16-17 which is recorded in Numbers 31)—not all of the new generation which had been reduced to being shepherds while waiting for their parents to die off, but most of them, nonetheless—these entered and began the process of conquest.

    ****When I am wrong, I am wrong. Earlier on this string I said that @ the Baal peor, THE LAST OF THE “PARENTAL GENERATION” DIED OFF. WRONG! As you pointed out, that happened before crossing the Jordan and the Wadi Zered, before defeating Sihon and Og (where the next generation learned first hand how to fight) and now this younger generation is standing before Moses in the last few days of his life as he reminds them, once again, “See, I have taught you statutes and judgments just as YHVH my Elohim commended me…” Deut. 4:5 and following. In verse 3-4 it is clear that the rebels in the New Generation were actually the ones that died for their sins, not their parents who had died before they even went east across the Jordan, north to defeat the two giants and their kingdoms and then back south, where Balaam could not curse, “whom YHVH Elohim has blessed!”****

    More proof that this could not be the original generation that came out of Egypt is found in the early chapters of the Book of Joshua. Same place, different leader and before they would begin the conquest with the destruction of Jericho, this new generation of fighting men had to be circumcised. Joshua 5:4-8

    4 Now this is why he did so: All those who came out of Egypt–all the men of military age–died in the desert on the way after leaving Egypt. 5 All the people that came out had been circumcised, but all the people born in the desert during the journey from Egypt had not. 6 The Israelites had moved about in the desert forty years until all the men who were of military age when they left Egypt had died, since they had not obeyed the LORD. For the LORD had sworn to them that they would not see the land that he had solemnly promised their fathers to give us, a land flowing with milk and honey. 7 So he raised up their sons in their place, and these were the ones Joshua circumcised. They were still uncircumcised because they had not been circumcised on the way. 8 And after the whole nation had been circumcised, they remained where they were in camp until they were healed.

    There is no way your point #7 could even be remotely possible.

  10. So let us read a few of Dr. Steve’s multitudinous comments. It is like the first reading of the Obamacare document: lots of details and errors that constantly need fixing. For example:

    “And we crossed the Wadi Zered. And the days that we went from Kadesh-barnea until we crossed the Wadi Zered were 38 years, until the end of all the generation, the men of war, from among the camp as Yahweh swore to them.” (Deut 2:14)

    So according to this author, all the 1st generation had died before crossing into Moab. But according to the textual tradition of Numbers this does not happen in the 38th year, but in the 40th year! So there are two contradictory details so far.

    SO LET’S CLEAN UP THE MATTER. READING THE END OF THE FIRST CHAPTER OF THE LAST BOOK OF TORAH WE READ AN INTERESTING FACT THAT CERTAINLY SHEDS LIGHT ON THE APPARENT TWO YEAR DISCREPANCY: v46: “So you remained in Kadesh many days, all the days that you spent there.” THERE ARE YOUR TWO YEARS. AFTER REFUSING TO GO IN TO THE PROMISED LAND BECAUSE OF BELIEVING THE BAD REPORT OF THE 10 SPIES, THEY HAD TO WAIT AND “DIE OFF” SOME OF THE REBELLIOUS RABBLE AMONG THEM BEFORE EVEN LEAVING THE OASIS OF KADESH BARNEA.

    YOU ARE SO INTENT ON FINDING PROBLEMS WITH THE TEXT THAT YOU FAIL TO REALIZE THE PROBLEM LIES WITH YOUR WHOLE PERSPECTIVE. THE SAME AUTHOR, MOSES HERE, ADDRESSING ISRAEL JUST ACROSS THE JORDAN ON THE EAST OF JERICHO, DID NOT FORGET WHAT HE SAID, “…these 40 years…” (Deut. 2:7) NOR DID HE TURN INTO SOME OTHER PERSON A MERE SIX VERSES LATER WHEN 2:13 (which you quote above), HE POINTED OUT THAT 38 YEARS TRANSPIRED after they left Kadesh. NO, THE SAME MOSES HAD JUST POINTED OUT AT THE END OF THE PREVIOUS CHAPTER, THE OPENING ONE OF THIS LAST BOOK OF TORAH, (again I will quote it for you so you can get the whole truth): “So you remained in Kadesh many days, all the days that you REMAINDED THERE.”

    NO CONTRADICTIONS HERE. JUST LOTS OF PSEUDO-INTELLECTUAL SPACE BETWEEN YOUR EARS AND A VERY DISHONEST HEART.

    SINCE #S 2-4 ARE MORE OF THE SAME FALSE ASSUMPTIONS AND WORSE LET US GO TO #5

    5) Yet the textual tradition preserved in Hosea 9:10 would have us believe that the Israelites were loyal and obedient to Yahweh during the entire wilderness period, and that their first sin was the Baal Peor episode!

    I [Yahweh] found Israel as pleasing as grapes in the wilderness; your fathers seemed to me like the first fig to ripen on a fig tree. But when they came to Baal Peor, they turned aside to shamefulness.

    Is Yahweh lying here?

    NO OF COURSE NOT. A BETTER QUESTION IS WHY YOU DID NOT CONTINUE TO QUOTE THE WHOLE FREAKIN’ VERSE! DID YOU FINGERS WEAR OUT WHERE THE VERSE READS: “…they became an abomination like the thing they loved.” That is the whole theme here in Hosea 9—detailing the abomination that Israel has become that would result in exile, lasting until our day.

    YOUR ABILITY TO READ AND UNDERSTAND SCRIPTURE AND YOUR DISHONESTY AND WEIRD THINKING THAT YOU CAN ‘CHERRY-PICK’ SCRIPTURE TO THE POINT THAT TO “PROVE” YOUR AGENDA YOU CONVENIENTLY “FORGET ON PURPOSE” TO TELL YOUR AUDIENCE (THAT LARGELY DOESN’T READ OR UNDERSTAND SCRIPTURE TO START WITH—UNLESS WITH THE CONTRIVED “higher critical” METHOD YOU CHAMPION) that, as always, YOU ARE PURPOSELY (who knows, maybe you are just as ignortant?!) LEAVING OUT DETAILS THAT DON’T BACK UP YOUR VERY SUBJECTIVE PRESUMPTIONS.

    YOU TRIED TO PULL THE SAME BULL WITH YOU NARROWLY FOCUSED CHERRY PICKING OF THE PROPHETS AND KEEP USING EXAMPLES OF MATERIAL ABOUT WHICH YOU CLEARLY KNOW NOTHING:

    “Likewise, Jeremiah 2:1-2 and again Hosea 2:14-15 also have Yahweh declare that the wilderness generation was a paradigm of loyalty and obedience.”

    HOG WASH. THE FIRST THING JEREMIAH SAYS IS THAT YHVH “remembers” THE PREVIOUS DEVOTION OF ISRAEL—THAT WAS NO LONGER THERE: “Israel was holy to YHVH…” v3 and then in the rest of the chapter, starting in v.4 He reminds them: “what injustice did your fathers find in me that they went far from me…?”

    DITTO HOSEA. THIS PROPHET LIVED CENTURIES AFTER THE GENERATION THAT DIED IN THE DESERT OVER 40 YEARS. HE USES THEM AS AN EXAMPLE AND A CONTRAST WITH ANOTHER FUTURE GENERATION THAT WILL SOMEDAY CALL YHVH “my husband” INSTEAD OF “my Baal”.

    IT SPEAKS OF RESTORATION IN THE FUTURE, NOT A PICTURE (AND YOUR MISREPRESENTED INTERPRETATION) OF THE PAST! LOOK AT THE LANGUAGE! Hosea 2:14 “Therefore, behold, I will allure her…”

    “I WILL ALLURE HER” IS FUTURE TENSE. DO YOU KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN FUTURE AND PAST TENSE? IF SO, WHY DID YOU USE A PASSAGE FOR YOUR “false teacher” AGENDA THAT CLEARLY SPEAKS OF THE COMING DAYS, EVEN THE ONES IN WHICH WE NOW LIVE, as if it was speaking of the past, wandering around in the desert?

    7) One last one. Despite its unified theological message, the book of Deuteronomy evidences textual traditions that imply that there was no 2nd generation! In other words, these traditions seem to acknowledge only one generation; the Egyptian generation is the generation that stands before Moses 40 years later on the plains of Moab.

    I’LL ADDRESS THIS LAST POINT NEXT. THIS IS ENOUGH FOR NOW

  11. I want to add some additional insight about the qubba(h). See my 4-22-15 comments above. Dr. Friedman provides this annotation for Numbers 25:8 in his *Commentary on the Torah*:

    The qubbah is a tent, as Rashi understood. Moreover, as my teacher Frank Cross discussed, the qubbah is known in the pre-Islamic Near East. It was a tent used to house sacred objects, and, like the biblical Tabernacle, it was made of red leather. Since this episode begins precisely at the entrance to the Tabernacle (the Tent of Meeting; v. 6), it certainly appears that the qubbah here refers to the inside of the Tabernacle. This is confirmed by what happens next…

    What happens next, of course, is that Phinehas pursues Cozbi and Zimri into the “qubbah,” which as I mention in my 4-22 comment, Friedman sees as an act consistent with the violation of an area off limits to all but priests.

    1. Hi John,

      Friedman’s remarks are interesting. It makes me think of another reason why the redactor decided to place this Priestly narrative here after this non-Priestly Baal Peor pericope, whose real narrative setting was most likely in the Negeb (thus in proximity to Midianites) and at the end of Aaron’s death (thus the mourning here repeating the mourning in 20:29) as I mentioned in my comments above.

      While the Baal Peor episode condemns the practice of foreign women bringing Israelite men into foreign cults, the Priestly story does the opposite: forbids Israelite males from bringing foreign women into Yahweh’s presence. And as you note, according to this literature, even non-Aaronid Israelite males were not permitted to enter/approach Yahweh’s Tabernacle.

  12. Hi,
    I would read the following intermeshed narratives: 25:1a,3,5-18 as the Priestly version. Here, the people are referred to as ‘Israel’ consistently the sin is worship of Peor explicitly mentioned in verse 18. The plague is implicit in the ‘burning anger of YHWH’ in verse 3. The idea that the sin is non-priestly trrespass into the tent of meeting is a big stretch as this is not mentioned in the text clearly. The story is also contrasting Moses’ failed attempt at restoring order by trying to kill the perpertrators (verse 5) with the success of Phinehas.
    The fragmentary (earlier) story is verses 25:1b,2,3. Here the sin is generalized orgy with Moabite women, resulting in worship of generic ‘other gods’ rather than the specific deity Peor.

  13. Is that first one really a contradiction? It says it was 38 years from their leaving of Kadesh. but certainly it took time to get there, didn’t it? At least in some traditions it took a year just to get to Sinai.

    I find the development of the “Promised Land” tradition fascinating here. I think historically Israel must have begun in the territory of Reuben the first-born, but that territory was so hotly contested by the Moabites that eventually the tribe died out or was displaced. But still, that was the location of the grave of Moses, there was an altar there, and there were traditions of the Israelites entering Canaan from there. At some point the Jordan was considered a divinely ordained boundary of Israel, and some things needed to be explained. It never made sense to me that the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh would, after wandering the desert for 40 years, decline to enter the Promised Land. It makes more sense if that’s where they were all along.

  14. John Kesler,

    You actually do a good job of breaking down the Hebrew on the meaning of Cozbi and the fact that her womb and the unique word for tent are one and the same.

    Numbers 31:16 and Revelation 2:14 show why Balaam was killed when the Israelites were slaughtered: after he was forced to bless them, he counseled Balaak to bring a curse on Israel through seducing all the men to participate in the typical sex worship that was part of the “ceremonies” not only with the Baal of Peor, but all pagan rites and why YHVH insisted that these people be wiped out. If not, they would only plague Israel in the future and God would have to go after them even worse than what He was asking them to do in slaughtering the people who were vile enough as it was.

    I find Steve’s comment telling, as you share from his observations to seedy3: “Steven DiMattei wrote: We might initially ask, what was so offensive about the man and his Midianite woman, after all Moses’ wife was Midianite?” That looks pretty naïve and indeed it is, as is all this stuff is since the basic premise is wrong. I’ll let Steve’s words suffice for this point: “This is the real ‘sin’ being depicted here. This polemic against intermarriage also serves as one side of a future contradiction with the book of Ruth. But that’s enough for today.”

    Interracial marriage and intermarriage is not the sin that enervated Phineas. The people were bemoaning the Baal Peor event right in front of the Tabernacle, which would be the place to do so. Levites were in attendance and officiating at the altar inside. To surmise that Cozbi and Zimri made it into the Holy of Holies to copulate is just more of the inductive, subjective aspect of this site that comes up with contradictions on a daily basis because of the feigned “what is wrong with a little sex inside the Holy place” question that Steve asked (it has got to be ‘tongue in cheek’) rhetorically? His setting this episode up for future consideration as just another example of his agenda driven, subjective, inductive approach to interpreting the Bible.

    You didn’t seem to fall into that category quite so much, although still seem sympathetic to the agenda that in this case wants to have the Tabernacle turned into the same kind of sex brothel that characterizes all the rest of humanity. And by the text above as I pointed out, that perspective is easily destroyed. Your comment is close: “… Balaam was asked to curse Israel. What the foreign prophet failed to do, the Midianite woman accomplished.”

    Not quite. He counseled her and all the Midianite leaders to do this “in your face” move, as well as the Baal Peor affair just prior to that. It was his death sentence and all those who thought they could just poke their finger in YHVH’s eye…

  15. As I have already gone to great lengths to detail, there is a difference between the Israelites who were the children of those who were cursed and would all die in the wilderness, aka their parents. This is not the hypothesis theory at all. The children were blessed and kept from the sins of the Baal of Peor whereas those who did not were the last remnant of the 40 years of unbelief and the concomitant curse of dying in the desert. At this point that generation is finished, and the new generation (howbeit, including sans Moshe—because 120 years is the prescribed limit), is ready under the leadership of Joshua, to enter the land of the Promise. And no, this is not some other source text. This is the basic narrative that began in Genesis…

    1. In point of fact, it is the biblical scribes who have gone to great lengths to detail and express their beliefs and their modified retellings of the stories handed down to them, but you have repeatedly gone through great lengths to ignore them! As this is a site devoted to them, their texts, and what they were conveying to their audience—I know that just hasn’t sunk in yet, but we’re all still pulling for ya—let’s see what they had to say about this matter, all of which by the way, I had already posted about (here #260-261, here A Brief Intro to Num 21, here #271-273, here #274, here #279, and here #280), but granted I know it’s your M.O. not to read, but just to make unsubstantiated claims and impose your beliefs onto these texts. But nevertheless, our biblical authors will try once more to indicate to you their variant positions on this matter—not yours!

      1) The clearest most explicit case is made by the author of Deuteronomy (Deuteronomist for short), and he believed or he renarrated this tradition in this way:

      “And we crossed the Wadi Zered. And the days that we went from Kadesh-barnea until we crossed the Wadi Zered were 38 years, until the end of all the generation, the men of war, from among the camp as Yahweh swore to them.” (Deut 2:14)

      So according to this author, all the 1st generation had died before crossing into Moab (see #268), which in the storyline of Numbers already happened at Num 21:12. But according to the textual tradition of Numbers this does not happen in the 38th year as the Deuteronomist claims, but int the 40th year! So there are two contradictory details so far.

      Before discussing these further, or actually see the posts listed above for further treatment, let’s move to the next clearest tradition. It’s a shame that I have to re-post all my posts, but this lost sheep is a stubborn one, and since he refuses to read—boisterous unsubstantiated commentary is his M.O.—I will patiently, though I know in vain, take time out of my busy schedule to walk him hand-and-hand through the text—phew! But actually I do this for my other readers too, so they can see what a silly boy we have here.

      2) Numbers 26 is a census that mirrors the census in Numbers 1, only this time it is a census that purports to have been done after all the 1st generation has died:

      and there was not a man among these from the counts of Moses and Aaron, the priest, who counted the children of Israel in the wilderness of Sinai, because Yahweh said to them, “They shall die in the wilderness.” And not a man of them was left except Calab and Joshua. (Num 26:65)

      So technically your assessment here could mesh with this tradition. But there are others, but before we go there, let’s momentarily think about these texts—the texts Sabba, not what’s been said about them, not what you believe about them, and not what’s implied in the label “the Holy Bible” when reading them through this label. But the texts, on their terms!

      We have a textual contradiction here—indeed just 1 of the 300 some already posted! In other words, one tradition claims that all the 1st generation died on the 38 year and before crossing into Transjordan, i.e., the Wadi Zered (Let’s call this the D tradition for brevity). The other claims that they all died off by the 40th year and prior to crossing the Jordan. For here in this tradition the Israelites are way north of the Wadi Zered, on the plains of Moab before the Jordan.

      Now, as readers whose goal it is to be honest to these texts and their authors’ beliefs, our goal is not to interpret these differences away because they clash with our beliefs about the text or what we’ve been told to believe about these texts!!! Rather our goal, I would argue our obligation, is to engage these texts, each on their own terms. The critical questions to ask here are: “Hmm…. interesting, why did this story get retold differently? Was it by two different textual traditions or authors? Who came first? Did one consciously retell the story differently? If so why did he change it? And certainly this is the place for disagreement and conversation; but to deny these authors’ their own story is just fool-hearted blasphemy!

      And… Surprise, surprise, we actually can, in this case, confidently answer all these questions. This is what biblical scholarship is — it is understanding and reproducing the beliefs and messages of these authors and their texts, not the beliefs and messages of later interpretive traditions and later readers, sorry! There is a place for that conversation, but it is not here. Here, it’s about the texts. You still don’t get that because you have erroneously and blindly been conditioned to believe that what is implied in the title “the Holy Bible” is the same as the message(s) of these texts. But the texts themselves time and time again tell us differently. I, it is my job!, to uphold the beliefs and messages of these authors and their texts, to faithfully and honestly to the best of my abilities re-produce their beliefs and understand those beliefs. The text is there to bring us into this author’s world, not to appropriate his worldview and message to fit ours or those of later readers.

      So in this case, the Deuteronomist, the 7th century author of Deuteronomy (there is an enormous amount of literature on this; I’m not going to argue 1 century’s worth of scholarship here; you’ll just have to use that intellect that, I assume, God gave you) uses the figure of Moses as a mouthpiece to legitimate his retelling of the tradition that he inherited. If you were to study the text of Deuteronomy, this author’s beliefs and messages, one of the things you would discover is that Transjordan was considered part of the promised land (loosely conceived), so this author starts the Israelite conquest—unlike the stories in the older tradition preserved in Num 21— when they cross the Wadi Zered: “Start the conquest” (Deut 2:24, 31). It was only natural, then, for this author to explicitly have Moses say that all the 1st generation died at this point. Historically the Israelite retaking of the Transjordan also reaffirms this narrative’s time period. After Assyria withdrew, Israel, under Josiah, embarked on a campaign to retake Transjordanian territories lost and to reestablish the Davidic borders. The core text of Deuteronomy was written to legitimate this campaign as well as Josiah’s larger religious reforms. No biblical scholar disputes this! Read the literature! Why no biblical scholar disputes this? Good question Sabba. Because the text is telling us this!

      Indeed, here’s a textual exercise on the side. Deuteronomy 1-11 presents Moses re-narrating the events of the wilderness period as a sort of summation leading to the text’s current narrative setting on the plains of Moab. But every “event” that Moses re-narrates here—the selection of judges, the spying of the land, the Edom passing, conquering the Amorites, the giving of the Laws at Horeb, the Ten Commandments tradition, the second stone tablets, the Golden Calf story, Aaron’s death, the Ark, etc.—he radically departs from their original narration found in Exodus and Numbers. Many of Moses re-tellings are outright contradictory and offensive when compared to how these stories were told in the earlier traditions preserved in Numbers. What’s going on? The author of Deuteronomy is re-telling the tradition with an eye to his own concerns and beliefs. He uses Moses as a mouthpiece to legitimate, quite nicely, his own ideology. In the end, the 7th century Deuteronomist has retold these earlier traditions in modified and contradictory ways and in all reality in order to replace this older telling with his new text. Why would he do this through the mouthpiece of Moses? Because this was ancient Near Eastern historiography! Apparently you’ve misunderstood this term as evidenced elsewhere in your comments. It’s basically a way for scholars to say this was history writing per the conventions of “history writing” in antiquity. At any rate, later scribes preserved both traditions, thus producing every single one of Moses’ contradictions and the contradictions on this site. How do we know all this? Because the text tells us so over and over and over again! But excuse me for this digression. Let us continue. God willingly you might actually learn something about the texts, which you boldly claim, against the texts, Moses and/or God wrote.

      The Priestly writer, writing after the Babylonian destruction of Judah and the Transjordanian territory—indeed the Moabites and Edomites no longer exist if I recall correctly—is not interested in the Transjordanian campaign in his telling of the wilderness narrative (see #281 & #282-285). This is why too, when he— let’s call him P for brevity—retells the story, there is NO Transjordan campaign!! (Num 33:38-49). At any rate, the important event then is the crossing of the Jordan, this then acts as the date before which all 1st generation Israelites had to die according to this author!

      We can certainly dispute the whys of how different authors retold the traditions that they inherited; but to sit there and blatantly claim that they didn’t retell these stories is just neglectful and dishonest toward these texts, and ignorant of ancient literature and oral and literary traditions of the ancient Near East in general. And once again it places your beliefs above those of our writers. The texts themselves reveal their multi-authorship—period, beyond dispute. Yes, indeed, this knowledge has been slow to reach the public. And I would argue mainly because of the authoritative hold that this long standing interpretive tradition has had on how people view these texts. You’re a prime example! You forsake knowledge for authoritative tradition, text for the beliefs of later reader!

      Now, there are even other alternative and contradictory traditions to look at.

      3) Apparently another priestly tradition implies that all the 1st generation die before the Israelites enter the wilderness of Zin, at Kadesh (Num 20:1). Certainly merely implied in the text, but scholars surmise that this makes sense of why this author fudged the geography of Kadesh, claiming that it was both in the wilderness of Paran (adopting the view of the earlier textual tradition; let’s say J for brevity) and in Zin (see #260-261). In other words, in P’s view all the wilderness generation are to die “in this wilderness” (Num 14:29, 32, 35) that is Paran. Thus in retelling this story, P does not have the Israelites arriving in Kadesh—contrary to the earlier version (J)—until the 40th year (Num 33:36-38).

      4) Yet another implicit tradition has to do with the two Horamh battles (see #242 & #270 & #271-273). The first battle in Num 14:41-45 was the first loss inflicted on the Israelites directly on account of their disobedience with respect to the spying of the land incident. In Num 21:1-3, we have a duplicate Hormah battle, but here the Isrelites are victorious and specifically, we are told, because of their new-found devotion to Yahweh. This (fragmented ?) tradition, in other words, implies a symmetry here. The first Hormah defeat starts the killing off of the 1st generation, while the 2nd one symbolizes its end.

      5) Yet the textual tradition preserved in Hosea 9:10 would have us believe that the Israelites were loyal and obedient to Yahweh during the entire wilderness period, and that their first sin was the Baal Peor episode!

      I [Yahweh] found Israel as pleasing as grapes in the wilderness; your fathers seemed to me like the first fig to ripen on a fig tree. But when they came to Baal Peor, they turned aside to shamefulness.

      Is Yahweh lying here? Or has a different author decided to retell the tradition differently to suit his own historically conditioned needs and to his historical audience?

      6) Likewise, Jeremiah 2:1-2 and again Hosea 2:14-15 also have Yahweh declare that the wilderness generation was a paradigm of loyalty and obedience. Again, our goal is not to interpret these traditions away so we can sleep better at night, reaffirming our own beliefs at the expense of these authors, but rather to be honest to them, note their differences, and ask why has a particular author changed the story? In these examples, it is again clear when we realize the historical issues and historical audience at play here. And we haven’t even broached the real big question here of how do these authors view these stories since they consciously on numerous occasions modify, alter, and contradict the way these stories were recited in earlier traditions!!

      7) One last one. Despite its unified theological message, the book of Deuteronomy evidences textual traditions that imply that there was no 2nd generation! In other words, these traditions seem to acknowledge only one generation; the Egyptian generation is the generation that stands before Moses 40 years later on the plains of Moab.

      Moses speaks to this second generation of Israelites assembled before him as if they were the first generation, claiming in his renarrations: “I said to you at that time”; “and you answered and said to me”; “and you came to me”; and “I commanded you at that time.” “The day that you stood in front of Yahweh your God at Horeb”; “you came forward and you stood below the mountain”; “Yahweh spoke to you”; “you heard his words”; “he had you hear his voice”; “you heard the sound of words but perceived no shape”; “he told you his covenant that he commanded you to do”; and “he brought you out in front of him from Egypt”; “you saw with your own eyes the signs and portents, the great deeds that Yahweh did at Egypt.” Your cloths did not wear out on you and your feet did not swell these 40 years” (Deut 8:4); and “from the day that you left the land of Egypt until you reached this place” (Deut 9:7). Excerpted from another project of mine; don’t have time to get all the references.

      Again, our goal is to ask why this author modified the story. What purpose did it suit? And we have good answers for these questions as well. So in the end, this is how the cards stack up:

      Sabba ½ point vs Biblical traditions: 6

      Sabba loses, texts win!

      Our summation Point: let these authors express their own beliefs and messages and stop appropriating them to legitimate your beliefs! If their beliefs and messages don’t confirm to yours, nor to each others, then OK. Now there’s a conversation that we ought to be having. But it all starts by being honest to the texts and the beliefs of their authors.

  16. Steven DiMattei wrote: We might initially ask, what was so offensive about the man and his Midianite woman, after all Moses’ wife was Midianite? (that is, according to non-P traditions). Our text does not provide us with an immediate answer, but looking back at Numbers 17 we might have an answer. In Num 17:11-15 Aaron arrests a plague that kills 14,700 by performing expiation for the sin caused by a sect of non-Aaronid priests who enter Yahweh’s Tent of Meeting.

    For others’ benefit, I’ll mention that Steven’s reference is from the Hebrew text; in some English versions, 17:11-15 appears at 16:46-50. In a footnote on page 288 of *The Bible With Sources Revealed*, a work which Steven refers to above, Friedman makes a persuasive case for why the “tent” that Cozbi and Zimri entered was part of the Tent of Meeting: it explains why the plague “comes out of nowhere” (see Nu. 8:19 in addition to Steven’s reference), why it must be a priest (Phinehas) who pursues them into the “tent,” and why they are killed immediately, without a trial. Although this explanation has much to commend it, unfortunately, the word translated “tent” in Nu. 25:8 (NRSV, NIV, KJV, et al.) is a hapax legomenon–it occurs nowhere else in biblical Hebrew and is different from the word “tent” (or tabernacle) in v. 6, ‘ohel. Friedman contends that v.8’s “tent,” qubba, “refers to the inner sanctum of the Tent of Meeting.” (The New JPS Tanakh translates v. 8 as “the chamber.”) It’s interesting that v. 8 says that Phinehas’ javelin went through Cozbi’s “belly” (qobah), a word which also appears only here in the Hebrew Bible. It’s also notably that both words–for “tent” and “belly”–come from a root word meaning “curse” (qabab), and that the name Cozbi comes from a word meaning “liar.” It appears to me that possibly the P author used the rare words he did rather than more common ones so that he could make a pun: a woman named Liar was brought into what became the cursed part of the Tabernacle and was thrust through the cursed part of her anatomy (her womb? cf. Gen. 3:16). This also fits the context into which this pericope was inserted: after Balaam was asked to curse Israel. What the foreign prophet failed to do, the Midianite woman accomplished.

  17. One thing that will put light of supposed contradictions is the fact that Israel is positioned by God in the corridor of Europe, Africa, and Asia. It is exactly where they all meet. All the politics, perspectives, intrigues, history—and today the prophetic, biblical geo-politics and backward glance of history is all at play. I doubt that this is missed by Dr. Steve. One would think so though…ahhh, not me. (;~))

  18. So, just asking an opinion. What do you think of Richard Elliott Friedman’s comment in “Who Wrote the Bible”, regarding Snow-White Miriam, “Aaron and Miriam speak because of Moses’wife. What is it about Moses’ wife that bothers them? The text does not say. It only states that she is Cushite. Since Cush is understood to mean Ethiopia in the Bible, the issue may be that Moses’ wife is black. The difficulty is that there is also a place called Cushan in the Bible, which is a region of Mudian; and Moses’ wife Zipporah has already been identified as Medianite… Most likely …based on Moses’ wife being different.”

  19. G’day Dr DiMattei, I have been following in silence on this site for nearly 1 1/2 years now and find most of your observation interesting and enlightening, for that I thank you.

    But onto the point. After reading the passages mentioned in Numbers I noticed that until the plague was over there is no mention that people were dying from illness. It seems to be almost an afterthought. The command was to kill the apostates and those misleading the Israelites. Then all of a sudden we hear of a plague is ended.

    1. Nice to hear from you. More of my silent readers need to chime in!

      As the previous commenter noted, this particular entry does pose some problems if we hold to a strict definition of contradiction. But momentarily stepping back and just reading the text on the surface while noting its peculiarities and textual problems, one of which you mention above, here is what we seem to end up with.

      1. Num 25:1-5 speaks exclusively about Moabite women. This in and of itself is startling considering that according to the traditions preserved in Numbers 21:12-35, there were no Moabites in northern Moab—Sihon had wiped them all out, and contrariwise the Israelites had successfully defeated and slain the Amorites who lived in this land. So the mention of Moabites here already clashes with this other tradition (see #282-285 & #287).

      2. The vocabulary is unique in these verses. 5 times we hear of “the people” (ha‘am): “the people” were led astray by these Moabitean women, and how the leaders of “the people” are to be hung or impaled to Yahweh. These people we are told twice “became attached” (tsamad) to Baal Peor. The toponym Ba‘al Pe‘or is also unique to these verses. And the mention of “leaders” and “judges” are also unique to these verses.

      3. The leaders of “the people” who are impaled, like those of 2 Sam 21:6, are seen as a sacrificial appeasement warding off Yahweh’s wrath. Compare the slaying of the 3,000 guilty men in the Golden calf story (#162).

      4. Verse 6 introduces a new story and new vocabulary. It is now “the children of Israel” and not “the people.” But more specifically are those phrases and vocabulary unique to the Priestly source: “all the congregation” [“The word ‘congregation’ (‘edah) occurs more than one hundred times in the Torah, all in P, without a single exception (Friedman, The Bible with Sources Revealed, 9)]; “the Tent of Meeting”; the presence of the Aaronid priesthood, singling out Phinehas’ zealotism, etc.

      5. The mention that the people were mourning in this new storyline is particularly significant. In the immediate context, one would surmise that the people were mourning the deaths of the apostates just impaled, which of itself would be unusual. No where else do we see the mourning of those whom Yahweh has ‘justly’ killed for their apostasy (cf. Golden Calf, Korah, Dathan and Abiram rebellions). Friedman suggests, and I think rightly so, that this mourning here refers back to the last Priestly passage that we read, and that is in Num 20:23-29, where Aaron dies and “all the house of Israel mourned thirty days.” There are other contextual parallels between Num 20:23-29 [P] and Num 25:6-19 [P].

      – 1st: following Aaron’s death, the priestly lineage needs to be restated and addressed. Num 25:6-13 does exactly that by narrating an etiological story whose sole purpose is to explain how and to legitimate why Aaron’s grandson Phinehas and his seed inherits the Aaronid priesthood exclusively and forever! Yahweh’s last covenant in the Priestly source!

      – 2nd: the mention of the Tent of Meeting is also a Priestly give away, and centralizes the narrative around the cult and the expiatory role of the Aaronid priesthood following Aaron’s death.

      – 3rd: the appearance of a Midianite woman, and later the mention of all the Midianites is ill-conceived in the current context of Num 25:1-5 and is better understood in the narrative and geographical context of Num 20:23-29. See #6.

      6. The whole Midianite reference is ill-placed in the geographical context of Num 25:1-5. First, the Israelites are in northern Moab, or according to J (Num 21:12-31) in Amorite territory, There are not only no Moabites here according to this tradition, but geographically speaking miles away from any Midiante territory. Second, this encounter with the Midianites and eventual war with them (Num 31), makes perfect sense in the context of P’s Num 20:23-29, where the Israelites are still in the Negeb, i.e., Midianite territory! Furthermore, what the conflict in Num 25:16-17 and Num 31 implies is that the Israelites left the plains of Moab (Shittim) to retrace their steps southward, through southern Moab, through the Edom which they couldn’t pass, and back into the Negeb to battle with the Midianites, and to bluntly put exterminate every last one save the virgin girls (Num 31:7, 17). Based on these points, it would seem that Num 25:6—19 once immediately followed Numbers 20:23-29—both P texts. In other words, this was P’s version of the story which was later cut-and-pasted in with the JE traditions, thus producing not only this Moabite-Midianite mix, but the innocuously misplaced geographical context, moving us from a story whose geographical context was originally the Negeb, home of the Midianites, to now a non-Midianite location 250 kilometers away from the Midianites!

      7. Now about the plague. Num 25:1-5, which we now realize as a once independent tradition, is a contained unit. The guilty party are impaled to Yahweh averting his wrath. Sin and expiation—the cycle completed. Likewise in the sin and expiation/atonement of Num 25:6-13—an expiation that won Phinehas and his seed “the covenant of eternal priesthood.”

      Yet, as you note, Phinehas’ actions, i.e., the immediate slaying of this Israelite man and Midianite woman, stop what appears to be an already consuming plague that has already killed 24,000 people (25:9). We might initially ask, what was so offensive about the man and his Midianite woman, after all Moses’ wife was Midianite? (that is, according to non-P traditions). Our text does not provide us with an immediate answer, but looking back at Numbers 17 we might have an answer. In Num 17:11-15 Aaron arrests a plague that kills 14,700 by performing expiation for the sin caused by a sect of non-Aaronid priests who enter Yahweh’s Tent of Meeting. The law established from this story is that no non-Aaronid, and “no outsider” is to approach the Tent of Meeting least they be struck down (17:5, 28). Could it be that this Israelite man and Midianite woman were approaching the Tent of Meeting, as a result of which Yahweh let loose a plague?

      It is also noteworthy that in 25:5—our non-P text—it is the secular judges who do that act of expiation by figuratively offering the guilty up to Yahweh, while here in this P text it is an Aaronid priest who expiates the sin. Additionally, according to other P texts from Exodus and Leviticus it was the sole function and responsibility for the Aaronid priest to perform expiation.

      8. Continuing with our reading. We surprisingly notice that there are only 2 verses that in fact connect these two stories together: Num 25:18 & Num 31:16. In fact Num 25:17 is shockingly out-of-context, because the text says “Afflict the Midianites . . . because they inspired against you concerning the matter of Peor and the matter of Cozbi the Midianite woman.” We must stop and ask: What matter of Peor. No biblical account has indicated that the Midianites were central in the matter at Peor. I would surmise that this gloss comes as a result of already having combined P’s etiological tale of how Phinehas procures the eternal covenant of the priesthood with the non-P story about the Moabites of Baal Peor. Furthermore, the end of verse 18 suggests that the Midianite Cozbi was struck down because of the matter of Peor. But 1) that matter had already been resolved in verse 5 with the impalement and thus expiation of the guilty party, and 2) the actual text of Num 25:6-13 makes absolutely no mention of the matter of Peor as being the reason for Cozbi’s death, and as suggested above Phinehas’ actions to kill her and the Israelite seemed to have been motivated by other variables central to priestly concerns and Aaronid ideology.

      I conclude by speculating that these two once independent stories—Moabite woman leading Isrelites into the cult of Baal, and the slaying of a Midianite woman and an Israelite man as they approached Yahweh’s dwelling—could have been placed side by side and eventually fused together through their interrelated theme and polemic against interracial/ethnic marriages! This is the real ‘sin’ being depicted here. This polemic against intermarriage also serves as one side of a future contradiction with the book of Ruth. But that’s enough for today.

      drjellyjoe I hope this displays more clearly the rationale behind why myself and other biblical scholars label this a contradiction.

  20. 297. Who led the Israelites to worship Baal of Peor: the Moabites OR the Midianites? (Num 25:1-2 vs Num 25:16-18, 31:15-16)

    Num 25:1 says that it was the Moabites, but from Num 25:6 we see by the advice of Balaam, the Moabites and Midianites found ways to become familiar with the Israelites, and introduced their daughters into their company and conversations. Baalpeor was the god of the Moabites and Midianites. The Midanites had send their daughters among the Israelites and enticed them to commit uncleaness with them and drew them to worship their idols.

    Although the Moabites were involved they were spared. The reason for this is explained in the following verse: Deu 2:9 And the LORD said unto me, Distress not the Moabites, neither contend with them in battle: for I will not give thee of their land for a possession; because I have given Ar unto the children of Lot for a possession.

    298. What was their punishment: they were impaled OR killed by plague (Num 25:4-5 vs Num 25:8, 25:18)

    Both. God sent a plague and ordered that the offenders were to be slain by the hands of “the judges of Israel” (Num 25:5), and afterward hung up “against the sun” (i. e., publicly, openly; compare 2 Sam 12:12) as an aggravation of their punishment. This would be done by impaling the body or fastening it to a cross. Compare Deu 21:23 and 2 Sam 21:9.

    1. It might be beneficial to actually read the post and what I’ve written rather than simply respond to the title. You’ve added nothing here that isn’t already said in the above.

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