#235. Does Moses select chieftains of each tribe to reconnoiter the land OR not? (Num 13:4-16 [P] vs Num 13:17b, Num14:4 [J])
#236. Do the spies report back to Moses only OR Moses, Aaron, and all the congregation? (Num 13:27 [J] vs Num 13:26 [P])

Of the 2 contradictions listed above, the second one is easier to spot in the composite text as it now stands. After the men are dispatched and reconnoiter the land, Numbers 13:25 marks their return: And they came back from scouting the land at the end of 40 days. And they went and came to Moses and to Aaron and to all the congregation of the children of Israel, to theRead More

#237. Do the spies report that the land is rich and bountiful OR one that devours its inhabitants? (Num 13:27 [J] vs Num 13:32 [P])

In rewriting the spy story, the later Priestly writer has not only changed who the initiator of the reconnaissance mission is (#233), the specific land that the spies are to reconnoiter (#234), and how many go and to whom they report back (#235-236), but also the content of the report brought back by the scouts. In the earlier Yahwist version the spies report back that the land is “flowing with milkRead More

#238. In the face of there being giants in the land, who encourages the people to have faith in Yahweh: Caleb alone OR Caleb and Joshua? (Num 13:30 [J] vs Num 14:6-9 [P])
#239. In his anger, Yahweh swears to slaughter all the Israelites except Caleb OR except Caleb and Joshua (Num 14:24 [J] vs Num 14:30 [P]; Deut 1:36-38)
#240. Does Yahweh immediately wipe out the other scouts [P] OR not [J]? (Num 14:37-38 vs Num 14:22-24)

Another textual indication that Numbers 13-14 now contains what once was two independent versions of the spy story are the duplicate and contradictory accounts of who steps forward to encourage the Israelites to have faith in Yahweh, and conversely whose lives out of all 600,000 men, or as the case may be 647,550 (#116 & #218), Yahweh spares! Thus, in response to the people’s lack of faith in their ability andRead More

#241. Do the Amalekites live in the land of the Negeb OR in the valley? (Num 13:29, 14:45 vs Num 14:25)

Numbers 13:25 claims that the Amalekites and Canaanites “live in the valley” and that therefore the children of Israel are to “turn and travel tomorrow to the wilderness by the way of the Red Sea” (Num 13:26). This is the conclusion of the spy narrative in the Yahwist account (see previous entries, #235-236, #237, #238-240) and verses 25-26 set the stage for the Transjordanian conquest—that is, since the Israelites had no faithRead More

#242. Was Hormah so named because the Israelites were destroyed by the Canaanites there OR the Canaanites destroyed by the Israelites? (Num 14:44-45 vs Num 21:1-3)

There are presently two traditions in the book of Numbers that recount how the town of Hormah, which means “destruction” in Hebrew, got its name. It is difficult to determine which one is from the Yahwist and which from the Elohist, or indeed from other archival traditions. At any event, Numbers 14:44-45 is the conclusion of the spying of the land story and is presented as yet another story about Israel’sRead More

#243. What is the accompanying grain-offering for a burnt-offering of 1 lamb: one-tenth OR two-tenths of fine flour mixed with oil? (Num 15:4, 28:13, 28:29 vs Lev 23:13)

This contradiction should have been enumerated during the book of Leviticus, particularly during the entries which dealt with Yahweh’s sacrifices on his appointed times (see #194-197, #198-204, and #205-208). At any event, Numbers 15 is clearly an inserted piece of Priestly legislation which has neither any relationship to the spy story that precedes it nor the Korah rebellion (or the Dathan and Abiram rebellion) that follows it. It is a laterRead More

#244. Can any and all sins be atoned/expiated OR only those sins which were committed inadvertently? (Matt 6:14; Jn 3:16, 5:24; Acts 10:43; Rom 3:22, 4:25; Gal 3:13, etc. vs Deut 21:1-9, Lev 4-5; Num 15:30-31; cf. 1 Cor 5; Matt 6:15, 12:31, 18:35, etc.)

This entry expands upon an earlier entry, contradiction #174: Can sin only be atoned through sacrifice or not?—a post that needs much amending itself. Here I will try to limit my remarks [Interjection: I failed at this task, my apologies. The post goes on and on and on. Hopefully there’s a little something for everyone here.] to, first, the different stance taken between unintentional and intentional sins as viewed by theRead More

#245. Is the Sabbath an eternal covenant decreed by Yahweh that must be kept under penalty of death OR not? (Ex 31:12-17, 35:2; Num 15:32-36; Matt 5:18-20 vs Acts 15:29; Rom 14:5-6; Gal 3:23-25, 4:9-10; Col 2:16)

All of the Torah’s Sabbath laws, including the account of its consecration as a holy day by God himself at creation (Gen 2:3), were penned by the same author or priestly guild!—what scholars have come to label as the Priestly source. Indeed the Sabbath itself has a much earlier origin than the writings of this 6th century BCE elite priestly guild. Thus the Sabbath is found in the earlier Yahwist andRead More

#246. Who rebelled against Moses (and Aaron): Dathan, Abiram and On OR Korah and 250 chieftains? (Num 16:1, 12, 27 vs Num 16:1-11, 16-19)
#247. Who did they rebel against: Moses OR Moses and Aaron? (Num 16:2 vs Num 16:3-11)
#248. Why did they rebel: because Moses lords it over them OR because they sought the priesthood? (Num 16:13 vs Num 16:10)
#249. Yahweh commands the rest of the congregation to move away from the tents of Dathan and Abiram OR to move away from the tabernacle of Korah? (Num 16:26 vs Num 16:24)
#250. How does Yahweh punish the rebels: by opening up the earth and swallowing them and their households OR by consuming them with fire? (Num 16:32 vs Num 16:35)

Scholars and close readers of Numbers 16 have long noticed that the text as it now stands is a composite of two different and once separate rebellion stories, each with their own individual characters, motives, divine punishment, vocabulary, style, and theological emphasis. Both of these stories additionally exhibit unique themes, vocabulary, and agendas found in other passages attributed to these same textual traditions. Here we’re looking at a story from theRead More

#251. What bronze is used to plate the altar: the donation from the Israelites at Sinai OR the Kohathite fire-holders? (Ex 35:5, 38:2 vs Num 17:3-4)
#252. Who does the hammered bronze work: Bezalel OR Eleazar and the Aaronids (Ex 38:1 vs Num 17:1-4)?
#253. When and where was the altar plated: between the 6th and 12th month of the 1st year from the Exodus at Sinai OR in the 2nd-3rd years (?) after the Exodus in the wilderness? (Ex 38-40 vs Num 9-17)

We last noted the contradictory rebellion stories now stitched together in Numbers 16 (#246-250): From the Yahwist tradition: The rebellion of the Reubenites led by Dathan, Abiram, and On against Moses’ authority, to which Yahweh responds by opening up the earth and swallowing “them and all their households” (16:32); and From the Priestly source: The rebellion of the Kohathites led by Korah and his cohort of 250 chieftains against the Aaronid’sRead More

#254. Who can burn incense in front of Yahweh: only Aaronids OR not? (Ex 30:7; Num 17:5; 1 Chr 23:13; 2 Chr 26:16-19; Lk 1:8-11 vs Deut 33:10; 1 Sam 2:28; 1 Kgs 9:25)

The message endorsed through the tale of Korah’s rebellion in Numbers 16-17—that only the Aaronid priests can offer incense to Yahweh and only at Yahweh’s altar—is yet but another story in a long list meant to legitimate the Aaronid’s sole right to minister to Yahweh. We have now seen in this Aaronid written text, the Priestly source, “Yahweh” endorse: the sole selection of the Aaronids as his priests, while at theRead More

#255. Where is Aaron’s budding rod placed: in front of the Ark of Testimony OR in it? (Num 17:25 vs Heb 9:4)

There appears to be conflating traditions concerning where Aaron’s budding rod was relegated. In the Priestly narrative of Numbers 17, Aaron’s budding rod is set in front of the Ark of Testimony before Yahweh’s throne seat (#159; #226) to serve as “a sign to rebels.” But when the author of Hebrews six centuries later duplicates this tradition while speaking of the first Temple, he places Aaron’s budding rod in the Ark!Read More

#256. Yahweh decrees that all sacrificial offerings and firstfruits are allotted for Aaron and his sons only OR for all Levites? (Num 18:8-14; Lev 6-7 vs Deut 18:1-4)

Numbers 18 lists the entitlements allotted to the Aaronid priesthood—that is what Yahweh, according to this Aaronid written text, allots as “eternal law” to Aaron and his sons only, no exceptions. These are: All portions from the sacrificial offerings (Num 18:8-11; cf. Lev 6:1-7:10). Remember, minus the burnt-offering which was a whole animal sacrifice burnt on the altar to Yahweh (Lev 1), all other sacrifices—peace-offering, sin-offering, guilt-offering (Lev 3-7)—were partially offeredRead More

#257. Were the Levites allowed to eat their tithes anywhere OR only in front of Yahweh? (Num 18:31 vs Deut 12:17-18, 14:23)

The history of the institution of tithing—allocating a tenth part of your produce and flocks—in ancient Israel is anything but clear from the scattered biblical references. It’s apparent that the institution went through a variety of changes. In some of the oldest traditions, for example, we hear of kings who taxed their subjects one-tenth of their grain crops, fruits, and even flocks (1 Sam 8:15-17). More commonly, however, the tithe isRead More

#258. For what reason were the Levites granted tithes: as compensation for their service relevant to the Tent of Meeting OR because they had no land-allotment? (Num 18:21, 31 vs Deut 14:29)

The Levites belong to Yahweh. This is a staple feature throughout all the Pentateuchal sources. “The Levites shall be mine. I am Yahweh!” But this is only because of the theology of redemption at play here: The Levites ransom the lives of Israel’s firstborns (see #145). This ransom theology is best stated in the Priestly source: And Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying: “And I, behold, I have taken the Levites fromRead More

#259. Are the dead impure OR not? (Lev 21:11; Num 19:11-16 vs Mk 5:36-41, 15:46; Matt 9:23-27; Lk 8:41-49; Acts 9:37, etc.)

I’ve long wished to examine the competing if not radically contradictory views on the dead (i.e., a dead body, corpse) between the Priestly writer and later New Testament writers. The problem is finding specific verses in the New Testament that do contradict P’s rather clear and inflexible stance on the dead, specifically as it comes through in Numbers 19. Nonetheless, even if my choice of NT verses in this contradiction areRead More

#260. Where was Kadesh: in the Wilderness of Paran OR the Wilderness of Zin? (Num 13:26 vs Num 20:1, 27:14, 33:36; Deut 32:51)
#261. When did the Israelites arrive at Kadesh: at the beginning of the wilderness period OR in the 40th year? (Num 13:26, 32:8 vs Num 20:1, 33:36-38)

And the children of Israel, the entire congregation, came to the wilderness of Zin in the first month, and the people stayed in Kadesh. (Num 20:1) Numbers 20 picks up the narrative of the wilderness wanderings, our last episode having been the scouting of the land story in Num 13-14 (#233, #234, #235-236, #237, #238-240). Again, it is important to keep in mind that many of these wilderness stories were preservedRead More

#262. Where did the Waters of Meribah happen: in the wilderness of Sinai or Zin? (Ex 17:2-7 vs Num 20:2-13)
#263. Do the people quarrel with Moses OR Moses and Aaron? (Ex 17:2 vs Num 20:2)
#264. Is Moses commanded to strike the rock or speak to it? (Ex 17:6 vs Num 20:8)
#265. Was Yahweh’s holiness affirmed OR not (Num 20:13 vs Num 20:12)

The present contradictions concerning the story of the Waters of Meribah should be seen in the broader context of other duplicate stories from the wilderness tradition (e.g., #125, #127, #128, #171, etc.), which were redacted together centuries after these once independent versions circulated as oral and/or written stories in differing cultural settings and time periods, and for different purposes. What many modern “readers” fail to acknowledge is that storytelling was partRead More

#266. Why was Moses not allowed to enter the promised land: because he rebelled against Yahweh’s word OR because he bore the sins of the people who rebelled against Yahweh? (Num 20:12, 27:14; Deut 32:51 vs Deut 1:37, 3:26, 4:21)

The Deuteronomic (D) and Priestly source (P) differ on their reason for why Moses could not enter the land of Canaan. Since this issue is not presented in the older Yahwist nor Elohist traditions, we might assume that this story derived from a later “need” and was thus inserted into the tradition. At any event, D and P give competing answers. As we saw in the previous entry (#262-265), the PriestlyRead 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

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

#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

#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

#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

#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

#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

#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

#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

#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

#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

#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

#281. Did the Israelites pass around Moab OR through Moab? (Num 21:12-13; Judg 11:18 vs Num 33:45-49; Deut 2:18)

From there [Hor, east of Edom, or Iye-abarim (see #268, #275, #278)] they traveled and they encamped in the Wadi Zered. And from there they traveled and they encamped across the Arnon, in the wilderness extending from the territory of the Amorites. For the Arnon represents the boundary of Moab, dividing Moab from the territory of the Amorites. (Num 21:12-13) The tradition recorded here (J) makes it sound as if theRead More

#282. What were the borders of Moab: from the Wadi Zered to the Arnon OR from the Wadi Zered to the plains of Moab/Beth-jeshimoth? (Num 21:13; Deut 2:24 vs Num 33:44-49; Ezek 25:9; Is 15-16; Jer 48)
#283. From the Arnon the Israelites travel to Beer, east of Amorite territory (i.e., northern Moab) OR to Almon-diblathaim, directly in northern Moab? (Num 21:16 vs Num 33:46)
#284. Do the Israelites invade and conquer Amorite territory from the east OR do they peaceably trek through northern Moab? (Num 21:21-30; Deut 2:24-37 vs Num 33:46-49)
#285. Did the Israelites settle and live in Amorite territory (i.e., northern Moab) OR merely travel through it? (Num 21:25-32 vs Num 33:46-49)

The itinerary and geography presented in Numbers 33 (a Priestly text) contradicts the itinerary and geography given in Numbers 21, primarily the Yahwist material (cf. also Deut 2:2-3:17), on a number of points most of which we’ve already looked at: Num 33:36-38 (P) has the Israelites arrive at Kadesh in the 40th year, contrary to the 2nd year arrival in the earlier Yahwist and Deuteronomic traditions (#274, #279). Num 33:40 (P)Read More

#286. Do the Israelites conquer Bashan OR not? (Num 21:31-35; Deut 1:4, 3:1-13; Josh 12:4-5 vs Num 33:48-49)

This last contradiction of Numbers 21 will be a short entry since we’ve already dealt with the competing Transjordanian itineraries between the Priestly writer of Numbers 33 and the Yahwist material of Numbers 21 with respect to its alleged conquest or not. See #281 & #282-285. Thus, as J presented the conquest of Amorite territory in Transjordan and P was silent on the matter—there is no Transjordanian conquest in P—so tooRead More

#287. Were the Moabites present OR not? (Num 22:2-3, 25:1-5 vs Num 21:12-31)

Numbers 21:12–25:5 compromise three independent stories that when placed one after the other produce some noticeable narrative inconsistencies, especially when speaking about the presence or lack thereof of Moabites in the area. 1) Numbers 21:12-35, which I’ve already treated in contradictions #281, #282-285, and #286 comes from the Yahwist tradition and narrates the Israelite conquest of Amorite territory in Transjordan north of the Arnon river. All of this territory is presentedRead More

#288. Where are the Israelites: on the plains of Moab OR on the border of Moab? (Num 22:1 vs Num 22:3-5)

And the children of Israel traveled and they camped in the plains of Moab, across the Jordan from Jericho. (Num 22:1) The preceding itinerary, and indeed the final destination of the 40 year wilderness trek before the crossing of the Jordan, leads to the Israelites’ encampment on the plains of Moab (cf. Num 33:49-50 & Deut 1:1). Yet the following story—traditionally identified as the Balaam pericope (Num 22:3-24:25)—implies that the IsraelitesRead More

#289. Where does Balaam come from: Pethor OR Aram (Num 22:5 vs Num 23:7)

Within the Balaam story itself, especially between the prose and poetry sections, there seems to be conflating traditions concerning Balaam’s origin. The prose of Numbers 22:5 places his coming from Pethor, while the poetry section of Numbers 23:7 accredits him originating from as far away as Aram. We will note other textual inconsistencies between the prose and poetry sections of Numbers 22-24 in future posts, all of which have led scholarsRead More

#290. Does Yahweh permit Balaam to depart OR not? (Num 22:20 vs Num 22:22)

This contradiction is typically cited in the scholarly literature, although for my part it doesn’t seem all too problematic, nor even relevant. It does create for some interesting narrative tension however. Scholars who note this contradiction usually argue that the story about Balaam and his talking ass come from a different tradition. In either case, Yahweh’s pronouncement that Balaam should go with the king’s men in Num 22:20 and Yahweh’s angerRead More

#291. Does Balaam wish to curse Israel and is prevented by Yahweh OR does he not wish to curse Israel? (Deut 23:5-6; Josh 24:9-10; Neh 13:2; 2 Pet 2:15; Jude 1:11; Rev 2:14 vs Num 22:22-35)

The narrative of Numbers 22-24 never presents nor implies that Balaam wishes to harm or curse Israel. To the contrary, Balaam is presented as a loyal vassal of Yahweh, and when on three separate occasions Balak asks Balaam to pronounce curses upon Israel, Balaam refuses saying that he can only utter that which his god—Yahweh—has placed in his own mouth. Indeed, Balaam even refers to Yahweh as “my god,” which mightRead More

#292. Who comes forth against Balaam as a satan: an angel of Yahweh OR Yahweh himself? (Num 22:22, 22:32 vs Num 22:32)

I throw this one out there for its provocative effect—to allow us to think about the relationship between 3 figures as they were depicted and understood by ancient Israelite scribes: Yahweh, Yahweh’s angel, and satan (literally without definite article, ‘an adversary’). Although the Balaam story is pretty clear and adamant about the fact that it is Yahweh’s angel (malak) who comes out as “satan” or an adversary against Balaam, a caseRead More

#293. Has Yahweh not found iniquity in Israel OR has he? (Num 23:21 vs Num 21:5-9, 25:1-18)

Another textual indicator that the Balaam pericope derives from a different source than its surrounding material is its radically contrary depiction of Yahweh (or El) towards Israel and of Israel itself. In Balak’s second attempt to extract from Balaam a divine curse against Israel, Balaam comes back with these words from Yahweh, or El (see forthcoming). He has not beheld iniquity in Jacob, and neither has he seen any evil inRead More

#294. To which god was Balaam subservient: Yahweh OR El? (Num 23:8, 23:26 vs Num 23:8)
#295. By which god was Israel blessed: Yahweh OR El? (Num 24:1 vs Num 24:4)
#296. Who liberated the Israelites from Egypt: Yahweh OR El? (Ex 20:21; Lev 19:36, 23:43; Deut 5:6, 13:10, etc. vs Num 23:22, 24:8)

In contradiction #27—Is Yahweh and El the same god or different gods? (which has become one of my most visited posts)—I not only laid out the biblical evidence suggesting that Yahweh and El were variously viewed as the same deity on several occasions, while in a few rare instances as two distinct deities, but I also summarized the scholarly evidence for the claim that (some of ?) the early Israelites actuallyRead More

#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)

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 ofRead More

#299. Does Yahweh make an eternal covenant with the Aaronid priesthood via Phinehas OR with the Levitical priesthood in general OR with only the Zadokite line OR with the Davidic line OR with Jesus Christ via Melchizedek? (Num 25:6-13 vs Deut 18:1-5, 33:8-10; 1 Sam 2:28; Jer 33:18-22; Mal 2:4 vs 1 Sam 2:35; Ezek 40:46, 43:19, 44:15-16 vs Ps 110:4 vs Heb 7:11-25)

As a collection of diverse writings spanning roughly a thousand years, the Bible itself bears witness to the internecine priestly rivalries that plagued ancient Israel, and in one case even extended into the Christian era. And as is apparent from this entry’s title, each of these competing priestly guilds wrote a text whose purpose was to legitimate their guild’s right to be Yahweh’s sole anointed priests forever. In this rather lengthyRead More

#300. Is Bechar Benjamin’s son OR Ephraim’s son? (Gen 46:21; 1 Chr 7:6 vs Num 26:35)
#301. Were Ard and Naaman sons of Benjamin OR sons of Benjamin’s son Bela? (Gen 46:21 vs Num 26:40)
#302. Are Benjamin’s 5 sons Bela, Ashbel, Ahiram, Shephupham, and Hupham OR Bela, Ashbel, Aharah, Nohah, and Rapha? (Num 26:38-39 vs 1 Chr 8:1-2)

The Priestly genealogy preserved in Numbers 26 serves as a book-end to the whole wilderness period where the first registry, narratively speaking, was recorded in the Priestly tradition of Genesis 46:8-27 (see #76). In comparing the two lists—which for the most part are similar—we notice nevertheless some minor discrepancies, most of which deal with different spellings for names, or missed or unlisted clans (specifically compare the clans listed for the Simeonite,Read More

#303. The land is to be allotted according to the tribes enumerated in Numbers 26 OR only to 9½ of them? (Num 26:53 vs Num 34:13; Josh 13:7, 14-19)

Strictly speaking, Numbers 26:53 is not exactly correct. To the above shall the land be allotted as territories, in proportion to the number of names. The verse follows the census of the 12 tribes just enumerated in chapter 26 and foreshadows the allotment of the land. In fact, the verse is inaccurate on 2 counts: but the issue with the latter half of this verse and the next, I will postRead More

#304. “Each tribe shall be granted his territory according to its numbers” OR not? (Num 26:54 vs Josh 13-19)

Numbers 26:54 specifically states that the size of land appointed to each tribe is to be determined by each tribe’s number: “To a larger group give a larger inheritance, and to a smaller group a smaller one. Each tribe is to receive its inheritance according to the number of those numbered among them.” But this is not what happens when the land is allotted in Judges 13-19. The largest tribe doesRead More

#305. From which mountain does Moses view the promised land: Abarim OR Pisgah OR Nebo? (Num 27:12; Deut 32:49 vs Deut 3:27, 34:1 vs Deut 32:49, 34:1)

And Yahweh said to Moses: “Go up this mountain, Abarim” (Num 27:12 [P]) “Go up to the top of Pisgah” (Deut 3:27 [D]) “Go up this mountain Abarim, Mount Nebo” (Deut 32:49 [P or R]) “to the mountain of Nebo, to the top of Pisgah” (Deut 34:1 [D]) It looks as if there were differing traditions concerning the mountain Moses ascended and from where he was allowed to view the promisedRead More

#306. Does Moses implore Yahweh to let him crossover OR not? (Deut 3:23-28 vs Num 27:12-21)

Deuteronomy 1-11 presents Moses renarrating events from the wilderness period as a sort of survey of events leading up to the encampment on the plains of Moab some 40 years afterward. Yet in every single renarration the author of Deuteronomy has Moses alter, modify, and even contradict the details of these events/stories as they were told in the books of Exodus and Numbers. Most of these altered retellings happen to theRead More

#307. Did Moses already know about Joshua’s election as his successor OR not? (Deut 1:38 vs Num 27:15-17)

Numbers 27:15-23 introduces the election of Joshua as Moses’ successor for the first time, narratively speaking, in the Torah. Chronologically speaking it is presented as happening in one of the months in the last half of the 40th year of the wilderness period and coincides with Moses’ climb onto Abarim (but see #305) before he is to die so that he may see the land that he himself is refused accessRead More