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

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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 in Israel.
Yahweh, his god, is with him, and the shout of a king is among them. (Num 23:21)

This depiction of Yahweh who finds no fault, no wrongdoing, no iniquity in the people contradicts what came immediately before and what is to immediately follow. In other words, the divine rationale here is that Yahweh won’t curse his people because he finds no wickedness or iniquity in them. But this portrait of Yahweh and of Israel are negated by the surrounding material.

In Num 21:5-9—remember according to the now imposed Priestly chronology all these “events” happen in the last half (at most) of the 40th year (See Intro to Num 21)—we were informed that the people (all 600,000 of them?) rebelled against Yahweh—“We’ve sinned because we spoke against Yahweh”—to which Yahweh responded by sending fiery serpents against the people, “and many people from Israel died.” This certainly contradicts Yahweh’s own words in Num 23:21, where “no iniquity” was to be found in Israel.

Similarly in Numbers 25, immediately following the Balaam story, the Israelites sin again by associating themselves with Baal of Peor. “And Yahweh’s anger flared at Israel.” In order to arrest Yahweh’s wrath (or in one version his plague), Yahweh instructs Moses to hang Israel’s leaders upon the wall!

Both of these passages’ portrait of both Yahweh and of a sinful Israel speak against the portrait of Yahweh and the sinless Israel of the Balaam pericope. It is obvious that the Balaam story did not originally belong to the wilderness traditions, where the Israelites are usually depicted as rebellious and sinful.

The real historical context of the Balaam pericope is most likely to be found in the first half of the 9th century BCE. The unmistakable message of the story is that Israel is too powerful to be removed from Transjordan and that they occupy a large Transjordanian settlement in northern Moab—theologically presented as due to Yahweh’s divine providence and protection. This best reflects the first half of the 9th century when northern Israel held this territory under Omri. Notice too the anachronistic reference to kingship; the king most likely referred to here is Omri or his son Ahab, or perhaps Yahweh. This story might have even served a propagandist agenda in explaining why Assyria did not conquer Transjordan and northern Israel under Ahab’s, Omri’s son’s, rule—because Ahab became a tribute paying vassal. This in turn could have been retold to Ahab’s benefit as a story about Yahweh protecting Israelite settlements in Transjordan.

Compare what Hezekiah’s scribe wrote on Hezekiah’s behalf when he “saved” Jerusalem from being sacked by the Assyrians in 702 BCE by paying a hefty tribute—gold, silver, jewels, ivory, elephant-hides, servants, musicians, and even his daughters! His scribe turned Israel’s resubmission to Assyrian vassal-ship into a political and theological triumph for Hezekiah:

“For he shall not come into this city” says Yahweh. “For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.” That very night the angel of Yahweh set out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians; when morning dawned, they were all dead bodies.  (2 Kings 18:33-35)

Yea, the Assyrians were not there because they received a huge tributary payment that protected Jerusalem from Sennacherib’s massive army, which already had laid waste to the land of Judah. In this account, however, there is no mention of Sennacherib’s victory of every other town of Judah, no mention of Hezekiah’s resubmission to the Assyrian king as his vassal, and no mention of the gold, silver, and other costly gifts he sent to the king of Assyria as tribute (although see 2 Kings 18:14-16) in order to spare Jerusalem from destruction. Instead, Hezekiah’s scribes have created a narrative wherein Hezekiah, on account of his loyalty to Yahweh, is victorious!

The biblical account is a prime example of how and why royal scribes created political propaganda. This account not only details the benefits and blessings from Yahweh to those monarchs who submit to, not foreign rule, but to Yahweh alone, but it also works to ignite and gain further support for Hezekiah’s religious reforms. The propagandist and theologically oriented presentation of this historical event is clear: Hezekiah, through Yahweh, was victorious because he had placed his faith in Yahweh. This is a prime example of how ancient scribes reaccentuated and reinterpreted historical events and why they created political propaganda. Under their plume, history now displayed Yahweh’s loyal monarch as victorious.

I believe it was Churchill who said “the victors write history.” He couldn’t have been further from the truth! The Bible is a sublime (!) example of how the defeated rewrite history and caste themselves as the victors! And thus far, to use Finkelstein’s pet-phrase, their propaganda has worked its magic on all of us!

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

  1. Sabba, I think you are once again missing the point of this site. You are sermonizing to an audience that is here to talk about the texts, not what theological lessons can be inserted into them. There was no need for an angel to even slay 185,000 men, because they were already leaving, for two reasons. One, Hezekiah *appeased* the Assyrians by making a large tribute and becoming their vassal again, as Dr. DiMattei pointed out. Hezekiah had foolishly rebelled against the arrangement his father had made with Assyria, a blunder that must have cost many Israelite lives and which resulted in the stripping of the temple’s gold pillars as part of the appeasement tribute (2 Ki. 18:14-16). Secondly, the Assyrian forces got word of a battle between Assyria’s king and Ethiopia and had to leave in order to help him (2 Ki. 19:8).

    There is nothing praiseworthy here about Hezekiah’s foolish actions and their consequences, nor was he a great king. When he is told that the tour of the temple that he gave to a Babylonian representative will later cause the ransacking of valuables and deportation of Israelites, he is nonchalant as long as it doesn’t happen in his own lifetime (2 Ki. 20:19). And we haven’t even touched upon how Hezekiah was reaching out to Egypt for help against Assyria. Some faith he had in YHWH!

    I say all this to take us back towards the purpose of this site, which is to show how contradictions (or “seams”, if you prefer) show us the construction of the Bible texts and the reasons for re-telling certain stories. For those who want to believe the propagandistic account — that an angel took care of the problem by slaying all those men (which raises other, larger questions about the use/non-use of this incredible angelic power in other parts of the Bible, or today, for that matter) — these readers have to ignore the text that comes right before it which explains that Hezekiah paid off the Assyrians while groveling at their feet. This is exactly what Dr. DiMattei is talking about when he laments a selective reading of the Bible.

  2. OK,

    to pick this back up, I am now pasting what I just wrote on the

    http://contradictionsinthebible.com/how-do-we-know-that-the-biblical-writers-were-not-writing-history/#comment-5527

    just a little while ago THE FOLLOWING:
    And that brings me to another thought. I come here because Dr. Steve DiMattai is gracious enough to provide for me and anyone who also self-identifies with the terms that dominate around here; whether it is contradictions or the most prominent of which is scholarship and specifically that concept as it applies to the Bible. He marvelously gives all of us a “mental marketplace” in which to freely share our ideas and try to “win friends and influence people” in the process. Whether it is Dr. Steve or his acolytes who have faithfully stayed here with him over the last couple ( two or three ) years or so since this site began at the end of 2012, the tone and quality of scholarship is unassailable and the discussions based on his perspective he shares like the “unapologetic” he is, is equaled, if not actually over-shadowed by the reader’s comments.

    BUT NOT SO AS IT PERTAINS TO THE BIBLE!

    And I guess that is my “sabba-esque” point of the day to anyone and everyone who will read this here on this site. And I found it buttressed by an artile I read recently on a Messianic blog site I also frequent. The premise of the blog — barkingfox.com — contrasts with the cynical hypothesis that Steve maintains (admirably in a pretty professional style) here where you read this. I know that sounds like a paradox coming from my mouth. So, stick around!

    Al McCarn, the author of this Messianic blog site “par excellance”, wrote an article exactly a year ago today that pertains to this subject matter of Hezekiah vs the Assyrian Empire and most especially his contest with the “Mess-o-pot” dictator de jure who sprang to the throne while he, Hezekiah was “coming into his own”. His title is appropriate for our subject matter: The Lie of Sennacherib. There McCarn clearly disagrees with Dr. Steve and would agree with the Bible. As he points out the obvious:

    “Scripture records this event in three parallel accounts: II Kings 18-19, II Chronicles 32:1-23, and Isaiah 36-37… Hezekiah’s prayers were answered in a miraculous way. When Sennacherib returned with his army, the Angel of the Lord came upon them one night and killed 185,000 Assyrian warriors.” I agree with Al. That is, except on the “miraculous way” it happened.

    I am not trying to deceive anyone or indulge in my penchant for ‘double intendre/tongue in the cheek’, nor am I denying my self-identity as a “Bible thumpin’ Messianic Jesus Freak” by disagreeing with my non-Jewish brother in Messian Yeshua. He understandably says the event was miraculous in nature. I say, “not so much.” Nor am I, by the way, throwing all of you my erstwhile philosophical “contestants” and cowbirds of Dr. Steve’s Golden Calf droppings — I’m not throwin’ you a bone either!

    McCarn deals with the essence of why we even come to this forum. This is how he put it: “Why do we follow God? When we get alone, away from people who expect us to be good disciples of Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus Christ), and have a chance to be honest with ourselves, what is the real reason we proclaim our allegiance to Yeshua?”

    I would put it this way. Are you, when you get alone (that time in life each day where we all are tested with things that will ultimately determine our destiny) are you being honest with yourself and with YHVH? That was what was so unique about King Hezekiah who was the only King (second maybe only to King David) and the only one who ever truly was honest with himself and with YHVH whom he served faithfully from the very first day on the throne. This is vividly illustrated in the account which begins in 2 Chronicles 29 telling about the life of a 25 year old man who by his faithfully serving and trusting in His God, changed the course of human history, the calendars we use today, and your own life if you will follow his example.

    Go to http://contradictionsinthebible.com/iniquity-or-not/ to pick this thread up and find out why I think Hezekiah’s life and the events are not only NOT MIRACULOUS but should be standard fare for all of us living in these, LAST DAZE.

    Before I go on, let me remind everyone to check out Al McCarn the barkingfox.com and read his article of August 4, 2014 “The Lie of Sennacherib” http://thebarkingfox.com/2014/08/04/the-lie-of-sennacherib/

    I will address more of his material and Steve’s in the quote above as I give you my hypothesis why and how (as McCarn put it) “…the Angel of the Lord came upon them one night and killed 185,000 Assyrian warriors…” was actually not even close to being a miracle.

  3. Steve

    what I am referencing is a question I had on the “How to know the Bible is full of contradictions” and the fact that it addressed the Hezekiah and his scribe matter— back in late July of this year:

    Sabba AbuShy

    July 30, 2015 

    Steve,

    before I dive into your thesis here, let me ask if any other comments or articles of yours deal with the Hezekiah topic you touched on. Maybe I came on this particular article quite a while back and I have been looking for it until now, in vain. Nevertheless, is there another place where you address this topic—another date and Scriptural or topical theme that included it?

    Anyway, there is enough here to discuss and since what I plan to share is more “scientific”, I may just go look at how you “scientifically study the bible” first. I think that is one of the topics you mention.

    Anyway……

    ANYWAY, I FOUND IT!

    And here is what I have been intending to talk to you about, and anyone else for that matter since March when you first wrote this:

    ****Both of these passages’ portrait of both Yahweh and of a sinful Israel speak against the portrait of Yahweh and the sinless Israel of the Balaam pericope. It is obvious that the Balaam story did not originally belong to the wilderness traditions, where the Israelites are usually depicted as rebellious and sinful.

    The real historical context of the Balaam pericope is most likely to be found in the first half of the 9th century BCE. The unmistakable message of the story is that Israel is too powerful to be removed from Transjordan and that they occupy a large Transjordanian settlement in northern Moab—theologically presented as due to Yahweh’s divine providence and protection. This best reflects the first half of the 9th century when northern Israel held this territory under Omri. Notice too the anachronistic reference to kingship; the king most likely referred to here is Omri or his son Ahab, or perhaps Yahweh. This story might have even served a propagandist agenda in explaining why Assyria did not conquer Transjordan and northern Israel under Ahab’s, Omri’s son’s, rule—because Ahab became a tribute paying vassal. This in turn could have been retold to Ahab’s benefit as a story about Yahweh protecting Israelite settlements in Transjordan.

    Compare what Hezekiah’s scribe wrote on Hezekiah’s behalf when he “saved” Jerusalem from being sacked by the Assyrians in 702 BCE by paying a hefty tribute—gold, silver, jewels, ivory, elephant-hides, servants, musicians, and even his daughters! His scribe turned Israel’s resubmission to Assyrian vassal-ship into a political and theological triumph for Hezekiah:

    “For he shall not come into this city” says Yahweh. “For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.” That very night the angel of Yahweh set out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians; when morning dawned, they were all dead bodies. (2 Kings 18:33-35)

    Yea, the Assyrians were not there because they received a huge tributary payment that protected Jerusalem from Sennacherib’s massive army, which already had laid waste to the land of Judah. In this account, however, there is no mention of Sennacherib’s victory of every other town of Judah, no mention of Hezekiah’s resubmission to the Assyrian king as his vassal, and no mention of the gold, silver, and other costly gifts he sent to the king of Assyria as tribute (although see 2 Kings 18:14-16) in order to spare Jerusalem from destruction. Instead, Hezekiah’s scribes have created a narrative wherein Hezekiah, on account of his loyalty to Yahweh, is victorious!

    The biblical account is a prime example of how and why royal scribes created political propaganda. This account not only details the benefits and blessings from Yahweh to those monarchs who submit to, not foreign rule, but to Yahweh alone, but it also works to ignite and gain further support for Hezekiah’s religious reforms. The propagandist and theologically oriented presentation of this historical event is clear: Hezekiah, through Yahweh, was victorious because he had placed his faith in Yahweh. This is a prime example of how ancient scribes reaccentuated and reinterpreted historical events and why they created political propaganda. Under their plume, history now displayed Yahweh’s loyal monarch as victorious.

    I believe it was Churchill who said “the victors write history.” He couldn’t have been further from the truth! The Bible is a sublime (!) example of how the defeated rewrite history and caste themselves as the victors! And thus far, to use Finkelstein’s pet-phrase, their propaganda has worked its magic on all of us!*****

    There are a lot of issues to address here. I would be succinct in saying it is your opinion that you say you manage to keep out of the things you write. And fail every time you start typing.

    More on this later on…

  4. A similar question: I have read any number of times that the priesthood in Shiloh claimed descent from Moses, but I don’t recall seeing that in the Bible. Is there a Biblical reference for that I haven’t been able to find? If not, how do we know this?

  5. How much do we know about the Aaronid priesthood before the exile? I checked a concordance and as far as I can tell Aaron isn’t mentioned at all in Kings. He is mentioned in Samuel as part of “Moses and Aaron”, but not in terms of being a priest or the progenitor of a priesthood. The Jerusalem priesthood traces its line to Zadok, but he is not described as being descended from Aaron or Levi until Chronicles.

    I found a scholarly paper on line that suggests that the Aaronid priesthood during monarchial times was associated not with Jerusalem, but with Bethel. That would make a certain amount of sense considering the Golden Calf story, but aside from that I don’t know what would support that theory.

    1. Hi Robert,

      That’s about as much information as we know, unfortunately, or at least I know. It is difficult to trace their existence in pre-exilic times because of the scarcity of references to priests who traced their lineage back to Aaron or to Aaron himself. Interesting, to add to your list, is that the Josianic text of Deuteronomy (on the eve of the exile) makes only 2 mentions of Aaron—as compared to the 200 some times in Leviticus. In one, when this author has Moses renarrate the Golden Calf story he inserts a scene completely absent from Exodus 32—namely Moses’ required pleading with Yahweh not to destroy Aaron! So there seems to have been some animosity toward the Aaronids in the pre-exilic times. Furthermore, recalling the Aaronid written text of Exodus 35-40, we see quite the contrary to the Deuteronomic portrait of Aaron needing to be “saved” via Moses’ intercessions: there he and his seed is in the midst of being anointed as Yahweh’s sole priest!

      I have also read about scholars trying to place them in Bethel or even Shiloh. Let me recheck some of my books and see what else I might dig up.

      Steven

  6. “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.” ‘When the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness?’, asked Yeshua. One source of this is “according to the now imposed Priestly chronology” which, (imposed view) is not comporting with reality.

    One of the realities of this time frame described here in this account, includes defeating Arad in the Negev to the north (yet south of the Dead Sea) also includes a “pretty good little journey via the Red Sea ( near modern day Eilat) and east out into the desert, until they got to the King’s Highway, due south of modern day Amman in Jordan, heading north and winning two battles against Amorite giants, Shihor and then Og. All their territory was given to the 1/2 tribe of Menasseh. How do you spell “Giant Killers?” That last foe had many villages on the Golan Heights of today/ south eastern Syria. Then the narrative goes on as they returned and headed south, again, on the King’s Highway, the scene with Balaak freaking out. Then sending for Balaam to the North in the area which had not yet been totally destroyed or abandoned, Babylon. Modern day Iraq, somewhere outside of Baghdad as we know it now.

    To say that all of this in Numbers 21 happened in six months either defies credulity or just plain ole ignorance. Take your pick. Neither is a good indicator on where to hang your star or your hat…(;~((

    It was MORE THAN LIKELY —(I say this ’cause I just came in and finally read the whole post and am flying by the seat of my 44 years in mashe yeshu as they say in Arabic…which, WAY BACK IN THIS SAME AREA THE FOLKS WHO LIVED THERE didn’t even have anyone around who spoke it who even knew how to write it down. Or read it if someone else did. That continued on until way after the false profit of the 7th century after the Christian Era who admittedly was illiterate…I know, naughty digression here)— it was more than likely more like a year or so for all of this, since as pointed out, there were 600,000 men involved in all this and their families and their flocks and what have you. They just didn’t get in a British Range Rover…it took a while.

    Until Balaam showed up on the scene, as noted, THEN THE “all these “events” happen in the last half (at most) of the 40th year”. I agree with this within the context I just established.

    By this point, all the judgments, the last of which was the fiery serpents (that Yeshua “glombed on” in the New Testament to predict as foreshadowing his death, and one of the results would be that He would “draw all men unto Me”) and NOW AS A DIRECT RESULT, BEFORE ENTERING THE PROMISED LAND AS THEY SIT THERE SOMEWHERE AROUND MT. NEBO, ALL THEIR PARENTS WHO REBELLED 40 YEARS EARLIER, ARE DEAD! Or soon will be after the incident at the Baal of Peor.

    This judgment of YHVH Eloheem faithfully keeping His word to wait until all that generation of unbelievers—of infidels had died off, this monumental reality has been egregiously overlooked in this post #293. The people that Balaam is dealing with are all the children who are about to enter. All the children that their parents predicted would, like them, all die in the wilderness unless they all packed it in and defied YHVH and went back to Egypt instead. But only the parents are finally all dead at this point. Very likely the last of them actually die in the Baal of Peor incident recorded at the end of Numbers 25. This was Balaam’s advice. It was concocted by Balaam and was the reason he was killed when the Moabites got their just reward as well. As per Moshe, and as the last thing he did, basically before he would go up Mt. Nebo and his death @ age 120. 120 was the longest mankind would be permitted to live. Hence the REASON WHY MOSHE COULDN’T ENTER!

    **** BTW, this would make for a good discussion: was the 120 years of Genesis 6:3 an indicator that this verse was the marker for the Flood and how many more years before it would happen? Or was it a general principle of what life would be (generally) limited to when things finally settled down, let’s say about the time when most of the Bible is written about. I.E. sometime after Abraham and Job lived who made to 175 and 140 years of life, respectively? Or neither?!*****

    Anyway, the Book of Numbers, which makes an account that is not recorded chronologically as per the order of the chapters here (e.g. the Baal Peor @ the end of chapter 25 and that narrative is picked up in chapter 31. Notice if you will the statement of the officers who report to Moshe after the slaughter of Midian. Before this Moses “reams them out” (Numbers 31:13-16 and then establishes that only the virgin women, probably those just entering puberty were to be spared and that the soldiers and their spoil needed to be cleansed. Cleanliness is next to God likeness as they say. After this was accomplished, as I said, notice an amazing fact and indeed a miracle and proof that these were the young men who survived their parents and EVEN AFTER THE BAAL OF PEOR WERE STILL UNDER THAT ANOINTING THAT COMES FROM OBEDIENCE AND THE ABSOLUTE LACK “of iniquity found in Jacob.”

    For the proper understanding of the definition of the word “iniquity”, IMHO, (;~)) see the second post on this site, the first one addressed to John Kesler.

    The ‘Jacob’ that was not under a curse but blessed immensely by YHVH who compels Balaam to speak YHVH’s words and only HIS WORD, this “Jacob” (which means “transgressor”) these people of Israel would be the ones that would now soon go on to Jericho, completely destroy it as well, in fact better than they will soon do here to Midian— and then proceed on into their promised inheritance. With the very clear directive and warning in Numbers 33: 55-56

    “‘But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live. 56 And then I will do to you what I plan to do to them.’”

    Verses 21- 54 of Numbers 31 reveal that the plunder was divided equally between those who went to the slaughter of Midian, (King David would follow this example in the future) and those who remained. So why, if Balaam did as the last verse in chapter 24 says, was he included in verse 8 of chapter 31 among the other leaders who were slaughtered? Talk about (APPARENT CONTRADICTIONSINTHEBIBLE—WHICH WOULD BE A WISER TITLE FOR THIS BLOG)— how come he was there? See verse 16. It was though Balaam’s counsel that the whole matter was concocted and carried out by the Midianites. That was why Moshe reamed out the soldiers for bringing back the women who helped in the adulterous/fornication and idolatry.

    I have been leading to this. See 31:48-54. NONE, NOT ONE of the soldiers died! Verse 54 tells us this miracle was commemorated as a “memorial for the sons of Israel before YHVH.”

    That is good advice for all of us for all generations to follow. Remember what the Creator God, Eloheem did and commanded for us to do. Otherwise, we’ll end up with the nonsense that completely veers off track and not only fails to get in the ballpark of realilty, but leads us to believe things as dangerous as Balaam’s tragic example. He had a “Road to Damascus” (literally!) experience with the aid of a donkey. Just like Saul of Tarsus many moons later, and in the same general area of the the world, in his case, being knocked off of one Acts 9:1-7 .

    Balaam with supernatural gifting from YHVH, used his for profit, became a false prophet in the same area that Mohammed would frequent even later…and be both a false prophet for profit of a pirate. Paul was a changed man, and had an equally supernatural gifting from YHVH that well, How do you spell much of the New Testament? Balaam went down in history as a by-word.

    Mohammed?

    1. To say that all of this in Numbers 21 happened in six months either defies credulity or just plain ole ignorance. Take your pick. Neither is a good indicator on where to hang your star or your hat…(;~((

      Sabba,

      I’m finally happy to see that you’re accepting the incredulous nature of some of the Bible’s stories. Maybe you might actually start listening to their stories and not the one you’ve been imposing on them through the influence of later theological beliefs and interpretive frameworks!

      Per the dozens of times I’ve already expressed, and you’ve failed to actually listen, I am not here imposing my beliefs or views about these texts (at least I’m trying to minimize this as much as possible), but rather attempting to faithfully understand and re-present the beliefs, views, and ideologies of the Bible’s multiple authors. So once again, it is you who have misconstrued the issue at hand. For it is not I who am imposing this incredulous chronology—for why would I?—it is rather the 6th c. BCE Priestly writer who is, or, the 5th century Priestly redactor. Again, our goal is to understand his views, beliefs, and the reasons behind why he modified and altered the traditions and stories that he himself inherited.

      So per the manner in which the stories now preserved in Numbers 21 were redacted together in the 5th or earlier 4th century BCE—stories ranging from traditions written from the 8th-6th centuries BCE, and contradictory versions of the same stories at that (see A Brief Introduction to Numbers 21)—the chronology imposed upon these traditions by this Priestly material has dictated that, yes unbelievable as it may sound, all “the events” of Numbers 21 occur in the last half of the 40th year (yes too, in contradiction to the earlier Yahwist and Deuteronomic versions of how this story was told). Here is P’s chronology as it now sits in this compiled “narrative”:

      Numbers 20:1, from the pen of P or the Priestly redactor:

      And the children of Israel, all the congregation, came to the wilderness of Zin in the 1st month, and the people stayed at Kadesh.

      And later by the pen of the same author (established and re-affirmed through the study of this author’s, this text’s, unique vocabulary, style, and thematic emphases):

      And they traveled from Kadesh, and the children of Israel, all the congregation, came to Mount Hor. (Num 20:22)

      And now, what “1st month” was this that these “events” happened?

      Let Aaron be gathered to his people. . . And Aaron died there on top of the mountain. (Num 20:23-29)

      Again, based on stylistic similarities and features, this passage is part of the Priestly tradition, and its chronology is confirmed by another Priestly passage (Numbers 33) that makes more explicit the chronology imagined and created by this 6th century BCE Priestly guild. Numbers 33 informs us of two things relevant to our current Priestly texts of Numbers 20:

      1) The Israelites don’t arrive in the Wilderness of Zin, and don’t arrive at Kadesh until the 40th year (Num 33:36-38). This too contradicts the earlier Yahwist source and the Deteronomic source. And the Priestly writer had his own reasons and agenda for having the Israelites not arrive in the Wilderness of Zin until the 40th year. See #260-261.

      2) There at Hor, Aaron dies in the 40th year, exactly on the 1st day of the 5th month! (Num 33:38-39). Also contradicted by another tradition that accredits when and where Aaron dies to a different time and place (Deut 10).

      So according to this textual tradition, the events in Numbers 20 that were originally a part of this Priestly scroll happened in the 40th year, and thus all of the “events” in Numbers 21 therefore happen in the last half of the 40th year, for they mourned Aaron a month after he died (Num 20:29). Actually, to be more exact, NONE of the events in Numbers 21 happens in the Priestly tradition! The cut-and-pasted compiled JP text of Numbers picks up with the next Priestly material not until Numbers 25:6, where not surprisingly in this text written by Aaronid priests, Yahweh is portrayed as giving the priesthood as an eternal covenant to these Aaronid priests alone—contrary to the pan-Levite Yahweh of Deuteronomy! And please do not interpret away this author’s beliefs and message by imposing the beliefs and message of the author of Hebrews here!

      So, yes indeed! This Priestly chronology and additionally his geography create innumerable discrepancies and, in your words, incredulous scenarios when amended to the earlier telling of this tradition by the Yahwist, so that Numbers 20-21 as we now have it, it must be confessed, is a poorly redacted mishmash of these contradictory traditions, all of which have already been addressed in contradictions #268-286, and introduced in outline in A Brief Introduction to Numbers 21. But here’s a refresher.

      1) This cut-and-paste job of various tradition in Numbers 21 also leaves us with the Israelites moving from Hor: northeastward to Hormah (21:1), or south toward the Red Sea (21:4), or east into Edom (21:10; cf. Num 33:41 [cf. is abbreviated from the Latin confer which means ‘to compare’ —needed to remind you of this since in another post you had mounted a lengthy argument effectively against yourself since you had misunderstood my reference ‘cf’]). See #268.

      2) According to Numbers 33 and Numbers 21:10, after Aaron dies the Israelites travel from Kadesh/Hor through Edom, not around it as told by the earlier Yahwist tradition and the inserted and misplaced geographical reference in Num 21:4 (#275). Again! Our goal is not to harmonize these discrepancies or to impose our own beliefs and narratives upon these texts, or those of later writers, but to ask why the later Priestly writer rewrote this earlier tradition that he himself inherited. We may not know the exact answer to that question, but the Bible itself tells us clearly that there were two distinct and contradictory ways in which this story was told, and they were both preserved by a later redactor. In fact there are 3 different versions, the 3rd from Deuteronomy 2.

      3) According to the same Priestly tradition, most clear in Numbers 33, the Israelites take a completely contradictory route as they trek northward through Transjordan. According to this tradition they pass through Edom AND southern Moab, not around them! (#275 & #281). So again, why did this writer consciously choose to omit the skirting of Edom tradition? Same question for D.

      4) That’s not all. According to this same tradition (P), there was no Transjordanian conquest at all! The Israelites rather move directly from the cities of central Edom, to those of central Moab, to the plains of Moab. See #282-285 & #286.

      5) The redactional decision to cut-and-paste P’s chronology into the material that now occupies Numbers 21, has created a rather—in your words—incredulous narrative product. For, as you duly note, it is impossibly to trek approximately 500 miles (600,000 males plus females and livestock), engage in 4 heavily armed confrontations, and settle a large portion of the land in less than 6 months! Obviously, we may assume, the redactor did not see this when he placed these earlier Yahwist stories after Israel’s arrival in the wilderness of Zin, on the 40th year according to P, and after Aaron’s death, on the 5th month of the 40th year according to P. All of this contradicts the Deuteronomic tradition where this happens in the 2nd year, not the 40th (#274 & #279).

      6) P’s record of Aaron’s death is also vastly different from D’s, who kills Aaron off earlier in the wilderness period, at or near Horeb. Again, we know that the pan-Levite author of Deuteronomy was highly critical of the Aaronid priesthood, and this understanding allows us to perceive why this author decided to represent Aaron’s death at an earlier point in the wilderness period. There are other contradictions in Deuteronomy 10 when compared to the selection of the Aaronids by Yahweh (according to them!) at Sinai, which will be addressed later.

      Finally, the rest of your lengthy retort can be tossed in the bin; for it, like those before it, is nothing more than good-ole fashion theological tom-foolery meant to squeeze whatever the text does and does not say into your exteriorly-imposed theological framework and understanding. KW has done a good job in trying to get you to see this eisegetical procedure you’ve adopted. In many ways he does a better job than myself in explaining this.

  7. Gee man nee! One more typo. I said LOT “was somewhere before this…” in the last sentence I posted to you, John Kesler. I meant, as the context proves, JOB. Not Lot!

    Sorry about that…

  8. There was an egregious typo: “go forth from your country” (Gen. 12:1) so the non-city dwellers are not advanced to a sense of being a nation. I should have typed, “NOW” advanced instead of “not advanced”. In other words, the ones who killed Job’s servants were now farther up the “food chain” meaning that at the earliest, Job’s life (and use of the word “ah-ven” Job 4:8; 11:14; 21:19; 31:3; and 34:8) was sometime after the incident mentioned in Genesis 11 where YHVH said, (being Eloheem) “Let us go down and there confuse their language… (11:7). Job didn’t wander too far. Neither did Abram. Who knows, they might have known or heard of each other! (;~))

    Ahhh, more in the ‘vain vein’ of what this contradictions site is all about, there is a tradition from the Talmud which suggests that Moses, since he lived in Midian for 4o years which was adjacent to Uz (Job 1:1), that he was a possible author, since no one living or in history past, no one knows who wrote the Book of Job. Moses could have obtained a record of the story while living in the area. Listening to his father in law who himself was a priest, as per the Torah.

    As they say, “Me yo day ah” Who knows?!

    And when you start to speculate about that which no one living today had any experiential part in (how do you spell Contradictionsinthebible.com?) it has also been postulated, (and I quote verbatim from modern day scholar and non-Jewish source, author John MacArthur) “…Solomon is also a good possibility due to the similarity of content with parts of the book of Ecclesiastes…Though he lived long after Job, Solomon could have written about events that occurred long before his own time, in much the same manner as Moses was inspired to write about Adam and Eve. Elihu, Isaiah, Hezekiah, Jeremiah, and Ezra have also been suggested as possible authors, BUT WITHOUT SUPPORT. (EMPHASIS mine, using the “upper case”).

    Sounds to me, using a little of my tongue in cheek logic/lampoon here, that Dr. MacArthur is aware of the Documentary Analysis/”historiographic” approach that applies to our blog site! (;~))

  9. Dear John,

    the word is transliterated into English from the Hebrew letter root of alef, vav, and nun as “ah-ven”. It does not have “sin” as one of its definitions. Instead, since it comes from an unused Hebrew letter root “to pant” (with the idea of exerting oneself in vain, or coming to naught), you can begin to see why the translators went in the direction they did.
    One very interesting def is “unrighteous”. That is why some translations use “inquity” which is also listed. Affliction, evil, vanity, trouble, mischief, wickedness (specifically, “an idol”)—I think you can see a pattern here.

    If you go by the order of the book in the Bible’s chronology found in the Torah, yes, it does appear to be the first ever usage. But it is widely used in the Book of Job. Job’s testimony, at the latest, appears to be one contemporary with Abraham. His age and life span (42:16) fits that of Abraham who outlived him by 35 years. Job seems to know about Adam (31:33) and Noah’s flood (12:15) but there is silence on matters such as the covenant of Abraham, Israel, the Exodus and Moshe’s Torah. His wealth is measured in livestock, not gold and silver (1:3; 42:12). The Chaldeans (who lived in the part of what is today, modern day Iran and Iraq— approximately where the Tigris and the Euphrates empty into the Persian Gulf and the surrounding areas) who murdered Job’s servants (1:17) had not yet become city dwellers but were marauding nomads. By the time Abram is called out of Ur of the Chaldeans in Genesis 11:31, he is being asked to “go forth from your country” (Gen. 12:1) so the non-city dwellers are not advanced to a sense of being a nation. Chaldea is steeped in idolatry, Ur is the capital and this expanding empire would later in Abram’s life (Gen. 14) confront his new culture with the next iteration of the “Nimrod Dictator” model that would/(still does today—re:ISIS) come to Canaan where he now resided. He would defeat, in effect, the entire nascent Babylonian empire there when Chedorlaomer came for his tribute (think:jizya or “protection” money) and made the mistake of taking away Abram’s cousin Lot in the process.

    Lot was somewhere before this or at the latest, watching as Abram as he began a process that Balaam later still observed at work and as an integral part of Abraham’s ancestors to come.

  10. He has not beheld iniquity in Jacob,
    and neither has he seen any evil in Israel.
    Yahweh, his god, is with him, and the shout of a king is among them. (Num 23:21)

    This depiction of Yahweh who finds no fault, no wrongdoing, no iniquity in the people contradicts what came immediately before and what is to immediately follow.

    Is this the most accurate translation of Numbers 23:21? The word translated “iniquity” first appears in the Hebrew Bible in this verse, and the word for “evil” appears only one time before our verse, in Genesis 41:51, and is there translated variously as “toil,” “trouble,” “hardship,” and “labor.” Since this word is used in parallel with “iniquity” in Numbers 23:21, it appears that something other than sin is in view, and this is how three prominent translations understand our passage:

    New JPS Tanakh:
    No harm is in sight for Jacob, No woe in view for Israel…

    NRSV:
    He has not beheld misfortune in Jacob; nor has he seen trouble in Israel…

    NASB:
    He has not observed misfortune in Jacob; Nor has He seen trouble in Israel…

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