Sunday, 2 July 2017

The Bible: A Very Grim Fairytale: Numbers: Chapter 13 - A Land of Milk, Honey and Giants



You'll recall that in the previous two chapters God was all god like and powerful. In chapter 11 he gave his people tons and tons of meat in the form of quail because they were complaining about being hungry. How could he do this? asked Moses. Because he's God, replied God. Then in the last chapter God knew that Aaron and his wife had been talking behind Moses' back. God just knows stuff because he's God, so be careful what you say. But now, suddenly, God is not so powerful and omniscient. His powerfulness seems to ebb and flow according to the needs of the story. Strange that.

So God called Moses to him and told him to send out scouts to have a look at Canaan, the land he had promised to them, to see what it was like and to report back on what the people who lived there were like and what it would take to beat them in a war. Why does God need scouts? And why should this all powerful God have to worry about beating mere mortals in a war? What kind of God is he?

Anyway, Moses didn't ask these fairly obvious questions and did what he was told. He got all the tribes to provide one man to go on this expedition and to report back. A bit of reconnaissance.

We are then told in laborious detail who all of these men were, but I'll spare you all of that. Suffice to say that they went, they saw and they came back and reported. And it was not good news. Well, mostly.

Because 40 days later, exactly 40, they returned and told Moses and the tribes that the promised land was everything that they had been promised. But it was already occupied and by people who didn't look likely to want to move.

One of the scouts, Caleb, couldn't see a problem. He said that they would be able to defeat these people no problem at all. But the others, 11 of them, said that this was a race of giants and that the Israelites were puny by comparison. No chance they would be able to beat them. Now it is a matter of conjecture whether or not they were speaking metaphorically about this being a race of giants or whether it was actually meant literally. But there's a good chance, given all of the other superstitious mumbo jumbo about curing disease and animal sacrifices, that it meant they really were giants. And of course these are not the only giants in the Old Testament either.


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