Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Last time, we discussed the Israelites conquest of the Amorites - which was more like bloody massacre. Numbers, Chapter 22 is about the Moabites.
After witnessing the aftermath of what the Israelites have done, the Moabites are understandably afraid of these new people who have come from Egypt. In response, the Moabites sent a delegation of princes to the nearby land of Pethor, to enlist the help of a wizard. It doesn't actually say "wizard", but I guess that's what he is.
"Balaam, please come to Moab and lay a curse on the Israelites. Those guys are friggin' crazy! They just slaughtered off the Amorites!!!" said the messengers. Oh yea, don't go looking for those exact words in the Bible - I'm just adding a little spice.
Balaam apparently also worships Yahweh, and tells the delegation to spend the night while he consults Yahweh's opinion on the matter. Yahweh, who modern-day worshippers insist is all-knowing, asks Balaam, "Who are these guys that are with you tonight?"
Balaam explains the situation, and Yahweh tells him that he shouldn't curse the Israelites, because they are blessed. The next morning Balaam explains to the princes why he can't go with them.
In response, the Moabites send even higher ranking princes with gold and silver to purchase Balaam's skills. He invites the delegation to spend the night while he consults Yahweh again. This time, Yahweh says, "Look, go ahead and go with them if they call on you. Just do what I tell you to do."
So, the next morning Balaam gets on his donkey and follows the princes back to the land of Moab. But for some reason, this gets Yahweh angry! "And God's anger was kindled when he left ..." That's what it actually says! Yahweh just told him to go with them, and then gets pissed when Balaam does just that!
An angry Yahweh sends an angel to block his path (apparently the princes were not with him on the road to Moab). Yahweh does this three times, and three times Balaam strikes the donkey for trying to go around the angel. It would seem that the donkey is more reasonable then Balaam, unless you realize that only the donkey can see the angel. And the angel doesn't seem to intent on stopping them, either. He just stands in the path, and Balaam and the donkey goes around him.
On the third time, the angel is standing between two walls and there's no way past. So, the donkey lays down and Balaam strikes the donkey for the third time. The donkey looks back at Balaam, open his buck-toothed mouth, and says, "Why the hell do you keep hitting me, man? Can't you see I'm trying to avoid running into one of the Almighty's soldiers?"
And finally, Balaam sees the angel.
Anyways, Balaam finally gets to Moab, where Yahweh apparently "puts a word in his mouth".
Balaam tells the Moabite royalty basically that Yahweh's on the side of the Israelites, and that He sent him to bless the Israelites; not curse them. "Yahweh's not just some man, he's a god, and He brought the Israelites out of Egypt," said Balaam. "Yahweh's got the strength of a unicorn."
A unicorn?!? Unicorns are pretty strong, I'd imagine; but omnipotent? Or is Yahweh just pretty strong? If that's the case, that explains why Jacob was able to beat Yahweh in a wrestling match.
Balaam continues, "Behold, the people shall rise up as a great lion, and lift up himself as a young lion: he shall not lie down until he eat of the prey, and drink the blood of the slain."
So now the Moabites realize that not even their precious magician Balaam is on their side, so they try one last negotiating trick. "Well, how about if you neither curse them or bless them?"
Balaam probably threw his hands up and said, "Hey, Yahweh wants me to do it. What can I do?"
And so, in Chapter 24, Balaam blesses the people of Israel. He concludes the blessing, "God brought him forth out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn: he shall eat up the nations his enemies, and shall break their bones, and pierce them through with his arrows. He couched, he lay down as a lion, and as a great lion: who shall stir him up? Blessed is he that blesseth thee, and cursed is he that curseth thee."
The Moabites are pissed, but the deed has been done.
Next time, Yahweh kills 24,000 Israelites!