Numbers 31 – 33
Today’s texts are tough, and I can’t offer much to help. The massacre at Midian is horrific in our context, and we struggle to see a context where it is ok. This kind of thing was common in the ancient world, so it wouldn’t be tough to see it happening, but the big question (which I can’t answer) is, does God really command this kind of thing and for what reason? Sorry I can’t offer much on that, but I’d be interested to have a discussion about it in the comments thread, so please, share your thoughts.
I had a conversation with a friend who is following this reading plan about the role of the supernatural, and with today’s texts and the bit in Numbers 33:4 about God executing judgement on the gods of Egypt. A common complaint by atheists is that Christians find it all too easy to write off the existence of other gods as quickly as an atheist writes off the existence of the Christian God.
This complaint actually does have some legitimacy, since Christians largely live their lives like atheists until they need to enlist God or blame the devil. Things haven’t always been like this and aren’t always like this in many fundamentalist churches. The belief in a group of fallen angels who followed Satan and were exiled from Heaven with him, is a fundamental tenet of most Christian doctrine.
Bearing the above in mind, consider the perspective of the Old Testament peoples, and even people in the Middle ages. These people were unfettered by the idea that assigning supernatural explanations to things could be seen as silly. These people did not believe for a moment that God banned the use of mystics or magicians, because they were appealing to something that wasn’t there. They were certain that there was something supernatural, but that it was an enemy of God.
Leap forward to the modern day. I’ve heard speakers who actually believe that Shiva and Allah are the devil, not some imaginary being, whether this is true or not is impossible to ascertain. The thing is, many Christians still hold to the idea of a mulitude of fallen angels demons and such supernatural being who could have occupied the places of gods in the old world, and even occupy those places now.
When judgement is brought down on the gods of Egypt, it wasn’t necessarily saying that there is more than one God, but that entities posing as gods were being judged. Thus statements like this don’t affect a monotheistic viewpoint.
What are your thoughts?
Please give the reading through the Bible page a look if you haven’t already, there are some background posts and the index to this reading plan. Share it with others who you think can benefit from Reading the Bible.