Live Blogging the Bible: Numbers 15:32-36
by Noah Lugeons
My normal methodology for the “Live Blogging the Bible” series is to jot things down whenever something strikes me as unusually brutal, illogical or inconsistent. That’s why I didn’t wind up writing anything about Leviticus: There was no part that was any more brutal, illogical or inconsistent than any other part.
But in Numbers the blog-worthy segments basically speak for themselves. The book is largely filled with boring censuses and details of various sacrifices, but there are a few segments that just leap out of the page and say, “What the fuck am I doing here.”
Obviously, 15:32-36 is such a passage. But to truly understand how jarring this part is, let me start by giving you the parentheses. Immediately before this, we just spent 31 verses repeating shit we heard before about sacrifices and offerings. Immediately after this, god expresses a fondness for tassels.
And what strange occurrence rests between these two relatively benign snippets? Why, the brutal murder of some stranger the Jews drug in from the forest. It would seem that this treacherous bastard had the audacity to pick up sticks on the Sabbath. So they stoned him to death.
Yeah, you read that right. He picked up sticks. I’m not exaggerating the triviality of this. The charges against him read, in full:
…a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day.
So they drag this poor, hapless (and now firewood-less) guy before Moses and because of the unique nature of his offense, Moses checks with God and asks what should be done with this heathen. And god’s prescription is for everyone to gather together and throw rocks at him until he dies.
And oh yeah, he likes tassels. I shit you not, the gear shift into the next paragraph is exactly this (NSRV):
The whole congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death, just as the Lord had commanded Moses.
The Lord said to Moses: Speak to the Israelites, and tell them to make fringes on the corners of their garments throughout their generations and to put a blue cord on the fringe at each corner.
Which is, I believe, God talk for “Squirrel!”