Home > Live Blogging the Bible > Live Blogging the Bible: Numbers 15:32-36

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):

Numbers 15:36

The whole congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death, just as the Lord had commanded Moses.

Numbers 15:37&38

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!”


  1. Kevin
    June 26, 2013 at 3:13 PM

    That seems completely stupid to us and Christians, yet I’ll bet if you were to bring this up in an argument, the old adage of “Jesus negated the old testament with his death”. So they get to have their cake and eat it too, since they get to say, oh that’s not moral, but it’s not what Jesus teaches. In their mind you’re just arguing with the Torah and the Jews now; and the Orthodox Jewish are so wrapped up in this rule of no work on the Sabbath, they tie themselves into knots trying not to do anything that might even be considered remotely close to work. In their minds it’s his rule and therefore justifies his punishment, though it’s very odd it isn’t dealt out by him, he has to go through the guy who may have a personal issue with the stick gatherer. I think I’d have a different opinion of this if the alleged deity had dished out the punishment, and not the crowd following KGB-esque orders.

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