Friday, April 11, 2008

God's Divine Protection Racket: Numbers 17

This post is part of a revolutionary Bible commentary by the Church of the Orange Sky.

God decides to try his hand in reinforcing the religious protection racket being set up by Moses and Aaron. For no apparent reason, he announces to Moses that the time has come to end the Israelite's grumbling once and for all. Why we should expect this to work is unclear. God's track record in the Old Testament leaves a lot to be desired - even when he does carry through with his incessant threats, as he did during the flood, it never works the way he thinks it will.

This time, God proposes a novel new approach: instead of killing the Israelites, he's going to persuade them. Why this would impress the Israelites is unclear, since he massacred over 15 000 of them just a few days before. Nevertheless, God doesn't usually stoop to actually persuading people, so perhaps it's understandable that his first try seems a little odd.

God commands all of the tribal leaders to bring a staff to the porta-temple. Aaron will provide the Levites' staff - an interesting little twist as Aaron continues to usurp more and more Levite power on the sly. All the staffs will be planted in the ground, and God will make the staff of his chosen priest sprout into a plant overnight.

Surprise! It's Aaron! Sure enough, Aaron's walking stick turns into an almond tree. This staff too, God decrees, is to be kept in front of the porta-temple as a warning to dissentors. The Israelites are depressed by this outcome, complaining that this proved God is going to kill them. Instead of responding further, God pulls Moses and Aaron aside and launches into a new list of rules and obligations.