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The Historical Library is provided for those doing research into the history of nontheism. It is not intended to be--and should not be used as--a source of modern, up-to-date information regarding atheistic issues. DO NOT CONTACT US ABOUT THESE DOCUMENTS. Please read the full Historical Library Disclaimer

Chapter 05

Joseph Wheless

                 19 page printout, page 96 - 114
                            CHAPTER V

                THE FORTY YEARS IN THE WILDERNESS

     IN the third month after the hegira from Egypt the hosts of
Yahveh came to the "desert of Sinai, and pitched in the wilderness,
and camped before the mount" (Ex. xix, 1, 2). This was Mt. Sinai
(named for the pagan moon-god Sin), also confusedly called Horeb,
and sacred as the "Mount of God," -- though in Hebrew it is called
Harha-Elohim, the "Mount of the Gods."

     Mt. Sinai is said by the Bible dictionary, with a marvelously
developed bump of locality, to be "156 miles southeast of Cairo,
Egypt"; but the Encyclopedia Britannica says that the sacred
writers locate the place "only by aid of the imagination" (Vol.
XXV, p. 138), and that the "Mount of Yahveh" has never been
identified. Even the identification of Sinai, however, would prove
none of the stories of Yahveh to be true, any more than Olympus
proves the existence of Zeus.

     But if anywhere, Mt. Sinai was in Midian, in the country of
Jethro, and near the site of the burning bush; for Yahveh had said:
"When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall
serve ha-Elohim [the Gods] upon this mountain" (Ex. iii, 12). And
it was in the "great and terrible wilderness," at a choice locality
where the 3,000,000 Chosen People could spread their 12-mile square
camp and corral their vast herds of sheep and cattle; and a
mountain of such special and peculiar shape that the Chosen could
build a fence around it (if they had the timber), or in some other
way "set bounds about the mount" to keep the people and the cattle
away from its fatal sides, lest Yahveh "break forth upon them, and
many of them perish." It was also fearfully fenced off with a taboo
of terror from the curious: "whosoever toucheth the mount shall
surely be put to death," stoned or shot through, even beasts,
declared Yahveh (Ex. xix, 12, 21-24).

     After these remarkable precautions for mystery and secrecy,
the Chosen were required to be "sanctified," an operation
consisting of washing their clothes (Ex. xix, 10) -- though where
in the wilderness they got the water for laundering when they were
rioting for water to drink is not revealed -- and of three days'
mortification of the flesh by abstaining from their one and only
recorded pleasurable pastime in the wilderness the carnal knowledge
of their women (xix, 15). These mystic directions were given by
Yahveh to Moses on the day of arrival at Sinai, when Moses, without
being invited, and apparently without knowing that Yahveh was
there, made two informal calls on Yahveh (xix, 3, 8). On the second
Yahveh said that he would "come down in sight of all the people" on
the third day thereafter. But it was not Yahveh alone whom Moses
visited on these occasions; the Hebrew text distinctly says: "And
Moses went up to the Gods [ha-Elohim], and Yahveh called unto him
from the mountain" (xix, 3).

     Just how these things did pass at that mysterious place, the
different appearances of Yahveh and the numerous errand-boy trips
of eighty-year-old Moses up and down the steep mountain during a
year's time, is a veritable Chinese puzzle, which we need not try
to work out. In any event, Moses went down and "sanctified the 

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people" in the manner and form indicated, and built the fence. On
the third day, Yahveh, amid thunders and lightnings, descended in
fire upon the mountain, which "was altogether on a smoke"; and
Moses went up for the third visit (xix, 20).

     When Moses had hardly got to the top of the mountain, Yahveh,
without so much as "Good morning, Moses," told him: "Go down,
charge the people" about washing up and sanctifying and making the
fence around the mountain (xix, 21, 22). Moses expostulated that
this had already been done (xix, 23); but Yahveh cut him short,
saying: "Away, get thee down" (xix, 24); so, meekly enough, "Moses
went down unto the people, and spake unto them" (xix, 25), though
apparently he did not tell them of Yahveh's peculiar command to do
what had already been done three days before, as Moses had reported
to him (xix, 23).

                  THE MISTAKE ABOUT THE PRIESTS

     Before seeking to unravel what next is related, we may note
another big mistake that Yahveh made. In sending Moses back to do
what had already been done, Yahveh expressly commanded: "And let
the priests also, which come near to Yahveh, sanctify themselves"
(xix, 22); and he told Moses that Brother Aaron might come up with
him next time; but, said Yahveh, "let not the priests and the
people" try to come up (Xix, 24). This is a remarkable slip on the
part of Yahveh, for there were no priests at that time; the
priesthood was not instituted until later in the Sinaic
proceedings, when Aaron and his four sons were designated to be the
first priests (Ex. xxviii, 1), and it was made death for any one
else to presume to act as priest. As further proof of there being
no priests yet, we find Moses, after delivering the first batch of
"law" (Ex. xxiv, 4, 5), himself building an altar under the hill,
twelve phallic mazzeboth, and sending "young men of the children of
Israel" to do the priestly job of making burnt offerings and
sacrificing peace-offerings unto Yahveh; for all the Chosen were at
that time "a kingdom of priests" (Ex. xix, 6) -- every man his own
priest. And Brother Aaron, as a priest, during Moses' next forty-
day sojourn up on the mountain, made gods of the golden calves, and
sacrificed to them, thus again proving that there was no "law" as
to "priests of Yahveh," and that "Thou shalt have no other gods
before me" was not yet law.

     The puzzles of the giving of the law, and the ten
commandments, here at Sinai, we reserve for consideration in
another chapter, and will proceed with the wonders of the
wanderings in the wilderness.

               THE TWO CENSUSES IN THE WILDERNESS

     Before leaving Sinai, in the beginning of the second year of
the exodus (Num. i, 1), Yahveh ordered a census to be taken of
"every male from twenty years old and upward, all that are able to
go forth to war in Israel" (i, 3); and they were so numbered by
Moses and Aaron. If the all-knowing Yahveh, who is reputed to
number even all the hairs of the head, had simply stated the number
himself, it would have saved his inspired recorder much trouble
besides some suspicions of padded returns. Indeed, this is exactly 

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what we are surprised to find is revealed as having happened, in
very curious anticipation of the formal and tedious census
enumeration. For, at Sinai, some months before the taking of the
first census, Yahveh ordered assessments to be laid on the people
for the expenses of making and outfitting the holy ark and
tabernacle; and he commanded: "When there thou takest the sum of
the children of Israel after their number, then shall they give
every man a ransom for his soul unto Yahveh, that there may be no
plague among them when thou numberest them" (Ex. xxx, 11, 12) -- a
very persuasive argument to pay up. Consequently there was levied
upon every soldier of Israel "a bekah for very man, that is, half
a shekel, ... for every one that went to be numbered, from twenty
years old and upward, for 603,550 men" (Ex. xxxviii, 26) -- the
exact number disclosed by the first census when it was later taken.
So the whole labor was unnecessary.

     The census was taken by tribes, and curiously enough, every
single tribe polled even numbers of hundreds except one, Gad, which
had an odd fifty in its tally.

     Again, at the end of the forty years' wandering in the
wilderness, and just after the massacre of the plague of fiery
serpents, another like census was taken in the plains of Moab, near
Jordan; and here the inspired total is rightly given as 601,730
(Num. xxvi, 51). Evidently the birth-rate had not quite kept pace
with the natural mortality and the frequent large massacres by
Yahveh of his Chosen. In neither census were the Levites numbered
in these totals, as we shall presently notice.

                      SOME CENSUS ODDITIES

     Several curiosities of these two censuses may be briefly
noticed. We have seen how extraordinary are the inspired vital
statistics which serve as the basis of the accepted figures showing
that seventy persons had expanded in only four generations into
quite two and a half millions or more. The editor of the Self-
Interpreting Bible appends a note to the first tabulation of
returns, saying: "If to this number (603,550) we add the Levites,
and all the women and children below twenty years of age, it will
make about three millions of Israelites, besides the 'mixed
multitude'"! But in order not to impose upon Providence, we will be
content with our more modest figures.

     One of the sons of Jacob migrating into Egypt was Dan. For
him, the first generation was one son, Hushim (Gen. xlvi, 23), and
he had no other, for in the second census lists (Num. xxvi, 4-2)
the "sons of Dan" constitute but one family, here called
Shuhamites. In the returns of the first census, however, the number
of Danites, males of military age, was 62,700 (Num. i, 39): in the
second census their number is recorded as 64,400 (xxvi, 43): all
these offspring (only males over twenty fit for war), of one son in
three generations! To accomplish this prodigy, Hushim or Shuham and
each of his sons and grandsons must each have had over eighty
children of both Sexes. And it is curious that the offspring of the
one son of Dan should be nearly twice as many as those of the ten
sons of Benjamin, who numbered only 35,400 warriors in the first
census (Num. i, 3,7), and 45,600 in the second (xxvi, 41).

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                           THE LEVITES

     As the sons of Levi, or the Levites, came early into
prominence, we may briefly follow their family genealogy. In
Genesis, "the sons of Levi: Gershon, Kohath, and Merarill (xlvi,
11), are among the 70 Jacobites who migrate to Egypt; these three
were the first generation, named again in Exodus (vi, 16). The
second generation is enumerated by names in Exodus vi, 17-19: two
sons of Gershon, four sons of Kohath, and two sons of Merari; a
second generation of eight persons. The third generation is partly
accounted for in Exodus vi, 20-23. Three of the four sons of Kohath
(vi, 18) increased to eight: two sons of Amram (Aaron and Moses);
three sons of Izhar; and three of Uzziel. The fourth, Hebron, is
not credited with any sons; thus the third generation so far as
named is only eight persons. The same names of these generations
are recorded in Numbers iii. Assuming that the two sons of Gershon
and the two of Merari showed the same increase, four each, then all
the male Levites of the third generation would be sixteen persons.
For the fourth generation, we have only the record of the two sons
of Amram, Moses and Aaron, the first of whom had two sons, the
latter four. At the same rate of increase, the sixteen males of the
third generation would amount, in the fourth -- that is, at the
first census -- to 48 persons (male and female) -- or, rather, to
44, as the four sons of Aaron were numbered, not with the Levites,
but as priests. Yet the inspired word of Yahveh says that the
number of Levites of "service age," from thirty to fifty years,
amounted to 8580 (Num. iv, 47, 48), and all the males (Levites)
"from a month old and upward," were 22,000 (Num. iii, 40); at the
second census they numbered 23,000 (xxvi, 62). And this was only
the males; there would naturally be about the same number of
females, or some 45,000 Levites. We have seen that the total number
of male "sons of Levi" of this fourth generation was approximately
forty-four souls.

                      THE MOTHERS OF ISRAEL

     We have noted already the returns of the first census, at
Sinai, giving 603,550 warriors over twenty years of age, 22,000
male Levites, and an estimated total of nearly 2,500,000 the hosts
of Yahveh. Now the credit of this whole story is impeached by
another inspired contradiction. Yahveh had first claimed to
himself, as sanctified, or devoted, "all the firstborn, whatsoever
openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of
beast: it is mine" (Ex. xiii, 2), in commemoration of his massacre
of the first-born of Egypt (xiii, 15). But later Yahveh changed his
mind (Num. iii, 41, 45), and said: "Take the Levites for me,
instead of all the first-born among the children of Israel"; and he
ordered Moses: "Number all the first-born of the males of the
children of Israel from a month old and upward, and take the number
of their names" (iii, 40). Moses did so, and reported the number of
male first-born to be 22,27.3 (iii, 43). These first-born were not
simply the first-born sons of their fathers, who might polygamously
have many other sons by different mothers; they were the first-born
of the mothers as well -- "the first-born that openeth the womb."
Thus there could have been, at the very most, 22,273 mothers of
Israel in the host who had sons, and naturally a like number --
22,273 -- of fathers.

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     Now, the male sons of all order of birth, "from twenty years
of age and upward, able to bear arms in Israel," (who of course
included many first-born sons), are averred to have been 603,550:
the other males, those under twenty years of age and over military
age and the unfit for service, would bring the total males to
approximately one-half of the total host of 2,414,200, or about
1,207,100 males; all of whom must of course have had Hebrew
mothers. For 22,273 mothers to have 1,207,100 sons would require
every mother in Israel to have an average of fifty-five sons; and,
naturally, about as many daughters! But as the average mother of
Israel has been seen to have averaged three or four sons -- but the
whole thing is too preposterous to be worth more figuring: and with
only 22,273 son-bearing women to 1,207,100 men, about one man in
some scores could have a wife and male children! We change the
subject.

               THE PUZZLE OF "SAME" OR "NOT SAME"

     When Yahveh first spoke to Moses in regard to the Chosen
People, he said: "I am come down to deliver them and to bring them"
to the land of promise (Ex. iii, 8); and he told Moses to lead them
thither, and assured him: "Certainly I will be with thee" (iii,
12). At Sinai, just after the golden calf incident, Yahveh said to
Aloses: "Depart, and go up hence, thou, and the people, unto the
land which I swore I will give thee" (Ex. xxxiii, 7); but, said
Yahveh: "I will not go up in the midst of thee, for thou art a
stiff-necked people." He promised, however, to send his angel, and
hornets to drive out the inhabitants (xxiii, 23, 28) -- the "seven
nations more and mightier" than Israel. Thus, in the year 1491
B.C., the land was promised distinctly and positively to this
identical "host of Yahveh" which had just come out of Egypt, and
Yahveh promised Moses that he, Moses, should lead the hosts into
the promised land.

     Now for the performances. We pass to the Book of Numbers. The
hosts left Sinai and marched forward promptly and without much
incident to very near the borders of the promised land, quite ready
to enter it, and camped at Kadesh (Num. xiii, 2,3). Kadesh (Heb.,
holy) is thus the first station of the forty-two in the wilderness;
but in the list of stations in Numbers xxxiiii, Kadesh is the last,
just before Mount Hor (xxxiii, 36, 37). The arrival at Kadesh, the
first Station, was a little more than a year after the Israelites
left Egypt (Num. x, 11, 33; xx, 1). From Kadesh Moses, at the
command of Yahveh (Num. xiii, 1-3), sent the twelve spies "to spy
out the land of Canaan." The majority report of the spies was of an
alarming nature: "We saw giants there, in whose sight we were as
grasshoppers" (xiii, 33). Thereupon all the people "lifted up their
voice and cried, and wept that night," crying: "Would to God we had
died in Egypt, or in the wilderness" (xiv, 1, 2), and they wanted
to elect a captain and go back.

     Yahveh had now one of his frequent bursts of anger, and said:
"I will smite them with pestilence," and kill them all; but Moses
cajoled Yahveh out of his fatal purpose by an argument to his
divine vanity, saying: "Now, if thou shalt kill all the people as
one man, then the nations which have heard of the fame of thee will
speak, saying, Because Yahveh was not able to bring this people 

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into the land which he swore unto them, therefore he hath slain
them in the wilderness" (xiv, 16). Yahveh, seeing the force of
this, compromised by swearing: "As I live. ... surely they shall
not see the land which I swore unto their fathers, ... save Caleb
the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun. But your little
ones, ... them will I bring in; ... but as for you, your carcasses,
they shall fall in this wilderness. And your children shall wander
in the wilderness forty years" (xiv, 21, 23, 30-32). So Yahveh
commanded Moses, "To-morrow turn you, and get you into the
wilderness by the way of the Red sea" (xiv, 25).

     We need not here follow their unhappy rambles of nearly forty
years, until "in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the
first day of the month" (Deut. i, 3), we find the "hosts of Yahveh"
-- Yahveh only knows where. According to verse 1, "These be the
words which Moses spake [at this time] unto all Israel on this side
of Jordan in the wilderness, in the plain over against the Red
sea"; that is, west and south of Jordan, and yet a long way from
the promised land. But in verses 3 and 5, it is averred that all
the following words, chapter after chapter long, (the same as those
referred to in verse 1) "Moses spake unto the children of Israel,
on this side Jordan, in the land of Moab," which is to the east of
the Dead Sea, very near their promised goal; so near, indeed, that
Moses says (ix, 1) in that same speech: "Hear, O Israel, Thou art
to pass over Jordan this day, to go in to possess" the land. Moses
guessed wrong, as it was not till some six months and more later,
after his death, that the children of Israel crossed over, under
Joshua. Nothing short of Infinite Wisdom can, it is believed,
unravel all these inspired tangles of revelation. Wherever it was,
there Moses delivered his famous harangue, reviewing first the
forty years' wanderings, and falling into inextricable
contradictions of statement. As to the identity of the "hosts of
Yahveh" now assembled with those who came out of Egypt, the
inspired record reads much like the maiden's game, plucking daisy
petals and reciting, "He loves me, he loves me not, he loves me" --
different with every sacred page we turn, and frequently different
in several ways on the same page.

     Moses begins (Deut. i, 6) as if he were speaking to the
identical host which left Egypt forty years before and encamped
under Sinai: "Yahveh our God spake to us in Horeb"; "And I spake
unto you at that time" (i, 9); "And I commanded you at that time
all the things which ye should do" (i, 18); "And when we departed
from Horeb" (i, 19) we did this and that, and ye suggested, and I
sent spies to spy out the land; and "ye murmured in your tents" (i,
26) and "Yahveh heard the voice of your words, and was wroth, and
swore, saying: Surely there shall not one of this evil generation
see that good land" (i, 34); and "Moreover, your little ones, they
shall go thither, and unto them will I give it" (i, 39); and so on
through this and the next chapter; "we" and "ye" did this and that,
until "the space in which we came from Kadesh-Barnea, until we were
come over the Brook Zered, was thirty-eight years; until all the
generation of men of war were wasted out from among the host, as
Yahveh swore unto them" (ii, 14). First, "ye" and "we" are the same
host that left Egypt; then that host is all dead, and "ye" and "we"
are a different host altogether: id est, the now-grown-up "little
ones" of the original host and the after-born. Later (v, 2, 3) in 

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the same harangue, it is positively stated that the host to whom
Moses was then and there speaking was the identical host whom he
had led out of Egypt, and who hadn't died off at all: "Yahveh our
God made a covenant with us in Horeb [at Sinai, thirty-eight years
before]. Yahveh made not this covenant with our fathers, but with
us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day"! Either these
are bald contradictions, or there was an unrecorded resurrection of
all the dead whose "carcasses fell in the wilderness" to hear this
swan-song of Moses, and his review of their manifold sins and
shortcomings.

     Again (viii, 2, 4) in the same harangue the inspired historian
contradicts his former story of the death of the original hosts
during the forty years, and explicitly admits that they are alive:
"And thou shalt remember all the way which Yahveh thy God led thee
these forty years in the wilderness. ... Thy raiment waxed not old
upon thee, neither did thy foot swell, these forty years." The
original host must have survived, for the clothes and shoes of the
original children, which were miraculously preserved and enlarged
with the growth of the wearers, would hardly have comfortably
fitted, as hand-me-downs, the bodies and feet of the deceased
original wearers' children. Again (Deut. xi, 2, 3, 5, 7, 10) the
assertion of identity is made in unequivocal terms: "And know ye
this day: for I speak not with your children which have not known,
and which have not seen the chastisement of Yahveh your God, ...
And his miracles, and his acts, which he did in the midst of Egypt
unto Pharaoh; ... And what he did unto you in the wilderness, until
ye came into this place; ... But your eyes have seen all the great
acts of Yahveh which he did. ... For the land, whither thou goest
in to possess it, is not as the land of Egypt, from whence ye came
out." So inspiration has here got its stories mixed again; Yahveh
evidently kept not his oath about destroying all his children and
scattering their carcasses in the wilderness; the record of the
second census cannot be true when it recites: "Among these there
was not a man of them whom Moses and Aaron the priest numbered,
when they numbered the children of Israel in the wilderness of
Sinai. For Yahveh had said of them, They shall surely die in the
wilderness. And there was not left a man of them, save Caleb ...
and Joshua" (Num. xxvi, 64, 65). A more remarkable "confusion of
tongues" is hard to find in all the inspired history, since Babel.

                THE TABERNACLE AND ITS ACTIVITIES

     Yahveh and Moses spent a good part of forty days on Sinai,
again without eating or drinking (Ex. xxxiv, 28), engaged in
framing plans and specifications for the tabernacle or sanctuary,
in which were kept the holy altar and the wonder-working ark, and
in devising the whole system of priests and priestly services. The
tabernacle, as described in Exodus xxvi, was a portable tent about
18 feet broad by 54 feet in length, with a door in one end. It and
the ark, with their furnishings, must have been marvels of
luxurious beauty (or the product of remarkable imagination) -- with
gold, and silver, and brass, and blue and purple and scarlet fine
linen cloths, and precious stones galore. One may wonder where all
this finery -- the property of slaves -- came from, in the
wilderness, unless it was a part of the spoils "borrowed" from the
Egyptians; but we are told that the children of Israel hurried off 

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with nothing except their bundles of clothes and kneading-troughs
and a little dough (Ex. xii, 34).

     The tabernacle was to stand in the center of a court, or yard,
about 180 feet long by 90 feet broad (100 X 50 cubits; Ex. xxvii,
11, 12), surrounded by silver-fellated pillars about 71/2 feet
high. It was known as the tabernacle of the congregation, and was
the central point of the camp. The area of the court-yard was 1800
square yards, and that of the tabernacle 108 square yards.
Deducting the area of the tabernacle from that of the court-yard
leaves a free space within the court-yard of 1692 square yards. Why
all these details? All Scripture is important, and several wondrous
tales hang thereby.

     In Leviticus viii, 3-5, as in many similar passages, Yahveh
said unto Moses: "Gather thou all the congregation together unto
the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And Moses did as
Yahveh commanded him; and the assembly was gathered together unto
the door of the tabernacle of the congregation." This congregation,
or assembly, as appears in scores of places, was the whole people,
the entire "hosts of Yahveh," more than 2,414,200 strong, as is
also proved by the verses to be cited below. It is needless to
calculate; the millions of the Chosen, packed their tightest, would
have extended for miles around the tabernacle, even if the hundreds
of thousands of surrounding tents would not prevent such a massing.
It cannot be perceived, as the inspired Word relates, how "the
assembly was gathered unto the door of the tabernacle."

     Here as often elsewhere, it is said: "And Moses said unto the
congregation"; in Deut. i, 1, it is more explicitly stated: "These
be the words which Moses spake unto all Israel"; and in v, 1: "And
Moses called all Israel and said unto them"; and, most explicitly,
in Joshua viii, 35: "There was not a word of all that Moses
commanded, which Joshua read not before all the congregation of
Israel, with the women, and the little ones, and the strangers that
were conversant among them." A wayfaring man, though a fool, need
not be told that Moses could not speak nor Joshua read so that the
hundred-thousandth part of "all Israel" could hear them, or get
anywhere near the door of the tabernacle: unless, indeed, the truth
is that the total horde of fugitive slaves, if it ever existed at
all, was no more than the three to five thousand to which nature
would have increased the original seventy in four generations.

                           SACRIFICES

     The Book of Leviticus is almost wholly a code of most
elaborate and burdensome regulations of priestcraft and bloody
sacrifices. One grows dizzy and nauseated in simply scanning the
sanguinary catalogue of burnt-offerings, meat-offerings, peace-
offerings, sin-offerings, trespass-offerings, of superstitious and
blood-reeking butchery, which fills these pages. Nearly every act
of life and of death involved some propitiatory sacrifice,
thousands of them every day, on the part of these more than two
millions of poor victims of their Yahveh. Whole regiments of
priests would seem to be required for these holy services. How many
priests does divine revelation afford us for these millions? Three!
"Thou shalt appoint Aaron and his sons, and they shall wait on 

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their priest's office: and the stranger that cometh nigh shall be
put to death" (Num. iii. 10); a murderous priestly monopoly in the
Moses family, limited to Brother Aaron and his sons in perpetuity,
under penalty of death.

     Skipping all the other multitudinous kinds of sacrifices which
kept this holy trinity busy (if they ever got time to make them at
all), let us take one species, upon which we can calculate with
some probability from our inspired data. If Yahveh kept his awful
word of wrath and killed off the entire original millions who set
out with Moses from Egypt, with the exception of the "little ones,
your children, which in that day had no knowledge between good and
evil," (Deut. i, 39), and if the balance of the millions who
reached the promised land were born during the forty years in the
wilderness, then, as we have seen, these births must have averaged
some 1700 for every day of the forty years.

     Now, according to the Holy Law of God, child-bearing was the
worst of defilements: the mother was "unclean" for forty or eighty
days according as her child was a boy or a girl; for forty or
eighty days she must undergo a humiliating "purification"; she must
"touch no hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary, until the
days of her purifying be fulfilled"! Then, at the end of that God-
imposed penance, "she shall bring a lamb of the first year for a
burnt offering, and a young pigeon or a turtledove for a sin
offering, unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, unto
the priest, Who shall offer it before Yahveh, and make an atonement
for her; and she shall be cleansed from the issue of her blood"
(Lev. xii, 6, 7). A sin-atonement and purification for obedience to
Yahveh's very first command: "Be fruitful, and multiply, and
replenish the earth"! But it was good "graft" for the priests who
ordained it.

     These lambs and turtle-doves must be slain, cleaned, washed,
burnt, the blood smeared on the bloody holy altar, and the offal
and feathers "carried without the camp" (Lev. i, 10-17), twelve
miles there and back. If Aaron and his two sons worked like Trojans
every second of their time, day and night, without stopping to eat
or sleep, and took only five minutes for each of these elaborate
bloody ceremonies, three going on unceremoniously at the same time,
they could perform only 36 sacrifices in an hour, or 864 in all the
twenty-four hours of the day; for 1700 births 3400 sacrifices would
be required, 1700 burnt-offerings and 1700 sin-offerings a day. And
where these 1700 spring lambs and 1700 pigeons or turtle-doves per
day, and the water to wash them, came from is also a divine mystery
-- with the children always crying and rebelling for meat to eat
and wailing for water to drink. The Israelites did not carry bird-
cages containing turtle-doves in their hasty flight from Egypt, and
no miracle of grace, blowing pigeons into camp like the quails, is
recorded in sacred Scripture. We needn't go into the details; the
poor priests must have worked so fast and furiously killing,
skinning, cleaning, cutting up, and sprinkling blood that the
motions of their hands and arms, like the spokes of a mighty fly-
wheel, could not be followed with the naked eye; only the eye of
faith can follow such a performance. They far exceeded the record
of Samantha skinning eels -- one eel in the air all the time. And
all this butcher-work must be performed "in the court of the 

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tabernacle," and "at the door of the tabernacle of the
congregation," in the very center of the great camp. The court of
the tabernacle would accommodate few scores of people, and probably
fewer lambs being led bleating to the slaughter.

     But, the divine law of compensation was strikingly exemplified
here: the laborer was indeed worthy of his hire. These three poor
over-worked bloody drudges of priests were bounteously rewarded, in
the matter of eating, if they ever really found time to eat. Out of
many bounteous provisions of Yahveh's law for his monopolist
priests, one (Num. xviii, 9-11) may be cited to show the
munificence of Yahveh to his holy servants: "This shall be thine of
the most holy things, reserved from the fire: every oblation of
theirs, every meat-offering, [etc., etc.,] which they shall render
unto me, shall be most holy for thee and for thy sons. In the most
holy place shalt thou eat it; every male shall eat it." All this
and much more "I have given [unto Aaron and his sons], by a statute
forever," Yahveh decrees. Aaron at first had four sons, but two of
them, Nadab and Abihu, were early slain by Yahveh because they put
"strange fire." into their censers (Lev. x, 1, 2); this left but
Aaron and two sons and their families to enjoy the daily offerings
of the 2,414,200. And as Yahveh had commanded, he must be obeyed:
these countless thousands of offerings daily must be eaten, by the
three and their families, and "in the most holy place of the
sanctuary."

     Moses must have suspected that they were violating this divine
edict and not eating all they ought to eat: the remains of a goat
sin-offering were missing from the sanctuary larder, with no signs
that Aaron's sons had done their duty by it. So "Moses diligently
sought the goat of the sin-offering, and, behold, it was burnt: and
he was angry with Eleazar and Ithamar, the sons of Aaron which were
left alive, saying, Wherefore have ye not eaten the sin-offering?
... ye should indeed have eaten it in the holy place, as I
commanded" (Lev. x, 16-18). And all this time, with the priests in
danger of dyspeptic over-gorging, the millions of Chosen were
rioting for "meat to eat" and sighing for the flesh pots of Egypt,
while they were being rationed for forty years on the oily manna,
"which our soul loatheth." Such is the providence of Yahveh, or the
abundant perquisites of priestcraft -- or, more likely, the
exuberance of inspiration.

                 MORE OF THE PRIESTS AND LEVITES

     A like munificence towards his holy priests is shown by the
allotment to them a little later (Josh. xxi, 19) of "thirteen
cities, with their suburbs," when there were but two sons of Aaron,
who was now himself dead, and only one of them, Phineas, had a son.
The priests were thus as bountifully supplied with residences as
with victuals.

     The Levites, too, received their full share of the bounties of
Yahveh. They were the Chosen of the Chosen, as a reward for their
holy zeal at Sinai, when Moses was angered about the golden calf:
he "stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on Yahveh's
side? Let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered
themselves together unto him"; and at his command they proceeded to

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"consecrate themselves to Yahveh" by slaying "every man his
brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbor,"
and massacring 3000 [The Vulgate says 23,000.] of Yahveh's naked
children (Ex. xxxii, 26-28). Now, if there were 8580 Levites (Num.
iv, 48), every man of them evidently did not "consecrate himself"
in murdering one of only 3000, if there were only 44, the 3000
assassinated would seem to have deserved their fate for submitting
to it. It may be noted that Aaron, who made the golden calf, was
not among the massacred, nor was he ever punished; the Levites, who
did the bloody work, were of his own family.

     For this pious service, the Levites were not numbered among
the common tribes, but separately; they were then appointed "over
the tabernacle of testimony, and over all the vessels thereof, and
over all things that belong to it: they shall bear the tabernacle,
and all the vessels thereof; and they shall minister unto it, and
the stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death" (Num. i,
47-51). At the first census, as we have seen, these Levites, "from
thirty years old and upward even unto fifty years old, every one
that came to do the service of the ministry ... in the tabernacle
of the congregation, even those that were numbered of them" were
8580 -- a whole army brigade to do the kitchen-police work and tend
the pots and kettles of this little 18-by-54,-foot tent in the
wilderness, and to lug it and its holy ark from place to place,
while only three priests were provided to do all the heavy work of
the service. And the Levites were made perpetual pensioners on the
bounty of all Israel, and were assigned forty-eight cities and
their suburbs for their residence (Num. xxxv, 7). How, scattered in
forty-eight cities, these 44 or 8580, or 22,000 "sons of Levi" in
the fourth generation could be "pitched about the tabernacle," as
they were commanded by Yahveh (Num. i, 53), so as to be handy with
their daily chores of blood-washing and kettle-scraping, we can
only wonder. We may reflect with interest on the providence of
Moses in getting Yahveh to settle these rich perquisites in
perpetuity and exclusive monopoly upon his own kith and kin: for
the priests were his sons and the Levites were his nephews. Here is
an inspired precedent for the nepotism of modern politics.

                    SOME JAHVISTIC MURDERINGS

     All the miseries, and rebellions, and abominations of the
Chosen People of Yahveh during these forty years in the wilderness,
or all the murderings inflicted upon them by their merciful Yahveh,
cannot be recounted for number and contradictoriness. Yahveh
himself denounced his Chosen as a "stiff-necked and rebellious
people"; and on the theory, perhaps, that "whom Yahveh loveth he
chasteneth," be made their lives a miserable failure; time and
again they wept and wailed and wanted to die. Yahveh liberally
answered this prayer; and several special providences to the people
of Yahveh assisted in this work of death and destruction.

     Two sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, just consecrated priests,
and possibly not yet skilled in their new functions, put the wrong
kind of fire into their sacred incense-burners, and there came
forth ire from Yahveh and devoured them. The compassionate God
commanded their bereaved father not to mourn for his murdered sons,
"lest ye die, and lest wrath come upon all the people" (Lev. x, 

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1-6). The son of a widow swore, and Yahveh ordered the congregation
to stone him to death (Lev. xxiv, 11-14); and then, wholly ex post
facto, for the first time decreed a law against the offense (xxiv,
15, 16). The people murmured, saying: "Who shall give us flesh to
eat?"; and when Yahveh heard of it, "his anger was kindled, and the
fire of Yahveh burnt among them throughout the camp" (Num. xi, 1);
and later, for a like offense, he smote his people with a very
great plague. How many were massacred by the fire and the plague
Yahveh, who committed it, only knows. A man gathered sticks on the
tabooed sabbath; Yahveh was speedily consulted as to his fate, and
he commanded all the people to stone the culprit to death.

     Again, Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, and 250 "princes of the
assembly" in this "kingdom of priests and an holy nation" wished to
act as priests against the monopoly of Aaron and Sons, saying to
Moses and Aaron: "Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the
congregation are holy." Moses retorted that Yahveh would show them
"who is holy." So the "jealous God" caused them all to stand aside
"in the door of their tents, and their wives, and their sons, and
their little children"; and at his potent word, "the earth opened
her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses [but they were
only tents], and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all
their goods. They ... went down alive into Sheol, and the earth
closed upon them; and they perished from among the congregation.
... And there came out a fire from Yahveh, and consumed the two
hundred and fifty men that offered incense" (Num. xvi, 32-35). This
is a truly signal vindication of the God of all mercy who "visiteth
the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and
the fourth generation." But our faith is somewhat affected by the
flat contradiction, a few chapters later, where the inspired
history is repeated, "notwithstanding, the children of Korah died
not" (Num. xxvi, 11). The next day, because "the people murmured"
about this massacre, saying: "'Ye have killed the people of
Yahveh," the good God said: "Consume them as in a moment," and he
sent a plague and murdered 14,700 of them (Num. xvi, 49). Because
Moses smote the rock instead of simply speaking to it, he was
prohibited from entering the promised land, despite Yahveh's oft-
repeated promises. The Chosen People tired of their steady diet of
manna, and said: "Our soul loatheth this light bread"; so "Yahveh
sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, and
much people of Israel died" (Num. xxi, 6) -- the statistics of this
massacre not being preserved.

     Just before entering the land of promise, some of the Chosen
took to loving some of the daughters of Moab, "and the anger of
Yahveh was kindled against Israel, and Yahveh said unto Moses, Take
all the heads of the people, and hang them up before Yahveh against
the sun, that the fierce anger of Yahveh may be turned away from
Israel" (Num. xxv, 4-7); and 24,000 of Yahveh's children were
murdered and their heads strung up, to appease the angry God.

                       THE RAPE OF MIDIAN

     The most revolting villainy in history, sacred or profane, if
it were not attributed to so merciful a God, and one of the biggest
fables extant, but for being related in the Holy Word of Yahveh,
which is alleged to be unexceptionably true, is recorded in Numbers

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xxxi, when Yahveh's valiant warriors warred with Midian, the land,
be it remembered, of one of Moses' wives, and of Jethro, his
father-in-law, where Moses had lived many years as a fugitive
murderer. Midian, as shown on Bible maps, was far away beyond
Sinai, in the Arabian desert; the hosts of Yahveh were at this very
time, immediately before the death of Moses (xxxi, 2), in "the camp
at the plains of Moab, which are by Jordan near Jericho" --
therefore several hundred miles from Midian, with all the great
wilderness of their forty years' misery stretching between. Of a
sudden Yahveh said to Moses: "Avenge the children of Israel of the
Midianites" (xxxi, 2), though only Yahveh knows what the Midianites
had done to Israel or to Yahveh to merit the monstrous barbarities
now inflicted upon them. Moses told off 12,000 of his warriors,
1000 for each tribe, and "sent them to the war" (xxxi, 6).

     These are the wonderful accomplishments of the 12,000, which
quite pale the exploits of the celebrated 10,000 of Xenophon. They
marched across the hundreds of miles of wilderness, "warred with
Midian," slew all the male Midianites, slew the five kings of
Midian (rather numerous royalty for a small desert tribe), and slew
poor old Balaam, him of the talking ass (though be lived hundreds
of miles away at Pethor in Mesopotamia); they took all the women of
Midian captives, with all their little ones, and took all their
cattle, and all their flocks, and all their goods; they burnt all
their cities, and all their goodly castles, with fire (it is a
question how many "cities" and how many "goodly castles" a tribe of
Bedouins living in a corner of the desert would have); and they
took all the spoil, and prey, both of men (but they had already
slain "all the males"; xxxi, 7), and of beasts; and they brought
the captives, and the cattle, and the spoils back hundreds of miles
across the wilderness into the camp near Jericho, and delivered all
to Moses. And, if anything could be more wonderful, all this was
achieved without the loss of a single warrior.

     These 12,000 wonderful soldiers of Yahveh took, according to
the inspired account, about 100,000 human captives, women and
children, over 675,000 sheep, more than 72,000 beeves, and over
61,000 asses (xxxi, 32-34), 9, total of over 808,000 head of live
animals, and brought them all across the deserts, "where there was
no water," for some three hundred miles to the sacred camp. Yet
with this addition of live-stock to their already great flocks and
herds, "until they came unto the borders of the land of Canaan"
(Ex. xvi, 35), "we have nought save this manna" (Num. xi, 6).

     When the meek and holy man of God saw the multitude of female
captives alive, "Moses was wroth with the officers of the host,"
and in his holy wrath he demanded: "Have ye saved all the women
alive?" (Num. xxxi, 14, 15). Then, in the name of his God, the
Merciful, he gave this bloody order, which if given by an Apache
war-chief crazed by Christian fire-water, would have damned him and
his tribe and the "Great Spirit" of his tribe to execration
forever: "Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and
kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the
women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep
alive for yourselves" (xxxi, 17)! So records the Holy Word of
Yahveh, writ by "holy men of old as they were moved by the Holy
Ghost." The Chosen of Yahveh, to the eternal glory of God,
straightway put into pious execution this holy command, and 

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butchered some 68,000 women and young children; then these
"peculiar treasures unto Yahveh" took the remaining 32,000 young
virgins to glut their hallowed lusts upon in God-ordained rape!
Verily, as the Psalmist sings, "the commandment of Yahveh is pure,
enlightening the eyes" (Ps. xix, 8). And Yahveh got his fair share
of the accursed booty, human and animal alike (Num. xxxi, 36-42).

                THE WONDERFUL LAST DAYS OF MOSES

     Let us pause here a moment, while we recover as best we may
from this inspiring revelation of Yahveh's Holy Word, and cast a
rapid glance at the rush of divinely appointed events to their
great consummation, the triumphal entry of Yahveh's Chosen -- this
"kingdom of priests and an holy nation" -- into the promised land.
Surely, after keeping his Chosen People for forty long years in
miserable watchful waiting, Yahveh amazingly expedited events for
the bungling finish.

     On the "first day of the fifth month of the fortieth year"
after the memorable exodus from Egypt, Aaron died in Mount Hor
(Num. xx, 28; xxxiii, 38); though Moses himself, in amazing
contradiction, elsewhere records that Brother Aaron died in Mosera,
just after leaving Sinai, thirty-nine years before (Deut. x, 6).
However this may be, Moses uttered his last harangue "in the
fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the
month" (Deut. i, 3), and died promptly thereafter, "on Nebo's
lonely mountain, this side of Jordan's wave" (Deut. xxxiv). Thus
just six months to the day elapsed between the deaths of Aaron and
Moses. Let us now see what a miracle or muddle of impossibilities
happened, in Yahveh's inspired history, in these short and eventful
six months.

                       MOURNING FOR AARON

     1. Upon the death of Aaron, "all Israel mourned for Aaron
thirty days" (Num. xx, 29). This leaves five months.

                         WAR WITH CANAAN

     2. Then, Arad, King of the Canaanites, made a foray against
Israel, and took some prisoners (Num. xxi, 1). Israel made a vow to
Yahveh that if he would deliver the Canaanites into their hand,
"then I will utterly destroy their cities" (xxi, 2); Yahveh
accepted the bloody bargain, and Israel warred against the
Canaanites, "and utterly destroyed them and their cities" (xxi, 3).
This, as we shall soon see, is not true; for all through their
sacred history we find Israel at war with the Canaanites: in Judges
iii, after the "conquest," it is expressly stated: "Now these are
the nations which Yahveh left, to prove Israel by them [although he
had repeatedly declared he would destroy them all]: ... namely, ...
all the Canaanites; ... and the children of Israel dwelt among the
Canaanites" (Judges iii, 1, 3, 5). But, for the sake of "Proving"
the rapid march of the events of our inspired history of the last
five months, we will assume the "Gospel truth" of the inspired
record. This attack by Arad and the retaliatory war of utter
extermination of the Canaanites and all their cities must have
reasonably taken a month's time, by ordinary human military 
campaign standards. This leaves us four months.

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                         TEN ENCAMPMENTS

     3. Then the children of Israel "journeyed from Mount Hor by
the way of the Red sea, to compass the land of Edom" (Num. xxi, 4).
It may be remarked that, according to Bible maps, the land of Edom
lies just east of the Canaanites, and Mount Hor is about between
the two countries; each is 150 miles or more from the Red Sea,
across the trackless deserts to the west; so that to go from the
territory of Canaan by way of the Red Sea to reach Edom, would be
much like going from New York City to Albany to get to Brooklyn. On
this journey the people "were much discouraged because of the way,"
and rioted because there was no water nor bread, and declared their
loathing of the heavenly manna. Yahveh retaliated by sending fiery
serpents, which murdered many thousands of them, until Moses made
his famous brazen serpent, which allayed the plague (xx;, 4-9).
They then set forward, and made nine encampments, including that at
the well of Beer (xxi, 16), which greatly rejoiced the thirsty
children, and which they celebrated by a rather spiritless
drinking-song. Ten encampments, allowing but three days for each
and the intervening marches, would easily occupy another month.
This leaves us three months.

                        WAR WITH AMORITES

     4. From the last encampment, at Pisgah, in the land of Moab
(Num. xxi, 20), farther north of Edom and more distant from the Red
Sea, the children sent messengers to Sihon, King of the Amorites,
to negotiate passage through his lands, which was refused. The two
peoples thereupon went to war; Israel smote the Amorites with the
sword, took all their cities, and conquered their whole country;
and "Israel dwelt in the land of the Amorites" (xxi, 21-31). One
would reasonably allow a month for these diplomatic negotiations
and the ensuing war of extermination, to allow nothing for the
"dwelling" in the land. Thus two months remain.

                         WAR WITH JAAZER

     5. Then Moses sent spies to Jaazer, fought against it, took
all its villages, and drove the inhabitants out (xxi, 32). This
conquering expedition may well have taken a couple of weeks. We
have then a month and a half remaining.

                         WAR WITH BASHAN

     6. Next the hosts of Yahveh "turned and went up by the way of
Bashan," engaged in a war with the redoubtable giant King Og,
"smote him, and all his sons, and all his people, until there was
none left him alive: and they possessed his land" (xxi, 33-35).
This episode is recorded more in detail in Deuteronomy iii, 3-6:
"We took all his cities, ... three score cities. ... All these
cities were fenced with high walls, gates, and bars; beside
unwalled towns a great many. And we utterly destroyed them, ...
utterly destroying the men, women, and children, of every city." As
Og was a great giant who had a bed 16 1/2 feet long (preserved as
proof in the Municipal Museum of Rabbath: Deut. iii, 11), we may
suppose that he and his people, a considerable nation, occupying
sixty walled cities, put up a sturdy fight; so that this war of 

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extermination may not unreasonably have cost the hosts of Yahveh
six weeks. This would complete the entire tale of six months
between the death of Aaron and the great harangue just preceding
the death of Moses; and the whole time would appear to have been
pretty well filled with these divinely chronicled historical
events, all crowded into one chapter (Num. xxi).

     But we are surprised to find several more chapters of this
History of Numbers filled with exploits recorded to have taken
place after the conquest of Bashan and before the swan-song of
Moses -- events which must have occupied many weary months or years
of any history but that of Yahveh.

                      THE EPISODE OF BALAAM

     1. In the very next chapter, Numbers xxii, the hosts "Set
forward, and pitched in the plains of Moab on this side of Jordan
by Jericho" (Num. xxii, 1). We may observe that the writer, here as
so often elsewhere, was hazy about his geography; for, according to
all the Bible maps, Moab lay along the lower half of the Dead Sea,
east of the sea, and to the south of the brook Arnon, the northern
boundary of Moab; "for Arnon is the border of Moab, between Moab
and the Amorites" (Num. xxi, 13), and thus about midway the length
of the Dead Sea. Jericho is some distance north and west of the
northern end of the Dead Sea, opposite the land of the Ammonites,
north of Arnon, and not on the border between Moab and the
Amorites, who were far to the south and west, near the wilderness
of Paran. We are told that Balak, King of Moab, being greatly
frightened at the approach of the devastating hordes of Yahveh,
bethought him of the expedient of securing the services of the
celebrated prophet of Baal, Balaam, to "come curse Israel," which,
to tell the truth, Israel seems to have richly deserved. The story
involves several tangled considerations of high improbability.

     Balaam may have been a Midianite. The Midianites, as we have
seen, inhabited the extreme southeast of the Arabian peninsula,
some three hundred miles across trackless deserts from Moab. By
some odd chance, "elders of Midian" were visiting "elders of Moab"
(possibly a pagan church conference of Baalites). King Balak sent
these two companies of elders "with the rewards of divination in
their hands" to solicit the religious services of Balaam, a prophet
of Baal, to "come, curse me this people" (Num. xxii, 6, 7). And the
elders came unto Balaam, "to Pethor, which is by the river of the
land of the children of his people" (xxii, 5); hence, one would
suppose from these texts, at his home town in Midian, though no
river is known in the deserts of Midian, for there is "the waste
howling wilderness, where no water is." But the inspired geographer
tells us, to our further surprise, in a reference to this incident,
that Balaam was "of Pethor of Mesopotamia" (Deut. xxiii, 4), some
hundreds of miles eastward, beyond the River Euphrates. In whatever
direction, Balaam's home was several hundred miles from Moab by the
Dead Sea. At the very least, it must have taken the messengers some
ten (or forty) days to make the trip, on their slow asses, across
the deserts.

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     When they arrived and delivered their message, "God [Elohim,
gods] came unto Balaam" (Num. xxii, 9), and had a dream-talk with 
him, and asked: "What men are these with thee?" -- as if an all-
knowing God ought not to know without asking; and God commanded
Balaam not to go (xxii, 12). So Balaam "rose up in the morning"
(showing it was all a dream), and refused to accompany the
ambassadors, now "princes of Balak" (xxii, 13), whereas they were
plain pagan "elders" (xxii, 7) when they set out. The embassy
returned to Moab, maybe another ten-day journey, and reported the
refusal (xxii, 14). But Balak was in sore straits, and sent another
embassy of princes, "more, and more honorable" than the first; and
they made the ten-day trip again to Balaam, and repeated the
invitation and offer of reward. But Balaam, prophet of Baal,
loyally replied: "I cannot go beyond the word of Yahveh my God"
(xxii, 18); the "Yahveh Elohim" of Balaam being none other than the
Midianitish god Baal, the rival and abomination of Yahveh, or El,
the Hebrew Deity, although the inspired historian makes no
distinction between them. Again "God [Elohim] came unto Balaam at
night," and told him in a dream: "If the men [who were spending the
night in town before returning] come to call thee, rise up, and go
with them" (xxii, 20). So Balaam, taking God at his word, "rose up
in the morning, and saddled his ass, and went with the princes of
Moab" (xxii, 21); "and Elohim's anger was kindled because he went"
(xxii, 22) -- a strange caprice for a just God "in whom there is
neither variableness nor shadow of turning." This makes the fourth
ten- (or forty-) day trip back and forth, forty days for travel
alone, at the minimum reckoning. And when Balaam arrived at last,
the long, tedious, and fruitless proceedings of blessing and
cursing -- both equally ineffective -- must have taken up several
days additional (Num. xxii-xxiv). At least a month or six weeks
must have been consumed by this Balaam episode, for which we have
no available room in the period under consideration. The whole
period of action was only five months, for the first month was
spent idly mourning for Aaron (Num. xx, 29), -- who is twice spoken
of as dying thirty-nine years before.

                       SPORTING WITH MOAB

     2. After this failure of strategy, King Balak and Balaam went
their respective ways; the hosts of Yahveh entered Moab, "and
Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom
with the daughters of Moab" (Num. xxv, 1). To "abide" in a place
would seem to indicate a considerable permanence of residence. This
indication is strengthened by the fact recorded of the amatory
relations of the Chosen with the "daughters of Moab," as it must
have taken some time for these strangers to become acquainted and
to get into the good graces of the fair daughters of the land, as
well as to adopt the worship of the land and become "joined to
Baal-peor," so as to "kindle the wrath of Yahveh" (xxv, 3), who was
notoriously "slow to anger." Yahveh ordered a great massacre of his
children, saying to Moses: "Slay ye every one his men that were
joined unto Baal-peor" (xxv, 5), and "Take all the heads of the
people, and hang them up before Yahveh against the sun"; and 24,000
of the Chosen were massacred, not, it seems, by cutting off their
heads, but by a plague which Yahveh sent (xxv, 9). Here we have an
indefinitely long time saddled upon the already overcrowded six
months between the deaths of Aaron and Moses.

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                          CENSUS TAKING

     3. Then "it came to pass after the plague" -- how long after
is not revealed -- that Yahveh commanded Moses (Num. xxvi, 2) to
take a second census of the hosts of Yahveh, "all that are able to
go to war in Israel, from twenty years old and upward." As the time
required to take the census of 601,730 soldiers is not stated, we
will not count it in this score.

                      EXPEDITION TO MIDIAN

     4. After several chapters of new laws said to have been handed
down by Yahveh through Moses, we have the inspired history (Num.
xxxi) of the fearful expedition, already described, of the twelve
thousand against Midian, three hundred miles away across the
wilderness, and the utter destruction of the Midianites, including
the luckless Balaam, who was now evidently in Midian instead of at
Pethor of Mesopotamia. Surely such a great military achievement as
this, including a march of six hundred miles through scorching
deserts, a return trip with thousands of women and children and
nearly a million cattle, and the destruction of a whole nation,
must have taken a month or six weeks at a minimum allowance,

                          "MOPPING UP"

     5. After all this, time was found for the very elaborate
parcelling out and settling of the whole East Palestine country --
"the kingdom of Sihon king of the Amorites, and the kingdom of Og
king of Bashan, the land, with the cities thereof in the coasts,
even the cities of the country roundabout," all to the east of the
river Jordan -- upon the tribes of Reuben and of Gad, and the half-
tribe of Manasseh, who did not want to go west over the river (Num.
xxxii, 16-42). Moses stipulated with them for their military aid in
the further conquest, and gave them the land; and they "built"
(probably rebuilt, as all the cities of these two kingdoms are said
to have been "utterly destroyed") fifteen "fenced cities," named in
the text (xxxii, 34-38), and a number of "sheep-folds" for their
"very great multitude of cattle." Moreover, what is more remarkable
(for every city had been utterly destroyed when they captured the
kingdoms), they made military campaigns against Gilead, "and took
it, and dispossessed the Amorite which was in it" (xxxii, 39) --
though every inhabitant had already been massacred; and they
captured a number of villages and small towns, and settled their
families in all these places throughout the eastern borders of the
Jordan before making ready, as they had agreed with Moses, to "go
armed before the children of Israel" to help conquer the promised
land west of Jordan (xxxii, 32). Such operations of allotment,
city-building, family-settling, and further conquest must have
consumed considerable time, a month, six months, a year -- how can
one tell, when "the ways of Yahveh are past finding out?" and we
have no revelation on the point, except that it was all within the
six months already replete with notable events. There was a long
delay in order to "build cities," and not only cities, but walled,
armed cities, although sixty of them had just been captured (Deut.
iii, 3-5); and such defended cities were necessary for defense
against the inhabitants of the land of Og, King of Baslian -- of
whom "none was left him alive" (Num. xxi, 35); for the warriors of 

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                        IS IT GOD'S WORD?

the tribes who were going to settle in these eastern districts
asked time, before crossing Jordan to the conquest, to build walled
cities to leave their families in, so that "our little ones shall
dwell in the fenced cities because of the inhabitants of the land"
(Num. xxxii, 17).

     The closing cantos of Numbers are largely devoted to detailed
plans for the allotment and settlement of the territories east of
Jordan, among the remaining warrior tribes and the kitchen-police
Levites -- when the hosts of Yahveh, captained by Joshua and,
convoyed by an angel and the hornets, should have triumphantly
possessed the land which Yahveh had so often promised to go before
and prepare for them. Just how all these divine promises and
covenants were performed. we shall soon see. First we pause to
consider briefly but wonderingly the Puzzling problem of the giving
of the law at Sinai, in the first year of the exodus.

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                        IS IT GOD'S WORD?
                               by
                         Joseph Wheless

                              1926

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