8/31 Reading (Numbers 30-32; Acts 20)

Numbers 30: Now we get into the importance of making vows and what that means. A fitting read considering how much all of us make and eventually break some of our vows/promises. I do think it’s interesting that it takes just one verse to address men’s vows, but 13 verses to address women’s vows.

Here’s what’s said about men: “When a man makes a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by a pledge, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth” (Num. 30.2). Pretty simple and straightforward. Don’t break your word. I actually just watched the last episode of season 7 of Game of Thrones last night and this reminds me of the vow that Jon Snow made and how too many people break their vows. Amen to that brother!!!

And now here’s the rules for women. First, while still living in her father’s house, if she makes a vow and her father says nothing, then she has to keep it. But, if he doesn’t approve, then the vow doesn’t stand and she’s forgiven. So pretty much the father is in charge. Second, if she’s married, pretty much the same thing happens. If the husband approves, then she has to keep the vow. If he doesn’t approve, then she doesn’t keep it and is forgiven. The difference here is if the husband initially approves and then doesn’t approve at a later date, he assumes her guilt. Fitting considering that she is considered his property at this time in history. Finally, any vow made by a widow or divorcee is upheld, period!!

Again, more strict rules for women than for men. A common theme in the Bible.

Numbers 31: War with the Midianites. The Israelites kill every male there. They even kill Balaam, who did God’s bidding in chapters 22-24 (verse 8). Wait, what? Alas, this is explained in verse 16: “These women here, on Balaam’s advice, made the Israelites act treacherously against the Lord in the affair of Peor, so that the plague came among the congregation of the Lord.” This could’ve been explained just a little bit earlier.

The rest of this chapter discusses the division of the spoils of war, but one part really bothered me: the treatment of the women. Initially, they are left alive. Moses gets mad because the women who were not virgins were the ones who seduced the Israelites (apparently Balaam suggested this). Therefore, Moses wants all of them dead. Same with their male offspring. However, this part gets me: “But all the young girls who have not known a man by sleeping with him, keep alive for yourselves” (Num. 31-18). REALLY? That’s just wrong!

Numbers 32: Chapter is all about the Reubenites and the Gadites, who were cattle owners. People still go to Moses for things, not Joshua. I do wonder when Joshua will enter the picture and make decisions. These two tribes want to stay where they are because the land is good for cattle. Moses challenges them because he thinks they may be trying to get out of fighting with the other Israelites when they get to Canaan. They promise to send fighters and leave their families there in newly constructed towns with big walls. Moses agrees.

Acts 20: Paul heads back to Macedonia, then Greece, and Macedonia again. See the “we” passages again (see 16.10n.). According to the notes, they “resume here at Philippi, the city where the previous passage ended (16.17)” (p. 1958). Paul then explains to some of the elders that he is heading back to Jerusalem. He tells that that during his time away Jesus has told him many times that he would face imprisonment and persecution if he went back to Jerusalem. So he is telling them goodbye, but not to be afraid.

I find it fascinating that Paul was prepared to die for his beliefs. He was prepared to die in order to spread the word of Jesus to as many people as possible. Now that is impressive! That is faith!

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