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2013-10-17

Numbers 4:21-28 has God detailing the Gershonite’s labors. They must care for and transport all the sheets, hides, and ropes used by the tabernacle tent and its fence. Sounds like a difficult task, no? No is right. As we’ll learn in Numbers 4:40, there are 2,650 Gershonites between the ages of 30 and 50. And from the blurry box on the right, you can see them all! They’re able and willing to setup and tear down the tent, but how much work would they have to do?

Well, let’s consider how much material they’d be working with. The perimeter fence consists of about 400×5 feet of linen, the main tent’s walls is another 120 feet. Then, there’s the roof of the tent, a couple 15 foot curtains for doors, several animal skins, and all the rope to tie everything down. That is everything! This means that the entirety of the tabernacle’s cloth and fasteners could fit into a single cart and be drawn by a single ox.

This means there are about 2,630 Gershonites too many. It’s just not possible each of them to help. Even if each man only had to care for a single rope or bit of cloth, most of them would just be lazing around or getting in the way. I guess, at least according to the bible, this is the definition of “hard work.”

 

Comments

TheAlmightyGuru writes:

 

Is anyone going to count those guys to see if I made a mistake! ;-)

Ladyofthemasque writes:

 

Having packed up any number of canvas pavilions in the SCA (medieval society), I'm gonna hafta disagree on the "single cart" and "single ox" thing. I don't think it'd take all that many carts, no more than a handful at most, but definitely more than one.

First off, carts back then...sucked. I got to see ancient Egyptian chariots, which aren't much different in construction from carts way back then, and they're small, a bit rickety, not well-sprung, the axles aren't the best in the world, and they're made of wood anyway, not metal, so the wooden axels wouldn't take on a lot of weight before risking a crack and a break. Of course, this makes it easier for a single ox to pull, but the terrain will also be against them, no real roads, lousy wheels; they won't want to pack heavy for those reasons, either.

Typical medieval pavilions range in size, but they're usually made from cotton canvas. Ancient days, the Israelites would've probably used a wool-based cloth, sturdy and thick enough to withstand the desert winds, rains (yes, it does rain in the desert out there, not often, but it can rain and gust winds pretty hard when it does), and so forth. It might actually be comparable in weight to canvas, and in sturdiness, but it'll have more bulk.

The pavilion for the Kingdom of An Tir, just the walls and roof alone, cotton canvas not including poles, stakes, or ropes, weighs well over a hundred pounds, and that's for a pavilion 40' x 20'...but that's only 120' of wall and the roof. Add on the extra 400' of walls, and it's going to weigh several hundred pounds. That's just the fabric, and it'll take a 2-oxen team and and a largish cart.

Whether it's a cotton canvas, linen, or wool (and wool is the most likely, which means it's even thicker and heavier and bulkier), 400 feet long is a LOT of bulk to roll up. Same with 120 feet of tent wall, plus the roof needed to cover it, to make it, y'know, a tent, and not a second wall.

Rope is "lightweight" but very bulky, and when you have enough to play guy-ropes for 520' of canvas wall that has to stay upright in desert winds, that's a cart's worth on its own, even if it's just 1 ox.

The poles for that long of an enclosure are going to take up a cart of their own, too. The posts for the peak of the inner tent will have to have special handling (since I doubt they used brace-jointed poles that come apart into manageable lengths, but hey, they got easily 2,000 men to spare, right?), but the rest can be stacked onto a single cart...might take 2 beasts to pull it might need only 1, depends on the density of the wood.

Oh, and stakes for all those ropes. Oy. Um...hmm...can't really make a lot of wooden stakes on site in a desert environment, though one could try, and try to pry them up and keep them. Or they could be metal stakes (copper & bronze? maaaaybe iron?)...or they could be, y'know, stone anchors. either find or haul around a bunch of large stones. Depending on where you are in Israel, this might not be difficult...but since they're in the Sinai Peninsula at this point...not familiar with the terrain, so there could be enough wood for stakes, or enough suitably sized rocks for anchoring stones...

If they have to haul around the stakes, they'll end up taking up half a cart for metal (toss them in with the ropes, maybe?) to a cart for wood, or more for stones they haul around with them. (Don't laugh; the Mongols do so; they tie their gers (yurts) to a large stone they haul with them whenever they move.)

So it'll be a handful of carts and oxen.

...Can you tell how often I've helped set up and pack up the royal pavilion?...

Oh, but that 2,000+? I know why they need so many. *nodnod* Everyone VANISHES when the call goes out to "help set up the royal pavilion!" so yeah, they're gonna need as many bodies as possible in the overall count, in the hopes that at least 10-15 volunteers can be found.

XD ...Yeah, I've set up the royal pavilion (and others, some the same size, some smaller) a few too many times...

Ladyofthemasque writes:

 

...And, I should add, that's with a benevolent King & Queen who have to obey those pesky real-world laws against, y'know, slaying anyone who touches the wrong things. I can totally imagine the Israelites hiding in earnest when the call goes out to move the Tabernacle, etc. Just In Case.

Maju writes:

 

That was brilliant, Lady! Seen like that it makes total sense. XD

Guru: it does not read "all those Gershonites", just "those Gershonites". That means "whatever those Gershonites aged ... that the foreman manages to make work". Maybe he pays them or makes raids in their camps for the first meaty dozen they can grab or maybe they consider a honor and decide that among themselves. That's not Yaveh's problem, Yaveh's problem is that they are of that clan or caste and aged whatever it was.

That's the kind of rules that describe the social order "as it must be". Probably the Ghershonites were proud and competed among them somehow for performing such honor.

Yaveh sorts the social order that way: a caste system of sorts. So what: that's what the Bible says: be a slave of this crazy social order, become a madman in exchange of a community of sorts. You may enslave another person with raw violence, but you can enslave hundreds, thousands and millions with these brainwashing methods.

(The priests, rabbis, imams, etc. know that very well. How can't they? Some justify themselves with philosophies, others just want power and all its privileges: the immunity of being "holy" and the perverse joy of manipulating the masses into whatever).

 

Oh the irony!