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2013-11-15

Numbers 9:6-14 explains what a man is to do if he is unclean due to having touched a corpse, and is therefore unable to celebrate Passover. What I find interesting is, though the restrictions of Passover are numerous and have been repeated more than once, they have never included a restriction on being unclean. This makes sense because most of the Passover rules are written in Exodus, but it isnít until Leviticus that we learn about Godís crazy pseudo-cleanliness laws.

So, even though God never told anyone that unclean people canít celebrate Passover, several unclean people are quite sure that they canít celebrate Passover, so they ask Moses what to do. Moses seems to agree with them and asks God what must be done about them. God tells Moses that men who are either unclean from touching a dead body or away on a journey do not have to celebrate Passover on the normal date, but may instead wait to celebrate it on the same day in the next month. God then repeats how to celebrate Passover, what to eat, and how even strangers are expected to participate in a ritual that in no way applies to them. Finally, God reminds Moses that any man who is able to celebrate Passover, but doesnít, is to be banished.

Okay, some quick points. One, why is it that they only speak of touching a corpse as a manner of being unclean? Back in Leviticus there were like 100 different ways to be made unclean, but only corpse-touching is mentioned here. God doesnít even say, ďanyone who is unclean may not keep Passover,Ē he only ever says, those who are unclean from touching a corpse. Are all the other unclean people safe to keep Passover? Two, what happens if the person is unclean again for the next month? What about people who are away on a journey for two months? Are they banished on the spot for not keeping Passover a month later? Do they push Passover out a third month? And if they do, what happens if youíre away for over a year? Do you have to celebrate two Passovers at once? A Super Passover?

 

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Maju writes:

 

The most interesting bit for me is that you mention that there are no "cleanness" rules until Leviticus (we are in Leviticus, right?) Assuming that there is some chronological consistency in the order of the books, does that mean that the cult felt threatened at that time by strangers and people who did not always respect their ridiculous and manifold restrictions? Does that mean that they felt "cleaner" among Egyptians (who were kinda "cleanness" crazy too, at least the priests) than among other Semites? It might be.


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Oh the irony!