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Like the majority of the Torah, everything here exists in pairs with minor variations. We just heard God telling Moses that none of these grumbling Israelites will enter the Promised Land except for Caleb the Loyal. But now, in Numbers 14:26-32, God changes things up. We find that anyone who is under the age of 20 is automatically exempt from this overblown punishment. And instead of just mentioning Caleb, this time God says Caleb and Joshua. I hope this is an artifact of the Yahwist and Elohist sources being combined, otherwise weíll have to question the sanity of the authors.

And this punishment is pretty brutal. Since the Israelites werenít willing to blindly gamble their lives on Godís whimsy, and since they refused to enjoy the starvation that he put them through, God will never let them see the Promised Land. They are hereby cursed to wander the desert in the Sinai Peninsula until they are nothing more than corpses in the sand. Only those who are young now will ever make it there alive.

Iím a bit surprised by Godís sliver of mercy, not only because he gives it, but also because it seems a bit up there in age. Most cultures that have a coming of age ceremony do so long before the age of 19. Jews perform the Bar Mitzvah at age 13, and theologians of most religions claim that a person of 19 years is well into the age of reason. In this culture especially, a 19-year-old man would most likely already be married with children and be treated as a responsible adult of the community. So why is it God gives them a free pass?



Baughbe writes:


19 huh... Maybe God, be omniscient and all, is just a huge fan of Logan's Run and like so many things this carefully considerate being does, randomly selected the age of 19 as most fitting for the ideal youth culture.


Oh the irony!