We just learned that anyone who touches a corpse is unclean for a week, but in Numbers 19:14-16, we’re going to learn for how long a person is unclean when they touch a corpse. The answer: a week. But it gets even more peculiar than just repeating the previous verses.
God explains that just being in a tent with someone who dies makes you unclean for a week, but also, if you enter a tent with a dead body, you’re unclean for a week. This is sloppy wording; why make a distinction if the outcome is the same in either case. And why does it have to be a tent? What if you’re in a house? Why not just say, “If you’re ever in an enclosed area with a dead body, you’re unclean for a week,” which covers all possible scenarios?
But it doesn’t end there. God also explains that if you touch a man that has been slain with a sword, you’re unclean. You’re also unclean if you touch someone who is dead (redundant), or if you touch a person’s skeleton (doubly redundant). Now, I get the message they were trying to convey, they wanted to impress upon the readers that anyone who has just died, has been dead for a short while, or is long since dead, is still included in the category of unclean-for-a-week, but why not simply say, “if you touch a dead body at any level of decay, you’re unclean for a week,” which is just as comprehensive and doesn’t introduce the problem for biblical literalists, “why is it that you become unclean from touching people who died from sword-related deaths only?”
You can call me pedantic, but have you ever listened to an apologist argue in favor of these oddly worded biblical passages? Now that is pedantry!
Finally, open containers in a tent with a dead body are magically made unclean, and somehow touching a person’s grave also makes you unclean. They’re just adding another superstitious log on the fire.
By the way, according to the Young-Earth Creationist time line, around 2,500 years have pass since the creation of the universe, which means millions of people have died and been buried. Which means that pretty much every Israelite has either touched or been near a corpse at some point in their lives. However, since it was only just now that God told them not to be in a room with a corpse, and that only those people purified with magic water on specific days can be made unclean, doesn’t that mean that every Israelite is now permanently unclean? Or is biblical uncleanliness, like biblical morality—that is, not retroactively applied?