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Updated every weekday.         Please vote!    

 

2014-03-03

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?

 

Comments

Ladyofthemasque writes:

 

It can be argued for the opened containers that, if they're talking food containers, and being near a dead body, this means the food has been contaminated by the microorganisms that waft about causing decay, rot, and serious health issues. They're living in tents in a desert which IS windy (I've been over half of Israel; trust me, it's windy at times). So this may have actually been one of those "a broken (analog) clock is right twice a day" moments where they observed eating food that's been in the same tent as a dead and rotting body leads to stomach cramps, diarrhea, et cetera. Because as Louis Pasteur observed, if there is no air movement, no way for dust (and thus microbes) to settle upon the surface of some food*, that food will not become contaminated and will not rot.

*IIRC, said food in question was chicken soup which he boiled in a beaker with a gooseneck opening; by boiling it, he killed all the organisms that were potentially in the soup/beaker to begin with. He then left the gooseneck beaker (S-curved neck where it swooped down, then up) unplugged and undisturbed, and when he checked it later the soup was still perfectly fine, no rot.

...But again broken-clock syndrome, probably.

Maju writes:

 

guess that if it's a dead woman or child, then it's ok, right?

Baughbe writes:

 

This is the Bible remember, Women and children have no value to God. Therefore it does not matter about them. Stupid religion

 

Oh the irony!