Bible Reading Blog — February 8, 2016

8 Feb

Today’s Readings — Numbers 25-27 and Mark 8:14-21

In today’s reading from Numbers we find an Israelite man and a Midianite woman “weeping” at the entrance of the tent of meeting. The place of worship of the Israelites was somehow dishonored by these two, as evidenced by the fact that when Phinehas son of Eleazar ran them through with a spear, he was commended for defending the honor of God.

So what exactly was going on here? Most scholars believe that the word “weeping” (or in some translations “laughing”) is a euphemism for sexual intercourse. There are several reasons to believe that is the case here. First, chapter 25 begins with¬†recounting the sexual immorality of Israel with those people’s who were around them. Second, when Phinehas puts the couple to death, we find that the spear pierces both of them at the same time, going through his back and through her belly. It becomes very clear that they were at the least embracing and probably much more. Finally, many cultures that surrounded Israel in that day mixed sexual activity with their worship of “gods.” Because sexual activity was such a strong factor in fertility and thus the growth of nations, it was often joined with worship in ancient cultures.

Why the euphemism then? Probably simply for the sake of discretion. The Scriptures were to be shared with the whole family. Therefore, it makes sense for there to be a certain covering of the details. There is a sense in which a more explicit description may also have tempted those who read the account to think about or engage in the same activity.

 

 

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