After the emissaries return from their inspection of the promised land the message is mixed. The first message is that the people who live there (Nephilim, Anakites) are too strong to enable the Israelites to settle there without being defeated (“we look like grasshoppers to ourselves”).
As a result of this message there is a night of moaning and crying amongst the entire people:
“if only we would have died in Egypt or in the wilderness. Why is the Eternal one taking us to a land where we will die by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken off! It would be better if we go back to Egypt! And they said to another, let’s go back to Egypt! And Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembled Israelites” (14.1-15.1)
When other emissaries Nun and Caleb state that the land is good, one of milk and honey (indicating good pasture and agriculture riches) the anger of the Israelites remains standing, and they threaten to stone the two men.
Moses pleads with God whose patient has run out. God wants to leave the people, but Moses says of you do that then all will say there is no God behind their names, or not a strong one. God, slow to anger, it says here, pardons the people, but punishes them with the penalty of that nobody of the entire generation is to see the promised land except Caleb and Nun.
But when Moses announces this to the Israelites it sounds like his speech rather than Gods (it was presumably all along, with God being the metaphysical metaphor or authority). He says that God says: None of you shall enter the land in which I swore to settle you, but your carcasses shall drop in the wilderness, and your children wonder for 40 years because of your inequities, a year for each day that you scouted the land.
The emissaries who reported about the land as being difficult to take then die of the plague, whilst the others survived. Punishments by God. But more probably they were poisoned to deal with voices that fall out of line. Nun and Caleb are the only who are left. Supposedly the picture was one of people that were settled in the ancient land and it was much more forest about than the current contemporary landscape that was to become biblical Israel, and other parts were desert.
Moses using fear rather than persuasion through logic and information.
Somehow the speech and poisoning seem to have worked. Now a group of Israelites want to go right now to take the land.
Moses warns them. This he calls a transgression of the Lords words just uttered, and he warns them you will die at swords of the Amalkites and Caanites. And this is what happened.
Presumably putting things together Moses did think moving into the land was too early. Presumably the perished emissaries were correct and what we see here is
1.) An attempt to buy more time in order to prepare for the taking of the land and 2.) an attempt to restore authority and control. If this is true, Moses is not an honest leader but relies on leading by decree and fear rather than by informed and wise consent, like saying: “OK the land is good but the people are strong, lets prepare!”
Presumably Moses does not know exactly what lies ahead. His reliance on fear is perhaps an expression of his own insecurity. As long as people fear me as the prophet of God they will do as I say, because perhaps the most logical and certainly most popular demand here is to go back to Egypt.
Yes its a Jewish story from the Tanah: Another Stoning!
The reading ends with an episode no better than what was said of the fundamental ways of the Taliban not so long ago. A man is found collecting wood on Shabbat:
15.35 – 36: “Then the Eternal said to Moses: “This fellow shall be put to death: the community leadership shall pelt him with stones outside the camp! So the community leadership took him outside the camp and stoned him to death – “as the Eternal had commanded Moses.”
The Eternal One is so powerful he needs man to punish another man? Surely this is a human killing another human on his own behalf, washing his conscience clear by claiming it was God’s will.” If God is all powerful surely he would not need a human to do the job of killing on his behalf?
At th every end comes the instruction for tzizit, fringes at the need of the garment, throughout the ages. This simple custom of dress code, important in days of cultural distinction in the Middle East (there are other examples of tassels worn by people there) is taken as as divine decree by religious Jewish people until today.
Haftarah: Joshua 2:1
Joshua son of Nun (see earlier) sends two spies to explore Jericho. The kind of Jericho somehow hears about this and looks for the men. These seek refuge with Rahab, a prostitute, who hides them, and lies to the kings troops. The story here seems to be that a prostitute, even though biblically illicit, can still be worthy of noble acts. It is a contradiction with regard to the laws of the Israelites, but because Rahab is not an Israelite but a stranger. She is heard saying that we have heard that this land is promised to you by your God and how the eternal one dried up the Sea of Reeds when you were leaving Egypt. She bargains, that when the Israelites take over Jericho, her family be spared in return of her hiding the men.