Friday, July 30, 2010

God Rewards Extremists

After slaying all of the Amorite men, women, and children in multiple cities with God's help, the Israelites settle down on the edge of Moab for a time. Balak, king of the Moabites, was scared by the Israelites' presence and reputation, so he sought out Balaam to curse the Israelites in order to help drive them away. After God almost killed Balaam for doing what God had told him to do, Balaam finally meets with Balak.

In a drawn out affair involving multiple prophesies and animal sacrifices with Balak and Balaam, God finally reveals, not only will God bless the Israelites instead of cursing them, but also that the Israelites will conquer Moab, Amalek will be destroyed, the Asshur will conquer the Kenites and then will be conquered themselves, along with Eber.

God Rewards Extremists
Christian terrorism. Mainstream Christianity compartmentalizes it as being caused by overzealous nuts who ignore the teachings of Jesus, such as not to judge others (Matthew 7:1, Luke 6:37). After all, it is not like God would reward such an act, such as Islam has the 72 virgins for martyrs. Nope, no virgins, but do not be fooled. The God of the Bible does indeed reward overzealous extremists.

Note that this study is explicit, but 100% Biblical. Judge for yourself if you should continue reading.

Numbers 25:1-3 tells us that while the Israelites were camped in Moab, Moabite women enticed some Israelite men into having sex with them and worshiping their god, Baal. This made God angry, and you would not like God when He is angry. Numbers 25:4 states:
The LORD said to Moses, "Take all the leaders of these people, kill them and expose them in broad daylight before the LORD, so that the LORD's fierce anger may turn away from Israel." NIV
So God wanted all the leaders killed and stripped naked on display to make God forgive their sins. The phrase “these people” is ambiguous, and could mean just those who had sinned or all of the Israelites. Oh, and God's fierce anger (as we will later discover) is made manifest in the form of a deadly plague. God is so full of love and mercy.

Moses, seemingly oblivious to God's command but not to His anger, instead gathers the leaders (judges) and tells them to kill all of the men who have worshiped Baal (Numbers 25:5).

At that moment, Zimri, an Israelite man, walked by the assembly of the leaders with Cozbi, a Midianite woman, taking her back to his tent. Eleazar's son Phinehas springs into action. Phinehas stalks Zimri and Cozbi back to Zimri's tent. There, Phinehas skewers both of them together, sending his spear through Zimri and into Cozbi. At that moment, God stopped the plague, after it had already killed 24000 Israelites (Numbers 25:6-9).

It should be noted that the 24000 Israelites that God killed with the plague quite possibly died indiscriminately to their guilt. Remember that this scene happened while Moses was having a meeting to direct the killing of such guilty men. So it is likely that the sin of at least some of the 24000 was just letting their fellow Israelites sin, if they had known about it at all, which is questionable in such a large population (Numbers 1:46).

In Numbers 25:10-13, God rewards Phinehas:
The LORD said to Moses, "Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, has turned My anger away from the Israelites; for he was as zealous as I am for My honor among them, so that in My zeal I did not put an end to them. Therefore tell him I am making My covenant of peace with him. He and his descendants will have a covenant of a lasting priesthood, because he was zealous for the honor of his God and made atonement for the Israelites." NIV
God loved the vigilante style and zeal of Phinehas. God was ready to kill all of the Israelites, but He was so impressed by Phinehas that He stopped the deadly plague. So Phinehas saved an entire nation by his actions, making atonement for them, and God bestows Phinehas the great honor of having a lasting priesthood in his lineage.

This is exactly the kind of fodder which feeds the animalistic urges of extremists, helping them cross the bridge from merely being pious to becoming a religious terrorist. It answers the desperate questions: What can I do to win God's favor? What can I do to ensure the blessings of God for myself and my family for generations to come? What can I do to save my nation, my country, or my people?

This is dangerous, as history has proven time and time again, such as with the KKK, anti-abortion violence, and the Hutaree. This is one of the primary reasons I continue with the work I am doing here.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Dance with God

In our previous study, we saw how a talking donkey helped Balaam escape the wrath of God. This study picks up right were that one left off.

Quickly, let us recap. Balak, king of Moab, is worried by the approaching Israelites. So Balak summons Balaam, a non-Israelite who talks directly to God, to come and curse the Israelites. God eventually tells Balaam to go to Balak, but nearly kills him on the way there for no apparent reason. God and Balaam make an agreement, so when Balaam makes it to Balak, he tells Balak that he will only speak what God tells him to speak.

Dance with God
One sign of the integrity of a man is how straightforward he is in his interactions with others. A man of integrity will not give you the run around, but will rather be direct about his intents, purposes, and restrictions from the beginning. One should hope that God is that honest and straightforward in His dealings with His creations. After all, God is supposed to exhibit the highest morality, and so we should be able to learn by His example.

In this study we continue on in a story from Numbers 22 where Balaam, a non-Israelite prophet of God, was headed to Balak, the king of Moab. Near the conclusion of that chapter, Balaam states that he will only speak what God tells him to speak (Numbers 22:38). Keep that in mind as we read more.

Numbers 23:1-12 has Balaam instruct Balak to make 7 altars, and then sacrificed a ram and a bull on each altar. Balaam then goes off to talk to God. It appears that Balaam met with God face-to-face on a barren hill (Numbers 23:3-4). This seems to contradict Exodus 33:20 and Numbers 12:6-8.

God tells Balaam to tell Balak that Balaam cannot curse what God has not cursed, that the Israelites live apart from other nations, and that they have a huge population. Balaam closes out in Numbers 23:10 with an interesting statement:
“... Let me die the death of the righteous, and may my end be like theirs!” NIV
This could be taken a number of different ways; from confirming that death is final to implying that those who follow God will meet with a desirable “end” of life, which could be eternal.

Moving on. Balak is disappointed in Balaam's message, but Balaam reminds him that he must speak what God tells him to speak (Numbers 23:11-12).

If at first you do not succeed, try, try again. This seems to be Balak's motto, as he takes Balaam to another location, builds another 7 altars, and sacrifices another 7 rams and bulls (Numbers 23:13-14).

Balaam then goes “over there” to meet with God. God tells him to tell Balak that God is not like a man, that he would lie, or change his mind, or promise something and not fulfill it. (Of course, that contradicts passages such as Numbers 22:13 and Numbers 22:20 where God did change His mind and all three times God repented.) God goes on to say that no misfortune or misery is seen in the Israelites because God is with them. (And this contradicts other passages as well, such as when God killed some Israelites for wanting variety in their diets.) Furthermore, God says the Israelites like a lion which will not rest until it drinks the blood of its victims (Numbers 23:15-24).

As you may imagine, Balak is again not happy, but he is still persistent. The chapter closes out with another 7 altars built and another 14 sacrifices made (Numbers 23:25-30), but the story continues in Numbers 24.

Numbers 24:1 states that Balaam did not resort to sorcery this time, and then Numbers 24:2 says that the Spirit of God came to him. This gives you the impression that Balaam had used some sorcery to talk to God the previous two times.

(You may recall that in a previous study we discussed Exodus 22:18, which calls for the death of sorceresses, female practitioners of sorcery, and noted that the death sentence did not extend to men. Balaam would seem to be a confirmation of that sexist policy as opposed to showing how God was against any sorcery in general.)

With the Spirit, Balaam rattles off whole chapter's worth of prophesy in Numbers 24:3-25. He blesses the Israelites, speaking of how powerful and mighty they are, how they will have a king who is greater than Agag of the Amalekites, and have an exalted kingdom (Numbers 24:3-8). Then Balaam goes on to say that whoever blesses them will be blessed, and whoever curses them will be cursed (Numbers 24:9).

Balak is angry, and tells Balaam to go home without being payed (Numbers 24:10-11).

That does not stop the prophesy. In Numbers 24:12-25, Balaam states that the king of Israel will conquer Moab, the sons of Sheth, Edom, and Seir, that Amalek will be destroyed, that the Kenites will be captured by Asshur, and that Asshur too will be conquered.

Overall, there is nothing too outrageous in this story, but perhaps what stands out the most is that Balak and Balaam had to go through this dance with God. Instead of God just being honest and complete with Balak through Balaam on the first prophesy, God unnecessarily stretched out this correspondence as if it was done for His own amusement and to embarrass Balak as much as possible. What a great example for all of us to follow.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Jesus Says Obey the Law!

We are working our way through the Sermon on the Mount; an uncharacteristically lengthy sermon recorded in the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus reportedly gave this sermon early in His evangelistic mission, after performing several miracle healings and exorcisms, and after large crowds had started following Him around.

The sermon began with the Beatitudes, which (contrary to the popular notion) was to His disciples, not to the general public, and seemed to be, at the very least, altered from the original source in the process of creating the Gospel of Matthew. Next, Jesus calls His disciples the light of the world, stating that nobody hides a light, despite Jesus trying to hide His own light in the process of exorcisms. Then, Jesus moves on to the Law, the subject of this study.

The Law is a synonym for the Torah, or Pentateuch; the first five books of the Bible. Within the Torah, God delivers 613 commandments; various rules, regulations, and decrees, also known as laws, and thus the source of the synonym.

Jesus Says Obey the Law!
You may expect things to be fairly black and white with God. It either is or is not. It is either good or bad. It is either meant to be done or meant not to do. Unambiguously, you may expect to know what God's position is on an issue, but few things could be farther from the truth.

There is actually a universe of gray in Christian theology. Few gray issues, if any, are larger than the Law, and whether or not it should be followed (excuse the pun) religiously.

This debate is not often presented to the masses. Instead, Peter's vision (Acts 10:9-16) is used to explain why it is OK to eat pork and other unclean animals, and Paul's words in Romans 3:19-27, 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, Galatians 2:15-16, and Galatians 4:21-31 are used to explain why the Law is no longer necessary to follow, but instead exists to make us conscious of sin. The message is that Christians are under grace, not under the Law. It is too bad for them that Jesus Christ was of a different persuasion.

We find Jesus' position in Matthew 5:17-20.

Proponents of the no-longer-necessary-to-follow-the-Law crowd focus in on select parts of the first two verses. Matthew 5:17-18:
"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until Heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished." NIV
These proponents try to make the case that Jesus has fulfilled the Law and accomplished everything (John 19:30). They stake the claim that fulfilling the Law means bringing into fruition what it had foreshadowed, as well as to fulfill what was specifically prophesied, such as the Prophet in Deuteronomy 18:14-22.

There are big problems with this perspective. For starters, as we have seen previous studies, on such topics as monetary redemption and the scapegoat on the Day of Atonement, the Law does a horrible job foreshadowing Christianity. It also ignores the inherent contradiction of that view. The verses themselves claim that if everything is accomplished to make the Law unnecessary, then Heaven and earth will have disappeared. Last I checked, they were still here. Well, at least earth was anyway.

Perhaps a more condemning judgement of that philosophy comes from Jesus' own words. In the next verse we find in Matthew 5:19:
"Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven." NIV
The phrase “these commandments” refers to those contained within the Law, as can be seen by the preceding verses. So Jesus clearly desires for everyone to follow every single one of the 613 commandments in the Law, and to teach others to do the same!

The phrase “called least in the Kingdom of Heaven” is a bit ambiguous. You could take this to mean that a doctrine of grace is in effect. For example, even though Peter taught that it was OK to eat pork, he will still get into the Kingdom of Heaven because of his faith, but will be considered one of the lowest people in Heaven. On the other hand, another interpretation is that “called least” may be the equivalent of saying that such a person would be considered even lower than Satan. The latter interpretation holds some clout as we consider the next verse, Matthew 5:20:
"For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, you will certainly not enter the Kingdom of Heaven." NIV
Here is where many believing scholars go off the deep end. They claim that this means that the Pharisees and teachers of the Law were excessively legalistic, and that this could not make them righteous, and go on to say that it is through Jesus' blood that we are washed clean into a righteousness which surpasses theirs, thereby permitting entry into Heaven. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

In these verses, Jesus has been making the case that the Law is not only valid, but it is required to be followed to the letter. Jesus' problem with the Pharisees and teachers of the Law was that they were not following the Law. Instead, they were making up their own rules and customs, as well as being hypocrites by not following the commandments they placed on others.

The view that the Law should be upheld and that the Pharisees are not following it is thoroughly supported by the context of Matthew. For example, recall how in Matthew 15:1-9 Jesus condemns the Pharisees for saying that they should not stone disobedient children per God's Law, but instead teach something else. In Matthew 22:15-22, Jesus calls them hypocrites when they try to trap him about paying taxes. In Matthew 22:23-33, Jesus insults them by saying they have not even read God's Law when they ask about marriage in the time of resurrection. Finally, in the entire chapter of Matthew 23, Jesus time and time again condemns the Pharisees for being hypocrites, explaining that they tell others to follow the Law but do not follow it themselves.

It is vitally important to understand that Jesus does not condemn the faith of the Pharisees. He never said that they did not believe in God or that they did not believe that God would fulfill His promises. Matthew 5:20 does not say “unless your faith surpasses that of the Pharisees…” Instead Jesus says the word righteousness; a righteousness based on fully obeying God's Law.

So contrary to what Peter and Paul have said, and contrary to what many Christian theologians promote today, Jesus said that you had better obey the Law if you want to enter Heaven. At no point in any of the four Gospels does Jesus say that it is not necessary to obey the Law. So the teachings of Peter and Paul may best be relegated to the teachings of man, the type of thing Jesus condemns in Matthew 15:1-9. So spit out that bacon, and gather a large pile of stones. You are going to need them.

On a final note, and with a different perspective, do you remember how in the study of the Beatitudes it became obvious that Matthew had altered the original source? Concluding that study, we noted how any teaching which exists solely in Matthew should be suspect of adulteration. Well, this teaching in Matthew may also be corrupt, based on how much it stands in contradiction with many of the New Testament teachings. However, we should remember that the viewpoint presented here in Matthew is internally consistent with the entire Old Testament.

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Talking Donkey Evades God's Wrath

The previous chapter, Numbers 21, was fairly busy. The Canaanite king of Arad attacked and captured some Israelites, and so then the Israelites counterattacked and completely destroyed him and his lands with God's help.

Then, like before in Numbers 20, the Israelites complained about not having water. This time, God sent fiery serpents/venomous snakes to kill some of the rebellious Israelites. The Israelites repented being thirsty, so God had Moses make a bronze serpent on a pole, and if the bitten Israelites looked at this serpent, they would live. Jesus would later compare Himself to this serpent.

After that, they traveled around the desert some more. The Israelites asked Sihon, the king of the Amorites, for permission to pass through their land. The king responded by attacking the Israelites, but the Israelites defeated him. Moses sent spies to Jazer, and then captured it as well. Finally, with God's help, the Israelites conquered Og of Bashan as well.

As we would later learn in Deuteronomy 3:3-7, these victories ended with the pillaging of all goods and livestock, and the killing of all men, women, and children. This sets the stage for our study.

A Talking Donkey Evades God's Wrath
Mick Jones of The Clash asked “should I stay or should I go?” in a song which topped the charts one decade after it was written. Mick wrote about a tumultuous relationship; not sure if it was worthwhile any longer. Believers sometimes turn to God for answers in such unsure situations. Omniscient; if there was ever a source for wisdom, you would think your Heavenly Father would set you on the right path.

In this study, a man by the name of Balaam turned to God for guidance, but God jerked him around; almost killing him for following that same God-given guidance, and that is not even the strangest thing about this tall tale. Let us investigate in Numbers 22.

Numbers 22:1-4 opens the chapter with the Israelites camping in Moab. The Moabites are frightened by the numbers of the Israelites, probably on the order of over six hundred thousand men at this time (Numbers 1:46), but even more frightened because the word had spread that the Israelites had just slain every man, woman, and child in multiple Amorite cities (Numbers 21:25-26, Deuteronomy 3:6).

Balak, king of the Moabites, fears for the safety of his people. Desperate, he sends princes to summon Balaam, a guy with a proven track record of effective blessings and curses, to aid his defense against the Israelites. Balaam tells the princes that it will depend on what God tells him, which obviously reveals the source of Balaam's blessing and cursing powers as well as his relationship with God (Numbers 22:4-8).

God asks Balaam who are the men who have come to him (Numbers 22:9) Either this is proof that God is not omniscient, or God is testing Balaam to see if he will tell the truth, which would be stupid because God would already know what Balaam's answer would be.

Balaam informs God that Balak wishes to curse “a people” which came from Egypt, so obviously Balaam does not know who they are. God informs Balaam that he should not go with the princes, and should not curse the people because they are blessed. So, Balaam told the princes that God would not let him go with them (Numbers 22:10-14).

Balak does not give up so easily. He sends more princes, and higher esteemed princes, back to summon Balaam again, and offers Balaam a great reward. Balaam tells them that it does not matter what they offer. It only matters what God says, which again suggests that Balaam had a tight relationship with, or at least a considerable respect for, God (Numbers 22:15-19).

Because God does not change His mind (Numbers 23:19) and does not respect a man's earthly importance (Deuteronomy 10:17, 2 Chronicles 19:7, Acts 10:34, Romans 2:11, Galatians 2:6, Ephesians 6:9, Colossians 3:25, and 1 Peter 1:17), naturally you would expect God to provide the same response again to Balaam. You would be wrong. Numbers 22:20 says:
That night God came to Balaam and said, "Since these men have come to summon you, go with them, but do only what I tell you." NIV
So God changed His mind, and let Balaam go, but God then gets angry at Balaam for going with the princes per His own command! After Balaam leaves in Numbers 22:21, we read in Numbers 22:22:
But God was very angry when [Balaam] went, and the angel of the LORD stood in the road to oppose him... NIV
Now here is where the story goes from bad to worse. Worse than God contradicting Himself? You bet.

We see in Numbers 22:23-27 that the invisible angel of God had a sword drawn, and on three occasions blocked Balaam's path. His donkey could see God, and so walked around Him the first two times, but stopped the third time because God had completely blocked the path. Because Balaam could not see God, he beat his donkey for misbehaving all three times.

God then grants the donkey the power to speak, and so she asks Balaam why she received the beatings. Balaam has a discussion with her about the beatings, instead of being utterly shocked (or reacting at all, for that matter) that his donkey could talk (Numbers 22:28-30)!

Then, in Numbers 22:31- 33, God grants Balaam the ability to see Him, to which Balaam does react; falling facedown. After chastising Balaam for thrice beating his donkey, God goes on to tell him, as Numbers 22:33 renders it:
"... If [the donkey] had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have spared her." NIV
God was standing there, with His sword drawn; ready, willing, and even desirous to see Balaam dead. The only thing which stayed His sword was how close His target was. Proximity. As if someone could be too far away for God to kill. As if God was not omnipotent.

It is also important to note that God was not waiting for Balaam to commit one more sin. Instead, God was simply waiting for Balaam to take one more step closer to God to kill him. Ironic, no?

Balaam, humble as ever up to this point, tells God that he has sinned, and he will turn back around if that is what God wants. God replies with essentially the same response from Numbers 22:20, that Balaam can go with the princes, but must speak only what God tells him (Numbers 22:34-35).

So what was the point of all of this? Apparently God just wanted to put the fear of God into a man who, by this account, already had the fear of God. God was just being a bully.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Disposable Leaders

In Numbers 18, God confirmed a hierarchy of personal relationship, where only the Priests had access to God, and where anyone else who tried to access God would be killed. This is not exactly a great foreshadowing of Christianity.

In Numbers 19, God instructs on the purification of sin through water of cleansing; water mixed with the ashes of red cow, cedar wood, hyssop, and scarlet wool. Again, this seems off for foreshadowing Christianity, but there is something even more strange about it. Aaron was the High Priest at the time, while Eleazar was his son. God specifically instructed Eleazar to make these special ashes, excluding Aaron and his other remaining son/Priest Ithamar. (Aaron's other two sons, Nadab and Abihu, had been burned to death by God.)

Why was Eleazar selected? That answer may be revealed in the next within this study of the next chapter.

(On a side note, it is rather amusing that the water of cleansing is used anachronistically in Numbers 8:7 before it was defined in Numbers 19:1-10.)

Disposable Leaders
In the business world, sometimes a manager will look for any excuse to fire a particularly bad employee. Poor attendance. Surfing the Internet instead of working. Stealing office supplies. Any little recordable reason will suffice to be rid of the bigger problem at hand. As it turns out, God may be the same way, even with His favorite worshipers, as we will see in this study.

In Numbers 20:1-5, we find the Israelites at Kadesh in the Desert of Zin. There was no water, so the Israelites complained to Moses about the lack of water and variety of their diet.

Does that plot sound familiar? It might if you remember the previous study involving thirsty Israelites, or if you remember complaints about water in Exodus 15:22-25 and Exodus 17:1-7, or complaints about food variety in Exodus 16 and Numbers 11:1-35 (also in a previous study).

Because of its many similarities with our present study, the Exodus 17:1-7 account stands out. There they are walking through the Desert of Sin. There was no water, so the Israelites complained to Moses that they were dying of thirst. God tells Moses to whack a rock with his staff, and God would make a spring come forth from it. Moses does this, and then names the place Meribah, which means quarreling.

Continuing now with the story in Numbers 20:6-13, God tells Moses to whack a rock with his staff to make a spring come forth from it. This place is called Meribah too. Quite a coincidence, huh? Even the names Sin and Zin are so close that it makes you wonder if this is really two tales are of the same origin.

Yet there are differences. Big differences. While the Exodus 17:1-7 episode went rather smoothly, the Numbers 20:1-13 version results in condemnation. In Numbers 20:10-11:
[Moses] and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, "Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?" Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank. NIV
You may be wondering why Moses, the most humble man in the world (Numbers 12:3), is so confrontational. Well, the rebels did start it (Numbers 20:3-5), and perhaps Moses was remembering how God acted the last time the Israelites complained about provisions, sending a plague which killed many Israelites. It seems like Moses is projecting his and God's frustrations (Numbers 17:10) at this rebellious people. (Rebellious, that is, for being thirsty in the desert and complaining about it.)

Well, God was not impressed by this performance. We find in Numbers 20:12:
But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, "Because you did not trust in Me enough to honor Me as Holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them." NIV
Wait, what? What is that supposed to mean?

Christian commentaries are a bit confused and uncertain as to what this means. They have come up with a myriad of explanations for why God was angry:
  • Moses took credit for God's work, as seen by “must we bring you water...”
  • God told Moses to speak to the rock (Numbers 20:8), but instead he struck it twice.
  • Moses spoke to the people instead of to the rock.
  • It was implied that Moses should strike the rock once, but instead he struck it twice.
  • Moses struck the rock twice because he did not believe that once would be enough, similar to his second-guessing God in Numbers 11:21-23.
  • By striking the rock twice, Moses messed up God's planned symbolism for Jesus being struck down once to produce “living water” (1 Corinthians 10:4) (despite this being actually the second episode of a rock being struck to produce water).
  • Moses acted in a fit of rage and spoke in anger calling them rebels (Matthew 5:22) (despite that he was saying essentially what God had previously said in Numbers 17:10).
  • Moses and Aaron had unbelief that God would actually provide water for such a rebellious people.
Thank God that the words of the Bible, and even the very words of God Himself, are so clear as to prevent misunderstanding, huh?

There are two references to this episode beyond this chapter which may help clarify. Numbers 27:13-14 claims that both Aaron and Moses “disobeyed [God's] command to honor [Him] as Holy.” Psalm 106:32-33 claims that “trouble came to Moses because of [the Israelites]” and “rash words came from Moses' lips.”

The commandment to honor God as holy comes from Leviticus 22:32:
"Do not profane My Holy name. I must be acknowledged as Holy by the Israelites. I am the LORD, who makes you holy." NIV
So putting all of the pieces together, it may be that God was offended by Moses using the term “we” in the act of bringing forth water; not in the sense that he was taking credit, but rather in the he was bringing God down to the level of himself and Aaron, or elevating himself and Aaron up to God's level. Moses did not emphasize that God was separate and different from himself, and the almighty, Holy source of miracles. Or simply put; Moses did not acknowledge God as superior in Holiness.

Of course, this still makes you wonder why Aaron was condemned in this episode. Was it just guilt by association, or is this what God meant by holding the Priests accountable for transgressions against the Priesthood?

Whatever the reason for God's pronouncement of a death sentence on Moses and Aaron, it seems relatively minor compared to their past transgressions. Moses was very reluctant in obeying God, he had challenged God's decisions not once, but twice, and he had previously doubted that God could provide what He had promised. Aaron lead the Gold Cow rebellion and complained about the superiority of Moses.

So it appears as though God is just drawing an arbitrary line, using this fairly minor mistake as an excuse for a change of command. Aaron dies at the end of the chapter, bestowing his son Eleazar with the title of High Priest (Numbers 20:22-29). Moses survives a bit longer, but dies before entering the Promised Land, and Joshua assumes the role of leadership in his place (Deuteronomy 34).

(For those of you who may still believe that this episode foreshadows Jesus, take a moment to consider that both this place and the previous place where water came from a rock were both named Meribah, which means quarreling, and that Moses and Aaron became condemned to die early as a form of punishment for their actions. Then ask yourself: How could those facts possibly relate to Jesus?)