Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Strangers In The Land: Ger 022

Numbers 19:1-10

Now the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, “This is the ordinance of the law which the Lord has commanded, saying: ‘Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring you a red heifer without blemish, in which there is no defect and on which a yoke has never come. You shall give it to Eleazar the priest, that he may take it outside the camp, and it shall be slaughtered before him; and Eleazar the priest shall take some of its blood with his finger, and sprinkle some of its blood seven times directly in front of the tabernacle of meeting. Then the heifer shall be burned in his sight: its hide, its flesh, its blood, and its offal shall be burned. And the priest shall take cedar wood and hyssop and scarlet, and cast them into the midst of the fire burning the heifer. Then the priest shall wash his clothes, he shall bathe in water, and afterward he shall come into the camp; the priest shall be unclean until evening. And the one who burns it shall wash his clothes in water, bathe in water, and shall be unclean until evening. Then a man who is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer, and store them outside the camp in a clean place; and they shall be kept for the congregation of the children of Israel for the water of purification; it is for purifying from sin. And the one who gathers the ashes of the heifer shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until evening. It shall be a statute forever to the children of Israel and to the ger who dwells among them.

What Does It Say?

Numbers 19 lists a number of different purification rituals. I'm not going to go into the precise situations; they're in your Bible, just read it.

Two things stick out in chapter 19. The first is that this initial ritual for creating the water of purification is the only one which specifically mentions ger. This indicates that a ger could take part in this ritual in the temple - not as a priest, but perhaps as the one who gathers the ashes. Presumably, the other rituals of purification are also incumbent on any ger in the land (though again, this is not explicitly stated).

Second, the further rituals of purification in chapter 19 explicitly state that:

But the man who is unclean and does not purify himself, that person shall be cut off from among the assembly [qahal], because he has defiled the sanctuary of the Lord. The water of purification has not been sprinkled on him; he is unclean.
- Numbers 19:20
 Verse 13 has a similar curse on those who do not purify themselves, except it says they will be cut off "from Israel." Thus the one who does not abide by the law of the Lord is even lower than a ger.

Next: Numbers 35

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Strangers In The Land: Ger 021

Numbers 15:13-31

'All who are native-born shall do these things in this manner, in presenting an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the Lord. And if a ger dwells with you, or whoever is among you throughout your generations, and would present an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the Lord, just as you do, so shall he do. One ordinance shall be for you of the assembly and for the ger who dwells with you, an ordinance forever throughout your generations; as you are, so shall the ger be before the Lord. 16 One law and one custom shall be for you and for the ger who dwells with you.’ ”
Again the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land to which I bring you, then it will be, when you eat of the bread of the land, that you shall offer up a heave offering to the Lord. You shall offer up a cake of the first of your ground meal as a heave offering; as a heave offering of the threshing floor, so shall you offer it up. Of the first of your ground meal you shall give to the Lord a heave offering throughout your generations.
‘If you sin unintentionally, and do not observe all these commandments which the Lord has spoken to Moses— all that the Lord has commanded you by the hand of Moses, from the day the Lord gave commandment and onward throughout your generations— then it will be, if it is unintentionally committed, without the knowledge of the congregation, that the whole congregation shall offer one young bull as a burnt offering, as a sweet aroma to the Lord, with its grain offering and its drink offering, according to the ordinance, and one kid of the goats as a sin offering. So the priest shall make atonement for the whole congregation of the children of Israel, and it shall be forgiven them, for it was unintentional; they shall bring their offering, an offering made by fire to the Lord, and their sin offering before the Lord, for their unintended sin. It shall be forgiven the whole congregation of the children of Israel and the ger who dwells among them, because all the people did it unintentionally.
‘And if a person sins unintentionally, then he shall bring a female goat in its first year as a sin offering. So the priest shall make atonement for the person who sins unintentionally, when he sins unintentionally before the Lord, to make atonement for him; and it shall be forgiven him. You shall have one law for him who sins unintentionally, for him who is native-born among the children of Israel and for the ger who dwells among them.
‘But the person who does anything presumptuously, whether he is native-born or a ger, that one brings reproach on the Lord, and he shall be cut off from among his people. Because he has despised the word of the Lord, and has broken His commandment, that person shall be completely cut off; his guilt shall be upon him.’ ”

What Does It Say?

At first glance, Numbers 15 simply seems to confirm what we've seen about ger so far. That is, they are strangers living in the land for an indefinite period of time who are not part of the Israeli people. They are able to sacrifice to God if they choose, though this seems to imply they will also be circumcised (as is explicit in the instructions for ger celebrating Passover).

However, I had a certain intuition about two terms in the English text and dug a little deeper. The first was "congregation," as in, "without the knowledge of the congregation." In the Hebrew, this is qahal, an organized body or group of people. It is frequently used to refer to the people of the Exodus, the multitude that, as we know, was not exclusively Israeli. It is sometimes translated as "multitude," as in Genesis 28:3, "And God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude [qahal] of people."

The second term that caught my eye was "the whole congregation of the children of Israel." The Hebrew here is "edah ben Yisra'el," or "the congregation of the sons of Israel."

Now my initial suspicion was that we were here making a distinction between the greater congregation of Israel, which would include gentile converts, and the more exclusive Sons of Israel, or the ethnostate.

Wanting to chase down this suspicion, I looked for other uses of "ben Yisra'el" to see if it was ever used to refer to ethnic gentiles. The result? A resounding "maybe." Exodus refers to the Sons of Israel at times that would have included the mixed gentiles among them, ie, the Sons of Israel passed through the Red Sea, the whole congregation of the Sons of Israel murmured against Moses.  That's hardly conclusive since it could be shorthand for "the Sons of Israel and all of the other people with them."

I did, however, look for more uses of "qahal" and found some interesting things in Deuteronomy 23:

"A bastard shall not enter into the congregation [qahal] of the LORD; even to his tenth generation shall he not enter into the congregation [qahal] of the LORD."
- Deu 23:2

"An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the qahal of the LORD; even to their tenth generation shall they not enter into the congregation of the LORD for ever: Because they met you not with bread and with water in the way, when ye came forth out of Egypt; and because they hired against thee Balaam the son of Beor of Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse thee."
- Deu 23:3-4

"Thou shalt not abhor an Edomite; for he is thy brother: thou shalt not abhor an Egyptian; because thou wast a stranger in his land. The children that are begotten of them shall enter into the qahal of the LORD in their third generation."
- Deu 23:7-8
So regardless of whether or not an ethnic gentile could enter into the elah ben Yisra'el, they could enter the qahal Yehovah.

Next: Numbers 19