Today will be my first post among a series exploring stories in the bible that are hard to believe. I’ll minimize the commentary – I think they speak well for themselves.
God Kills 14,700 People For Disagreeing With His Earlier Killing (Numbers 16)
Four men – Korah, Dathan, Abirah, and On – challenged Moses’ authority. Please note that they didn’t challenge God’s authority, just that of Moses. Moses said to them, “Tomorrow we’ll see who’s holy. I’m allowed to approach God personally and you aren’t, and I’ll prove it.”
So the next day he had them set their tents apart from the rest of the congregation and had 250 others burn incense in censors (to appease God’s wrath, I’m guessing). He put God to the test saying, “If God agrees that I’m the chosen representative for the Israelites, then God will open the ground and swallow up these rebels along with their wives, children, and livestock.” And sure enough, it happened.
The Israelites who watched this happen were understandably upset and scared, and this angered God. He killed the 250 people burning incense (why them?). Then God demanded that Aaron’s son Eleazar fetch the censors and pound them into metal plates for an altar covering, to be a makeshift memorial for all the people who died (250 innocent incense-burners and an unknown number of innocent family members with their rebellious patriarchs).
The next day, the Israelites were pretty unhappy about these random killings and they blamed Moses and Aaron (who, after all, set the rebels apart to be swallowed by the earth and commanded the incense-burners to burn incense). God got mad again for having his judgement questioned and this time killed 14,700 people with a plague – and asked Aaron to quickly burn incense to atone for sins. It didn’t seem to work the day before for the 250, but that was then and this was now. Would questioning God’s judgement of killing 14,700 people for such a minor sin bring on God’s wrath today? Well, no. That was then and this is now.
Elisha Has Kids Murdered For Mocking His Baldness (2 Kings 2:23-25)
Elisha was traveling to Bethel when some kids made fun of him for being bald. He cursed them, which resulted in two bears coming out of the woods and mauling 42 boys to death. The book doesn’t mention him telling the nearby town of the tragic deaths or apologize to the grieving mothers, nor does it mention him apologizing to God. The author of this book didn’t feel it was necessary to linger on the aftermath of the killing, and just moved on. And perhaps this prophet with wounded pride just moved on, too, as if it was no big deal.
Next post will continue with what, in my humble opinion, are absurd stories that you wouldn’t believe if you hadn’t been commanded to believe them.