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The Theology of Holiness and Purity in the Book of Numbers
University College Stockholm, Department of Religious Studies and Theology.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-7334-1269
2023 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Themes of land, rebellion, punishment and forgiveness, generational change, and death have all been subjects of theological interpretation of the book of Numbers, but holiness and purity less so. Typically, those themes have instead been treated as part of analyses of purity rules and in relationship to the book of Leviticus. However, both on literary and historical grounds there are reasons to distinguish Numbers from the rest of the Pentateuch. Thus, Num 1–10 to a large extent revolve around preparations for the wandering through the wilderness, but this includes organizing the Israelites around the tabernacle. If the Holiness Code extends holiness in regard of persons and places (cf. Milgrom), Numbers orders these in zones and grading (chs. 1–4), and introduces purity rules to uphold the purity of the camp (5:1–4 and following). Further, Num 11–21 feature several murmuring stories but in distinction to those found in Exodus 15–18, they emphasize punishment and also purity and holiness motifs, such as Miriam’s skin disease (Num 12), the rebellion of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram involving offering incense (Num 16–17), and Moses and Aaron not holding God holy at Meribah (Num 20). Significantly, several of them take place close to Kadesh, meaning holiness. Again, Num 22–36 to a large extent depict preparations for entering the promised land, and present purity rules concerning mixed marriages (Num 31; cf. Num 25), the sacrifices of the public cult (Num 28–29), and the impurity of manslaughter in the promised land (Num 35:9–34). Finally, certain motif of holiness and purity span the entire book, such as those concerning death, which is found in Num 5:1–4 (sending out those with death-impurity from the camp), Num 19 (the red cow ritual setting out how to handle death-impurity, in view of the preceding rebellions), and Num 35:9–34 (manslaughter as an extreme case of death-impurity in the holy land). These are at each instance related to the surrounding passages, while at the same time they create a certain coherence for the book as a whole. The purpose of the present paper is to unearth the often forgotten theology of holiness and purity in Numbers and argue its significance in the interpretation of the book.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2023.
National Category
Religious Studies
Research subject
Biblical Studies, Old testament
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:ths:diva-2155OAI: oai:DiVA.org:ths-2155DiVA, id: diva2:1829671
Conference
Society of Biblical Literature, Annual Meeting, San Antonio, Texas, TX, USA, 18–21 november 2023.
Note

Paper vid sessionen  Theology of the Hebrew Scriptures, SBL, Annual Meeting, 2023.

Available from: 2024-01-19 Created: 2024-01-19 Last updated: 2024-01-23Bibliographically approved

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Forsling, Josef

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