Bible Study 22 – Family Trouble

In this class, Fr. Anthony talks about the ambiguity of names in the Bible and why people get hurt when they go against God’s will (e.g. the the burning of part of the camp, the quail plague, and Miriam’s leprosy).  We had to use our back-up recording which doesn’t pick up the audience well (please forgive; the recorder’s battery died mid-class).

Check out this episode!


OT Bible Study #22: Family Trouble

Make the pure light of Your divine knowledge shine in our hearts, Loving Master, and open the eyes of our minds that we may understand the message of Your Gospel. Instill also in us reverence for Your blessed commandments, so that overcoming all worldly desires, we may pursue a spiritual life, both thinking and doing all things pleasing to You. For You, Christ our God, are the Light of our souls and bodies, and to You we give the glory, together with Your Father, without beginning, and Your All Holy, Good, and Life- Creating Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen. (2 Corinthians 6:6; Ephesians 1:18; 2 Peter 2:11)

Avoiding Confusion: Multiple Names

Numbers 10:29. Now Moses said to Hobab the son of Reuel [?!] the Midianite, Moses’ father-in-law, “We are setting out for the place of which the Lord said, ‘I will give it to you.’ Come with us, and we will treat you well; for the Lord has promised good things to Israel.”

  • Who is this guy? Is he Jethro (Moses’ father-in-law)? People do have multiple names and titles (“Jethro” could be an honorific), so this is possible. It is also possible that “father-in-law” is really “relation by marriage” (you can see Exodus 2:18, Exodus 3:1, Numbers 10:29 for all the references).

  • Regardless, Moses is trying to get him, an outsider, to go with them on their journey into the desert. Why? Didn’t he have a pretty good GPS?

We can better persuade proud men to do what is useful if we say that their setting out will profit us rather than them, or if we say that improvement will profit us rather than them and ask that the cost be on our account, not theirs. For pride is easily turned to good if it can be adapted to the profit of others. Thus Moses, with God guiding him, advanced through the desert with a column of cloud going before him. Familiar speech had taught him about all things interiorly, through careful conversation with God. But this prudent man, speaking to a proud listener, asked Hobab to give him help. Moses needed Hobab as a guide along the way, so that he could be Hobab’s guide in life. So Moses acted so that the proud listener, as he urged the better way on him, would become more devoted to him if he were thought to be indispensable. He thought he outranked Moses, who asked him for help, and thus yielded to Moses’ words as Moses entreated him. St. Paterius, Exposition of the Old and New Testaments (Numbers).

    • This is counter-intuitive. What would happen if we asked people do things for us rather than trying to sell it as something good for them (remember, Moses was trying to do something good for Hobab)?

    • What do you think of the idea of humbling ourselves to ask for help when we don’t really need it? Is this too manipulative?

Numbers 10:35. So it was, whenever the ark set out, that Moses said: “Rise up, O Lord! Let Your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate You flee before You.”

  • Later this appears in Psalm 67:1… and in our Paschal celebration.

  • The Prophet David is attributed with these Psalms; but this may provide some insight into how the prophetic proclamation and writing process goes. This verse would have been part of the living culture of Israel (there were about seven generations from Moses to David).

Why do such bad things when the people rebel against God?

  • Numbers 11:1-2. Now when the people complained, it displeased the Lord; for the Lord heard it, and His anger was aroused. So the fire of the Lord burned among them, and consumed some in the outskirts of the camp. Then the people cried out to Moses, and when Moses prayed to the Lord, the fire was quenched.

    • There are two ways of looking at this.

      • One is to treat God as a kind of tribal god leader that is trying to get people to behave. This is the most obvious reading of the text. Is this compatible with God as we know Him to be?

      • The second is to look at the more general lesson being taught here: you don’t have to like the way nature works to adapt your behavior to it. Just grumbling about things does nothing but make things worse. This is a great lesson; it’s not the fullness of the truth, but it is part of it.

      • Also note that the best thing to do when things are not going well is not just to complain, but to figure out how to make things better.

  • Numbers 11:4-9. [Read] Do they have a legitimate gripe? Why/Why not?

  • Numbers 11:10-23. [Read] God shares his plan with Moses. If we get our will, can we end up with “too much of a good thing”? Is this what would happen if we were left to our sin?

  • Numbers 11:24-29. [Read] This is a continuation of an earlier process. What comes with a share of the Holy Spirit? Note the conversation with Joshua. St. Cyril says that the episode with Eldad and Medad happened so that people would not think that Moses gave the Spirit.

  • Numbers 11:31-35. [Read] Some people end up with too much of a “good thing”.

To some, indeed, who lack patience, the Lord God in his wrath grants them what they ask, just as in his mercy, on the other hand, he refused it to his apostle. We read what and how the Israelites asked and received, but when their lust had been satisfied, their lack of patience was severely punished. St. Augustine

Numbers 12. The Dissension of Aaron and Mirium. What was special about Moses? The tendency towards divisiveness and schism are very strong (supply and demand). There is a danger when we are not of “one mind” when it comes to the Lord’s service. How does Orthodoxy manage this (at least when it is done well)? What happens when the balance is skewed? Here is a spiritual interpretation:

The prophetess Mary [Miriam] herself, who crossed the straits of the sea on foot with her brothers, did not yet know the mystery of the Ethiopian [Cushite] woman and murmured against her brother Moses. She shuddered at the white spots of leprosy, which she would hardly have been freed from if Moses had not prayed for her. That murmuring stands very much as a type of the synagogue, which daily murmurs and does not grasp the mystery of the Ethiopian woman, that is, the church of the Gentiles. She envies that people by whose faith even she herself is freed from the leprosy of faithlessness, according to the verse of Scripture: “Blindness has stretched through part of Israel until the full number of Gentiles shall enter and thus shall all of Israel be saved.” St. Ambrose (also see Origen)

Next Week: The Nephilim… AGAIN?!


Lienhard, J. T., & Rombs, R. J. (Eds.). (2001). Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.