I would’ve thought You’d zap them all by now, but then again I remember Moses said that You’re longsuffering.
“And the LORD spake unto Moses in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho, saying,
Command the children of Israel, that they give unto the Levites of the inheritance of their possession cities to dwell in; and ye shall give also unto the Levites suburbs for the cities round about them.
And the cities shall they have to dwell in; and the suburbs of them shall be for their cattle, and for their goods, and for all their beasts.
And the suburbs of the cities, which ye shall give unto the Levites, shall reach from the wall of the city and outward a thousand cubits round about.
And ye shall measure from without the city on the east side two thousand cubits, and on the south side two thousand cubits, and on the west side two thousand cubits, and on the north side two thousand cubits; and the city shall be in the midst: this shall be to them the suburbs of the cities.
And among the cities which ye shall give unto the Levites there shall be six cities for refuge, which ye shall appoint for the manslayer, that he may flee thither: and to them ye shall add forty and two cities.
(The cities of refuge were: Golan, Ramoth, and Bosor, on the east of the Jordan River, and Kedesh, Shechem, and Hebron on the western side.)
So all the cities which ye shall give to the Levites shall be forty and eight cities: them shall ye give with their suburbs.
And the cities which ye shall give shall be of the possession of the children of Israel: from them that have many ye shall give many; but from them that have few ye shall give few: every one shall give of his cities unto the Levites according to his inheritance which he inheriteth.
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come over Jordan into the land of Canaan;
Then ye shall appoint you cities to be cities of refuge for you; that the slayer may flee thither, which killeth any person at unawares.
And they shall be unto you cities for refuge from the avenger; that the manslayer die not, until he stand before the congregation in judgment (He is talking about manslaughter, not murder).
And of these cities which ye shall give six cities shall ye have for refuge.
Ye shall give three cities on this side Jordan, and three cities shall ye give in the land of Canaan, which shall be cities of refuge.
These six cities shall be a refuge, both for the children of Israel, and for the stranger, and for the sojourner among them: that every one that killeth any person unawares may flee thither.
And if he smite him with an instrument of iron, so that he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death.
And if he smite him with throwing a stone, wherewith he may die, and he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death.
Or if he smite him with an hand weapon of wood, wherewith he may die, and he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death.
The revenger of blood himself shall slay the murderer: when he meeteth him, he shall slay him.
But if he thrust him of hatred, or hurl at him by laying of wait, that he die;
Or in enmity smite him with his hand, that he die: he that smote him shall surely be put to death; for he is a murderer: the revenger of blood shall slay the murderer, when he meeteth him.
But if he thrust him suddenly without enmity, or have cast upon him anything without laying of wait,
or with any stone, wherewith a man may die, seeing him not, and cast it upon him, that he die, and was not his enemy, neither sought his harm:
Then the congregation shall judge between the slayer and the revenger of blood according to these judgments.
And the congregation shall deliver the slayer out of the hand of the revenger of blood, and the congregation shall restore him to the city of his refuge, whither he was fled: and he shall abide in it unto the death of the high priest, which was anointed with the holy oil.
But if the slayer shall at any time come without the border of the city of his refuge, whither he was fled;
And the revenger of blood find him without the borders of the city of his refuge, and the revenger of blood kill the slayer; he shall not be guilty of blood:
Because he should have remained in the city of his refuge until the death of the high priest: but after the death of the high priest the slayer shall return into the land of his possession.
So these things shall be for a statute of judgment unto you throughout your generations in all your dwellings.
Whoso killeth any person, the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses: but one witness shall not testify against any person to cause him to die.
Moreover ye shall take no satisfaction for the life of a murderer, which is guilty of death: but he shall be surely put to death.
And ye shall take no satisfaction for him that is fled to the city of his refuge, that he should come again to dwell in the land, until the death of the priest.
So ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are: for blood it defileth the land: and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it.
Defile not therefore the land which ye shall inhabit, wherein I dwell: for I the LORD dwell among the children of Israel (Num 35:1-34).
The ancient Israelite city of Arad was located at modern Tell Arad, in the Negev south of Jerusalem.
Archaeological excavation there has uncovered a large, well-preserved, Early Bronze Age city that served as an important post on key trade routes.
Hebrew ostraca (pottery fragments containing writing) bearing the name Arad have been found there, as have a large quantity of ostraca bearing other Hebrew or Aramaic inscriptions.
A series of fortified occupations dating from the reign of Solomon to that of Zedekiah also have been found at Tell Arad.
The site appears to have been more or less deserted during the Middle and Late Bronze Ages, but during the Iron Age Israelites built a fortress on the summit of Tell Arad to guard the eastern Negev basin from nomadic peoples and Transjordanian enemies – especially Edom.
The structures belonging to the final level of Israelite occupation at Arad were destroyed during the Babylonian conquest of Judah in 586 B.C.
An impressive Israelite temple has also been unearthed at Arad.
The only Israelite temple recovered by archaeologists to date, it may have been modeled after Solomon’s temple; like Solomon’s it was oriented toward the east.
This structure had a sacrificial altar in the courtyard, as well as two incense altars and two standing stones in its “Most Holy Place.”
Archaeologists have determined that this particular temple was deliberately put out of use.
This probably happened during the reforms of either Hezekiah or Josiah, when local temples situated outside of the control of the king and the Jerusalem priesthood were dismantled because they tended to become focal points for the growth of pagan and/or aberrant religious movements.
The location of Arad, however, poses a problem related to the conquest narrative.
The king of Arad attacked the Israelites, who were traveling near the southern border of Canaan.
After suffering an initial loss, Israel defeated this king and destroyed his cities. Yet Tell Arad lacks any remains dating to the time of Moses.
A possible solution exists in the campaign account of Pharaoh Shishak, whose 10th century B.C. list mentions the conquests of two Arads: Arad the Great and Arad of Yrhm.
The Israelites could have destroyed the second Arad, the location of which remains uncertain.
Another possibility is that the Arad mentioned in Numbers 21 actually refers to the general region and that the king of Arad lived in the city of Hormah.
Now that the Israelites had cattle I guess they looked around and found some land that was good for cattle, but it wasn’t the land that You gave them, they didn’t want what You gave them.
“And the LORD’S anger was kindled the same time, and he swear, saying,
Surely none of the men that came up out of Egypt, from twenty years old and upward, shall see the land which I swear unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob; because they have not wholly followed me:
Save Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite, and Joshua the son of Nun: for they have wholly followed the LORD.
And the LORD’S anger was kindled against Israel, and he made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until all the generation, that had done evil in the sight of the LORD, was consumed” (Num 32:10-13).
The people didn’t want to go to Jordan but Moses told them that if they did God would forgive them, but
“…if ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out” (Num 32:23).
The Israelites began to travel again. They left Rameses, and set up their tents in Succoth; then to Etham, which is on the edge of the wilderness; then Pi-ahiroth, which is before Baal-zephon; then Marah; then Elim, which had 12 fountains of water and 70 palm trees; then by the Red Sea; then in the wilderness of Sin; then Dophkah.
From there they went to Alush to Rephidim to Sinai to Kibroth-hattaavah to Hazeroth to Rithmah to Rimmon-parez to Libnah to Rissah to Kehelathah to Shapher to Haradah to Makheloth to Tahath to Tarah to Mithcah to Hashmonah to Mosroth to Bene-kaakan to Hor-hagidgad to Jotbathah to Ebronah to Ezion-gaber to the wilderness of Zin which is Kadesh to Mount Hor in the edge of the land of Edom.
King Arad of the Canaanites heard of their coming. The Israelites then left Mount Hor and went to Zalmonah to Punon to Oboth to Ije-abarim, in the border of Moab, to Lim to Dibon-gad to Almon-diblathaim to Abarim, before Nebo, to the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho.
These 40 years in the wilderness is known as “The Exodus Route” because exodus means “going out.”
God then told Moses,
“Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye are passed over Jordan into the land of Canaan;
Then ye shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, and destroy all their pictures, and destroy all their molten images, and quite pluck down all their high places:
And ye shall dispossess the inhabitants of the land, and dwell therein: for I have given you the land to possess it. And ye shall divide the land by lot for an inheritance among your families: and to the more ye shall give the more inheritance, and to the fewer ye shall give the less inheritance: every man’s inheritance shall be in the place where his lot falleth; according to the tribes of your fathers ye shall inherit.But if ye will not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you; then it shall come to pass, that those which ye let remain of them shall be pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your sides, and shall vex you in the land wherein ye dwell. Moreover it shall come to pass, that I shall do unto you, as I thought to do unto them” (Num 33:51-56).
“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Command the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye come into the land of Canaan; (this is the land that shall fall unto you for an inheritance, even the land of Canaan with the coasts thereof:).
Then your south quarter shall be from the wilderness of Zin along by the coast of Edom, and your south border shall be the outmost coast of the salt sea eastward.
And your border shall turn from the south to the ascent of Akrabbim, and pass on to Zin: and the going forth thereof shall be from the south to Kadesh-barnea, and shall go on to Hazar-addar, and pass on to Azmon:
And the border shall fetch a compass from Azmon unto the river of Egypt, and the goings out of it shall be at the sea.
And as for the western border, ye shall even have the great sea for a border: this shall be your west border.
And this shall be your north border: from the great sea ye shall point out for you mount Hor:
From mount Hor ye shall point out your border unto the entrance of Hamath; and the goings forth of the border shall be to Zedad:
And the border shall go on to Ziphron, and the goings out of it shall be at Hazar-enan: this shall be your north border.
And ye shall point out your east border from Hazar-enan to Shepham:
And the coast shall go down from Shepham to Riblah, on the east side of Ain; and the border shall descend, and shall reach unto the side of the sea of Chinnereth eastward:
And the border shall go down to Jordan, and the goings out of it shall be at the salt sea: this shall be your land with the coasts thereof round about” (Num 34:1-12).
The Ancient Near East
Most of the biblical drama unfolded in the Ancient Near East. Today the modern states of Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Turkey occupy that area.
The Ancient Near East has been called the “Cradle of Civilization” because many important cultural and technological advances took place there. We now know that comparable innovations occurred in other parts of the world, yet the Near East retains a central place in human history. There the influence of three continents – Africa, Asia, and Europe – converge.
Ancient Jordan Evidence of human activity in Jordan dates back to the Paleolithic period (500000 – 17000 B.C.
While there is no architectural evidence from this era, archaeologists have found tools, such as flint and basalt hand-axes, knives and scraping implements.
In the Neolithic period (8500-4500 B.C.), three major shifts occurred.
First, people became sedentary, living in small villages, and discovering and domesticating new food sources such as cereal grains, peas and lentils, as well as goats.
The human population increased to tens of thousands.
Second, this shift in settlement patterns appears to have been catalyzed by a marked change in climate.
The eastern desert, in particular, grew warmer and drier, eventually to the point where it became uninhabitable for most of year. This watershed climate change is believed to have occurred between 6500 and 5500 B.C.
Third, beginning sometime between 5500 and 4500 B.C., the inhabitants began to make pottery from clay rather than plaster Pottery-making technologies were probably introduced to the area by craftsmen from Mesopotamia.
The largest Neolithic site in Jordan is at Ein Ghazal in Amman The many buildings were divided into three distinct districts Houses were rectangular and had several rooms, some with plastered floors.
Archaeologists have unearthed skulls covered with plaster and with bitumen in the eye sockets at sites throughout Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian Territories and Syria.
A statue discovered at Ein Ghazal is thought to be 8,000 years old. Just over one meter high, it depicts a woman with huge eyes, skinny arms, knobby knees and a detailed rendering of her toes.
During the Chalcolithic period (4500-3200 B.C.), copper began to be smelted and used to make axes, arrowheads and hooks. The cultivation of barley, dates, olives and lentils, and the domestication of sheep and goats, rather than hunting, predominated. The lifestyle in the desert was probably very similar to that of modern Bedouins.
Tuleitat Ghassul is a large Chalcolithic era village located in the Jordan Valley. The walls of its houses were made of sun-dried mud bricks; its roofs of wood, reeds and mud. Some had stone foundations, and many had large central courtyards. The walls are often painted with bright images of masked men, stars, and geometric motifs, which may have been connected to religious beliefs.
Many of the villages built during the Early Bronze Age (3200-1950 B.C.) included simple water infrastructures, as well as defensive fortifications probably designed to protect against raids by neighboring nomadic tribes.
At Bab al-Dhra in Wadi Araba, archaeologists discovered more than 20,000 shaft tombs with multiple chambers as well as houses of mud-brick containing human bones, pots, jewelry and weapons.
Hundreds of dolmens scattered throughout the mountains have been dated to the late Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Ages.
Although writing was developed before 3000 B.C. in Egypt and Mesopotamia, it was generally not used in Jordan, Canaan and Syria until some thousand years later, even though archaeological evidence indicates that the Jordanians were trading with Egypt and Mesopotamia.
Between 2300 an. 1950 B.C., many of the large, fortified hilltop towns were abandoned in favor of either small, unfortified villages or a pastoral lifestyle.
There is no consensus on what caused this shift, though it is thought to have been a combination of climatic and political changes that brought an end to the city-state network.
During the Middle Bronze Age (1950-1550 B.C.), migration across the Middle East increased.
Trading continued to develop between Egypt, Syria, Arabia, Canaan and Jordan, resulting in the spread of technology and other hallmarks of civilization.
Bronze, forged from copper and tin, enabled the production of more durable axes, knives, and other tools and weapons.
Large, distinct communities seem to have arisen in northern and central Jordan, while the south was populated by a nomadic, Bedouin-type of people known as the Shasu.
New fortifications appeared at sites like Amman’s Citadel, Irbid, and Tabaqat Fahl (or Pella)Towns were surrounded by ramparts made of earth embankments, and the slopes were covered in hard plaster, making the climb slippery and difficult.
Pella was enclosed by massive walls and watch towers.
Archaeologists usually date the end of the Middle Bronze Age to about 1550 B.C., when the Hyksos were driven out of Egypt during the 17th and 18th Dynasties.
A number of Middle Bronze Age towns in Canaan and Jordan were destroyed during this time.
Iron Age The most prominent Iron Age kingdoms in Jordan were Ammon, Moab, and Edom.
The Ammonites had their capital in Rabbath Ammon. The Moabites settled Kerak Governorate with their capital at Kir of Moab (Kerak), and the kingdom of Edom settled in southern Jordan and southern Israel, and their capital was in Bozrah in Tafilah Governorate.The kingdom of Ammon maintained its independence from the Assyrian empire, unlike all other kingdoms in the region which were conquered.In about 840 BC, Meshe, the King of the Moabites, revolted against the “House of David.” ‘Moab was a Jordanian tribe that lived east of the Dead Sea and about 70 kilometers south of Amman. This battle is recorded in 2 Kgs 3.
The Bible’s story is corroborated by the Mesha Stele, the Moabite Stone that was found in the Jordanian town of Dhiban in 1868.
This find indicated that the Moabites worked with inscriptions on bluish basalt stone.
Classic period. Later antiquity saw the rise of the Nabatean kingdom with its capital at Petra, which was a border, client state of the Roman Empire absorbed into the Empire in 106 CE, and the ancient city of Saltus.
During the Greco-Roman period of influence, a number of semi-independent city-states also developed in Jordan, grouped as a Decapolis including: Gerasa (Jerash), Philadelphia (Amman), Raphana (Abila), Dion (Capitolias), Gadara (Umm Qays), and Pella.
Middle Ages In the early 7th century, the area of modern Jordan became integrated into the new Arab-Islamic Umayyad Empire (the first Muslim dynasty), which ruled much of the Middle East from 661 until 750 CE.
At the time, Amman, now the capital of the Kingdom of Jordan, became a major town in “Jund Dimashq” (the military district of Damascus) and became the seat of the provincial governor.
In fact, the name “Al-Urdun” (Jordan) was used on Umayyad post-reform copper coins beginning in the early 8th century and represent the earliest official usage of the name for the modern state.
Additionally, lead seals with the Arabic phrase “Halahil Ardth Al-Urdun” (Master of the Land of Jordan), dating from the late 7th to early 8th century CE, have been found in Jordan as well.
Additionally, Arab-Byzantine “Standing Caliph” coins minted under the Umayyads also have been found bearing the mint-mark of “Amman.”
Thus, usage of the names Al-Urdun/Jordan and Amman date back, to at least, the early decades of the Arab-Muslim takeover of the region.
Under the Umayyad’s successors, the Abbasids (750-1258), Jordan was neglected and began to languish due to the geo-political shift that occurred when the Abassids moved their capital from Damascus to Kufa and later to Baghdad.
After the decline of the Abbasids, parts of Jordan were ruled by various powers and empires including the Mongols, the Crusaders, the Ayyubids, the Mamlukes as well as the Ottomans, who captured major parts of the Arab World around 1517.
“Then came the daughters of Zelophehad, the son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, the son of the families of Manasseh, the son of Joseph’s firstborn: and these are the names of his daughters; Mahlah, Noah, and Hoglah, and Milcah, and Tirzah.
And they stood before Moses, and before Eleazar the priest, and before the princes and all the congregation, by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying,
Our father died in the wilderness, and he was not in the company of them that gathered themselves together against the LORD in the company of Korah; but died in his own sin, and had no sons.
Why should the name of our father be done away from among his family, because he hath no son? Give unto us therefore a possession among the brethren of our father.
And Moses brought their cause before the LORD.
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
The daughters of Zelophehad speak right: thou shalt surely give them a possession of an inheritance among their father’s brethren; and thou shalt cause the inheritance of their father to pass unto them” (Num 27:1-5).
It became a new law, if a man dies without and his inheritance first goes to his daughter, if he has no daughter, then it goes to his brothers, then to uncles, then to his cousin.
“And the LORD said unto Moses, Get thee up into this mount Abarim, and see the land which I have given unto the children of Israel.
And when thou hast seen it, thou also shalt be gathered unto thy people, as Aaron thy brother was gathered.
For ye rebelled against my commandment in the desert of Zin” (Num 27:12-14).
“Moses then suggested that God find his replacement, so God chose Joshua the son of Nun.
God then told Moses to remind the people of the offerings He had explained to them in Num 1-7.
If a man vow a vow unto the LORD, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth” (Num 30:2).
This is the same for women, accept if she lives with her father or is married at the time she makes the vow, but if her father vetoes the vow than God disregards it.
This law was probably designed for the protection of the woman, who in ancient Near Eastern society was subject to strong societal pressures, some of which would leave her without defense. God could be, but is not, a despot.
He has His laws, but as long as the laws that man makes do not violate His laws He will not intervene, it goes with the freewill He gives us.
“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
Avenge the children of Israel of the Midianites: afterward shalt thou be gathered unto thy people.
And Moses spake unto the people, saying, Arm some of yourselves unto the war, and let them go against the Midianites, and avenge the LORD of Midian.
Of every tribe a thousand, throughout all the tribes of Israel, shall ye send to the war” (Num 31:1-4).
The Israelites killed all the males and the kings of the Midianites, as well as five other kings: Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur,and Reba. They also killed Balaam.
They kept the women, children, the cattle, flocks, and all their goods. They then burnt the cities and castles.
Moses was angry with them when they came back because they didn’t kill the women, they were just as evil as the men. By not killing them it was a trespass against God.
Moses ordered that they kill all the male children and any woman that wasn’t a virgin.
“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
Take the sum of the prey that was taken, both of man and of beast, thou, and Eleazar the priest, and the chief fathers of the congregation:
And divide the prey into two parts; between them that took the war upon them, who went out to battle, and between all the congregation:
And levy a tribute unto the LORD of the men of war which went out to battle: one soul of five hundred, both of the persons, and of the beeves, and of the asses, and of the sheep:
Take it of their half, and give it unto Eleazar the priest, for an heave offering of the LORD.
And of the children of Israel’s half, thou shalt take one portion of fifty, of the persons, of the beeves, of the asses, and of the flocks, of all manner of beasts, and give them unto the Levites, which keep the charge of the tabernacle of the LORD” (Num 31:25-30).
And the amount of gold offered to God was 16,750 shekels ($4,373.36 dollars). That’s a lot of money at that time, around 1451 B.C.
The Scorpion in Ancient Egypt
The ancient Egyptians knew the scorpion and its toxicity, and venerated it since pre-dynastic era.
They used the scorpion as a king’s name, a name of a nome
(county), and a symbol to their goddess, Serqet, that protects the bodyand the viscera of the dead, and that accompanies them in their journey to the afterlife.
They had medical prescriptions and magical spells to heal the stings. Since the 5th dynasty, the title of a “Follower of Serket” wasgiven to clever physicians.
Scorpions are most famously depicted on Horus Cippus, a talisman featuring Horus the Child holding in his hands figures of serpents, scorpions, and dangerous animals.
A drawing of a scorpion with twometasomas was found in the tomb of the pharaoh Seti I (1290–1279 BC), probably the first record of thisabnormality, more than 13 centuries before Pliny the Elder.
Scorpion in the ancient Egyptian myth andreality Scorpions have influenced the imagination of the peoples of the Orient and the Mediterranean since earliest times.
In ancient Egypt, scorpions were frequently depicted in tombs and on monuments. They are mentioned in the Ebers papyrus (“How to Rid the House of Scorpions”) and in several passages of the Book of the Dead (Cloudsley-Thompson, 1990).
The writings about scorpions found on ancient Egyptian papyri were confined to myths, to advice onhow to get rid of the scorpion and its venom, or how toheal its sting.
Nothing was recorded about geography of scorpions, which was first noted by Aristotle (384–322BC).
The dwellers on the Nile in ancient Egypt knew the scorpion and venerated it since pre-dynastic era. They used the scorpion as a king’s name, Scorpion I and Scorpion II, a name of a nome(county), and a symbol to their goddess Serqet (in addition to other goddesses).
Scorpions invoke, for many people, as much fear as venomous snakes. That is probably precisely the reason that one of Egypt’s most most famous predynastic rulers chose this invertebrate for his name.
Of course, that ruler’s widespread fame is mostly due to the movie, “Scorpion King”, which is a completely fictional account grounded in virtually no factual history.
Really, we know very little about that king’s true historical role, but we know much more about the creatures sacred significance in ancient Egypt.
Scorpions did, during ancient times, inhabit the mostly the deserts of Egypt, as they continue to do so today. Of course, they are found in dry climates throughout the world and are certainly not unique to Egypt.
While the Scorpionidae is relatively harmless. The venom of both scorpions and snakes is neurotoxic, and if their bite results in death, it is by asphyxiation.
Scorpions are certainly well attested from the earliest times in Egypt. During the PredynasticEarly Dynastic Periods, the scorpion is depicted on various painted vessels and carved on schist palettes, as well as sculpted in the round, often in precious metals.
The scorpion ideogram, one of the earliest known hieroglyphic signs, was depicted on wooden and ivory labels found in the early period Dynastic royal necropolis at Abydos and also among the cache of cult equipment of the Early Dynastic temple at Hierakonpolis.
Usually, depictions of the scorpion from ancient Egypt show the animal in side or three-quarter view, with the number of legs varying from three to four pairs.
When drawn in texts or engraved on monuments, it is typically shown flat, positioned either horizontally or, in later periods, vertically, with two to four pairs of legs.
After the Old Kingdom, the scorpion was no longer found on vessels, but was often made into a talisman sculpted in the round.
There were various names for the scorpion in ancient Egypt, and yet, it was actually rarely mentioned in text and is not found at all in the Pyramid Texts, even though serpents and are frequently referred to in those compositions.
In the Coffin Texts, it serves only as the determinative of a goddess. In fact, the scorpion is mostly found in a few medical papyri and particularly magical texts, in formulas either to repel them, conjure away their venom or cure their sting.
Ostraca discovered at Deir el-Medina on the West Bank at ancient Thebes (modern Luxor) mention workers bitten by scorpions, and therefore absent from work.
In the Late Period, several Greek funerary stelae also mention young people who were killed by a scorpion’s sting.
The magical text used to cure such stings is both a treatises with recipes for the bite and a collection of incantations that are a psychological means fortifying the patient.
The incantations are sometimes hidden within mythological events.
In a recently published papyrus, a list of snakes in Egypt is provided with descriptions on how to treat, or not treat their bites in cases of high toxicity.
This document belonged to the library of “the exorcisor of the goddess Serket (Selket)”, who was herself a scorpion deity.
When laborers from Egypt went to the turquoise mines in the Sinai, a particularly hot, desert environment, they brought with them “the one who removes scorpions”, servants of the goddess Serket and specialists in the prevention and cure of scorpion stings and snake bites.
Of course, they also took along embalmers for situations where the specialists’ skills were insufficient.
In general few gods were associated with insects or invertebrates in ancient Egypt. Notable among these was Khepri, the personified in the scarab beetle.
There were actually only a very few examples of deified scorpions in ancient Egypt, all of which personified goddesses, mostly as a result of syncretism.
The goddess Serket was the principal divine personification of the scorpion and was usually depicted with a scorpion perched on her head.
She was a protector goddess, perhaps best known to the public at large as one of the four goddesses who’s golden statues surrounded the sarcophagus of Tutankhaman in his tomb.
Her full name, Serket hetyt itself means “she who causes the throat to breath”, referring to the effects of a scorpion sting.
However, there were other gods and goddesses also associated with the scorpion. One of the most famous is Isis, who is said to have been protected from her enemies by seven scorpions.
Isis herself may have at times been depicted in scorpion form, though this is not clear.
Interestingly, it is not Serket, but rather Isis who is more frequently mentioned in many magical spells for scorpion stings.
I would think the Israelites would be happy now since they won all those wars.
Will they behave now?
“And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab.
And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods.
And Israel joined himself unto Baal-peor: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel.
And the LORD said unto Moses, Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up before the LORD against the sun, that the fierce anger of the LORD may be turned away from Israel.
And Moses said unto the judges of Israel, Slay ye everyone his men that were joined unto Baal-peor.
And, behold, one of the children of Israel came and brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping before the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
And when Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose up from among the congregation, and took a javelin in his hand;
And he went after the man of Israel into the tent, and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her belly. So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel.
And those that died in the plague were twenty and four thousand.
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, hath turned my wrath away from the children of Israel, while he was zealous for my sake among them, that I consumed not the children of Israel in my jealousy.
Wherefore say, Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace:
And he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel”(Num 25:1-13).
“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
Vex the Midianites, and smite them:
For they vex you with their wiles, wherewith they have beguiled you in the matter of Peor, and in the matter of Cozbi, the daughter of a prince of Midian, their sister, which was slain in the day of the plague for Peor’s sake (Num 25:16-18).
“And it came to pass after the plague, that the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest, saying,
Take the sum of all the congregation of the children of Israel, from twenty years old and upward, throughout their fathers’ house, all that are able to go to war in Israel.
And Moses and Eleazar the priest spake with them in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho” (Num 26:1-3).
That would be a kind of weird hearing an ass talk (but not totally new because I’ve listened to Obama giving speeches). But it would be scary seeing Your angel standing there ready to slice and dice.
“Balaam told Balak to build seven altars with seven oxen and rams to offer to God and he would talk to God.
And the LORD put a word in Balaam’s mouth, and said, Return unto Balak, and thus thou shalt speak (Num 23:5).
Balaam returned to Balak and told him that he couldn’t curse the Israelites because God had blessed them, there is no way he could or even try to go against God.
And Balak said unto Balaam, What hast thou done unto me? I took thee to curse mine enemies, and, behold, thou hast blessed them altogether.
And he answered and said, Must I not take heed to speak that which the LORD hath put in my mouth?
And Balak said unto him, Come, I pray thee, with me unto another place, from whence thou mayest see them: thou shalt see but the utmost part of them, and shalt not see them all: and curse me them from thence.
And he brought him into the field of Zophim, to the top of Pisgah, and built seven altars, and offered a 1 bullock and a ram on every altar.
And he said unto Balak, Stand here by thy burnt offering, while I meet the LORD yonder.
And the LORD met Balaam, and put a word in his mouth, and said, Go again unto Balak, and say thus” (Num 23:11-16).
Balaam returned to Balak and said,
God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? Or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?
Behold, I have received commandment to bless: and he hath blessed; and I cannot reverse it (Num 23:19-20).
“Balak then told him that if he couldn’t curse them, at least don’t bless them. And Balaam said, Told not I thee, saying, All that the LORD speaketh, that I must do?” (Num 23:26).
“And Balak said unto Balaam, Come, I pray thee, I will bring thee unto another place; peradventure it will please God that thou mayest curse me them from thence.
And Balak brought Balaam unto the top of Peor, that looketh toward Jeshimon.
And Balaam said unto Balak, Build me here seven altars, and prepare me here seven bullocks and seven rams. And
Balak did as Balaam had said, and offered a bullock and a ram on every altar” (Num 23:27-30).
And when Balaam saw that it pleased the LORD to bless Israel, he went not, as at other times, to seek for enchantments, but he set his face toward the wilderness.
And Balak’s anger was kindled against Balaam, and he smote his hands together: and Balak said unto Balaam, I called thee to curse mine enemies, and, behold, thou hast altogether blessed them these three times.
Therefore now flee thou to thy place: I thought to promote thee unto great honor; but, lo, the LORD hath kept thee back from honor (Num 24:1, 10-11).
And again, Balaam told Balak what God told him to say,
“…there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth.
And Edom shall be a possession, Seir also shall be a possession for his enemies; and Israel shall do valiantly.
Out of Jacob shall come he that shall have dominion, and shall destroy him that remaineth of the city.
And when he looked on Amalek he took up his parable, and said, Amalek was the first of the nations; but his latter end shall be that he perish forever.
And he looked on the Kenites, and took up his parable, and said, Strong is thy dwelling place, and thou puttest thy nest in a rock.
Nevertheless the Kenite shall be wasted, until Asshur shall carry thee away captive.
And he took up his parable, and said, alas, who shall live when God doeth this!
And ships shall come from the coast of Chittim, and shall afflict Asshur, and shall afflict Eber, and he also shall perish forever.
And Balaam rose up, and went and returned to his place: and Balak also went his way” (Num 24:17-25).
1 These were some of the animals God had ordered the Israelites to use for offerings in the Tabernacle that I didn’t go into detail about, what animals and how many depends on the type of offering one is making (Num chps 1-7).
Ugaritic Liturgy Against
Poisonous snakes posed a serious and ever-present threat to people in the ancient world.
Three texts from Ugarit, all of which address this problem, suggest that the typical pagan solution was to search for a magic formula to counter the results of the venom.
One of these texts is but a fragment, another a mythical narrative and the third a magical incantation.
In the myth (second text), twelve different deities are asked for a cure for snakebite.
Eleven respond with an ability to charm the serpent, but only one, Horanu, successfully neutralizes the venom.
He counteracts the poison by casting trees into the Tigris River, ritually enacting the manner by which he will weaken the venom as if diluting it in water.
The third text, written for the benefit of a high official, is an incantation employing a ritual similar to Horanu’s to protect both against serpents and the sorcerers who used them.
The Israelites, like the inhabitants of Ugarit, feared the lethal snakes so abundant both in the wilderness and in the land of Canaan.
God’s snake-related punishment recorded in Num 21:6-9 demonstrated that only the Lord has ultimate power over serpents (and, indeed, over all evil).
Not only did he send venomous snakes to punish
the Israelites because of their ingratitude, but he also provided the means of a cure (i.e., the bronze snake) when his people repented and sought his mercy.
It is noteworthy that, although the Israelites were required to gaze up at the bronze serpent in order to receive restoration, the Biblical text mentions no magical ritual or incantation.