After 40 years of wondering in the desert the Israelites are approaching the Promised Land. However, as we know, not all of them will make the crossing because of their lack of faithfulness. Miriam dies and is buried here. We are given the story of Moses getting water from a rock at Meribah and this is where Moses and Aaron are told they will not enter the Promised Land.
In verse 28 we are given an odd account of Aaron being stripped of his robe and dyeing on a mountain top. There is not really a good explanation for this described and I am left to wonder how he died. If perhaps his death was not an execution. It certainly seems ceremonial enough for such.
Here is one of the oddest passages of scriptures. Israeli is attacked by poisonous snakes, called fiery ones, perhaps because of the pain from their venom. God tells Moses to make a serpent of bronze, a poisonous snake of bronze, and hang it on a pole so that everyone who is bit might look at it and live. This seems a bit like sympathetic magic to me. Perhaps this is was leads to the snake worshiped in the time of Hezekiah in 2 Kings 18:4.
This passage continues with descriptions of what can only be called holy wars against the people of the area in their attempt to arrive at the Promised Land.
Balaam enters the scene as a divination expert of the king Balak. It is interesting that this non-Israelites knows God, even calling the name Yahweh. Balak wants Balaam to curse the Israelites that are arriving from the wilderness. God tells Balaam not to curse them for they are blessed. God tells Balaam to go with Balak’s men to share what God has said.
On the way, Balaam’s donkey keeps acting funny. He stops in the middle of the road. He turns into odd fields and even gets Balaam stuck in an odd place between walls. Balaam cannot figure out what is going on with his beast and in anger strikes him. God opens the donkey’s mouth and the donkey tells Balaam that there has been a messenger from the Lord scaring him and that’s why he has changed direction. Yes, the donkey talks, Disney did not created talking animals. Balaam’s eyes are opened and he sees the messenger and listens to his words.
In Mark’s gospel there are three crosses. Jesus is hung in the middle with a bandit on each side. Bandits were political up risers. These are not thieves, but rather individuals who have committed a crime against the Roman government and their political actions. Jesus is hung in the middle, perhaps because he was the one with the most prominence in the area. Jesus offers grace to these rabble rousers even in the midst of his own suffering and death.
Jesus quotes the opening lines from Psalm 22 during his crucifixion. This psalm has very evocative language and allows you to imagine Christ’s agony.
Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses stay the whole time and see where Christ’s body is laid. This is important scene setting for the next chapter in Mark.
My name is Cardelia Howell-Diamond and I pastor a congregation in Alabama. I'm a clergymama, with a clergymama! I have three lovely littles and an amazing clergyman husband. I love life in the church, even when I don't! I knit, crochet, read, write and sew, though none of these as often as I'd like.