NonStampCollector’s latest: Yahweh’s Perfect Justice – Death for picking up sticks

NonStampCollector (@nonstampNSC; YouTube) has published his latest movie on YouTube, which is actually a remake of “Yahweh’s Perfect Justice”, a film he published in 2009 based on Numbers 15:32-36, but which was banned because it depicted the biblical act of stoning a person to death.

NonStamp asked viewers to contribute images of people stoning a person to death, and many did.

Numbers 15:32-36 reads (NRSV):

Num. 15:32 When the Israelites were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the sabbath day.
Num. 15:33 Those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses, Aaron, and to the whole congregation.
Num. 15:34 They put him in custody, because it was not clear what should be done to him.
Num. 15:35 Then the LORD said to Moses, “The man shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him outside the camp.”
Num. 15:36 The whole congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death, just as the LORD had commanded Moses.

I encourage you to go and watch the video, and then ask yourself these two questions:

1) Should ‘working’ on the Sabbath have EVER been punishable by death?

2) Should we use the divine commands given by God in the Bible to legislate our modern secular ethics?

Go watch. This is how some still punish many crimes in barbaric parts of the world, simply because a holy book says so. So I ask: should a holy book that prescribed death for working on a particular day of the week be used to legislate other aspects of our modern lives? Should the judgements of a God that commanded death for gathering sticks on Saturday be consulted for issues like same sex marriage?

Go watch. Then try and justify the actions taken the Bible. And then try and apply those ethics to our modern world. If you can justify the actions taken in the Bible, and can reconcile them with a modern ethic, and offer a prescription for our modern legislation, then congratulations – you’re a fundamentalist.

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17 Responses

  1. Bob – does this mean that you do not believe in the Bible and in particular the Books of Moses.

    “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'” Abraham.

    Surely the Bible is truth. This was the law in the Israelite camp at that
    time.

  2. The response I’ve gotten to citing this passage on various discussion blogs is: That’s the Old Way (the Law) and Christians are not bound by that (citing a funny twisting of a passage or two in the Book of Hebrews) because Jesus abolished the Law as a requirement (for some purposes, whose contours are never defined). For other purposes (whose contours are never defined, either) the Law remains in full force; just don’t ask too many questions about that, because they don’t like it when you do.

    The obvious.problem with that approach by Christians is … that there ARE some part of the Old Way (the Law) that conservative Christians like, so … how do they distinguish between the parts they don’t like and the part they DO like ? E.g., they like the part in Leviticus ch. 20 (verse 13) that forbids homosexual acts between men (and requires the death penalty), but they don’t like the part of Leviticus ch. 20 (verse 10) that requires the death penalty for adultery between a man and a woman

    Well … they don’t and they can’t explain their contradictory positions. Instead of explaining them, they just (1) change the subject, (2) ask you why you’re asking that question, or (3) get mad.
    Well, those are the Top Three reactions, anyway.

    Note that this rule re: picking up sticks purportedly comes directly from GOD.

  3. Reblogged this on and commented:
    Bob writes,
    “This is how some still punish many crimes in barbaric parts of the world, simply because a holy book says so. So I ask: should a holy book that prescribed death for working on a particular day of the week be used to legislate other aspects of our modern lives? Should the judgements of a God that commanded death for gathering sticks on Saturday be consulted for issues like same sex marriage?

    Go watch. Then try and justify the actions taken the Bible. And then try and apply those ethics to our modern world. If you can justify the actions taken in the Bible, and can reconcile them with a modern ethic, and offer a prescription for our modern legislation, then congratulations – you’re a fundamentalist.”

  4. Charles,

    What do you mean ‘believe in’? Of course I ‘believe in’ them: they exist. We have them. There they are.
    If you mean, “Do you think that they are the inerrant, infallible words of God for all time to mankind?” then no. Absolutely not.

    So you are defending the stoning to death of folks who ‘worked’ on Sabbath? And that a good and loving God ordered that?

  5. One would wonder why an all powerful God would allow the Bible to contain error and lead to the stoning of this man – who would have known the law and the kindness but also the sterness of God – as taught by Moses. He also would have most likely have witnssed God’s saving power with the plagues and crossing of the Red Sea.

    Ananias and Saphira died with a lie to the Holy Spirit in the new testament.

  6. Picking up stones is work. Killing someone by stoning them is work. The Israelites should have finished with the man and then stoned each other to death

  7. Two observations, both intended to argue that no human court could follow the precedent of Numbers 15:32-36 (capital punishment for the Sabbath breaker).

    #1. Friedman assigns Numb 15 to the Redactor (if I’m not mistaken, he thinks the Redactor is Ezra). This story would make a nice rhetorical argument in Ezra’s day for Sabbath observance. It’s purpose would not be to establish a precedent for the court to use capital punishment, but a message rather like, “When the Presence was with Israel in Moses’ day, Sabbath violators had a harsh sentence.”

    #2. Only God could give this verdict. The rabbis argue otherwise, using Exod 31:14. Milgrom, though, suggests Exod 31:14 is only in the context of Tabernacle construction (anyone who does Tabernacle work on Sabbath gets capital punishment). So, in our Numbers story, Moses does not know what to do. God give this verdict (the severity of which we might say is due to the overwhelming holiness of the Presence of God in that situation and the freshness of the commandment). Point being: it is not a precedent for the court to execute Sabbath-breakers. It is a special case.

  8. Derek,

    I may agree with you on both count, but no fundamentalist is ever going to argue “Numb 15 is the product of the Redactor” (and therefore not the divine command of God), or that “it’s a special case.” Only scholars do this. If people interpreted the Bible this way, there’d be no stonings, and the world (and religion) would be a much happier place.

    bc

  9. I made an error when referring to Friedman’s assignation of Numbers 15:32-36 and don’t want to malign his good work. He assigns it to P (Priestly writer, during the reform of Hezekiah). He assigns Numb 15 to the Redactor (Ezra) up until vs. 32 and then it becomes P. I apologize for the error. P is known to tend toward harsh divine justice and regards transgressions of holy space and time as quite serious. But much as I said about it possibly being good rhetoric for Ezra’s reform equally applies to Hezekiah’s reform.

  10. Derek: Presumably those who believe that whichever canon constitutes “the Bible” is the inerrant, unchanging Word of God would not care about the human source of this or any other passage, since . . . God is the “true” author thereof, including of versions of the same passages that have different wordings and of other, conflicting canons and of other, conflicting codices and of other, conflicting papyri … all of which are inerrant and unchanging and — interestingly — don’t differ from each other at all because, after all, they are ALL the inerrant, unchanging Word of God.

  11. [...] Steve Wiggins further problematizes the story of Noah’s flood and, in a similar vein, Robert Cargill and Scott Bailey upload a cartoon about Numbers 15:32-36.  Rabbi Rachel Barenblat describes some [...]

  12. cargill, why would anyone have to defend God if he ordered someone to be stoned? Isn’t he God? if you don’t ‘believe in’ the Bible–and you discredit the Bible far more than just saying it is not inerrant or that it is not ‘for all time’–whatever that means–then where would you get the basis for any Christianity at all? Throw out the Bible, and you have no basis at all for a Christian faith, you are just making stuff up as it suits you. and then you will go the way of such great minds as Bart Ehrman and other cynics. It’s amazing how little that is positive, faith-affirming, or encouraging I have ever seen on this blog. Like a whitewashed tomb.

  13. likewise, where are you going to get foundations for what is moral, if not from the Bible? it’s working out real well in society today, 40% of children are now born to unmarried mothers, serial divorce is extremely commonplace, and the reason it’s probably not even greater is that younger people simply do not marry. but your instincts are great, let’s toss out the Bible and rely on our collective sense of what is good. sure, that’s working out just great. and btw, congratulations, you are a secular unbeliever. is that what you were going for?

  14. Hank, just had to approve both of your comments, just so others could read them.

    Peace.

    bc

  15. Even a young child knows that inflicting any violence on another human being is wrong. But they did not find this out through the bible.

  16. Hank: There are lots of versions of “the Bible” … and lots of interpretations of those “lots of versions” … and lots of multiple twists and turns on same, etc., which explains in part why there are thousands of versions (denominations) of Christianity each of which holds that “it” is the “best” and “most Biblical” version of same.

    Whatever.

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