As one who has presented weekly Bible study sessions to highly educated adult Jews for many years, I was taken aback by the breath-taking display of misunderstandings and misinformation in Andrew Silow-Carroll’s column on the biblical story of the battle against the Midianites (“Bad-time stories,” Aug. 6).
Ancient texts must be handled with great care, particularly one as sophisticated as the Hebrew Bible. Basing conclusions on sloppy translations and superficial analysis does no justice to the text or to the reader. It should have occurred to you, for example, that Peor is not the name of a “strange god” but of a place. The god worshiped there by the straying Israelites was none other than the well-known Baal (see Numbers 25:3,5 and Exodus 14:2). And your distorted version of Moses’ speech to his commanders (Numbers 31:15-18) would inexorably lead us to the patently absurd notion that the Israelites could somehow discern who among the tens of thousands of captive Midianite women (Numbers 31:35) had “known a man carnally” and who had not done so. Above all, your analysis fails to see the real association between the plague, the actions of these women, and the actions of Moses.
To take this an important step further, please consider this note as a personal invitation to you (and, of course, your readers) to attend our study sessions on Monday nights (holidays excepted), 8:30 to 9:30 p.m., in the Entin Library at East Brunswick Jewish Center. We combine analysis of the biblical text with information provided by interfacing secular fields such as ancient history, the sciences, linguistics, and archaeology.