Beckett: Pastoral Thoughts – Remember Moab? (Numbers 22:1-21)

A while ago, we read Genesis 19:30-38. This was when Lot’s two daughters committed premeditated rape against their father. They got him so drunk that he had no idea what was going on (vv. 33, 35). The firstborn daughter named her son Moab, who is the father of the Moabites; and the second daughter named her son Ben-ammi, the father of the Ammonites (vv. 37-38). In Numbers 22, it turns out the daughters’ incestuous scheme did not turn out so well for the line of their sons. When the Israelites camped in the plains of Moab, “Moab was in great dread of the people, because they were many. Moab was overcome with fear of the people of Israel” (v. 3). This fear is what brings Balak, the king of Moab, to command Balaam to curse the people of Israel since they are too mighty for him (vv. 4-6). Yet Balaam, to his integrity, cannot curse Israel because he can only speak what the Lord speaks, which is blessings toward Israel (vv. 12, 38). Later in Numbers, Israel will take the land of Moab for their possession (33:50-53), and it won’t be until 2 Samuel 10:1-12:31 that we’ll see the defeat of the Ammonites, the descendants of Ben-ammi.

Since the incest of Lot’s two daughters was brought up again, a reminder of the difference between prescription and description is needed. Prescription is when God prescribes, or commands, something to be done or not be done, such as the Law and the Ten Commandments. Description is simply the report of events that have occurred, such as Genesis 19:30-38. The key thing to remember as we’re reading historical narratives like this is that description does not equal prescription. Just because the Scriptures describe something does not mean they’re also prescribing it; that would be a dishonest reading of the text. We wouldn’t read any other history book and say the events it’s describing are also prescribing norms for behaviour. This rule doesn’t suddenly fly out the window when we’re reading Scripture (the only reason why such plain logic is ignored for some is because of their contempt for God’s Word; hatred often blinds plain reason).

Furthermore, we see here in Numbers 22, Numbers 33, and later in 2 Samuel 10-12 God’s contempt for incest. He gives the land of the Moabites to His chosen people, and He wipes out the Ammonites. Eventually, the Moabites will be destroyed as well (Jeremiah 48). The incestuous lines of Moab and Ben-ammi are utterly wiped out from the face of the earth. Let this be a warning to all incestophiles, especially those who rape their own kin, yet never forgetting the grace of forgiveness in Christ for all sins (Matthew 12:31).

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