The LDS Inverse Old Testament, Part 2: Numbers to Ruth

The LDS Inverse Old Testament, Part 2: Numbers to Ruth

What is the LDS Inverse Old Testament?

I explained the basic idea in the first post, but I'll summarize it again. This is, based on a number of relatively safe assumptions, the collection of scriptures that almost all Latter-day Saints are going to be unfamiliar with as they have almost never read and studied them. The Seminary and Institute programs are an obvious exception to this collection, but these programs are really indented for the youth and the young single adults. Regular Latter-day Saints are unlikely to approach a thorough study of the Hebrew Bible on their own initiative and so their only real exposure to it is going to be through the weekly hour of Sunday School once every four years.

It's a far counter-argument that there is only one hour (often less) a week to devote to Sunday School, and that with less than sixty full hours to devote to the subject it is not reasonable to expect Latter-day Saints to exhaustively cover the Old Testament. And I agree fully. Except that the manual of study has remained almost completely unchanged since the mid-90s. That means that the LDS Church has had at least five full iterations of covering the Old Testament using the current manual. Once or twice I could agree with to spend only covering a small amount of the scriptures, but I find it to be very unsettling that the current curriculum has remained unchanged for so long. Two decades worth of attention to the scriptures covered in Sunday School has more than solidified the LDS conception of this ancient record, but this conception is flawed as the LDS Inverse Old Testament has also solidified during that same time as a sealed book that is often utterly alien to the average Latter-day Saint. The fact that the Inverse Old Testament is often more messy when it comes to other LDS scriptures and doctrines means that many Latter-day Saints have a false impression of cohesion and cleanliness between the various book of their scriptures. This may lead to promoting faith, but it is at the expense of authenticity and a fair understanding of the foreign aspects of an ancient Near Eastern body of literature.

Hopefully, bringing the existence and contents of the LDS Inverse Old Testament to light will help impel the LDS Church to adopt actions that will help expose more Latter-day Saints to more of their scriptures for a richer, deeper, and more complex understanding of their personal and official faith.

Moving On Past Leviticus

The project now continues from the Book of Leviticus, which is present in the Inverse Old Testament in its entirety, to the Book of Ruth, which is fully covered by LDS Sunday School attention and is thus absent from the Inverse Scriptures.

I'm not surprised that Leviticus is skipped. It's too full of uncomfortable questions in regards to its usefulness after Jesus Christ "fulfilled" the Law of Moses; since the Church still uses many aspects of the Torah in its doctrines the line dividing old law from law still in force becomes fuzzier the closer you examine it.

Numbers is, the name aside, an interesting book. Yes there are a lot of genealogies (why it's called numbers) but there are also a lot of stories, too. It's rather odd that people tend to view Exodus in the abstract as a book of the story of leaving Egypt with only a little bit of boring law material and Numbers as a book with tons of boring law material and only a few stories when the inverse is pretty much true.

Some of the stories I can understand being skipped as they show a very merciless God and prophet, but some of the others that are skipped could have been put to great used, such as the story of Zelophehad's daughters. Interestingly, the divine command to attack the Midianites in Numbers 31:1-16 is covered in LDS Sunday Schools. They are commanded to kill everyone, but they take as prisoner the women and children. The Inverse Scriptures contain the rest of the story, however, where Moses commands them to kill the women and male children and to keep the young virgin girls for themselves, as well as the immense list of booty the Israelites took from their slaughtered foes.

I also think some attention to the varied ingredients and types of sacrifices would be useful for a Mormon audience who seem to think that the sacrifices in the Tabernacle and Temple always consisted of the blood sacrifice of lambs. There are offerings of grains, offerings of wine, offerings using cows, goats, birds. There are even offerings of hair as part of the Nazarite vow that even early Christians such as Paul continued to perform (Acts 18:18). Mormons, like Christians, like the symbolism between Jesus's execution on the Cross and the death of the lamb as part of Passover, but good symbolism is no reason to obscure the depth and complexity of an ancient culture.

Some Stories and Pericopes contained in the Inverse Scriptures So Far

Numbers

  • God claims the Levites as his own instead of claiming all Israel's firstborn as his because he didn't kill their firstborn when he killed the Egyptian firstborn during the Exodus (Numbers 3:12-13, 45-51)
  • A magical ritual to prove the guilt or innocence of wives, though not of husbands, accused of adultery (Numbers 5:11-31)
  • The ritual requirements for a Nazarite vow, which even Paul performed post-conversion (Numbers 6:1-21)
  • Moses talks with an invisible God (Numbers 7:89)
  • Moses changes God's mind by implying he'll look bad to other nations if he kills all of the Israelites (Numbers 14:13-20)
  • Moses leads the camp in stoning a man who picked up sticks on the Sabbath (Numbers 15:32-36)
  • God puts down internal rebellions against Moses through earthquake, fire, and disease (Numbers 16)
  • Moses begins the conquest of Canaan (Numbers 21:32-35)
  • Aaron's son takes charge in ending wickedness by throwing a javelin really, really hard (Numbers 25:1-15)
  • Zelophehad's daughters make an impressive feminist argument about inheritance rights to Moses (Numbers 27:1-11, 36:1-13)
  • God tells Moses that he is going to die just like his brother Aaron died (Numbers 27:12-13)
  • Moses tells the Israelites to kill all of the enemy survivors of a battle except the young virgin girls which they can keep (Numbers 31:13-18)

Deuteronomy

Joshua

  • Joshua circumcises the Israelites who'd been born in the wilderness (Joshua 5:2-8)
  • Joshua is visited by the captain of God's army (Joshua 5:13-15)
  • Joshua burns the body, family, and possessions of Achan because he stole an idol from a ruined city (Joshua 7:24-26)
  • The Israelites take the city of Ai by stratagem and kill everyone, man and woman, and burn the city (Joshua 8)
  • The Israelites merely enslave the Gibeonites instead of slaughtering them because the Gibeonites trick them (Joshua 9)
  • God holds the sun and moon in the sky to give the Israelites enough time to defeat and kill the Amorites (Joshua 10:12-14)
  • The death toll of merely the kings of the cities that the Israelites destroyed (Joshua 12:7-24)

Judges

  • Left-handed Ehud kills the very fat King Eglon with a homemade sword (Judges 3:14-30)
  • Shamgar kills six hundred Philistines with an ox goad long before the more-famous Samson (Judges 3:31)
  • Sisera is killed by Jael by lulling him into a false sense of security and nailing his head to the ground (Judges 4:17-22)
  • Gideon makes a golden coat that becomes an idol and has 70 sons from his many wives (Judges 8:22-32)
  • Jephtah makes a rash vow to God and sacrifices his daughter (Judges 11:29-40)
  • Samson's wishes to marry a Philistine, which vex his parents, is inspired of God (Judges 14:4)
  • Samson carries away the doors of the gate of the city, posts and all, on his shoulders (Judges 16:3)
  • A Levite's concubine is cruelly raped and killed, so he cuts her up and sends her to the various tribes around (Judges 19)
  • Because of this, the other tribes begin a war that nearly wipes out the tribe of Benjamin (Judges 20)
  • Because so many of the Benjaminites died, new wives are provided by killing the men of the city of Jabesh-Gilead as well as by kidnapping from the city of Shiloh (Judges 21)
Tom Doggett

Tom Doggett

I'm a programmer, Ancient Greek reader, feminist, spouse and partner, and a dad.

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