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A Synchronic Reading of the Account of Moses' Failure to Enter the Promised Land in Numbers 20:2-13

Seokgyu Jung 1

1한영신학대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This paper is an exegetical paper on the final form of Numbers 20:2-13, which depicts Moses' failure to enter the Promised Land. This paper is not concerned about the exposing the cause of Moses' failure, but about the intention of the text. In order to disclose the intention of the text, this paper examines the final form of the text by a synchronic approach rather than a diachronic approach. First, this paper analyzes the structure and texture of the final form of Numbers 20:2-13. The extant form of Numbers 20:2-13 is portrayed in the rhetorical scheme of inclusio of the introductory exposition on the situation (20:2a) and the concluding etiology on the name (20:13). In this framework, the main block concerning the event caused by the lack of water (20:2b-12) is described in terms of a five-part concentric design as follows: a. People's negative evaluation on Moses' action (20:2b-5), b. Moses' and Aaron's response on the people's complaint (20:6a), c. YHWH's instruction (20:6b-8), b'. Moses' and Aaron's response on YHWH's command (20:9-11), a'. YHWH's negative evaluation on Moses' action (20:12). Second, the structural analysis on Number 20:2-13 exposes the literary intention of the text. In its extant form, the third major unit concerning YHWH's instructions to Moses (20:6b-8) is most highlighted by being placed at the center of the literary block (20:2b-12) in the chiastic structure, and the first and fifth major units (20:2b-5, 12) are emphasized by composing the rhetorical scheme of inclusio. In YHWH's instructions to Moses (20:6b-8), YHWH is exhibited as not only a comforter with Moses and Aaron in trouble, but also the One who provides the best possible thing for the people in need as well as the One who restores the crisis of the leadership of Moses caused by the people's protest. The framework of the account (20:2b-5, 12) illustrates that Moses was not a legitimate leader for the people as they entered Canaan by emphasizing the negative evaluations on Moses by both the people from below and YHWH from above (cf. the law of kingship in Deut 17:14-20). Third, other texts concerning Moses' transgression (Num 20:22-29; 27:12-14; Deut 32:48-52) portray YHWH's denial of Moses and Aaron in relation to their leadership and its transfer to Joshua and Eleazer. Also, the final form of Numbers 20:2-13 shows that YHWH is the only leader of the Israelites but not Moses by the comparison between YHWH's leadership and Moses' leadership (20:12-13).

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.