on being given snakes

Can someone help resolve a difficulty?

Christ said, in Luke 11:

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“And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.d
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For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
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What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish?
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Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg?

However, in Numbers 21 (read last Sunday):

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From Mount Hor they set out by way of the Red Sea, to bypass the land of Edom, but the people’s patience was worn out by the journey;
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so the people complainedd against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in the wilderness, where there is no food or water? We are disgusted with this wretched food!”*
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So the LORD sent among the people seraph* serpents, which bite the people so that many of the Israelites died.

So…the Israelites were tired of the food and wanted something better…and God gave them snakes.

Before someone says “they were complaining, not being thankful”, is it the mark of a good Father that he only refrains for handing his children snakes when they have the proper attitude?

Thanks.

It is the mark of a good father that he disciplines disobedient and rebellious children.

They were disobedient, by following Moses out into the desert, around Edom…oh wait, they did exactly as instructed.

Those poor people.

In Luke, Jesus seems to be talking about God being like a good father who knows how to give proper food to his hungry child or, perhaps like a good father who knows how to give proper playthings to his child. In either case, venomous snakes and scorpions are not suitable for food for Jesus’ audience of Jews and they are not suitable playthings for children. So, Jesus is not saying that a good father cannot make suitable substitutions in fulfilling his child’s requests, only that a good father won’t make unsuitable substitutions. In the same way, Jesus is not saying that God cannot make suitable substitutions in fulfilling our requests, only that God won’t make unsuitable substitutions.

In Numbers, God didn’t send the snakes to the Jews as a food substitute but as instruments of punishment.

In Numbers, God didn’t send the snakes to the Jews as a food substitute but as instruments of punishment.

Yes. Instead of what they were asking for.

Which was better food.

Do you know the phrase ‘distinction without a difference’?

God worked a whole series of miracles to rescue them from slavery in Egypt. . Miracle after miracle, culminating in freedom after hundreds of years of slavery. Then He gave them “manna”, that is, literally Miraculous food out of the sky. They rejected it and demanded that God provide something else, some Egyptian delicacies. This wasn’t obedience: it was incredible ingratitude.
…and yes, it would have to be “Egyptian” delicacies; they wouldn’t have known any other kind. They wanted the food of their slavemasters instead of the miraculous food God gave them.

I have never thought of this before. I will have to think on it a little bit.

Fascinating point.

I never really like the idea of over explaining these things away. Like MAYBE God meant this, or MAYBE you could take it a completely different way.

That Jesus specifically references this same act is indeed intriguing and more than just a little sidestepping will explain away.

I’m thinking, myself, of what a Catholic would (will?) say when challenged by an atheist in the back of the room who has read Hitchens.

For someone like that, the difficulty is doubled, since he is predisposed to think in a Marcionite way that the God of the Old Testament is a violent, capricious figure.

Me, I’m Catholic, believe fervently in Christ as the perfect revelation of God, and I still have trouble with it

I’ve been surveying Protestant responses to this, and in the main, they are “Well, Jesus isn’t such a nice guy either!” and they quote His condemnation of various cities and fruit trees.

In Luke, was Jesus comparing God to an overindulgent father, who gives in to his young son’s every whim? I don’t think so. I think, Jesus was comparing God to a wise father, who gives his young son what he believes will ultimately prove good for his son, even if his son finds it unpleasant at the time.

Perhaps a correct understanding of these Bible passages hinges on what Jesus meant by “good gifts” in Luke 11:13, when he said, "If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give … to those who ask him!”

Can something be considered a “good gift,” even if it involves a lot of unpleasantness? Is treating someone for cancer a “good gift,” even though it involves some very unpleasant things? Consider the doctor who discovers that his young son has a malignant cancer growing in his leg which, if it was allowed to spread, could take his son’s life. In order to treat his son’s cancer and save his life, the doctor may have to confine his son to a hospital bed for a long period of time, put him on a strict diet, make him fast for long periods of time, poke him with sharp injection or intravenous needles, give him bitter-tasting medicines to drink, give him radiation treatments or chemo therapy treatments that temporarily make him feel very sick and cause his hair to fall out, cut into his leg and surgically remove the cancer or even amputate his leg. In this case, would not amputation of a cancerous member be considered a “good gift” from a loving father to his son?

The impatience spreading among the Jews in Numbers might be likened to a malignant cancer growing among their members. God’s killing of the impatient Jews by means of the snakes might be likened to the amputation of a cancerous member, as mentioned above, and be considered a good gift from a loving God to his people. Even their early death might be considered a good gift by a loving God to the wicked who died from the snake bites because their early death prevented them from committing additional wickedness and so prevented them from making themselves deserving of even greater punishments in hell.

There’s a big difference between ordering God and Moses to get them better food OR ELSE, and asking God nicely for better food.

The Jewish tradition about manna, btw, is that it was the best tasting food ever. Whether or not this is true, the Jews got miraculous food supplies and also tasty juicy quail to eat.

The impatience spreading among the Jews in Numbers might be likened to a malignant cancer growing among their members. God’s killing of the impatient Jews by means of the snakes might be likened to the amputation of a cancerous member, as mentioned above, and be considered a good gift from a loving God to his people. Even their early death might be considered a good gift by a loving God to the wicked who died from the snake bites because their early death prevented them from committing additional wickedness and so prevented them from making themselves deserving of even greater punishments in hell.

Yeah…except that the passage doesn’t say that. It says the snakes bit ‘many’, with no mention of only the complainers being bitten. I live in the desert…you know who gets bitten by snakes? Plumbers and children.

There’s a big difference between ordering God and Moses to get them better food OR ELSE, and asking God nicely for better food.

Again, I think this position needs to be clarified. Our understanding of Christ’s teaching would then be that a child deserves a snake if they ask rudely?

I’m curious what type of mental gymnastics this requires to seem reasonable. As a Catholic, of course, I submit to the judgement of the Church on all matters for the sake of my salvation. As a thinking human, I snort derisively at this pitiful attempt at reconciling these passages.

The Jewish tradition about manna, btw, is that it was the best tasting food ever. Whether or not this is true, the Jews got miraculous food supplies and also tasty juicy quail to eat.

You ever eaten a game bird without seasoning? Bet not. Not for over a generation, for darn sure.

in numbers, the sin was disbelief and disrespect.

L 11 11 should be interpreted in light of the verses immediately before it, not unrelated ones.

9 'So I say to you: Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you.

10 For everyone who asks receives; everyone who searches finds; everyone who knocks will have the door opened.

11 What father among you, if his son asked for a fish, would hand him a snake?

12 Or if he asked for an egg, hand him a scorpion?

13 If you then, evil as you are, know how to give your children what is good, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’

Go ahead.

With respect to the early death of innocent people and how it might be considered a “good gift” from a loving God, I refer you to Wisdom 4:7-14:
But the righteous man, though he die early, will be at rest.
For old age is not honored for length of time,
nor measured by number of years;
but understanding is gray hair for men,
and a blameless life is ripe old age.
There was one who pleased God and was loved by him,
and while living among sinners he was taken up.
He was caught up lest evil change his understanding
or guile deceive his soul.
For the fascination of wickedness obscures what is good,
and roving desire perverts the innocent mind.
Being perfected in a short time, he fulfilled long years;
for his soul was pleasing to the Lord,
therefore he took him quickly from the midst of wickedness.

With respect to the early death of innocent people and how it might be considered a “good gift” from a loving God, I refer you to Wisdom 4:7-14:

But the righteous man, though he die early, will be at rest.
For old age is not honored for length of time,
nor measured by number of years;
but understanding is gray hair for men,
and a blameless life is ripe old age.
There was one who pleased God and was loved by him,
and while living among sinners he was taken up.
He was caught up lest evil change his understanding
or guile deceive his soul.
For the fascination of wickedness obscures what is good,
and roving desire perverts the innocent mind.
Being perfected in a short time, he fulfilled long years;
for his soul was pleasing to the Lord,
therefore he took him quickly from the midst of wickedness.

So, it wasn’t the guilty people who were bitten…it was the innocent, and it was a mercy?

Man, this is getting weirder and weirder.

So, according to you, the people rebelled, so God sent snakes amongst them, who bit the innocent, but it was actually because God wanted to remove them form the midst of the sinners? So, the snakes were not a punishment, they were a reward?

What are you smoking?

Your point reminds me of a scene from a movie I once saw.

The movie was a low budget, horrible movie starring Eddie Murphy. Vampire in Brooklyn.

Truly a waste of time and two and a half hours of my life I will never get back, except for one scene. In this scene Eddie Murphy (the Vampire) takes on the form of a street preacher. He gets up and gets everybody going, doing his impression of an African American preacher. There are lots of Amens! coming from the crowd and nodding. It starts off with some basic statements that anyone would agree with, but then turns into a full on rally for “evil” Making the argument that “Evil is good” Pretty soon everyone is shouting “Evil is good!”

The point is not that what you are spinning is evil, Far from it. But rather that sometimes we turn things around and spin them in a way that if we just backed off of our position and looked at it logically does not make sense.

The idea that God was all rainbows and butterflies in these verses may sit with the modern theology of “nice” but it does little in the realm of historical and Traditional theology.

The other thing it can do is lessen the credibility of God’s Word. Many people wonder, "well if that is not what it says then maybe other things are not as well…

Better to understand the Bible with an appreciation for historical beliefs and a Church of theology. Which probably does not jive with your spin.:wink:

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