Numbers, a most aptly named book

The read-through of Numbers was easier than the previous ones, perhaps because it was less full of detailed instructions on how to slaughter animals and where to spew their blood (not entirely devoid of that, just containing less of that sort of material) and rather stuffed with enumerated lists. I even found the source for the word used for percent in Modern Hebrew (אחוז – achuz – which comes from לאחוז – ” to grab hold of” – or אחד – “one”). The numbered lists had almost nothing to do with fiber, with the exception of one family, whose name was Weaver (more or less. OK, less: it was סֶ֗רֶד). But mostly, just numbers of Things-that-I-have-no-interest-in-at-allTM.

This made for easier reading.

There were only eleven entries from the entire Book of Numbers, but they were excellent ones, including this gem from Numbers 31:20 “And purify all your raiment, and all that is made of skins, and all work of goats’ hair, and all things made of wood.” – which, in Hebrew, had the interesting words “מַֽעֲשֵׂ֥ה עִזִּ֖ים” – or “goaty goods”.

The background is unappetizing (it’s what you have to purify after – oh, never mind. The context is beyond gory), but the goatswork goods are delightful, because they tell me that that was the nature of the spinning they did. No mention of sheep as wool-bearing animals is made anywhere, so far, although the hairiness of sheep skin is used in Genesis by Isaac, to make his arms feel more like Esau’s and steel is primogeniture.

But spinning and weaving? So far, all I see are goats.

I’ll compare this with Elizabeth W. Barber’s book about Prehistoric Textiles, to see if that’s borne out. I seem to recall that sheep used to be hairier (like deer) than fleecy, and that the change of hair came about due to some careful animal husbandry. That’s something I read about in passing, but it merits deeper searching.

Onward! Tomorrow: Deuteronomy, not the nice cat from T.S. Eliot, the book of horrors from the Old Testament. I should probably write about my emotional response to the detailed deaths and mayhem and general nastiness in the O.T. – but not yet. For now, I’ll just pick words out.