The people once again complain, and this time it’s over having to walk through the desert around Edom, but they forget the part where they wouldn’t be wandering through the desert right now if they had just listened. They insisted on not going into Canaan because they were afraid, and for their lack of trust, despite being eye witnesses to some of the greatest miracles of the Old Testament, they will never enter the promised land and must wander the desert until all the adults that left Egypt die off. Only after that will their children be allowed to go in.
So that’s the background when they start complaining, but they forget all that and just start grumbling about God, so he gives them something to complain about and send “fiery serpents” into their camp. I really have no idea what a fiery serpent is, but I definitely wouldn’t want to be near one.
When they people repent, God instructed Moses to make a bronze replica of the snakes that were biting and killing the people, and everyone who looked at it would be healed. Jesus himself, in his conversation with Nicodemus, pointed to this bronze serpent as a typological image pointing to himself. (See The Story of Salvation; The Bronze Serpent )
Israel continues on and has several military victories, and this catches the eye of the Moabites, and particularly the King. So King Balak summons a prophet to speak a curse on the Israelites, but it doesn’t go according to plan.
The messengers come to Balaam and tell him the king requests his services to curse a nation of nomadic people that are at his borders. Balaam has a conversation with God, we don’t know if it was a dream, or vision, or an apparition, but he’s instructed to refuse their request. The king then sends another delegation and this time God tells him to go, but only to say exactly what he’s told to say and do.
So Balaam mounts his donkey and begins the journey but one of the most interesting stories in the Old Testament unfolds. The donkey refuses to listen to Balaam’s commands three times and is beaten three times. So then the Lord let’s the donkey speak, and it tells Balaam that it wouldn’t turn or go straight because there was an angel with a sword in the road.
The thing I find most interesting here is that Balaam engages in an argument with his donkey, instead of what I’d consider a natural reaction of screaming or running away. No, he argues that the donkey should’ve listened and he wouldn’t have beat it with a stick. Then his eyes open and there’s the angel standing in front of him. So after all this, the angel allows him to continue but again warns him to only say what God tells him to say.
We begin the third gospel, written by Saint Luke. He was a gentile convert to Christianity and a companion to both Peter and Paul. He writes in a manner similar to Greek histories and biographies of his day, and that is why the first few verses of introduction and dedication are so formal.
The person whom the book is dedicated to could’ve been Luke’s patron, a kind of financial backer in the ancient world, possibly using the name Theophilus as a pseudonym to protect his identity (theophilus means “lover of God”). Or he could’ve been a fellow Christian who desired for an historical account to be written by Luke. Also a third option is there is no theophilus, and that title is referring to any person who reads the book in a desire to better know and love God. I find the last option the least likely, but also the most appealing for poetic purposes.
He then goes into the infancy narratives, and many ancient and modern scholars believe these first couple of chapters are based directly on the memories and testimony of the Blessed Mother. He starts with the birth of John the Baptist and then transitions to the birth of Christ. This is because John is known as the forerunner and the one who announces the messiah.
John’s parents where both righteous and holy, but they had no children and it pained Elizabeth. Saint Bede says they mystically represented the Old Covenant, the priesthood and the law.
Gabriel appears to Zachariah to inform him that his wife will bear a son, and he is doubtful because they are both old. So Gabriel tells him that as a sign he will be mute until the day his son is born.