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Essays on Issues, Ideas and Reflections on the Times. Published now and
then. Opinions pro or con are welcome.

Dealing With Mutiny

North Miami Beach, FL 07-02-2005
A.H. Schectman

Mutiny usually is associated with sailors of old who rebelled against the absolute dictatorship of ships’ Captains.  The sailors, if the mutiny or rebelliousness was put down at sea, were subject to whippings with lashes in which bits of metal were embedded, imprisoned in rat infested brigs or “keel hauled” (which will be explained if I am asked).  If brought back to court and they were involved in a military situation, they could be hanged for their offense.

The Mutiny I am thinking about was written down close to three thousand years ago and is reported in detail in Numbers 16-18.  We read about it and argued over it this morning in Ruach class (Bible Study). The mutineers were identified as chronic complainers about the leadership of their group.  They were listed as people who once were slaves and had wandered, following their leader, Moses, through the desert and were just in sight of the Promised Land.  One of their complaints was that Egypt seemed like a promised land to them after they had so many hardships and vicissitudes. 

One might think in terms, “Does the Punishment Fit the Crime” in cases involving mutiny.  Some cases ended in hanging or that keel hauling mentioned earlier.  In the instance of Korach, Dathan and Abiram, three ring leaders of about 500 followers, punishment was meted out in their having to bring “pans” used to carry fire before the Tent of Meeting and then there was an earthquake – or, at least the ground opened up – and the mutineers fell into the pit at the bottom.  Then they were burned to a crisp with fire that is attributed to God (the supreme Captain) finishing off the rebellion – but not quite yet, for there are Chapters that follow.

Now, rebellions and mutiny have a long history.  We can start back (if we stick to the same text) with Cain who murdered (not killed) his brother.  Then there were the brothers of Joseph who sold him into slavery.  These are high points because we skipped over the problems of Abraham with his relatives and his own sons whose mothers fomented trouble over them.  Dissidents against the leadership of Moses who convinced the Hebrew slaves that worship in the desert was better than under the yoke of slavery in Egypt started out from the very beginning of this forty year ordeal.  Relatives of Moses were among the dissatisfied and ambitious who, the Creator of the Universe decreed should die in the bowels of the earth.

That is, of course, one way to deal with mutiny. Another is to recognize that no one person has the answer to all our problems.  We have to work them out.



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