An [is]land of milk, honey, and taro

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The murmuring motif is one of the key features of the wilderness sojourn narrative, that part of the biblical story between the dramatic events at Mount Sinai in the book of Exodus and the long-awaited entry to the promised land at the beginning of the book of Joshua. Wandering through the wilderness between Mt. Sinai and Canaan, tired, hungry, insecure and vulnerable to a variety of external threats, the people of Israel's minds also wander, and together they begin to imagine (and remember) all manner of things. An interesting aspect of the murmuring motif is that the murmuring has a variety of objects. There are complaints about Moses's leadership, about the elevated cultic position of the Levites, and about the lack of water. The literary pattern is straight-forward, with slight variations: the people complain amongst themselves about something; YHWH responds with some act of violence, be it a plague (Num. 11:33), a fire (Num. 11:2), snakes (Num. 21:6) or something similar; the people come to Moses with their complaint; Moses intercedes for them, at which point God responds, either with judgement and justification in the case of Moses's and Aaron's special position (Num. 16), or in the case of an absence of water, miraculous provision (Num. 20).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)78-86
Number of pages9
JournalSt. Mark's review: A journal of Christian thought and opinion
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018


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