Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Going Abroad Without The Camp

A classic post from the late Farrell Till (1933-2012) from the Yahoo Group,
errancyn, May 20, 2000:

We have seen some of the logistical problems that would have been
involved in setting up encampments for 2.5 to 3 million people and
carrying out the routines that camp life and sacrificial requirements
would have imposed. Probably few inerrantists have ever considered
a wilderness problem that all densely populated areas must solve,
and that is the problem of human-waste disposal. The following
passage made some stipulations in this regard that would have
posed some special hardships on the Israelites during their
wilderness wanderings.

Deuteronomy 23:12 You shall have a designated area outside the
camp to which you shall go. 13 With your utensils you shall have
a trowel; when you relieve yourself outside, you shall dig a hole
with it and then cover up your excrement. 14 Because Yahweh
your God travels along with your camp, to save you and to hand
over your enemies to you, therefore your camp must be holy, so
that he may not see anything indecent among you and turn away
from you.

This passage clearly indicates that latrines were not allowed inside
the encampment, and so when nature called, one was required to go
outside of the 9-square-mile camp to attend to it. He/she was to take
along a "trowel" (paddle in some translations) to dig a hole in which
to bury the excrement. It is hard to imagine how large this "designated"
area would have had to have been to accommodate 2.5 million people
digging their individual holes to attend to their business. If each hole
were only 6 inches by 6 inches, a "designated area" of 625,000 square
feet or 69,444 square yards would be needed to provide a hole for
each person. Since there are 4,840 square yards in an acre, this
"designated area" would have had to have been 14.35 acres in size
to accommodate each person's going "outside the camp" with his/her
trowel just once per day. Of course, we have to wonder what they
would have done on the second, third, fourth, fifth, etc. days.
Would each person have used the same hole over and over again?

In Yahweh's inscrutable wisdom that led him to choose this method
of waste disposal rather than ordering the construction of pit latrines,
special problems would have necessarily ensued. In a time, for
example, when there was no Imodium A-D, diarrhea would have
seriously complicated the problems. It's hard to imagine how that
2.5 million people trekking throughout the day to this "designated
area" could have attended to their  needs without at times uncovering
the holes that others had used. This must have caused many
unpleasant moments. Yahweh may, of course, have anticipated
this problem and instructed Moses to make the designated area
much larger than 14.35 acres. Indeed, this would surely have been
necessary, since the 14.35 acres would have provided for only one
6-inch by 6-inch hole per person per day. Since the Israelites
wandered in the wilderness for 40 years and since Numbers 33
listed only 41 encampments for them, they would have averaged
spending almost a year at each camp site. Unless a big chunk of
land outside these camps was set aside as the "designated area,"
there would have been a lot of unpleasant digging experiences.

Other than that is the problem that would have confronted those
who felt nature calling during the night. Those in the middle of the
encampments would have had to trek at least 1.5 miles just to reach
the "designated area." Men with prostrate problems surely suffered
from sleep deprivation but would have otherwise been in good
physical condition from the exercise they got from walking back
and forth to the "designated area." Inerrantists will no doubt pooh-
pooh (pun intended) this posting, but I didn't put Deuteronomy
23:12-14 in the Bible; I have merely critically analyzed what it
says and found that it presents another problem of logistics that
biblicists need to explain if they expect rational people to believe
that their Bible is the inspired, inerrant word of an omniscient,
omnipotent deity.

Some inerrantists will claim that this requirement concerning waste
disposal applied only to the Israelite army when it was engaged in
campaigns against the enemy, because verses 9-11 say, "When you
are encamped against your enemies you shall guard against any
impropriety. If one of you becomes unclean because of a nocturnal
emission, then he shall go outside the camp; he must not come
within the camp. When evening comes, he shall wash himselfwith
water, and when the sun has set, he may come back into the

This is more of a quibble than an argument, because when the entire 23rd
chapter is read, it should be apparent that the commandments it contains
were intended to apply to all Israelites and not just to the soldiers. I'm
sure that even inerrantists would not argue, for example, that a man with
crushed testicles or an amputated penis (v:1) should be allowed into the
assembly as long as he wasn't a soldier. Did the commandment against
sodomites (v:17) apply only to soldiers? Could an Israelite lend money
for interest as long as he wasn't a soldier (v:19)?

Leviticus 26:11-12 states that Yahweh had set his tabernacle among
the Israelites and walked among them. The tabernacle was set up in
the center of the general encampment of the Israelites(Num. 3), so if
Yahweh walked among the Israelites where the tabernacle was, that
would have to mean that he walked in the general encampment of the
Israelites. If he didn't want to be repelled by the sight of excrement in
an encampment of soldiers, why would he feel any differently about
encountering it in the general encampment? The statement in Leviticus
26:11-12, by the way, is in a larger context that speaks of Yahweh's
being with the Israelites to drive their enemies out of the land. In other
words the language here is very similar to Deuteronomy 23:14, which
speaks of Yahweh walking "in the midst of the camp."

Consider Deuteronomy 23:9-11 again (quoted above), which said that
one who had become unclean because of a nocturnal emission would
have to go out of the camp, wash himself with water (there's that darned
water problem again), and remain outside till evening, at which time he
could reenter the camp. Are we to assume that this was a requirement
that had to be obeyed only by soldiers? That's hardly likely, because
the Levitical ceremonial laws declared nocturnal emissions to be unclean,

Leviticus 15:16 If a man has an emission of semen, he shall bathe his
whole body in water, and be unclean until the evening.
17 Everything made of cloth or of skin on which the semen falls
shall be washed with water, and be unclean until the evening.

One would have to strain to make this law applicable only to soldiers
who were camped "against an enemy," because it is in a context that
defined uncleanness for women as well as men. In the same way, one
places a strained double standard on Deuteronomy 23:12-14 if he tries
to make the latrine law here applicable only to men on military duty.

At any rate, very little is solved by quibbling that the policy on waste
disposal applied only to soldiers and not to the Israelites in general,
because the Israelite army numbered 600,000, so if the calculations
above are divided by four in order to limit this commandment just to
the army, the logistical problems would still exist. Can you imagine
an army of 600,000 that did not provide latrine facilities within its
camp, but every soldier was required to trek without the camp?
Imagine the hardships this would have placed even on soldiers if
their camps were as large as Kent Loar and David Sparrow have
tried to make them. I warned them that their expansion of the camp
would backfire on them when other logistical problems were introduced,
so after the fuss they raised over this, they can hardly try to make the
camps smaller than my "best-case scenario" of nine square miles.

Farrell Till

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