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In the WildernessThe Doctrine of Defilement in the Book of Numbers$
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Mary Douglas

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780199245413

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199245413.001.0001

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Twelve Sections in the Overall Pattern

Twelve Sections in the Overall Pattern

(p.102) Chapter 5 Twelve Sections in the Overall Pattern
In the Wilderness

Mary Douglas

Oxford University Press

This chapter identifies the units of structure in the Book of Numbers. Instead of unwarranted interruption, the periodic switch back and forth between the law sections and narrative sections is more like montage or cinema flash-backs. Rather than judge the book severely because the laws interrupt the narrative, the chapter finds that it is composed deliberately of two strands, one of law and one of narrative. By introducing the alternative mode each new section cuts off the previous section: the result is a pattern of alternating strands. In Numbers the sections are marked off automatically by stylistic rules which anyone can check, without making reference to the themes developed within a section. The two modes, story and law, differ in their treatment of time. The chapter demonstrates that they are an elaboration of the well-known poetic structure of parallelism which is typical of Hebrew poetry.

Keywords:   units of structure, law, narrative, story, Book of Numbers, parallelism, Hebrew poetry

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