The Pentateuch is supposed to be written entirely by Moses. If this is true, he is the most eclectic author ever. Not only does he change voice in each book, but he even changes voice in each chapter, and sometimes even in the centre of a sentence! Syntax, style, spelling variations, Moses is constantly alternating his approach. You might take offence, but it’s truley an honour to read. He even throws in editors notes and flashbacks right in the middle of paragraphs just to keep us on our toes. And let’s not forget about how he makes Tarentino gape in awe at his use of nonlinear narrative!
For example, here the Israelites are complaining about having to eat nothing but manna for the past two years, which seems suicidal considering how God reacted to their complaints from yesterday. But then, what did you think they were complaining about yesterday? Bam! Backwards time! Also, sometimes Moses excludes major plot points in order to focus on minutia. For some reason he decided to list all of the foods that the Israelites wished they could eat again: melons, cucumbers, fish, leeks, garlic, and onions. Don’t let them breathe on you!
But the best part of Moses’ polymorphic writing style is his editor’s notes. Back when God first gave the grumbling Israelites manna, Moses explained its physical characteristics, but that happened two books ago so Moses leaves us an editor’s note to remind us (how thoughtful!). Of course, like most of the editor’s notes in the bible, these contradict the earlier text. Previously we learned that manna tasted like bread when cooked and honey when eaten raw, but here in Numbers 11:4-9 we’re told it tastes like fresh oil. Also, Exodus 16:31 told us manna is white, but the new description also says manna is the color of bdellium which is dark brown.
Is Moses really this forgetful, or are we looking at another translation fail? Well, there’s not much apologists can salvage regarding the taste of manna. The words bread, oil, and honey are used all over the bible, so they’re difficult mistranslate. However, there is hope in the vagueness of the other words. For example, the word 'abattiyach which is translated to “melon,” is used only once in the entire bible, so we have only this context to work with. When we try to find an etymology, we discover that it has no Hebrew basis, so where did it come from? Scholars suggest it’s an Arabic loanword. Well, Moses, in fact all these Israelites, were born and raised in Egypt, so they would no doubt know a lot of Arabic. That is, they would if they lived in Egypt today, but the presumed biblical time line puts the Exodus around 1500 BCE, which is about 2,000 years too early for Arabic! We know that the bible’s time line is well off which can explain this issue, but apologists don’t get that luxury. They have to come up with a story like, the Israelites living in Canaan cultivated an exotic Arabic melon and brought it with them when they moved to Egypt. Either that, or believe that the ancient Egyptians gave non-native names to their native plants! Either way, it’s pretty contrived.
But lets deal with the word that actually deals with a contradiction, is the word “bdellium,” translated from bedolach. It’s used only twice in the bible, first in Genesis as something that can be found in the land of Havilah, and here in Numbers to describe the physical appearance of manna. Neither usage is very helpful for figuring out a definition, and again, the word isn’t even Hebrew; scholars suggest Sanskrit. Translators can’t seem to agree on this word either, the NIV says “resin,” the ISV uses “amber,” and the NLT even goes as far to derive “pale yellow” from the word. So, it may be a mistranslation, but then again, we may not even have a clue what it’s supposed to be!