Back on the Bible. Has it really been over a year?
There are a lot of redundancies in this book. The 10 Commandments come back, lots of rules we’ve seen before and lots of reminders that Yahweh got the Israelites out of Egypt. Seriously, it gets annoying. Like that friend who helped you move a year ago and is still milking it for favors.
So Yahweh has the tribes pick leaders and takes a reconnaissance group into the Amorite highlands and told them they could have all this land if they just kill everyone. But the leaders choked and as punishment Yahweh kept them wandering for another 38 years so a generation if real men can take over the army. And the genocides recommence.
Nations like Sihon and Og are wiped out. God hardens the heart (mind control) of the Sihon king so that they’ll resist the Israelites resulting the the deaths of all men, women and children 2:34. The Esau and Ammon nations are spared for no specific reason.
Moses asks if he can lead the invasion of Lebanon but God shuts him down and says that’s for Joshua to invade. Then Moses sets aside three towns where accidental killers can find refuge.
A hit list of seven more nations is made and so is the Ark of the Covenant. And finally Moses dies after 120 years after Yahweh tells him that the Israelites will inevitably rebel against God again.
I am the Law!
Like I said there are a lot of the same laws as in earlier books. But Deuteronomy really comes down hard on the first commandment. When Yahweh says, “I am a jealous god” he’s not kidding around.
God takes a stand against human sacrifice in 12:31. I believe that’s a first. Also, did you know that griffins aren’t kosher? 14:12. And a very specific rule about fighting, “If, when two men are fighting, the wife of one intervenes to protect her husband from the other’s blows by reaching out and seizing the other by his private parts, you must cut off her hand and show no pity.” 25:11-12 I’m guessing this could be traced back to one woman in particular.
If a man accuses his new wife of not being a virgin and her parents can’t prove that she is then she is stoned to death. If he’s a liar then he gets flogged and fined. 22:13-21
We finally get a ruling on rape. If a betrothed woman is raped, outside of the city then the rapist is put to death. However, if the rape happens inside the city it’s assumed that she didn’t call for help because she was consenting so they’re both to be stoned. If the girl in question isn’t betrothed then the rapist owes her father 50 shekels and has to marry his victim. RomComs were a lot darker back then.
And we also get a rule about divorce, another first I believe. It’s okay to divorce a woman who displeases you, but if she marries and divorces another man you can’t marry her again. Not sure if you can remarry immediately though.
Number is an easy book to skip. It’s mostly census information, new laws and rituals regarding purification and vows. Oh and the Canaanite Genocide starts here, but no one wants to hear about genocide.
The Levites are an exception to many of the rules here. They’re the one tribe not allowed to own land since Yahweh is their inheritance and they handle a lot of the rituals for the Israelites. Speaking of Yahweh, God is starting to feel unappreciated and understandably so. Many of Isrealites feel they had it better in Egypt especially when confronted by the Anakin giants (ancestors of Goliath) and a number of rebellions have to be put down. Wandering the desert with only manna to eat gets old after a few decades.
The Tassel Is Law!
To remind his people of God’s constant presence he dictates that their clothing should be trimmed with violet tassels. Okay.
The Isrealites won’t eat their manna anymore and God responds with a plague of fiery serpents, which is more effective than pretending their spoon is a train.
Booty and its Allocation, that really what this section is called
Taking a breather in Shittim, some of the Isrealites participate in the Moabite culture, and by culture I mean religion and prostitution. Yahweh ordered those Isrealites put to death, and the entire Midianite civilization for tempting his people.
After slaughtering the men and returning with the women and children as prisoners Moses is outraged. He said, “Why have you spared the life of all the woman?” Numbers 31:15 and promptly orders the women and boys slaughtered and the girls taken as property, and I think we know what that implies.
Rules, Rules, Rules
The first seven chapters are all about sacrifices, animal or cereal. Sacrifices of sin, depending on the sinner’s station in the tribe. Chapters eight, nine and ten are rules for the priesthood, consecration and such. Eleven through sixteen are about cleanliness, or rather uncleanliness because the focus is on traits possessed, not traits absent. Animals, sexual relations and skin diseases are the three big uncleans, here’s where the rules for kosher foods first come up. The origin of the scapegoat is in here too, place all the guilt of the tribe on a goat and then send it off into the wild.
Let’s talk about sexual prohibitions, baby.
18:22 “You will not have intercourse with a man as you would a woman. This is a hateful thing.” But Girl-on-girl action is totally cool.
Twelve of the sexual prohibitions are incestuous in nature, listed specifically by relation. Also forbidden is sex with a woman on her period, bestiality and doing it with a fellow-citizen’s wife. While male homosexuality is the only act described as hateful there doesn’t seem to be much difference in the punishment according to the previous chapter, just a sacrifice.
Having sexual relations with one’s children is not specifically forbidden, which is odd because incestuous relations with one’s grandchildren is. And it is okay to cheat on your wife as long as the other woman isn’t married. Also, rape is not expressly forbidden.
Chapter twenty repeats the naughty sex acts, but not all of them. There’s a lot or repetition in Leviticus, it repeats itself and the Ten Commandments pop up here in incomplete form.
And then… more rules! Society rules this time, how to treat your deadbeat brother, a schedule of annual feasts and rituals for the nomadic Israelites to perform when moving into a new land.
God Will F- You Up!
Then there’s the threats. 26:14-46 is all about the horrible things God will do to you if you cross him. And Yahweh really didn’t like Moloch he’s forbidden twice by name. And I say it’s about time Moloch gets taken down a peg, he’s had it too good for too long.
If I ever crash a fundamentalist event I found my sign: “Leviticus 19:19 you will not wear a garment made of two kinds of fabric. And I vote!”
Now we’re movin’.
The first part of Exodus is the liberation of the Israelites from Egypt, Moses steps up, the plagues hit Egypt until the Pharaoh until he lets them go only to change his mind and then Yul Brynner drowns in the Red Sea. Most of us who went to Sunday School remember this but now I read this as an outsider looking in it really leaves me wondering about the Old Testament God again. The Pharaoh is manipulated back and forth and the first born sons of Egypt are slaughtered for no ethical lesson that I can see other than “Don’t fuck with Yahweh.”
As the Isrealites cross the desert there’s the stop at Mount Sinai to make the first Covenant, the Decalogue or the Ten Commandments. (Well the first Ten Commandments I believe that’s another version coming up in Deuteronomy.)
Just like my 21st century mind has a hard time relating to the Bronze Age God I don’t understand Contemporary Christians who believe that the Ten Commandments are the basis for our legal system.
- You shall have no other gods before me.
Not a law anymore, though there were plenty of times in the past that it was.
- You shall not make yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything in heaven above or on earth beneath or in the waters under the earth. [At first I said, "Really? Carving is against the rules?" but it continues.] You shall not bow down to them or serve them. For I, Yahweh your God, am a jealous God…
Redundant with the first commandment, also not a law.
- You shall not misuse the name of Yahweh your God, for Yahweh will not leave unpunished anyone who misuses his name.
Rude, but not a law.
- Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.
Everybody’s working for the weekend. -Loverboy
- Honour your father and your mother so that you may live long in the land that Yahweh your God is giving you.
No exception clause for abusive parents, also not a law.
- You shall not kill.
Ding. Ding. Ding. Ding! Our first law!
- You shall not commit adultery.
A law in some sates but rarely prosecuted. I’m looking at you John McCain
- You shall not steal.
Law number two.
- You shall not give false evidence against your neighbor.
Against the law when under oath but that’s it.
- You shall not set your heart on your neighbor’s house. You shall not set your heart on your neighbor’s spouse, or servant, man or woman, or ox, or donkey, or any of your neighbor’s possessions.
Are you kidding? This drives our consumer economy.
But it goes on. There’s a lot more in the covenant beyond the big ten. I won’t nit pick anymore because Jesus created a new covenant. But this is the first time that laws are dictated for the commerce and treatment of slaves but never says that enslaving another human being and treating them as property is wrong.
But that’s the Bronze Ages for you.
Exodus 23:9 You will not oppress the alien; you know how an alien feels, for you yourselves were once aliens in Egypt.
You don’t hear that one much these days do you?
And then there’s a whole lot on the construction of the Sanctuary, furnishings and such, about six pages.
When I first decided to read the Bible I thought, “1400 pages? No sweat.” I’ve read Battlefield Earth and most of The Wheel of Time. But page numbers can be deceiving, the font is very small but more than that the text is very dense and since I’m reading every word I can’t skip over the huge chunks of “X begat Y begat Z…”
Anyway, I’m 50 pages in and here are my thoughts on Genesis;
The Bible starts out with a collection of folk tales. The creation, the fall, Cain and Abel, the flood and the tower of Babel. They don’t feel to different than other bronze age stories and by that I mean they lack depth, that’s just the way stories were. Reading any deeper and you’re just reading into yourself.
Abraham’s tale is a tale of faith, but I really don’t think that much of faith. Faith is easy, just accept without question. I’ve had to fight my need for faith all my adult life.
But Jacob’s where it gets interesting. Jacob robs his brother of his birthright, cons his father into giving him his brother’s blessing and robs his employer. He convinces a friendly town to circumcise all their males and then two of his sons slaughter them and he only gives them a slap on the wrist. Why does God like this guy?
Then there’s the story of Joseph but that works better as a musical.