Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Deuteronomy: Are you Going to Eat That?

Blogging, blogging, blogging, keep on Bible blogging… oh! Hello there! Welcome back to my Bible blog!

We’re in Deuteronomy, and for the last several posts Moses has been laying down the law in a protracted and rambling speech. And it seems that I have once again fallen into the trap of trying to put down everything in the interests of completeness. But since it’s not my intention to lay out a list of laws for people to follow (and actually, I’d be pretty opposed to anyone following quite a large number of these), there’s not really much value in doing that. It just makes things difficult to read. So, I’ll once again try to reign myself in and restrict my commentary to just those things that actually catch my interest.

And the first of those is…

Deu 24:16 ‘Fathers shall not be put to death because of their children, nor shall children be put to death because of their fathers. Each one shall be put to death for his own sin.”

This is of interest for a couple reasons. First of all, doesn’t this imply that the Original Sin doctrine (you know, the one that says we are all stained by Adam & Eve’s sin of disobeying God, and that death is the penalty we pay for it) is complete bullshit? Secondly (spoiler alert), during the coming invasion of the promised land, the Israelites are going to be killing children, and even infants, by the truckloads. Since the infants, obviously, wouldn’t have been able to commit the sins for which God supposedly wants those nations wiped out, it stands to reason that they are being put to death for the sins of their fathers. So this is a contradiction, or at the very least blatant hypocrisy.

Maybe it’s just another of those laws that’s meant to apply only to God’s chosen people, and fuck everyone else. Or a case of “this is what you will do, but God will do whatever the fuck he wants.”

There’s an interesting bit at the start of Chapter 25 about beating the guilty party in any dispute brought before the judges, with the number of lashes being proportional to his offense. To my recollection so far, there’s only one offense for which beatings are recommended (falsely accusing a woman of not being a virgin on her wedding night), and there aren’t really degrees of that offense by which to give a proportionate number of lashes. Pretty much everything else requires death, a monetary payment, a sacrificial offering, or has no actual penalty specified. Are we to assume that the offenses for which penalties aren’t specified are punished with beatings? Or that there are whole categories of offenses for which beatings are required that simply aren’t covered in the Bible? In either case, the fact that none of this is specified kind of suggests the Bible is incomplete, doesn’t it?

If two men are fighting, and one guy’s wife tries to rescue her husband by grabbing the other guy by the balls, then her hand should be cut off. Guess God feels pretty strongly about going after a man’s junk in a fight!

Seems like an oddly specific rule, though. Sounds to me like it’s something that happened to the author, and he was pissed off enough about it to feel like he needed to make a law.

In a more generally applicable vein, there’s an actually good law that requires the people to be honest and fair in commercial dealings by forbidding them from using doctored weights or measures for determining the value of goods.

Moses finally meanders on to the end of his speech without saying much else truly new or interesting. But then he has some proclamations to make about some specific actions the people are to take once they cross the Jordan into the promised land.

Among them are: set up piles of stones on Mount Ebal, cover them with plaster, and then write the whole law on them; build an altar to God out of unworked stones and sacrifice burnt offerings on it, and then write the words of the law on those stones. Then the tribes are supposed to divide themselves between Mount Gerizin and Mount Ebal while the Levitical priests stand in the middle and declare a series of curses.

The Levites are to declare a curse for anyone who does the following: makes a carved or metal image, dishonors his father or mother, has sex with an animal, has sex with his sister (Abraham, still looking at you), has sex with his mother-in-law, strikes down his neighbor in secret, takes a bribe to kill an innocent, or does not follow the law.

Then we get yet another repetition of how God will bless them as long as they obey his laws. Riches, bountiful harvests, victory over their enemies, healthy children, etc., etc. The blessings (fourteen verses of these) are pretty commonplace stuff (not even any promises of mind-blowing orgasms), but it’s in the curses that follow for disobedience (fifty-four verses of these, so you know where the priorities lie) where the author gets really creative.

Let’s see a sampling of the curses God has in store for the Israelites should they disobey him. We start off pretty tame, with frustration and confusion in all their endeavors. But we quickly move on to wasting diseases, droughts, blighted crops, and rains of dust rather than water. God will cause them to be defeated by their enemies, and their dead bodies to be eaten by wild animals. They’ll get boils, tumors, and scabs that can’t be healed. They’ll be struck blind and mad, and people will oppress and rob them all the time while nobody comes to their aid. Their betrothed will be raped by other men before they can be married, their food, livestock, and children will be taken by other people. Locusts and worms will consume their crops (before or after they’re stolen by other men?). Then God will bring another nation to conquer and rule over them, who will consume all of their food and destroy all of their cities. And here’s the best one of all.

Deu 28:53 And you shall eat the fruit of your womb, the flesh of your sons and daughters, whom Yahweh your God has given you, in the siege and in the distress with which your enemies shall distress you.”

That’s right, kiddies, if you disobey the all-loving and benevolent creator, he will make you eat your fucking children! Are you feeling the infinite compassion and love yet?

Oh, and just for a little extra added kick, you’ll become the kind of dick who won’t share his dead baby flesh with the rest of his starving family either. Guess the only thing worse than a cannibal is a selfish cannibal.

There are a few more curses after that, including scattering them among other nations where they’ll be so poor they have to sell themselves as slaves (except no one will want to buy them), but none of them come close to topping the cannibalizing-your-own-children thing. Though there’s an entertaining aside near the end about how God will “take delight in bringing ruin upon you and destroying you.” Isn’t that the sort of thing we generally classify as evil?

So that pretty much brings us to the end of what Moses has to say about blessings and curses for the time being. He’s going to move on to another part of the speech, but we’re going to go ahead and call it a day here. We’ll pick up the next section in my next post.

In the meantime, be well! Oh, and seriously... don't eat your kids.

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