Smart Ancient Syndrome (SAS) and the Evolutionist Parade
Mean Things God Doesn't Do - Part 1

The Rowdy Neighbors

If she said it once, she must have said it a hundred times. They weren't boy scouts back then, Mr. Sheepandgoats! Those Old Testament scriptures were written by primitive nomadic tribes -  nasty, barbaric, uncouth, bloodthirsty, drooling - and yet  your people, Tom, your Jehovah's Witnesses, insist on portraying them as if in a Hollywood blockbuster.
 
Well...I may concede a little on that latter point. I mean, surely those Old Testament characters were more complex than just modern-day Jehovah's Witnesses inserted into an ancient setting, with concerns intact about family study, dress and grooming, and so forth. We don't exactly sink to the level of a Hollywood blockbuster, of course - Charlton Heston towering over lesser mortals, the good guy always getting the girl. But we do probably sanitize things a bit. Let's face it; a guy that lays naked in front of a brick all day to make a point, and does so for days on end, is not your typical family guy. There were some strange goings-on back then, and there's no point pretending otherwise. But that's minor quibbling.

There certainly were primitive nomads back then; the Bible doesn't disagree. They surrounded the Israelites and lived in their midst. Often the Israelites strayed from worship of Jehovah to party with the neighbors, drawn to their looser standards, just like we're drawn to smut and violent TV. Whenever that happened, the Israelites became as degraded as their pals - sometimes worse.  More than once verses like the following appear in the record:
 
But Manasseh led Judah and the people of Jerusalem astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the LORD had destroyed before the Israelites.  2 Chron 33:9  NIV
 
As everybody knows, the Israelites (descendents of Abraham via Jacob) emerged from Egyptian bondage to settle in "the promised land," which already had peoples living there. Some of these they drove off and some they mixed in with. As they neared that land, God gave a long list of degraded practices to avoid, and concluded with:
 
Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled. Even the land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants.  Lev 18:24-25
 
You will be hard pressed to find a more recurring theme anywhere in the Bible than that of Israel forsaking its own law to carry on with the rowdy neighbors, much to God's disgust. You can't read the Old Testament and not be struck by it. If the king happened to be rotten, as many of them were, that example was quickly reflected in the conduct of the subjects. For example, at 2 Kings 17:7-17,  the freewheeling yet undeniably colorful Message translation states:
 
The children of Israel sinned against God, their God, who had delivered them from Egypt and the brutal oppression of Pharaoh king of Egypt. They took up with other gods, fell in with the ways of life of the pagan nations God had chased off, and went along with whatever their kings did. They did all kinds of things on the sly, things offensive to their God, then openly and shamelessly built local sex-and-religion shrines at every available site. They set up their sex-and-religion symbols at practically every crossroads. Everywhere you looked there was smoke from their pagan offerings to the deities—the identical offerings that had gotten the pagan nations off into exile. They had accumulated a long list of evil actions and God was fed up, fed up with their persistent worship of gods carved out of deadwood or shaped out of clay, even though God had plainly said, "Don't do this—ever!"

God had taken a stand against Israel and Judah, speaking clearly through countless holy prophets and seers time and time again, "Turn away from your evil way of life. Do what I tell you and have been telling you in The Revelation I gave your ancestors and of which I've kept reminding you ever since through my servants the prophets." But they wouldn't listen. If anything, they were even more bullheaded than their stubborn ancestors, if that's possible. They were contemptuous of his instructions, the solemn and holy covenant he had made with their ancestors, and of his repeated reminders and warnings. They lived a "nothing" life and became "nothings"—just like the pagan peoples all around them. They were well-warned: God said, "Don't!" but they did it anyway. They threw out everything God, their God, had told them, and replaced him with two statue-gods shaped like bull-calves and then a phallic pole for the whore goddess Asherah. They worshiped cosmic forces—sky gods and goddesses—and frequented the sex-and-religion shrines of Baal. They even sank so low as to offer their own sons and daughters as sacrificial burnt offerings! They indulged in all the black arts of magic and sorcery. In short, they prostituted themselves to every kind of evil available to them. And God had had enough.
 
Thus if some critic tells you of debauchery back then....so? Who ever said there wasn't? I don't know what can be proven about that ancient time and place. The archeologists, higher critics, and assorted luminaries are going to point to unsavory goings-on back then, and we're going to say 'wasn't anybody I know. Must have been those rowdies living next door.' Israel's superior law from Jehovah set them apart, but only so long as they followed that law. They frequently didn't.

But to the extent that they did, that nation stood head and shoulders above surrounding peoples. Morally, socially, scientifically even, this nation stood out. What about those rigid standards of hygiene and cleanliness, escalating to quarantine when necessary, so that outbreaks of illness (plague) were nipped in the bud? Such simple matters as burying feces was ensconced in their law. Contrast that with European cities 3000 years later, where they were flinging human waste out the window onto public streets and walkways, completely oblivious to the health hazard. Or with medical experts of Ignatz Semmelweis' day who laughed their sides off at the notion that simple handwashing might reduce the sky-high mortality rates of existing hospitals, and who didn't change their opinion even after Semmelweis enforced hand writing at his own hospital, and the mortality rate did plummet. That colossal ignorance of science's best and brightest was only 150 years ago.
 
What about gleaning, the statute by which farmers were required to leave the edges of their fields untouched so that the down-on-their-luck could harvest and care for themselves? Or the jubilee arrangement, where every fifty years all land reverted to its original ownership, so that there would never be a permanent underclass (or privileged overclass)? Not only were such progressive measures unheard of then; they are unheard of now. Don't go telling me about barbaric nomads. In many ways, those ancients put us to shame.
 
Jehovah reminded those Israelites: See, I have taught you regulations and judicial decisions, just as Jehovah my God has commanded me, for you to do that way in the midst of the land to which you are going to take possession of it. And you must keep and do them, because this is wisdom on your part and understanding on your part before the eyes of the peoples who will hear of all these regulations, and they will certainly say, ‘This great nation is undoubtedly a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has gods near to it the way Jehovah our God is in all our calling upon him? And what great nation is there that has righteous regulations and judicial decisions like all this law that I am putting before you today.  Deut 4:5-8
 
Some wise-guy cynical brother who I won't name....oh, alright, it was Tom Pearlsandswine....once stated that "the truth is such a beautiful thing. It's a shame that Jehovah had to waste it on people!" I promptly rebuked him, of course, but there's no denying the long history, both then and now, of humans straying far from God's good ways.

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More here on Old Testament savagery

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Tom Irregardless and Me               No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Comments

Tobias

I think not all non-Israelites and neighbors are evil, though. There seems to be a misconception among a lot of Christians that all non-Christians are evil and satanic.

I'm not questioning the Bible though. I'm just pointing out both sides of the coin. To the non-Israelites back then, the Israelites' practice with God might seem weird at best. I'm not saying Israelites and God are evil. I just mean that the definition of good and evil is so ambiguous we cannot find a clear answer.

tom sheepandgoats

I'm with you to a degree, Tobias. However, note regarding these particular neighbors Deut 12:31 -

"You must not thus behave toward the LORD your God; for every abomination which He hates, these peoples have done for their gods, even to the burning of their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods." Ber

That's pretty bad.

Jason Chamberlain

I find it interesting that one of the chief attacks against the Bible is the order of genocide. However, the whole of the Old Testament shows that God knew what He was talking about when He commanded it. He knew what would happen when they didn't do it.

tom sheepandgoats

Jason:

I hear you. Thanks. Sort of like Deut 9:4-5:

"“Do not say in your heart when Jehovah your God pushes them away from before you this, ‘It was for my own righteousness that Jehovah has brought me in to take possession of this land,’ whereas it is for the wickedness of these nations that Jehovah is driving them away from before you. It is not for your righteousness or for the uprightness of your heart that you are going in to take possession of their land; in fact, it is for the wickedness of these nations that Jehovah your God is driving them away from before you, and in order to carry out the word that Jehovah swore to your forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob."

DT

When talking about the non-boy-scout-ish behavior of the ancients, the "she" mentioned in your opening should have directed the criticism more clearly: directly at those people that were behaving in such ways precisely because they were following God's law.

As she didn't, your post seems to focus the criticism on the pagans of surrounding nations, as well as the Hebrews that left God's law to follow them. This seems like ignoring the elephant in the room.

I won't insult your intelligence by rehashing individual examples (I'm sure you've heard them all anyway), but it's of course plain that the Hebrews did things that were just as horrifying and barbaric as the nations around them. The difference here, though, is that they did them with the explicit approval and direction of God.

You cite the 'burning of their sons and daughters in the fire' in one of your comments; surely the Hebrews were given and carried out the order to kill infants and children when conquering a territory.

It seems to me that the only argument that would make any sense (although I don't personally agree with it) is to agree that behavior was indeed vile and barbaric in those days, but that the Hebrews are exempt from criticism as they were simply following the commandments of Jehovah.

The argument that the Hebrews being more advanced than their neighbors in areas of health and certain social programs somehow exempts them from responsibility for their violent and barbaric behavior clearly set forth in the Scriptures doesn't seem to carry much weight.

tom sheepandgoats

DT:

I don't think I have the answer to what you bring up. You say "surely the Hebrews were given and carried out the order to kill infants and children when conquering a territory." That doesn't play very well today, does it? And the Deuteronomy verses I quoted (above) for Jason are a challenge for people to get their heads around, I admit.

Similar verses of God taking life can be found in the NT. For example, 2 Thess 1:6-9.

Also those passages in Jeremiah likening people to a potter's vessel which is not coming out quite right, which is resisting the potter's best efforts on the turning wheel, so he swats it flat and starts again.

I suppose one can carry on about how mean God is. But since he's the potter, I think it's more productive to try to get on his good side. It's not that hard.

DT

Hi Tom,

I hope my comment wasn't perceived as me challenging you to come up with an answer for something. Your post and comments were well-written and thoughtful; my comment was intended to bring up a point of view that seemed (to me!) to add to the debate.

I will also say that I have more respect for believers, like yourself, who stick to their guns and, when presented with opposing viewpoints, don't proceed to water their position down in some relativist attempt at attaining "common ground".

We might not agree, but I think it more intellectually stimulating to converse with folks that are seriously behind what they believe.

tom sheepandgoats

I appreciate the remark, DT

Bill in Detroit

"Semmelweis enforced hand writing at his own hospital"

Yeah, those keyboard germs can be nasty!

ROFLOL!

Might wanna fix the typo. 8-)

I just 'met' Semmelweis yesterday while researching antiseptics for a book (the book is set in the mid 1850s and my protagonist has an infected amputation). Another scientist who was hounded by 'orthodox' science. (Just reflecting on your climate warming post.)

tom sheepandgoats

Did it really say "hand writing?" Well well well. Nevertheless, I'll leave it as is, otherwise your comment will make no sense. Besides, perhaps it will increase the value of the post among collectors.

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