Out of sheer coincidence, nonstampcollector just put this up today and describes what I'm trying to explain to you in cohesive manner.
Monday, February 22, 2010
Deuteronomy, Chapter 14 is instructions on how to create an ancient Israelite restaurant.
But first - a bit on how restaurant staff should look. Sorry emo people, God doesn't want you to cut yourself. And you guys and gals with uni-brows, you can't shave them! And you DEFINITELY can't do neither for the recently deceased!
Another important distinction to make about the Bible is to not take its scientific claims seriously, like in 14:7 where Moses instructs the Israelites not to eat "the hare, and the coney: for they chew the cud."
Just an FYI, rabbits don't chew their cud. They eat, poop, and then eat their poop, which is what they digest.
So yes, no rabbits on the menu! And no sea creatures that do not have fins or scales (i.e. mussels and clams). And there's a whole litany of birds that will not be on the menu; they're mainly predatorial birds like eagles and pelicans; but there's also those pesky swans and bats. Bats!?! Yes, the ancient Israelites had no concept of grouping animals by mammalian characteristics. At least, there methodology wasn't sophisticated enough to tell a flying mammal from any other bird. To them, animals were grouped by flying and nonflying, divided hooves or not, sea creatures with scales and fins and those that didn't; and 'clean' and 'unclean'.
The ancient Israelites didn't necessarily think these animals were dirty. By 'unclean', they were either talking about whether the animals was fit for animal sacrifice; and that is usually determined on whether the animals fit neatly into their primitive methodology of categorizing the world.
Also on the menu is roadkill, or any dead animal found laying around. Ancient Israelites couldn't eat these things because they weren't ritualistically cleaned when the animal died (they weren't 'kosher'), but they were instructed to have no qualms about selling this to outsiders. I wonder, if there was such thing as an Ancient Israelite restaurant, would the waiter tell the infidel guests that the food they were eaten was from an animal they found lying in the street?
Oh yes, and don't ask for a baby goat to be boiled in its mother's milk. They don't do that!
Friday, February 12, 2010
"If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder ... that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death." Deuteronomy 13:1-5
Under this law alone, many people would have been put to death. John Lennon, Spinoza, Isaac Newton, Moses, Jesus ... all guilty of being either a prophets and dreamers if judged from the eyes of the ancient Israelites. Luckily, these eyes are long closed.
Deuteronomy, Chapter 13 is a sermon to the Israelites on the evils of new ideas, aka heresy.
A few verses later (13:6-10) Moses spells it out clearly: ""If thy brother ... or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods ... Thou shalt not consent unto him ... neither shall thine eye pity him ... But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people."
Today of course, we ignore all of Moses' advice in this chapter, but I must ask you. If the Bible is a manual for morality, what is it that causes us to ignore this verse but find wisdom in a verse like that in Leviticus that says to "Love your neighbor."?
Wednesday, February 03, 2010
Okay, I was a bit misleading last time. Yahweh doesn't ask the Israelites to drink the blood of animals, rather he asks them to a) sacrifice an animal, b) pour the blood out all over the altar, and then c) eat the flesh. Satan probably wasn't invented yet, but Satanists (the devil worshipping kind, not the 'atheist' kind) today might recognize the ritual as one of their own.
Moses also instructs the Israelites to go out and completely destroy the altars and groves of the nations surrounding them. He's basically trying to shore up Yahweh as the only god for the Israelites. This violent backlach against other religions suggests that these other religions were a bit of a problem for the budding Yahwists. It seems feasible at least that at least a few Israelites were a little too interested in the religions of their neighbors, and the political infrastructure of Israelite society wanted to stop this curiosity.
In the words of Moses (Deuteronomy 12:30), "Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before thee; and that thou enquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise."
Moses then brings up the human sacrifices of their neighbors as a reason not to follow them. Which is odd, because this is the same society that has no problem executing disobedient sons, women who had sex before their wedding day, and killing the children of the nations they conquer (or should I say, "happily dashes the little ones on the rocks?).
I'm getting this weird picture here. And it goes soundly with the principle that "History is written by the conquerors." The Israelites were a sort of rogue militaristic nation amongst many other similarly cultured Sumerian/Canaanite nations. It was the Israelites who had the strongest drive to go out and conquer their enemies. These other nations didn't put up a very good resistance either.
Some might say it's because Yahweh was on their side. I'd have to disagree. It might've 'seemed' like Yahweh on their side, in the same sense finding an empty parking space in front of Walmart might seem like God reserved it just for you. But I think the Israelites were just a lot more organized then their neighbors. They had a great propaganda machine going on. And they probably had a charismatic leader. Then again, it's also quite likely that a lot of this is early stuff about Israel is legend. Many scholars don't even think Moses was real; but I'm sure that some cult leader was responsible for the upstart religion/nation.
A lot of what is said in the Book of Numbers and most of the Pentateuch isn't supported by archaeology, either. The places might correspond, but the events as they are recorded in the Bible don't match up (like millions of people wandering the wilderness).
Anyways, the Israelites continue to have problems with other religions until the later 'reformist' kings begin their rule. Right now, Deuteronomy is trying to describe a time when the Israelites were just getting a foothold in the region.
Next time, we'll discuss why Yahweh nor the Israelites would not have liked John Lennon much.