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.