A nonbeliever's SECOND reading of the Bible

A nonbeliever's SECOND reading of the Bible
Hunc tu caveto.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Baal-Berith, an ancient pagan god that a more recent heavy metal band named themselves after.  
Here's the cover of their album.

Israel's Ongoing Battle With Paganism (Judges, Chapter 8) - One of the recurring themes with the Israelites is that one pushy guy gets them to worship Yahweh, and then upon said pushy guy's death, they go back to worshiping other gods.  This tells me that if these stories were true, they probably didn't take Yahweh too seriously.  But the people writing the histories (at least the ones that survived) were the people worshiping Yahweh, so it's their story that remains with us today.

Chapter 8 is the last one with Gideon, who might be the namesake of Gideons International, the group that goes around and puts Bibles in hotel rooms.  Gideon is chasing two final kings, who have an army of about 15,000.  This is vastly reduced from the 120,000 they had before Yahweh caused them to kill each other.  Gideon commands 300 men, and is like King Leonidas on the offensive.

While in pursuit, Gideon's tired men come across two towns and asks for supplies.  The towns refuse, and Gideon tells them after he vanquishes his enemy, he's going to come back and crush them.

Gideon has a shameful moment when, upon capturing the two kings, he asks his son to have the honors in killing them.  His son didn't want to do it, and Gideon said something like, "You're not a man" and then knocked off the two kings.

After their victory, Gideon says a very corny line.  I think my wife would say it's as corny as one of my jokes.  The men of Israel cheer Gideon and ask him to rule over them.  He replies, "I shall not rule over you.  My sons shall not rule over you.  The LORD shall rule over you."

Then something strange happens.  Gideon asks that all the earrings of the dead soldiers be gathered.  Apparently, because they were "Ishmaelites" (remember Ishmael from Genesis) they all had gold earrings.  Gideon arranged to have these melted down and fashioned into an Eshod, which is a ceremonial apron that was worn by the Israelite priests.  And, in a choice of words I don't understand, Judges 8:27 says that the Israelites "went whoring" after the Eshod.  I have no idea what that means, or why they would do that.

Anyways, Chapter 8 ends by saying that as soon as Gideon dies (at a good old age), the Israelites go right back to worshiping other gods, in particular a Ba'al named Baal-Berith.   This really illustrates how hard it is to get a culture that is already steeped in one religious tradition to convert wholesale into another religion.  It is evident today with Christian missionaries, who to their own dismay report that their new converts still believe in their old religion, but have just incorporated the beliefs of Christianity.  This hybridization of religion is reported in all cultures who worshiped previous deity and were approached by missionaries to worship another.

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