Class Warfare Blog

August 9, 2020

The Light Bulb Comes On

Filed under: History,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 12:50 pm
Tags: , , ,

Note I just responded to a comment on another of my posts on this same topic, so I finished this up and am posting it now. S

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I am reading a rather fantastic book, not that it involves fantasies but rather dispels them. That book is The Evolution of God by Robert Wright. The author placed a number of facts in a row to point out the obvious conclusion. I knew all of the facts already but hadn’t gone where they led.

Here is the argument.

The Israeli state story is that the ancient Hebrews, millions of them, fled captivity and slavery in Egypt, then wandered in the desert for 40 years finally being delivered to the Promised Land, only to find out that while it was promised, it was also occupied. So they waged wars of annihilation against the occupants of the land they were given, so they could move in.

That’s the story as laid out in their Bible, they say.

But, we now know that the Hebrews were never in Egypt proper in large numbers and certainly not there as slaves. (Egypt did conquer and rule over the “holy Land” several times and did collect taxes so “being a slave to the Egyptians” is not an unthinkable thought.) The Exodus, however, didn’t happen. The 40 years didn’t happen. If it had their main encampment would have had millions of graves left behind as almost all of the adults leaving Egypt would have died at that camp. Millions of graves? No. Hundreds of thousands of graves? No. Thousands? No. It did not happen.

But in the Bible, Israelites are repeatedly warned away from the beliefs of the pagan cultures that their god had them slaughter and the evil influence of their foreign religions.

What is going on here?

Instead of the Hebrews invading Canaan, they were Canaanites already. They differed hardly at all from the Canaanites that get so lambasted in scripture later.

So why all of the badmouthing of the “foreigners” and their religious practices?” Here is an excerpt from this book that shows why:

“Thus we see ‘the systematic turning of traditional xenophobic rhetoric … against the traditional religion of Israel’ so that in the end Israel’s religion was ‘alienated from itself.’ In this view, biblical authors, in listing the worship of, say, celestial deities among ‘the abominable practices of the nations,’ were just using fear of the foreign to purge the indigenous.”

It wasn’t foreign religions that were being opposed, it was the religion of the indigenous Israelites that was. The indigenous Israelites worshiped a panoply of gods, mostly Canaanite, because they were Canaanites.

This was in the time of King Josiah, who was trying mightily to consolidate his power by reducing the number of gods he had to answer to. (Note Since Josiah took the throne at the age of eight, I assume it was Yahweh’s high priest and Josiah’s advisers, etc. were also involved.) Here’s another quote from the book:

“Josiah had priests take from Yahweh’s temple and burn ‘all the vessels made for Ba’al, for Asherah’ and for ‘all the host of heaven’ (which in this context means deified celestial bodies). He removed horses used in sun worship from the entrance to the temple and ‘burned the chariots of the sun with fire.’ He wiped out shrines built for ‘Astarte the abomination of the Sidonians, for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites’—and, as a kind of exclamation point, covered these sites with human bones. Josiah also banned mediums, sorcerers, household gods, idols, and miscellaneous other ‘abominations that were seen in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem.’ As had Hezekiah, King Josiah tore down ‘the high places’—altars across Judah where various gods might be worshiped. But the altars themselves weren’t the only target. According to the Bible, Josiah “deposed” the priests linked to them, emphatically including priests who ‘made offerings to Baal, to the sun, the moon, the constellations.’ And beyond Judah, in the former northern kingdom, Josiah went further: he “slaughtered on the altars all the priests of the high places who were there, and burned human bones on them. Then he returned to Jerusalem.”

Josiah ruled Judah (Israel had been destroyed) from 641/640 BCE to 610/609 BCE so you can see that Judah wasn’t what you might call monotheistic at this point. The Temple in Jerusalem had “vessels made for Ba’al and Asherah and all the host of heaven” in it. (The host of heaven, hmm, were they Yahweh’s offstage audience in the book of Genesis? Seems so.)

The “high places” that were destroyed (along with the priests who officiated there) were outdoor altars on hilltops where gods other than Yahweh were worshiped. (This is all in the books of Kings in the OT (Oneth and Twooth, Doanld.), btw.)

As I mentioned in a previous post, kings preferred monotheism because it increased their leverage over the priests, or priest, they had to relate to (and control).

So, the story of the conquest of Canaan was written as political cover for the effort to make the indigenous religion of the vast majority of Israelites into foreign religions that could be snuffed out in favor of the religion the elites wanted the people to have. (Effing elites!)

The people didn’t want “Yahweh alone,” the people didn’t create the “Yahweh alone movement” and scripture didn’t support it . . . until . . . until Josiah and his gang of Yahweh priests started doing a bit of editing.

You may be aware of Josiah as the king who “found” a lost book of the Torah. The story goes, according to Wikipedia: “While (High Priest) Hilkiah was clearing the treasure room of the Temple he discovered a scroll described in 2 Kings as ‘the book of the Law,’ and in 2 Chronicles as “the book of the Law of the LORD given by Moses.” The phrase sefer ha-torah (ספר התורה) in 2 Kings 22:8 is identical to the phrase used in Joshua 1:8 and 8:34 to describe the sacred writings that Joshua had received from Moses. The book is not identified in the text as the Torah and many scholars believe this was either a copy of the Book of Deuteronomy or a text that became a part of Deuteronomy.”

The book of Deuteronomy stresses the uniqueness of God and the need for drastic centralization of worship . . . surprise, surprise. If Jews could only sacrifice at the Jerusalem temple, then the “high places” altars became less and less of an option.

Ah, as they say, hah.

8 Comments »

  1. Just an observation, you see … but I’ve often wondered why so many scholars focus on Hebrew history when the crux of the Christian belief (which influences so much of modern history) is concentrated in the books that originated in the “CE” era.

    Certainly Israel plays a part, and the tales provided in the Hebrew Bible often intertwine with the beliefs surrounding “the Christ,” but they are not the core of what Christianity claims as its own special story.

    I suppose “truth” is always a good thing and perhaps that’s the incentive … ?

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Nan — August 9, 2020 @ 2:09 pm | Reply

    • When they were writing the NT, they mined the OT for every connection they could make, preferably through prophecies. This is why so many lame prophecies are claimed about the coming of Jesus. (They really scraped the bottom of the barrel.) They worked like crazy to claim that Jesus was there when Yahweh was doing his creating. Eventually Jesus becomes a god and since only one was allowed he got folded into the Trinity. Plus, Jesus refers to his Father ad nauseum and that his earthly authority comes trough his father and … and … so they are tied together about as close as they could get.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Steve Ruis — August 9, 2020 @ 10:03 pm | Reply

      • Yes, I’m aware the NT writers did just as you pointed out. But my question wasn’t about that.

        I was curious as to why people like Wright focus on the hiccups of the OT as related to Israelite history. None of that really matters to “believers.” All they’re interested in, as you addressed, is how it all relates to their beliefs surrounding Jesus. In fact, I daresay very few Christians give a hoot about OT history.

        Is it just a scholarly thing?

        Like

        Comment by Nan — August 10, 2020 @ 10:43 am | Reply

        • I guess I was poor at making my point. Jesus, in the NT, basically accepts all of the OT as being true. Consider the line in Matthew where he says that he was not going to change even a jot or tittle of the law, the law as being described in the OT. (Matthew 5:18: “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (KJV).) Jesus, hisself, basically claimed that the law in the OT was perfect.

          Very little, btw, outside of the gospels in the NT is historical, so applying archeology to verify NT happenings is very difficult at best. So, we pick on what we can. ;o)

          Actually I think most Christains don’t give a hoot about what Jesus was supposed to have taught them. Consider his “sell all your goods and follow me” dictum or “love your neighbor as yourself” dictum (not invented by him but claimed to be the core of his teaching). Do Chrsitians follow these “recommendations”? Or do they follow the platitudes they are given in church? It is hard to not believe lies when they are exactly what you want to hear. (Is not Trump proving that right now?)

          On Mon, Aug 10, 2020 at 10:43 AM Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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          Liked by 1 person

          Comment by Steve Ruis — August 10, 2020 @ 11:01 am | Reply

          • We’re still not on the same page, but that’s OK. 🙂 It often happens in blog discussions … or hadn’t you noticed? 😁

            Like

            Comment by Nan — August 10, 2020 @ 11:24 am | Reply

            • Is there a page big enough to contain us both? Are you not entertained!

              I don’t know sht, but I am willing to share what I know … is what it comes down to. Sorry.

              On Mon, Aug 10, 2020 at 11:24 AM Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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              Like

              Comment by Steve Ruis — August 10, 2020 @ 11:38 am | Reply

              • Apology? For what!!?! 😧 Just because we didn’t have a meeting of the minds? I hope you were just being facetious.

                Like

                Comment by Nan — August 10, 2020 @ 11:43 am | Reply

                • I feel as if I disappointed you. As a like minded person being on the same page as you is desirable. (Is this an example of preaching to the choir?)

                  On Mon, Aug 10, 2020 at 11:43 AM Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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                  Liked by 1 person

                  Comment by Steve Ruis — August 10, 2020 @ 11:48 am | Reply


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