Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Her witchcrafts are so many? (Exod. 22:18 et al., witches)

A girl I briefly dated in college with whom I was friends for quite some time used to always say of the Salem witch trials, "Why is it that people always say that it's a shame that these women were falsely accused of being witches? Does that imply that if any of them were actual witches (which a few of them may have been) that would make it morally acceptable to kill them?" It was a rhetorical question in her view; of course it would not be morally acceptable. I think when it comes to the Bible, these questions need to be given some more comprehensive treatment.

Exodus 22:18 simply reads "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." However, the issues brought up are far from simple. There are two terms here that need to be explored: "witch" and "live". The latter turns out to be the most simple. It may be that the command here is not to kill a witch so much as to cast her out of the community in some manner. The Hebrew verb here may actually have to do with prosperity rather than physical life, implying that if there is a woman offering some sort of service termed as "witchcraft", then you should not solicit her. (While the term is not used there specifically, King Saul solicits a woman who "hath a familiar spirit" to help him in 1Sam. 28. It seems pretty clear that this was a bad idea.) While the possibility exists, (and note that the way in which she should be killed is not specified) it is likely that the intention here is that witchcraft be a capital crime. Either way, be it "kill witches" or "ensure witches do not prosper", there's clearly a command here to be prejudiced sharply against them.

Having already discussed capital punishment, I therefore turn to a discussion of the term "witch". Even in modern English, the term is rather vague. Judging by the pop culture phenomena of "Harry Potter", "Sabrina the Teenage Witch" and "The Wizard of Oz", witches are human-like (but somehow not quite human) individuals that have the ability to change reality around them by waving sticks at things. While this particular idea of what witches are like is probably not, nor has ever been, realized in the non-fictitious world, the truth is that witches do exist.

While the term "witch" is used informally by many as an epithet for a woman who is ugly and/or spiteful, in a more technical sense, the term still refers more specifically to a person (more commonly female, but not always) who either practices magic in some unspecified manner, or more likely a practitioner of the religion known as Wicca. For those not familiar, Wicca is:
A polytheistic Neo-Pagan nature religion inspired by various pre-Christian western European beliefs, whose central deity is a mother goddess and which includes the use of herbal magic and benign witchcraft. (American Heritage Dictionary)
So which of these witches is the sort that is supposedly to be killed? While I think we can rule out the sort that is simply fitting of the epithet, it's worthwhile to note that the supposition that many have is that many of those who were killed in the Salem witch trials were of this type. (I don't like the way she looks/acts, so I'll call her a witch and let the authorities handle it.) I am going to assume the Bible however is not referring to this sort of person.

So this leaves two possibilities which are not necessarily distinct. Although Wicca as we know it today did not exist in those days, there no doubt were similar pagan religions, and magic, be it of the showy, supernatural sort or simply some sort of "herbal magic" could easily have existed at pretty much any time in history. What would make either of these wrong?

Well, the pagan one is easy. If I have talked about religious intolerance in the Bible before now, I don't recall, but this is as good a place as any to address it. As I've said in my other blog, here in America, we have a nation that promises by its Constitution certain freedoms, including freedom of speech and religion. I'm all for it. Despite being a "fundie" who will be among the first to tell you that I believe Jesus offers the one and only path to the salvation of your soul, I am glad to share this nation with atheists, pagans, Muslims and even Scientologists. But that's not what ancient Israel was all about. While we here are trying to build a society from a variety of cultures that will strengthen each other through diversity, God's aims in creating Israel was to have a nation that would be uniformly existing for the sole purpose of glorifying Him. Now that brings up other philosophical issues that libraries of books no doubt have been written about, this is the Bible, and this is God speaking to His people, and within that context, God is free to say essentially "My way or the highway!"

As I said in the post on capital punishment, there are essentially three things you could be killed for in Israel: murder, sexual impurity, and improper religious practice. The third category exists because especially in this case, God is trying to create a new religion more or less from scratch. His people have lived in the midst of pagan nations, well, since forever. Abraham lived among pagans in Ur, and he moved to Canaan where he lived among other pagans. His great-grandchildren, the sons of Jacob, moved to Egypt and spent 400-odd years there among yet another pagan society. Now that they are finally big enough to be their own nation and they are (supposedly) about to have their own land, God is demanding a cleansing. Many Biblical scholars have noted that there is a parallel in these stories to the concept of Baptism, a Jewish ritual that of course was taken up in a big way by Christians. This is a fresh start for the nation, and God has them pass through the waters of the Red Sea, drowning the Egyptians. God is washing the pagan-ness out of these people, and He wants them to stay clean.

As for magic, God simply doesn't want people to depend on any power other than Him. This may also be related in a more direct way to paganism, of course, but there is certainly a sense in which God is warning them away from anything supernatural that is not God Himself, because it is very likely something evil.

I hope this is coming across clearly enough. I've been stalling on this one not because it's a difficult one per se (in the way that the abortion and capital punishment posts were), but in such a small verse, there are some big issues to deal with, and I've spent far too much time mulling it over in my mind, and probably overcomplicated it in the end. I hope that's not entirely the case.

18 comments:

Steve Wells said...

So did God inspire Exodus 22:18, Brucker? Did he command us to kill witches?

It's obvious that you have struggled long and hard with these questions, but I don't see any answers in your post.

And yet the Bible couldn't be more clear: Kill witches. Kill them whenever and wherever you find them. It is your sacred duty, a direct command from God.

But Christians don't kill witches anymore, do they? Is that because they no longer believe in witches or in the Bible, or both?

John Wesley said that "the giving up of witchcraft is, in effect, the giving up of the Bible."

And he was right about that. It's time to give up on the Bible. Killing witches was never a good idea, and a good God would never inspire the words of Exodus 22:18.

Brucker said...

Goodness, I seem to have my alerts turned off, I just noticed this comment.

I did have an answer, I think you just didn't like it. The Bible is pretty clear on the matter. Yes, witches are to be killed. The most that you could wiggle out with is, as I said, the idea that one is to drive them out of the community. This verse is not in least bit kind to witches.

That being said... is this really matter that I haven't brought up yet? I thought I hinted to it rather strongly if I wasn't outright saying it, but I don't live in ancient Israel, am not a Jew (in the technical sense) and thus am not under this law. Were ancient Israelis to kill witches? Yes. Are modern Bible-believers to do so? Not at all, although they should certainly be careful in dealing with them. (And vice-versa, let's be honest.)

Much of the Mosaic Law is unsavory, no doubt, but it also serves a purpose in God's greater plan. In this particular case, God is dealing with something that could cause His people (who are so new to their Judaism that it's essentially being created right in the here and now of the story as we read) to be led astray from being what He wants them to be.

God wants everyone to strive for righteousness, but in the case of a the nation of Israel, they are also being set up as an example for other nations. The rules are more extreme.

Steve Wells said...

So God told us to kill witches and you believe that it's a good thing to do, but (for whatever reason) you refuse to do it today.

God said, "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." Yet you choose to live and let live, suffering witches gladly, thereby showing that Wesley was right. You have simply given up on the Bible. (And I'm glad you did!)

Brucker said...

Gee, Steve, you've got an odd way of reading comments. I mean, I'll admit I wasn't crystal-clear on the original post, and I might want to clean it up a bit, but I thought my response to you here in the comments was straightforward enough.

Assuming that the verse really means "kill witches", then yes, killing witches was a good thing to do, at that juncture in history and in that culture. God just takes the nation of Israel very seriously to the point where He ratchets up the moral requirements to a higher degree than elsewhere. In particular, I believe that there are certain requirements of the Mosaic Law that serve no moral purpose whatsoever, but simply exist as a way to have Jews show their devotion to God.

To quote Fiddler on the Roof: "For instance, we always keep our heads covered and always wear a little prayer shawl that shows our constant devotion to God. You may ask how did this tradition get started? I'll tell you:I don't know. But it's a tradition, and because of our traditions, every one of us knows who he is and what God expects him to do."

As I delved into in the post following this one, we may think that diversity is a great value. In general, I myself think so. But in Israel, that simply was not the case. It was God's country, they were God's people, and it was God's way. Nothing was to be allowed to divert from that.

Now, as for myself, I have had pagan friends in the past, may have some now (I don't tend to ask other people what their religion is, and paganism has some popularity here in California), and probably will have some in the future. I neither have the will, the desire nor the right to kill them, but I certainly would not engage them for any services related to their religion, nor support such endeavors, not that anyone's asking, so it's largely a moot point.

But this is largely a matter of personal conviction, and it could have gone to a more extreme either way based on the dictates of my own conscience. Even a devout Jew will tell you that non-Jews are not required to keep the Mosaic covenant.

Jason said...

Steve has a problem coming to grips with the fact that Christians today aren't bound by the same laws as the Israelites were 4000 years ago. Atheists don't like the new law because it makes attacking on the grounds of emotion and morals more difficult. They like the old law as much as the NT Jews did, just for different reasons.

Nonetheless, Brucker has already answered the question: "...but I don't live in ancient Israel, am not a Jew (in the technical sense) and thus am not under this law. Were ancient Israelis to kill witches? Yes. Are modern Bible-believers to do so? Not at all, although they should certainly be careful in dealing with them. (And vice-versa, let's be honest.)"

Satantiago said...

Christians may not be Israelites but they do worship the Israelite god. Bear in mind that the command to kill witches was issued not by a primitive prophet, but by an all-knowing god, the fact that the command to kill witches does not apply today would mean God's word can pass away and thus is imperfect.

Even though Christians aren't bound by the old law, as Jason says, that didn't kept them from killing women under the charge of witchcraft. Christians killed "witches" until relatively recent times en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witch_hunts

Witchcraft was dismissed as a fraud for some time ago, was god superstitious?

I think what irks people is mainstream Christianity selling the blood thirsty god of the OT as the cuddly, all-loving, celestial father who cares for each one of their whiny children, whilst quoting the OT to justify discrimination, hate, racism, murder and violence.

Ain't it odd that even though God dwelt amongst the Israelites, this didn't make them better than other barbarians living at the time?

Brucker said...

"Christians may not be Israelites but they do worship the Israelite god. Bear in mind that the command to kill witches was issued not by a primitive prophet, but by an all-knowing god, the fact that the command to kill witches does not apply today would mean God's word can pass away and thus is imperfect."

I think you're misunderstanding, or perhaps I mis-spoke, but I thought I was careful. There are different moral laws, and the Mosaic Law is just one of them, although a very significant one from a Biblical standpoint, obviously. The Mosaic Law did not pass away, Jesus himself said so. The thing is, the Mosaic Law was never intended to be for all people at all times, and even Jews will tell you that. This particular set of laws from Exodus 20 through the end of Deuteronomy were for that particular nation, which was meant to be special and set apart to be a Holy nation for God. That's not us, but there are moral laws elsewhere in the Bible that do apply generally.

What may be debatable is whether it would be acceptable for modern Israel to abide by these ancient laws. At present, they don't own the land free and clear, and particularly they do not have the Temple Mount. Some people believe that they have a mandate to drive all the non-Jews out of their land and take it back. Many Christians and Jews believe this will happen some day, and at that time, they probably will go back to the old Law. Whether that is the right thing to do I cannot say for sure, it's a big issue.

"Even though Christians aren't bound by the old law, as Jason says, that didn't kept them from killing women under the charge of witchcraft. Christians killed 'witches' until relatively recent times en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witch_hunts"

You're right, and I mentioned that to some degree in the post. Maybe I wasn't clear enough on that fact, but I don't think Christians have a right to do that, nor are they often right in their accusations of witchcraft, usually being built on paranoia rather than fact.

"Witchcraft was dismissed as a fraud for some time ago, was god superstitious?"

A fraud? I'll have to ask some of my witch acquaintances what they know about this...

God is not "superstitious", He has a desire to protect His people from corruption. Jews are to separate themselves from the ungodly people around them, and in those days, when they were in the midst of trying to establish a theocracy, paganism was simply illegal. You and I may not like it, but that's how it was.

"I think what irks people is mainstream Christianity selling the blood thirsty god of the OT as the cuddly, all-loving, celestial father who cares for each one of their whiny children, whilst quoting the OT to justify discrimination, hate, racism, murder and violence."

Agreed, but I think one of the hard things to get across for me is that "the god of the OT" has been strongly misunderstood by the culture at large. God was, and still is, a celestial parental figure who is looking out for His children. In order to keep them safe and healthy, He has to do certain things to protect them and discipline them. In the end, I don't think we can pick and choose God being this way or that way; He'll be what He is, and that's all there is to it. But do we really understand who He is? Even some Christians reject the "god of the OT", missing that either He is the same God as their God, or the Bible is seriously flawed as a whole. (Sure, people like Steve Wells will take the latter position, but a Christian can't take it and remain a Christian.)

People who use the Bible to justify their acts of hatred are pretty darn low, if you ask me. Look at the example of Sodom and Gomorrah; if there is a person or group of people that is so nasty that they deserve to be wiped from the face of the earth, then God will take care of it. He doesn't need our hatred, He desires our love.

"Ain't it odd that even though God dwelt amongst the Israelites, this didn't make them better than other barbarians living at the time?"

Oh it didn't? And what do you base this on? Ninevites who would torture their enemies to death by skinning them alive? Philistines who would throw their newborn babies alive into fires to appease their angry gods? Babylonians who took the last king of Judah and slew his sons in front of him and then gouged his eyes out so it would be the last thing he ever saw? What is it that the Israelites did that was just as bad as or worse than these things?

Satantiago said...

"whether it would be acceptable for modern Israel to abide by these ancient laws."

Now you're admitting god's law is obsolete and immoral. Upon the restoration of the Temple and the seizing of the land belonging to the Biblical Kingdoms of Judah and Israel, would you approve Jews to resume the execution of Shabbat transgressors, stoning of adulterers, stoning of spoiled children, the murder of goyim, etc.? Aren't Muslim atrocities enough? I don't think the waqf or the Al-Aqsa martyrs will give up the Temple Mount for a long long time either.

Sometimes I think Christians are Jews wannabe. They once said kill the Jews to avenge Christ, maybe by exterminating the Jews they can fill in their niche and become God's chosen people instead.

"In order to keep them safe and healthy, He has to do certain things to protect them and discipline them"

God sure goes through great lengths to discipline his children, even killing thousands of them if necessary.

"A fraud? I'll have to ask some of my witch acquaintances what they know about this..."

Ach, look out for black cats, ladders and salt too. What are your friends, Wiccans? Do they practice voodoo, play Magic the Gathering, Pokémon or Yu-gi-oh? Are they goths, emos? Heh. I think Houdini, do you know him?, proved psychic mediums were tricksters who preyed upon people's ignorance and superstition. Frauds like Uri Geller have also been exposed.

Look at the example of Sodom and Gomorrah
Is an example of malevolence. Didn't God mind those cities children? Were babies and toddlers engaged also in lascivious relations with each other? And Lot's wife was killed just for looking back.

"if there is a person or group of people that is so nasty that they deserve to be wiped from the face of the earth, then God will take care of it. He doesn't need our hatred, He desires our love."

Oh really? Then why does YHWH commands to kill witches? Can't he do it by himself? Couldn't God himself kill the Israelites who danced around the golden calf forged by Aaron? Couldn't God himself kill the man who was put to death under Moses orders for picking up sticks on Shabbat?

Either God was testing whether the Jews were mad with love for him that they would do whatever takes God's fancy, or the stories of genocides committed by his hand are just fairy tales used by despots to assert dominion over a group of people and justify atrocities.

What is it that the Israelites did that was just as bad as or worse than these things?

You must be kidding me! Ain't this blog called the Annotated SAB?

I guess you're quite comfortable with David killing 200 Philistines and bringing their prepuces to Saul in order to marry Saul's daughter.

You may also approve the killing of a man for picking up sticks on Shabbat.

I'm pretty sure you think the following is also quite civilized:

Genital mutilation aka circumcision.

Killing animals, sprinkling the blood before an altar and burn the fat and the entrails.

The indiscriminate murder of 3000 people for dancing around a golden statue.

Abraham about to kill Isaac as burnt offering.

Lot offering his daughters to a mob.

Lot's daughters doing his father.

Putting mischievous children to death.

The utterly destruction of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, Jebusites, leaving no one alive (Deu 20:17) neither man nor woman, young, old, ox and sheep (Joshua 6:21)

Saul losing God's favor for sparing the life of the king of the Amalekites, even though Saul killed all of the Amalekite men, women, children and inferior livestock as per God's command.

David killing the Moabites, the Syrians, Uriah, the seven sons of Saul, etc.

The murder of Jezebel.

Solomon killing 22000 oxen and 120000 sheep to God.

Et cetera, et cetera et cetera. Need more proof?

Jason said...

Wow, that's quite the list of examples at the end of your post. What're they supposed to prove?

Brucker said...

"Now you're admitting god's law is obsolete and immoral."

Obsolete, yes, because Israel is (essentially) obsolete since A.D. 70. Immoral, no. But I think you do understand what I'm saying based on the content of the rest of your comment.

"Upon the restoration of the Temple and the seizing of the land belonging to the Biblical Kingdoms of Judah and Israel, would you approve Jews to resume the execution of Shabbat transgressors, stoning of adulterers, stoning of spoiled children, the murder of goyim, etc.? Aren't Muslim atrocities enough?"

I would approve Jews to do whatever the Torah commands them to do, and I don't believe that everything you have named there is commanded in the Torah.

"Sometimes I think Christians are Jews wannabe. They once said kill the Jews to avenge Christ, maybe by exterminating the Jews they can fill in their niche and become God's chosen people instead."

Certainly throughout history there have been instances of Christians who thought that way, but I'm not sure what that has to do with the topic at hand.

"What are your friends, Wiccans?"

Yes. I'm not sure what the rest of the stuff you're saying there has to do with anything. If you're trying to equate witchcraft with various sorts of hocus-pocus garbage, then I suggest you may have missed the part of my post where I clarified the term "witch" in an attempt to discard what I believe to be the pointless baggage of the term.

"[The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is] an example of malevolence. Didn't God mind those cities children? Were babies and toddlers engaged also in lascivious relations with each other? And Lot's wife was killed just for looking back."

As for the killing of children, that's a topic that comes up a lot and I probably answered best here. Lot's wife was warned, and made her own choice.

"Oh really? Then why does YHWH commands to kill witches? Can't he do it by himself? Couldn't God himself kill the Israelites who danced around the golden calf forged by Aaron? Couldn't God himself kill the man who was put to death under Moses orders for picking up sticks on Shabbat?"

I think you answer this well yourself:

"Either God was testing whether the Jews were mad with love for him that they would do whatever takes God's fancy, or the stories of genocides committed by his hand are just fairy tales used by despots to assert dominion over a group of people and justify atrocities."

You can probably guess that I lean towards the former explanation. When God chose the nation of Israel, He held them to a higher standard, really to the point of ridiculousness. I've always felt that the point of it was to create a conversation-starter about religious issues. To quote one of my favorite Christian cartoons, "We're not crazy, you know. Our God told us to do it."

"You must be kidding me! Ain't this blog called the Annotated SAB?"

Let's address your points in short:

David killing 200 Philistines: Mainly an act of war.

killing of a man for picking up sticks on Shabbat: See above; this is about showing the people that God's law is to be taken seriously.

Genital mutilation aka circumcision: See above; this is one of the things God did to make the Israelites "different".

Killing animals, sprinkling the blood before an altar and burn the fat and the entrails.: See here.

The indiscriminate murder of 3000 people for dancing around a golden statue.: Religious purity issue again, and I question your use of "indiscriminate".

Abraham about to kill Isaac as burnt offering.: Addressed in full here.

Lot offering his daughters to a mob/
Lot's daughters doing [their] father.
: No, I don't approve of this, they were not Israelites, and the Bible does not condone these actions. I've discussed it here.

Putting mischievous children to death.: I don't know what this is referring to. I can think of two possibilities that sound similar, but each is a different issue.

The utterly destruction of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, Jebusites, leaving no one alive (Deu 20:17) neither man nor woman, young, old, ox and sheep (Joshua 6:21) Acts of war, discussed in part in this post.

Saul losing God's favor for sparing the life of the king of the Amalekites, even though Saul killed all of the Amalekite men, women, children and inferior livestock as per God's command.: You know, I thought I had addressed this issue before, but I guess I haven't since I haven't gotten to Saul yet. Well, aside from the issues raised above, there is more going on here than I think you're seeing. Saul's rejection was for various reasons, and this was just the proverbial last straw. The Amalekites were a danger to God's people, and God wanted them taken out in defense of them. What this has to do with Israelites being barbarians, though I do not know.

David killing the Moabites, the Syrians, Uriah, the seven sons of Saul, etc. Acts of war. (For the most part, Uriah being a noteworthy exception. The Bible does not approve of David's actions in that matter, nor do I.)

The murder of Jezebel.: I'm going to say that Jezebel technically fits the definition of "witch", but that was only one of many things that she did to become the enemy of God.

Solomon killing 22000 oxen and 120000 sheep to God.: Sure, why not? Are you a vegetarian?

Jason said...

Nicely written.

Satantiago said...

Israel is (essentially) obsolete since A.D. 70. Immoral, no.

Warn your Wiccan friends against going to Israel, lest they be killed by a righteous mob. The State of Israel and the people of Israel are also obsolete? This could explain why God let 6'000.000 of his favorite people be slain during WWII.

I would approve Jews to do whatever the Torah commands them to do, and I don't believe that everything you have named there is commanded in the Torah.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torah
OK, so you'll condone everything written on Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, including helpful advice on how to kill unruly children. Exod.21:17, Exod. 21:15, Deut.21:18-21

If you're trying to equate witchcraft with various sorts of hocus-pocus garbage
The witch of Endor channeled the spirit of Samuel, that kind of thing is called Mediumship, exposed by Harry Houdini and others as a fraud. Mediumship is more related to sybils and oracles than to "Wicca" a silly neopagan cult with less than a century of existence.

"As for the killing of children, that's a topic that comes up a lot and I probably answered best here"
Your god kills children to make their parents suffer, is that it? He killed Egyptian first borns to punish their parents for not rioting against Pharaoh, quite fair I say! No one was left alive in Sodom and Gomorrah, don't you think their parents hadn't enough time to mourn their children's death? And that thing about children not suffering during god's punishments, heh, their pain receptors charred away with their skin. No pain at all indeed.

God held them to a higher standard, really to the point of ridiculousness.
My thoughts exactly, it's ridiculous.

"We're not crazy, you know. Our God told us to do it."
Guess what? Bin Laden was not crazy, God told him to blow the WTC to pieces.

David killing 200 Philistines: Mainly an act of war
Quite civilized, let me add. (I Sam. 18:26) He killed 200 men to cut their foreskins off to pay for Saul's daughter and marry her. It was not an act of war but of "love" or sex at least.

killing of a man for picking up sticks on Shabbat: See above; this is about showing the people that God's law is to be taken seriously.
Yeah, he went against the Torah you fully support, and wasn't given a chance to repent. Too much for the Lord's mercy on which you depend to be saved.

Genital mutilation aka circumcision: See above; this is one of the things God did to make the Israelites "different".
God was a racist, but Jesus made him to change his mind, right? And he didn't magically make Jewish boys to be born without foreskin, why? Because he respects the Jewish parents freewill to mutilate or not their children.

Killing animals, sprinkling the blood before an altar and burn the fat and the entrails.
This isn't about motives, but how were Israelites any different from other barbarians living at the time. Many other pagans also made burnt offerings to their gods.

The indiscriminate murder of 3000 people for dancing around a golden statue.: Religious purity issue again, and I question your use of "indiscriminate".
You know, the same can be said about Stalin's purges, made for the common good of the soviet state. And yes, indiscriminate, the Levites didn't mind to nicely ask "hey bud, did you dance around the golden calf?" but they went back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, killing his brother and friend and neighbor, to punish them for the statue Aaron forged. Again, they weren't given the chance to repent. You Christians are lucky, innit? You can sin whatever you want, repent thereafter and presto you're back in God's flock.

Putting mischievous children to death.: I don't know what this is referring to.
Read Exod.21:17, Exod. 21:15, Deut.21:18-21 Mark 7:10
And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice... and all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die.
You of course, condone that, as you wrote before "I approve Jews to do whatever the Torah commands them to do"

The utterly destruction of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, Jebusites, leaving no one alive (Deu 20:17) neither man nor woman, young, old, ox and sheep (Joshua 6:21) Acts of war
It appears God was ignorant of human rights. It was not his fault since the declaration of these rights was adopted in 1948. Before that, women, children and livestock weren't considered true civilians.

What this has to do with Israelites being barbarians, though I do not know.
It has everything to do.
You wrote "Aye, those evil Philistines threw their newborns alive into fires to appease their angry gods! Aye those evil Babylonians who took the last king of Judah and slew his sons in front of him and then gouged his eyes out so it would be the last thing he ever saw!" And good God to stop the evil Philistines from throwing their children into fires sent the Israelites to murder everyone, children included!

Now that you're confronted with genocide and murder of women and children you cynically answer "Those were acts of war" and "What this has to do with Israelites being barbarians, though I do not know" But you know, I didn't expect less from you.

David killing the Moabites, the Syrians, Uriah, the seven sons of Saul, etc. Acts of war
The murder of Saul's sons?

The murder of Jezebel.
Thrown through a window and left to be dogs meal. Quite civilized isn't it? What she did to become enemy of god is not being discussed here.

Solomon killing 22000 oxen and 120000 sheep to God
I give up this one, poor Solomon had to feed 700 wives and 300 concubines. And the eunuchs.

Your answer so far has been the Israelites were as uncivilized if not more than other barbarians living at that time.

Brucker said...

"Warn your Wiccan friends against going to Israel, lest they be killed by a righteous mob."

No doubt. If I heard that any of my homosexual friends were planning on traveling in the Middle East, I'd certainly make sure that they knew that being open about their sexuality in most of those countries would make them susceptible to the death penalty.

"The State of Israel and the people of Israel are also obsolete? This could explain why God let 6'000.000 of his favorite people be slain during WWII."

You might be surprised to find that this is not an uncommon belief among Jews. As a child when I was being raised Jewish, it was often said that the only logical reason God could have allowed the Holocaust to happen was so that the nation of Israel could be reborn from the blood of those Jewish martyrs.

"OK, so you'll condone everything written on Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy..."

No, I'll condone anything commanded in the Torah, if it is carried out by a person to whom it was commanded. In Genesis 9:3, God told Noah that he could eat any kind of meat. Later in the Law God tells the Israelites that they are to eat only certain meats. For a Jew to eat pork would be a sin. For me to eat pork is not a sin.

"including helpful advice on how to kill unruly children. Exod.21:17, Exod. 21:15, Deut.21:18-21"

Hmm, you know it looks like I didn't cover that properly in Exodus 21, I ought to go back and review that post and give more info on it. It's a tough one, I'll admit, and while the simple answer is yes, I'll condone that in that context, the context may be more complicated than you think.

"The witch of Endor channeled the spirit of Samuel, that kind of thing is called Mediumship, exposed by Harry Houdini and others as a fraud. Mediumship is more related to sybils and oracles than to "Wicca" a silly neopagan cult with less than a century of existence."

Sounds like you have an issue with Wicca rather than with me. While the woman at Endor was never called a "witch", it seems clear enough that she was. Fraud or real spiritist (and while I expect most spiritists are frauds, it doesn't therefore follow that all are), she was doing things that were against the law.

"And that thing about children not suffering during god's punishments, heh, their pain receptors charred away with their skin. No pain at all indeed."

I don't know what you are referring to here.

"Guess what? Bin Laden was not crazy, God told him to blow the WTC to pieces. "

I don't think bin Laden was crazy. I think he was evil and wrong, but probably not crazy. But what is your point?

"Quite civilized, let me add. (I Sam. 18:26) He killed 200 men to cut their foreskins off to pay for Saul's daughter and marry her. It was not an act of war but of "love" or sex at least."

The Israelites were at war with the Philistines; the foreskins were just an added touch to show Saul that he'd done the deed.

"God was a racist, but Jesus made him to change his mind, right? "

I don't follow you here.

"And he didn't magically make Jewish boys to be born without foreskin, why? Because he respects the Jewish parents freewill to mutilate or not their children."

In a specific manner, yes.

"This isn't about motives, but how were Israelites any different from other barbarians living at the time. Many other pagans also made burnt offerings to their gods."

Fine, then explain to me how not making sacrifices would make them better.

"You know, the same can be said about Stalin's purges, made for the common good of the soviet state. And yes, indiscriminate, the Levites didn't mind to nicely ask "hey bud, did you dance around the golden calf?" but they went back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, killing his brother and friend and neighbor, to punish them for the statue Aaron forged."

You're making an assumption here that I see no basis for.

"You Christians are lucky, innit? You can sin whatever you want, repent thereafter and presto you're back in God's flock."

I think you misunderstand the meaning of grace and repentance.

"And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice... and all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die.
You of course, condone that, as you wrote before 'I approve Jews to do whatever the Torah commands them to do'
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Okay, thanks for clarification. I intend to address that in fuller detail. Here's a thought for now: How many children do you think would misbehave, knowing that this punishment was a possibility?

"It appears God was ignorant of human rights."

God is/was ignorant of nothing.

"You wrote 'Aye, those evil Philistines threw their newborns alive into fires to appease their angry gods! Aye those evil Babylonians who took the last king of Judah and slew his sons in front of him and then gouged his eyes out so it would be the last thing he ever saw!' And good God to stop the evil Philistines from throwing their children into fires sent the Israelites to murder everyone, children included!"

When you have an entire nation of people torturing men women and children, is the best solution just to leave them be? God chose to deal with certain nations that had a culture so ingrained with cruelty and violence by wiping them away. What can you do? If God allows cruelty and violence to persist, the atheists says God is unjust. If God punishes cruelty and violence, the atheist says God is unjust. What *is* just, then?

"Thrown through a window and left to be dogs meal. Quite civilized isn't it? What she did to become enemy of god is not being discussed here."

It most definitely is if she was a witch. Do you want to go into details?

"Your answer so far has been the Israelites were as uncivilized if not more than other barbarians living at that time."

My answer is that the Israelites acted in defense of their physical and spiritual safety, not out of wanton cruelty.
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Jason said...

This isn't my discussion so my apologies for interjecting but I have an issue with the topic of God killing "unruly children".

In all fairness, the word "children" should be defined before accusations are made that God condones the killing of such individuals. Today, we take "children" to mean someone who is young, perhaps under the age of 10, 13, 16, etc. In actuality though, "children" could apply to anyone, of any age, who has a mother and/or father. Let's be honest, Bible critics prefer the former definition over the latter because it's more of a powerful, emotional argument. "God allowed people to KILL THEIR CHILDREN!! What kind of a God would do that??" Words like "unruly" are thrown in to maintain the preferred definition...

However, there's little evidence, if any, that God condoned killing children of this age for a sin they committed, for two reasons:

1. God instructed the Israelites in Exodus 22 not to afflict the widow or fatherless child. If they did, God would kill them with the sword, leaving their wives widows and their children fatherless (Exd 22:24). In this instance, the "children" aren't included in the punishment.

2. In the OT, there seems to be little, if any, accountability or responsibilities for "children" under the age of 20. How fitting would it be if 20 years old was the age at which the boy or girl reached the age of awareness, that is, knowing the difference between good and evil (much like the evolution of Adam and Eve in the Garden). Substantiating this idea is Numbers 32:11 where we're told only those aged 20 and up were forbidden to enter into the Promised Land. What reason for this distinction other then children younger then 20 weren't knowingly sinning...

Consider also the references: Exodus 21:15, 17 and Deut 21:18-21. There's nothing in these verses that would suggest a young child is being put to death for his or her actions. Instead, a logical reading of these verses tells us that God condones the killing of "children" who understand they're breaking the law. At what age does someone reach this understanding? According to the events in the wilderness, it would appear to be 20.

In any case, I suggest a little more thought is needed before it can be automatically assumed that 2-year old boys who hit their fathers were justifiably condemned to death by stoning.

Brucker said...

Absolutely, that's one of the issues that I'll need to address when I do a full post on it. I understand that many Talmudic scholars believe this law was to be practiced on older children who were about to reach the age of accountability, and the parents would take the child and essentially say, "I've failed to teach this young man right from wrong, and to let him loose on the world as an adult would be a grave mistake."

Whatever it is going on here, it's certainly not a father dragging his four-year-old to the elders and saying "I can't get this brat to eat his vegetables, let's smash his brains in!"

brilliant said...

Hi there, I'm late in the game here, but wanted to make a comment about Deut.21:18-21 - this was my torah portion for my Bat Mitzvah.

First of all, according to the commentaries I studied, this law was never carried out. There are quite a few conditions on it.

Some are a bit obscure, such as the parents cannot be missing any fingers since the text refers to their hands. A bigger condition is that it can only apply to males.

The real restriction, however, is that since the text says that since the parents need to say "Our son has not listened to our voice," they must never have contradicted one another in anything they've told him during his life.

Secondly, I did learn that this law was interpreted to be carried out just before the child becomes 13 and therefore, a legal adult. It is not at ALL mandatory. As Brucker says, it's for parents who feel that their child should not be allowed to live to see adulthood, despite their consistent effort to raise him properly.

The conditions under which parents would do this AND be deemed good parents by community elders is extremely slim. It would require either a community or a child gone mad.

Also, I have to comment on the Lot's wife thing. Suppose a parent tells a child not to touch a hot stove. The child touches the stove and gets burned. Did the parent "burn the child for touching the stove?"

This seems to be the logic you're using with God telling everyone not to turn around.

Brucker said...

Thanks, I thought I might have originally heard it from you about the child being just about to come of age, but I certainly don't recall ever having heard the thing about missing fingers; that's interesting.

As for Lot's wife, that essentially is the logic I'm using, although I'm not sure what you're asking about it. Are you saying that makes sense, or that you think the situation is different? I'm always curious to hear your opinion on all of this, even if you disagree, partially because I know you have a greater knowledge of Talmudic commentary than I do.

brilliant said...

Yeah, I'm agreeing with you on Lot's wife. Everyone was warned not to turn around. Being transformed wasn't necessarily a "punishment" and could easily have been more of a physical consequence, or something like that.