Friday, June 27, 2008

In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver (Judges 17)

Seriously, SAB? No notes on Judges 17? Even if you're not a follower of the God of Israel, you've got to see how messed up this is. The fact that there were no notes on this chapter as well as no notes concerning the treatment received by Samson at the end of his life makes me wonder if the SAB is showing its prejudice in an odd manner, although I'm not sure what we're prejudiced against. Seriously, based on the pattern elsewhere, this text should be pointing out that clearly if this story is in the Bible, then the message is:
17:2 (Contradiction, Family Values) While the Bible says it's not okay to steal, apparently, if you steal from your own family, that's a good thing!

17:3, 12-13 (Contradiction) Micah's mother makes an idol, and Micah's cool with it, this mysterious Levite is cool with it, and apparently God is cool with it, because He doesn't kill them all then and there.
...and so forth. I mean really, there's primo material here! The SAB should be all over this. I'm sure we'll get back to it in a couple chapters (the next chapter is pretty devoid of commentary as well) but for now, I'm left on my own to comment.

The last few chapters of the book of Judges are really some of the nastiest in the Bible. While I think I did say Samson was bad, there are a number of other people who appear in the following chapters that, well, it's been suggested by many that they are so vile that there's a reason it's one of the longest stretches of the Old Testament without names being named. The thing that may not be realized by detractors is that in many ways this little episode with Micah and his idolatry is pretty nasty in its own way.

I feel like I've said it a million times, although it's probably only about four or five, but religious morality is ranked right up there with sexual morality in importance to God. It may even surpass the significance of violence. It's fitting both due to its importance in and of itself and in the fact that there is a presented idea behind most of the Bible that spiritual sin leads to more obvious worldly sin, that this story be the beginning of a set of stories that illustrate the depravity of the Israelites during this period. We even see that a Levite is brought into the mix, as apparently this idolater thinks having a Levite priest is going to validate his practice, an ironic and sad statement of the state of the culture and the ancient priesthood. Really, it's better to be an atheist than the follower of a false god, something that I think skeptics can agree with me concerning.

Don't get me wrong in what I am about to say; I am not one of those people who claims that atheists are incapable of being moral, in fact an atheist is at least far more likely to take personal responsibility for their morality, which is a good thing in its own way. What is a problem with the sort of idolatry we see here and throughout this age of Israel's history is that these people do largely take their moral cues from their religion, and if their religion is simply made up, then so is their morality. If your moral responsibility is to a lump of metal you keep in your living room, how much are you dedicated to honoring a "god" that can be picked up and carried away?

But then, that's the next chapter...

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