Background Probability

The Agnostic Popular Front has moved to its new home at Skeptic Ink, and will henceforth be known as Background Probability. Despite the relocation and rebranding, we will continue to spew the same low-fidelity high-quality bullshit that you've come to expect.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9 (Shoftim)

Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9

At the end of chapter 16, we learn that the L-rd hates sticks and stones (growing trees and graven images depending upon one's translation) for some reason. Presumably it is because he is homicidally jealous of other gods. I'm not even going to get into the whole thing about what it might imply about someone that they are jealous of a mere phallic symbol, such as an Asherah pole. Seriously, I'm not even going to get into that.

In 17, we find that the penalty for idolatry (as with apostasy and blasphemy and Sabbath-breaking) is death, which is evidently a sort of one-size-kills-all solution to lawbreaking in the Israelite theocracy. At least they are requiring multiple witnesses and a rudimentary trial now. Also in ch 17 we get something akin to an outline for theocratic government, in which the priests pass on the laws and sit in judgement in individual cases, while the king faithfully executes the laws he receives from the priests. We are then reminded once again to give various foods and goods to the priests, a class of people who swear that they didn't actually write this book by themselves.

We are reminded at 18:9-13 once again that the ancient Hebrews considered it perfectly plausible to speak of divination, enchantment, channeling, witchcraft, wizardry, and necromancy, not as superstitious attempts to deal with the unknown and unknowable (as we post-englightenment moderns tend to see such things) but rather as genuinely magical practices which connected people to an actual world of demons and ghosts. Also, they are to be considered an abomination to the Lord, which would explain why it was widely considered moral and just to torture to death those accused of engaging in these fictional pastimes. It still is today in some parts of the world, and it must be noted that the Bible itself is still helping people to murder other people on account of these ridiculous and barbarous ideas.

We've already covered the cities of refuge, so we'll skip lightly over those for now.

Chapter 20 has some fascinating instructions on how to go to war. Send home everyone with urgent business at home, such as a new vineyard, house, or fiancee (some really lucky guys might have had all three) and everyone who tends towards cowardice. Thus the army can focus more sharply on the tasks at hand, that is, conquest, enslavement, genocide, and plunder -- not necessarily in that particular order.

We then get yet another divine injunction to genocidal total warfare at 20:16-17: "[O]f the cities of these people, which the LORD thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth: But thou shalt utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee ." This is the part where I don't make a tactless comment about an ideologically supremacist tribe waging a war of conquest for the sake of Lebensraum im Osten. Once again, I'm not even going to go there. See how restrained and diplomatic I can be?

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