Saturday, 31 July 2010

Chronicles, valid history or plagiarism?

The books of Chronicles is interesting from a historical and a sociological point of view.

It is human nature to believe that there has to be more, that life cannot simply be that you’re born and you die. For those of us who’ve been fortunate enough to live in an era when everything around us can be explained scientifically, it is perhaps hard to understand what it must be like to live where nothing is explicable and where every natural occurrence is terrifying.

People created gods because they needed explanations, and because some people in their society were more powerful or perhaps had more goats than the others. So they led and the rest followed. If one of those people had some sort of explanation for what happened, that person was seen as having special powers. And those powers had to have come from the gods. Anyone who displayed those powers without having the social position to back their ability, was seen as a witch or a wizard, and the powerful ones were seen to be in contact with the gods.

This is so obvious in the Bible. All the people who are said to be able to speak to God, whether it was Moses, Elijah, Elisha, David or one of his descdendants; they and their families stood out. In the growing social order it became necessary to write down the names of these people, and to create not only strong connections with their present social position, but also with the past, thus the genealogies of the characters were created.

Both books of Chronicles are nothing more than a record of king’s lists and, typical of the early first millenium BCE, long records of numbers of people slain and cities vanquished.

That the hardships and bad turns of events are blamed on the people themselves, is typical of superstitious societies. Whenever things were going smoothly, God’s hand is seen as rewarding them for obeying his rules.

The laws described previously are not different from those contained in the laws of other societies, particularly that of Hammurabi, king of the Hittties. I find it ironic that the stele on which the code was written by Hammurabi, whose city-state was destroyed, should have survived and is still available to be studied today. Yet the law of Moses, said to have been written on tablets throughout the lands of Israel and Judah, disappeared. The only copies that survive are the ones that were copied and recopied over the 3,000 years since they were first written down.

So, who copied whose law? Did the Israelites copy the laws of Hammurabi, written down in ca 1790 BCE and still available for scrutiny in the Louvre in Paris? Or, did an obscure sheep herder from an obscure village in southern Canaan climb a mountain and obtain the law chiselled onto a pair of stone tablets from an invisible God, almost 700 years later? Read about Hammurabi here.

On the lists of Adam begat Seth ,who begat and so on, in Chronicles and the long history of genocide, war-mongering, and mass slaughter of animals, read the Wikipedia article.

Then look through the names in the Sumerian kings’ list.

Did the great kingdoms of Israel and Judah really exist? Or, were they merely the meanderings of the minds of the priests of a group of rebellious desert dwellers who were determined to improve themselves and their living conditions when they returned to their homes, armed with the stories they’d plagiarised during their stay in Babylon?

One last word on this. I think that the writers would have given their history far more credibility if they had not given in to including these two books in the collection. They do nothing to validate their antiquity and everything to prove that they are trying too hard to prove something that is simply is an attempt at metaphor, or merely mendaciousness.

Friday, 30 July 2010

The build-up to exile

The early first millennium BCE, after the invasion of the Indo-Europeans saw a change in the political structure of the Near East from small city-states ruled by tribal leaders to bigger civilisations ruling bigger areas of land. The “children of Israel” and their settlements in “Canaan” were part of this civilisation.

At the time of Elisha’s death, Israel and Judah were already well-established as separate kingdoms with two established capitals Sumeria and Jerusalem, and they were  as “civilised” as everyone else around them with proper organisations in place, a king, “judges” to dissiminate the law and places of worship administered by the priests as described in the Old Testament.

However, the desire to return to the ancient laws which had been in place for some considerable time was still a problem. The kings, with multiple wives and families, continued to marry outside the faith and their children squabbled over who had the right of inheritance.

The history of the exile of the Jews from Israel and Judah is difficult without looking at the Bible for the details. This event was so important to the people who we now recognise as “Jews” that it probably prompted the writing of the entire Old Testament.

I’ve said several times in my run up to the books of Kings that I consider that the stories up to the exile to Egypt and the Exodus were all invented to give their culture antiquity and that it gave them the idea to create their history. I stand by this.

The history is finely detailed in the second book of Kings and we know of the characters in the Babylonian, Assyrian and Persian history from other sources.

The Israelites were taken to Assyria fairly early in the history of the Assyrian invasions, after the king of Judah, Amaziah, tries to reconcile with the king of Israel in an attempt to form an alliance against Assyria by asking for his daughter as wife for his son, but he is rebuffed. They fight, Israel is victorious and the king of Israel pillages the temple at Jerusalem.

Then follows a series of kings of Israel, one of whom rips the children out of pregnant women, until they were taken by the “Assyrians,” while the king of Judah, Ahaz sends gifts of gold to the king of Assyria, from Kings II:
16: 9 The king of Assyria complied by attacking Damascus and capturing it. He deported its inhabitants to Kir and put Rezin to death.
Shalmaneser (727 to 722 BCE) succeeds Tiglath-Pileser (745–727 BCE)  as King of Assyria. He besieges Samaria, captures it and deports the Israelites to Assyria.
17:6 In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria and deported the Israelites to Assyria. He settled them in Halah, in Gozan on the Habor River and in the towns of the Medes. 7 All this took place because the Israelites had sinned against the LORD their God
What follows in Judah is a series of kings who move away from the old religion to more exotic gods, including the practice of human sacrifice and male prostitutes. This goes on for around a hundred years.

Sennacherib (704 – 681 BC) becomes king of Assyria, he sends his armies to Judah but is unable to conquer them. God promises to protect them to the extent of allowing them to kill a huge army of Assyrians, 180,000 men.

King Josiah  (649–609 BC)  really makes an effort to remove all the idolatry from the temple…
23:7 He also tore down the quarters of the male shrine prostitutes, which were in the temple of the LORD and where women did weaving for Asherah.
… and breaks down all the altars to Molech (the god of  human sacrifice), Judah had neglected their ancestral method of worship since the time of Jeroboam.
23:15 Even the altar at Bethel, the high place made by Jeroboam son of Nebat, who had caused Israel to sin…
… then he orders that a Passover be celebrated.  But this is not enough for God and Josiah is killed in battle against the Egyptians.
 23:26 Nevertheless, the LORD did not turn away from the heat of his fierce anger, which burned against Judah because of all that Manasseh had done to provoke him to anger. 27 So the LORD said, "I will remove Judah also from my presence as I removed Israel, and I will reject Jerusalem, the city I chose, and this temple, about which I said, 'There shall my Name be.
 His son Jehoahaz becomes king,and the people of Judah return to their old ways. This is understandable. After hundreds of years of not worshipping the ancient way, Josiah tried to make them into the pious, religious people they had been at the time of the building of the temple.

More than anything, this tells me that these people were descended from the original people of the area and that there had never been a group of over one/two million people moving around in the desert for forty years. I think that it is possible that the invasion of the Sea Peoples caused a migration of people from Egypt, that some of them settled in the Near East “Canaan” and that they brought with them some of the ideas of religion that they had learned in Egypt, mostly the idea of a monotheistic god (Akhenaten) and his worship of the sun disk, the Aten. I believe that they were merely stronger than the other groups and were able to resist the Assyrians as told in the history in this book, without all the mysticism of God.
Many scholars believe that the actual figure was perhaps 600 or 6,000 families, as it is hardly likely that the Sinai and Negev deserts could have sustained 600,000 adult males and their families, ad their servants -- about three million people -- for forty years of wandering. Max I Dimont, Jews God and History.
God then destroys Jerusalem and sends the Jews into exile in Babylon:

24:2 The LORD sent Babylonian,Aramean, Moabite and Ammonite raiders against him. He sent them to destroy Judah, in accordance with the word of the LORD proclaimed by his servants the prophets. 3 Surely these things happened to Judah according to the LORD's command, in order to remove them from his presence because of the sins of Manasseh and all he had done, 4 including the shedding of innocent blood. For he had filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and the LORD was not willing to forgive.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

The magic of Elisha

The second book of Kings tells all about Elisha’s extraordinary expertise with enchantment. It seems that the law against witches does not apply to Prophets:
Exodus 22:18 Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.
In 2 Kings 2, the death of Elijah passes the mantle of chief prophet to Elisha who immediately begins to display his magical ability:

Elijah is taken up to heaven:
11 As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.
He causes the waters of the River Jordan to part so he can walk across without getting wet.
14 He struck the water with Elijah's cloak and cried out, "Where is the LORD, the God of Elijah?" Then the river divided, and Elisha went across.
Some children laugh about his bald head, so he curses them:
24 Elisha turned around and looked at them, and he cursed them in the name of the LORD. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of them.
In chapter 3, the kings of Edom, Judah and Israel are frustrated because the king of Moab refuses to pay tribute and looks to defeat them in battle, they consult Elisha who does some magic:
14 Elisha said, "As surely as the LORD Almighty lives, whom I serve, if I did not have respect for the presence of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, I would not look at you or even notice you. 15 But now bring me a harpist." 
While the harpist was playing, the hand of the LORD came upon Elisha 16 and he said, "This is what the LORD says: Make this valley full of ditches. 17 For this is what the LORD says: You will see neither wind nor rain, yet this valley will be filled with water, and you, your cattle and your other animals will drink. 18 This is an easy thing in the eyes of the LORD; he will also hand Moab over to you. 19 You will overthrow every fortified city and every major town. You will cut down every good tree, stop up all the springs, and ruin every good field with stones."
 20 The next morning, about the time for offering the sacrifice, there it was—water flowing from the direction of Edom! And the land was filled with water.
 In fear the Moabite king, slaughters his eldest son:
21 Now all the Moabites had ...22 When they got up early in the morning, the sun was shining on the water. To the Moabites across the way, the water looked red—like blood. 23 "That's blood!" they said. "Those kings must have fought and slaughtered each other. Now to the plunder, Moab!"  24 But when the Moabites came to the camp of Israel, the Israelites rose up and fought them until they fled…. 26 When the king of Moab saw that the battle had gone against him, he took with him seven hundred swordsmen to break through to the king of Edom, but they failed. 27 Then he took his firstborn son, who was to succeed him as king, and offered him as a sacrifice on the city wall. The fury against Israel was great; they withdrew and returned to their own land.
In chapter 4, he helps a poor widow fill up empty jars with oil so she has something to sell:
5 So she did as she was told. Her sons kept bringing jars to her, and she filled one after another
In chapter 4, he helps a woman get pregnant and then later when her son dies, he raises him from the dead:
15 Then Elisha said, "Call her." So he called her, and she stood in the doorway. 16 "About this time next year," Elisha said, "you will hold a son in your arms."  "No, my lord," she objected. "Don't mislead your servant, O man of God!" 17 But the woman became pregnant, and the next year about that same time she gave birth to a son, just as Elisha had told her.
32 And when Elisha was come into the house, behold, the child was dead, and laid upon his bed. 33 He went in therefore, and shut the door upon them twain, and prayed unto the Lord. 34 And he went up, and lay upon the child, and put his mouth upon his mouth, and his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands: and he stretched himself upon the child; and the flesh of the child waxed warm.
He removes poison from a pot of stew:
39 One of them went out into the fields to gather herbs and found a wild vine. He gathered some of its gourds and filled the fold of his cloak. When he returned, he cut them up into the pot of stew, though no one knew what they were. 40 The stew was poured out for the men, but as they began to eat it, they cried out, "O man of God, there is death in the pot!" And they could not eat it. 41 Elisha said, "Get some flour." He put it into the pot and said, "Serve it to the people to eat." And there was nothing harmful in the pot.
He feeds a hundred people:
42 A man came [with] ...twenty loaves of barley bread baked from the first ripe grain, along with some heads of new grain. "Give it to the people to eat," Elisha said  43 "How can I set this before a hundred men?" his servant asked. But Elisha answered, "Give it to the people to eat... 'They will eat and have some left over.' " 44 Then he set it before them, and they ate and had some left over, according to the word of the LORD.
Naaman to bathe in the Jordan to be healed of leprosy:
10 And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean.
He murders a king:
14 Then Hazael left Elisha and returned to his master. When Ben-Hadad asked, "What did Elisha say to you?" Hazael replied, "He told me that you would certainly recover." 15 But the next day he took a thick cloth, soaked it in water and spread it over the king's face, so that he died. Then Hazael succeeded him as king.
And even in death, his magic is still potent:
13:21 Once when some Israelites were burying a man, they spied a band of these raiders. So they hastily threw the corpse into the tomb of Elisha and fled. But as soon as the body touched Elisha's bones, the dead man revived and jumped to his feet!
It seems that there is one law for ordinary witches (psychics and mediums) and another for prophets who do “miracles’ and not magic. How is this kind of magic that is served up as "fact" good, but Harry Potter which we know to be fiction is bad?

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

The Kings

In polygamous cultures, when a king dies, and even when the princes are full blood-brothers  (King Richard I of England and King John spring to mind) there were always fights about who was the rightful heir. This was no less so in David’s family. They try to revive his interest in life by getting a young virgin into his bed but David is past that sort of thing, so they conclude that they have to get their choice approved before he dies.

Bathsheba, of course, wants her son Solomon to be king, so she gets the prophet Nathan to help her get him anointed. David’s army chief Joab in the meantime has been conniving with the Adonijah faction.
Solomon’s supporters announce him as king and David dies. His brother fears for his life despite Solomon’s promise that he won’t harm him, if he is honest. But then he makes the mistake of asking for David’s virgin, Abishag. Solomon, in reply kills him and all his supporters. He then begins to collect wives.

The most famous example of Solomon’s so-called wisdom is the story of the two women who approach him with a baby they both claim to be his and for which his judgment is that the baby be cut in half, each woman then being given a half to bury. (1 Kings 3:16-28) I've always thought this was ridiculous. He could simply have removed the child and given it to a foster mother. That would've been a better solution, in my opinion anyway.

It is now 480 years since they left Egypt. I disagree, there are 10  generations between Judah, David’s Israelite ancestor and David, that’s 300 years, not almost 500. And we know that David was in Jerusalem around 1000 BCE so this has to be during the 10th century ca900 BCE. He gets on with the building of the temple, a project which takes seven years. Not terribly impressive if you consider that it took 185 years to build Notre Dame in Paris . This temple supposedly had floors covered in gold? And the stones had to be uncut, so perfect stones had to be found for it. It could not have been a very big or impressive temple.

What is more impressive is the amount of meat provided for Solomon’s household for one day:
1 Kings 4:23 ten head of stall-fed cattle, twenty of pasture-fed cattle and a hundred sheep and goats, as well as deer, gazelles, roebucks and choice fowl.

It takes 13 years to build his palace, you'd think that God would smite him for building a palace that was bigger and better than the temple. And then God appears to him promising that as long as they obey the law, his descendants will reign forever in Israel. You have to admit that this is clever. When they get taken away into exile, this proviso makes it perfectly legitimate for God to punish them.

The story then goes on to claim that Solomon was the richest king in the world. I doubt that. He was very fond of the ladies though:  700 wives, and 300 concubines.

I’m not impressed with the gross exaggerations that people accept as truth about Israel and Judah at this time for the simple reason that it is not recorded anywhere else but in the Bible. There are vast numbers of everything: sacrificial animals, children, wives, wealth, horses, armies, yet none of this has produced impressive archaeological evidence. In my search for unbiased evidence, I find none, only the evidence given by religious websites. However Wikipedia does have a page about Solomon’s temple.

Israel and Judah split at around this time under Solomon’s sons Jeroboam and Rehoboam. Israel becomes pagan, while Judah tries to remain true to the ancient religion.  The explanation given for the loss of the temple gold is that the king of Egypt stole it and Rehoboam replaced it with brass.

More kings follow in both states, and the prophets begin to emerge. Elijah being the most important of these.

The idea of the prophets, it is claimed, was to try to restore the law of Moses in the two states .When all of Elijah’s efforts and all his magic are failing, God causes an earthquake. The whole structure of their society is failing as they lose wars and their kings are killed
1 Kings 22:34 And a certain man drew a bow at a venture, and smote the king of Israel between the joints of the harness: 
This Wikipedia page is a very interesting read. It confirms that my deductions about Israel and Judah probably are correct and that there is doubt that the people Daivd and Solomon actually existed, certainly not in the way that they are depicted.

I’m not denying that there were kings of minor city states in the Near East, what I do doubt is that these kings had the wealth the Bible describes or that they ruled over the numbers of people described in the Bible.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

David or Nero, who was worse?

It is said that the Roman emperor, Nero “fiddled while Rome burned.” The biblical king, David, wrote poetry while his people died in wars, and his children raped and murdered each other. One was a pagan, the other chosen by God. You’d think that an all-powerful, all-seeing, all-knowing, benevolent God would chose better people to be role models for the people he wants to worship him, surely?

David mourns the loss of Saul and Jonathan.
2  Sam 1:19-27:The beauty of Israel is slain upon thy high places: how are the mighty fallen!
Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon; lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph.
Ye mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew, neither let there be rain, upon you, nor fields of offerings: for there the shield of the mighty is vilely cast away, the shield of Saul, as though he had not been anointed with oil.
From the blood of the slain, from the fat of the mighty, the bow of Jonathan turned not back, and the sword of Saul returned not empty.
Saul and Jonathan were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided: they were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions.
Ye daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, who clothed you in scarlet, with other delights, who put on ornaments of gold upon your apparel.
How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle! O Jonathan, thou wast slain in thine high places.
I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been unto me: thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women. 
How are the mighty fallen, and the weapons of war perished!
He is anointed as King of Judah, as it fights a civil war, and David collects wives, and kills off Saul’s sons. He becomes king of all the tribes and takes Jerusalem from the Jebusites. He takes even more wives and concubines and his family continues to grow. I am not going to reproduce the list here, it is found in the Book of Chronicles.

David begins to establish his capital by demanding the Ark of the Convenant from the Philistines while he smites them and burns their gods. As it is brought to the Tabernacle, he dances before it; when Michal, the daughter of Saul shows her disgust, he curses her with childlessness.

He builds a house of cedar, which Solomon later replaces with his temple, smites Philistines, and Syrians and all the other people around him, making them his subjects and he puts his sons in charge of them. He tries to make up for killing Saul’s family by returning Saul’s possessions to his grandchildren.

The king of Ammon humiliates David’s spies, he responds by scaring their Syrian mercenaries away and declares war. One day while standing on the roof of his house, he sees his Hittite neighbour’s wife, Bathsheba, who he seduces and she gets pregnant. To get rid of her husband, David puts him in the way of danger in battle; he is killed. David now has his wife and his possessions even though Nathan tells him of God’s disappointment, and as punishment one of his other sons dies.

Another of David’s sons, Amnon, lusts after a sister, Tamar, who he tricks her into coming to his bed, where he rapes her. David doesn’t do anything about it but another son Absolom who hates Amnon for what he did, arranges for his servants to kill Amnon, and they end up killing all of David’s sons. This makes David send Absolom into exile.

Eventually after lots of family drama, Absolom is made a king and he and David are reconciled before they fight again and Absolom is killed. In between all the drama, and wars with the Philistines, David finds time to write poetry, up to the minute of his death.

At the end of this story of a king who has been revered as the greatest king in history, and who we know from this tale as a seducer of women and a breeder of multitudes of children, whose upkeep was paid for by the people their father ruled, makes a deal with God to build an altar after tens of thousands of his subjects die for his ‘sins.’

Then very conveniently, all of the contenders for his throne are killed by the son who is later killed in a war while one single son survives. That son, the child of a ‘Hittite’ woman who David seduced, and whose husband he had killed, is Solomon.

This Solomon is to become the builder of the Temple at Jerusalem and the ancestor of Jesus, who has a religion created for him.

While tens of thousands of his subjects are dying in war and his sons are killed, David writes poetry. Finally, as an afterthought there is a brief comment about a census being taken to note the numbers of swordsmen in the land, 800,000 in Israel and 500,000 in Judah. What is interesting is that it took the census-takers nine months to do the job, whereas it took Moses a mere three days to count 600,000 men in Exodus.

Then God offers David three choices of punishment for all his ‘crimes.’ He chooses out of 7 years of famine, 3 years of running away from his enemies and 3 days of pestilence, to have pestilence; in the three days 70,000 people die.

Even God is disgusted by the violence of his choice, so he says “enough” and orders him to build an altar, which he does and the plague stops.

Monday, 26 July 2010

A king is appointed

At around this time in the history of the Near East, the city-states around them were beginning to make massisve displays of opulence around the men who led them into battle.

These men were not merely ‘lugals’ , and tribal chiefs any longer, they were beginning to be known as ‘kings’ who were appointed by their gods to rule over the people they led and by the order of these gods to extract service from their people and of course, taxes.

This was no less so with the Israelites:

Peoples of Semitic speech occupied Palestine in successive waves, including Amorites, Hebrews, Israelites and Arabs. Egypt, under Thutmoses III, conquered Palestine in 1,479 B.C. and controlled the area almost continuously thereafter in this period under review. This is probably the time of the "Exodus" of the Jews from Egypt back to the "Promised Land" in the vicinity of Palestine. The true history of their long migration back and the trials and tribulations with other tribes along the way and in the regions of Judea and Palestine are mixed with legend and myth in the Old Testament, which was written much later. Saul became the first king of the Jews in 1,025 B.C. and supposedly David became king in 1,010 B.C. Unfortunately there is no contemporary mention of this in any literature except the Bible and the later Greek historian, Procopius. source
Procopius of Caesarea, a Byzantine writer, claimed to have seen two stelae inscribed with Phoenician letters at Tigisis, in Numidia. His translation of the Phoenician text links these documents with the biblical story of the expulsion of Canaanites by Joshua. Anthony J. Frendo has recently argued that Procopius' account is independently confirmed by the Armenian historian Moses Khorenats' in a passage that, in Frendo's view, predates Procopius. Frendo concludes that Procopius may confirm the biblically attested tradition that military operations underlay the emergence of earliest Israel. However, current Armenian historiography places Moses Khorenats' later than Procopius. What is more, Procopius' 'translation' of the Phoenician text appears to be dependent on a lost passage of Sextus Julius Africanus, itself reflecting the diction of the Septuagint (Josh 10.10 and 5.1). Procopius probably acquired the passage from Hippolytus of Rome, adding a tendentious interpolation. Procopius' Phoenician Inscriptions: Never Lost, Not Found by Philip C Schmitz

According to the first book of Samuel, the people demanded that Samuel appooint s king to lead them into battle. His first proposition, that of a king along the lines of those of the other states around them is refused. They don’t want a king who will ride in a chariot accompanied by young men running before him, or who will demand that one-tenth of the population work for him as servants. Nor are they prepared to pay over a further tenth of their income to him. They merely want a leader.

Samuel identifies a young man, of the tribe of Benjamin, who he finds and duly anoints as king, despite the young man’s protestations that he is of the small, insignificant tribe of Benjamin (you may recall that they were practically annihilated after their rape of the priest’s concubine Judges 19). The people accept him shouting “God save the king” when he is anointed by Samuel.

However, he accepts the appointment and immediately disobeys all of Samuel’s instructions including the looting of the cities he invades, rather than burning even their animals along with the cities. When his son, Jonathan disobeys an instruction to not eat before he has eaten, he threatens him with execution, causing him to flee.

Saul immediately adopts the attitude of an eastern king. He disobeys the rules of the religion, and direct instructions from Samuel, to the extent that Samuel and God wish that they had not appointed him, and Samuel refuses to have nothing further to do with him.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Samuel

The writers of the Bible seems to use the same basic story for the arrival of every major player in their story. Each new character is born to a woman who has either lost all her children as a result of God smiting them because they were bad, and then replacing it with one who he will control, or she has to wait for years and years, and finally when all hope is lost, she’s grateful to God for the birth of what is always a son.

This is no less true of Samuel. His mother has to beg God for a child, while her husband’s other wife already has two. When Samuel’s mother eventually gives birth to him, and this is also really strange in the history, she has to promise to never cut his hair, and give him to Eli, the priest.

Also, I find the whole business of God talking to people a little odd. Didn’t people in the ancient world realise that their thoughts were just thoughts. I’m coming to the conclusion that before they figured out that thinking is just thought processes, people actually believed that their thoughts and dreams were God speaking to them.

Another thing that bothers me is the way that the writers are able to repeat the words of their characters verbatim and that their characters, who are basically nomadic bronze age sheep herders are also poets and orators. Like this, attributed to Samuel’s mother Hannah:

I Sam 2:1-10
My heart rejoiceth in the Lord, mine horn is exalted in the Lord: my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; because I rejoice in thy salvation.
There is none holy as the Lord: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God.
Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth: for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.
The bows of the mighty men are broken, and they that stumbled are girded with strength.
They that were full have hired out themselves for bread; and they that were hungry ceased: so that the barren hath born seven; and she that hath many children is waxed feeble.
The Lord killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up.
The Lord maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up.
He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the Lord's, and he hath set the world upon them.
He will keep the feet of his saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness; for by strength shall no man prevail.
The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces; out of heaven shall he thunder upon them: the Lord shall judge the ends of the earth; and he shall give strength unto his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed.
I know that people who believe in the Bible believe that this is God-inspired, and that "with God all things are possible," but this is a rational discussion. Rationally, women who have finally given birth to the child they wanted and who live on the fringes of a developing world where resources are scarce, do not have the ability to create poetry; also the people who they recite it to, don’t have the ability to write it down. So that long song praising God is just a figment of the writer’s imagination.

After Hannah gives her eldest son to the priest, she has another brood of children and she visits Samuel once a year while he is training with Eli, whose own sons, are too wicked to be God’s servants, so God simply ‘smites’ them.

The Samuel starts hearing voices in his head and he begins to prophesy.

He is around when the Israelites are again slaughtering Philistines, or being slaughtered by them. In this one attack when they steal the Ark of the Covenant from the Israelites, 30,000 of God’s "chosen people" are killed. The loss of the Ark also causes the death of Eli. What I’m surprised about is that after all the ethnic-cleansing of the inhabitants of Canaan by the "children of Israel" is that there were any people left there. Also where are the cemeteries? You’d think that the burial grounds of the hundreds of thousands of people killed in all the battles would have been found by modern archaeologists by now. Surely that they haven’t been found must prove that the numbers are a gross exaggeration.

The writer then claims that the Philistines took the Ark to their temple to Dagon, a god which I already mentioned before, was no longer worshipped. The thieves, and all who touch it along the road as it is being returned, are struck down with tumours and when Ark is recovered, the people who look inside it and another 50,070 men are "smote." Where are all the bodies, and who buried them?

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Ruth and Jesus' ancestry

A man named Elimelech dies shortly after he goes to live in Moab, he, and his wife,Naomi and his two sons Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehemjudah.


The sons marry Moabite women named Orpah and Ruth. Shortly after their marriages, her two sons die as well. Note that is is interesting from the point of view that the child born of this relationship is supposed to be the ancestor of David and eventually, Jesus. Therefore using today's gene theory, Jesus carried Moabite along with his genes from Ruth's eventual husband who, although living in Bethlehem, is not identified as a member of the tribe of Judah, merely a Ephrathite, a family within the tribe of Judah, not necessarily descended from the person Judah, the son of Jacob.


The three women are to return to Judah, but Naomi tells the two younger women to return to their parents but they refuse preferring to remain with her. She encourages them to leave because even if she did marry again, she wouldn’t be able to bear sons for them to marry after the Hebrew custom; and besides, they should find husbands their own age. 


Orpah leaves but Ruth stays, saying:
Ruth 1:16 Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.
They return to live in Bethlehem. Naomi asks to be renamed Mara for her sadness; they arrive at the time of the harvest.


A relative of Naomi’s husband, named Boaz is working in his fields, Ruth sees him and tells Naomi she will work in his field. He sees her, tells her to work with his daughters because he has told the young men to leave her alone.  He encourages her to work and collect food for herself and Naomi. Naomi sends her to spend the night in Boaz’s house so that he will recognise her publicly.


Then when the people of the town offer to buy her husband’s land from her, they have to also take Ruth so that  her children may be the heirs of her dead father-in-law.  Boaz goes through a complex ritual to ‘buy’ Ruth as his wife.


She bears a child which she gives to Naomi to raise as her dead  husband’s child, He is named, Obed: father of Jesse, who is the father of David, as I explained, a mix of Moabite and Ephraim ancestry, not Judah! The Old Testament writers didn't regard blood ancestry as important, despite God's prohibition on mixed marriage:
23:3 An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD; even to their tenth generation shall they not enter into the congregation of the LORD for ever:
Jewish tradition has the religion handed down from the mother, not the father, therefore Ruth being a Moabite woman, handing down her faith to her child, even though he is adopted by Naomi, makes him a poor candidate for the ancestry of David, considering the 10th generation, and that they shall not enter the congregation, ever! This makes Jesus, as a descendent of David, prohibited from teaching, ever.


David is 33 generations in a direct line from Adam. 30 years per generation, which makes 33x (30 years  per generation) = 990 years, according to the way historians count generations. I’ll speak more about this later when I discuss Matthew in the New Testament who says that there were 14 generations between David and Abraham. So who was right? There are actually 10, according to the chart in that link, so who is right?


David settled Jerusalem around 1000BCE therefore, Adam was born around 1990BCE give or take a few years, a long time after Egypt was settled. The long years of the people’s lives in Genesis history is thus to give validity to the idea that God created the universe, by making it 6,000 years old.

Friday, 23 July 2010

The people stray from the law

To demonstrate just how far the “children of Israel” have strayed from the law, the writer of Judges tells some stories.

The first in Judges 17 and 18 tells of Micah (not the prophet Micah), a man of the tribe of Ephraim admits to his mother that he stole money from her, 1100 shekels (not a small amount of money considering that priests were paid only 10 shekels a year). She gives it back to him but he refuses taking only 200 shekels, which he gives to the ‘founder’ to make a ‘graven image’ for his collection, and he makes his son the priest of this idol worship.

When a Levite (from Bethlehem in Judah) visits his house, he offers the priesthood to him with silver and priestly garments, which makes him believe that having a Levite will make all good again. Thus, people are worshipping idols, and Levites are administering the worship of these idols.

Some people of Dan, who had previously complained to Joshua about the size of their inheritance, were looking for more land to conquer. They arrive at Micah’s house where they recognise the priest, Jonathan, previously of Manasseh, who tells them to “go  with God.”

They continue their search for land and come across a peaceful place occupied by a colony of Sidonians who Joshua had previously told them to ‘smite.‘ While camping outside the town, they discuss Micah and is idols.  the group decides to return to the house with 600 men who tell the Levite to come with them quietly, taking Micah’s idols with him, giving in to the temptation of the priesthood of ‘Israel’ rather than to only one household.When Micah discovers the theft, he lets them go, deciding that it’s not worth dying for the theft of a few idols.

They go to Laish, where they slaughter the inhabitants and rename the city Dan, set up the graven image, and Jonathan, son of Gershom, son of Manasseh and his sons "were priests to the tribe of Dan until the day of their captivity."  They set up Micah’s images in the house of God in Shiloh.

You would think that breaking the law against living with people who were not of their family was a far lesser crime than the setting up of idol worship in their temples, but then there's no explaining the god that encourages people to commit genocide.

Chapter 19 tells the story of another Levite who takes a concubine from the town of Bethlehem, breaking the law on priestly marriage:
Lev 21:7 " 'They must not marry women defiled by prostitution or divorced from their husbands, because priests are holy to their God.
After being unfaithful to him, she leaves to return to her father’s house. He goes to the father’s house with gifts to retrieve her and she is pleased to see him; her father welcomes him and the leave after a few days. They go to Jebus (also known as) Jerusalem (the city of the Jebusites), where his servants suggest they spend the night. He refuses saying they can’t stay in the city of a stranger, a city which is not that of the children of Israel, so they move on to Gibeah, a city in the land belonging to the tribe of Benjamin.

They can’t find lodgings in the town until a man on the way home from his work in the fields sees them; he asks where they are going. The priest  says he is going to the “House of the Lord” where he will find straw for the asses and bread and wine for him and food and wine for his servants. The man says he shouldn’t sleep in the street so he takes him to his house where he feeds the asses, lets them wash their feet and gives them food and drink.

Here we have a repetition of the story of Sodom. The people of the city come to the house. They demand that the man of the house send out his visitor so that they “may know him.” He instead offers his daughter and the stranger’s concubine, but they refuse until the priest hands over his concubine to them to rape.

In the morning he fetches her body at the threshold of the house, puts it on his ass and returns home. On his arrival, he divides her body into twelve pieces which he sends to the “all the coasts of Israel.” The people who saw this deed say that they had never seen anything like it.

This event leads to the extermination of the house of Benjamin:
400,000 men go to Gibeah where they are confronted by the people of Benjamin. They go to the ‘house of God’ where they ask God what they should do. He tells them to send Judah first to do battle against Benjamin, 22,000 men are smote on that first day. On the second day 18,000 men are killed. On the third day God says he will deliver Benjamin into their hands. Another 18.000 of them killed.  600 of them manage to get away into the wilderness where they live for four months, after which they are attacked and smote. Everything of theirs, including their cities and animals are destroyed.

When the people speak to God, again, he cries that one of their tribes is missing. They say that they have vowed to not let their daughters marry the men of Benjamin. God asks if there is anyone of any of the tribes who did not fight in the battle against Benjamin. They say that no one from Jabeshgilead came to the fight.

Benjaminites as wives., so that the tribe won’t die out. This explains why the tribe of Benjamin remains small for the rest of the history. And again, a priest breaks one of the holiest laws yet he's allowed to get away with allowing the gang rape of a woman and the wholesale slaughter of a whole tribe instead of merely punishing the culprits. But then I suppose they had to take possession of the town that was to become Jerusalem in some dramatic way, yet even after this, the Jebusites occupied Jerusalem until the time of David.

While I can understand the law and the reasons for the laws, I cannot understand the encouragement of wholesale slaughter on this scale.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Samson

In between laws, smiting and 40-day or 40-year events, there is the occasional story, intended as some sort of morality lesson or to impress on the readers that Samson was greater than Hercules.

I keep coming back to these books being written at the time of the exile in Babylon because of how the ancient civilizations believed in magical beings, the Greeks with their Titans and demi-gods and the Jews with Samson, Jonah and Goliath. Wikipedia does an analysis of the stories in the bible and how they are similar to those of Greek mythology: Understanding Greek mythology.

The Hebrews were hardly settled in Canaan before they started breaking their laws. To scare them into obedience, God gives them Samson. An angel visits a woman of the tribe of Dan, who is nearing the end of her child-bearing years (funny how the mothers of heroes are always old women) and tells her that she will bear a son but she must never cut his hair. She is also not allowed to drink wine or eat 'unclean' meat. This child, a Nazarite, will save Israel from the Philistines.

She bears a son and names him Samson. Then the story skips to his adulthood.

In the weirdness of biblical stories, this is one of the worst. He is supposed to be saving the Israelites from the Philistines, yet God intends that he 'marry' one of their women, despite the rules against marrying the children of uncircumcised people. On the way to his wedding a lion threatens their lives but Samson manages to kill it by tearing it apart with his bare hands. Now I know that God "makes everything possible" but killing a lion with the bare hands, the person writing his story had obviously never seen a lion or else it was already dying!

The lion is essential to the story because on the way back he finds that bees have made a hive in the carcass that is still intact! He takes some honey to his parents but doesn't tell them where he found it. This is too far-fetched to be true, but I'll go along with the story because he needs it for his riddle.

His father throws a party for him and 30 of his friends. He asks a riddle. He wants the reply in 7 days, if they get it he will give them 30 sheets and 30 changes of garments.
If they can’t answer, they have to give him 30 sheets and 30 changes of garments.  “Out of the eater came forth meat and out of the strong came forth sweetness.” So they  ask his wife to ‘entice’ it out of him. He says he hasn’t told his parents the so how could he tell her. He tells her, and she tells the men.
They say to him on the 7th day, “what is sweeter than honey and stronger than a lion?”

He says to them that if they had not ploughed with his heifer, they would not have found out the answer, meaning of course that he thought they had slept with his wife to get the answer from her. God gives him strength to go to Ashkelon where he kills 30 men. He takes their possessions and gives it to the men to clear his debt. I don't understand that God allows the killing of unbelievers for something as trivial as this, surely it's against the law? He goes back to live at his father's house and his wife is given to another man.

When he goes to his wife for a conjugal visit, her father won't allow him to see the woman he abandoned, but he offers him her younger sister. In reply, he catches 30 foxes, ties their tails together and sets them alight in the Philistine's fields. In return, the Philistines burn his wife and her father.

He ‘smites’ them. The Philistines in response invade the land of Judah. 3,000 of the men of Judah go to Samson to complain. He asks them not to attack him. They say they won’t but they will bind him and take him down to them. When the Philistines shout against him, God causes the bindings to burn (without burning him) and he is loose. I don't understand why the Philistines attack Judah, when Samson is an Israelite from the tribe of Dan,but then there is no explaining the stories in the Bible.

He finds the jawbone of an ass and uses it to kill 1,000 men, this is no mean feat, one man armed with a piece of bone against an army!

Then he whines to God that he is thirsty, and that God is throwing him to ‘uncircumcised’ men. So God causes water to emerge from a hole in the jawbone, which he drinks and he is refreshed. Samson becomes a judge for 20 years.

He goes to Gaza where he meets and has sex with a harlot. The people of Gaza lie in wait to kill him in the morning, after they lock the gates of the city. He sleeps until midnight, and on waking, goes to the locked city gates which he destroys and carries away to a hill at Hebron.

In the valley of Sorek, he has a fling with a woman named Delilah. The Philistines tell her to entice him to tell her the secret of his great strength, for which they will each give her 1,100 pieces of silver. She asks him and he tells her that if they bind him with seven green “withs” (thongs) that had never been dried, he would be weak.

He falls asleep, she cuts his hair and the Philistines catch him and put out his eyes. They then take him to Gaza to the prison where they bind him with brass. Whenever his hair grows, they shave his head so that he will remain weak. They make a great sacrifice to their god, Dagon. (A god of Ugarit from around 2500 BCE, another anachronism). 

They call for Samson to have some fun with him, setting him between the pillars of a house where about 3,000 men on the roof, while they mock him. He asks to be placed near a pillar for support and then prays to God to remember him and allow him to be avenged. He takes the pillars on either side of him and bows his head to be killed with the Philistines he kills. He is buried with his father.

Perhaps I’m looking at all the stories with the eyes of an unbeliever and with modern values. I fail to see the heroism in genocide, and the reasons for God continually testing people. The believers I’ve come across in my lifetime have always told me that these people were heroes because they were able to destroy their enemies. But why were they their enemies? Not because they invaded their lands with siege weapons and committed vile acts on their women, children and animals. They were enemies because they didn’t worship Jehovah. All this bragging about thousands of people being killed with one ox bone sounds like to me like fisherman boasting about their catches. Samson pulls down a building with  thousands of people up on the roof? How did these people manage to build buildings of this magnitude able to withstand the weight of that number of people without leaving archaeological evidence behind?
Then to add some justification to an event that supposedly happened at the end of the second millennium BCE, they claim that the people of the city were worshipping a Ugaritic god from a millennium and a half before.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Judges appointed and further violence

Judah, casually appointed by God, and Simeon, take over the command of the war on non-believers after the death of Joshua.

This separation from the previous style of writing is obviously that of a new writer. There is no definition of who the individual is who is leading the army, just the names of the two tribes. How the writer talks about seventy kings...
7 And Adonibezek said, Threescore and ten kings, “having their thumbs and their great toes cut off, gathered their meat under my table”
Judges 1:7 indicates a total disregard for the violence in those words, and the idea of “utterly destroying” cities along the way. (verse 17)

The smiting goes on with Caleb’s youngest brother offering his daughter as wife to the man who kills one of the kings, along with land containing springs of water.

Verse 16 speaks of Moses’ father-in-law “the Kenite” but, as I mentioned in my notes on Numbers, he is also referred to as an Ethiopian. More inconsistency which points to different writers of the text (or Moses had more than one wife).

Kenites or Cinites (Biblical Hebrew qi.'nim קינים), according to the Hebrew Bible, were a nomadic clan in the ancient Levant, sent under Jethro a priest in the land of Midian They played an important role in the history of ancient Israel. The Kenites were coppersmiths and metalworkers. Moses' father-in-law, Jethro, was a shepherd and a priest in the land of Midian. Judges 1:16 identifies that Moses had a father-in-law who was a Kenite, but it is not clear from the passage if this refers to the same Jethro who was the priest of Midian. Certain groups of Kenites settled among the Israelite population, including the descendants of Moses' brother-in-law. though the Kenites descended from Rechab, maintained a distinct, nomadic lifestyle for some time.
Moses apparently identified Jethro's concept of God, El Shaddai, with Yahweh, the Israelites' God. According to the Kenite hypothesis, Yahweh was originally the tribal god of Jethro, borrowed and adapted by the Hebrews.Wikipedia: Kenite
These “Kenites” which Wikipedia identifies as Midianites, left their “city of palm trees” to “dwell among Judah south of Arad.” It’s interesting that on the one hand the Midianites are not acceptable as countrymen but on the other, being Moses’ relatives by marriage, they are.

Judah then takes Gaza, Askelon and Ekron on the coast and they drive out the inhabitants who had “chariots of iron.”

Benjamin does not “drive out the Jebusites” living in Jerusalem; but they continue to share space with them. It seems that some non-believers are not to be “smote” while others are.

Joseph’s descendants destroy the city of Bethel, that was previously called Luz, but they spare the life of the man who directed them to the city. The city of Bethel features throughout the Old Testament from Genesis: as one of Abraham’s altar sites, and it is also close to Rachel’s Tomb, one of the Middle Eastern ‘holy sites.’

The Hittites, mentioned in verse 26, were destroyed by the “Sea Peoples” who invaded Egypt, and who were part of the invasion of Indo-Europeans at the beginning of the 12th century BCE. Although it seems like genocide on a scale that is unimaginable, these places were little city-states certainly nothing like Carthage when Rome destroyed it. The Hittites continue to feature in the narrative of the Old Testament, as though they still existed. This indicates some ignorance of the politics around them.

All the tribes that would eventually make up the northern state of Israel, did not ‘smite’ the inhabitants but rather took them to live among them. They made into tribute-paying allies. As with the ‘Leagues” of half a millennium later in Greece, and later subject-allies of the Romans, they accepted payment (tribute) from them in exchange for their protection against their own enemies.

This says two things to me. One, that the people who became Samaria (Israel) were already living in Canaan and may have shared some religion with the people of Judah. They are mentioned in an engraving in Egypt from around 1207 BCE as living there already, therefore the escape from Egypt and the crossing of dry river bed with the help of angels, even if they could have been the “Hyksos” didn’t happen, and secondly it is a way to explain why only Judah (later Judea) became the true heirs of the legacy of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Read about the Hyksos here: Read about the Hyksos here.

At the beginning of Chapter 2, God tells the people that he told them to not make leagues with their enemies but now that they had, they would continue to be a “thorn in their sides.” This sounds like an easy way to explain not only the hardships that come later but also that the people of “Israel” lived with people who weren’t Hebrews and may indicate that the people of Israel were already there and that some of the may have adopted some of the customs of the people in the south, Judah. The next bit confirms this for me.

Joshua dies, and so do the generation of people who travelled from Egypt. The chapter goes on about how the people forgot about God and his laws and how they came to worship “Baal.” They serve Baal and Ashteroth.

There is then a turn in their good fortune. The writer of Judges claims that it is due to God identifying ‘Judges’ among them to teach them the law; but then, when more adversity befalls them, the writer says it’s because they ‘forgot’ what they were taught. God decides to break his word, he doesn’t ‘smite’ them for not obeying his law, nor does he deliver their enemies into their hands, he lets them continue to live in league with their enemies, as though he’s had enough of the genocide.
Some interesting reading on the archaeological evidence for Israel, may be found here: Wikipedia: Ancient Israel and Judah.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Smiting of the people of Canaan

After destroying Jericho, the ‘children of Israel’ embark on a campaign of ethnic cleansing. If the figures are to be believed, it is on a scale never before seen in the ancient world.  What is so strange is that, apart from the Bible, there is no other history whatsoever about one group of men coming out of Egypt destroying every single city from Iraq to the Mediterranean. The dates given in the Bible put this migration into the same era as the migration of Semitic people from Lebanon over the whole of northern Syria. They migrated from the Syrian-Arabian desert to Babylonia and Assyria in the last quarter of the second millennium. But the area was under the rule of the Aramaeans and the Assyrians at that time (1115-1077) and the rule of the first Jewish kings can be confirmed at around 1050.

If this story of a family going to Egypt, living there for 200 years and then migrating with mass genocide into Canaan is to be believed, then why were the Edomites, Moabites, Ammonites and the Philistines still there when David defeated them in the 10th century. History says that they were only really worth considering as a power when they were under a king, i.e. Saul and then David and Solomon and then when Rehoboam took over, they split with the southern kingdom of Judah, the tribes of Judah and Benjamin with the capital at Jerusalem remaining as the only really religious state. They constantly fought attacks of foreign cults and were eventually removed to Babylon. All this talk of great genocide and huge pieces of real estate and enormous wealth is mere mythology.

It is because of the strange dating system and the warnings of dire punishment if the laws are questioned or disobeyed that it is virtually impossible to pinpoint the exact date of the genocides, and the settlement in Canaan. Also because of the prohibition on images and idols, there is no archaeological evidence that can verify anything that is said in Joshua. All I can say is that the exaggeration of their lifespan and the dates, like forty years of wandering is proof that the numbers of people cited, 600,000 men and armies of 30,000 are as exaggerated as the years of their lives.

My feeling is that there was a family of people, who were large in number, possibly a few thousand, who overthrew perhaps a small settlement or two, who came to the area and settled and from who, eventually the tribes developed. I don’t think that they were particularly successful as warriors, or as empire-builders, and I think it’s merely big fishes in very small ponds making themselves appear greater than they really were.

This whole story all the way to this point is, in my opinion, a tissue of lies. Read what it says in Wikipedia

Here is an timeline of the Near East for the period the Old Testament claims that the “children of Israel” were conquering the region. Timeline,

On the parting of the seas. My feeling is that superstition led people to create myths regarding the flooding and receding of the great rivers of the region. Also at one time:

According to Pliny and other ancient historians, the Euphrates originally had its outlet into the sea separate from that of the Tigris.Pliny: Natural History, VI, XXVI, 128-131 from Wikipedia.

It could be that at the time that the shoreline was moving further inland, the people of the region saw that as a ‘parting’ of the water and that the writers of the Bible thought it a good magic trick to place in the hands of their heroes and their God.

More and more, and especially since there is no massive "Exodus" from Babylon, my conclusion is that the whole story of Exodus is an analogy for the return to Jerusalem after 59 years of captivity in Babylon.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Joshua takes them to Jericho, and then the 'smiting' begins

God tells Joshua that everywhere they go from the Jordan to the Taurus mountains and the Euphrates to the Mediterranean is theirs. No one will go against them.

1:4 Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates -- all the Hittite country -- to the Great Sea on the west. 5 No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life...

He says this and then they proceed to get into a fight with people "going against them" almost immediately.

He sends some spies to the house of Rahab in Jericho where they are taken in by the prostitute who hides them from the guard. She tells them that the people of Jericho know about them and that God is protecting them. Interesting that an ordinary woman should know and understand about “God.” She sends the guard to look for them in the mountains and when they’re gone and the gates closed, she lets the, down the walls with a rope. They tell her to mark her house with a red ribbon and to take all of her family into the safe so they will be safe int he attack that is to come.

They return to Joshua and tell him the story.
He tells the people to follow the Ark to the Jordan river. As it enters the river, the waters part and the people cross on dry land, and the waters remain parted until all the people are through and the priests have brought the ark out of the river.

He tells them to take 12 stones from the river and to mark the spot for the 12 tribes, which he names Gilgal and then it says the stones are there, “until this day.”  This could only have been written a considerable time after the event.

Joshua is then instructed to circumcise all the men in the camp. All the ones who were done on the departure from Egypt have died and, as no cutting was done during the Exodus, all the men now have to be done. This is on the 10th day of the first month. On the 14th day they observe the Passover. Now some simple common sense. If there are 600,000+ men (remember they don’t count women) would it be possible to cicumcise that number of people in 4 days? That's forgetting about the mountain of foreskins and all the animals involved in the sacrifice to the operation, including all the deaths from infection from the germs on the dirty knives unwashed bodies and clothes they've worn for forty years.

As they go into the Passover to eat unleavened bread, the manna ceases, and a man appears before Joshua. He says he is the captain of the host of the “Lord” and that the place where Joshua is standing “take off your shoes from off your feet” is “holy ground.” In Chapter 3 of Exodus, Moses is told this by an angel who tells him about leaving Egypt.

They are then to take the Ark and to an accompaniment of rams’ horns, circle the city seven times. It takes them seven days to do this. They give a long trumpet blast, after which Joshua tells the people to shout and everything in the city falls down including all the people. They have to take all the gold, silver and brass and put it in the treasury. They save the harlot’ and her family.

But one of the men, Achor of the tribe of Judah had taken a “Babylonish garment” some gold and silver and hidden it under his tent. [Comment: how would a man who’d spent 40 years in the desert be able to identify a “Babylonish” garment?] God allows the men who go to destroy the city of Ai to be killed, 3,000 of them, because of this. Then when the people cry because they say he’s lied to them, God tells them to find the ‘accursed’ thing and burn the culprit. They do this, When Achor admits his crime, they stone, not only him but his whole family and his servants and animals, and then burn them.

Then they take a group of 30,000 men to lie in wait for the city of Ai. 5,000 go to tempt the people out of the city, they burn it and take all the spoils as loot. The people who left the city are killed, and the king is hanged. His body is thrown into the city ruins where they build a pile of stones on which they write Moses laws. Joshua then reads the laws to the people.

This all sounds wonderfully romantic, except in the taking of the land, tens of thousands of people are killed and their goods taken as spoils. It seems a little immoral to me to go about ‘smiting’ people like this and then building the wealth of a new empire on top of the destruction. At least the other empire-builders of the period allowed the people of the cities they took to be sold into slavery and they mostly kept the cities intact. Also I’m still amazed at the ability of people who’ve lived in the desert for most of their lives being able to carve stone stelae with laws on them. This idea is stolen from the way the people of the time displayed their laws to their citizens, I don’t think it’s particularly remarkable except that Joshua was an old man certainly not capable of carving stones and more than likely also illiterate. Also by the time they say they were arriving in Palestine, the Hittites and Hurrians and Ugarit (1190 BCE) had already been destroyed by Ramses II and the 'Sea People,' not by Joshua and a horde of wandering nomads.

Here is an itneresting story to South Africans. We were told that the children of Ham descdendedGibeon trick Joshua into making a pact with them by pretending to be awe-struck travellers from far. Because he agrees to the pact and, under the law, is not allowed to go back on his word, when he finds out that he’s been tricked, he commands that they work as servants, i.e. “hewers of wood and drawers of water” to the children of Israel forever.

It seems that the secret to not being 'smote' is to lie the leader into agreeing to a alliance, at least that way you get to keep your life.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Deuteronomy and more laws

The more I read, the more convinced I became that this writing was not done until much, much later in their history; that it was done by different people, possibly at different times, and that it wasn't written down in 'book' format until hundreds of years later, after they had formulated their writing, their weights and measures and the laws. I don't believe at all that it was written by the 20,000+ members of the house of Levi after a 40 year trek through the desert. I don't believe that 600,000 men and their families moved out of Egypt without leaving a single trace in the desert. I don't believe that they were ever in Egypt.

My opinion is that some of the offshoots of the people who were living in the area that Israel now occupies, got together and formed a culture. Then the culture was raided, over and over again, eventually, by the time they'd figured out a form of religion they built a temple, and appointed a king (complete with concubines and eunuchs to guard them). Then they were exiled to be servants at Babylon, and that the whole exile story and their return to Jerusalem prompted the story of Egypt and that the dates and ages of the ancestors they invented was created to give antiquity and authenticity to their descendants. In other words they wanted to appear to be an older people than they really were, so knowing a little about Egypt, they invented their history, borrowed the stories from the “Chaldeans” and their history, and then their elders wrote it all down.

Some more laws of what is and what isn’t allowed:
Castrated people or men who have deformed organs, are not allowed in the tabernacle. 
No illegitimate children are allowed to inherit to 10 generations. 
Ammonites and Moabites are bad, Edomites and Egyptians are good. Children bred with them become Jews after three generations. 
Unclean men have to stay out of the camp until nightfall and a bath and soldiers must carry a paddle with which to dig a latrine outside the camp. 
Whores and sodomites are forbidden and any money made from whoring or dogs may not be paid to the priests. 
Usury is wrong unless it is practiced against outsiders, so it’s OK to rip off strangers but not your own people. 
Keep promises, don’t break your word once given. If you come to a field when you are hungry, you may eat fruit but not take it home with you.
On divorce, a man may divorce a woman he doesn’t want and she may remarry, he may not marry her again if she is free.
Newly-wed men must stay home to take care of baby-making.
Keep lepers outside the city.
When you lend something to someone, wait for them to give it back, don’t bully them about it or take it back without their permission.
Be kind to your servants and pay them.
Fathers may not take their sons’ sentences and vice versa.
Be kind to widows, orphans and the poor, leave some of your harvest for them.
If you lose something or forget it, leave it for someone else to find.
Thieves must be put to death.
Judges’ decisions are final. They may decree lashes but no more than 40.
Do not muzzle an ox in a field.
If your brother dies without child, you must marry the widow so that her first child will be his heir, but you may not sleep with her while her husband is alive. If you refuse to marry her, she may take you before the elders to force marriage or loosen the shoe and spit in your face.
If two men are fighting and one’s wife grabs a man by the ‘secrets’ her hand must be cut off.
Weigh and measure honestly.
The following are strictly forbidden:
Disobedience to parents.
Removing a neighbour’s landmark.
Confusing the blind.
Perversion of justice to widows, orphans and strangers.
Has sex with: fathers’ wife, animal, sister, mother-in-law.
Smites his neighbour.
Taking money to kill an innocent person.


Moses tells them to carve the law into stone and to accept that all the blessings of God will be on them if they obey, if they don’t then there are 68 versions of all the terrible things that can possibly happen to them, covering every single thing that can ever go wrong in someone’s life so that everything that goes wrong can be blamed on the person who is having a hard time. The whole of chapter 29 is devoted to telling them that if they turn away from God, they will be cursed.

Finally Moses is 120 years old when he hands over to Joshua, he is buried in Moab, his tomb is hidden.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Arrival in Canaan and the smiting of enemies begins

I always find the skimming over of large periods of time to be very disconcerting. You’d think, in the forty years they were wandering around in circles, that interesting events would have taken place. The Bible simply doesn’t fill in the gaps. It just leaps from a day of sea opening with over a million people and their livestock to two or three years later and then it jumps another forty years. Strange!

Miriam dies in Kadesh, where Moses extracts water from a rock, and Aaron dies on the mount of Hor. The people fight battles and gain land and cities and villages but still they don’t settle down.

There is the story of Balaam one of the minor kings of the region. He is asked by other king to join an army to defend themselves against the Hebrews who are conquering land all over the area. He refuses to join, even to the extent of going to visit one of the other kings, Balak of the Moabites, where, along the way his donkey speaks to him (the talking animals always get me)! After journeying from one new set of seven altars to the next and bullocks being slaughtered at each one, Balaam is convinced that the Hebrews are to become a great people, even to making prophecies of ‘biblical’ proportions, and he and Balak part company.

God’s jealousy gets out of hand when one of Simeon’s descendants takes up with a chief of the Midianites’ daughters. Phineas, one of Aaron’s grandsons, goes after them and kills them, for which he is praised by God. Moses then ‘smites’ the Midianites, the God commands him to do another head count and to divide up the estate of “Israel/Jacob’s” descendants according to the numbers. Some women who are the sole descendants of their father with no male relatives approach him to discuss their inheritance. Moses discusses the problem with God who instructs him to divide their father’s share among them. Then Moses names Joshua as his heir to be over Eleazar the high priest and to lead the Hebrews into the promised land. Moses is not allowed to go because he is being punished for his own disobedience from long ago.

Some interesting points. There is very accurate census taking and the writers and translators made sure that the numbers add up but they don’t check that the names of some of the descendants correlate with earlier lists, not a big problem but it would seem that numbers are more important when keeping records. Also the idea that women could inherit is pretty progressive; but the idea of punishing Moses for an earlier mistake before all the pomp and ceremony had been worked out is a little harsh to me.

The next few chapters are about the various slaughters for the festivals. And then they go to war against the Midianites and they kill Balaam who wouldn’t fight them before (the man who spoke to his donkey) and they bring back literally hundreds of thousands of sheep, cattle and asses, and 32,000 virgins, all of which they divide amongst themselves after they’ve killed off all the boys.

Finally they agree to where the various tribes will settle, and that they will support each other in wars. There is a dispute about the inheritance and the vows of women, They decide that if a woman makes a vow without the man in her life’s consent, it is not binding. If her father  husband, or brother, hears her and doesn’t intervene, it is binding and the vow of a widow or divorcee is binding.

Finally they argue about the women who inherited their father’s share possibly marrying outside the tribe and thus taking the money out of the tribe. They are ordered to marry their cousins, their uncle Mannasseh’s sons, i.e. Joseph’s grandsons.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Manna, quails and forty years in the desert

After the celebrations, God explains to Moses that they are condemned to  forty years of wandering. They are only allowed to move when the cloud over the tabernacle moves. If it stops for a day, a month, a year, they have to stay with their tents as it moved. Look at this logistically. There are over 600,000 men and boys in the camp (they didn’t count the women and girls). If the males are half the population (also remembering that a lot of them had more than one wife) it is more than likely that there was also, at least, 600,000 women and girls. If the cloud stopped for one day, they would have to set up the tabernacle and their tents, if it moved the next morning, then so did they. If anyone has ever been camping, they would know that just breaking camp and setting it up again is a major undertaking, and that’s forgetting about organising the animals and digging latrines. It would be impossible for over a million people to move at a moment’s notice, or to stay for a long period without leaving some evidence.

God tells Moses to get silver trumpets made. These are to be used to gather the people, as is told in Numbers 11:21. When the people complain about eating only manna. (It tasted like coriander seed, and the colour was "as bdellium." )


Exodus 16:13, explains that they got manna in the morning and quail at night. Then in Numbers 11:31 God sends the quail, enough until it “runs out of their noses.” Then he “smites” them again, with a plague, this after he’s already burned the people on the outskirts of the camp for complaining about their lot. It is interesting that the other people living in the area didn’t write anything about the flocks of quail arriving in the desert in the evenings for forty years. Perhaps this is why the writers mix it up, they realised that it was impossible quail to breed in the numbers of quail to feed these people. 
Ex 16:8 Moses also said, "You will know that it was the LORD when he gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because he has heard your grumbling against him.
Ex 16:11 The LORD said to Moses, 12 "I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them, 'At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread.
Num 11: 4 The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, "If only we had meat to eat!
Num:11:31 Now a wind went out from the LORD and drove quail in from the sea. It brought them down all around the camp to about three feet above the ground, as far as a day's walk in any direction.
Quail are not seabirds, possibly it was meant to be something else, as I said, I don't read the original languages, but my bible says 'quail.' from Wikipedia:
Quail is a collective name for several genera of mid-sized birds in the pheasant family PhasianidaeNew World quails (family Odontophoridae) and buttonquails (family ) are not closely related but named for their similar appearance and behaviour.

Miriam and Aaron whine about Moses’ Ethiopian wife. God gets annoyed about this, punishes Miriam (not Aaron) with a plague and throws her out of the camp for a week with ‘leprosy,’ making the whole camp wait for her to recover before they can move on.

Moses sends scouts to see the lie of the land, one man from each tribe. They come back reporting about where the various people live and that they are ‘giants’ who can’t be overcome. In the next chapter, the people complain that they want to go back rather than face the giants. So God curses them that they will wander for 40 years until they die. Some of them go up to the mountain to see the land, they get killed by the people living on the mountain.

After the stoning of a man for gathering sticks on the Sabbath, the wearing of a shawl with fringes is explained.
In biblical times, most clothing consisted of a four-cornered rectangle of cloth, direct from the loom, which was draped and fastened around the body.  In modern times, people tend to wear more tailored clothing, which often does not consist of four corners. So a special four-cornered garment called a Tallit, which is somewhat like a shawl, is worn by those who want to fulfill the commandment to wear Tzitzit. The only religious significance of the Tallit is that it holds the Tzitzit on its corners. Tzitzit.
Some of the minor priests demand that Moses and Aaron step down from their elevated positions, God opens up a crater and swallows them up including all the animals and family members who belong to them, and then when their families run away, they get blasted by fire and the people who complain in shock, are ‘smitten’ by a plague, 14,700 people killed in one fell swoop. Then Moses shows them the rod bearing Aaron’s name that has blossomed and borne almonds and they accept Aaron as the high priest.

Forty years of wandering seems a little harsh for merely complaining about the menu.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Numbers

God tells Moses to do a census on the 1st day of the 2nd month, before the building of the tabernacle.
The tribes (other than the Levites who are the priests, are to be counted for service in war and their camps are designated around the outside of the Levites who camp around the tabernacle.

Reuben (south) leads the group made up of the descendants of Reuben, Simeon and Gad.
Judah (west) the group made up of Judah, Issachar and Zebulun
Dan (north) the group made up of Dan, Asher and Napthali.
Joseph’s two sons’ descendants make up the other group under Ephraim, Manasseh (Joseph’s other son) and Benjamin.
These are the 12 warrior tribes of Israel.

The Levites are treated differently; they are priests. Only the descendants of Kohath are allowed into the Holy of Holies; anyone else who enters will be put to death. The Philistines learn this in Samuel). The rest of the family are to take care of the outside of the tabernacle, the children of Gershon, the curtains and hangings, and the descendants of Merari, the woodwork and structure.

All this organisation shows complex reasoning way beyond the capabilities of people who had only just left jobs as builders and labourers in Egypt. Moses is the only person with an Egyptian higher education in this group (remember they had forgotten their early roots). So how does one old man manage to count over 600,000 people in a matter of a few days, and organise them. I know that believers will say, God did the organising, but we know this is nonsense. It is proof that this piece was written in a ‘brain-storming’ session around a ‘boardroom’ table.

Jealousy seems to feature in the ancient mindset. If a man is jealous of his wife and suspects her of cheating, he can accuse her to the priest, who also acts as a ‘judge.’  She has to defend herself, and if she swears innocence, she gets to conceive a child for the jealous husband but if she admits her guilt, she will be cursed and he flesh will rot. Nothing happens to her co-accused. This comes after lepers and other infected people are thrown out of the camp.

Untold numbers of animals are killed, burned and eaten and unbelievable amounts of jewellery handed over. Everyone in the crowd has to offer something of value (600,000 people all owning animals, hand over at least one animal to be slaughtered). The amount of blood, carrion birds hovering around, and a mass execution the likes of which the earth has never seen again, yet there is no physical archeological evidence of this event? This is in the second month of the second year since the departure from Egypt.

The consecration of the priests and the Passover, the first major religious ritual.
The early religious festivals explained.

Ex 2:1 This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. ... 
Ex 2:6 Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight.
Num 9:11 They are to celebrate it on the fourteenth day of the second month at twilight. They are to eat the lamb, together with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.
Num 16:25 On the fourteenth day of the first month the LORD's Passover is to be held.
 Deut 16:1 Observe the month of Abib (March/April) and celebrate the Passover of the LORD your God

In a matter of a few days, people who have no paper and no writing, are able to count over 600,000 men and their women and female children. In a matter of days, the mess from the previous slaughter is cleaned up, the congregation rearrange their camp, priests are ordained and then the start the whole slaughter business starts all again, while they celebrate the Passover.
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Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Gold and animal sacrifice

When Moses came down from the mountain with the first tablets bearing the laws, he found that Aaron had incited the people to melt all their gold and to make a calf which they then worshipped. They were tired of waiting for Moses and hungry for proper food.

In a fit of temper, Moses throws down the tablets which God had written for him, then he smashes the golden calf to pieces and grinds the gold into dust, which he puts into their drinking water . He makes the congregation drink the water.

He returns to the mountain for another 40 days during which time he chisels the law onto two new stones, which he brings down to a chastened people.

He summons them to bring their offerings of valuables to build the ark and the tabernacle. The house of Judah is to specialise in jewellery and fine metal work, and the house of Dan in tailoring and cloth work. After destroying the golden calf, where did they get it. Odd how the writers keep forgetting what happened before. This gold has to be ‘pure’ gold. It says that quite clearly. So where did this gold come from?
How did they know how to make cherubs and cherubim and what they were?

A talent of gold. (between 75-95 lbs.) ± 30-40 kg. (According to this website), and this one.

I’m being conservative, Wikipedia puts it much higher, at 58.9 kg.

The standard today is 1000g bar, i.e. 1 kg which is about the size of a flattened pound of butter. The gold used for the job is 29 talents, i.e. roughly 29 x 35 kg, or 35 bars of pure gold (and a few shekels extra). An enormous amount of gold for a few camel and goat herders to be carrying around with them, considering that they’ve recently drunk all their gold they had before this event.  Where did they get 1,015 kgs of pure gold or, using the Wikipedia measure, 1078.1 kgs. (gold bars) ? If they had that much gold with them, how did they run away from the Egyptians carrying that lot? Even worse is that people worship a god who demands this kind of wealth being given to him to enjoy. No wonder the whole thing disappeared, any raider of Jerusalem would’ve been able to buy himself a kingdom with all that gold. Add to this 128 kgs + of silver.

They then build the ark for the 603,350+ men and their wives and children to be obedient to God who has led them around the desert, surviving on manna collected in the morning. Moses poisoned the drinking water with the first lot of gold, but where did the water come from, if they were drinking morning dew. Isn’t it fun that they are allowed to kill off animals to sacrifice to their god but not to eat. What they don’t know is that after they’ve built the tabernacle, because they built the golden calf, they are going to wander around for 40 years and eat only manna, while they kill animals for the priests to eat.

One last observation about Exodus and what this confirms for me. Throughout ancient history, priests extorted animals from the people as offerings to the gods. I was always told that the animals were burnt for the gods and not eaten and I’ve always said that is nonsense and that the animals were eaten by the priests.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Moses Laws

The book of law: Leviticus opens with the rules for making sacrifice., this relates to how minor offences may be undone by the offer of meat to the priests. Something like 'confession.'

These offences include swearing, eating or even touching 'unclean' objects, and so on. Interesting that insects are unclean, how did they deal with lice? Also in the making of the priests garments, they have to produce dyes, how did they make dyes without touching insects. The prohibition on insects shows ignorance of the production of something as common as dye.

Cloven-footed cud-chewing animals are fine but not camels. Pigs, coneys and hares are bad, and unclean animals are not to be touched. This explains the Middle-Eastern attitude towards pets generally, dogs and cats are unclean.

Animals in the water with fins and scales, are fine but not those without them, like shellfish;  even their carcasses are an abomination. Birds of prey, swans, pelicans, storks and birds that don’t fly and bats are included in this prohibition, although they aren’t birds (you’d think their creator would know that).

Locusts, grasshoppers and all other insects, in fact all things that crawl or creep on the ground, especially snakes. If you even touch them, you are unclean. You have to wash your clothes and be unclean until the evening. Now, here’s the thing. This law was given to them before they spent forty years walking around the desert where there was an extreme shortage of water. They had to drink the dew on the grass in the morning for water. So how were they supposed to wash their clothes?

The ferret, chameleon, lizard, snail, and mole, and any water, if an unclean animal should fall into it, or anything it lands on. Butchers are unclean to the evening because they touch blood. Blood must not be eaten. Meat that results from natural death is prohibited, although it may be given to a stranger to eat.

All of these make sense. If you’re walking through the desert without a way to preserve meat, it’s better to prohibit the meats that are likely to easily become infected.

Then we come to the laws about women and birth. If a boy is born, the mother must be kept separate for seven days and the boy is to be circumcised on the 8th day. If the baby is a girl, she has to stay away for two weeks and she is unclean for the month that she bleeds after the birth. Again this makes sense. Making men stay away from their wives while they are bleeding makes sense because of the danger of infection. This might merely be a response to having noticed that with this prohibition, the cases of childbed fever were reduced.

Then the laws on skin infections. Depending on the type of skin eruption, the ‘uncleanness’ can last for various lengths of time. I notice that all eruptions are called ‘leprosy’ even if they are merely an allergic reaction. Then follows the laws about isolating the obviously infected, followed by ways of cleansing and houses with mould and mildew. A mention of venereal diseases and washing and cleansing after sex and after menstruation and the prohibition on masturbation and premature ejaculation.

The rituals for the harvest sacrifices and Day of Atonement are explained in the seventh month on the tenth day and the day being treated as a Sabbath.

Next the laws dealing with who may and may not be taken as breeding partners:
Parents, step-parents, siblings, children and grandchildren, step-siblings, aunts, even uncles’ ex-wives, unclean women, neighbour’s wives. Homosexuality and bestiality directly forbidden even if others do it.
Notice that in the next group, some of the “commandments” are included.

Obey your parents and keep the sabbath. Don’t worship idols, and sacrifice must be given freely. Do not keep meat overnight because by the third day it is rotten and rotten meat is forbidden. Leave some grain, and grapes in your field for the poor. Do not lie, curse and commit fraud. Do not pick on the handicapped, and do not judge people based on their material wealth. Do not gossip, or pick fights with your relatives and neighbours. Do not take vengeance into your own hands.

Hybrid animals, plants and mixed  cloth are an abomination and sex with a servant, or an engaged woman will cause her to be scourged but not put to death.

Leave the fruit of the first three years of bearing and on the fourth year offer the fruit to God (i.e. The priest), because in the first three years the trees are uncircumcised. Do not use enchantment and may not have rounded corners on your hair or beard. Honour the aged and be polite to strangers, treating them as family. Do not cheat with weights and measures and obey the law.

Penalties: Stoning for worshipping Moloch. Death for cursing parents, adultery, sex with forbidden relatives, homosexual sex, sex with both mother and daughter and for bestiality, kill both the man and the beast. If you have sex with your sister, she has to leave and also a woman who is menstruating. If you have sex with an aunt or your brother’s wife, she will be childless. Two things here, Moses’ father had sex with this aunt and God didn’t punish him, was this law an afterthought of God’s? Also this law is the one Henry VIII invoked when he asked the Pope for an annulment of his marriage to Katherine of Aragon, girls were still not counted as valid heirs. Further, know the difference between clean and unclean animals and burn witches.

Nest we come to the definition of defiling: shaving the head, and tattoos, sleeping with a divorced woman or a whore and the daughter of a priest who becomes a whore must be put to death. Dead bodies are unclean and priests must marry virgins, not divorcees or widows and, definitely not, whores. Priests must keep their heads covered and must not tear their clothes and they may not be blemished in any way, for example a blind man may not be a priest.

Priests are not allowed to touch snakes, and anything dead. The meat they and their family eat is holy and if their daughters are married to a gentile, she may not eat with them, unless she is divorced or widowed without children. They are not allowed to be offered any blemished food or to take meat from a strangers, and there is more said about eating all the meat on the same day.

The Sabbath and Passover are discussed as well as the harvest feast and the fast for the Day of Atonements.   There is more said about people of mixed origins and blasphemy and murder being punishable by death. The laws about six years of planting and the 7th year the fields being left fallow. After six years there will be enough to eat for the 7th year that the field is not planted. All the land is forever and may not be sold. All of your family should share in your wealth and menial jobs must be given to poor family members. Taking care of the poor is very important.

The laws about the Sabbath are repeated again, and for obedience there are promises of good weather, peace and no dangerous animals. Disobedience will bring seven times the amount of punishment, cities will be laid to waste and people will pine to go back to the land. If they obey he will remember them even in the land of strangers.

The people must be counted and a tax paid for each, but less for women and girls. Poor people are to be taxed by the priest and in order for them to be sanctified they have to pay this tax, even in animals. It is all justified to keep the tabernacle and the priests financially able to do God’s work.

Finally, here are two very clear instructions about how the law is to be obeyed from later writing, and that validate my theory that if people are going to obey the ten commandments, they have to obey all the laws and that Jesus had no right to change the law. Christians argue that these laws are outdated and that Jesus changed the law. If this is true, and I’ll know more about that when I get to the New Testament, then Christians are not worshipping God, but Jesus  because God’s law is unchanging. Therefore they are not going to the same heaven that the God of the Old Testament speaks about and their religion, although based on the Jewish one, is not valid because they are worshipping another god.
You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you."Deuteronomy 4:2
Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it. Deuteronomy 12:32
For a more detailed list of the various laws (613 Mitzvot or commandments)  click here.