Sunday, February 7, 2010

An Angry God - Reloaded

I have been reading Numbers and Deuteronomy in the Bible these past few days and wow, the God depicted there is a jerk.  The thing that is blowing my mind though is not that God is a jerk to the non-Israelites, but rather that he is a jerk to *everybody*.

If you take the Bible as literally true you would be forced to conclude that it is a very bad thing to be an enemy of the Israelites in the days of the Exodus, but it is probably even worse to be an Israelite.  If you are not an Israelite you can believe whatever you like and do all kinds of strange things but unless you actually get in the way of the Israelites and their conquests God has nothing to say about you.  If you are an Israelite though and you break God's commandments (this includes all of the hundreds of rules in the Bible, not just the best known ten) you will be destroyed.  Your crops will wither, your courage will falter, you will run in terror from nothing and your enemies will kill you.  As an Israelite you don't have the choice of another life, because unlike everybody else you *must* obey God or he will personally see to it that you are ground to dust.  The heathens appear to have drastically more freedom and fewer consequences for sinning that the Israelites themselves.

It doesn't start and end with a lack of freedom though.  Any time the Israelites express doubt in God or in their future God becomes angry at them and smites them.  He sends plague after plague at the Israelites for their faults, and in most cases it is noted how many people he killed.  It must be a hard thing for morale when some of your people go and protest against the current leadership and God sends a plague among you and twenty four thousand people die.  It isn't limited to plagues though, God sends poisonous serpents among the people, causes the earth to open up and swallow them and curses them to wander the desert for forty years for their transgressions.  Time and time again the Bible records how many thousands died to this new atrocity inflicted by the vengeful God.  Being a Israelite may mean that you are the chosen of God, but the benefits of being chosen seem very poor indeed.

I was wondering how exactly the Bible was going to be filled out considering just how much there is left to go.  I am less than 1/4 of the way through the Old Testament and yet I have already seen the majority of the Bible stories I am familiar with.  I wondered how the rest would be filled... until I got to Deuteronomy.  It seems that the way to fill the space in these many, many pages is repetition.  Tell the same story as the chapter before but with slightly different wording and a few new things thrown in and you can fill up space admirably.

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