Sunday, February 28, 2010

Kings of Israel

I just finished Kings 1 and Kings 2 in the Bible.  This was not much of a departure from the last few sections in that it was a chronicle of Jewish men (almost exclusively) and their relationship with a massively powerful, unflinchingly violent and incredibly random supreme being.  It goes on about king after king, reign after reign regularly mixing in divine judgement from on high.

The most bizarre thing is the inconsistency of divine judgement.  51 men come up to a prophet and ask him to come and see the divinely appointed king.  God incinerates them on the spot.  51 more men come up to a prophet and make the same request and are again instantly conflagrated.  Yet a third 51 men come up to the prophet and make the same request slightly more politely and the prophet decides to follow them to the king.  By this we can learn that God's response to unwanted requests is instant immolation of the offending person.

Later on we see a King of Israel offend God over and over.  He worships Baal, he sacrifices to alternate gods, he ignores God's commandments and ordinances and much of the nation of Israel follows.  God then sends that he is going to destroy this King and his household.  The King repents and begs and is granted a reprieve:  God will destroy his son and his son's household instead.  Nothing happens until the King dies, and then shortly thereafter God causes the son, the son's friends, relatives, priests and everyone else associated with him to be destroyed for the father's sin.

What?  So a King begging is sufficient to gain a decades long reprieve from destruction, but regular people are instantly destroyed?  A suitable punishment for a lifetime of 'evil' is a massacre of people who weren't involved in the crime at all while a suitable punishment for making a polite request is death.  The Bible continues to be incredibly random and unpredictable, more so than I imagined after reading atheist writings on the subject.  Reading these passages surely makes me wonder how anyone could laud the Bible as a source of law and morality.  Rape, genocide, murder, torture, oppression and destruction are regularly upheld and even required.  It is even true that people in the Bible who are insufficiently devoted to genocide, destruction and murder are denigrated for violating God's will.

At the end of Kings 2 because of their lack of obedience the Jews are scattered across the lands as subjects of other nations and Solomon's first temple to God is destroyed.  Clearly the story of a fall from grace and an odyssey of an orphaned people searching for a way to regain their homeland is a compelling tale.  It is unfortunate that the deity that granted them that homeland is 1.  Not real. and 2. A murderous, random, megalomaniacal sociopath.

I still have a long way to go it would seem.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting Story. Some women came by our place on Monday (I was home sick) and rang the doorbell. They were Jehovah's Witnesses and came to talk about their beliefs. I actually enjoy when people come by to proselytize. They are always very polite and offer me stuff to read and things to think about. Since I was sick I didn't invite them in for a conversation but we chatted briefly.

    They asked, "With all of the terrible things that occur in the world, do you ever wonder how God could allow these things to happen?"

    I said, "Yes"

    They responded, "The Bible gives us an answer. "Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man." (James 1:13)

    I had just woken up and was feeling sick and groggy-headed so I had them write down the reference so I could look at it later. The woman mentioned that she would come back some other time so that we could chat about it more. They don't seem to come by in the evenings so I don't know if I'll ever get to chat with them more but I wouldn't mind the opportunity. I'm sure that they have a perspective that is not replicated in my daily life and I'd probably learn some interesting things from the conversation.

    I'm not sure that I'm understanding James 1:13 fully, in regard to her questions. I suppose that if it implies that God does not temp humans then the temptation must be coming from within or from another supernatural source. This brings up problems of 1. Why would God make us able to sin and, if omnipotent, know what specific sins we will make in the future yet not program us such that we won't make those mistakes. 2. If evil supernatural forces exist, why doesn't God just defeat them or turn them good? I will ask if I ever finish the conversation.