Well, in one sense, here we come to the nub of it and the Lord’s teachings: That is to say his commands and laws, and what will happen if any of his people fail to follow these. This was part of the original aim of mine in starting to read the Bible from start to finish (and blog about it), namely to discover the teachings of the Bible. It strikes me as instruction on how to live and while I can agree wholeheartedly with some of the principles which have been picked up by religions and leaders around the world, I can’t agree with some at all.
It also strikes me that the Lord is basically a bully. Maybe it’s just the translation I’m reading but the descriptions of what will happen to people who fail to follow his commands seem to show the Lord revelling in all the curses he will rain down in order to destroy them. It is almost as if this is what he wants to do rather than have people who obey all his commands. And then we have the fact that it is do as he says, or else you will be sorry. In effect the teachings of the Bible thus far appear to me to have been follow what I say to the letter or else punishment will follow. That in effect could be any dictator which I know is a strong thing to say. Where is the merciful Lord? Hopefully he will become clear as I read on in the journey – both mine and the people of Israel’s.
We all live by laws and commands that are not of our own making, although there are those out there that disobey some of these and no doubt I probably have in my life too but nothing so major as to be against a law in any country in which I have lived in or visited. And then we have the ideals or methods and morals of our own making by which we live, in effect our own way of life. I don’t know why it has taken me this long to come to the conclusion that all the Lord’s commands passed on through Moses are in effect dictating an all-encompassing way of life. And while that might seem very restrictive to me and my way of life, in one way it really is not very different at all and just another variation in a different time. Maybe there are people out there that still live this to the letter – I can’t imagine so and I would like to hope not but that is not to say it would be wrong to do so
In this section there is the first mention that I can recall of a King of Israel. While there may be Kings of Israel in the Bible, the Israel we know of today does not have one, although I understand there have been those who have thought of claiming the title. It is just an observation I have made, and I know I am ignorant of all of the history but it just make me wonder why certain parts of the nation of Israel as described in the Bible have been adopted as true and others have fallen by the wayside.
With reference to the last post, whilst the Lord acknowledges there are other gods, I now notice that, in this translation anyway, he claims to be superior to all other gods and powers. And on the subject of using the pronoun ‘he’ – this is the first time I’ve noticed it being used and so have used it myself. Whilst it may have been assumed this would be the correct pronoun to use given the times it was written in and the mercilessness despite claims the Lord is merciful, which I’ve seen little sign of so far, it has not been a given. Mind you if the Bible was written today, the same would still apply.
We are given a different perspective on giving a tenth of all produced to the Lord: if someone is unable to physically transport a tenth of all produced to the worship place then they are instructed to sell the produce and use the money to buy whatever is wanted once at the place of worship. This seems to me a more progressive way to go, and more relevant to today when I have heard of the giving of a tenth in connection with giving a tenth of your income to the church to which you go to worship and/or charities.
Basically this is a review of what has already been covered in Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers (and I believe will continue to be so for the remainder of the book) but two things have struck me nevertheless. I guess when you read the same thing put a different way, you can gain something different from it – a different perspective if you like.
Firstly, that the Lord is acknowledging that there are other gods for other people who are not the people of Israel to worship. The Lord is not claiming to conquer the whole world and be the god for all people, only those he has rescued and their descendants. And yet, despite this and the commandment that people should not commit murder the Lord orders them to kill all those who ‘occupy’ the land ‘given’ to them.
Secondly, that the Lord will protect his people from sickness – if they follow all his commandments. This statement seems to me to be very dangerous. The implication being that if you are sick it is a punishment for not following all the Lord’s commandments. I have no doubt that there are some people who believe this. However I cannot believe this. Sickness is not a punishment, it just happens that bodies go wrong or we pick up infections through no fault of our own.
I am aware that I am at risk of constantly repeating myself. There is repetition within the Bible and I seem to just take the same things from the sections where this happens. What I have not really addressed yet though, because I was not sure how to approach it, is the inequality between men and women that is still perpetuated every day. Yes, there are differences in the physical make-up of the sexes: men are generally physically stronger, women carry and give birth to the next generation. And while there have been studies into the make-up of brains there is still no difference in intellectual capacity. Why by an accident of genetics should men have the right to make decisions on behalf of women? This is in effect slavery and we are back to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights again where all human beings are NOT born equal. It saddens and angers me that there are both men and women in the world who think this is OK and the way it should be, the women particularly who think they are insuperior and should be subservient to men, and the fact that religion is used to perpetuate this.
I have never really had much of an interest in history. While I am intrigued about how some things have come about, if you have read previous posts you will not be surprised to learn that battles, wars, those in power, have held no interest for me. However, the geography and geology of the land on earth is another matter. Whilst reading this section I did not have access to maps but it will be interesting to look with reference to the description of borders of the land the Lord ‘gave’ to his people and as to whether this can be identified with the Israel we know today. Is this just another decision made by someone arbitrarily? And you still have to deal with the displacement of people from what they had considered ‘their’ land, and what was most definitely their home.
The seemingly merciless acts of the Lord continue for anyone who doubts or does not follow commands to the letter. The events described in this section also strike me as not so different to what is happening in the world, the Middle East in particular, right now. Is this the lesson to be learned – that it is fine to kill on the command of a deity, just as long as it’s the right one that is? And who is to say which is the right one? It’s certainly one I can’t agree with and a lesson I will never learn. And if this is not the lesson, what exactly is the teaching here? Maybe something will become clearer as I read on.
It is perhaps poignant that I’m writing this on Remembrance Sunday. It is not something I choose to participate in and I am obviously at odds with many millions of people on that. Why is there so much hatred and anger in the world? And why does this turn to violence? After all that is what any fighting is, whatever name it is done in. How can you be given a commandment not to kill another person and this is wrong but yet be told to kill those who are against your beliefs and this is right? Do only as I say and not as I do springs to mind and I can’t respect that.
That ‘foreigners’ are expected to abide by the same laws and regulations as those they are living amongst is not something we question and has been constant throughout time. If people have made a choice to live where certain laws and regulations are applied then that should be expected. In the same way, when we visit another place for a holiday, again the same applies. I can see that there will be conflict where someone is forced from their home and finds themselves in a place that is not of their own choosing though.
Again we come up against people questioning what they are asked to do and punishment which, for me, seems to be disproportionate to this. To question and be put to death is not something we expect in today’s world, and yet (with reference to the last post) it is something that does still happen in parts of the world and for which I can find no defence.
And finally, the giving of a tenth of all that is received. I even came across this in a modern setting only in the last week where I was not in any way expecting it to – with regard to a residuary gift to a charity when making a will. It’s clear the Bible contains laws for living and following the Lord but every country in the world has their own set of laws to abide by and although, as stated in the Introduction to this blog, I live in a supposedly Christian country and no doubt some laws do date back so far that they will have some reference to some in the Bible, I have thought that religion and the law should be two entirely separate things. Given that should you find yourself picked as a jury member in court the default option is to swear your oath on the Bible, this is probably a touch of naivety on my part.
Why should we not question? Why are we not permitted to have views of our own? Given the nature of the journey I find myself on with my aim to read the Bible from start to finish, it seems that I am going against the Lord in this regard from this and previous sections and wonder what my punishment is to be.
I realise I am lucky to live in a country where I am relatively free to live my life as I see fit and to express my views however I take issue with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. While a lovely ideal, article 1 gets us off on the wrong foot immediately – all humans are NOT born free and equal in dignity and rights. And while Article 19 is met for me there are millions of people who are not so fortunate to be given this right and would be unable to do what I am right now – and that is to publish their views for anyone to see without fear of ‘punishment’ of any kind.