Friday, July 31, 2009

NUMBERS: Chapter 1

Chapter 1
Summary:God speaks to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, on the first day of the second month*, in the second year after leaving their slavery in Egypt. He tells Moses, that along with his brother Aaron, he is to take a census of all of the men twenty years old and up who are fit to go to war, and to make note of their tribes and families, as well as the leaders of each tribe.

The following table shows the tribes of Israel, their leaders, and the number of men twenty years and older fit for war counted in the census:
TribeLeaderTotal Men
ReubenElizur (son of Shedeur)46,500
SimeonShelumi-el (son of Zuri-shaddai)59,300
JudahNahshon (son of Amminadab)74,600
IssacharNethanel (son of Zuar)54,400
ZebulunEliab (son of Helon)57,400
Ephraim (son of Joseph)Elishama (son of Ammihud)40,500
Manasseh (son of Joseph)Gamaliel (son of Pedahzur)32,200
BenjaminAbidan (son of Gideoni)35,400
DanAhiezer (son of Ammishaddai)62,700
AsherPagiel (son of Ochran)41,500
GadEliasaph (son of Deuel)45,650
NaphtaliAhira (son of Enan)53,400
Grand Total:603,550*

God, however, exempts the Levites from the military draft and tells Moses that their numbers are not to be counted in the census. God explains to Moses that the Levites are appointed to work in the tabernacle, everything it contains, and to care for its transportation. The Levites are to camp around the tabernacle, and wherever it is moved, the Levites are to tear it down and set it back up again. Anyone else touching the tabernacle is to be put to death.

Every tribe of Israel is to have its own camp, but the Levite camp surrounding the tabernacle shall serve as a barrier separating the tabernacle - and God's wrath - from the people of Israel.

The people of Israel did as God had commanded to Moses.
Notes:1.) Approximately April 15th by our modern calendar.
2.) This total number of eligible men is exactly the same number as taken in a previous census, as stated in Exodus: Chapter 38, which took place prior to the building of the tabernacle.
Thoughts:The first chapter of the book of Numbers takes place approximately two years after the Exodus from Egypt in the middle of April. God tells Moses that him and Aaron are to take a census of all the tribes of Israel to prepare for a military draft of all men over the age of twenty.

The first strange thing we notice is that the Levites are curiously absent from the list, yet the tribe of Joseph is split into two (by his sons Ephraim and Manasseh) in order to preserve the number of tribes to twelve. Much like the number seven (which is peppered throughout the book of Leviticus), the number twelve also holds mystical significance throughout the bible (most notably as the number of apostles that Jesus takes). A common theory as to the significance of the number twelve (as well as the superstition as to why the number thirteen is considered unlucky) is that it correlates to how people began to count. It is thought that man initially counted on his fingers (totaling ten digits) and then adding their two feet thereby "running out of numbers". Also, many biblical myths also seem to be borrow heavily from astrology, which separated the astrological signs into twelve signs - which also contributed to our modern calendar. Regardless of what the truth may be, the number twelve tends to be mystically revered much in the same way as the number seven.

The chapter continues on to list the twelve tribes, their leaders (as well as the names of their fathers), and conveniently round numbers. It begs the question as to what real purpose the census has if its accuracy isn't a concern and that it's simply an estimate. Surely we're not meant to believe that twelve tribes of people somehow managed to have completely round and even numbers of draftable men?

However, even more puzzling is the grand total of men listed - 603,550. If that number sounds familiar, it's because it's the exact same number we were given in Exodus: Chapter 38 when a census was taken prior to the building of the tabernacle. This earlier census was taken to impose a tax upon the men of Israel in order to raise money to build the tabernacle. It is believed by biblical scholars that the tabernacle was built about a year prior to the events here in the first chapter of Numbers, so it should be expected that a census taken the following year would report a similar number, but there are many problems as to why this number shouldn't be exactly the same.

It doesn't make sense that the earlier census figures would only include men twenty years of age and up that were fit to serve in the military when the sole purpose of that census was simply to raise money - I'm sure that the money of disabled, crippled, or old men would probably have been collected for the tabernacle construction. Even if the prior census was only counting the number of military fit men, what would be the purpose of having another census a year later unless there were either many nineteen year olds running around or many deaths of military age men? Did Moses accidentally throw out the results of last year's census?

Honestly, it seems far more plausible that this number was just thrown into "Exodus: Chapter 38" either after it was arrived upon here (to show some sort of connection) or it is simply a made up number that has some other sort of significance. I could find this more acceptable if we were just given a vague number like we were given in Exodus: Chapter 12 of "over 600,000 men", but when we're making a point to just throw random numbers around for each of the "twelve tribes" in order to reach the specific "grand total" number of 603,550, the accuracy and credibility of the bible comes into serious question - if you weren't already tipped off by 900+ year old people running around and talking snakes.

Absent from our list of tribes of course is the Levites - Aaron and Moses' tribe - who are apparently exempt from military duty as they'll be too busy moving the tabernacle around and slaughtering animals to be bothered with helping to invade other civilizations - and apparently in our earlier census, also couldn't be bothered to help pay for the building of the tabernacle either.

God obviously favors the Levites and entrusts them with caring for and moving the tabernacle as the camp moves along in the desert towards the "promised land". He tells Moses that only the Levites are to move and care for the tabernacle, and that anybody else who comes near it is to be put to death. If there was ever a good reason for stoning someone to death, I fail to see how touching or helping to move a "church in a tent" would qualify.

To further the point of his favoritism, God explains that the Levites will also have to camp outside and around the tabernacle - effectively forming a barrier of sorts to protect the rest of the common folk from "God's wrath". This is basically God saying that the Levites are protecting the people from God having to come down and slaughter them all.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Leviticus can be a rather difficult book in the bible to read, as there's loads of gory details on how to properly conduct animal sacrifices, lots of repetition of various laws and commandments, lots of jumping around (laws are often first stated in one chapter and detailed several chapters later), narrative stories that are rather randomly inserted in the midst of chapters mainly consisting of lists and laws, and lots of indefensible acts of God's brutality and misogyny. Leviticus can almost be summed up by saying most of it deals with animal sacrifices: get an animal, kill it at the tabernacle, splash its blood around, cut it up into pieces, and set it on fire - as God finds this aroma to be a "sweet savor".

Right off the bat in our first chapter we're treated with instructions on how to sacrifice animals to God, and with a weak justification that this must be done so that God doesn't have to kill human beings for "sinning". How slaughtering animals is supposed to teach people who break laws, so that they learn not to break them again, is nonsensical. What purpose is served by animal blood being splattered around a tent and upon the right ear, right thumb, and big toe of a person's right foot is symbolic at best, and unsanitary (as well as dangerous to one's health) at its worst.

Grains, baked goods, and crops are also to be sacrificed and set on fire as well, which also pleases God very much with the "sweet savor" of burnt aromas, but he's extremely picky about whether or not ingredients like yeast, olive oil, or salt are to be used or avoided in specific circumstances. God also gets rather testy about the animal fat belonging to him and that it is not to be eaten, nor is blood to be consumed - which will be repeated and explained in greater detail later on in Chapter 7, and further still in Chapter 17.

God also gives detailed instructions on how to perform his various types of animal sacrifices. Among his sacrifices are "burnt offerings", "grain offerings", and "sin offerings" as well as, "guilt offerings", and "peace offerings"

The number seven holds significant symbolism as well throughout the book of Leviticus. A priest is required to sprinkle animal blood around the tabernacle seven times, a person "healed" from leprosy must be sprinkled with bird's blood seven times, every seventh year the land will have to be left unharvested as a "sabbath" - and after every seventh sabbath of the land a "Year of Jubilee" is to be observed, and God will increase his punishments upon the people of Israel sevenfold each and every time they disobey his laws and commandments.

While the first nine chapters of the book pretty much deal with sacrificing animals, we are also treated to a few narrative stories throughout Leviticus, such as:

God also gives a list of which animals are okay to eat, and which are "unclean" and unfit to eat.

God also ramps up his misogyny and sexism by declaring new mothers "unlcean", and making them go into quarantine after giving birth - in which you'll be quarantined longer if you happen to give birth to a baby girl. Of course, these new mothers will have to sacrifice animals to "atone" for the "sin" of giving birth, and also how "unclean" a woman is when she menstruates, and how she is to atone every month for her biological "uncleanliness" with animal sacrifices.

God also makes his priests play doctor - with vague medical instructions - in order to detect leprosy, exiling anyone the priest thinks might have leprosy, what to do when a leper appears to have been healed, the animal sacrifices the "former leper" must perform to be considered "healed" through God's standards, and how to treat a house that might be infected by leprosy.

God also threatens Aaron's life if he doesn't follow proper procedure when entering the "holy place" (the veiled off section) in the tabernacle. We also learn about scapegoats, where it is thought that "sins" can be magically transferred into a goat and that by letting the goat loose out into the desert you'll get rid of "sin".

God also revises his stances on incest, which seem to contradict his tolerance of it from previous characters such as Abraham and his half-sister Sarah in the book of Genesis. In the same chapter, God also condemns bestiality, homosexuality, and having sexual relations with a menstruating woman, and claims that these are all practices that Egyptians, Canaanites, and other surrounding tribes engage in regularly - and that one shouldn't lower themselves down to following these "heathenistic" customs. Despite God's insistence that these were common practices by Egyptians, as well as other Middle Eastern tribes, there is no archaeological evidence to support this claim and is more likely to have been written to villainize the enemies of the Israelis and justify the slaughter and enslavement of the enemies of the people of Israel.

We are also introduced without explanation to a curious alleged pagan god named Molech when God mentions that one of his laws is that people are not to sacrifice infants by fire to this presumed god. Again, archaeological evidence does not support that any Middle Eastern tribe or civilization ever followed or worshiped such a god, and a more modern interpretation is that the word "molech" simply refers to the practice of human (infant) sacrifice by fire. However, within the context of the King James version of the bible "Molech" is treated as a proper noun and capitalized as if it were a proper name. We first encounter a mention of Molech in Chapter 18, and he is mentioned again in Chapter 20. Molech is mentioned in such a fashion as to assume the reader is familiar with this name and/or phrase and therefore is not given any explanation in the book of Leviticus.

Surprisingly, we also come across a chapter that is mainly filled with good laws - Chapter 19 - although it is occasionally peppered with some typically vain and misogynistic passages as well - including that a man having sex with a slave girl who is engaged to be married will result in the slave having to be flogged, while the man's punishment will simply be to sacrifice some animals at the tabernacle. Among the "good laws" God lays out are provisions to leave a portion of your crops to both the poor and for weary travelers; to respect their elders; and to treat employees and customers fairly.

God's good side however is short lived when the following chapter basically reads off death sentences for various "sins" which mostly result in stoning a person to death, or at the very least, excommunication. The following chart shows what punishment God demands for what "sins":
Death by stoningExcommunication/ExileDeath by immolationBarrenness/Infertility
  • Sacrificing infants by fire to Molech
  • Cursing your mother or father
  • Adultery (both the adulterer and adulteress)
  • Sleeping with your father's wife (both put to death)
  • Sleeping with your daughter-in-law (both put to death)
  • Homosexuals
  • A man or woman committing bestiality (both the person and animal are to be put to death)
  • Practicing magic or witchcraft, or being a spiritual medium
  • Sacrificing infants by fire to Molech (also death by stoning)
  • Refusing to participate in stoning someone to death
  • Consulting wizards or spiritual mediums
  • Marrying or having sex with your sister
  • Having sex with a menstruating woman (both the man and the woman)
  • Marrying or having sex with both a mother and her daughter (all three must be set on fire)
  • A priest's daughter who prostitutes herself
  • Having sex with or marrying your aunt
  • Having sex with or marrying your brother's wife
God's next laws deal with the priesthood, and command that priests aren't allowed to touch dead bodies, shave any bald spots in their heads, or marry anyone aside from virgin full blooded Israeli girls - marrying a foreign woman "profanes" the priesthood. Also God doesn't want any deformed, crippled or handicapped priests performing animal sacrifices, or going behind the veil in the tabernacle. God's list of deformities includes "having a flat nose", dwarfism, broken bones in hands or feet, having scabs, scurvy, blindness, a crooked back, or injured testicles. These freaks are not allowed near the sacrificial altar or the behind the veil in the tabernacle as they will "defile" the tabernacle. God also explains that the meat of the animal sacrifices is only to be eaten by priests and their households who fall under his definition of "clean". Excluded are any daughters married to foreigners or any priest with an STD, disease, or leprosy. The priest's slaves may enjoy these meals, but hired servants may not.

In the following chapter, God outlines all of the annual holidays that must be celebrated, most of which center around animal sacrifices. The festivals are to also be observed as a "sabbath" day, and disobeying this will result in death by stoning.

God next explains the fifty year celebration of the "Year of Jubilee" - which basically clears all the people of Israel of their debts to others - family land that was sold over the years must return to the original owners, and any Israeli serving as a "slave" to another gets to return to his family. However God makes a clear distinction that Hebrews are not to be enslaved in a traditional fashion and are instead to be treated like hired workers and are to be released every fifty years in the "Year of Jubilee". However, God encourages the enslavement of the surrounding "heathen" tribes, and that those slaves can be overworked, beaten, and handed down your family line, as non-Hebrew slaves are indeed property and not fully human, and thereby aren't deserving of any basic civil human rights.

In the next chapter, God basically tells the Israelis how wonderful life will be if they follow and obey all of God's laws, but also threatens them with plagues, death, and destruction if they disobey any of his laws. However, even after he's decimated their population, if the survivors can truly repent, God will fulfill his promises of giving them their "promised land" back.

Leviticus closes out with God putting monetary values on human life - which of course based on God's sexism places much higher values on males than their female counterparts. Basically every person, animal, crop, and farmland is to be taxed with the taxes going to fund the operation of God's tabernacle and to put money in the priests' pockets.

All in all the book of Leviticus is mainly a list of laws that are overwhelmingly tyrannical, sexist, gruesome, xenophobic, and laden with cruelty. While there are slivers of good natured positive laws - almost exclusively contained in Chapter 19, the majority of them are simply downright sadistic and sexist by any basic standard of morality and decency. The book also contains many absurdities, such as requiring that all women are to sacrifice a pair of birds every month simply for menstruating (which when we do the math would have resulted in the deaths of over half a billion birds over the 40 years in the desert, during the Exodus alone) and coaching priests to play doctor and diagnose cases of leprosy simply by looking at the color of blemishes in the skin. We also find that not only does God condone slavery, he actually endorses it as well, instructing that non-Hebrews are to be enslaved and kept as property forever, and are to be inherited by future generations. God shows that he's very much in favor of capital punishment, and that even trivial offenses such as using God's name improperly deserve a brutal death by stoning, and that "more serious offenses" such as marrying a wife and her daughter, or a priests daughter becoming a prostitute, call for higher measures by setting the offenders on fire. Even if you can justify capital punishment, there is simply no way any rational human being can ever condone setting another person on fire as a "just" punishment - for anything.

Monday, July 20, 2009

LEVITICUS: Chapter 27

Chapter 27
Summary:God speaks to Moses about putting prices upon vows to God for the people of Israel.

When a person makes a vow to God, the following amounts of money are to be paid:
  • 50 Shekels of Silver - for all males 20 - 60 years of age.
  • 30 Shekels of Silver - for all females 20 - 60 years of age.
  • 20 Shekels of Silver - for all males 5 - 20 years of age.
  • 10 Shekels of Silver - for all females 5 - 20 years of age.
  • 5 Shekels of Silver - for all males 1 month - 5 years of age.
  • 3 Shekels of Silver - for all females 1 month - 5 years of age.
  • 15 Shekels of Silver - for all males over 60 years of age.
  • 10 Shekels of Silver - for all females over 60 years of age.
If the person is too poor to pay these amounts then the person may present themselves before a priest, and the priest can then place a value upon them based upon what they can afford.

If it's an animal being sacrificed to God, then the deal may not be altered once it is given. A person may not attempt to alter or change the deal, substituting a better or worse animal, otherwise both animals will belong to God, and both must be slaughtered. If a person tries to sacrifice an "unclean" animal - one unfit for animal sacrifice - then the person shall present it to the priest, the priest will place a monetary value on the animal, and the person will have to pay that amount instead. If a person wants to redeem an animal that is fit for sacrifice, he will have to pay the full value of the animal (set by the priest) and add "a fifth part" (20% interest) to the value.

When a person wishes to sanctify their house to God, the priest shall place an estimate upon the house. If the person wishes to redeem their house, they will have to add "the fifth part" of the money (20% interest) to the value determined by the priest.

If a man donates part of his field to God, then the estimate shall be according to the amount of seed needed to sow the land. A piece of land that requires an homer (approximately ten bushels) of barley seed shall be valued at fifty shekels of silver. If it is donated in the "Year of Jubilee", then the full estimate will stand, but if he donates his field after the "Year of Jubilee" then the priest shall pay the person in accordance to the number of years remaining until the next "Year of Jubilee". If the man wishes to redeem his field, he shall add the "fifth part" (20% interest) to the estimate and the field will belong to him again. If he does not redeem his field, or if he has sold it to another man, he will no longer be able to redeem it. When the "Year of Jubilee" arrives, it will belong to God and shall be given to the priests.

If a man donates a field that he's bought, but is not part of his family's possession the priest shall estimate its worth in relation to the "Year of Jubilee", and the man shall immediately pay that estimation to God. In the "Year of Jubilee" the field shall return to its original owner.

All monetary estimations are to be made using the shekel of the sanctuary - worth twenty gerahs.

Firstborn oxen and sheep are not to be "sanctified", as they already "belong to God". The firstborn of an "unclean" animal - that is not fit for animal sacrifice - shall be redeemed based upon the priests estimation adding the fifth part (20% interest) to the estimate. If it is not redeemed it can be sold by the priest to someone else for the amount of the estimate. However, anything devoted to God - whether it is a person, animal, or land - shall not be sold or redeemed for they are considered "holy" to God. No one sentenced to death by God may buy their way out of their punishment - they must be put to death.

A tithe (a tenth) of the land, whether it is the seed of the land or fruit of the tree, belongs to God. If a man wants to redeem this tithe, he shall add a fifth part (20% interest) to the value of the crop. God also claims a tithe of all herds, flocks, and livestock, and a person is not to search for animals that are good or bad, nor can he change the deal or redeem these animals.

These are the commandments that God gave to Moses upon Mount Sinai.
Thoughts:This final chapter of Leviticus starts off troubling as God places a monetary value upon the people of Israel according to their sex and age.

Men 20-60 years of age are worth the most at 50 shekels, but women of the same age group are less important and therefore priced at 30 shekels. Boys aged 5-20 years are worth 20 shekels, while girls are only worth half that. Old men of 60 or older are worth 15 shekels, and old women are worth 10 shekels - the same price as girls 5-20. Babies aren't really worth too much coming in around 5 shekels for boys 1 month to 5 years old, and 3 shekels for girls. Fetuses and infants under a month old aren't worth anything apparently.

It's unclear how often these "taxes" are to be paid to the church, or they're simply a one time fee - but it seems that at the very least these fines are to be paid at least every time a person ages into the next "tax bracket". Peeking ahead to Numbers Chapter 1, we find that there's 603,550 men from the ages of 20 to 60 counted in the census. If we assume that 50 shekels might be even as little as one U.S. Dollar, the tabernacle would collect over half a million dollars just on the men alone(!) Assuming that there's just as many women, that would push the church's coffers up just short of a million bucks - and that's not adding the elderly, the children, and toddlers(!) It's probably safer to assume that 50 shekels was probably worth more to the bronze age Hebrews than one lousy U.S. dollar in 2009 AD, but even at a conservative estimate, that's a LOT of money lining the church's pockets - and would appear to be a "mandatory" fee by God unless you wished to suffer the wrath of breaking any of his "laws".

Next God moves on to animal sacrifices and states that the deal isn't to be altered. If you have to bring an ox to be sacrificed, you can't haggle to bring in another ox of lesser value or else God's going to take them both and make you slaughter both animals. If a person tries to sacrifice an "unclean" animal, then the priest can place a value on the animal, and the person can pay that monetary value instead - as "unclean" animals are not fit for sacrificing to God. God's rather picky about which animal's blood is fit to paint the altar in the tabernacle with. If somebody changes their minds about sacrificing an animal, they can pay the priest the full value - plus twenty percent interest tacked on - instead of slaughtering the animal.

God now lays out his plans for people donating land and houses to the church. Priests will estimate the value of a house, and if the person wants to redeem it he'll have to pay the full value plus twenty percent interest if he wants it back. If somebody donates land to the church, a priest will have to form an estimated value based upon how many crops the land can yield. If it's donated in the "Year of Jubilee", the full value of 50 shekels per each ten bushels of yield will stand, otherwise the value will be less depending on on how many years are left until the next "Year of Jubilee". If a man wants to buy the land back from the priests, he'll have to pay the full price plus twenty per cent interest before the next "Year of Jubilee" - unless he sells it to someone else. If he doesn't redeem it before the next "Year of Jubilee", then it will permanently belong to the church.

If a man donates a field that he's bought, but isn't part of his family's land, then the priest will determine its worth again by the years until the next "Year of Jubilee", but upon the next "Year of Jubilee" the land will go back to the original owner.

Firstborn oxen and sheep cannot be "sanctified", as God has already laid claim on their ownership. If someone donates an "unclean" animal and wants to redeem it, he'll have to pay the full estimated price plus twenty percent interest. Otherwise the priest can sell the animal to another person for just the estimated amount.

Nothing that has been deemed a mandatory sacrifice to God can be redeemed - this includes anyone sentenced to death by God's laws. You can't buy your way out of a capital punishment by paying 60 shekels (50 shekels + 20% interest).

By default God lays a claim on a tenth of everybody's crops, but these can be redeemed (bought back) by paying the full price plus twenty percent interest. God also claims a tenth of everyone's livestock, but unlike crops, these cannot be "bought back" from God - you've got to sacrifice them.

Once again, much like my thoughts on Leviticus Chapter 23 it seems quite suspect how much being a priest seems to be financially beneficial. Basically, priests get free food from a variety of grain and animal sacrifices, they reap over 30 million shekels simply from the male population aged 20-60 years old, and a tenth of everyone's crops and livestock by default.

When we tally up a lot of suspicious factors, like that no one is allowed to climb up Mount Sinai while Moses is chatting away with God, the massive amount of food and financial benefits the priests acquire, and that for some reason only members of Aaron's family get to be priests in the first place, it raises the question that if there's any truth behind the events portrayed in the bible, that it's not unreasonable to perhaps suspect that Moses and Aaron might have been making a lot of these rules themselves for their own benefit. It's certainly a more logical conclusion than attributing these "rules" and commandments to a supernatural being who really doesn't benefit in any real sense by collecting 50 shekels of silver per every male citizen between 20 and 60 years of age.

LEVITICUS: Chapter 26

Chapter 26
Summary:God commands (again) that no one is to make any idols, carved images, or erect statues to worship. He commands that all of his sabbaths are to be observed and followed, and that all of his laws, rules, and commandments are to be followed and obeyed. If the people of Israel can follow these instructions, then God will provide them rain in due season, which will yield an abundance of crops, trees ripe with a surplus of fruit, and grapes growing past their usual harvesting time. The people of Israel will have plenty to eat and will live in safety. God will give peace in the land so that the Israelis can sleep without fear. God will rid the land of "evil" animals, and will protect the land from the sword of the enemy.

God says that the people of Israel shall chase their enemies and that they shall fall before them by the sword. Five Israeli soldiers will be able to drive off one hundred enemies, and a hundred Israeli soldiers will be able to drive off ten thousand enemies, who will all die by the sword of Israel. God will respect the people of Israel and cause them to grow and multiply while establishing a covenant with them. The people will eat from the abundance of food, and have to get rid of some of the old food to make room for the surplus of new food that has harvested. God even says that he'll be able to live amongst the people of Israel in his tabernacle, and not have to hate them all(!) He says that he'll be able to walk amongst them, and will be their god and that the Israelis will be his people. He tells the people (yet again) that he is the one that got the people of Israel out of their slavery in Egypt, breaking the bonds of their slavery and made them dignified again.


If the people of Israel do not follow and obey all of God's laws and commandments, thereby breaking God's covenant with them, God will fill the people of Israel with terror, consumption, disease that will burn and consume your eyes, cause sorrow to your heart, and farmers will sow their crops in vain, while their enemies will eat whatever manages to grow*.

God will set his face against the people of Israel, and they shall be slain before their enemies. The enemies of Israel will reign over them, and the people of Israel will be so filled with terror that they will panic and flee even when they're not in danger.

If the people of Israel still won't comply with God's demands then God will punish them seven times more for their "sins".

God will break the people of Israel's pride with burden, making the skies feel as "heavy as iron" and the "earth as brass". Farmers will toil in vain as their land will not yield their crops, nor will the trees yield their fruit.

If the people still won't obey God's rules and laws, and won't listen to him, then God will bring seven* times more plagues upon the people according to their "sins".

God will send wild animals among the people of Israel to kill their children, destroy their cattle, and dwindle the population. The city roads will become desolate.

If the people of Israel still will not reform their ways and still walk contrary to God, then God will walk contrary to them and punish them another seven* times for their "sins".

God will "bring a sword upon" (wage war upon) the people, that will avenge the argument over God's covenant. God will send pestilence among the people of Israel and will deliver the people to the hands of their enemies. God will destroy their food supply so that as it will take "ten women" to bake enough bread in "one oven", that even once eaten will never be enough to satisfy one's hunger.

And if after all this, the people of Israel will still not listen, God will walk contrary to them in fury and will chastise the people seven* times for their sins.

The people of Israel will be forced to resort to cannibalism to survive. God will tear down any temples, altars, or idols they have created for other gods, and cast the corpses of the people of Israel onto the corpses of their gods, and God will abhor the people of Israel. God will waste their cities, and bring their temples into desolation, while refusing to acknowledge any "animal sacrifices" people might make to God - God will refuse to "smell the savor" of their "sweet odor". God will turn the land into a wasteland and the enemies of the Israelis that will inhabit the land will be astonished at what has been done to the land.

God will scatter the people of Israel among the "heathen" nations and wage war against the people as they flee. God says that the land laying desolate will finally get to enjoy it's sabbaths, while the people of Israel have fled to the lands of their enemies. God adds that the land lying desolate will finally have its rest, as it (apparently) didn't rest when the people of Israel denied the land its sabbaths.

Anyone that has survived God's wrath God will curse with fear as they live amongst their enemies. The sound of a shaken leaf will cause them to run as if they were fleeing from a sword, and that they shall fall when no one is pursuing them. They will stumble upon each other as they flee and will have no courage to stand up to their enemies. The surviving people of Israel will perish among their "heathen" enemies, and those that manage to survive will pine away in their "sins" and the "sins" of their fathers.

If at last the survivors might confess their "sin", and the "sins" of their fathers, and that they have trespassed and walked contrary to God; if then their "uncircumcised hearts" are truly humble and accept the punishment for their "sins", then God will remember his covenant with Jacob*, Isaac, and Abraham, and the "promised land".

God says that the land will still be left to them, because even though these surviving descendants of Israel have "despised" God's judgments and laws, and were driven into the lands of their enemies due to their "sins", God will not cast them away. No will God abhor them, or destroy them completely, as this would break his covenant with them. God will remember his covenant with their ancestors, whom once again God "reminds" that he was the one who brought them out of the land of Egypt - in sight of the "heathens" - so that he could rule over the people as their god.

These are the laws (and threats) which God made between himself and the people of Israel that were given to Moses.
Notes:1.) The exact line as written in the King James version is "and ye shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it." This could possibly be alluding to cannibalism if we compare the usage and phrasing of "your seed" to other verses, such as Leviticus 20:2 - "...that giveth any of his seed unto Molech..." In this verse "his seed" is referring to an infantile offspring.
2.) Yet more repetition of the significance of the mystical number seven.
3.) Again, although renamed by God himself, God refers to Israel as "Jacob", yet he refers to Abram by the name Abraham which was also a given name by God.
Thoughts:This chapter can basically be summed up as such: do exactly as God commands and your cities and people will prosper with enormous wealth, but break any of God's laws and he'll kill you all - but if any of you happen to survive and say your sorry (and really mean it) then God will forgive you.

God starts out restating his first commandment - that no one is to make any idols, carved images, or statues to worship - and reminds everyone to observe his sabbaths as well as to obey all of his laws and commandments. If the people can follow these rules to the letter, then God will "bless" them with lots of rain, which in turn will "bless" them with an abundance of crops. In addition, the people of Israel will protect them from "evil" animals and enemy armies.

The first issue I take here is that animals do not follow any sense of "good" or "evil" - even animals that are dangerous to humans are not "evil" in any sense of the word. Animals attack usually only when either themselves, their young, or their territory is threatened. They don't hunt or prey upon humans by entering their habitats with the intention of killing people. When they do enter a human's territory it is generally in a quest to find food or nesting materials, and not simply to attack from a sense of "evil" intent.

Anyways, God claims that the soldier amongst the people of Israel will be able to repel enemy army in rather ridiculous ratios - that five soldiers will be able to repel an army of one hundred, and that 100 soldiers will be able to repel 10,000 enemies. Apparently, in a battle against 100 soldiers you'll need to match five percent of their army, but going against an army of 10,000, you'll only need to match one percent of the enemy army(!) It's not made clear here if Aaron's "Rod of God" will be necessary to win these battles.

God continues on saying that he'll "bless" the people of Israel by allowing them to multiply and grow in population and that everyone will have plenty to eat. He even goes on to say that he'll actually feel comfortable living amongst the people in the tabernacle and won't hate the people(!) God will be happy to walk amongst the people (providing they do everything he tells them to do) and to rule over them as their god. He remind them (yet again) that he was the guy who got them out of their slavery in Egypt and made them dignified again.

However, now God changes gears and spends the rest of the chapter threatening the people with what he will do if the people don't follow his laws and commandments.

The first thing God has planned for disobedience is to instill terror and disease among the people - a disease that will "burn and consume" their eyes, and cause sorrow in their hearts. He'll also make it so that farmers will be sowing their crops in vain, while allowing enemy civilizations to come in and eat whatever they do manage to grow. God will set his face against the people and this will see them slaughtered by the hands of their enemies. The people of Israel will be so consumed by terror that they'll become paranoid and flee even when they're not in danger.

If the people of Israel don't get the message the first time, then God will punish them seven times more for their "sinning". (Every time God ups the ante in this chapter it will be by seven times.)

Next up, God will break the people's pride with heavy burden and curse the farmers even more while their crops and fruit trees fail to provide food. This doesn't exactly "seven times worse" but God still has more in store.

If the people of Israel still don't mend their ways, then God will bring them seven times more plagues for their "sinning". (Making this fourteen times the punishment?)

He'll send wild (evil?) animals amongst the people to kill their children, cattle, and to dwindle their population. Their city roads will become desolate due to the population loss.

If the people of Israel still don't mend their ways, then God will punish them seven more times for their "sinning". (Making this twenty one times the punishment?)

God will wage war against the people of Israel and send pestilence throughout the land, and will deliver the people into the hands of their enemies. God will also destroy all of their food supply and makes a strange, silly, and slightly chauvinistic analogy about "ten women" baking bread "in one oven, and they shall deliver you your bread again by weight: and ye shall eat, and not be satisfied."

If after all this the people still don't respond to God's punishments, then God will "walk contrary to them in fury" and will chastise the people seven more times. (Making this twenty eight times the punishment?)

This time the people will be so undernourished and starved that God says they'll resort to cannibalism - and will eat their sons and daughters. God somehow is confident that the people will be "sinning" by putting up altars and erecting statues to other gods, and says that he will tear them down and let the people of Israel's corpses rot amongst the ruins. If the people try to give God any animal sacrifices, he's not even going to acknowledge them despite their "sweet odor". The "promised land" will be so devastated and desolate that the "heathens" will be astonished at the condition of the land when they inhabit it.

God will scatter the people of Israel among the "heathen" nations that surround them, and wage war against them as they flee. With the land laying desolate, God says that it will finally get its rest and "sabbaths" as apparently God has already assumed that the people weren't observing this law either.

God will continue to curse any survivors amongst the people of Israel with fear, stating that the sound of a shaking leaf will cause them to flee in paranoia as if they were being chased by a sword wielding enemy. The people will apparently be so paranoid as to trip over each other as they flee and they will have lost all their courage to even stand up to their enemies at all. They will perish at the hands of their enemies and those that survive will pine away in their "sins", as well as the "sins" of their fathers.

The problem with God's threats is that he assumes that if the people are breaking his laws that they're breaking all of his laws, and he also makes the assumption that all of the people are guilty, much like we saw with his judgment upon the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.

With God, everything is in terms of absolutes, all or nothing, and this is not an example of being "just". However, the world is never comprised of absolutes, and thereby we must judge things on specific terms - not by lumping people together. Just because a majority of people might be guilty of breaking a law - such as "speeding" in our modern world - does not make the whole of the people criminals. You couldn't punish the entire state of Vermont with life in prison if 98% of the population had traffic tickets on their licenses, just because a few of those people had felony offenses. The "speeders" shouldn't be lumped in with the handful of criminals with felony records simply because on paper all of them broke the law in some respect. Treating people with broad strokes like this is not "justice" at all.

Quite clearly the first dozen or so verses are a form of "bribery" in rewarding the people for following God's laws, while the next two dozen or so verses are a form of "extortion" - to strike fear into the people to obey, or else. If anything this chapter shares a lot in common with criminal racketeering, that provide "protection" to their rackets for "paying up", and resorting to violence and property damage when their rackets don't "pay up". I just cannot see any other way to view these passages as anything but forms of practicing bribery and extortion in order to get submission and compliance.

However, even after all these nasty things God says he will do to the people of Israel, he wraps things up by saying that if there's anybody left that survived all of his famines, diseases, wild animal attacks, and invading armies, and if they're really sorry and sincere about it, they can accept God's punishment and he'll let them have the "promised land" again - because after all, he did promise this land to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and a promise is a promise - as long as it's on God's terms.

Before closing out the chapter God once again states that it was him that brought the people of Israel out of Egypt.

Friday, July 17, 2009

LEVITICUS: Chapter 25

Chapter 25
Summary:Up on Mount Sinai God speaks to Moses telling him more things to pass on to the people of Israel.

God first states that when the people arrive in the "promised land" that they are to observe a sabbath for the land every seventh* year. For six years the people shall sow the fields, prune their vineyards, and harvest the fruit, but that the seventh year will be a year of rest for the land. No one is to sow the fields or prune their vineyards for their own personal gain in this seventh year. Anything that grows on it's own accord is not to be harvested for personal gain as it is a year of rest for the land. Whatever does manage to grow in the land shall be free to everyone - the people of Israel, as well as their servants, their slaves, and any stranger that travels amongst them. Cattle and wild animals shall be allowed to graze freely among the land during this year of sabbath.

The people shall count sabbaths until they reach their seventh. On the seventh sabbath, forty nine years shall have passed, and on the "Day of Atonement" of that year the "trumpets of jubilee" shall fill the land. For the fiftieth year is a year to proclaim liberty throughout the land and to all of the inhabitants thereof*. Every man (except those enslaved for life) shall be cleared of their debts and returned to their families. The fiftieth year shall be the "Year of Jubilee" to the people of Israel, and no crops are to be sown nor reaped, nor shall any grapes be gathered. Only the excess food that grows wild in the fields shall be eaten. Every man shall return to his original family possessions - if he had sold his family home, it now will belong to him once again. Due to this, if any land is sold during the preceding forty nine years, a fair price must be arrived upon depending on how many years remain until the next "Year of Jubilee". According to the number of years before the "Year of Jubilee", the higher the number of years, the higher the price is set, with the prices diminishing until the next celebration.

The people are not to oppress their neighbors with a higher than fair price, with a fair price being determined upon by the amount of crops that can be grown from the land. God claims that he is to be feared, and that those who wish to live "safely" (probably more aptly put as "those who simply wish to remain alive, and not be brutally killed") need to follow and obey all of God's laws.

God also addresses the possible question the people might have about what they're supposed to eat in the seventh year, the year of sabbath, if they're not allowed to sow any crops. God answers this hypothetical question by promising to "bless the land" with surplus crops in the sixth year that will bring forth enough food for three years. Then as the crops of the eighth year are being sown, the people will still be eating the old food (from the surplus in the sixth year) in the ninth year and continue doing so until the new crops have been stored.

God now tells the people of Israel that they are not allowed to permanently sell the land, as it doesn't belong to them - it belongs to God, and the people of Israel are simply just tenants.

God continues on by stating that there will always be a "buy back clause" on all sales of land among the people of Israel. If a man becomes poor and sells his land to someone else, either he himself (when he's able to afford it) or his family can buy it back at any time at a price proportionate until the next "Year of Jubilee". If the man, or his family, however cannot afford to reclaim the property, he will have to wait until the next "Year of Jubilee" to reclaim the land.

However, if a man sells a house within the city walls, he has only up to a year to buy it back. After a year has lapsed, it will now permanently belong to the new owner and will not have to be returned in the "Year of Jubilee". This does not apply to village houses outside of the city walls, as they will be counted the same as the fields, and can be redeemed at any time, and must be returned at the next "Year of Jubilee".

God however makes an exception for the city houses belonging to the Levites, which even if residing within the city walls may be redeemed at any time and also must be returned at the next "Year of Jubilee". God says that he makes this exception for the Levites as they are not permitted to sell any of their fields - they are to remain permanent possessions of the tribe of Levi and to never belong to anyone else.

God states that if a man's brother becomes poor, he is to help his brother and invite him to live with them. A man's brother is not to be turned away, nor is a man allowed to charge interest on any money lent to his brother. Anything a man sells to his brother must be sold at cost and not profited upon. God punctuates this by once again stating that he's the guy who freed the people from their slavery in Egypt, and that he has given them the "promised land" of Canaan, and has agreed to be their god.

If your brother that now lives with you due to his poverty, or any other Israeli, sells himself into slavery, he must not be treated as a regular slave (this means no beating your brother, as you're allowed to do with your regular slaves) but must instead be treated like a "hired servant" or a guest in your home. He is only to serve until the "Year of Jubilee", both he and his children with him, may then return to his family and unto the land that is his family's possession. God states the people of Israel are his personal servants and therefore must not be treated like ordinary slaves (which may be beaten into submission.)

The "ordinary" slaves which the people of Israeli shall have, shall be of the "heathens" that live in the surrounding areas. Of them you shall buy slaves from. Also the children and family of foreigners living amongst the land of Israel shall be bought and become possessions of the people of Israel. These slaves shall be given as inheritance to the children of the slave's master - to inherit them as a possession, and they shall be slaves forever. However, as for the people of Israel, they are not to be rule over one another with such rigor.

If an Israeli sells himself into slavery to a foreigner that is richer than himself, after he is sold into slavery he can be redeemed at any time by either his uncle, his cousin (his uncle's son), or by anyone that is a close family relative - or he may buy his own freedom if he can later afford to do so. The price of his freedom (like the price of land sold in the "promised land") must be in proportion to the number of years until the next "Year of Jubilee". If there are many years until the next "Year of Jubilee", then the price of his freedom should be close to the price he was bought for, likewise if the "Year of Jubilee" is only a few years away, then again the price of his freedom shall be set accordingly.

An Israeli sold into slavery to a foreigner is to be treated as a "hired servant" and not as rigorously as an "ordinary slave" would. All Israeli slaves that have not been bought out of their slavery will become free in the "Year of Jubilee", both the slave and his children amongst him.

God claims that the people of Israel belong to him and are in fact his servants - who (he once again reminds us) that he "brought forth from out of the land of Egypt".
Notes:1.) Yet more repetition of the significance of the mystical number seven.
2.) Liberty in this sense does not apply to those slaves who are bound in lifetime enslavement. Those slaves are considered property and not really people.
Thoughts:God begins this chapter explaining his seven year sabbaths, before moving onto his further stipulations of property laws, including his laws on slavery which appear to contradict on one of the laws set down in Exodus: Chapter 21.

Continuing on with the bible's obsession with the mystical significance of the number seven, not only are the Israeli people to observe a sabbath from working every seven days, once they reach and settle into the "promised land", they are to observe another form of a sabbath by not doing any farming or harvesting of crops every seventh year. After seven of these seven year sabbaths, they are to mark this passing on the "Day of Atonement" - which in the Hebrew calendar falls on the tenth day of the seventh month (September) - with the sounds of trumpets throughout the land marking the arrival of the fiftieth year, as seven seventh year sabbaths equal forty nine years having passed.

On this grand fiftieth year anniversary of settling in to the "promised land", and for every subsequent fifty year anniversary afterward, the people are to celebrate a "Year of Jubilee". The main premise behind this "Year of Jubilee" celebration surprisingly has nothing to do with sacrificing animals, but is actually a year in which all debts incurred by the people of Israel are to be wiped clean - except for those poor unfortunate folks that have been enslaved for life simply to keep their families together. While nobody can farm their land during the "Year of Jubilee" - just like they can't during their seven year sabbaths - any Israeli that has sold any of their family property gets to reclaim it during the "Year of Jubilee".

Basically God's system of "selling" property is more akin to leasing it instead. If you find yourself in debt or would just like some extra spending cash, you lease out your land to someone else for a price that is relative to the number of years left until the next "Year of Jubilee". If you need cash or need to pay someone back, and it is some forty years or so until the next "Year of Jubilee", you can get a lot more money than you would if it were only a few years until the next "Year of Jubilee". Your asking price is basically determined on the worth of the amount of crops the land can produce per year, multiplied by the number of years until the next "Year of Jubilee". God threatens anyone's "safety" if they try and overcharge anyone for this - and I'm sure we can all imagine what this threat probably entails when we see how he deals with people who speak his name in a way in which he doesn't approve.

God, figuring that people must be scratching their heads trying to figure out how they're going to be able to have enough food to eat if they have to stop farming every seven years (and in both the forty-ninth and fiftieth years during the "Year of Jubilee" celebrations), answers this hypothetical question with his promise to "bless" the land in the year prior to the year-long sabbaths. This "blessing", God guarantees, will provide enough food to last for three years, so that everyone will be covered, even in sabbath years that lead straight into a "Year of Jubilee".

God clarifies his stances on land "ownership", stating that no one can ever sell their land permanently, because it in fact doesn't truly belong to them - it's God's land, and once he's given it to someone, they and their offspring and descendants are stuck with it forever - unless God excommunicates you and gives your land to someone else. (You can lease it anytime you like, but you can never leave...)

That being said, because of that, God states that every piece of land has a "buy back clause", where the original owners can buy the land back at anytime they like or can afford to do so, with the price again being proportionate with the amount of years left until the next "Year of Jubilee". The "buy back clause" can also be redeemed by close relatives of the seller, so hypothetically, if your uncle happens to be a terrible gambler and loses his family's farm, grandpa can come to the rescue and buy the farm back from his bookie.

However, God's rules for houses within the walls of the city are quite different. If you sell your city house, you've only got a year to change your mind and buy it back, otherwise it permanently belongs to the new owner. Houses outside the city in villages however are treated like the land out in the fields, and can be bought back whenever and will return back to it's original owner when the "Year of Jubilee" arrives. God makes an exception for the Levites, who can buy back their city house whenever they choose, since God will not allow them to "sell" (or more aptly, lease) their farmland, as the land given to the Levites is never to be owned by any "commoner".

God now moves on to the subject of personal debt and states that if your brother somehow manages to go broke, you have to take him in to live with you. If you loan him any money, you're not to tack on any interest, and anything you might sell to him you are not allowed to profit from - you must sell it to him at cost only. God rubs in the whole "remember that I'm the guy who got you out that whole slavery business in Egypt, and I was nice enough to simply give you this land - so don't try and profit off of my 'generosity'" bit.

Now if your brother, or any other Israeli for that matter, sells himself into slavery, you're not actually allowed to treat him like a "common slave" - i.e. referring to the beatings you're allowed to deal out in accordance with Exodus: Chapter 21, and according to verse 43 - "thou shalt not rule over him with rigour". Israeli "slaves" are only to serve until either theirper debt is paid (by the slave himself or by family of the slave) or until the "Year of Jubilee". This appears to contradict Exodus 21:2 which states:
"If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing."
However, the law in Exodus 21 might perhaps only apply to slavery before the Israelis settle in the "promised land" of Canaan, where the law here in Leviticus might only apply to the Israelis after they reach and settle in Canaan. Whichever it may be, it is certainly not clear by what we have read.

A common apologist defense of God condoning slavery in the bible is that they claim that slavery was viewed and applied differently back in biblical times, and that therefore "slavery" was more more akin to "indentured servitude" - unless we're referring to the Egyptian enslavement of the Hebrews, in which they will readily admit was just as bad (if not worse?) than the more modern enslavement of Africans in the Americas. However, this is only true when applied to Hebrew slaves either owned by other Hebrews or owned within the land of Canaan by foreigners. God won't condone the Israelites to be treated like ordinary slaves, giving the explanation that the people of Israel are God's personal servants and therefore exempt from being treated like "ordinary" slaves.

However, God's view of non-Israeli slaves is vastly different and not only more in line with the common modern definition of slavery, but God makes it clear that not only does he condone slavery, he's also encouraging it! He tells the people of Israel that they may enslave any of the "heathens" from the surrounding areas of Canaan - or the children of any foreigner living in Canaan - and that these "heathen slaves" are to be considered slaves for life (meaning any children the "heathen slaves" might have will also become born into slavery) and are deemed as permanent property that is to be inherited by the slave master's descendants. The exact verses in the King James bible for Leviticus 25:44-46 are:
25:44 Both thy bondmen, and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids.
25:45 Moreover of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land: and they shall be your possession.
25:46 And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bondmen for ever: but over your brethren the children of Israel, ye shall not rule one over another with rigour.
By God specifically stating that Israeli slaves are not to be "ruled over with rigor" unlike the "heathen slaves" - who God specifically says are "property", and shall be "slaves forever" - this firmly refutes the explanation of comparing biblical slavery to indentured servitude.

Famous skeptic and creator of the website and Discovery Channel program "How Things Work", Marshall Brain, wrote a very thorough article concerning God's stances on slavery in the bible which sums up the argument eloquently. Quite simply, it's impossible to conceive of a "benevolent" deity who not only accepts but condones the oppression and cruelty of human slavery. The two stances are in complete opposition to one another.

One only needs to compare the repugnant and oppressive nature of this chapter in combination with the story from Genesis: Chapter 16 of Abraham, Sarah, and God condoning Sarah's beating of her pregnant slave Hagar - who was carrying Abraham's baby, and the following verses from Exodus Chapter 21:
21:20 And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished.
21:21 Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished: for he is his money.
Human slavery is simply not excusable no matter what the circumstance, and it is only worsened when one group of people are of the mindset to oppress other people due to their differences in culture, race, or for worshiping the wrong "god".

Continuing on, God claims that none of the people of Israel are to ever be treated as "ordinary slaves", even if they sell themselves into slavery to a foreigner, and that close family relatives can buy an Israeli out of slavery at any time (unlike the "heathen slaves" who are themselves and their offspring who are doomed to a life of slavery) or that they will be simply freed at the next "Year of Jubilee". Again, Hebrew slaves are to be treated as "hired servants", as God proclaims that every Israeli is first and foremost a servant to God - but apparently other people are okay to oppress at the right price.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

LEVITICUS: Chapter 24

Chapter 24
Summary:God speaks to Moses, telling him to command the people of Israel to bring pure olive oil to make an "eternal flame" for the golden lamps outside the veil in the tabernacle. Aaron is to supply these lamps with fresh oil each morning and evening to keep the fire burning continuously, which is to be maintained by all future generations.

Also, twelve loaves of bread are to be baked from two tenth deals* of fine flour. The bread shall be placed in two rows, six in each row, upon the golden table in the tabernacle. Pure frankincense shall be sprinkled along each row, and the bread will be a memorial offering by fire made to God each sabbath as an everlasting covenant between God and the people of Israel. Aaron and his sons shall eat this bread in a "holy place", for it is most "holy" being made by fire, and this shall be a permanent statute.

Moving back into a narrative, a son of an Israeli woman (whose father was an Egyptian* and got into a dispute with an Israeli man within the camp. The Israeli woman's son "blasphemed" God's name and cursed. He was then brought before Moses by the people of Israel (it is mentioned that his mother's name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan) and he was jailed until God's judgment of him could be decided.

God tells Moses to bring the blasphemer outside of the camp and have everyone that heard him blaspheme to place their hands upon his head - before having all of the congregation stone him. God tells Moses to relay to the people of Israel that whomever curses God shall bear his "sin", and that anyone who blasphemes God shall surely be put to death - all of the congregation shall certainly stone him. This applies to any Israeli or foreigner in the land - he who blasphemes God's name shall be put to death.

God adds that "he who killeth any man shall surely be put to death" and "he that killeth an animal" shall replace it. God also states that any man that injures another shall be injured the same himself - "breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth". God repeats that he that kills an animal shall replace it, and he that kills a man shall be put to death.

The people of Israel shall keep the same law for those who are born in the land and for foreigners to the land as well.

Moses spoke to the people of Israel that they should bring the one who blasphemed out of the camp and to stone him to death. The people of Israel did as God had commanded Moses.
Notes:1.) Approximately a fifth of a bushel.
2.) Most likely the mention of an Egyptian father is to remove any possible sympathy for the Israeli woman's son - as the Egyptians are typically portrayed as villainous heathens throughout the bible.
Thoughts:God tells Moses to have the people of Israel gather some pure olive oil to light an "eternal flame" in the golden lamps hanging outside the veil in the tabernacle. He tells Moses that Aaron is (as well as his future descendants are) to supply the lamps with fresh oil twice a day - once in the morning, once in the evening - to keep the fire continuously burning.

Twelve loaves of bread are to be be made every week on the sabbath and placed on the golden table in the tabernacle as well. Arranged in two rows of six, frankincense is to be sprinkled on the loaves of bread and this somehow is to symbolize the covenant between God and the Israeli people. Aaron and his sons, of course, get to eat the loaves of bread - but only in a "holy place". This tradition is also to be a permanent statute.

Strangely, this chapter of Leviticus now shifts away from God decreeing laws to Moses and turns into a narrative story about the son of an Israeli woman, who we can tell is going to end badly when it is mentioned that he is also the son of an "evil" heathenistic Egyptian. It is not stated how old this son of the Israeli woman (who is given the name Shelomith, and is noted to be the daughter of Dibri, whom apparently descended from the tribe of Dan) might be, but God seems rather indifferent towards whether children should be tried on the same terms as an adult anyways.

The half-breed child (note that half-breed children are also usually frowned upon in the bible) gets into a dispute with a full blooded Israeli and during the conflict apparently curses God. The blasphemer is now brought before Moses and jailed while Moses consults God on how to deal with him - which should already be apparent to Moses considering he's the one who supposedly brought the "ten commandments" down from Mount Sinai.

God's punishment for improperly or irreverantly using his name is of course a vicious brutal death by stoning. Simply because someone was using his name improperly and "insulting" him. Now, of course God admits many times (including within the ten commandments itself) that he is a vengeful and jealous God, but to place so much self-importance on someone incorrectly using or "insulting" your name that you have to impose a brutal death sentence of being stoned to death upon them, and then not even doing the killing yourself, but making the people of Israel do it for him?

In the United States of America one of the greatest freedoms we have is the First Ammendment of the Constitution which guarrantees the right to free speech. While it protects the rights of people to criticize their government and its leaders, it also allows people with messages of hate to also voice their opinion, such as the charming Westboro Baptist Church who picket funerals of gays, the U.S. Military, and others with picket signs proclaiming that "God hates Fags" and "God hates America". As ugly and ignorant as these people are, I support their rights to be idiots as long as they can remain peaceful. The late George Carlin said it best, proclaiming that "there are no bad words" only bad intents in their meanings and expression. Language should never be punished and certainly never by death, and especially when it's some "benevolent" leader who's somehow offended that someone used his name in a manner in which he doesn't approve of.

It often confuses me when people describe the God of the bible as a "loving", "just", and "benevolent" supernatural being when we're confronted with such stories such as this one. I often wonder how we could possibly be reading the same bible and seeing completely different viewpoints on the nature of God. Perhaps my idea of "benevolence" just doesn't include having a bunch of people stone somebody else to death for using God's name in a way that he disapproves of.

God hammers the point home by stating that anyone - not just half-breed people of partial Egyptian heathen bloodlines - who "blasphemes" God's name is to be put to death - presumably, just as brutally by a good ol' stoning. He tacks on that "he who kills any man shall surely be put to death" - presumably there is an exception for people that kill on God's command.

He follows up his vengeful logic with that any man that injures another should be injured the same way - "an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth", which is quite different from the message Jesus will later preach, concerning "turning the other cheek" (however, Jesus also has some pretty vengeful things to say later on, as we'll come across much later).

So, Moses delivers God's message to the people of Israel and the people drag the blasphemer out to the outside of the camp and stone him to death - simply for uttering God's name in a manner that God found offensive.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

LEVITICUS: Chapter 23

Chapter 23
Summary:God speaks to Moses, with laws for the people of Israel concerning his "holy feasts".

God begins by restating the sabbath again - that six days of work are to be done, and that the seventh is a day of rest in which no work is to be done. He follows this up with listing some "holy feasts" that are to be observed each year.

  • Passover - Celebrated on the evening of the fourteenth day of the first month*.

  • Festival of Unleavened Bread - Celebrated on the fifteenth day of the first month (the following day after "Passover"). For the following seven days unleavened bread must be eaten. The first day will be a day of "holy convocation" and no servile work shall be done. For the following days the people must make sacrifices by fire. The seventh day will be another day of "holy convocation" and again no servile work shall be done.

  • Festival of First Fruits - When the people of Israel arrive in the "promised land", they will have to bring the first sheaf of fruit that they harvest to a priest at the tabernacle on the first day after the sabbath. The priest will wave it in the air and it will be accepted by God as a gift. The same day the person will have to sacrifice a yearling lamb (without blemish) for a "burnt offering" as well. A "grain offering" will also have to accompany the animal sacrifice, consisting of two tenth deals (a fifth of a bushel) of finely ground flour mixed with olive oil, to be offered by fire to God - this will be a "sweet savor" to God. Also, God needs some wine to go with his burnt lamb and flour, so bring a fourth of a hin (approximately three pints) of wine along with the lamb and flour. The people of Israel are not to eat any bread, corn, or green ears until they have made this sacrifice to God. This is a permanent statute wherever the people may live.

  • Festival of Pentecost - 50 days after the "Festival of First Fruits" (after seven sabbaths have passed) the people of Israel will have to bring a sample of their newly harvested grains for another "grain sacrifice". This shall consist of two loaves of bread, made from fine flour and made with yeast. Along with the bread, God wants you to sacrifice seven* yearling lambs (without blemish), one young bull, and two rams, for a massive "burnt offering" - along with the bread and some more wine. God notes that this sacrifice by fire is a "sweet savor" to him. In addition to the ten animals you need to sacrifice for the "festival", you'll also need to offer a male goat - for a "sin offering" - and two male yearling lambs for a "peace offering". The priest will have to wave these offerings around in the air, along with the bread. They are considered "holy" to God and therefore the priests will get to eat these foods. The day will become a "holy convocation" for the person making theses sacrifices, and they shall do no servile work that day. This shall be a permanent statute for all further generations. God repeats his law from Chapter 19 - that when the people harvest their crops, they are not to reap the corners of their fields or pick up any stray crops; they are to be left for the poor and for travelers.

  • Festival of Trumpets - On the first day of the seventh month* the people are to observe a "holy" memorial sabbath with the blowing of trumpets. No work is to be done on this day, but everyone will need to make a sacrifice by fire.

  • Day of Atonement - The tenth day of the seventh month (9 days after the "Festival of Trumpets") shall be a day of atonement which the people will have to offer another sacrifice by fire. No work shall be done on this day for it is a day to make atonement to God. Whomever does not repent that day will be excommunicated for their people, and whomever does any work that day God will destroy them. No manner of work is to be done on this day, it is a statute binding forever throughout future generations. It is a sabbath of rest that begins on the evening of the ninth day of the month until the evening of the tenth day.

  • Festival of Tabernacles - On the fifteenth day of the seventh month* (five days after the "Day of Atonement") is the seven day feast - "Festival of the Tabernacles". On the first day shall be a "holy convocation" and no servile work is to be done. On each of the seven days a sacrifice by fire is to be made. On the eighth day another "holy convocation" is to be observed, and another sacrifice by fire is to be made. It is to be a solemn assembly and no servile work is to be done.
These are God's feasts which are to be observed as "holy convocations", and are required for the people of Israel to make sacrifices by fire, "burnt offerings", "grain offerings", animal sacrifices, and "drink offerings" upon these days - in addition to the regular observance of the sabbath, gifts of animal sacrifices, vows, and offerings made by freewill.

Also in the fifteenth day of the seventh month *, when the people are done harvesting the fruit of the land, the people must keep God's feast for seven days - on the first and eighth days, there shall be an observed sabbath. On the first day the people are to take boughs of fruit trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook, and the people shall rejoice before God for seven days. This seven day annual event is a permanent statute to be followed forever through future generations in the seventh month (meaning September, in our modern calendar).

All of the people who are native Israelis are to live in "booths" (tents, or simple shelters) for these seven days. God claims that this will serve as a reminder to the people of Israel of how God brought the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt and made them live in "booths". And so Moses announced these festivals - God's feasts - to the people of Israel.
Notes:1.) Approximately late March in our current calendar.
2.) Another example of the mystical significance of the number 7 in the bible.
3.) Approximately mid-September in our current calendar.
4.) Approximately September 30th in our current calendar.
Thoughts:God now gives Moses a list of mandatory "festivals" for the people of Israel to "celebrate" - and if you guessed correctly, God's definition of "celebrate" in this sense calls for yet even more animal sacrificing.

Before God begins his list, he makes sure to restate yet again that the normal sabbaths are to be upheld weekly, and that absolutely no work is to be done on the seventh day - it is a day of rest.

He then begins to list his annual "festivals", beginning with restating the celebration of Passover, which he outlined in Exodus: Chapter 12.

He follows this up with restating the "Festival of Unleavened Bread", celebrated the day after Passover, in which the people have to eat bread made without yeast for the following seven days. The first and last days in this festival are sabbaths in which no work is to be done.

Next up is the "Festival of First Fruits" in which the people of Israel, after reaching the "promised land" must bring the first of the crops from their fruit trees and bring them to the tabernacle. The priests will wave the fruit in the air, thereby symbolically "giving them to God" as a gift. However, your first fruit crop is not enough, you must also bring God a yearling lamb for a "burnt offering", a tenth of a bushel of finely ground flour mixed with olive oil, and three pints of wine(!) Setting all of this stuff on fire on the altar is a "sweet savor" to God. The people of Israel are not to eat any of their crops (apparently of any kind) until they've offered up this sacrifice to God. This is a permanent law to be followed by the people forever, and wherever they may reside.

Fifty days later the real fun begins with the "Festival of Pentecost". Not only will you have to bring a sample of your newly harvested grains and crops for God, you'll have to tack on two loaves of bread - made from fine flour and made with yeast, a total of ten sacrificial animals (including seven lambs, two rams, and a bull) for ten "burnt offerings", and another three pints of wine for God to wash everything down with. This sacrifice of ten animals, samples of your finest crops, two loaves of bread, and three pints of wine seems a bit suspect for God's appetite - but we're not done yet. In addition to all this food that God wants, he also wants you tack on a goat and two more lambs for mandatory "sin offerings" and "peace offerings". Not surprisingly the priests get to keep all these foods for themselves, making one wonder if at least these parts (if not all) of the book of Leviticus were written by some greedy priests.

Obviously, I don't believe the bible is the work of a supernatural being, and as it is obviously placing a lot of power and perks into the pockets of priests, it is reasonable to suspect that people seeking to govern a tribe of people - as priests - certainly have a strong motive to command these "permanent" festivals of massive amounts of animal meats, bread, crops, and wine going into the coffers of the priests working in the tabernacle. Even if we can get past the lack of evidence supporting the assertion that a magical diety wrote or inspired the bible and assume that it is a plausible assertation, what is to say that priests might not have tacked on some of their own additions to these "laws" to benefit themselves?

Continuing on with the "Festival of Pentecost", God tacks on that this "feast" (for the priest) will also be observed as another sabbath day - where no work is to be done. This is yet another permanent law to followed by all future generations. God also tacks on one of his "good laws" from Leviticus: Chapter 19 about leaving behind some of your crops for the poor and for those traveling through.

Next up is God's "Festival of Trumpets" in which the people are to observe a memorial day of sabbath - by means of blowing trumpets - in the middle of September. Again, no one is to do any work on this day, and they have to make another "sacrifice by fire".

Nine days later (in the evening and until the following evening), the next "festival" is the "Day of Atonement" calling for yet another "sacrifice by fire". Again, this is a sabbath, so no working for the people of Israel. This is backed by the threat of excommunication if someone doesn't atone themselves with a sacrifice, and the threat of death if they're caught working on this day. It is another permanent law.

Finally, five days after the "Day of Atonement", we have the "Festival of Tabernacles" where God makes the people of Israel live in tents for the next week - to remind them of their Exodus in the desert (which currently we're still reading about in the book of Leviticus - we have yet to reach the "promised land"). The first day and the eighth(?) day are again sabbath days, and during each of the seven days (as well as the mysterious eighth day) yet more sacrifices by fire are to be made.

All of these festivals are to be observed in addition to the regular sabbaths and animal sacrifices made either by freewill or by God's insistence for "sinning".

God interjects another rule about the first day of the "Festival of Tabernacles", that the people are to gather the boughs of their fruit trees, palm tree branches, boughs of thick trees, and willows, and rejoice before God for the following seven days. Again, this is another permanent law to be followed for all future generations.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

LEVITICUS: Chapter 22

Chapter 22
Summary:God speaks to Moses, telling him that he is to relay more rules to Aaron and his sons concerning the priesthood.

The priests are to separate themselves from the "holy things" given by the people of Israel (meaning animal sacrifices) and are not to "profane" God's name by mishandling the sacrifice procedure - which God deems "holy". Whomever of Aaron's sons or descendants that performs any sacrifice for the people of Israel while being "unclean" or "defiled" himself, that priest will be "cut off from God's presence".

A priest who has contracted leprosy or "hath a running issue" (meaning an STD, sore, or infection) may not eat any of the "holy" animal sacrifices until he is "clean". A priest who has defiled himself by touching a dead body, seminal emission, or by touching any creeping thing or a "defiled" person, the priest shall be "unclean" and may not eat any "holy sacrifices" until the evening, after bathing himself in water before that evening. Once the sun has set (and after he bathes) he shall be clean, and may eat the "holy sacrifices", because they belong to the priests. A priest may not eat an animal that has died by other means - including an animal that dies naturally or that has been torn apart by other animals - or he will "defile" himself. The priests are to follow all of God's rules, or else they will bear "sin" for it, profane themselves, and God will have to kill them for that - as God himself is the one who "sanctifies" the priests.

Only priests are to eat the "holy sacrifices", they may not share this food with visitors or hired servants. If the priest buys a slave with his own money, or if a slave is born in the priest's household, then those slaves may eat from the "holy sacrifices".

If a priest's daughter is married to a foreigner, she may not eat any of the "holy sacrifices". However, if the priest's daughter is a widow, divorced, and has no children - therefore has returned to live with her father like she did in her childhood - then she may be allowed to eat from the "holy sacrifices". No one who is not a member of the priest's family, or their household, may eat from the "holy sacrifice".

If a regular person should eat any of the "holy sacrifice" unknowingly, that person "shall put the fifth part unto it" (meaning that he will have to replace what he had taken, plus 20% more in interest) and must return it to the priest. The "holy sacrifice" is not to be "profaned" by ordinary people eating it, because it was a gift given to God; anyone doing so will bear the "sin" of trespass.

God now tells Moses to speak to the priests as well as to the people of Israel about animal sacrifices. Whether a person is a descendant of the tribe of Israel, or a foreigner, their animal sacrifices must be carried out in God's specific way - regardless of whether they are done as an obligation or from freewill.

Only male animals without physical defects will be accepted whether it is a bull, sheep, or goat to be sacrificed. Animals with physical defects will not be accepted. Blind, lame, or maimed animals will not be accepted, nor will any animal having a wen, that is scabbed, or having scurvy be accepted. Imperfect animals shall not be offered to God, or as "burnt offerings". A bull or a lamb that has anything superfluous or is lacking any parts, one may offer for out of free will, but not for an obligatory sacrifice. An animal which is bruised, crushed, broken, or cut (alluding to castrated animals) may not be offered for sacrifice at any time. An animal belonging to a foreigner will not be accepted, as their corruption and blemishes are in their animals.

When a bull, sheep, or goat is born it is to remain with its mother for seven days. From the eight day forward, the animal may be offered for animal sacrificing. However, both the animal and its mother may not be sacrificed in the same day.

When an offering of "thanksgiving" is to be made, it is to be offered at one's own will and eaten on the same day, none of it is to be left over for the following day.

Therefore, says God, all should keep his commandments and do them as he is the ruler of the people. Nor shall anyone "profane" God's name, and he is to be "holy" among the people of Israel. God also rubs it in again that he was the guy who got them out of their slavery in Egypt.
Thoughts:Yet another chapter devoted to animal sacrifices, we begin with continuing on with the focus of the last chapter by focusing on the laws governing priests.

First off, the priests are not to "profane" God's name by messing up any procedure that concerns sacrificing animals. If the priest has defiled himself by contracting leprosy, getting an STD, has any sores or infections he is not to perform animal sacrifices until he is completely healed and considered "clean". If he has defiled himself by touching dead bodies, ejaculating (or anything connected with semen, as specifically laid out in Chapter 15), touching an "unclean" animal, or an "unclean" person, then the priest is not allowed to eat any animal sacrifices until the evening - and he must bathe beforehand as well. Once the sun sets, he's okay again and can chow down on God's animal meat.

However, priests are not to eat any animal that has died by other means (including natural death or having been torn apart by wild animals) or he will "defile" himself by doing so. The priests have to follow God's instructions or else God could be forced to kill them - and it's the priest's fault, because it's God who has "sanctified" them to begin with. Death threats mean that God's law is *really* important to follow - just look at what happened to Nadab and Abihu for using the wrong fire when lighting God's incense.

Only priests and their immediate family members, except for any of their daughters married to foreigners, are allowed to eat any sacrificial animals. If the daughter married to foreigner doesn't have any children and gets divorced or is widowed, then she can again eat some sacrificial animal meat, as she is no longer angering God and the priest by her interracial marriage and by raising mixed race children. The only exception to the rule of the immediate family is for slaves that a priest has bought, or those that were born in the priest's household. If the slave was given a gift or inherited then they'll have to find something else to eat.

If a regular person eats any of God's "holy sacrifice" unknowingly, they'll have to replace what they eat and tack on 20% of the amount of the animal as well as interest. Regular people are not to eat any of God's food and will be guilty of "sin" for doing so.

God now reinforces his demand that all animals to be sacrificed have to be perfect - God does not want any broken bones, blindness, scabs, or scurvy afflicting the animals being sacrificed to him. An animal belonging to a foreigner will also not be accepted, as their "corruption" apparently taints the animal in some way.

God also repeats his rule from Exodus Chapter 22 about not sacrificing a baby animal until it is eight days old. He tacks on that the baby animal's mother may not be sacrificed on the same day as the baby is. He also reminds everyone that "thanksgiving sacrifices" must be eaten on the same day and that none is to be leftover to be eaten for the following day.

God closes the chapter by again that the people have to obey his laws since he is their leader, and he reminds them all again that it was him who freed them from their slavery in Egypt. I think the numerous threats God repeats about killing them all probably do a better job towards extorting their obedience than having to remind them about him freeing them their slavery.