Friday, January 8, 2010


Chapter 13
Summary:Moses continues his speech:
"If there amongst you emerges a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams*, that gives you a sign or a wonder which becomes true, and subsequently suggests to serve other gods, you shall not follow the words of that prophet or dreamer of dreams, for the the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all of your heart and soul. You follow the Lord your God, fear him, obey his commandments, hear his words, and serve him. That prophet, or dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; for he has spoken to turn you away from the Lord your God - the one who brought you out of the land of Egypt, redeemed you out of your slavery - to thrust you out of the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk in. So shall you extinguish this evil amongst you.

"If your brother - the son of your mother - or your son, daughter, wife, or a close friend whispers to you, trying to entice you to serve other gods - namely the gods of the heathens around you, near or far to from you, from one end of the earth to the other - you shall not consent to that person, nor listen to them, nor shall you show them any pity or mercy, nor shall you protect them; but you shall surely kill them, with your hand being the first upon them, and afterward the hands of all the people of Israel. You shall stone them with stones until they die, because they had sought to thrust you away from the Lord your God, which brought you out of your Egyptian slavery. All of Israel shall hear, fear, and shall do no more such wickedness as this is amongst you.

"If you hear it said in any one of your cities which the Lord you God has given you to dwell in, that certain men - the children of Belial* - have gone out from among you, and have suggested to the inhabitants of the city to worship other gods, then you shall inquire, and diligently determine if this is true. If behold, it is the truth that such an abomination has been wrought among you, you shall surely smite the residents of that city with the edge of the sword, destroying it utterly, and everything contained within it, including the cattle, with the edge of the sword. You shall then gather the spoils of the city into the middle of the street, and burn it along with the city to the ground as a burnt offering to the Lord your God. The city shall remain a lifeless heap forever, and shall never be rebuilt again. You are not to take any of the spoils from the city for they are cursed.

"The Lord will turn from his fierce anger and then show mercy and compassion to you, allowing you to multiply as he had promised your forefathers, when you hear the voice of the Lord your God, keep all of his commandments which I command you on this day, and do what is right in the eyes of the Lord your God."
Notes:1.) A person who claims to fortell the future via their dreams, like Jacob's/Israel's son Joseph.
2.) "Belial" roughly translates as "waste" in Hebrew, meaning that the "children of Belial" are the "children of waste".
Thoughts:In yet another brief but violent chapter, Moses warns the Israelites about "prophets" or "dreamers of dreams" who might see their prophecy or prediction come true, tempting the Israelites to pursue serving and worshiping other gods. Moses claims that this would actually be God "testing you" (probably to account for why a "false prophet" or a "dreamer of dreams" could accurately predict the future).

I have serious ethical problems with these kinds of "tests" as found in the bible - such as the story of God "testing" Abraham's faith by commanding him to sacrifice his son Isaac only to stop Abraham at the very last minute before he plunges a knife into the boy. As I mentioned in my thoughts about the previous chapter, it would certainly appear that the Israelites seem to be pretty easily manipulated and coerced into worshiping other gods as we've seen in Exodus: Chapter 32 - with it's story of the Israelites worshiping Aaron's golden calf, and in Numbers: Chapter 25 - in which the Israelites "commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab" (or is the Midianites?).

With this in mind, it seems that God's behavior falls a bit too close to that of entrapment. An ethical person wouldn't take an alcoholic to a bar just to "test" him, nor could a police officer sit on a street corner offering drugs or sexual services to anyone and everyone passing by and legally make an arrest. The reason being is that we as human beings have lapses in judgment and most of us under some enticing circumstance or another may do something unethical, unlawful, or simply something we might not normally do if not presented with certain conditions. While both of the following situations may be wrong, still there is a difference between a person who pulls a prank on someone after being offered $20, versus a person who pulls a prank on someone else deliberately on their on volition.

Whether God is either causing someone's prophecy to become true, or is allowing a prophet to foresee an event, in order to give them credibility so that they may deceive others into committing a "sin", neither can be considered ethical or just. This is only made worse when Moses tells us what the predictable punishment is for the prophet or the "dreamer of dreams" who tries to lead people into worshiping other gods - they are to be put to death.

Not stopping there, Moses tells us that just about anybody - your brother (specifying your mother's son), your son or daughter, or even a good close friend - who tries to entice you to worship other gods, especially the gods of the "heathens" that used to live in the land, and those that surround the "promised land", is to be put to death by stoning. You also are not to allow your family member or close friend any pity or mercy while you are mandated to strike the first blow upon them. Moses then justifies this with the ridiculously flawed logic that this capital punishment will somehow prevent others from committing the same "wickedness"(?) While this argument is still used today to justify capital punishment, it is even more laughable here in the bible. We've already seen that the massive plagues and gutting thousands of people with swords when they worshiped other gods hasn't stopped people from committing the same "wickedness" already.

Moses saves the most brutal law for last, in which hes states that if it is heard that "the children of Belial" (meaning "the children of waste") have coaxed the inhabitants of a city into worshiping other gods, and upon verifying such as story as true - which as we've seen at several points throughout the Old Testament the standards of evidence are extremely lax - then Moses states that the residents of the entire city, and everything it contains including their cattle, are to be killed by the sword, and then the entire city is to be burned to the ground and the smoldering mound that used to be a city is never again to be rebuilt again. Much like the story of the destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, once again we need to adhere to strict absolutes in where 100% of the population has committed a "sin" to deserve such a sever punishment where an entire city is leveled. However, we realize that in the real world there are never 100% absolutes, and therefore responding with sentencing an entire town to death, there will yet be innocent lives at stake - whether they be people who didn't worship other gods, or infants and children unable to even grasp the concept of theism to begin with.

Moses continues stating that once you've leveled an offending city, God will then be "merciful" and "compassionate" enough not to turn his anger upon you, and will fulfill his promise of allowing you to grow into a might nation - if you obey and do exactly as he says.

No comments:

Post a Comment