In this latest post in my Bible Project we, at long last!, reach the end of Deuteronomy and the end of the Pentateuch. Yes, after many months of wandering in the metaphorical desert I have finally reached the Promised Land: an end to this nonsense and a return to narrative!
But before we leave and go forth to a land flowing with story and characters, we first have to navigate the remainder of this really, really boring, unpleasant part of the Bible.
We start with the Laws Concerning War. I’m assuming this is a Bronze Age version of the Geneva Convention, and that it’s full of things like not harming civilians, treating prisoners of war decently and the like. You know, the sort of things civilized nations do.
”When you go near a city to fight against it, then proclaim an offer of peace to it
“And it shall be that if they accept your offer of peace, and open to you, then all t he people who are found in it shall be placed under tribute to you, and serve you.
“Now the city will not make peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it.
“And when the Lord your god delivers it into your hands, you shall strike every male in it with the edge of the sword.
“But the women, the little ones, the livestock, and all that is in the city, all its spoil, you shall plunder for yourself; and you shall eat the enemies plunder which the Lord your god gives you.
“Thus you shall do to all the cities which are very far from you, which are not of the cities of these nations.
“But of the cities of these peoples which the Lord your god gives you as an inheritance, you shall let nothing that breathes remain alive.
“but you shall utterly destroy them: the Hittite and the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite, just as the Lord your god has commanded you.
“lest they teach you to do according to all their abominations which they have done for their gods, and you sin against the Lord your god.” – Deuteronomy 20:10 – 18
Well. How ghastly. Sadly, par for the course here. We have yet more hate and evil, yet more genocide and intolerance, yet more slavery, rape and murder directed at women and children. Again I’m forced to ask believers, how can you possibly believe a being that condones these things is anything other than hateful, evil, spiteful and cruel? Surely no creature that does these things is worth your love and affection.
Next we find out what should be done when your children act up.
”If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and who, when they have chastened him, will not heed them,
“then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out tot he elders of his city, to the gate of his city.
“And they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’
“Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death with stones; so you shall put away the evil from among you, and all Israel shall hear and fear.” – Deuteronomy 21:18 – 21
Fear is right. Good grief! Just for the simple “crime” of disobeying ones parents a child should be murdered. Nice. I notice also that apparently gluttony and alcoholism are both crimes deserving of death. Well, good thing that’s not enforced now, right? Otherwise George W would’ve never had the chance to learn his lesson and be “born again”, thus depriving the Christianistas of one of their great icons.
Next we find out exactly why the fundies hate transvestites.
”A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment, for all who do so are an abomination to the Lord your god.” – Deuteronomy 22:5
And we revisit an old favorite.
”You shall not wear a garment of different sorts, such as wool and linen mixed together.” – Deuteronomy 22:11
“Yes, cause who knows what horrible thing might happen then?” he typed sarcastically.
Fuck, what’s not an abomination to this horribly evil monster? It appears almost anything humanity does aside from sitting quietly and admiring God’s countenance is a crime. Even then you’d probably be stoned to death for laziness. What a prick.
Next we come to a nice bit showing how all-inclusive God is when it comes to religious services.
”He who is emasculated by crushing or mutilation shall not enter the assembly of the Lord.
“One of illegitimate birth shall not enter the assembly of the Lord; even to the tenth generation none of his descendants shall enter the assembly of the Lord. – Deuteronomy 23:1 – 2
I wonder how this applied to all those poor castrati out there. You know, those innocent children whose only crime was having a lovely singing voice and were castrated (often by the Church or its representatives), in order to be able to keep singing in their angelic way. Surely they shouldn’t have been allowed anywhere near the churches, but instead they were not only allowed, but were there to sing God’s praises. Clearly God was miffed by this.
And for those poor bastards out there, well, since your parents had sex out of wedlock, you, personally, are not allowed to go to church and are likely denied any salvation. So are your children, grand children, great-grand children, great-great-grand children, great-great-great-grand children, great-great-great-great-grand children, great-great-great-great-great-grand children, great-great-great-great-great-great-grand children, great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grand children, and your great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grand children. Assuming two kids per person per generation, soon we have thousands of people that are damned because one couple had a child out of wedlock.
Remember, God loves you!
Now we come to a passage that’s led to a great deal of unpleasantness over the centuries.
”You shall not charge interest to your brother- interest on money or food or anything that is lent out at interest.
“To a foreigner you may charge interest, but to your brother you shall not charge interest, that the Lord your god may bless you in all to which you set your hand in the land which you are entering to possess.” – Deuteronomy 23:19 – 20
Seems pretty harmless, yeah? But this passage is what has enabled Jewish bankers throughout the centuries to charge interest in money lent, often to kings and countries. This inevitably led to them wanting to get paid back and the kings and such responding by kicking them out of the country. One of the Edwards in England did exactly that, banning all Jews from England. It’s also what’s led to the stereotypes of Jewish moneylenders and Jews being good with money.
Up next, God places limits on how much food you can steal from your neighbor.
“When you come into your neighbor’s vineyard, you may eat your fill of grapes at your pleasure, but you shall not put any in your container.
“When you come into your neighbor’s standing grain, you may pluck the heads with your hand, but you shall not use a sickle on your neighbor’s standing grain. – Deuteronomy 23:24 – 25
What. The. Fuck? If there are any Biblical scholars reading this, I’d really like to know what the hell this is supposed to be about, please. I mean, from what I can tell, it’s instructions on what you might legitimately steal from your neighbor. If you’re there with your neighbor’s permission, why does God set limits on how much stuff you can take?
Imagine for a moment that a grape-grower is offering you some grapes.
“Take here this basket, that you might fill it with grapes.”
“Nay, brother, I shall not. For if I do this thing, this thing you suggest, and harvest those grapes into this basket, they will be as ashes in my mouth and surely God’s wrath will descend upon our people.”
“So what else is new? Surely it is my business to whom I give my grapes and in what manner.”
“You’d think so, but Smitey McGee up there has other ideas and will destroy us all.”
(ominous thunder in the background)
“Right. Thou shalt only harvest mine grapes with thy hands and eateth to they pleasure and junk.”
Ok, possibly I take some liberties with the dialogue. ;) The point is, why does God put forth this odd little rule? No reason I can discern.
Having interfered in personal property usage, God now puts the smack-down on anyone who has different sized measuring cups.
”You shall not have in your house differing measures, a large and a small.” – Deuteronomy 25:14
Buh? I assume this is some thing on not cheating people by offering stuff measured with one set of weights or cups or whatever, that are inaccurate and different from another set, but it’s still odd and devastating to the baking industry.
We go past a series of curses and then onto the consequences of disobeying God (hint: death). We go past God renewing his promise to Israel and the blessings of returning to God. Then we wind up seeing the next leader of the Jewish people, a fellow named Joshua, who heads out with the following blessing from Moses, who is about to die.
”The Lord your god himself crosses over before you; he will destroy these nations from before you, and you shall dispossess them. Joshua himself crosses over before you, just as the Lord has said.” – Deuteronomy 31:3
You know, this brings up a good question, which is this: if God is omnipotent, why doesn’t he just wipe out everyone who doesn’t believe in him and then just let the Jews have their lands? Why does he tell these people, basically, “Go forth, fight and die that my name will be glorious among men!” Oh, wait, that’s the kind of question that answers itself, huh?
Still, it’s a valid point. If God can just wave his hand and wipe out these other people, why doesn’t he? It’s like Bill Maher’s question in Religiulous, where he wondered what God was waiting for when it comes to wiping out evil.
We finish Deuteronomy, and the Pentateuch, on a song, and then Moses dies, and good riddance. Thus ends the first five books of the Bible.
What a horribly unpleasant read. For every bit of decency and good behavior, there’s at least twenty examples of horribly evil, wrong and immoral behavior, often from God himself.
This I believe illustrates an important part of Biblical morality. We in the 21st century are more moral than God. We don’t engage in genocide (though we do tend to ignore it unless it’s happening to white people). We don’t engage in slavery. We don’t round up our enemy’s women and rape them (and those soldiers who do, get punished). We don’t loot. We don’t burn down our enemy’s cities and sow the earth with salt. We don’t punish people with death of minor transgressions. We don’t do any of these things.
We have a better, more enlightened sense of morality than the barbarians who made up God and who wrote the Bible. This is important to understand here. The things the Bible talks about are incredibly evil, and we, as a people, aren’t. We don’t do these things and we don’t condone others doing them. Yet we hold up the Bible as some great paragon of virtue.
While there are undoubtedly certain good things and good morals the Bible teaches, for the most part, at least in the parts I’ve read this far, it’s immoral and evil. If it’s a truly holy book, inspired by God, then there shouldn’t be any evil in it at all; it should be all good. It isn’t, and what I’ve read so far illustrates this wonderfully.
Up next, we return to stories, as we get Joshua!