As many of you know, I’m reading the entirety of the Bible and blogging about it as I go. I’ve now read my way through Genesis up to Joshua and before I start reading Judges I thought it was time to do a sort of book review on what I’ve read so far.
What a horrible book. There’s no way any publisher would touch this in modern times. If it came out now, with no background to it, any publisher worth their salt would laugh at it.
To begin with, it’s extremely poorly written with grammar that’s mangled beyond all sanity. Now some of that may be due to translation errors; I’m not sure. What I am sure of is that it really, really needs an editor. A good editor could’ve made this thing at least readable.
Second, none of the major characters are especially sympathetic. Consider the three big ones so far (Abraham, Moses and Joshua). One’s a puppet of God (more on his role later), who is such a tool he’s willing to murder his son because God told him to. Sure, he stands up to God at a couple points, but on other points just meekly accepts what ever God tells him to do.
As for Moses? Here’s a man who is, at best, an accessory to the genocide of the Egyptian kingdom. He plays a direct role in the mass-murder of all the first-born males in the kingdom, in addition to all the other evil things he participates in. And this guy is a hero? I don’t think so.
Though he is rather heroic compared to the next protagonist, one Joshua. Wow, this guy is completely evil. He is directly responsible for several mass-murders and genocides throughout the Levant, including the most famous; the Massacre at Jericho, where he rounded up and slaughtered every single man, woman and child for the “crime” of worshiping the wrong god. But, hey, God told him to, right? He was just following orders. Mind you, like the other two, he’s presented as a hero!
So, three heroes, at least one of which is clearly psychotic, and we’re expected- told– to believe that these are the good guys. Yeah, that’s not good writing.
The villains in this book are, so far, largely inoffensive. Most of them are guilty of nothing but worshiping the wrong god. There’s some mention of them doing vaguely evil things, but the writer(s) of the book never bothered to really clarify what these are or why we should hate these bad guys so, especially when compared to the “heroes”.
Then there’s God. There’s always God. He’s the ever-present driving force behind this book and, boy, is he ever an unpleasant character. Evil, capricious, insecure, jealous, given to murderous rage at the smallest slights. This is not a being worthy of worship, as the book contends; it’s a being worthy of destruction.
The writers of the book throw in a few sops to morality in the first few books. You get things like “thou shalt not murder” and “thou shalt not steal” and such, but then you get pages and pages and pages of God urging his people to murder and steal (pillaging after sacking a city counts as theft).
To make matters worse, the narrative flow of the book is almost non-existent. You get portions of interesting stories that are interrupted with a massive list of names, then you get pages of a census, then you get rules on sacrifice, and then you get a tiny bit of narrative again. All this is sleep-inducing reading of the finest order.
This isn’t the good book. It’s not even a good book. From a literary standpoint, it’s practically unreadable, and I’m only part-way through it. I really, really hope it becomes a bit more bearable, but from what I’ve seen in Judges and what I know the later content, I doubt it.
Oh, and one last thing on the content: if you’re a parent, you might want to keep this one from your kids. Rape, murder, incest, theft, genocide, adultery, prostitution, slavery, all these things will be found herein. Many of them are presented as acceptable. This is perhaps not a moral message you want for your kids.
In a word: avoid. This isn’t a good book for anyone to read.