I will finish 1 Samuel with this post. There are some interesting moral discussions to be had with this book. While it is not nearly as horrifying as Judges, it is still quite problematic.
God told Samuel that he would send someone to be king, that person was Saul, despite God believing that asking for a ruler was a slight against him. Why would God pick someone for the Israelites? If it’s folly, why not simply say “do as you will” ? Or is this God’s way of maintaining what control he can?
Samuel tells Saul that he is to be the ruler of the Israelites. God claims to have changed Saul’s heart. Doesn’t this suggest that God took Saul’s freewill away? If God changed Saul’s heart, then why is he supposed to be so corrupt? Couldn’t God prevent him from becoming corrupt? Saul is discribed as being taller than everyone else. This issupposed to show that he is unique. Why does Saul’s height matter? Wouldn’t it be better to pick someone who’s a worthy ruler?
When Saul becomes king, some men threaten to take an eye from each Israelite. How does gouging out an eye disgrace Israel? Isn’t it more of a disgrace to the people who take people’s eyes?
Samuel tell the people that they did evil by asking for a king. How is asking for a king evil? And why would a thunderstorm cause the Israelites to realize that it is evil? Weren’t thunderstorms common during certain parts of the year? Why would the people fear something that they were used to?
The Israelites are told to fear God again. Why is God so obsessed with being feared?
Saul becomes a warmonger as soon as he is made king. Since God changed his heart, did he cause this? Did God want Saul to be so war-like? If so, what are the moral implications of this?
Saul refers to the Israelites as Hebrews. This is the second time. This shows a progression over time where the Israelites’ identity is concerned.
Saul offered a burnt offering at one battle field because Samuel wasn’t there. This was a no-no. Since Moses said that sacrifices were only to happen at certain places at certain times, this makes sense, but Samuel seems to be more angry than God is.
Saul only had about 600 men. This number is far more reasonable than the numbers given in earlier battles.
Saul’s son, Jonathon, and his armor-bearer defeated a bunch of Philistines on their own. This seems unlikely. And, if God is so mad at Saul that he isn’t willing to help him win the battle, why is he willing to help Jonathon? Why not punish Saul by letting his son get killed? It’s not like he hasn’t done so in the past.
Saul prevented the people from eating. The people were so hungry because of Saul that they ate blood. Saul’s reaction was to tell the people where to kill their sheep so they wouldn’t eat blood. The people are already unclean, so why weren’t they just told to get themselves cleansed?
Samuel tells Saul that he has turned away from God. How has Saul turned away from God? He thought he did as God ordered. How can he be blamed for making a simple mistake? Saul then calls Yahweh Samuel’s god. Does Saul not view Yahweh as his god too? Sparing livestock is apparently evil. Samuel tells Saul that he has done evil by not killing all the livestock. Saul lost his kingship over this. What are the moral implications of this? Why are the Israelites so willing to kill livestock left and right?
God is fairly fickle with his kings. He tells Samuel to go find his next king before Saul is anywhere near dead. Doesn’t he realize how easily problems can be created by so obviously playing (and changing) favorites?
God says he looks at the heart, but Saul was chosen for his height. Is God lying? Or did he purposefully pick someone unsuited to be king because he was mad at the Israelites?
God sent an evil spirit to torment Saul, apparently this spirit could be chased away with music from a lyre. Does God command all evil spirits? If so, does he command the devil?
Saul sent his army to the Philistines. Goliath challenged them. It sounds to me like Goliath was trying to prevent unnecessary warfare by making a deal: a one on one battle, the winner wins the war (if the Israelites win, they conquer the Philistines, if they lose, they must leave). How exactly is Goliath the bad guy here? David cares very much about Goliath’s lack of circumcision. Is the most important thing about Goliath really the fact that he isn’t circumcised? Patriarchial societies sure care a lot about penises…Goliath “cursed David by his gods.” Whose gods? David’s or Goliath’s? It kind of sounds like he means David’s. Does David have many gods? David tells Goliath that he is defying God. How did Goliath defy God? By fighting against the Israelites? So it’s Goliath’s fault that he was born a Philistine and was in the army?
Saul is told whose son David is when David is given the position of player of the lyre for Saul, but Saul doesn’t know whose son he is when he kills Goliath? Does he not recognize the person who sits with him and plays music to keep the evil spirits away?
Jonathon is said to love David. Why did Jonathon love David? They only just met, didn’t they?
While Saul is being tormented by evil spirits, he decides to try and kill David. Why would God make Saul try to kill David? Is this really an immoral action on Saul’s part if he had no choice? Isn’t Yahweh the one responsible? Why is David so unwilling to marry Saul’s daughter? Does he realize what Saul planned? Was he afraid of Saul? Of was he really just being modest? Saul tells David that all he wants is 100 Philistine foreskins for his daughter’s bride price. David killed Philistines for their foreskins so that he could marry Saul’s daughter. How is this a moral action?
Jonathon warned David that Saul wanted to kill him. How had David not realized this yet?
God makes Saul try to kill David again. Why? What is the purpose here? And can people really be blamed when God makes them do things? Of course God’s prophecy came true: he made it come true!
“You son of a rebellious and perverse woman!” Does this sound like a modern insult to anyone else? Also, this is more sexism.
David assures a boy that he’ll be safe by saying “the man who’s trying to kill you is trying to kill me as well.” That sure wouldn’t assure me.
Saul chases David. A lot. He seems a bit obsessed, actually.
Jonathon tells David that he will be David’s servant while David will be king. How does Jonathon know that David will be king? This doesn’t come across as obvious to me.
David feels entitled to a man’s property for guarding his stuff. The man doesn’t seem to have asked David for help. How is David entitled to anything? And why would he think it’s okay to kill the man for not giving him things? David seems like a self-righteous twit to me.
How does everybody seem to know what the main characters in the Bible are doing? It seems unlikely that the information could spread so quickly.
David marries a second and third woman. His first wife is married to another man. Both polygamy and divorce seem to be acceptable here.
“As surely as the lord lives.” So God is alive and can die.
David moved into Philistine territory, with approval by their king, and then raided their territory. He killed everyone so that the king wouldn’t know. So he’s a murderer and a traitor. Seriously, where are his morals?
Saul goes to a medium to speak to Samuel. Despite mediums being outlawed, it seems to be common knowledge where one can find a medium, and people don’t seem too concerned by her work. Saul knew that Samuel was summoned by the medium because it was “an old man in a robe.” Doesn’t that describe a lot of people in this time? Did the medium also ask him if someone he knew had a name that started with an S?
David and his men have their homes plundered and their families taken. David and his men go after the raiders. So it’s okay for David to plunder others, but it is not okay for others to plunder David. I think this is a double standard. And these plunderers didn’t even kill anyone!
Why would an Egyptian have David swear to God? Why not have him swear to one of the Egyptian gods?
Monthly Archives: July 2014
I will finish 1 Samuel with this post. There are some interesting moral discussions to be had with this book. While it is not nearly as horrifying as Judges, it is still quite problematic.
I have gotten through a good portion of 1 Samuel. This post will go up to the point when the Israelites ask for a king.
1 Samuel begins with Samuel’s parents, Elkanah and Hannah. The two wives of Elkanah, Hannah and Peninnah, are referred to as rivals. Why should they be rivals? What are they competing over? Hannah prayed to God because she was upset that she couldn’t have children. It seems that this is the first example of someone speaking in tongues.
Hannah gives her son, Samuel, to God. It seems that he is to be a Nazirite like Samson. Hannah had many more children, while Eli, the priest, had sons who were bad people. Eli’s sons refused to listen to their father because God wanted them to die. So basically, God took their free will away, forcing them to keep sinning, and then punished them for sinning. God got mad at Eli over this.
Apparently God rarely spoke to people at this time. Though he seemed to speak to people a lot more than he does today. God stood beside Samuel, and spoke to him. Samuel didn’t know what was happening because he haden’t “given himself over to the lord,” so Eli had to explain it to him. Why did God wait for Eli to explain it. Why didn’t God say “it’s not Eli, it’s God” the second time? Or, better yet, tell Samuel what was happening the first time? Samuel was apparently a prophet.
God rode the ark of the covenant to the battle field. It said he sat on it. So God has a physical form? Does he look human? The Philistines said that a god had never entered the battle field before. That seems to contradict every battle that has happened up until this point. They also said “a god,” as in there were many who could have entered the battle field with the Israelites. This is further encouraged when the Philistines say “who will save us from these mighty gods? These are the gods who struck the Egyptians with plagues.” These gods? But I thought the Israelite religion was supposed to be a monotheism. The Israelites are called Hebrews for the first time by the Philistines. God lets 30,000 men die so that he could have Eli’s sons die.
The ark was captured. Eli doesn’t react to his sons’ deaths, but he falls down and breaks his neck because the ark is captured. The Philistines made golden tumors and rats as part of their offerings to God when they returned the ark. This seems odd. Yes, God apparently cursed them with tumors and rats, but why make gold tumors?
Samuel tells the Israelites to stop serving gods other than Yahweh. Once again, they ask for forgiveness for their sins. Seriously, how does this habit make sense? And, if Israelites are so prone to worshiping other gods, why don’t we see this pattern occurring today?
Samuel is Israel’s leader until his death. Samuel’s sons were as bad as Eli’s, so the people asked for a king. God sees this as a rejection against him. Why doesn’t God punish Samuel like he punished Eli? Isn’t he going against himself by doing this? And how is it a rejection of God to ask for a king? Kings are men, not gods.
Apparently the people traveled out of their own towns to ask for a king. How far did they travel? And why? Weren’t there better ways of asking for a king?
Ruth is very short, so this is basically just a summary.
Naomi is an old widow with two daughter-in-laws that are also both widows. She tells them to go back to their families so that they can find husbands, but Ruth, one of the daughter-in-laws refuses to leave. Ruth claims that she will make Naomi’s god her own because she wants to stay with her. This makes her belief seems false. If she is willing to change her belief so easily, what will keep her from doing so in the future? Does she actually believe?
When Naomi and Ruth get back to Naomi’s people, Naomi tells the people not to call her Naomi because God has cursed her. Why would God make Naomi’s life miserable? What did she do? Isn’t it more likely that her family simply had some bad luck?
The story of Ruth is creepy: she is told to go to a man wearing her best clothes and perfume. She is told to watch him in secret until he has finished eating and drinking and has gone to sleep. Then she is to uncover his feet, lay by them, and wait for him to tell her what to do next. This is Naomi’s plan to ensure that Ruth will be cared.
The man marries Ruth and Ruth gave birth to a son for Naomi.
The Old Testament keeps getting worse and worse. At this rate, I may never get to the New Testament. Luckily I have a cat. Cats help.
The Israelites did evil again. I still don’t know what that actually means.
God talks to Gideon. Gideon isn’t sure that he’s actually talking to God (or the angel of God, as he seems to be talking to both). He’s the first person to actually ask God to prove he’s who he says he is, and God actually obliges. This seems like a rational response. Too bad more people don’t do this. Gideon then broke down Baal’s alter at night and built one to Yahweh, the people demanded he be put to death. They are then convinced to leave him alone. For some reason, people who had no reason to worship the Israelite God were okay with their own god being replaced with the Israelite God (it’s apparently okay to say “let Baal defend himself,” but it’s not okay to say the same of Yahweh). This seems highly unlikely. Later on, Gideon is sent to do some conquering. Gideon “punished” people with desert thorns and briars, and he tore down a tower because they wouldn’t help him conquer people. Gideon also had many wives. Polygamy is clearly still okay.
Yahweh says that the Israelites “did not remember the lord their God, who had rescued them from enemies on every side.” Wait…didn’t he also send those enemies because he was mad that the Israelites worshiped other gods? He says this because, once again, they have begun worshiping other gods.
One of Gideon’s sons killed all but one of his 70 brothers. He was made king by the people. Wine apparently sways gods and men (according to the man’s remaining brother). This statement sounds very Greek/Roman to me. God made the people act against Abimelech (the man) because he killed his brothers. Why didn’t God just stop Abimelech from killing his brothers? If he has the power to make people angry at Abimelech, doesn’t he also have the power to make Abimelech unwilling to kill his brothers? This can’t be about free will, since God is clearly willing to take away some people’s free will. Abimelech took his men and attacked people in a field. He killed the people and destroyed the city. They then killed a thousand people in the tower of Shechem by burning it down. Abimelech’s skull was cracked by a woman dropping a stone on him. He told one of his own men to kill him so that nobody could say a woman killed him. How sexist of him. Apparently the whole war between Shechem and Abimelech, which was started by God making people discontent, was God’s punishment to both Abimelech and the people of Shechem for making him king. How is this moral? Everybody died a terrible, bloody death. Many were burned to death, most were slaughtered. The land was made unusable by Abimelech. That is not a punishment fitting of the “crime.”
What was the point of mentioning Tola? He doesn’t do anything. We learn a bit more about Jair: he had 30 sons, they rode 30 donkeys (they each got their own I guess), and they had 30 cities. Jair had a thing for the number 30. But he’s also fairly useless. Why mention him?
The Israelites did more evil. This time we learned that they again worshiped other gods, and, this time, stopped worshiping Yahweh. The Israelites are great at making the same mistake over and over again. You think they’d eventually learn from the past. This pattern doesn’t match any that I have learned from history (it takes more than one generation to make the same mistake a second time, and a mistake may not be amended in the same generation. The people keep making a mistake, learn from it, then they die and their children repeat it).
Jephthah is made king to fight the Ammonites. They want the land that was taken from them (though Jephthah claims that the Israelites never took the land). More burnt offerings ensue. Jephthah’s daughter comes out dancing to her father. She is to be made a sacrifice, which she already knows. For some reason, she is only sad because she will never marry. She and her friends mourn the fact that she won’t marry, but aren’t concerned about the fact that she’s to die. This seems unlikely.
We learn about more meaningless people.
The Israelites did more unnamed evil.
Samson is to be a nazirite, or a devotee of God’s. As such, his hair was to never be cut. So the men who were most devoted to God were to keep from cutting their hair, but, according to the Bible, women were to grow their hair long as a virtue to them, but men were to keep theirs short. This seems to be contradictory to me. The angel tells Samson’s parents that his name is beyond their comprehension. And, again, they don’t really know if he’s an angel until he descends into the air. Samson wants to marry a Philistine woman. His parents wanted him to marry a relative. Clearly incest is still only between close relatives. Samson tears a lion apart with his bare hands. This seems unlikely. Later, he finds a beehive in the carcass and eats it. He’s a jerk to his wife (he speaks to her as if she doesn’t matter to him), and cheats the Philistines with a riddle to win clothes. The riddle is unfair because only he could know the answer. Samson’s father gives his wife to another man. Samson decides to take revenge on the Philistines because his wife was taken. Since the Philistines didn’t take his wife, how does this make sense? Samson is clearly supposed to be the good guy, but he is entitled and mean. He is no good guy, he is clearly the bad guy. I can’t help but feel deceived when I think about how this story was taught to me in Sunday School. It was as if Samson was merely the target of an evil plot for no reason. Samson apparently killed 1000 men. Yeah right. Samson tells a woman he loved the secret of his strength because he got annoyed. She made it very obvious why she wanted to know. Samson was an idiot. Why did God leave Samson simply because his hair was cut off? This makes no sense.
The Danites decided to take over a land that was prosperous.
How is Moses’ grandson still alive? How old is he?
I get it, Israelite has no king.
Ah, tribalism. So prevalent in the Bible.
The Gibeah story sounds familiar. Where have I heard it before? Oh yeah! Lot! This is the Story of Sodom and Gomorrah! Though the names are different. Raping women is okay, but raping men is outrageous. Lovely, more sexism. The man’s response to his raped and tortured concubine who has collapsed outside his host’s house: “come on, let’s go.” This is not okay. Throwing anybody to rapists to be raped and tortured is not okay. Raping and torturing is not okay. Throwing raped and tortured people over donkeys so that you can travel rather than seek help is not okay. This is absolutely appalling and unjustifiable. Who would cut up a woman and send the pieces around to the Israelites? Is this man crazy? Wtf? The Israelites fight among themselves over the concubines rape. They ask God who should fight the Bnjamites first. Why would they fight tribe by tribe against the Benjamites? Why not fight as a group? The Israelites destroyed all the Benjamite towns and killed all their animals. The Benjamites were cut off from Israel. The people at Jabesh Gileah weren’t at Mizpah, so all but the female virgins were murdered. The Benjamites were accepted back into the community and were given the virgins. The Benjamites were instructed to kidnap women from Shiloh so that they could have wives. These were the virgins taken from Jabesh Gilead.
Again, this is pretty much the worst part of the Bible I have read so far (in this project that is). The Gibeah story is sickening, and nobody was in the right. Ever. Everybody acted terribly. Yes, the Bible reiterates the fact that “Israel had no king, the Israelites did as they pleased,” but where was God? Aren’t they his people? Aren’t they supposed to follow his law? Why did they need a king?
There are many different versions of the Bible out there. Right now I’m using the NIV for my project. This is pretty much because I already had a copy. But I know different people have different preferences. So, if you were going to use the Bible for some project or another, which version would you use and why?
Judges isn’t very long, but I found a lot worth discussing, so I’ve broken it into two parts.
At the beginning, the men of Judah killed a king. They cut off his thumbs and big toes, so I assume he died of infection. That is a terrible way to die. Of course, Judges continues where Joshua left off, so their is a lot of death and killing. It’s a fairly good story, but I can’t help but think that it’s written from the bad guy’s perspective.
It talks about the battles that the Isrealites fought while taking their own land tribe by tribe. Apparently, God could help the Israelites defeat the people in the hills, but he couldn’t help them defeat the people of the plains because…their chariots were fitted with iron. I don’t know why that matters, but apparently it does.
After it is finished talking about the battles, it mentions that the Canaanites weren’t completely driven out of the land. God promised Moses that he would drive out the Canaanites so that the Israelites could live in their land, but Judges says that the Canaanites weren’t driven out of the land completely. First God says that he’ll drive them out, then it’s said that the Israelites weren’t able to drive them out. Why are the Israelites to blame when God said that he’d do it? In judges, God says that he said he will not drive the Canaanites out. When did he say this? It looks to me as though he’s lying. This is another contradiction in the Bible.
Also, we have another angel sighting. I’m still wondering how they know that these are angels. Is it just because they say they are? It seems to just be assumed.
Earlier, with Moses and Joshua, God tried to ensure that the people would not serve other gods, and the Israelites set up their own protections to ensure the continued worship of Yahweh, but it still only took one generation for people to begin worshiping other gods? They began worshiping Baal and others according to Judges. If Yahweh is so powerful, shouldn’t he have been able to prevent this? Or is Baal more powerful? God’s response was to help the Israelites’ enemies defeat, kill, and enslave them. But that’s okay because he sent judges to save them (that is, to convince them to go back to worshiping Yahweh alone). So far, Judges is a curious book. It seems to be off in its own little world as far as the Old Testament is concerned. It doesn’t seem to follow the other stories very well.
Because he feels betrayed, God says that he will no longer drive the other nations out of the Promised Land, but he didn’t seem to be doing that anyway. After all, it’s been a whole generation since the Israelites apparently took the land.
Apparently marrying non-Israelite women and worshiping gods other than Yahweh is evil to Yahweh. I don’t see how this counts as evil, but I’m also skeptical of the very existence of so-called evil. It seems as though they’ve done other evil, but it is unclear what this evil is.
The people keep calling to Yahweh for help, so clearly they still see Yahweh as the most powerful god. So basically God is throwing a hissy fit because he isn’t the only god they’re worshiping. Keep in mind this was a time when most people believed that there were many gods and it was perfectly acceptable to worship different gods for different tasks. And, if Yahweh is so mad at the Israelites, why does he keep sending them help when they ask? Why not just give up on them? After all, he seems to find something wrong with them fairly regularly, and they clearly frustrate him. If they are such a lost cause, why bother?
God was now able to help the Israelites defeat the Canaanites despite their chariots fitted with iron. Why can he now help them, but couldn’t before?
If a spike is driven into someone’s temple, and it goes into the ground, you don’t really need to add that they died. That bit’s kind of obvious. But the Bible does this a lot. It would be far easier to read without the unnecessary bits and repetitions.
Apparently the stars fought Sisera. It doesn’t say how, or why, but they did. The song sang by Deborah kind of sounds like she believed that the gods were battling against each other, and her God won. And the human battle was a mere representation of the battle fought by the gods.
I have now finished Joshua. Where I left off, he was preparing to defeat yet another tribe after making amends for a theft.
After the battle, Joshua impaled the body of the king and left it standing all day. I wonder how much blood Joshua got on himself to do this. It doesn’t say anything about him being unclean, but how do you impale a body without getting blood on you?
The Israelites then moved on to conquer more land. But first they were confronted by a group that wanted to make a pact with them. They promised not to kill the people and made them servants instead. The group was then attacked by 5 other kingdoms, so they asked the Israelites to save them. The Israelites went to do so. While they were fighting the armies of the 5 kings, Joshua ordered the sun to stop so that they could win the battle. Apparently God took a command from Joshua, because it worked. The Israelites won the battle and captured the kings. What was the point in putting their feet on the 5 kings necks? Clearly it was meant to make the Israelites feel powerful, but they just defeated 5 armies. The 5 kings were then also killed and impaled, as were the other kings that they later conquered.
So far there has been a lot of murder in Joshua. Is killing everybody really necessary? Apparently God wants to kill everybody. No reason is given. I guess he just likes pointless warfare. Has anybody else noticed that, so far, the only people that the Israelites have killed were once considered God’s people? They’re all familial tribes of the Israelites (descendants of Abraham). Then again, according to the Bible, everybody is a descendant of Abraham. Though later parts of the Bible aren’t written as if this is the case.
At one point, Caleb gave his daughter in marriage to his nephew. So I guess the Bible doesn’t view marriage between first cousins as incest.
When the land was being divided up, the Levites were called the descendants of Aaron, but earlier they were discussed as if they were a separate tribe from Aaron’s. They were already large enough to be a clan, and seemed to be made priests as penance. Aaron and his sons were made priests earlier and separately from the Levites. So what are the Levites relations to Aaron? Later on, the Levites were given land. Earlier in Joshua, it is said that the Levites wouldn’t inherit any land because they got the priesthood, but then they are given land within the land of the other tribes. This seems to be an important contradiction.
God specifically made sure that nobody except Caleb and Joshua would be alive to enter the Promised Land from those that left Egypt, but Joshua makes it sound like everybody hearing his final speech left Egypt and remembers their escape. He also claims that Abraham’s ancestors worshiped gods other than Yahweh. But Abraham was a descendant of Noah, and Noah was saved for being loyal to God. Why would Noah’s descendants worship other gods after what Noah had been through? Surely they would know that it was Yahweh saving Noah that made their existence possible. Then again, by the time Abraham was alive, the Earth was populated with people and they spoke various languages. A stone acts as Joshua’s witness after the Israelites re-agree to all the laws that they had agreed to under Moses. Then Joshua dies.