Serious Debate about Numbers 31…

Taken from blog ‘Does the bible condone the killing of women and children?‘.  

Question: In Numbers chapter 31 verses 17 and 18… was God actually giving orders to murder women and children, the question was posed to me and I’m a Christian, I read over the whole chapter but still couldn’t get a general idea of what was going on, can you help?

Answer (excerpts)

 

“The event described in Numbers 31 is God’s vengeance against the Midianites for their role in the defiling of Israel.  In Numbers 25, we learn that at the suggestion of Balaam, the Israelites were seduced to adultery by the women of Midian.  As a result, God commanded Moses to strike down the Midianites for their treachery (Numbers 25:16-18).  As a side note, the Israelites were judged for their sin by a plague that killed 24,000 men (Numbers 25:9).”

 

“This begs the question, “why such a cruel and bizarre command from Moses?”  This introduces the concept of a holy war.  God commanded that the Midianites be completely destroyed.  When God does that, it’s a divine judicial ruling of judgment.  The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it (Psalm 24:1) including people.  God reserves the right to execute divine judgment whenever and on whomever he chooses…For the sin of Midian at Baal Peor, God judged them and executed that judgment through the hand of Israel.  When the Israelite warriors brought home so many prisoners, Moses was afraid that they would be judged for not fully carrying out the commands of God.” 

 

“Furthermore, it was the Midianite women who were culpable at Baal Peor.  The women who have had sexual relations are killed for their sin, and the young boys are killed presumably to prevent any further procreation.  One can only surmise that the virgins were spared because they didn’t participate in the sin at Baal Peor and because without the young men, they couldn’t perpetuate the race.”

 

This explanation is weird to me – very weird. How do we interpret this piece of writing in Numbers? To me, it sounds like a war more or less (simple answer) – with some God language slapped on it. If only we had an expert in the field of Torah?

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42 thoughts on “Serious Debate about Numbers 31…

  1. My problems with the piece of work quoted:

    (a) “This introduces the concept of a holy war” – there seems to be the language of justification for this event – in which God can sanction whatever He so chooses against whatever nation – no matter how cruel and intolerable the concept. In this instance no one person is spared except for virgins. One could use this line of reasoning for justification for many more intolerable abuses in human history.

    (b) “For the sin of Midian at Baal Peor, God judged them and executed that judgment through the hand of Israel” – This is done through ‘human means’. Why isn’t the question asked to whether this was a ‘human interpretation’ of the event first and foremost? Instead the assumption is God ordered and humans knew about it – thus they wrote about it.

    In actuality the message is passed from God to Moses:

    Numbers 31:1-2: “Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, Take full vengeance for the sons of Israel on the Midianites; afterward you will be gathered to your people.”

    This is all God is credited for saying in Numbers 31:1-24. Everything that happens afterwards is a result of Moses’ leadership – or the sons of Israel’s leadership. How can one not assert that humans were the whole fabric of this invasion? God allowed ‘vengeance’ – but what happened here was at people’s discretion – according to the original dictate in vs. 1-2.

    (c) “Furthermore, it was the Midianite women who were culpable at Baal Peor…and the young boys are killed presumably to prevent any further procreation” – This logic is strange to me. The women are culpable – and they seemed to pay the price – but their sons do also? They were not culpable for the crime whatsoever. Yet no explanation is given – just that they would pro-create (ie: this makes this a genocide). It’s basically the child being responsible for the parent – and maybe this was a common theme of war in this time.

    ***I am still waiting on ‘Ask the Rabbi’ to get back to me on a verdict from a Jewish perspective – Yael you can ring in if you wish?

    ***I would also like to state, for the record, I think this is simply a writing about a war and the spoils. It comes from a human perspective about what happened in this particular war. Now we can agree or disagree about the meaning – but I do not think God can be held liable for the actions of ‘the leaders’. In the same way I don’t hold God accountable for USA’s actions in Iraq – because Bush claims to ‘serve God’.

  2. I’ll just copy and past the post I wrote when last we read this section in the yearly Torah cycle:

    “Does placing the seal of religious approval on a military undertaking change and sanctify the battle or does it compromise the religion and contaminate it with the stain of bloodshed? When is war ‘Adonai’s vengeance and when is it human vengeance to which the name of God has been attached?” (Etz Hayim Commentary p. 943-044) The questions are left unanswered for us to ponder.

    I have a few thoughts of my own to add:

    In Numbers 31:2 God tells Moses to avenge the Israelite people, yet in verse 3 Moses tells the people to ‘wreak Adonai’s vengeance on Midian’. So, who is taking responsibility for this war? It seems perhaps Moses isn’t too thrilled with this little war and wants to make sure God gets the ‘credit’? God tells Moses he’s to avenge, yet Moses tells the people that God will avenge. Can we get our story straight here, guys? How are we supposed to fight nice, righteous holy wars if God won’t take absolute, beyond the shadow of a doubt, responsibility?

    The women and children were killed as well, one reason being that they would lead astray the young, immature Israelites. Really? If you’re following a path from which you can be so easily led astray, to the point that you have to slaughter any real or perceived temptations, perhaps you should take a good hard look at your path? If someone is walking on a path that they know is right for them, that makes them a better person, their community a better community, life a better life, are they really going to drop everything to go off after some pretty young thing? That easily? Really? And is there any value to a path that leads to the destruction of others just so you can remain so holy and pure?

    Part of the loot was set aside for God and for those who didn’t take part in the battle. Was this an attempt at appeasement? We know you didn’t really want us to fight, but here, see, we’re giving all of this to you! Isn’t it great we fought this battle so you could have all these cool things? (Never mind that we took the bulk of the spoils for ourselves….)

    In Numbers 31:47 we’re told the Levites were given people to help them attend to their duties! Wow. Now isn’t that a pleasant picture? Slaves helping us make our connections to God! Isn’t it great to be religious?

    So, let’s look at this story a bit more closely. Did it even take place?

    Numbers 31:49 says that not even ONE Israelite was lost in a battle that annihilated the whole male population of the Midianites. Has such a thing ever happened in the history of the world? One side wiped out completely with not even one casualty on the other?

    If all the male Midianites were killed, why were there so many Midianites in Gideon’s day? (See Judges)

    Numbers 25:1 says it was Moabite women who seduced Israelite men, not Midianite women. Yet Numbers 25:6 says it was a Midianite woman who was brought into the camp. So, what was it? Moabites? Midianites? Are we so sure what we’re even fighting about here? It seems there is some confusion as to who even is the enemy. Maybe the problem was just women in general. Kill them all!!

    There are some interesting tie-ins to previous stories.

    Moses should have died under the decree from Pharaoh to kill all Israelite boys – in this story Moses decrees that all Midianite boys be killed.

    Moses flees from Pharaoh and finds refuge among the Midianites. He even marries a Midianite woman and has two sons with her. His father-in-law, Jethro, gave Moses wise counsel on how to handle all the problems brought to Moses by the people. So, were they all killed as well? Did Moses really decree that his own family be wiped off the face of the earth?

    Do I take this story seriously with it’s disturbing pictures of God and Moses? Do I take it as a legend that got kind of scrambled as it was handed down from generation to generation? Does it matter? Can I learn from it anyway?

    Do I take it as a caution against thinking God shouldn’t be opposed at times, in refusing to consider that human leaders nearing the end of their terms sometimes don’t make the wisest of decisions in their effort to leave a legacy for themselves? Do I take it as a story to teach the wisdom of not engaging in Holy War, that when we embark on such things we lose sight of those with whom we even had issues (can anyone say Afghanistan or Iraq)? Does this story teach me that my fear of others breaking my connection to God can cause me to break it myself, by my rash actions that destroy others also made in God’s image? Does it teach me the foolishness of thinking I can do whatever I want and then offer some of my ill-gotten gains to God thinking this will make everything OK?

    Or do I take from this story that sometimes God does say go kick some ass?

    I’ll leave my questions unanswered as well.

  3. And just for the record in case it is again brought up how this is proof that God takes ‘sin’ so seriously…..

    Not to be taken seriously, written 1/1/08

    Exodus 6:20 “Amram took to wife his father’s sister Jochebed, and she bore him Aaron and Moses;”

    Leviticus 18:12 “Do not uncover the nakedness of your father’s sister, she is your father’s flesh.”

    And of course there was Abraham, “She is my sister, the daughter of my father but not my mother” Leviticus 18:11 “Do not uncover the nakedness of your father’s wife’s daughter…” And his grandson Jacob with Rachel and Leah, Leviticus 18:18 “You shall not take a woman in addition to her sister, to make them rivals….”

    Leviticus 18:24-30 “Do no defile yourselves in any of those ways, for it is by such that the nations that I am casting out before you defiled themselves. Thus the land became defiled; and I called it to account for its iniquity, and the land spewed out its inhabitants.

    But you must keep My laws and My rules, and you must not do any of those abhorrent things, neither the citizen nor the stranger who resides among you; for all those abhorrent things were done by the people who were in the land before you, and the land became defiled. So let not the land spew you out for defiling it, as it spewed out the nation that came before you.

    All who do any of those abhorrent things – such persons shall be cut off from their people. You shall keep My charge not to engage in any of the abhorrent practices that were carried on before you, and you shall not defile yourselves through them: I am Adonai your God.”

    Nothing like being told that if the patriarch Avraham was around he would be cut off from the people, that Jacob crossed the line as well, and that Moses himself was the result of an ‘abhorrent’ union.

    This code in Leviticus is also where the abomination thing with guys is listed. My question: Why would I take that one verse seriously? Obviously God didn’t take this whole code too seriously even though God is the one who is supposed to be talking here!

    End of post

    ‘God’ sounds an awful lot like us in this passage, taking ‘their sins’ so much more seriously than ‘our sins’. Is this really God talking, or just us doing another ‘weapons of mass destruction’ justification?

    What goes around comes around. How many times have we Jews been the victims of holy wars? But, it sounded so good at the time…..

  4. Thanks Yael – I think it is very refreshing to hear a viewpoint from a Jewish perspective of a story in Torah (which I might add contains not a single commandment). I really enjoyed your perspective concerning the Numbers passage – I find it, at the least, a case of dealing honestly with a tough passage.

    I actually wrote this because I saw John T and a few other bantering this idea around on Naked Pastor’s site – and the answers they were giving him to the passage were very weak (in my personal and much studied opinion). I wasn’t going to get into the dialogue over there since I was way late to the conversation – kind of like those people that stayed home from the battle with Midian (lol).

  5. Numbers isn’t the only place where you see this. Just read the book of Joshua some time if you want to be really appalled.

    So I don’t agree with the idea that murdering children was somehow okay back then because it was just the “Old Covenant”, or that it was acceptable because God had a thick skin and didn’t like to be mocked, or whatever. Murdering children is always wrong, always has been, always will be. The ability of people to assign the human failings of pettiness and violence to God says more about people’s ability to justify their own faults than it does about God.

    The Bible is full of things like that. When we are told that Sodom was full of unrighteous people so it had to be destroyed, and yet Lot who offered his daughters up to be raped was righteous enough to be saved–well, it is clear that the Bible has some rather flawed ideas of righteousness contained within its pages. That doesn’t mean that there are not wonderful, sublime, things about the Bible as well. The same Bible that claims that God ordered genocide also says in Exodus that people shall be kind to strangers because they themselves were strangers in Egypt. Is this a contradiction? Sure it is. To paraphras Walt Whitman said, if it contradicts itself, well then, it contradicts itself. It was a complex body of work, after all, the result of centuries of redaction by different authors and redactors and it reflects evolving traditions and ideas about God.

    The best way you take the Bible seriously is by first of all not taking it to be the literal word of God. If you accept that the Bible is flawed, that it reflects the human flaws of its authors, you can appreciate it for where it went wrong as well as for where it went right, and you can put it in a more serious, appreciative light, then if you idolize it into a non-existent perfection.

  6. you’d have a problem with this text if you thought the bible was the literal word of God. I don’t hold that view… at best the bible is inspired. we have no historical evidence that this ever happened! even the book of Joshua is EXTREMELY suspect (as MS brought up). one theory out there is that this book was written in the Babylonian Exile period and here the writer was inventing a time where the Israelites were a mighty nation that had God’s favor. they don’t know because they sinned and that’s why they’re in exile.

    it’s a human response to idolize your past. we do that with the American 1950s and the pre-9-11-01 world. “Remember when the terrorist WEREN’T out to get us? those were the days! you could walk through an airport with all your clothes on and no fear of an anal probe!” This puts a twist on SVS’ comment “In the same way I don’t hold God accountable for USA’s actions in Iraq – because Bush claims to ‘serve God’.” but it’s in the same vein.

    human nature… no God inspiration to be found in my opinion.

    “The best way you take the Bible seriously is by first of all not taking it to be the literal word of God.” -M.S.
    hell yeah!

  7. Luke,
    In reading Jewish writings through the ages, it become quite clear that Jews dont’ take Torah literally but instead read it as one would poetry. As Rabbi Naftali Zvi Yehudah Berlin (the Netziv) said in Ha’amek Davar, Introduction Genesis:

    It is obvious that one who is aware of the background of the allusions and figurative expressions of poetry can better appreciate its character than the man who has only an external appreciation of the immediate literal meaning of the words, which may lead him to misunderstanding the poet’s intention.

    BTW, the Netziv lived in 1800’s….

  8. yeah Yael! the more i read Jewish scholarship the more i realize that taking the bible literally is largely a Christian phenomina. I guess i should have written that in the first place… but thanks for the reminder!

    Rabbi Jack, who taught me in my jewish interpretations class, often claimed the the numbers in any given biblical story are “suggestion and not to be taken litereally.” He said that with most of the stories in the bible in accordance with Netziv.

    RAWK

  9. “It is obvious that one who is aware of the background of the allusions and figurative expressions of poetry can better appreciate its character than the man who has only an external appreciation of the immediate literal meaning of the words, which may lead him to misunderstanding the poet’s intention.” (the Netziv as quoted by yael)

    That’s a great quote.

    As I was reading the discussion blog and the commentary I was reminded of a concept that exists in the storytelling tradition of the First Nations people of North America. First Nations people traditionally told stories, legends, to explain life, theology, and to recount the origin of a ceremony. Also just for entertainment, I mean who doesn’t appreciate a good rolling head story, come on. 🙂

    The stories were not be taken literally because that would just lead to confusion. Also a storyteller was not allowed to change the story, embellishing and being dramatic was acceptable, but you didn’t have the right to change to the story. The story was not yours to change as it belonged to the people. Also not to be told during the summer months. Summer was the time to work and gather in preparation for winter. Stories were for winter.

    I think the First Nations tradition of storytelling fits in well with the stories contained in the Bible and The Netziv quote states it very nicely.

    However, I can see how this could lead to many questions from a more conservative mindset. Such as, if the stories are figurative or symbolic in nature then what is factual or true?

    The conservative may also just say that you (we) are all wrong and the stories are literal and innerrant, thus you (we) are all compromisers of the word and unsaved. Gotta love those guys and gals, reminds me of a good Nanabush story I once heard.

  10. We clearly see an image of God’s wrath in Numbers 31, as in 1 Samuel 15 and elsewhere in the OT. As Christians, we see that, as we deserve the same fate as those who were slaughtered, Christ took that punishment for us. That is the heart of the gospel.

    God ordering the destruction of a creation that had dusgusted Him is not the same as us doing it. You can’t judge Him as unrighteous without putting yourself in His place, which would reveal some degree of arrogance on our part. In light of the new covenant, Christians should not see OT judgments as toxic, unless, again, something’s wrong in our thinking.

    I agree that Literalism is dangerous. Some folks might see Numbers 31 as an excuse for war or genocide. Clearly, the Bible should be read in light of its entire message, as should the Qur’an or any other holy book. When reading a passage like Numbers 31, we also need to ask ourselves, What lesson is there here? The answer is simple, sin is severe. It’s an offense to God, and sometimes, when a nation rots from within, He removes His hand of protection.

  11. As Christians, we see that, as we deserve the same fate as those who were slaughtered, Christ took that punishment for us. That is the heart of the gospel.

    Speak for yourself. Not all Christians have such a dark, unpleasant, nasty, Calvinistic view of God, and certainly not all Christians accept the doctrine of substitionary atonement.

    You think it is okay to murder children if God tells you too it. I disagree.

  12. “The answer is simple, sin is severe. It’s an offense to God, and sometimes, when a nation rots from within, He removes His hand of protection.” – Jim J.

    this is ridiculus. First if the god of the bible judges the just with the unjust within a nation for one’s offence, then that god has a warped sense of justice and is not merciful. the god of the bible allows evil to happen just so later he can judge the wrong doers. he doesn’t care for those who suffered at the hands of evil doers, he just cares about his revenge afterward. what a bloody and sick version of god.

    I am reminded of the holocaust at the statement Jim J made. So who sinned so heinously that 6 millions Jews were murdered? And why wasn’t the god of the bible’s revenge against the Nazis worse? The Nazis have committed the worse atrocities in the whole of my history and they seemed to get away with a slap on the wrist compared to what happened to those they tortured? there is no justice, and there is no god like the bible mention.

    if there is a G-d, then G-d is not made with human minds or described in any book. G-d is as G-d is.

  13. “Such as, if the stories are figurative or symbolic in nature then what is factual or true? ” -thejust1

    all stories are figurative and symbolic, even the super factual ones. interpretation causes us to view things and pick up on things in certain ways. for example, i don’t think that a story has to be “factual” to be true. that’s the trap the literalists can’t get around… they are building a brick wall for their faith and they can’t see that that leaves them with a SUPER tiny in world and a very LARGE out-world. if Genesis isn’t factually true, says the brick-wall literalist, then that means Jesus isn’t true and that would RUIN the whole thing!

    how about this… for Christians anyway, Yael let me know if this applies to the Jewish faith too… our Christian faith is a trampoline. these stories are the springs. none of the springs are God, they’re just stories. we meet God only when we’re in the air! It’s joy that invites others onto the trampoline that makes faith so fun! it’s the wrestling that’s important. literalists don’t see that as it’s not structed nor “hard and fast facts”. but what they don’t realize is that stories can be true and not have a shred a fact in them (your example of First Nations wisdom stories).

    would it shatter your faith to learn that Noah, Abraham or Joseph might never have existed? Or that the Exodus narrative didn’t happen EXACTLY how the bible claims it does? doesn’t bother me a bit because true and fact are not co-dependent.

    http://toothface.blogspot.com/2008/08/unidactyl-creates-marshmallow.html

    http://toothface.blogspot.com/2008/03/but-its-always-been-done-that-way.html

  14. Mystical,
    Note I said “In light of the new covenant”. If I recall correctly, you are a retired pastor with extensive Bible knowledge. If not substitutionary atonement, what then does Christ mean to you?

    You think it is okay to murder children if God tells you too it.

    Where did I say that?

    Wilfred,
    What did we learn from the holocaust? Stalin and Mao went on to murder tens of millions more. But let’s not point the finger to other countries like Russia, China, Rwanda, Cambodia, Sudan, and other countries who have blood on their hands since the Holocaust. What of our 42 million aborted babies? What did we learn?

    So who sinned so heinously that 6 millions Jews were murdered?
    The Germans, obviously. Don’t forget, God does not sin.

  15. “So who sinned so heinously that 6 millions Jews were murdered?
    The Germans, obviously. Don’t forget, God does not sin.” Jim J

    So where is the punishment for the Germans from this god who is supposedly just and who judges sins?

    The other atrocities you speak of, ” Stalin and Mao…Russia, China, Rwanda, Cambodia, Sudan ” Where is the justice and judgement for these crimes from this god?

    There is none because that god doesn’t exist. G-d is either not omnipotent or not caring. Or both to let crimes like the ones you mention go unpunished.

    I am saying I know, but I don’t profess to say G-d is just because obviousy G-d is not just; because a just G-d would have done something about all of those and many other atrocities.

    What is G-d? G-d is as G-d is.

  16. Perhaps the key question here would be why the verse is defended as okay in the first place? If we read this in any other context, we’d find the situation wrong. The idea that when God commands such an action is right, and then when we command such an action it’s wrong makes me question how we judge an action to be right or wrong in the first place. Is it based on the action itself, or on how performs/orders said action?

    I generally find that the defense is because God did it, and not because we say that slaughtering people in that fashion is wrong. If God is allowed to do whatever He wants, then on what basis do we determine whether or not God is good?

    Here’s the part that that confuses me, and I hope Yael can chime in here. The idea of the Torah in Christianity works in such a way as to point to the need for a Savior. You are given the law to show how far one has fallen, and so forth. Yet in the Tanakh, didn’t the law only apply to the Jews? And Gentiles had the (I’m going to spell this wrong) the Noahide laws?

    So what is God using to judge the non-Israelites?

  17. Wilfred,

    **So where is the punishment for the Germans from this god who is supposedly just and who judges sins?

    The other atrocities you speak of, ” Stalin and Mao…Russia, China, Rwanda, Cambodia, Sudan ” Where is the justice and judgement for these crimes from this god? **

    I think the standard answer to this is that the Germans are facing an eternal punishment. The complication I find with that answer is that if the GErmans sincerely repented, then they don’t. If a German managed to evade the courts of this world, and repented, then s/he’d face no consequences in any situation.

    We can say that Jesus took the punishment for that German, but then that’s not justice, that’s just vengence. We end up with an innocent man punished in the place of the guilty.

  18. Two other questions I’m wondering, just in general:

    What methods are used to determine when a war is and is not a holy war?

    Is there a line drawn for the fate we deserve? If we deserve the same fate as those who were slaughtered, what if the war was just that all the women were raped, no discrimination to the ages? Is that a fate we would deserve? What if they were all killed through dismemberment? Would we also deserve that fate?

    And I’m not just speaking of the adults, but all the male children, and the non-virgin women killed.

  19. “…that the Germans are facing an eternal punishment” – OneSmallStep

    I understand this answer works for christians or people of faith. But I find that it is a cheap cop out for justice. Here is why?

    The atrocities happen here on earth and then the god of the bible declares his justice in the afterlife. Then that god has no sense of justice or compassion for living human beings, just the dead ones.

    it’s the living, not the dead that need a god.

  20. ” The complication I find with that answer is that if the GErmans sincerely repented, then they don’t. If a German managed to evade the courts of this world, and repented, then s/he’d face no consequences in any situation” OneSmallStep

    I recently read “the Sunflower” by Simon Weisenthal, great book and the he asks a question about forgiveness for a Nazi soldier. Very enlightening on this subject.

  21. I think the standard answer to this is that the Germans are facing an eternal punishment. (OSS)

    Yes, I agree. That is the standard answer and maybe this answer offers some sense of justice to the wronged party and I would have whole-heartedly promoted such a concept a couple of years ago, but I think through things these days.

    The problem with the standard answer leads me to a question. Why does the sinful party, Nazis in this case, not have to answer for their sins in this world when the Jews had to suffer in this world? Perhaps, the Nazis payday is coming.

    Don’t get me wrong OSS, I know that you are not promoting the simplistic standard answer. I am just using your comment as a springboard for mine.

  22. Why does the sinful party, Nazis in this case, not have to answer for their sins in this world when the Jews had to suffer in this world?

    The answer that Rabbi Harold Kushner provides is what makes the most sense to me, namely that God is not omnipotent. Take divine omnipotence out of the equation and the question disappears, and the “problem” of theodicy ceases to be a problem.

  23. “you’d have a problem with this text if you thought the bible was the literal word of God. I don’t hold that view… at best the bible is inspired. we have no historical evidence that this ever happened!” (Luke)

    I agree. I hold to the bible being inspired and an inspiration – and a way of living – but I do not think it has to be literal all the time. However, this case is something that is described as a literal event – in my opinion (sad to say). At least, from my reading of the story it reads no different than a one-sided story about war being told.

    Interesting point about the historicity – it is true there is no archaelogical evidence (I doubt many are searching to prove this). Yet this is the major proof text used by people trying to demean the texts (and God) concerning God’s commands. In the same vein, most people that rap about the Numbers account do not hold to the historicity of the exodus event either. The question is – did anything in Torah actually happen then? I tend to think so but one can not have it both ways either. If you hold the exodus event is true – then the numbers event may also be true…if not…then why should this bother anyone?

    “As Christians, we see that, as we deserve the same fate as those who were slaughtered, Christ took that punishment for us. That is the heart of the gospel.” (Jim)

    I do not see this story in the gospel at all. If we deserve that same fate – what do we say when it actually happens on earth to a nation of people? They deserved it? It’s like saying the people in the holocaust ‘got what they deserved’ (being wretched humans and all).

    For me, the gospel is all about being the change that you want to see in life. Beyond that – there is only so much we can be responsible for. If I don’t like my situation in life – I can take responsibility for it’s change (and this is good for any situation).

    If they are violent, violent means will not end the conflict. Only the idea of peace and mercy will be useful as ways of changing our attitudes and those around us. If someone is cheating on his wife – what will change that? More cheating from his buddies? No. He needs to see a life that is stable and why a marriage has helped to cause this. That is the gospel (good news) in a nutshell.

    “Perhaps the key question here would be why the verse is defended as okay in the first place?” (OSS)

    I have given my answer at the top – I think this was simply a war told from a one-sided perspective. Fact is God speaks to Moses (in one verse – Num 31:2) – and Moses re-ittirates this to the people (the leaders). To me, this is clearly a human story told in human terms. Maybe war was the inevitable with the Midianiates (I don’t actually know) – but war is what happened under Moses’ observance. To me, the mistake lies with Moses and the other leaders – and not God.

    “it’s the living, not the dead that need a god.” (Wolf)

    I agree 100%. The point of the teachings is for the ‘here and now’ looking forward to a hope of ‘there and then’. But what can we actually do that means anything? Only thing we can do is live this here and now.

    “Nazis in this case, not have to answer for their sins in this world when the Jews had to suffer in this world?” (Just1)

    Or just maybe, we are faced with a dilemma as seen in this Numbers passage…concerning ‘vengeance’ for the wrongs committed against a people group. Humanity as a whole could of decided to extract a justice like is seen in this same story – for the absolute wrongs we know happened in Germany in WW2. But that is not what happened…we thought it through a little more – and Germany had suffered also for it’s terrible plans (in ruins and many families dead or broken). But vengeance is put into human hands sometimes.

  24. ” Yet this is the major proof text used by people trying to demean the texts (and God) concerning God’s commands.” SVS

    well, here’s the deal. archeologists set out to Palestine/Judea to seek historical proof that the bible actually happened! these were the first modernists in the late 1800s early 1900s. when the found evidence to the contrary they were completely baffled. so they reported what they found. this caused a MASSIVE stir in the 1920s-30s and launched fundamental evangelical christiainity as we know it now. all because christianity was “under attack by these atheist scientists.”

    the problem being that these were “believers” in search of the facts to PROVE the bible. it didn’t work. which leads to your question “The question is – did anything in Torah actually happen then?” -SVS

    my reverse question is, if it didn’t does that negate everything? is your version of truth codependent on fact? not just yours, but the plural form of yours (meaning, don’t take this personal). if we were First Nations people telling stories about Coyote being a trickster and is foiled by his better meaning brother Wolf. would we be debating where and exactly when these happened? no. I’d say Christianity is the only religion that deals with this problem of “fact and truth” being codependent.

    when asking my hindu friend whether or not he believes that his god has a elephant for a head or take any of these stories literally, he said, “NO! Of course not! They are meant to convey truths! Not facts.”

  25. Luke,
    my reverse question is, if it didn’t does that negate everything? is your version of truth codependent on fact?

    Excellent question. I’ve said many times Torah fascinates me. Whether any of it is true or not doesn’t change how I live my life one bit. Torah is our foundational text. From it we can learn much wisdom, both from good and bad examples. What tells me how to live my life as a Jew is Talmud, what tells Christians how to live their lives is the NT. So….I’ve never figured out why anyone gets all tied in knots about Torah. It speaks in 70 voices. Listen to the ones you can hear, stop worrying about the ones others hear but you don’t; if Torah doesn’t speak to you at all then go find inspiration elseshere and get on with life. JMO of course. I’m right there with your Hindu friend.

    OSS,
    The idea of the Torah in Christianity works in such a way as to point to the need for a Savior. You are given the law to show how far one has fallen, and so forth. Yet in the Tanakh, didn’t the law only apply to the Jews? And Gentiles had the (I’m going to spell this wrong) the Noahide laws?

    Yes, the law was only given to Jews and those who choose to reside within the Jewish community. (Numbers 15:14-16 explains the ‘one law’ situation.) I’ve brought this point up several times to those who seem so happy to be ‘free from the law’ which never bound them to begin with!

    I, personally, don’t buy the Noachide law teachings. I’m just not seeing from a close reading of Torah that non-Jews are required to have anything to do with Torah and its teachings unless they have joined themselves to us, in which case they are to follow the same rules we follow and not their own.

    You saw no shape, only a voice, don’t make an image in the form of a man or a woman, beast, birds, creeping things, fish, sun, moon, stars, heavenly host (Deut 4:15-16).

    These Adonai your God allotted to other peoples everywhere under heaven, but you Adonai took and brought out of Egypt, that iron blast furnace, to be God’s very own people, as is now the case. (Deut 4:19)

    Throughout Tanakh, the nations are never taken to task for idolatry, only for how they treat people. From what I read, I see that God has given to everyone the means with which to connect to God and that those means are perfectly valid for the people to whom they were given and perhaps also to those who attach themselves to said people.

    So what is God using to judge the non-Israelites?

    Does God actually judge? That there is a final judgment and an afterlife are teachings from Oral Torah, not Written, and were eventually carried over into Christianity. Are these teachings any more valid than the stories in Torah? Who knows?

  26. “if we were First Nations people telling stories about Coyote being a trickster and is foiled by his better meaning brother Wolf. would we be debating where and exactly when these happened? no. I’d say Christianity is the only religion that deals with this problem of “fact and truth” being codependent.” (Luke)

    (1) Christianity is one of the religions concerned with ‘fact and truth’ being co-dependant. I would also throw Judaism, Islam, and Mormonism into the the frey. It’s not the we are just dealing with stories (which they are) but with characters – who by all estimation seem to be described in some detail.

    (2) First Nations faith is a little different. They do not think these stories are literal – but myth…unbelievably I have had one person tell me they were literal (that’s just strange). We are not dealing with characters – except the odd one like Nanabush – who are animals that speak and what have you. Plus – they have always been known to be stories.

    For me, the texts of the bible do read like some sort of pseudo-history being told – and they do not sound like other faith stories (for the most part – I will concede the early part of Genesis/creation is mythical). So, I tend to believe the exodus did happen and that many other things described also happened.

    I am partly basing this on trust of the writer’s works – but also some archaeology has been found (it’s not like nothing exists for that time period). I have no problem with seeing the stories as histoical (in some sense) – even when this Numbers story comes up…it’s a war. Name one war we are not disgusted with when learning the gory details? This is another in a line of many.

    I guess I don’t see the actual problem with seeing some historicity in the texts and still being able to see them as stories to learn from. I figure if none of what happened in Torah actually happened – it likely would not have been written (or remembered) for such a long time. These stories were passed down prior to being written (in all likelihood).

    Back to the First Nations myths…this time the turtle island one. The turtle island myth explains creation and how First Nations people ended up in North America. We ascended on the back of a turtle (the land) and were given this land to live on. That’s obviously not how it happened – but nonetheless it is relating a fact. First Nations people have lived in North America from time immemorial – and have always taken care of this land. The myth relates something that is actually true. It was orally passed down and remembered – and survived for the writing. There is historicity within some of the stories.

    Historicity is not a bad thing. It helps the adherents attach themselves to the history and be proud of what is being said. I feel this way about the Exodus. If it is not true – then I have no reason to admire someone like Moses, the law, or its God….none of its true anyways – I am attached to nothing. The stories would still be wonderful – granted – but they would still be nothing the adherent could really dig into.

    I dig the turtle island story – it makes sense to me and explains the history of First Nations people and the connection to the land. There is some historicity within it’s teachings that have always been taught (and are still taught) in First Nations communities. For me, Torah must also be seen in the same way or it lacks a connection to the listener.

  27. So…just curious. If someone were to give you conclusive proof that the Exodus never took place but that we Jews instead just descended from a group of breakaway Canaanite slaves, that would be a deal breaker for you?

  28. yaelbatsarah: If you’re following a path from which you can be so easily led astray, to the point that you have to slaughter any real or perceived temptations, perhaps you should take a good hard look at your path?

    Can I just say what a GREAT line that is?

    SocietyVs: If you hold the exodus event is true – then the numbers event may also be true…if not…then why should this bother anyone?

    As someone who believes neither is true as recounted in the Tanakh (there may be a kernel of truth to them—a few slaves may have escaped Egypt. A few people from the Midianite nation may have been involved in a battle with other Canaanites) I will tell you why this bothers me.

    Let’s start with the simple premise—the events either happened exactly as recorded in the Tanakh—or they didn’t. Perhaps it was a little less, perhaps a lot less, perhaps not at all. We have a huge spectrum from precisely as recorded all the way down to complete myth, and countless possibilities in-between.

    If it didn’t happen as recorded—we need to come up with some method in how to make the determination as to which items did happen, which did not, which most likely did not, which most likely did, and so on.

    Using the Exodus example, the claim of all the first-born children dying, would fall into the “most likely not” category, based upon archeological recordings in the relative time frames the Exodus would have to occur. 2 million people staying at Kadesh-Barnea for 40 years? most likely not. 2 Million people wandering the wilderness for 40 years? Most likely not. Some skirmishes amongst Canaanite people? Most likely occurred.

    For a person who is a strict literalist, the stories of Exodus and Numbers bother me, because I would like to know how they handle the contradictory archeological evidence. (Although, as you point out, there really isn’t any evidence one way or another regarding Numbers 31.) For a person who is not a strict literalist, I wonder what method they use to determine what did or did not happen. If archeology trumps the Tanakh’s recording of Exodus, would Roman records trump Luke’s claim of Jesus being born during Augustus’ census of Judea?

    I am often bothered by the lack of consistency in that regard.

    But now let’s take it a step further—assume the story of Numbers 31 is not literally recorded. It is either totally or partially a myth. For a person who claims this story, as compared to all the other stories in history, all the other myths, all the other legends, of all the other nationalities—that this story is Inspired by a God and those others are not—I question what that God is trying to say.

    Especially in light of morality. Frankly, as an analogy or myth, this story is far, far worse. Of all the stories a God could use to make a point, this one includes genocide, the killing of babies, the killing of mothers, manhandling of females (how do you think they determined virginity?), rape, slavery, and a god who is more concerned about getting his share of the booty than the horrendous loss of life. Vs. 25-30.

    Honestly, SocietyVs, if I wanted to make the most horrendous caricature of a god I could, I don’t think I could come up with a worse story. If a skeptic accused a god of being like this, absent Numbers 31, the skeptic would be ridiculed by the theist for making stuff up because they “hate god.”

    Instead, the theist who holds the Tanakh as inspired is left attempting to justify such actions.

    This story, if thoughtfully considered, should give the theistic moral absolutionist headaches at night. As OneSmallStep pointed out, such multiple actions taken by any human we would decry as immoral, immoral, immoral. But all of a sudden they are in an “inspired” book and claim the God who is solely moral, and establishes morality did them, and the person has to say, “Er…wait a minute….I guess in this instance it is O.K. to genocide, infanticide, rape, and enslave.”

    Huh?

    There are a few other items within this story extremely relevant to today.

    Notice God told Moses, and then Moses told the people. Think about this for a second. If Moses wrote numbers—he is the sole source for claiming what God told him to do! Notice the difference between these two statements:

    1) Moses says, “Kill a baby.”
    2) Moses says, “God says to kill a baby.”

    As I pointed out, we would hold the first statement as immoral. A person holding to an inspired Numbers 31 with a solely moral God would say the second statement is moral! Think of the possibilities of abuse by learning all I have to add is “God says to….” to any statement, and no matter how horrendous the action following it is—according to Numbers 31 it is conceivable that action is moral because a moral God ordered it!

    1) “Homosexual marriage is wrong.”
    2) “God says homosexual marriage is wrong.”

    1) “Kill a doctor who commits abortions.”
    2) “God says kill a doctor who commits abortions.”

    1) “Dancing is wrong.”
    2) “God says dancing is wrong.”

    1) “Alcohol is wrong.”
    2) “God says alcohol is wrong.”

    Think of the 1000’s of items in history which have been prefaced with “God says…” by numerous religions, and we end up with child sacrifice, scarring, torture, slavery, rape, murder…the list goes on and on. (And on the flip side, we also have charity, grace, mercy, etc. What a person thinks “god says” says a lot more about the person than any god.)

    Another interesting item to consider. For a moment, SocietyVs, place yourself in the sandals of one of the captains in vs. 14. You’ve just been through a huge battle, you have done (what you think) is a good job of capturing spoil, goods and people for your leader. And Moses comes along, ordering you to chop the head off a baby boy. Vs. 17.

    It isn’t a God speaking to you. You aren’t talking to a mighty wind, or a still small voice. It is a human (Moses) telling you to stick your sword into the belly of a 4-year-old boy. I am certain you, Captain SocietyVs of the Hebrews, would say, “Wait a Minute! Moses—you must be out of your gourd to think I would do such a thing!”

    Yet what we, as the audience, know is this—You are being immoral by not killing that baby! You are doing the wrong thing by refusing!

    How could we ever come up with a way to determine what is moral within this system? Captain SocietyVs, you have no way of saying, “Moses, can I consult with God on this one?” Nope. You can’t go to the Heavenly Hall of Justice and look up the Moral Code On Killing Baby Boys to discover what you are supposed to do.

    You have a human, Moses, telling you what the human, Moses, is claiming God told you to do. And you are to determine morality out of that??

    Of course, Christians will tell me the New Testament’s new covenant did away with the atrocities of YHWH of the Tanakh. But how do they know that? Because of the New Testament writings?

    Great. *rolleyes* I have one human (New Testament writer) telling me that what another human (Tanakh writer) says about God is not correct, or has changed, and I have to take the new human’s word over the former human’s word about what this God finds is moral or not. Need I add subsequent humans have told me the New Testament writers didn’t quite get it correct, either, and as wrong as the Tanakh was about the New Testament God, the New Testament God was equally wrong?

    What do we have? Humans all telling me what God does/does not/may/may not/could/could not find is moral. And rather than some uniformity on the issue, we have Numbers 31 resulting in humans justifying the most horrendous acts imaginable, as somehow being moral! We have the full and complete range of saying “Morality [depending on the person] according to god [depending on the god] can be anything from giving freely to murdering baby boys and rape. As well as anything in-between.”

    Now, if people want to take these stories as ancient people trying to justify their own immoral actions by blaming a god—I am not bothered by it at all. But if they want to somehow say Numbers 31 is a statement of any sort of moral (as compared to immoral) action—I quietly gather my children and move across the room.

    Who knows what that person might think their God is whispering in their ear?

  29. “Honestly, SocietyVs, if I wanted to make the most horrendous caricature of a god I could, I don’t think I could come up with a worse story. If a skeptic accused a god of being like this, absent Numbers 31, the skeptic would be ridiculed by the theist for making stuff up because they “hate god.” -DagoodS

    hell yeah! i completely agree with this statement and most of what DagoodS has to say here.

    “Jews instead just descended from a group of breakaway Canaanite slaves, that would be a deal breaker for you?” Yael

    this pretty much sums up my view here. Exodus could have happened in much smaller numbers but with no actual Moses. what mostly could have happened, what we have historical evidence for is that the Israelites never LEFT! They were always in the land. well, who is YHWH then? Ever considered where one of the the hebrew word sfor God, EL,came from? EL is the unknowable all powerful god at the top of the Cananite religon. His son Ba’al and his wife “esheroth” you might have heard of as much of the TaNaK is dedicated to wiping out the followers of these two gods. This theory is called the “Intra-Cananite revolution.” I think it has some merit but i don’t think it’s EITHER this view OR the view presented in Exodus/Joshua. I think it’s a BOTH/AND deal as we have multiple traditions running through the bible.

    Just some gas to throw on the fire 😀

  30. “So…just curious. If someone were to give you conclusive proof that the Exodus never took place but that we Jews instead just descended from a group of breakaway Canaanite slaves, that would be a deal breaker for you?” (Yael)

    If there was proof it did not happen – then yes – i would have to relate to all this is a mythical story and we need not worry about a single piece of it. If someone wants to use it for direction – by all means go ahead – I would make sure they knew it was not connected historically to anything that really happened. Kind of like the Mormons stories of the Lamanites and Nephites in America (which is why I will never convert to Mormonism – but I can respect people of the faith – they are genuinely nice).

    To me, as I related earlier, each myth has aspects of historical integrity to them. I am aware of this from my own faith, studies of Islam, First Nations traditions, etc. Every religion I can think of has aspects of historicity to them. Something, somewhere happened with an indidvual(s) in some encounter with an entity as recounted by some actual person.

    It’s no different than me talking about my personal experiences with God. I can relate some interesting stories that people would say either happened or did not happen – and not everything would be absolutely accurate (dates, places, numbers, etc). Yet it would be a story of an actual person’s experience with an entity and faith – and what that in turn meant. I am real, the places existed, and the stories are related as actual events – there are aspects of historicity involved.

    But everyone, in the Tanakh, and further – seem to relate the stories and people as real (unless there is some huge mythical aspect to the faith I am unaware of that is passed from generation to generation and we today are missing). I could be wrong – maybe there is nothing historical in the accounts of Torah – but if so – then I stand to be enlightened.

    My big problem is simple – if it is not factual then why should anything after Torah – as nice as the intentions were – be counted on? Prophets, Kings, Judges, Wisdom lit, etc – are all based on teachings/myth and not anything remotely ‘real’. With all proofs conclusively pointing away from the reality of Torah – then Torah itself ceases to exist the way it does today. There was no God handing down teachings (but merely men), no Exodus – thus no reasons for the festivals, and no reason for Israel to truly care about Palestine or some temple (which instructions apparently came from a God that does not exist). After saying all that – it’s a lonely place to be.

    No one seeking for God would search where a sticker ‘Ichabod’ could be placed. The stories would not be outright lies (or maybe they would be) – but they would not be factual. Why would anyone remain with a myth with no connection to reality? It’s like an adopted child finding out his lifelong search for his parents was in vain – he was cloned – there is no mommy and daddy at the end of the mysterious rainbow – some new technology made his life possible. We were our own parents all along.

    If this is all true – many things change – and what makes Torah credible at all? The strength of it’s teachings…they are teachings of men…I am a man also…what makes these writers any wiser than my own search?

  31. What do we have? Humans all telling me what God does/does not/may/may not/could/could not find is moral

    If you have a problem with that, then religion is definitely not for you.

    For me, what is so fascinating about religion is the process of discovery, of dialogue, of the give and take between communities of faith among themselves and with their traditions. Two sets of people seem to be particularly bothered over the idea of a religion that can’t hand over morality to you on a silver platter: fundamentalist believers who are convinced of the truth in their silver platter, and non-believers who see no silver platter and who believe this matters.

    Well, there is no silver platter, and for some of us, that just doesn’t matter. For me, religion is about the myth, the metaphor, the community, the dialogue, the discovery. Yes, religions disagree with one another over morality. Religions traditions are full of contradiction (or at least Judaism and Christianity are). For those who seek absolute answers in religion, that is a problem. For me, it is no problem at all.

  32. Luke,
    No gas on my fire! I live a fairly traditional Jewish life but my views may or may not be all that traditional. El was the head honcho of the Canaanite gods. In studying the names of God used in Torah, one finds a progression from a household God, to a God of the tribe, to a national God, and perhaps finally to a universal God. I find the progression quite fascinating.

    Society,
    I can’t answer the questions for you. These are things I’ve wrestled with myself and reached my own conclusions. I have speculated that God is totally a creation by men, for men and merely a tool of control. I have speculated that both Judaism and Christianity began as the ‘Elks’ clubs of their day, a place for guys to hang out and do guy stuff. (As women have become more involved in the communal religious life and the men begin to flee the scene, I suspect my suspicions may have some real merit.) I wonder about it all at times, I still wonder. But, I find value in Torah and the life I live regardless of Torah being fact or fiction. I have a sense of connection to God, even if God isn’t anything like God is usually portrayed, even if God is really just us taking care of each other.

    Jacob wrestled with God all night and walked away with a limp ever after. Religion is not for the faint of heart. That’s why I loved that book ‘As a Driven Leaf’. A serious, no holds barred look at God, Torah, history, the world, can lead to a denial of it all. And I consider that a quite rational response. Four rabbis tried to know all, one went insane, one died on the spot (from shock?), one became an atheist, and one was able to continue on with his Judaism. In my life I’ve done a bit of the first three and ended up at the last. I don’t do whitewash, I’ve just reached a place where I can handle a Eli Weisal writing that God was placed on trial during the Holocaust and it turns out God was really Satan; I can handle a Julius Lester writing how God was really Hitler, because I have wondered myself. I grew up in a house where children were abused in the name of God. God never intervened. People will claim God answered their prayer for a new job or furniture for their house or some other foolish thing. But, God never answered the prayer of kids abused in the name of God. I live with that reality.

    Jesus and Christianity never did a damn thing for me, but a tough, yet caring, Rabbi helped me find a way to connect to God in spite of all the awfulness because even though I tried to get the hell away from all things God, my fascination for it all would never go away. Rabbi wondered why I didn’t just go off and live a non-religious life but I told him I kept feeling that God was pulling me back to take another look at it all and maybe, just maybe, accept that sometimes God behaves really badly, too and make peace with God in spite of it all.

    The only reason I believe in God at all is because of the hell I went through and still came out to find God on the other side. It’s not at all rational, but somehow I didn’t get lost. When I look at the wonder of my life today, the wonder of the life my kids and I have within our community, that is God for me. From Torah I learn much wisdom, but I don’t look for factual information. If it’s there, great. If it’s not, great. Torah is what it is (to sort of steal a line from Wilfred)

    Mythical Seeker,
    You might be surprised, but in spite of our differing views on many things, I’m right with you on your last comment.

    DaGoods,
    Thanks. I have a book at home, Facing the Abusing God which I was not able to read because those stories of abuse disturbed me so greatly, but I’ve always wanted to know the conclusion the author reached. Have you ever heard of this book or read it?

  33. Thejust1,

    **Why does the sinful party, Nazis in this case, not have to answer for their sins in this world when the Jews had to suffer in this world? Perhaps, the Nazis payday is coming.**

    This could also lead into the question of who is justice for? If we seek justice against the Nazis for what they did, we get to see the justice. But it’s not a justice for a wrong committed against us specifically, it’s for a wrong commited in general. So does that justice do any good for the victims?

    Especially if taking conservative Christianity, which often says that the victims are suffering in the same hell as the perpetrators.

    Yael,

    **I’ve brought this point up several times to those who seem so happy to be ‘free from the law’ which never bound them to begin with! **

    Does bringing it up change anything?

    I meant judge in the way that Society’s post did — God judged the other nations, based on this perspective. But if those other nations aren’t bound by the Torah, and yet the idea is that God will judge us based on His perfect Torah, then how can God judge another nation based on laws that don’t apply to that nation?

  34. OSS,
    Hey, I do the best I can trying to answer questions for Christians who hit me from every side with questions, accusations, misrepresenations and the occasional insult or affirmation. I can’t read minds to know what it is people are thinking nor can I pour through pages of comments to see every nuance that has been brought to the table. Torah has many contradictions. Seems to me you already knew that. Did you just want me to say that as well? Fine, Torah has many contradictions. What does it matter?

  35. Svs,

    I’m late to this conversation and I don’t know if you’ll like what I have to say about this passage of scripture. I think people get too hung up on the historical aspect and with being horrified with God for demanding such a ‘final’ solution. It seems that many want to measure God’s morality by their own standards and miss the spiritual message of the account. Though I do believe the scriptures to be historical they are spiritually discerned and the Bible is a primarily a spiritual book and secondarily a history book.

    Whenever a war begins the desired end is victory and peace. However, I can’t think of any war in history or in my own lifetime that has brought a complete peace. The only way this could really be the outcome of war is if the enemy were completely obliterated. I apply this to myself and my own inner war with my own sinfulness. I cannot overcome any sin in my life unless I completely do away with the action and all that sets me up for the fall. Every time that I settle for partial victory and allow myself just a little of what I am not able to handle, I end up in the same place that led me to acknowledging my action as sin in the first place. Even if I could smoke just one or two cigarettes a day for instance, then I would be choosing a continued warfare against my bad habit rather than choosing the eventual inner peace that comes from totally walking away from an addiction.

    If I apply this account to society at large, it reminds me of the ineffectiveness of warfare and the true cost of it. If human beings were more mindful of the fact that the only way to conquer an enemy and achieve true peace were in the complete oblideration of that enemy, the elderly, and children included, then, I would hope, going to war would not be something stepped into as easily as we step into it today.

    War is man’s way of achieving peace. I believe that God as the Father of the human race is like all good fathers that see in every experience in life an opportunity for instruction. Those lessons in the OT paved the way for lessons that we would not be able to understand without the first. Jesus teaches us a better way than war to combat evil and that is to turn the other cheek. Only Ghandi, that I know of, put this teaching of Jesus to the practical test and he proved the validity of it. What makes me sad is that in a country (mine not yours) where the majority of people claim to be Christian there is so little faith in the things that Jesus taught us to do. Most just don’t believe that turning the other cheek in such a dangerous world is practical. Instead, we choose war to achieve peace and claim that God is on our side and then turn around and judge Him and are appalled by Him for showing us the cost and how to achieve complete victory and peace through war.

    My hope is that someday, people will no longer judge God but obey Him. I don’t think that the weapons of war will ever be turned into farm implements until we learn to turn the other cheek. To confront evil with violence or with pacifism puts us at the very same risk, that of losing our life. We war because we choose our way over God’s way just as Adam and Eve did in the garden. There will be no Eden for humankind until we surrender our way to His.

  36. You might be surprised, but in spite of our differing views on many things, I’m right with you on your last comment.

    Thank you, Yael. I think it is possible that, despite our differences of opinion, we might actually agree with one on another on a thing or two. 🙂

  37. Yaelbatsarah,

    No, I had not heard of that book.

    Does this sound odd, but I would feel…guilty…about reading it. I had a two-parent loving home with great brothers and sisters, nearby grandparents. We lived on a semi-farm with horses, dogs, cats, gardens. While we weren’t rich, but we didn’t want for anything. We always had 2 – 3 nice cars.

    I had great friends, an opportunity for a graduate education. I have a loving wife, and three healthy children. I have never been abused. Never part of a pogrom. Never targeted for any prejudice whatsoever. Who am I to make any judgment for or against what some people have gone through, with great tragedy, as to how they view God?

    It sounds heart-rendering.

  38. This could also lead into the question of who is justice for? If we seek justice against the Nazis for what they did, we get to see the justice. But it’s not a justice for a wrong committed against us specifically, it’s for a wrong commited in general. So does that justice do any good for the victims?
    Especially if taking conservative Christianity, which often says that the victims are suffering in the same hell as the perpetrators. (OSS)

    My comment was more on the line of God dishing out the justice, as that was the topic at hand. I agree, if “we seek” to punish Nazis for their crimes, then we get to see justice in our lifetime in this world and somehow God gets let of the hook. Since we no longer need God to enact justice on the wrongdoers, as we can take of it ourself.

    Not that I desire God to be some big punishing and menacing presence that we have to fear all the time.

    I guess my hope is that if God enacts justice in our lifetimes and in this world, then perhaps all the nations and tribes that have been subjected to abuse and atrocities will have a sense of hope that God will repay and set things right in this world, since this is where the crimes were committed. Probably not going to happen, not that God can’t or won’t, but because new atrocities will be committed and the retributuon would never end. I guess that’s what makes the afterlife so attractive.

    Too bad about the whole victims suffering in hell with the criminals thing. Those conservatives just want everyone to suffer, in this lifetime and the next. 🙂

  39. What’s amazing is that the OP has indicated that she’s losing faith because… she’s actually reading what’s in the Bible. Personally, I’d suggest that you can’t be a member of the religion until you’ve read the book from cover to cover and understand it only after the age of reason has been reached.

    One of the ten commandments is “thou shalt not kill” and yet the Bible is chock full of commandments to kill men, women, children, adulterers, people who work on the Sabbath, enemies, you-name-it.

    If the OP is losing her faith then it’s because she’s engaging her brain.

    Wake up. The religions of the world were started when people met good/bad aliens, had interactions with them and started to write this stuff down. Over sixty races of aliens have already visited our planet. Some are benevolent and some are not. Almost all of them try to influence us telepathically.

    Many of them will insert your own voice into your head so that you’re tricked into thinking that it’s your conscience. Even the good aliens do this. But if you step back and think about it that’s a form of lie. To influence us via telepathy and voices in our head–even though the intent is good–is still a form of deception and it is wrong. It may have been okay back when we were too primitive to appreciate reality but enough is enough.

    If there are sixty races of aliens then what are your odds of praying to the right one? If your “god” is convincing you that you should kill entire villages for some reason then I would strongly suggest that you’re on the wrong side of that 1:60 ratio. *This* is why the Bible is chock full of murderous advice. *This* is why God might need to introduce himself as the god of Moses and Abraham (since there are so many “gods”/alien races). *This* is why it was necessary for a Jesus figure to show up and de-tangle all the corrupted scripture in the OT; haven’t you noticed how few times Jesus suggested killing (versus the OT)?

    I’d suggest you get your act together and figure this out soon. You don’t have the luxury of time.

  40. “I’d suggest that you can’t be a member of the religion until you’ve read the book from cover to cover and understand it only after the age of reason has been reached.” (Justin)

    Fair comment, religion may not be for everyone and if someone feels like leaving for just reasons – that’s their reasons to live by…no problem with that.

    “If the OP is losing her faith then it’s because she’s engaging her brain” (Justin)

    True, but what does this say about someone that stays in their faith system?

    “If there are sixty races of aliens then what are your odds of praying to the right one?” (Justin)

    60 races, I haven’t even seen one. I also think the alien premise concerning scripture and life on earth is chock full of really bad logic, and lacks serious proof.

    As for the rest of the premise about scripture being murderous and the balance between Tanakh and NT – that’s too simplistic to take the scriptures seriously in a debate.

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