The Promised Land: I Give You This Land, All You Have To Do Is Steal It.
Ah, look. Who would have thought? Yet another Biblical genocide. Well, more of a preview for one really, a promise of ass-kickings to come, a movie trailer of a minor apocalypse. Here the Lord Genocide promises his chosen ones that he will give them land, Hence the term “promised land”. Unfortunately that land is already under the ownership of several other tribes of humanity so God’s promise is really an offer of aid in the extermination or expulsion of said peoples in exchange for complete and absolute obedience. There’s always a price to be paid even with Yahweh as your best friend forever. Hell, especially with Yahweh as your buddy. That guy’s like a giant vampire extracting a price for shit he just pretends to do. But we’ll get into that later.
Here he lays out a plan where the Hebrews will conquer the land of Canaan, not only conquer but completely destroy the inhabitants dwelling therein. People may be ignorant of this but they call it the land of Canaan for a reason — the Canaanites dwelt there. Now God’s wants other people to have it. So many questions arise! Why does God give them someone else’s property? Can’t he make more land? Will this vastness of death and suffering eventually work out in some kind of plan? Are there oxymoronic limits on omnipotence? Mysterious ways? I do not know. But merely to ask these questions demands that Yahweh really exists. Although this site loves to assume that he does and poke holes through the very idea, it would be more illustrative to occasionally take another tack, namely to be blunt about the fact that he doesn’t exist and simply state the dangers of passages like these. We certainly can and should ask the preceding questions to believers, though. In fact, we could ask so many more. But I find it enlightening to look at why this section was written. What other reason could it be than a justification, perhaps even after the fact, of the Hebrew’s “right” to possess the land. God gave it to then after all. Who can argue with the will of God?
The Ancient Hebrews were a legal minded people. Anyone one who has read just a bit of the vast amounts of Law within this book can hardly doubt that legality was paramount, and these verses give a justification to their claim, a reason why they deserve the land more than the people already dwelling there. Here, their Manifest Destiny is more firmly stated than the Monroe Doctrine, a bold plan for their future expansion. This was both the carrot and the stick offering great riches but demanding strict obedience. This was their rationalization for genocide. They needed the land. Someone else had it. Excuses could be invented. It was likely no worse than many of their contemporary’s or our contemporaries justifications for their own personal massacres, but it is no better either. People are people and they have been for a very long time. So I’m not saying the Canaanites and their kin were better than the Hebrews, and I’m not saying they were worse. Please keep in mind that by all evidence most ancient contemporaries were jackoffs. Like anywhere in history, those that were too decent didn’t last long against their more aggressive neighbors. A fact the many of us are unwilling to face is that if other people have what we want or need, we will often invent some reason to take it from them. An honest look at history shows that every group and tribe on earth is Machiavellian to the core. We don’t remember Machiavelli because he was good and just. He strikes a chord with us because we see ourselves in his writings. Face it people, evolution on a harsh planet has trained us well to be bastards. Would our creation by a loving God have done it nearly so completely? Does that even make sense?
Exodus 23/20. “Behold, I am going to send an angel before you to guard you along the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared. Be on your guard before him and obey his voice; do not be rebellious toward him, for he will not pardon your transgression, since My name is in him. But if you truly obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries. For My angel will go before you and bring you in to the land of the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites; and I will completely destroy them.”
Obey me and I will destroy your enemies! My angel will bring you into the land of the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites; and I will completely destroy them. What else other than a complete genocide could this mean? Do not question! Do not rebel! Do not think for yourselves! And if you remain loyal I’ll help you kill your neighbors and take their lands. Sweet deal, eh? In essence, this is a great device to ensure the retention of power by the ruler, Moses, and the ruling class, the priests. The only way to get the land is complete and utter obedience to God. The only way to obey God is to obey the only one who God will speak to, Moses. Cunning, don’t you think? Do you still doubt that Moses was the greatest cult leader of all time? Truth is, he’s damned good at his job and knows exactly what to tell his people to keep them from straying. One almost has to admire him… Almost.
Let’s continue with Exodus 23/27
“You shall not worship their gods, nor serve them, nor do according to their deeds; but you shall utterly overthrow them and break their sacred pillars in pieces. But you shall serve the Lord your God, and He will bless your bread and your water; and I will remove sickness from your midst. There shall be no one miscarrying or barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days. I will send My terror ahead of you, and throw into confusion all the people among whom you come, and I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you. I will send hornets ahead of you so that they will drive out the Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites before you.”
Obey God and he will even break out the hornets on you enemies. Hornets? Really? What’s next? Barrels of Monkeys? Angry cats? Sexually depraved rhinos? Again you can see the carrot and stick here. Destroy their god’s temples and Yahweh will stop your women from miscarrying. He will remove sickness. Women will be fertile. Your enemies will turn and run, and… Don’t forget the hornets! Aside from those blasted hornets and enemies fleeing, I don’t see why any god who even claims a passing familiarity with benevolence wouldn’t do these thing anyway. Stopping sicknesses and infertility? What kind of buttplug would withhold these essentials from people you claim to adore? If you’re the creator of everything, why did you make them in the first place? You create diseases then demand complete obedience to get rid of the very creations you inflicted on humanity.
Ow! Brain filling up. Must purge! Purge! To use a term I just heard, by the bowels of Christ, how do believers actually hold all this shit in their head simultaneously? Every time I try to do this I feel as if I have some kind of mental dysentery. I shove biblical ideas in at one end while watery and poorly digested shit is forced out the other. It has to come out. No matter how hard my mental sphincter tries, it just can’t hold it. Ugh! I think I’m going to have to lie down.
But first onto Exodus 23/29
“I will not drive them out before you in a single year, that the land may not become desolate and the beasts of the field become too numerous for you. “I will drive them out before you little by little, until you become fruitful and take possession of the land.
Um. OK. You’re going to drive them out but not all at once because every one knows that beasts in the fields pose a far greater danger than those mere tribes of people whose lives and land you’re stealing. Yeah! For your information the land was truly taken little by little. It took centuries and was often retaken by other empires. What this statement does is make the promise non-falsifiable. With only a vague idea of a timeline, priests could always claim that the time was not ripe, and with the demand for obedience, they could always claim that the people were not loyal enough. We’ve seen both of these used far too many times in our history to not interpret it this way. Prophets or priests make some vague open-ended prediction and then continually make excuses for it not happening or blame their acolytes for a lack of faith.
The whole section ends with this grim proclamation.
“You shall make no covenant with them or with their gods. They shall not live in your land, because they will make you sin against Me; for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.”
This is the most frightening statement here. It allows no compromise and no mercy. They are the enemy and must be driven out at all costs. Their very presence will bring doom. Even though I know that history is rife with such proclamations and events, this send chills through me. That they did it is one thing. Mini-cides like this happened on a yearly basis in the ancient world. But that there is a vast group of people right here and right now who use this book as the one inerrant guide to life, the one source of all morality, terrifies me. In spite of the progress we’ve made, a sizable minority of people still look to this book as an error-free moral blueprint. And this blueprint actively condones the extermination of those different from you. Scary, huh? Next Halloween, I’m going as a Bible.
The single comforting bit of knowledge is that most biblical archeologists don’t believe there was much of a conquest merely a slow growth of the Hebrews in a sparsely populated land. There is little evidence for any kind of sudden devastating warfare and in spite of what the Biblical sources tell us, little reason to believe this genocide took place. But what really happened isn’t my concern as much as what Biblical literalists think is right and wrong, and this clearly puts genocide in a God-endorsed category, an endorsement that can hardly be looked with anything other than revulsion in today’s light.
Have you ever noticed that God’s help as predicted by prophecy or prayer is always proclaimed as some grand and glorious thing, angels leading the charge to war, God throwing thunderbolts from above, amputees being healed, but when later preachers go back to see if the prophecies or prayers have been answered, the criteria used to judge the efficacy is hardly consistent with the original bold predictions. Listening to how today’s preachers proclaim the end is near and bring out their list of fulfilled prophecies is a joke. Most are so vaguely interpreted as to render all of it meaningless. In the thirty years since I started listening to this shit, there is always a new claim for a new antichrist (usually a Democrat) or event that only roughly corresponds to what the Bible really says. Ten years later, the same group of preachers have a different set. God doesn’t work in mysterious ways. He works in undetectable and nonexistent ways.
Great prayers ask for God’s help, whether in war or sickness or disaster. When the hardship is over, believers will sift through the wreckage of their lives to find anything proving that their God still loves them. Their communities are in ruins and their families lie in graves at their feet, yet they continue to grasp on to the slightest silver lining as proof God is real. To disbelieve at that point is horrifying and unthinkable. That their loss was meaningless and eternal can’t be borne. The only way they can hold on to what they have lost is to desperately believe… in anything! They cling to an imaginary promise that they will get it all back. They won’t.
God’s promises aren’t real, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have power. Religion is a force in the world, sometimes for good, sometimes for evil. When God promises great things while demanding complete obedience, frightening things can result. And since it’s in the realm of magic, many of the promises become gifts in an unprovable afterlife, a payment plan using Monopoly money. Denying proof and relying solely on faith removes any checks and balances from the system. At that point the system is too often controlled by the mob, and the mob is too often controlled by just a few men. The balance between good and evil swings on the character of human beings, never the most trustworthy of linchpins.
Whether it’s a promised land or 72 virgins, the promises of a fictional God, an infallible ideal, or any other magical thinking give us the rationalizations we require to become true barbarians.
And as products of a vicious evolution, we never need much.
We’re just bastards in the hands of a non-existent God!