The Promised Land: I Give You This Land, All You Have To Do Is Steal It.

From the never dull Brick Testament.

 

Exodus 23/20-33.

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.

In fact, already the offer of help is clarified to exclude any forceful help from God, other than the hornets, of course.
“I will fix your boundary from the Red Sea to the sea of the Philistines, and from the wilderness to the River Euphrates; for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you will drive them out before you.”

Well,… I’m not going to drive them out.  I’ll let you do it.  Looking forward, one sees that the promise is only fulfilled at the end of the Exodus and even then poorly. Deuteronomy 1:8 says: See, I have given you this land. Go in and take possession of the land that the LORD swore he would give to your fathers—to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—and to their descendants after them. In other words, “Here is the land I have given you.  Now go take it from those already living there.  Yeah I’ll be… Right behind you… Yeah, that’s the ticket!”  That’s like me taking my son into a store, pointing out an ipod and telling him that the ipod is his for I have given it to him, all he must do is steal it.  That plan could save me some money on birthday presents just like it saves God from having to really do anything… or exist.

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!

 

    • Daz
    • December 22nd, 2010

    “Are there oxymoronic limits on omnipotence? Mysterious ways?”

    Don’t you know God’s plan is ineffable? This means that even if we eventually learn what ‘effing’ is, we still won’t be able to eff it. Or even grok it, come to that.

    You shall make no covenant with them or with their gods

    Spot that? Other gods. Contrary to popular belief, this was not a monotheistic religion, at this time. To use a word I just learned (Thanks, Dr Asimov!), it was henotheistic. They had only one god of their own, but at the same time acknowledged the existence of other tribes’ gods. They saw those gods as real; they just didn’t worship them. Even religions evolve (see also the returning Jews after the Babylonian Exile, whose beliefs had become so much more ‘sophisticated’ than the Yahweh worshippers who had stayed in Judah, that they’d become almost separate religions). Which says something, though I’m not sure what…

    I have to mention that the ‘angry cat’ made me think of Pratchett’s 3rd state for Schrodinger’s cat: Alive, dead or bloody furious.

    • Exactly–that’s why there are J-texts (Jehovah, “Lord God” in English translation) and E-Texts (Elohim, “God” in English translation), and P bits for the Priestly Redactor. That’s why there are duplications all the way through–two different oral traditions got shuffled back together into one big mess. Somebody (wait…I’ll go find it…)found it. Harold Bloom and David Rosenberg put out the J-text only Pentateuch. Makes for interesting reading, I’m sure. The author even thinks that the J author might have been a woman…hmmm…haven’t actually read this myself, but I may have to (add it top the top of the tottering pile).

        • Daz
        • December 23rd, 2010

        Shhhh! I was just showing off, having found a lovely new word, ‘henotheistic’. Especially seeing as KK beat us both to the use of ‘in the bowels of Christ’. Well, not totally showing off, It is a point worth mentioning.

        Asimov (I’m chock-full of Asimov at the moment) also makes a fairly convincing argument that the main influence was originally a storm-god, with the seraphim as junior wind-gods or such. Or maybe it’s not a claim unique to Asimov — my knowledge of biblical commentaries is pretty limited :-/

        I can hear the creak of over-strained bookshelves…

      • It *is* a lovely word–I’d look for an opportunity to use it, too:-))

        Storm god, eh? I’ve also heard Volcano God (Campbell) and…something else which has slipped my dodgy memory.

        I’ve posted a comment twice now under Jek’s that won’t show up. Any idea why? It had a link in it, does that make a difference? (only one link, and it wasn’t a long comment)

    • Don’t you know God’s plan is ineffable? This means that even if we eventually learn what ‘effing’ is, we still won’t be able to eff it. Or even grok it, come to that.

      Bwahahahaha!!! How did I miss that the first time I read your comment? No idea. But that is…effing funny! :-)) Just going to file that away for future use on the unsuspecting…

        • Daz
        • December 24th, 2010

        Thank you. One does one’s best.

        Re: our talk of origins, I just found this.

        In case I don’t get chance later, Merry Christmas all, or whatever you want to call it.

    • Jek
    • December 22nd, 2010

    Lol love the Lego Bible picture. Thats how I imagine the god of the Bible actually, like a spoilt, naughty little shit of a kid playing with his Lego, spazzing out when it won’t work and chucking the whole lot across the room. Or some kid sitting over an ant farm with a magnifying glass burning the ants that don’t walk in a straight line. I have a tonne of other analogies about God, and they all involve bratty children. Funny that.

    Do you ever wonder if all the different Gods ever fought with each other directly? Or did they just pit their minions against each other, like soccer coaches with some long standing rivalry using their teams of 7 year olds to destroy the others honour. (Again with the children thing!)

    Another thing I don’t get, is if God created the world, why would he let other gods put their people on it?

    I’m with you, its hard to try and fit all this crap in my head at the same time. I really don’t understand how anyone can actually make any kind of sense out of it, let alone apply to their lives somehow.

    • Gods as soccer coaches…that reminds me of this–go have a look, it’s pretty funny… :-))

      Yeah–I don’t remember Yahweh specifically going head-to-head with other gods, just giving his team an advantage if they….oh, you know, held up Moses’ arms up all through the battle, stuff like that. Or taking credit for things that other gods’ people did, like Good King Cyrus (who worshiped Marduk, of course, not Yahweh)…

      (say the following like Billy Crystal in Princess Bride):

      “What, the Creator of the Known Univoise couldn’t find an unoccupied piece of Real Estate for His Chosen People?” ;-))

      • Wow Amy! Those are hideous. My mother would love them.

        • Jek
        • December 23rd, 2010

        OMG I just spewed in my mouth a little bit. Lol in real life they’d be like ‘Jesus, you’re going to have to sit on the sideline today buddy, you’re not wearing the proper uniform. Sandals aren’t really appropriate for football.’

        Off topic a bit, at work we got a Christmas card from a client that has this bible verse in it:
        “Glory to God in the highest heaven,and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Can’t imagine I’ll be having the best time after those cracks about his kid.

        • Grumpy
        • December 27th, 2010

        They so clearly just don’t fucking get it; how preposterous they are.

    • Sorry–I’ve tried twice to put this link in a comment, but it doesn’t seem to want to go through. I do, however, think you’d get a kick out of it, Jek, so I’ll have to put a cloaking device on it…

      http://www.catholicshopper.com/products/inspirational_sport_statues.html

      Really–Jebus as your own personal soccer coach. Or whatever. I’m torn, actually, between Jebus-as-soccer-coach and the hockey version. “Hey, Jebus! Your stick is in the way!” Have fun browsing… ;-))

    • Jek
    • December 22nd, 2010

    P.S. Its bad for me to read this at work, everyone will think I’m mental, I burst out laughing at ‘Next Halloween, I’m going as a Bible.”

  1. Jek–god as soccer coach? That reminds me of this. Have a look–it’s pretty funny :-)). I’m torn, actually, between the soccer and the hockey (“Hey, Jebus! Your stick is in the way!”)

    (say the following like Billy Crystal in Princess Bride):

    “What, the Creator of the Known Univoise couldn’t find a piece of unoccupied Real Estate for His Chosen People? What a Schlemiel!” ;-))

  2. (say the following like Billy Crystal in Princess Bride):

    “What, the Creator of the Known Univoise couldn’t find a piece of unoccupied Real Estate for His Chosen People? What a Schlimiel!” ;-))

      • Daz
      • December 23rd, 2010

      Oddly, that’s how I actually read it.

      Is this the comment that didn’t show up? No link in sight…

      • Nope–I took the link out and just posted the rest of it. And the comment shows up. I tried three times different ways (twice with an href html command and once just copying and pasting the browser address in), but none of them went through. KK, can we not put links in?

        • Daz
        • December 23rd, 2010

        Hmmm testing.

        Let’s see if that works. I’ve noticed some comment-boards seem to block comments that have more pasted material in them than typed, eg. long URLs, hence this long rambling sentence about nothing much…

  3. Yours worked. Well, that’s weird. OK–just try the link again.

    This is a test. This is only a test. In a real emergency… (the link is real, though, if it goes through!) And I’m yakking along here following Daz’ theory that a comment with more link than words won’t go through… Is this enough? We’ll soon see…

    Incidentally–the link is to Jesus Inspirational Sport Statues at Catholic Shopper Directory. I’m torn between Soccer Coach Jebus and Hockey Player Jebus…

  4. Yours worked. Well, that’s weird. OK–just try the link again.

    This is a test. This is only a test. In a real emergency… (the link is real, though, if it goes through!) And I’m yakking along here following Daz’ theory that a comment with more link than words won’t go through… Is this enough? We’ll soon see…

    Incidentally–the link is to Jesus Inspirational Sport Statues at Catholic Shopper Directory. I’m torn between Soccer Coach Jebus and Hockey Player Jebus…

    I just tried to put this one in and it wouldn’t go through! Grrrr… Try again, and if it still doesn’t go through, I’ll take the link out and try it again.

  5. Yours worked. Well, that’s weird. OK–third time for this comment. Taking the link out. If you put “Jesus as Soccer Coach” into google, the first link should be the Catholic Shopper Directory.

    This is a test. This is only a test. In a real emergency… (the link is real, though, if it goes through!) And I’m yakking along here following Daz’ theory that a comment with more link than words won’t go through… Is this enough? We’ll soon see…

    Incidentally–the link is to Jesus Inspirational Sport Statues at Catholic Shopper Directory. I’m torn between Soccer Coach Jebus and Hockey Player Jebus…

    I just tried to put this one in and it wouldn’t go through! Grrrr… Try again, and if it still doesn’t go through, I’ll take the link out and try it again.

      • Daz
      • December 23rd, 2010

      Okay, I’ll try it..

      Jesus Inspirational Sport Statues Maybe it’s blocked as spam, being a commercial site? Let’s see…

    • Sorry about the spam filter Amy, I’m not sure why it grabbed yours. I’ll set the sensitivity a little lower.

      • In fact, I have the link limit at three. It’s never done that before. Apparently the spam filter, like Yahweh, is a little moody today. Sorry.

  6. Aaaaahh! KK–sorry! All the comments showed up with the link in them! You can delete all but the first one up there with the link (they *are* hideous, aren’t they! That’s actually my idea of Hell–condemned for eternity to dust horrible Jesus bric-a-brac…)

      • Daz
      • December 23rd, 2010

      To see my opinion of them, hover over my version of the link ;-)

      • Crap–I was eating while reading your comment! (*wipes computer screen with sleeve*…) :-))

        • Paul in York
        • December 27th, 2010

        I love the way jebus is palming off the little kid and shielding the ball as soccer coach. He had some skills…. Aah the waste.

    • Paul in York
    • December 27th, 2010

    “Next Halloween I’m going as a bible!” Pure unadulterated KK gold!

      • Daz
      • December 29th, 2010

      ‘KK Gold’ sounds like an aftershave…

      My favourite line was “They needed the land. Someone else had it. Excuses could be invented.” Sums up nearly every war in human history, that does. Even to the ‘God told us to do it’ excuse.

        • Paul in York
        • December 29th, 2010

        Hmmm KK Gold… The smell of Atheism.

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