We finally continue our travels through the grand halls of Biblical law, laws handed to a beloved people by a benevolent God to guide them through troubled times. These were great laws, laws of such majesty and scope that they have kept peace on Earth for three thousand years, laws which have aided humanity in its quest to discover the universe. Here we shall cover the great Biblical teachings on the Germ Theory of Disease and the heliocentricity of the solar system. We shall see how God for little reason other than graciousness just gave us the Laws of Thermodynamics and Atomic Theory. We shall… Nah! I’m just shitting you. For the most part, these divine rules deal with the price of sheep and virgins. And we all can see how laws regulating those are going to further humanity’s progress well into the Twenty-first century.
On the other hand I feel the need to be honest here. This next set of laws is an unusual mix for the Bible in that many of them actually make some degree of sense… Well, they make sense in a man-made, patriarchal, women are cattle kind of way. With that in mind one can still view them through the historical lens of our species’ struggle to find some measure of order within its ranks. These are laws which tend to act as a social lubricant to keep the various parts functioning, keep the rough edges of humanity from abrading each other too harshly, and as such, tended to do their job. Many of them are not just or right by today’s lofty standards, but as judged by contemporary comparisons, these laws give the Hebrew society a rough and tumble structure within which they can carry on the day to day business without killing each other. In fact, this set only makes sense as a result humanity’s long and painful voyage of self discovery in a harsh world with no guidance. Mere humanity battling its way through its own inept assholedness ( I made that up) could form laws such as these. Only a simple people trying to get a growing clan to not kill the others could invent rules such as these.
However, if you insist on demanding that these were handed down by perfect and all powerful Grand High Poobah of the universe then… well… they are seriously shit-assed crazy. They merely trim off the roughest edges of barbarism and allow people to minimize the conflict between each other. They do little more than that. They are not lofty. They are not greatly forward-looking. They are so obviously not divine that it’s absurd to insist they are. If someone continues to hold to the claim, they do not defend the idea of the divine but merely plunge the hypothesis into the ground. It would be a piss-poor God who could hand his purposely flawed creations shit like this yet pretend it’s roses.
Let’s take just a few and examine them closely. Again, these are not major steps in jurisprudence. Many fall firmly into the “Keep your Goddamned Cow off my lawn” or “Keep your phallus out of my daughter” variety. Many others state the reparations due if your cow does wander onto my lawn or your phallus does wander into my daughter, wandering phalluses (phalli?)generally bringing higher prices than cows.
Exodus 22/5 If a man lets a field or vineyard be grazed bare and lets his animal loose so that it grazes in another man’s field, he shall make restitution from the best of his own field and the best of his own vineyard.
Or Exodus 22/16-17. If a man seduces a virgin who is not engaged, and lies with her, he must pay a dowry for her to be his wife. If her father absolutely refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money equal to the dowry for virgins.
Again we see a strong propensity to view women as mere objects to be bartered and sold and only endowed with a monetary value to her father. If some jackass comes and seduces a daughter, he owes little to her but much to the father, hardly an enlightened idea. But through all this there are humanitarian gems… well, maybe more like pretty rocks. Even the last line above has some potential for mercy. If her father absolutely refuses to give her to the seducer, the seducer shall pay money equal to the dowry for virgins. This does give a good father some leeway to find a better match for his daughter and gives her some breathing room for her supposed sin. It’s not much, I understand, but it’s something. At least they’re not burning her at the stake. It just goes to show that if we set the bar low enough, we can find something of value.
Moreover, there are other passages here that positively smack of liberality. Here:
If the thief is caught while breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there will be no bloodguiltiness on his account. But if the sun has risen on him, there will be bloodguiltiness on his account.
In essence, if you catch a thief in your house in the night you are excused it he ends up dead, but if you wait until daylight the killing will be considered murder. Odd coming from the same book that people continually quote an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. I’ll admit that it’s more liberal than I ever would have thought. Damned ancient bleeding heart Hebrews screwing everything up! Of course right after that is the statement He shall surely make restitution; if he owns nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft. Better than being beaten to death, but hardly something we follow today. Aren’t there any literalist willing to pick up God’s banner here and carry it forward? No? Just not enough God fearing people, I guess.
And just look at the actual justice in these passages.
Exodus 23/1-9. “You shall not bear a false report; do not join your hand with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. “You shall not follow the masses in doing evil, nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after a multitude in order to pervert justice; nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his dispute. “If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey wandering away, you shall surely return it to him. “If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying helpless under its load, you shall refrain from leaving it to him, you shall surely release it with him. “You shall not pervert the justice due to your needy brother in his dispute. “Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent or the righteous, for I will not acquit the guilty. “You shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and subverts the cause of the just. “You shall not oppress a stranger, since you yourselves know the feelings of a stranger, for you also were strangers in the land of Egypt.
Damn! Read right, this is downright humane and achieves actual justice even by today’s standards. Here’s stuff we could actually use in our century. It’s not cold fusion or a cure for cancer, but it is enlightened. Alas, its decency is swallowed by the other less humane passages.
Truly, the incongruity of some of these better verses with others before or after it is hilarious, most often grimly hilarious but funny never-the-less. For example, the passage following the payment due a father by the seducer is infamous Exodus 22/18-20 “You shall not allow a sorceress to live followed by the perverted justice of Whoever lies with an animal shall surely be put to death.” And topped off by the loving declaration “He who sacrifices to any god, other than to the Lord alone, shall be utterly destroyed.” Whatever sum-bitch came up with these is one sick mother. And as usual, we are back to fire and brimstone, death and destruction.
But immediately after this are wonderful verses concerning the care of strangers and widows and orphans, truly enlightened verses showing the way to a kinder gentler Bible yet still dirtied by the horrors encasing them. Like pearls in the manure pile, the good stuff is buried deeply in the rest of the shit. Sure! We can scrape it off, clean it up and still use the good stuff . This is what most liberal Christians do, pick and choose from the best of what’s really there, and I have little problem with this. If one wants to use the best parts but leave the rest of the decaying mass behind, that’s great. We should take the best of all literature and use it to enrich our lives. However, the fundamentalists are determined to prove it is all truth all the time. No questions allowed. No options either. Just believe you bastards! Evangelicals use garbage like this as an excuse to spew hate and bigotry at any who oppose them. These are the bits that they can selectively bring out to condemn nearly anyone.
Doubt me? How many sorceresses have been killed using just that first passage? How many heretics have been burned at the stake in the last thousand years using the last?
It’s the rapid Biblical shifting back and forth, from good to evil that makes me a bit nauseous. Please, take a look for yourselves. The more you read this book the more schizophrenic Yahweh becomes, and I certainly don’t mean some minor mood swings. I mean a smearing bat-shit on your face kind of crazy. The pages here virtually drip with frightening bipolar declarations which wind between the not too bad and totally fucking twisted with reckless abandon “Take care of all orphans and widows because God is mercifu… WTF! What’s he doing? Jesus Christ! Kill ‘im! Kill ‘im now! Mother fu… Ah, look at the puppy. Happy thoughts!”
Were God human, we’d have the little bastard stuffed in a straitjacket and padded cell… very securely locked, of course… and lots of medication. But he’s God so his flaws are looked at as virtues. His sociopathy is described as benevolence. He becomes a superhero, a perfect being, the ultimate in divine goodness. What a load of shit!
I know I’ve said it before but it bears repeating. Why can’t we hold our gods to a higher standard? Why does the concept of perfection excuse the vast piles of behavioral bullshit that contradict it? Why does the “flawlessness” of God allow him to duck the obvious burden for so many glaring flaws?
I still think we should consider the straitjacket… And the medication. Never forget the benefits of drugs.
Personally, I think just taking him out and getting him laid would likely help.