Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Instructions for Genocide: Deuteronomy 7 - 14:21

The following post is part of a revolutionary Bible commentary by the Church of the Orange Sky.

Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer. For the Lord your God is God of gods and lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt.

I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse - the blessing if you obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today; the curse if you disobey the commands of the Lord your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods.

And now that the inspirational quotes are out of the way:

According to Moses, there are already seven nations in the promised land: the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. I thought they'd already slaughtered the Amorites but I guess that was just a subgroup. God isn't going to drive them out on his own anymore, Moses specifies: the Israelites will have to fight them. And what a battle it will be: "you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy." Moses seems to fully expect that many will survive, because he then adds a no-marriage-with-pagan-girls rule, despite the fact that he's seemingly married to at least one pagan and possibly two. One rule for the prophet, another for the people.

I don't know about the gruesome genocidal aspects, but it's interesting to note that the invasion has become a cooperative venture: the Israelites will invade, and God will "send the hornet among" the survivors. Back in Exodus, God was taking care of the slaves. Now, they're assisting each other.

Moses launches into a lengthy diatribe on the grace of God, arguing that God has chosen Israel for his own righteousness, not because Israel is righteous - it isn't - or because it is very large - he says it isn't, although by my historical math they aren't exactly weak. "You are a stiff-necked people," Moses repeats over and over again, but God will lead them, and he will "discipline them as a man disciplines his son." That sounds like the sort of metaphor Christians would use today, although just in the last book, God was killing them by the thousand, which is an interesting method of disciplining one's children. Obey the Lord, Moses warns, or the discipline will be painful. In chapter 13, Moses goes so far as to suggest that entire Israelite cities must be put to the sword if they stray into pagan worship.

I'm summarizing because Moses is pretty repetitive here. Still, if you're feeling conservative and want all kinds of inspirational verses exhorting people to follow the rules and obey the moral codes and remember the Lord your God, I think Deuteronomy 7-11 has about six hundred quotable verses for you.

Some interesting warnings about prophest are given in chapter 13. If a prophet appears to the Israelites, even if his predictions come true, he should be immediately executed if he suggests that the Israelites should follow other gods. Such a prophet, Moses says, is a "test from God." Which part is the test? Will God deliberately give prophets a mix of true and false messages to see whether the Israelites will kill them? That's a bit disturbing.