Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Deuteronomy 28-30

Deuteronomy 28-30

Deuteronomy 28-30 Skeptic Annotated Bible

We learn all the things that The LORD shall bless Israel with.  And then get the curses if they follow another god.  The curses seem much more detailed then the blessings but that may just be my bias talking.

Perhaps one final round of throwing the fear of God into the Israelites before they take possession of the promised land?
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  1. Holy crap, I need a minute to recover from chapter 28!

    Again, part 6 of the 6-part Hittite-style suzerain treaty, blessings and curses. This is much more extensive than the list of curses we saw in Lev. 26. Also the curses far outpace the blessings (in both number and creativity), which is apparently typical of treaties of this model.

    Reading the curses, I was reminded of two literary parallels:

    1. book of Job: The author throws out every terrible thing imaginable to push the audience to their emotional limit. However, Job is a challenge to Deuteronomy's notion of theodicy. Deuteronomy is very clear that suffering is directly connected to disobedience of God. Job's author emphatically denies this, as Job is an innocent man.

    2. The retreat sermon in James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man, the central and climactic passage where the priest goes on for page after page, telling the young boys at Stephen's school all the very graphic details of the horrifying punishments that await them in hell if they sin. It is truly a feat of the imagination and very much a shock and awe campaign of fear to cement the audience's obedience, both in Joyce and Deut. 28.

    But seriously Yahweh, wtf? "Obey me or you'll have to eat your babies" (Deut. 28:57). That's way over the top, even for you!

  2. The blesses/curses are first laid out (3-6/16-19) and then expanded (7-14/20-46). You can see the curses are elaborated in FAR more detail than the blessings.

    My favorite is probably "you will eat your own children". I think I saw that on a Westboro Baptist sign once.

    But worse than eating your children; you won't SHARE. That's bad manners!

    Women will eat their placentas is secret!

    This is pretty horrible you guys.

    It is truly a feat of the imagination and very much a shock and awe campaign of fear to cement the audience's obedience, both in Joyce and Deut. 28.

    An important distinction between this chapter and Christian theology is that this stuff wasn't a punishment in the hereafter; it would happen to the Israelites on earth.

    (Portrait of an Artist has been on my Kindle, let's see if I can finish it. (got 120 pages into Ulysses before I gave up.))

    29:23- anyone remember Admah and Zeboyim? Apparently they were "cities of the plain" (Gen. 10:19) that didn't get mentioned directly in the famous story.

    30:12 is a reference to "heaven". This apparently really just mean "sky". The Hebrew word is שָּׁמַיִם, plural, usually it's given the definite article. Yes, the Tower of Babel was built "towards the heavens", but it's also where birds fly. (Genesis 7:23 and pretty much every mention of birds.)

    If a Christian even uses a quote about "heaven" from the KJV OT, remind them that the original word referred simply to the sky, not the Christian theological concept.

  3. I don't know much about the history of Hell, but was the concept developed yet when chapter 28 was written? I they didn't have the concept of punishment in Hell for eternity, I guess that's why they'd give such horrible threats for their time during normal life.

  4. Yep. The afterlife is a Christian invention. Even the earliest quotes attributed to Jesus did not mention an afterlife (his "kingdom of God" was a physical kingdom on earth, to come in the near future.)

    Heaven and hell didn't exist to the Israelites. God's punishment was to be carried out on them, or their descendants. References to "sheol" and "the heavens" were to the grave/underground and the sky. At least originally.