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Torah:  Exodus 10:1 to 13:16.
Haftarah: Jeremiah 46: 13-28

This week's Torah reading describes the final three of the ten plagues - locusts, darkness, and the slaying of the first born males.  The final plague was truly a genocide:

At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well.  Pharaoh and all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead.     Exodus 12: 29-30.
And, in next week's Torah reading, we shall read how many of the survivors of this genocide, who were soldiers in Pharoh's army, would drown in the Red Sea (or Sea of Reeds).  

On a previous D'var Torah diary, one person asked:  Why couldn't an all-powerful Deity have brought the Israelites out of Egypt without killing so many Egyptians?  Couldn't this God have just zapped Pharoh and let all the other Egyptians live?  It's an excellent question, which I shall attempt to answer.

First, the mass slaughter of Egyptians cannot have been (as the commenter suggested) an example of early ultra-nationalism - cheering for the suffering and deaths of our enemies, for, later on in the Torah, God commands us:

You shall not hate an Egyptian, for you were a stanger in his land.   Deuteronomy 23:8.
The mass slaughter of the Egyptians troubled the Rabbis.  Commenting on Exodus 14:20:
And it [the cloud] came between the army of the Egyptians and the army of Israel; thus there was the cloud of darkness, and it cast a spell upon the night, so that the one could not come near the other all through the night.
the Rabbis (two at least) commented:  
Rabbi Samuel ben [son of] Nahman said in Rabbi Jonathan's name:  What is meant by, "And one could not come near the other all through the night?"  In that hour the ministering angels wished to break forth into a song [of praise] before the Holy One, blessed be He, but He rebuked them, saying: My handiwork [the Egyptians] is drowning in the sea; yet you would sing a song before me!     Talmud Sanhedrin 39b.
In the Middle Ages, the custom arose at the sedar table to spill out a drop of wine for each of the ten plagues, in sadness for the Egyptians who lost their lives.  This custom was noted in the 1500's by Rabbi Moses Isserles, in his commentary to the then just completed Shulchan Aruch, to have been a long standing custom.  

So Jews, to be true to our faith, must feel sadness for all the Egyptians who died while God was freeing our ancestors from slavery.  But that begs the question, why did all these Egyptians have to die?  Was God so powerless that He/She could not free the Israelites without killing hundreds of thousands of Egyptians?

The Bible is one of the greatest works of literature ever written.  It is surely the greatest work of literature to come out of the ancient Middle East.  And what makes the Bible a great work of literature is that it is not a morality play - the human beings portrayed are all too human.  Most of Genesis documents four generations of a highly disfunctional family composed of individuals who are supposed to be both our ancestors and role models, while much of the final four books of the Torah describes an Israelite nation wandering through the Sinai desert, a nation composed largerly of whiners constantly complaining about, and occasionally rebelling against, the leadership of Moses.  

A Biblical account of a God who zaps Pharoh with lightning bolts to bring the Israelites out of Egypt, while no other Egyptian suffers a scratch, would not have been realistic, and would have been lousy literture with the result that the Bible may have, and should have, joined other ancient writings now lost to posterity.  

History has shown, time and time again since the Biblical account of the Exodus from Egypt, that tyrants who unleash nationalist emotions to persecute the "other" wind up killing their own people.  Thus, in 1937 the fascist militarists who controlled Japan invaded China and launched the Rape of Nanjing, murdering up to 300,000 Chinese residents of Nanjing, and would murder up to 10 million people in China and the other countries and islands their armed forces would occupy (although I have seen estimates as high as 20 million).  These wars of aggression and mass murder would not, however, save the Japanese people from their own destruction - 2,120,000 Japanese soldiers, sailors and airmen would die in the war, and between 500,000 to 1 million Japanese civilians would die from the bombs rained down by American and other allied planes. (Link here).

The record of Germany in World War II is more well known.  Adolf Hitler launched invasions of Autria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and neutral Denmark, Norway, Luxemburg, Belgium, Netherlands, Yugoslavia, and the Soviet Union, and murdered in the lands he occupied 6 million Jews (out of about 9 million Jews who lived in Nazi occupied territory), plus millions of Soviet prisoners of war, Roma, and other civilians.  Link here.  Again, Hitler's wars of aggression and genocide did not save the German people from mass death.  Per the above link 5,530,000 German soldiers, sailors and airmen would die in the war, and another 1,100,000 to 3,150,000 German civilians would die in the war (German Jewish Holocaust victims accounting for between 135,000 and 142,000 of these civilian deaths).

Unlike the right wingers who compare Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler (an obscenity in itself), I will not compare George W. Bush to Hitler.  President Bush did not commit genocide, he did not build gas chambers, his crimes pale in comparison.  But he did invade one country, based on lies and garbage, and, as a result, over 100,000 Iraqis were killed (the estimates vary and are subject to debate) while 4,409 of George Bush's fellow Americans died, and another 31,928 were wounded in action.

The Torah, by teaching us how the Egyptians too suffered from Pharoh's oppression of the Jews, teaches us that it is our duty to stand against oppression of anyone, not only out of a sense of justice, but also for our own self-interest.  Abraham LIncoln said, "As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy."  Those who oppress others, or stand by and allow their fellow countrymen to oppress others, destroy themselves.  That is what this week's Torah reading teaches.  That is why an all powerful God allowed so many Egyptians to suffer and die.

Shabbat shalom.

Originally posted to Elders of Zion on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 06:00 AM PST.

Also republished by Street Prophets and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (21+ / 0-)

    "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals, now we know that it is bad economics." Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jan. 20, 1937

    by Navy Vet Terp on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 06:00:11 AM PST

  •  I love it all, except the last sentence. (5+ / 0-)

    "That is why an all powerful God allowed so many Egyptians to suffer and die."

    Yes, people suffer for the crimes of their leaders, and God allows it to happen, because if free will is to be at all meaningful, God can't simply step in and nullify such consequences whenever they'd happen. Fair enough.

    But we are specifically told in Exodus that God deliberately killed the firstborn all across Egypt -- and, furthermore, that he repeatedly hardened Pharaoh's heart in order so that this might happen and give him this chance to show his power! What gives?!? This is rather different from "the people suffer the natural consequences of the leader's arrogance."

    It's hard to see how a plague striking all the firstborn children could be a "natural consequence". There's something inherently supernatural about a plague that simply strikes down every firstborn child, leaving everyone else untouched.

    Or else perhaps we're just not meant to take it literally. Except then what do we do with the rest of the Exodus story...is it literal or factual or...? Maybe there's just no way to know.

    I love the story about the angels and God rebuking them, though.

    "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell) Join the Forward on Climate Rally on February 17!

    by Eowyn9 on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 06:45:01 AM PST

    •  On hardening the heart (5+ / 0-)

      A few years ago, apparently on the former Street Prophets web site that now exists only in cyber heaven, I did a diary in which I outlined a discussion in the Talmud between Rabbi Johanan, the same guy who gave us the story about the angels and God rebuking them, and his brother-in-law and close friend and colleague, Rabbi Simon ben Lakish, called in the Talmud Resh Lakish.  The discussion  is recorded at Exodus Rabbah 13.3.

      Rabbi Jonathan told his brother-in-law that he was troubled by God hardening Pharoh's heart, because if God controlled Pharoh's actions, then Pharoh had no free will and was not responsible for enslaving the Jews.  And that would mean that none of us has free will and cannot be responsible if we are led to do evil. "Is that what the Torah teaches us when it speaks of God hardening Pharoh's heart?" he asked his brother-in-law.

      Resh Lakish responded that God gave Pharoh five chances  - the first five plagues -  to let the Israelites leave, but each time Pharoh hardened his own heart.  It was not until the sixth plague that the text states that God hardened Pharoh's heart. "Since God warned him five times and Pharoh refused to hear and continued to stiffen his own heart, God told him, 'I will now add to the trouble that you have made for yourself.'"  Elsewhere in the Talmud (Shabbat 104a) Resh Lakish is quoted as saying:  

      If a person seeks to do evil, that person will find a way.  If a person seeks to do good, to better himself or others, God will help.
      The Bible can be very difficult, most of the people portrayed are quite inperfect, and there is much war, mass killing, back stabbing, revenge and other nastiness not to be admired.  It's easy to condemn the Bible in toto, but others have been struggling for millenia to find a higher message.

      "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals, now we know that it is bad economics." Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jan. 20, 1937

      by Navy Vet Terp on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 08:02:51 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Infinity > 5 except in theological math (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Fishtroller01

        "God gave Pharoh five chances"

        So, God runs out of options after five chances?

        That's some omnipotence you got there, boss.

      •  It's not a theological problem at all. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Eowyn9, Navy Vet Terp

        To my mind, the remarkable think about this narration is how realistic it is.  Pharoah acts exactly the way people in power tend to act.  All the talk about "hardening his heart" is beside the point.  If his heart didn't "harden" --- well, that would require some explanation.  I think the description of the power relations in this story is masterful.

        Somewhat along the same lines, here is a wonderful quote from the (mathematical) text "Catastrophe Theory and its Applications by Tim Poston and Ian Stewart:

        "...there are materials that can be deformed and left lying apparently changed in shape, but a day later (like the mind of a bureaucrat you thought you had convinced of something) appear as if they had never been disturbed, having reverted slowly but inexorably to the original position."

        •  "thing", not "think" (0+ / 0-)

          (Sorry about that.)

        •  Good try, as they say. Attempt at revisionist (0+ / 0-)

          history, but fail.

          All the talk about "hardening his heart" is beside the point.
          You would like it to be beside the point, because you do not like to admit that your God boasted with the steps he took to achieve the desired dramatic showdown.

          And since He is the Almighty one, He should be held responsible for His actions, no?

          God tells in this story in no uncertain words, that He messed with Pharaos brain to have a justification to punish him. This is a disgusting character trait.

          God tells us clearly why He did that: so that His people gets very impressed by Him. Not a sign of a mature personality, that.

          He who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.

          by Sophie Amrain on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 05:46:38 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Not fair enough (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Fishtroller01, Sophie Amrain

      "if free will is to be at all meaningful, God can't simply step in and nullify such consequences whenever they'd happen"

      That is not a sound argument, and you should not accept it as one.

      If the police videotape a murderer planning your murder, and loading the weapon, and pointing the gun at your head, and pulling the trigger, they don't need to wait until the bullet kills you to arrest the villain for murder. They can put up a bullet shield and deflect the bullet, and still make their case.

      Similarly, God could do the same: murderers could choose to murder, but they don't have to be allowed to finish.

      This does deny the murderer the experience of watching the victim's loved ones suffering and grieving. Perhaps that is the point; that all of us must suffer like the Egyptians did so that a few bystanders might reconsider their eternal fates. That's a pretty calloused view towards the suffering of others, implying as it does that the only reason the widow weeps is to enlighten the murderer. Only a murderer of incredible self-centeredness could think the improvement of his soul was worth someone else's tragic grief.

      But wait; the Jews don't feel guilty for their actions towards the Egyptians, because they didn't do anything. God murdered all those people; God caused all those mothers to weep over their children. Does God need to be shown the pain of others to learn the path to righteousness?

      If experiencing the pain of others is God's justification for allowing murders (never mind how cruel such a justification is), then what is God's justification for allowing God to murder? Does He need to feel pain, too?

      •  Your scenario would turn "free will" into (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JDsg, ModerateJosh

        a source of infinite insanity and torment for those unfortunate enough to possess it.

        "Similarly, God could do the same: murderers could choose to murder, but they don't have to be allowed to finish."

        Let's draw this out to its infinite conclusion. God prevents murderers from murdering. Great, but why stop there? God should also prevent rapists from raping. Thieves from stealing. Idiots like Fred Phelps and his church from screaming about hellfire and "God hates fags". My coworker from saying nasty things about me behind my back. You see where I'm going with this.

        We'd end up living in a universe where every time you set out to gossip about a friend, or tear up a parking ticket, or jaywalk, or even tell your wife that dress doesn't make her look fat...time would suddenly slow to a crawl, you would be enveloped in golden light, a booming voice would sound from above saying "YOU DIDN'T REALLY MEAN TO DO THAT, DID YOU?"...

        ...and you'd find yourself, quite against your will, saying pleasant things or telling the truth or cheerfully paying your parking ticket or whatever (or, alternately, simply frozen and unable to act until you gave in and just did whatever God wanted you to.)

        I think our current universe, for all its flaws, is a rather better design than that.

        "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell) Join the Forward on Climate Rally on February 17!

        by Eowyn9 on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 06:06:56 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Did you read that before you posted it? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Sophie Amrain

          "I think our current universe, for all its flaws, is a rather better design than that."

          What unbearably insufferable arrogance.

          Because you don't want to have a little voice constantly reminding you to say pleasant things or tell the truth or pay your bills, we have to have... Sandy Hook.

          Ask the parents of Sandy Hook which universe they think is a better design.

          I am sorry that living a life of moral virtue is so painful for you, but I don't see why innocent children should pay for your convenience. On the other hand, this is the religious mindset revealed in all its glory, so I can't say I am surprised. Everyone else can eat shit and die, for all you care, as long as you get to masturbate to porn or steal from the cookie jar or whatever pathetic little evil makes you feel "free" and "empowered."

          •  I do have a little voice reminding me to live (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            JDsg, ModerateJosh

            morally & ethically. It's called "conscience."

            But I am glad I live in a universe where I am not compelled to do what is right. Where my choice to do the right thing is a meaningful one and made out of empathy and love, not out of the knowledge that I will be forced to do "the right thing" because some all-powerful God insists on it.

            Sorry, but the universe you're advocating is a deterministic one where we're nothing more than puppets. Perhaps you'd enjoy living in this sort of universe, but I doubt you'll get most of the human race (or, it seems, the Creator) to agree with you.

            "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell) Join the Forward on Climate Rally on February 17!

            by Eowyn9 on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 08:24:25 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  Also, for the record (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Sophie Amrain

          It would not be against my will. I want to do all those things you said; I would be happy to have someone help me make the right decisions, even when I am tired or distracted or angry.

          I want to be a good person.

          WTF does it say about you that you don't want to be decent human being? WTF does it say about you that you want God to sit by silently while we do things, and then after it's too latepunish us or others for doing shit we didn't understand, mean, or remember?

      •  Your comment also reminded me of the poem (0+ / 0-)

        Friday's Child, by W.H. Auden.

        "He told us we were free to choose
        But, children as we were, we thought—
        “Paternal Love will only use
        Force in the last resort

        On those too bumptious to repent.”
        Accustomed to religious dread,
        It never crossed our minds He meant
        Exactly what He said."

        (The entire poem can be found here: http://timothyone.com/... ).

        "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell) Join the Forward on Climate Rally on February 17!

        by Eowyn9 on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 06:16:51 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  An interesting angle on "hardening the heart" (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Navy Vet Terp, Eowyn9

      was in the d'var that my dad wrote this past week.

      There's a bit where the text says that God hardened Pharaoh's heart and the hearts of his servants, following which Pharaoh refuses to let the Israelites go even though his servants are begging him to.  If the hearts of the servants are hardened, why are they asking Pharaoh to let the slaves go?

      According to this interpretation, a better translation would be not hardened but strengthened.  God did not change Pharaoh's mind or emotions; rather, He acted to strengthen Pharaoh's will against being overwhelmed by fear, so that he would choose rationally and deliberately instead of impulsively.  Likewise, the servants were strengthened against their own fear of Pharaoh, allowing them to say what they really thought instead of what they doubtless knew Pharaoh would have wanted to hear.

      It's not an interpretation I insist on, but I like it.

      •  This interpretation... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Navy Vet Terp
        Likewise, the servants were strengthened against their own fear of Pharaoh, allowing them to say what they really thought instead of what they doubtless knew Pharaoh would have wanted to hear.

        It's not an interpretation I insist on, but I like it.

        ...is more in line with the Islamic interpretation of this event, perhaps not so much "strengthened" as "hardened" with respect to Pharaoh, but very much so with respect to the servants, who are identified as magicians in the Qur'an.  There are actually three substantial passages in the Qur'an that tell the story of how the magicians were allowed to cast their staffs first, and then Moses (pbuh) cast his staff, which turned into a snake and devoured the other staffs.  When the magicians see this happen, they all prostrate themselves in front of Moses and Aaron (pbut), declaring themselves to be believers (Muslims).  Pharaoh is livid at this, and threatens the magicians with amputation of a foot and hand each before crucifying them.  However, the magicians say they don't care about any punishment Pharaoh might give out as they now would rather die as Muslims.

        Muslims and tigers and bears, oh my!

        by JDsg on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 08:13:20 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent analysis (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eowyn9, Navy Vet Terp, sfbob, pengiep

    Excellent analysis Navy Vet. My take of Biblical meaning is quite similar. That the "All powerful Deity" has endowed us with conscience (our inner compass showing us the laws of the universe we're bound with) and the choice to either submit to those laws or rebel against them thinking that we have the power to do so. Those laws of universal justice however cannot  be crossed and thus all pharaoh wannabees get their asses kicked in due time not by the Deity striking them with lightning (no need for that) but by them bringing the plagues on their own heads as the comeuppance of their own transgressions against their own souls. What happened in Egypt was self inflicted as it is and has been the end of all tyrants who deny and rebel against the laws they are bound from within.

    The beauty in Biblical sense of justice is of course that we should not be pleased by someone else's suffering even if it was brought by their own hands. As we are all human, none of us is exempt from failing and transgression. The only proper thing to do is to learn from others' failing while feeling empathy for their suffering. That requires humility. Lots of  it.

    Best
    i

    "Corruptio Optimi Pessima" (Corruption of the best is the worst)

    by zenox on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 06:59:25 AM PST

    •  "What happened in Egypt was self inflicted" (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Sophie Amrain

      How is it possible that God sent those plagues as an act of miraculous power and it was self-inflicted?

      You are in effect saying, "You knew better than to get in the cookie jar; Dad's gonna whip you when he gets home!" Which may be true, but even dad will concede he inflicts the whipping.

      •  We have this notion of "God as an outside power" (0+ / 0-)

        that does things to us who are separate and distinct from it. A careful study of scriptures makes me see it otherwise. All is within. In other words, this " miraculous power" operates from within, and it is just. There really is no escaping from it. That's what I 'see.'

        "Corruptio Optimi Pessima" (Corruption of the best is the worst)

        by zenox on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 07:16:56 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  If you think God exists solely inside our heads (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Fishtroller01, Sophie Amrain

          you're an atheist.

          Congratulations!

          •  "Inside" (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Eowyn9, Wonton Tom, Navy Vet Terp

            Do you know what the word "within" means? In other words, can you relate to my meaning and viewpoint when I utter the word "within"? The "in our head" comment you are using is generally used to dismiss the reality of something which has nothing to do with what I am talking about. To me, the "reality within" is the only reality that exists. The "outer reality" our senses create however is a projection of it. What we study, experience, and learn about this outside projection therefore are all symbolic, helping us to become aware of that "within." Jesus said "know thyself" because of that "within." All knowledge and learning helps us to discover (remember) "that within." To me it is the ultimate independence of the individual who has access to his creator only from "within." The organized religions (merchants of "God") of the world would like you to believe otherwise, of course. There is no power or benefit to be gained over someone who has full access to his/her creator from "within," is there?

            Call me an atheist? Fine. I have known "atheists" who are more faithful than the so called "religious" ones. It all depends on your vision and no two visions are exactly alike (it is a wonder that we humans can even communicate with one another :).

            Also, the origin of the English word "Human" (Hu man) comes from the old word God: Hod or Huda. Thus it literally means 'Godman' or better yet man or woman (the being) who is with "God." That "Hu" part of "man/woman" is what I mean by "within." Therefore, you see a great number of "hu mans" who are disconnected from that "hu" thus aren't really "hu mans," despite their appearance. It takes the recognition and the reconnection of the "Hu" with the "man/woman" for any of us to be "human," in true sense. Only few among us (sadly) are capable of such reconnection (to become whole however, instead of being fragmented). Those are called saints, etc. They help awaken others to their own "sainthood."

            English language, especially the origins of it, gives us a lot of clues about who we really are. A few however cares to study those origins.

            How about the word "Who"? "Who" are you? Do you (hou) know thyself?

            Peace.

            "Corruptio Optimi Pessima" (Corruption of the best is the worst)

            by zenox on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 08:33:03 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  "What happened in Egypt was self inflicted" (0+ / 0-)

      A callous and inhumane statement.

      He who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.

      by Sophie Amrain on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 05:50:10 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  saving for my last reading before internet off (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    zenox, Navy Vet Terp, whizdom

    ...tonight at [slightly delayed] Friday candle time. thank you do so much for doing this.

    "Are you bluish? You don't look bluish," attributed to poet Roger Joseph McGough, for the Beatles' Yellow Submarine (1968).

    by BlueStateRedhead on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 07:39:23 AM PST

  •  An after thought... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eowyn9, sfbob, pengiep

    To me those laws within are as solid as the laws we observe in our outer physical: universe. As I would harm myself for example if I drive my car into a solid wall, which will not yield and let me pass through, the inner laws will also not yield. My only chance for safety then is to respect those laws. Being human however we bang against those walls often and it is a wonder that we are around as species, still. It must be that the " Deity" is indeed forgiving and saving us from ourselves, within.

    "Corruptio Optimi Pessima" (Corruption of the best is the worst)

    by zenox on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 08:04:34 AM PST

    •  Indeed! (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Navy Vet Terp, zenox, sfbob

      I'm still amazed we made it through the Cold War without triggering total nuclear devastation of the planet. It is definitely miraculous that we are still around today!

      "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell) Join the Forward on Climate Rally on February 17!

      by Eowyn9 on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 08:08:33 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm from the generation (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Eowyn9, RJDixon74135, sweettp2063, zenox, sfbob

        That spent much of my elementary school time sitting with all my schoolmates in the hallway, with my head tucked down and my hands over the back of my neck, practicing what we would be doing when the nuclear bombs start dropping.  We were about 2 miles from the downtown business center of Baltimore, where you would think the Russians would be dropping one of their nukes.  So, what was the point of these air raid drills?  And I still remember the week of terror known as the Cuban missile crisis - we weren't sure if we would be around the following week.

        "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals, now we know that it is bad economics." Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jan. 20, 1937

        by Navy Vet Terp on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 08:14:29 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Moral laws have nothing to do with natural laws, (0+ / 0-)

      as I am sure you know. Natural laws describe how stuff is, moral laws describe how stuff should be.

      He who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.

      by Sophie Amrain on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 05:52:23 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Depends on the laws. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Navy Vet Terp

        It would be better to have two words for it, really -- one for strictures about how one should behave, and one for statements about how things do behave.  Calling both "law" is problematic.

        For the moment let's go with "strictures" and "statements", if that works?  Strictures are outwardly imposed; statements represent observable fact.  One can make moral statements, and they tend to resemble statements of natural law.

        The old line about "Wrestle not with monsters lest you become a monster" is phrased as a stricture, but it could be rephrased as a statement: "One who wrestles with evil risks becoming evil."

  •  Another thought. (8+ / 0-)

    Throughout history, and especially in the time of the bible, the king WAS the people.

    This is vastly apparent in Greek Tragedy, where the shedding of the blood of a King was equated with the death of his people.  (At least in the first incarnations.   Later the death of Hero, or anyone who represented people was also considered a subject of tragedy.)

    In a purely theatrical sense, the deaths of the Egyptians were wounds inflicted upon Pharaoh.  The king is the people, so therefore, the people are the king.  

    Just my English major/Theater Major take.

    I don't blame Christians. I blame Stupid. Which sadly is a much more popular religion these days.

    by detroitmechworks on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 08:08:19 AM PST

  •  Thus, we are all responsible for failing to stop (7+ / 0-)

    our leaders from oppressing anyone.  We don't like to admit that we profit from the oppression of others  --- just because we don't actively promote it.

    If we don't do all we can to stop our MIC from endless wars for profit -- we share the guilt and the penalties.  

    We here still live on stolen Indian lands.   We pay less tax when gay couples don't get @ 1,200  benefits of legal marriage.  

    States get fed tax bucks based on counting their undocumented immigrants in census -- but those immigrants are locked out of benefits of citizenship.  

    Ex-felons are taxed even when they are punished a second time by losing right to vote or defend self with firearm for life.

    Doing nothing has a price.      Nice diary.

    De fund + de bunk = de EXIT--->>>>>

    by Neon Mama on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 08:56:08 AM PST

  •  it's interesting (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Navy Vet Terp, sfbob, Amber6541

    the death of the firstborn.

    one one hand, the torah mentions that g-d will visit the iniquities of man onto several generations hence, yet in another part it makes clear that the son is not responsible for the sins of the father.

    the other thing is, moses would never have even made it through childhood if it weren't for one of pharoah's daughters taking him from the water and treating him like her own. yet g-d decides that pharoah's son should die for the sins of the egyptians?

    it's a wacky one, all right.

    anyone born after the McDLT has no business stomping around acting punk rock

    by chopper on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 09:24:20 AM PST

  •  Not a convincing alibi (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Fishtroller01, DarthMeow504, Yahzi

    God told Pharaoh to let his people go so they could worship him. God did not say that oppression was wrong, or that discrimination or slavery was an abomination (c.f. what God did call an "abomination" in Leviticus). Therefore, this is a story of the Jewish God's chauvinism where in his value system, allowing the Jews to worship him was equal in merit to killing hundreds of thousands of Egyptian children and other poor, honest Egyptians who had no clue that God had picked a fight with Pharaoh. Moreover, what kind of fight was that? The creator of Pharaoh who was all knowing of the future and all powerful, created Pharaoh in a way that God could harden his heart and then use that as an excuse to kill the innocent Egyptians.

    The alibi that the Torah is "literature" does not wash, unless we all agree it is pure fiction and a fairy tale that can be ignored as just another compilation of stories.  Furthermore, I disagree that it  survived because if it was not great literature,  "the Bible may have, and should have, joined other ancient writings now lost to posterity". It survived because like our current leaders, the Roman politicians used it to control people, keep them dumb and to scare them into not questioning irrational abuses of authority-- following the model in the Bible, the corrupt rulers throughout time exactly mimicked what God did on the theory, if the people accept that it was good for God to use his powers like a tyrant, surely believers were obliged to allow a tyrant to be a tyrant.

    This weeks reading of the Torah demonstrates only that "might is right"!  Morality is irrelevant if you have the power to ignore what is moral. There is not even a seed in this portion to support the revealed message that people should curb the excesses of their leaders or they will be punished. Nowhere in the Torah is there a single word that says the innocent Egyptians had the power to stop Pharaoh. Indeed, on reading Navy Vet Terp's diary today, I immediately thought of the idiots who said if Jews had guns in Nazi Germany, they would not have been slaughtered; or that Martin Luther King would agree that if the slaves had gun's in the 1800's, they could have ended slavery. Hence, you are saying: if the Egyptians had rebelled against Pharaoh because of his treatment of the Jews, God would not have had to kill them.

    •  I'll disagree with one sentence (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Eowyn9, Dogs are fuzzy
      It survived because . . .  the Roman politicians used it to control people, keep them dumb and to scare them into not questioning irrational abuses of authority . . .  
      The rabbis spent several centuries compiling the Talmud, the standard Wilna editions that we use for pagination contain over 6,200 pages, and it consists largely of the rabbis arguing with one another over the meaning of the Biblical text.  Studying it today is not an easy task.  And the Romans didn't use the Bible to control the Jews.  By the time Christianity became the state religion of Rome, the Romans had put down two major Jewish revolts, after which they used murder, rape, expulsion and similar techniques to control the Jews.

      No comment on the other 95% of the population of the Roman empire.

      "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals, now we know that it is bad economics." Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jan. 20, 1937

      by Navy Vet Terp on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 10:34:30 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Three, actually (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Navy Vet Terp
        By the time Christianity became the state religion of Rome, the Romans had put down two major Jewish revolts,
        I didn't get a chance to comment on this when others would see it, but it's significant that the number is actually 3 revolts, not 2.  In addition to the Great Revolt of 66-73 and the Bar Kochba Revolt of 132-135, there was another revolt: the Kitos War of 115-117.  It didn't take place in Judea, and for that reason isn't often talked about, but seems to have resulted in the deaths of a number of Roman soldiers and citizens as well as local inhabitants who were not Roman citizens.  The reaction to this revolt may be part of the reason that the Romans were so harsh after Bar Kochba.
    •  Good points (0+ / 0-)

      He who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.

      by Sophie Amrain on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 05:53:44 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  That is why an all powerful God allowed so many .. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Fishtroller01

    Why did an all powerful God allowed so many Jews to suffer and die? I know.. because he works in mysterious ways. Although you somehow understand how he works when things go your way (or prove your point).

  •  Numbers 31 (7+ / 0-)

    "Go thou forth against the Midianites and slay them all, every man, woman and child of them.  Except the young maidens who hath not lain with man, them you are to keep for yourselves."

    To which one can only say "Oh. my. God."

    Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?

    by ActivistGuy on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 10:48:56 AM PST

    •  there is one comforting thought (5+ / 0-)

      since Exodus is reported from an Israelite POV and their understanding of their own history, the events described there are likely to have been mythical or at least greatly exaggerated.
      As we discover archeological evidence from Egypt's contemporary neighbors and enemies, we gain more insight into the actual history as opposed to the supposed history. For example, the Bible is silent as to the Hittite empire which was rediscovered in recent times and was a serious existential threat to Egypt.  For example, the Battle of Kadesh was described by the Egyptians as a great victory when in fact it was a stalemate and almost a disaster for the Egyptians
      http://en.wikipedia.org/...
      The point is that archeology, by comparing accounts from both combatants and their neighbors, give us a better understanding of what actually happened.

      This relates to Exodus in that the events reported in Exodus are not substantiated by other histories and accounts of the era      

  •  Mythology or Mythology? (5+ / 0-)

    From the series of presentations I assume the diarist is a believer. But the result is a modern Commentary that tries to twist and word-play the text into something acceptable to modern morals, as are all commentaries on religious texts.

    It's a futile struggle, in my view, as well as a waste of good brain power. One can come up with the modern moral stances without the attachment to mythology, and they have more strength for not having that attachment.

    Ten plagues, saving the virgins, etc. detracts from the moral stances by associating them with silliness and evil – and by associating them to things that are not true.

    There is, too, the oft repeated position that this implies: You can't have morality without a divine being telling you what is right and wrong. This has been debunked as often as it has been stated. So linking the tales of, as Hitchens liked to call them, Bronze Age primitives to morality based on a theology that says the knowledge of good and evil comes from an odd behaving supernatural being degrades the morality of the non-theistic.

    A Southerner in Yankeeland

  •  All these complicated explanations (6+ / 0-)

    and analyzations and "deep meanings" searches are simply apologetics in disguise.

    This is not great literature. It is a depiction of an immoral deity. Period.

    And I really wonder how someone can still worship this deity or tolerate these stories.   I don't find anything in them except for a sense of wonder as to why the texts are "revered" in any way.  Yahweh was a monster, a petty tyrant as Richard Dawkins so aptly names him. And yet modern people who are descendants of these desert story tellers still bend their brains,  lose their sense of reason and justice, and center their lives around them.

    Thomas Paine called out the Old Testament for what it was as literature. More people should read Paine's Age of Reason.  It certainly opened my eyes to these texts.

    Or try "God" by Jack Miles.

  •  But what about Exodus 10:1-2 (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DarthMeow504, Sophie Amrain

    in the Christian Revised Standard Version:

    (1) "The the Lord said to Moses, "Go in to Pharaoah, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants that I may show these signs of mine among them (2) and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and your son's son how I have made sport of the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them; that you may know I am the Lord."

    This was after the thunder and hail.

    And Exodus 11:9-10 after the ninth plague, "(9)The the Lord said to Moses,  "Pharaoh will not listen to you that my wonders may be multiplied in the Land of Egypt. (10)Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh; and the Lord hardeed Pharaoh's Heart, ad he did ot let the people of Israel go out of his land."

    Remembering as weel Exodus13:14ff, the Lord speaking to Moses: "And when in time to come your son asks you 'What does this mean? you shall say to him "By strength of hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, from the house of bodange (15) For when Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the Lord slew all of the first born in the land of Egypt, both the first bir of man and the first born of cattle ....'

    when two chapters earlier the writers stated that the Lord had stated to Moses that he the Lord had produced the stubbornness in Pharaoh, not Pharaoh himself.

    .

    It does seem to suggest that the Lord, using RSV terminology and according to Exodus, but not necessarily the Lord, , was doing the hardening, not just the last few, for the stated purpose of showing the Hebrews that the Hebrew Lord could do these things outside the natural order, including the hardening of Pharaoh's heart despite Pharaoh's own choices in the matter, no matter whether the Egyptians consented to Moses' and Aaron's demands or not, and  so He had the opportunity where there was a narrator to explain to show that these events were not natural events or accidents, and that  He could make His signs, and could make sport of the Egyptians in so doing, and the sporting as well as the hardening and the plagues were all part of the same story. That the hardening was done in order that the opportunity appeared for the Lord to show his signs, not because Pharaoh was in fact acting badly on his own initiative. The verses would not have been maintained in Exodus had they not been there earlier and do constitute an explanation.

    And they do indicate that the communication of the ten plagues and of the Lord's willingness to manipulate and then slay the Egyptians was so that the Hebrews would know the Lord's power, it not mattering what the Egyptians knew, or thought or would have done on their own instigation.

  •  In contrast to what??? (0+ / 0-)
    A Biblical account of a God who zaps Pharoh with lightning bolts to bring the Israelites out of Egypt, while no other Egyptian suffers a scratch, would not have been realistic,
    Less realistic than parting the waters of the red sea? Less realistic than killing all firstborn? That seems to require much more aim than just zapping a single person.

    I notice that you see fit to make excuses for your genocidal God. But there are no excuses for genocide. None. All the more so, because an allmighty God surely could have thought out some other, less bloody strategy.

    That the Israelites later have been sad for the dead Egyptians speaks for them, but not for their God!

    He who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.

    by Sophie Amrain on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 03:37:12 PM PST

    •  Doesn't speak so loudly, though (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Sophie Amrain, Fishtroller01

      "That the Israelites later have been sad for the dead Egyptians speaks for them, but not for their God!"

      I would agree... except they still hang out with the dude, you know?

      It's one thing to say you feel bad now for the girl who got raped by that drunken bastard, even though at the time you kinda felt she had it coming what with all those slutty clothes and pyramids and such.

      But it's something else when we notice you still invite the drunken bastard to all your parties.

      •  Over the years those who still (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Sophie Amrain

        practice Judaism must at some point decided to forgive Yahweh for his sins so they could still have a relationship with him.... which means that humans are more moral than gods, but just can't get those gods out of their heads.  I think that qualifies as an addiction.

  •  many years ago... (0+ / 0-)

    I was a Bat Mitzvah & you reminded me that I can still chant most of Haftorah Bo by heart..sweet, I have some brain cells that survived my birthday (birhtdays)!  :)

    ...inspiration moves me brightly

    by wbr on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 03:37:40 PM PST

  •  Not necessarily (0+ / 0-)
    First, the mass slaughter of Egyptians cannot have been (as the commenter suggested) an example of early ultra-nationalism - cheering for the suffering and deaths of our enemies, for, later on in the Torah, God commands us:

    You shall not hate an Egyptian, for you were a stranger in his land.   Deuteronomy 23:8.

    The passage in Deuteronomy doesn't necessarily imply that the passage about the death of the first-born of Egypt wasn't cheering for the suffering and death of the enemy.

    I would say that cheering for the suffering and death of the enemy isn't ultra-nationalism at all, but a commonplace phenomenon in any armed conflict. There doesn't have to be nationalism, only conflict. That they had to have a law against hating an Egyptian implies that they had a problem with bad blood toward Egyptians, laws generally aren't passed unless there someone is doing that activity.

    In any case, the law does necessarily imply that at an earlier time there wasn't gloating over the deaths of the Egyptians. The qualms over this seem to have come from a much later period as people's ethical understanding evolved.

    But it being bad literature for God to have used a lightning bolt doesn't seem like great justification for killing people who were utterly powerless to act for or against the Pharaoh. And I think there could have been just as good literature from aiming the punishment at the people who were resisting Moses.

    The wolfpack eats venison. The lone wolf eats mice.

    by A Citizen on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 04:59:13 PM PST

    •  Hang on a second (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Fishtroller01

      If God can't justify collective punishment with biological weapons against the citizens of rulers he doesn't like, then how the heck are we supposed to justify strategic bombing, nukes, or even drone strikes?

      Pretty clearly you're missing the big picture here.

      :P

  •  A key difference from other fights against tyranny (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Yahzi

    The people who halted the aggressors of the 20th century at the cost of millions of lives were not omnipotent. They had no means at their disposal short of the horrors of total war. The US had to toss two cities into radioactive fire to end the war. The Almighty could have imposed a plague of temporary blindness long enough for the slaves to slip away.

    Neon mama's point above that people who fail to overthrow a tyrant are less than innocent makes sense, but did the mass of Egyptians really have power to oppose Pharaoh?

  •  A delight. Shabbat Shalom (0+ / 0-)

    Thanks for the excellent D'var torah. Your interpretation is spot on. I would only add that in Hebrew scripture not only are people imperfect but so is God, who calls himself, "I shall be whom I shall be." God is, in other words, the principle of transcendence, thus making freedom possible for those who choose that path. And, as you say, for the perpetrators and bystanders there are consequences.

    •  I shudder to read these heartless sentences. (0+ / 0-)
      And, as you say, for the perpetrators and bystanders there are consequences.
      The firstborn were killed. Probably there were quite a few small children among them. Do you truly think it is justified to kill them because they were bystanders? Would you argue that the firstgraders who died in Newton had it coming because God needed to punish the nation?

      He who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.

      by Sophie Amrain on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 05:59:57 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Too quick to make an easy point (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Navy Vet Terp

        Come on. As the diary has argued, the meaning of this passage (and others) is a reference to the consequences of genocide and injustice for those who actively or passively participate. Hundreds of thousands of white Southerners died in defense of slavey; millions of Germans died in defense of the Nazi regime (and many of them innocent). Yes, in this passage, it  appears that it is God who orders all of this but at the same time in that famous passage in the Talmud (which in the Jewish tradition has the same authority as the Torah) God requires us to shed tears for the Egyptian victims as well as the ancient Hebrews (God calls the Egyptians who died "my children" and requires us to mourn for them every Passover).

        You missed my main point: In our tradition God is not perfect or omnipotent. He/she did not cause the Hebrew people to be enslaved and could not have freed them without their participation. Free will is central to this story. God didn't kill the Egyptian children--the Egyptians did and are responsible for it (in the story). God didn't kill anyone at Newton to "punish a nation." We did--a gun toting nut did and so did a nation that allows this kind of thing. "God" is a moral ideal in the Torah, an evolving moral ideal. And before we jump on isolated passages lets remember that Exodus is the origin of the modern idea of social justice. God intervenes to help a people win their freedom and self determination. No wonder the story has been an inspiration to the civil rights movements and just about every movement for freedom.

  •  It's fiction. It didn't happen. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Yahzi, Sophie Amrain

    Stop imagining it has lessons for anyone, it doesn't. It's a self-justifying nationalistic tale with elements aimed at the issues of the time it was written (centuries later than its alleged date). To find justification for it is to indulge in the kind of death-worship that is so common in Christianity and which so many of us free from affliction by the Abrahamic religions find so repugnant.

    Vorkosigan

    •  Your anger at Abrahamic religions (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JDsg, Navy Vet Terp, JLan

      is certainly your right to have, but your method of expressing it seems to embody the kind of hate that I suspect you dislike when it comes from people who use religion to oppress.

      What is truth? -- Pontius Pilate

      by commonmass on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 05:01:36 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I can tell you where the anger comes from. (0+ / 0-)

        It comes from having to read completely heartless, immoral and cynical comments and diaries, in which abject cruelties and barbarism is always justified with the most phony excuses, as long as your hero perpetrated them.

        He who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.

        by Sophie Amrain on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 06:03:09 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I suspect that you have been somehow personally (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Navy Vet Terp, joedemocrat

          harmed by Abrahamic religion, for which I am profoundly sorry, if that's true. I can get that diaries about religion may be a trigger for you.

          I am fairly confident that this

          abject cruelties and barbarism is always justified with the most phony excuses, as long as your hero perpetrated them.
          is not the point of this diary or for the most part, any religion diaries here on Daily Kos.

          You know, you don't have to read these diaries, and if they cause you pain, might I suggest that you avoid reading them in the future? I think you would be much better off avoiding diaries about religion, and I say this not because I don't want you here, but because I don't want you to have to revisit anew those things which most clearly cause you deep anguish.

          Peace.

          What is truth? -- Pontius Pilate

          by commonmass on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 11:11:45 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Fiction doesn't have lessons for anyone? (0+ / 0-)

      ... says the user calling himself Vorkosigan?

  •  I Did A Slightly Snarky Diary On Free Will (0+ / 0-)

    .....why God feels compelled to go all Cecil B. DeMill on some seemingly innocent bystanders, and how we resort to all sorts of kludgey workarounds (demons, witches, gays having butt sex) to resolve this paradox.

    http://www.dailykos.com/...

    There’s always free cheddar in a mousetrap, baby

    by bernardpliers on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 07:01:01 PM PST

  •  Great thread (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eowyn9

    I am really enjoying this discussion. Please allow me to make some comments from the perspective of Christian tradition.
    1/ As Ivan Illich pointed out in one of his books, there are some things God cannot do. One of them is to save a(n) (adult) HUMAN BEING against their will. (Contents within brackets are my addition to the quote).
    2/ Or, as CS Lewis is quoted as saying, either we say to God "Your will be done" or God says to us "have it your way".
    3/ Unfortunately, leaders get to have the dignity of these choices as much, if not more so, than us poor shmucks. The New Testament summarizes "As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive". So perhaps Navy Vet would agree that 4,409 Americans died because they were "in George W Bush"?
    4/ Closely related, Chapter 6 of the Book of the Apocalypse gives the image of the four horses, the white horse of conquest, followed by the red horse of war, followed by the black horse of famine, followed by the pale (chloros in Greek) horse of death. For myself, I could not for one moment grasp the flow of history without this image in my head.
    So, just for example, when your President Bush, aided and abetted by my Prime Minister Howard, invaded Iraq, I immediately thought "My God, they are letting the white horse out for a gallop". In my better moments I have prayed that we all be spared the appearance of war, famine and death, but, guess what? Those prayers have not been answered.
    5/ Until I read Navy Vet's commentary, if asked what the worst punishment would be, I would probably have said it was death, separation from loved ones or something like that. But I am now really struck that the worst punishment would be to witness the death of my first born for my misdeeds. In Exodus, that punishment is visited upon the Egyptians and it is truly horrible. I am glad the Rabbis urged their followers to mourn the Egyptian dead, and I resolve to do the same in future. But know that, in the Christian tradition, Jesus is God's firstborn, and at the same time the Son of Man (our firstborn?)and he was put to death for our misdeeds.
    Shalom  

    •  Why? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Sophie Amrain

      "...there are some things God cannot do. One of them is to save a(n) (adult) HUMAN BEING against their will."

      So, I take it you are against: laws against suicide, involuntary committals, or any forcible action taken by authorities to prevent anyone, of any state of mind, from harming themselves?

      If I saw a person about to make a terrible mistake, solely because they lacked sufficient information, I would certainly intervene. I would knock the poisoned chalice from their hands and then argue with them.

      Maybe, if they demonstrated full knowledge of what they were doing, with a complete understanding of the consequences, while remaining totally grounded in reality, empiricism, and logic, and argued their case persuasively, I might let them drink poison.

      And I might not.

      But the last thing I would do is look at the guy who poisoned the glass, and stood there watching, mouthing inaudible comments, and think he was somehow the good guy in all of this.
       

      •  Reply to Yahzi (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JDsg

        The reason I specified adult, which is not in the original quotation from Illich, is because I do believe that saving a person against their will places them in the position of a child. This can only be morally justified if they are, in fact, a child, or are made a child functionally by infirmity such as mental illness, dementia or intellectual handicap.
        As for God being the guy who poisoned the chalice, Genesis 3 makes the clear statement that the chalice was poisoned by us human beings, so believing Jews and Christians run with that (as I suspect do Muslims, but I'm not completely sure about that). Obviously, other people have other views. Let the different schools of thought contend!

    •  He can't? (0+ / 0-)
      One of them is to save a(n) (adult) HUMAN BEING against their will.
      But God could mess with Pharaos head to make sure he (and his people) were not saved. That seems to put the lie to your (Illichs) claim.

      He who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.

      by Sophie Amrain on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 06:06:54 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Reply to Sophie Amrain (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JDsg, Navy Vet Terp

        Thanks for the reply. I presume you read Zenox' take on how God established the natural moral order of the universe, which I basically agree with. There would have been many occasions before the Exodus when a leader brought disaster and destruction upon the people by presuming to violate the natural order of the universe.
        But the Exodus is different, I agree. I definitely believe that God perpetrated the genocide quite deliberately. I say this, firstly, because the text says he did, and secondly because it was universal, "there was no house in Egypt that did not have someone dead", so the event was, if you like, a negative miracle that could only have been done by an almighty God.
        So, what gives. I actually have not much idea, beyond acknowledging that this would be the most powerful confirmation from God that he was behind the natural moral order 100 per cent. But please read the story in Genesis 32 of Yaakov wrestling with God with the idea in mind that the true Israelite is the one who wrestles with God about such matters, as opposed to running away from him, or pretending he doesn't exist, or that he didn't actually do the things the Bible says he did.
        As far as God hardening Pharoah's heart after rejecting God five times, that would be much the same as saying God hardens a Mafia hitman's heart after he has done his first few murders, ie back to the natural order of the universe. As for the people, they really are the tragic victims, and that's the point of the story.

      •  With regard to God messing with Pharaoh's head (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Navy Vet Terp

        you might be interested in my above comment to Eowyn.

    •  Thanks for the comment (0+ / 0-)

      The recommend block has gone, otherwise I would have clicked on it.

      "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals, now we know that it is bad economics." Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jan. 20, 1937

      by Navy Vet Terp on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 06:01:12 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  No one has ever been able to explain to me... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Fishtroller01, Sophie Amrain

    Why I should feel respect, awe and devotion for a God who behaves like a psychopathic thug or Matriarchs and Patriarchs who are mostly so selfish, hard-hearted and dysfunctional that they make the folks on Jerry Springer seem well-adjusted.
    I'm Jewish by heritage but when I read the Bible as a teenager, it disturbed me so much that I had nightmares. No matter how you "explain" it- it's a book filled with violence, destruction, war, anger, rape and justification for all sorts of pain and mayhem.  But hey - that's just my take on it...carry on.

    •  Exactly. And I might add that it endangers the (0+ / 0-)

      moral compass, if you undertake all that legitimizing of wanton cruelty.

      He who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.

      by Sophie Amrain on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 06:04:48 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's not the way I read the Bible... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Navy Vet Terp

        these stories are from an ancient time; one that I can not understand. I do not legitimize the killing or cruelty that is depicited, and I do not view it as coming from God. I think that people project their own desires onto a God, and that through the thousands of years since these ancients lived, the god of war ceased to be celebrated and a different concept of God emerged --we see  a God of justice and mercy and love emerging in the texts.

        There are passages in the Bible that move me in ways that pass understanding. I feel that the Bible does contain deep moral truths that are relevant for me. My take is that there is always more light and truth to be had if we search. The writers of these  texts passed on a heritage that we should scrutinize and improve on -- at least that is my take.

  •  "Why did so many Egyptians have to die?" (0+ / 0-)

    Let me count the WHYs! Number One: Their Pharoe asked all Egyptians to teach all their kids to hate the Jews.

  •  The British in India (0+ / 0-)

    http://www.independent.co.uk/...

    (emphasis added)

    Keep going back to the record. There were indeed some decent men among the imperial rulers, whose instinct was to feed the starving Indians. One colonial administrator, Sir Richard Temple, reacted at first by importing massive amounts of rice from Burma. The official record shows that only 23 people died under this enlightened policy. If James and Ferguson were right, Temple would have been held up as a beacon of the way British chaps do things. But in reality, he was severely reprimanded by London for his "extravagance". The Economist savaged him for allowing the lazy Indians to think "it is the duty of the Government to keep them alive".

    Temple learned his lesson. He slammed into reverse, and began to conduct experiments to see how little food Indians could survive on, noting coldly in his book when "strapping fine fellows" were reduced to "little more than animated skeletons ... utterly unfit for any work".In the average British labour camp that Temple was ordered to set up, inmates were given fewer daily calories than if they had ended up in Buchenwald 80 years later. This new Temple was praised by his imperial masters as a fine example. If you study the records, you can see this pattern practised as deliberate policy all over India.

    •  As in Ireland during the potato famine n/t (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Arun

      "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals, now we know that it is bad economics." Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jan. 20, 1937

      by Navy Vet Terp on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 06:05:21 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

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