Thanks to Brent Herbert, 508 1310 20th Street West Saskatoon, Sask., Canada, S7M0Z2, I have come to understand the bible.
The Babble's Prime Mover:
The tribe religious leaders needed converts to feather their nests.
What motive is there for others to convert if salvation doesnt hinge on that conversion?
He publishes a stream of conscience blog that contains some real insight into the origins of the bible. All that follows is distilled from his website: http://www.awitness.org/contrabib
much of what passes for history in the Bible is actually a kind of political propaganda and polemic, and that the Bible consists of source materials composed by different groups at different times, representing various ideological viewpoints.
The Bible does not present a consistent picture of what is moral or what is right and what is wrong, as is demonstrated by the constant call for genocide on its pages. Old and young, men, women and infants, all were to be ruthlessly slaughtered, using the techniques of the day.
One polemical excuse often employed to justify the vitriolic violence on the pages of the Bible is that, 'the Bible accurately portrays reality. The world is a violent place.' But 'portraying reality' and ascribing homicidal fury to God, even actively endorsing and promoting a genocidal, racist mindset are two very different things.
The Bible actually portrays God in many different ways. For example one should either hate Moabites, and parcel out their land, or one should avoid all conflicts with Moabites and not attempt to take their land. Christ was given to say, 'put away your swords for those who live by the sword, will die by the sword.' And again he recommended that rather than resist, one should offer to carry the packs of the invading army. If they asked you carry their pack one mile, he recommended that it be carried two miles. And the Jewish prophets dreamed of the day when 'swords would be hammered into plough shares, and people would learn war no more.'
The victims of genocide in the Bible do not remain in their graves, instead of rising repeatedly from the ashes, to deliver testimony to the actual political and ideological conflicts found on the pages of the Bible. The Bible is composed of multiple sources, and these sources represent different political and ideological viewpoints. An interesting example of what I mean can be found when we consider the multiple massacres' of the Bible. As I indicated in the section on the book of Joshua, nations wiped out by Joshua make a miraculous resurrection from the dead in the book of Judges. They rise zombie like from the ashes to fight Israel again, and apparently nothing short of a silver bullet would suffice to put them down once and for all.
This pattern is not confined to the books of Joshua and Judges. In the book of Numbers the Midianites are wiped out, only to reappear again and again in the works of history.
"They warred against Midian, as YAHWEH commanded Moses, and killed every male. They killed the kings of Midian ... And the people of Israel took captive the women of Midian and their little ones; and they took as booty all their cattle, their flocks, and all their goods. All their cities in the places where they dwelt, and all their encampments, they burned with fire." (Numbers 31:7)
"Moses was enraged with the officers of the army ... So you spared the women! ... Kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has had sexual intercourse with a man, but keep the virgins for yourselves ... divide them up evenly.'" (Numbers 31:15)
The account in Joshua is agreement with this tradition recorded in Numbers.
"Moses defeated the leaders of Midian." (Joshua 13:21)
It should come as no surprise that once again the book of Judges conflicts with the account in Joshua and also with the version of events in Numbers. The Midianites have been raised from the dead.'
"The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of YAHWEH; and YAHWEH gave them into the hands of the Midianites seven years ... because of the Midianites the people of Israel hid in caves and holes in the ground." (Judges 6:1)
The Amalekites also showed an amazing ability to make a come back after being wiped out in a genocidal slaughter. The story begins with a reference to Amalek in the Exodus account, and a call for holy war' and genocide.
"And Joshua mowed down Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword. And YAHWEH said to Moses, 'Write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. A hand upon the banner of YAHWEH! YAHWEH will be at war with Amalek for all generations.'" (Exodus 17:13)
The book of Deuteronomy picks up on this theme, and repeats the call for genocide.
"Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you came out of Egypt ... Therefore when YAHWEH your God has given you rest from all your enemies round about, in the land which YAHWEH your God gives you for an inheritance to possess, you shall blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; you shall not forget." (Deuteronomy 25:17)
And, so the story goes, they did not forget.
"Thus says YAHWEH of hosts, 'I will punish what Amalek did to Israel in opposing them on the way, when they came up out of Egypt. Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.'" And Saul came to the city of Amalek, and lay in wait in the valley. And Saul said to the Kenites, "Go, depart, go down from among the Amalekites, lest I destroy you with them." ... So the Kenites departed from among the Amalekites. And Saul defeated the Amalekites ... and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword ... And Saul said to Samuel, "I have obeyed the voice of YAHWEH, I have gone on the mission on which YAHWEH sent me, I have brought Agag the king of Amalek , and I have utterly destroyed the Amalekites." (1 Samuel 15:2, 20)
Samuel was furious because it turned out that Saul had spared one Amalekite, the king, and had also kept the livestock. After having been wiped out by Saul, the Amalekites, like the Amorites and so many nations before them (supposedly exterminated by Joshua), rise from the grave to fight David. Once again the Amalekites become the victims of genocidal slaughter.
"Now David and his men went up, and made raids upon the Geshurites, the Girzites, and the Amalekites ... And David smote the land, and left neither man nor woman alive, but took away the sheep, the oxen, the asses, the camels, and the garments, and came back to Achish ... And David saved neither man nor woman alive, to bring tidings to Gath, thinking, "Lest they should tell about us, and say, 'So David has done.'" Such was his custom all the while he dwelt in the country of the Philistines." (1 Samuel 27:8)
This is still not the last we have heard of the Amalekites.
"The Amalekites had made a raid upon the Negeb and upon Ziklag. They had overcome Ziklag, and burned it with fire, And David smote them from twilight until the evening of the next day." (1 Samuel 30:1)
The book of Chronicles dispenses with the story of Saul's annihilation of the Amalekites, and instead agrees with the variant account in Samuel.
"These also King David dedicated to YAHWEH, together with the silver and gold which he had carried off from all the nations, from Edom, Moab, the Ammonites, the Philistines, and Amalek." (1 Chronicles 18:1)
Either genocide is wrong or it is right, but it is not both wrong and right. Keep in mind that the most Biblically 'literal' of Christians are the ones who are the most insistent that 'morality is not based on circumstance, but rather on timeless truth.' This principle is ditched, however, when it comes to excusing wicked conduct endorsed by some Biblical character. White is white, unless it is black, in which case, biblically speaking, white is black. Now either genocide is right or wrong, and coming up with 'excuses based on circumstances' is unacceptable, in particular when believers deny the same argument to others, and condemn in others what they excuse on the pages of the Bible.