Betting on God’s Favoritism

Gambling, simply defined, is taking a risk in the hope of gaining some advantage; it is an act or undertaking with an uncertain outcome. From a mortal’s point of view, that seems to be the game plan of Creation itself. Conception is a gamble. The first breath of every entity is a gamble. And, to be candid, even one’s personal faith is a gamble, for belief-chips are wagered at the table of life where the dealers may be slipping in cards from the bottom of the deck. That premise is slyly admitted in the rules of the game as promoted in holy texts.

For example, in the scriptural book Numbers (17:8-10) there is given instructions for making twelve rods to be placed upon the altar so God could show which of the twelve tribes of Israel he allegedly favored for priesthood honors. That, of course, is simply a variation of casting lots to determine a question by chance. How the tribe of Levi, as the story has it, wound up with special sacerdotal functions which entitled it to receive material support from all the other tribes sounds more like the result of a priestly con job than godly selection. Suspicion is aroused by the fact that Hebrew Scriptures are not consistent with regard to either the number or the names of Jacob’s sons after whom the tribes were allegedly named.

Chapter 17 of the book of Numbers, written by priest authors, is an account of how the Lord allegedly conveyed his wishes to Moses concerning which of the twelve tribal members he favored to serve as his representatives. This game of chance was set up by Moses after his brother Aaron’s priesthood had been questioned in the rebellion of Korah. Each leader of the twelve tribes were instructed to bring their tribe’s rod–a long, thick piece of wood bearing the tribal identity which symbolized their tribal leader’s authority–and place it in “…the tabernacle of the congregation before the testimony…” (verse 4). The godly scheme was that whichever of the twelve rods of supposedly dead wood would blossom would reveal the Lord’s choice for priest. Why the Creator-God could not express his will without intermediators is never addressed. Anyway “…every one of their princes gave him (Moses) a rod apiece…according to their fathers’ houses…and the rod of Aaron was among the rods.” (verse 6)

Well, Surprise! Surprise! It came to pass that Moses’ brother Aaron’s rod won the prize! Verse 9 set the scene: “And Moses brought out all the rods from before the Lord unto all the children of Israel: and they looked, and took every man his rod.” These rods which represented a tribal leader’s authority were all handed down and dried out with age, therefore it is a declared “miracle” that one of the rods could bud forth. Verse 10: “And the Lord said unto Moses, Bring Aaron’s rod again before the testimony, to be kept for a token against the rebels…” Moses had not made any objection to this means of determining God’s will. As far as Moses was concerned the position of high priest was already settled. It was merely coincidence that Aaron’s rod happened to have some life-flowing sap within it. Thus was the priestly lineage divinely bestowed by God upon the descendants of Levi.

According to Deuteronomy (written c. 640 BCE) the priestly status was to be determined through Levi lineage, and this is what supposedly validated a priests’ share of secular goodies. But there has been disagreement whether Levi was originally a secular tribe (Genesis 49:5-7). Indeed, in Numbers (4:1-33) the descendants of Levi’s sons–Gershon, Kohath and Merari–are burdened with strict distinctions of duties which actually barred them from priesthood and the three sons functioned under Aaronic supervision. However, according to Deuteronomy, the contents of which happened to have been “discovered” in the wall of the Temple in Jerusalem being remodeled c. 640 BCE, the Levites are presented as “Judges” (17:8-9), and as custodians of the Torah scroll (17:18). And later in chapter 27:9 the Levites are said to stand with Moses to proclaim a covenant renewal “…this day thou art become the people of the Lord thy God.” In the two books of Chronicles, however, the confusion seems to stem from an attempt to arbitrate and establish a cooperative approach between the Aaronic and Levite tribes.

As noted, the chance of “rods” budding to indicate the Lord’s chosen representatives, is a close relative to the casting of lots to determine some prize. Interestingly the practice of casting lots is referred to seventy-seven times in the Old Testament and pops up seven times in the New Testament. Casting of lots are used in Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Joshua, 1 Samuel, Esther, Psalms, Proverbs, Daniel and Jonah. In the New Testament lots are referred to in John, Acts and 1 Corithians.

In Christian lore (John 19:24) the soldiers present at the crucifixion of Jesus are depicted as casting lots for his garments. This brings up the curious fact that it is from the Greek word kleros, which means “lots,” or more correctly that which is assigned by lot (gambling) that we received our word for those who are ordained for “religious service”–the clergy. (Some dictionaries trace the word clergy only to Middle English, from Old French influence clerge, meaning a body of clerks; but this is not the real source.) The word clergyman is advertised and promoted to mean those who are authorized to preach the gospel and administer its ordinances. But looking at the Greek origin of the word, what is admitted is that these persons are ordained, in a sense, as gambling men! In the word clergy, from the Greek kleros, to gamble by lots, we can see why organized by-the-book faith systems, acting as pulpit casinos, have so often missed their declared spiritual purpose.

One of the disguised gambling angles in spiritual showmanship is the tenet of “free will“, the supposition that the constant choices which each individual faces daily are voluntary and are not determined by any external causes. This is something of a slight-of-hand manipulation which disguises that everything in life is a gamble. The ironic part of this clergy-style inference of free will is that the clergy then abruptly performs a U-turn and says that free will must be abandoned if we are to serve god’s higher purpose: and that abandonment of personal will must be channeled into submission to whatever they, the clergy, willfully choose to sermonize about. The resultant spiritual advice which they so liberally distribute too often implants in the faithful only a feeling of self-chastisement. We are left to wonder, are these imposed odds of the spiritual game in the seekers favor or are the odds in favor of the house?

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9 Responses to “Betting on God’s Favoritism”

  1. The odds are always in the favor of the house. There is another gambit, if you live a life of sin you can redeem yourself at the last moment according to Christianity and attain the status afforded an infant who dies at birth… if you are willing to risk it.

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