Archive for kingdom of Judah

A Priest’s Convenient Discovery

Posted in Atheist, belief, faith, Hebrew scripture, history, politics, random, religion, thoughts with tags , , , , on December 1, 2011 by chouck017894

(Political Purpose of Deuteronomy)

The biblical text known as Deuteronomy, inserted as the fifth book of holy scripture, was composed for political purposes in Jerusalem in the newly established little tribal kingdom of Judah in the seventh century BCE. The little kingdom of Israel to the north had fallen to Assyrian expansion, and the inspiration behind the priest-written text was that the people could be mobilized by giving them an emotional claim to a national identity.

Deuteronomy is the alleged second corpus juris (body of laws) that had purportedly been given to the Israelites through Moses prior to the Israelites entering the land of Canaan.  The delivery of the supplements to the original “laws” had supposedly taken place in the plains of Moab (generally placed in the 1400s BCE).  So the Israelites were not then in the “Promised Land,” and yet the book containing the second corpus of “laws” supposedly had been carried into and inflicted upon those who already inhabited the land of Canaan.  Those undisclosed laws had apparently been lugged around through the Israelite invasion ordeal, even though the Israelites were unaware that what they defended predetermined the framework for a national constitution of Israel that would rise generations later!

The major feature of the top-secret text was the promise from god—or a covenant between God and Israel—to serve as the basis for the Israelites lifestyle in Canaan.  In the time of Moses, remember, no center  of Israelite government or religion existed in Canaan, the “Promised Land,” and yet that “for your eyes only” text supposedly provided the basic summary of every citizen’s rights and duties.  Strangely, those god-ordained laws were not found until the Temple in Jerusalem was being remodeled in the seventh century BCE, which was after the kingdom of Israel to the north had fallen to the Assyrians—or around 700 years after the traditional timeframe accorded to Moses and the Exodus (c. 1576 BCE).  Unlike the Ten Commandments the additional laws conveyed to Moses apparently had not been written on stone.

Whoever the real author(s) was (most likely it was the High Priest named Hilkiah and his secretary Shapan), he undoubtedly built upon already existing traditions, refashioning the legends according to his own outline and political goals.  There is no doubt of the genius of the creator(s) of the 7th century BCE who updated the oral traditions, for the early folklore and stories were woven together so skillfully that the characters, such as Moses, Aaron, Joshua, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc., exuded individual distinctiveness.  Equally telling that priestly hands were at work on the text are often detected in the alleged exhortations of Moses, which can only be characterized as preaching the law in a reproachful manner.  The heavy amount of the “laws” are not what can be termed juridical, but primarily concerned religious instructions and regulations for worship, even a festival calendar, and admonitions designed to program the public with a sense of obligation and duty toward God, which—surprise!—cunningly placed the priests in absolute management position.

In 640 BCE, after the assassination of tribal king Amon of Judah, his 8-year old son Josiah became king—and the High Priest Hilkiah became the young king’s tutor.  The convenient “discovery” of the book of Law in this same general timeframe also happened to coincide with the rise of literacy that accompanied the influx of refugees from the fallen kingdom of Israel to the north.  With the arrival in Judah of expatriates from the kingdom of Israel the political atmosphere changed, and until this timeframe there had been little means of producing extensive sacred texts.  With young King Josiah being tutored by the High Priest Hilkiah, the stage was set to institute a unifying code of alleged god-ordained laws within the boundaries that were then being claimed as the kingdom of Judah.

Deuteronomy is the only book of the Pentateuch that asserts that it contains “words of the covenant” which Israelites were instructed to follow faithfully (Exodus 29:9).  Biblical scholars have pointed out that the literary form of the alleged covenant between Yahweh and his people as presented in Deuteronomy has striking similarity to the seventh century BCE Assyrian vassal treaties.  In those Assyrian models the subjected people’s’ rights and obligations were correspondingly detailed.  The major difference from the Assyrian model with the holy “covenant” laws allegedly discovered in the Temple wall at Jerusalem is that Yahweh is acknowledged as Sovereign (with the priests acting as his representatives).  Typical cult ordinances were then stressed such as followers of Yahweh were charged to have no transactions or social interaction, and no intermarriage whatever with the native inhabitants.

The book of Deuteronomy also prohibited numerous Canaanite rites that had been tolerated for generations—rites that included sense-stimulants such as prostitution, ritual sodomy, and use of idols upon which devotees could focus their attention.  After the so-called “second law” was revealed, the books of Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, and 1 and 2 Kings were compiled in conjunction with Deuteronomy.  The groundwork was then laid down in the plotted reform measures that the High Priest and his scribe sought to impose at that time.  Thus eight years after Josiah had become king in 622 BCE, the suggestible adolescent observed the first-ever Passover sacrifice in the national shrine in Jerusalem.  Holy politics had triumphed.

The imposed cult-like obligations and the emphasis that believers in Yahweh were the only virtuous people—always self-portrayed as surrounded by wickedness and evil and godlessness—insured that Judaism would live at variance not only with neighboring people, but with Nature and universal forces as well.  Over time that spiritual virus would also contaminate the devout affirmations of two later faith systems that would arise to further splinter the western understanding of man’s relationship to the creative forces around him.