Archive for twelve tribes of Israel

Betting on God’s Favoritism

Posted in Atheist, belief, Christianity, faith, Hebrew scripture, random, religion, scriptures, theology with tags , , , , , on May 12, 2014 by chouck017894

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?

Tribal Heritage of Faith Systems

Posted in Atheist, belief, Bible, faith, Hebrew scripture, random, religion, scriptures with tags , , , , , on October 1, 2013 by chouck017894

Very little is known concerning the ancient history of the alleged twelve tribes which are referred to in Hebrew Scriptures. Genesis 49 speaks of the “blessings of Jacob,” and Deuteronomy 33 speaks of the “blessings of Moses,” but these priestly notations provide only allusions to earlier tribal measures. Always there is presented the insinuation that the twelve alleged tribes always functioned as a united people (as is inferred in the much-edited book of Joshua). The claim that there were twelve tribes drew their identity from the twelve sons of Jacob seem most likely to have been cleverly modeled by the priest-authors, for manipulative reasons, upon the twelve signs of the zodiac.

The perception of “tribe” is of a unity of primitive social organization, commonly living together under a headsman (chief). Even after establishment in Canaan the Hebrew settlers (AKA Israelites) are depicted as clinging to their tribal customs. And it was because of this that Israel was never among the great political powers in the ancient world despite the grandiose claims of the priest-authors of scripture. Nor can it be claimed that either Israel of Judah excelled in architecture or minor arts. But in literature and especially in historiography the Yahweh priests were without equal. Unlike the Babylonians, Assyrians, Egyptians, etc., the tribal mentality among the Hebrews did not embrace a practice of assimilation: it was always an attitude of us-against-them. The premise of what constituted tribal “law,” for example, was the indulgence in retaliation–the talion–such as an eye for an eye.

In a later timeframe, in the vicinity of ancient Rome (founded c. 753 BCE), there were three tribal divisions which included Latin, Etruscan and Sabine. These cannot be ranked in the same manner with the cruder tribal aspects of the people at the eastern end of the Mediterranean. The Etruscan inhabitants of ancient Etruria (Tuscany region) in Italy was a center of cultured civilization which was absorbed into the Roman way of life during the close of the fifth century BCE. The Sabine people, of Umbro-Sabellian stock NE of Rome in central Italy, was dominated and assimilated by Romans in 290 BCE. Legend has it that a colony of Sabines from Cures occupied the Quirinal Hill in Rome and became incorporated with followers of Romulus on the Palatine. The Sabines were granted Roman citizenship in 268 BCE. It is the granting of citizenship which marks the principled difference between Roman acceptance of outsiders within society as opposed to the tribal mentality of mutual-restriction among the Near East people. This Roman practice of inclusiveness by Latin clan would prove to set a pattern which contributed to a belief system that would be born in Rome and which would, despite internal conflicts, differ markedly from the narrow tribal mentality that shaped Judaism (and Islam later). It would be from these two different approaches of what constituted membership that would determine the flowers of the three manmade faith systems of western cultures.

Considerably later, prior to the mid-seventh century CE there was no central authority to weld the nomadic clans/tribes of the Arab people with any unifying social consciousness. To be more precise, each clan/tribe within the vast arid region existed as a single entity which was in an almost steady state of bitter competition with other clans/tribes for the essentials of life. In such conditions the only “law” was also understood as equal retaliation for wrongs inflicted by others. The natural outcome of this was that a condition of perpetual warlike circumstances continued among the tribes. Tensions among the tribes would be brought to a standstill only during the mutually agreed upon times of spiritual observances at Mecca where three stones (meteorites) had once fallen from heaven (in connection with the planet we know as Venus). This was the atmosphere which shaped Mohammed’s youth.

Mohammed is said to have traveled widely with his tradesman uncle in his youth, as well as when he was himself a prosperous merchant. This gave Mohammed abundant opportunity during caravan travels to hear the religious claims of both the Jews and Christians from which he would develop his own ideas of spiritual regulation. It was from these encounters that the scriptural character of Abraham became claimed by Mohammed as the ancestor of the Arab people through Abraham’s concubine, Hagar. Mohammed became convinced that because the Jewish and Christian holy accounts seemed to him to deviate from the Lord’s directives to Abraham (Ibrahim) that he, Mohammed, had been called to restore the pure religion of Abraham (Ibrahim). Thus was a monotheistic faith introduced into Arab thought which had its spiritual roots transplanted in a piety for an indefinite forebear. Consequently the concept that all Arabs were descended from a mutual forebear became the catalyst for the rapid spread of the Islamic faith. And the old tribal animosity so long cultivated among the old tribes was simply transformed into a jihad attitude against any differing spiritual understanding among more cultured people.

The point being labored for here is that it was tribal mentality and superstition that served as the tap roots from which the flowering of each of these three interrelated faith systems evolved. The political administration of each faith system, whether Jewish, Christian or Islam, suggests that something more secular, more materialistic was at work behind the scenes than a patient, plodding and variable heaven would have pursued. Of the three sister faith systems, it is Judaism and Islam which still hold a closer resemblance to ancient tribal attitude. Both retain that old tribal indifference to the welfare of outsiders—not that Christianity is overly blessed with any love-thy-neighbor consciousness. But that old Roman acceptance of outsiders into the folds of society did happen to flavor the principles of the belief system that developed in the Roman Empire. Add to this that no dutiful divine messenger of the Life Principle (commonly personified as “God”) would ever be inclined to promote the oxymoron “holy war” upon any of life’s intended diversities as being somehow a God-ordained spiritual duty. The idea that God (the Life Principle) would call for a “holy war” is contradictory, for why should that creative power feel any need for worldly conquest? That creative power was/is an all-inclusive power which created and continues to sustain all things.

Biblical Patriarchs

Posted in agnoticism, Atheism, Atheist, belief, Bible, culture, faith, history, humanity, prehistory, random, religion, thoughts with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 6, 2010 by chouck017894

Patriarchs: the names given to the alleged heads of families in early Scriptural “history.”  Any of the progenitors of the human race before the Deluge, from Adam to Noah: the post-Flood characters of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, or any of Jacob’s twelve sons, said to be the eponymous  progenitors of the twelve tribes of Israel. 

It has been noted in these Time Frame posts that the 8th and 7th centuries BCE covered a period of intense writing in Jerusalem of those “sacred” tales regarded as patriarchal narratives.  In this period of dynamic priest writing the nation of Assyria dominated much of the Mid East region; it was, we should note, only in this timeframe that camels became common enough as beasts of burden to merit mention only incidentally in trader’s reports.  Archaeology research has shown that camels were not domesticated until after c. 1000 BCE., which makes it awkward for some Genesis tales. 

In Genesis 37:25, for example, the story goes that Joseph, the eleventh son of the patriarch Jacob (generally claimed to have lived c. 1700 BCE) is alleged to have been sold into slavery by his brothers and taken to Egypt.  In the scene that is set with the slavery sale, there is mention of camels as beasts of burden as well as products such as “gum, balm and myrrh.”  In the 7th century BCE, at the time of the writing, these were main products in active  trade under Assyrian supervision—but not in the alleged time-setting of the Jacob-Joseph story.

Given mention in Genesis 20:1, in the alleged Isaac narrative, is found reference to a Philistine center named Gerar in connection with the Abraham saga, which implies it was a center of some importance in Abraham’s time.  By some accounts the time projected for Abram and Sarai was c. 2150-2100 BCE.  Others insist that Abraham departed from Ur in Chaldea around 2100 BCE.  And  others assert that Abraham made his way to Egypt c. 1935 BCE.  In the Isaac narrative Gerar is not actually identified as a Philistine center by the authors—probably because that location did not gain importance until about the time of the priestly composition of patriarchal lore—the 7th century BCE—when it was a heavily fortified Assyrian administrative stronghold.  Nonetheless, in Genesis 26:1, we are told that Isaac, son of Abraham, encountered King Abimelech of the Philistines, the very king who had taken to his harem Abraham’s wife Sarah.  And Isaac is said to have dwelt the Gerar because the Lord had told him, “Go not down into Egypt (verse 3).  But archaeological evidence shows that no city of the Philistines flourished until after c. 1200 BCE; they did, however, continue into Assyrian times.

Obviously the alleged patriarchal narratives were late compositions, for the incidental details that set the scenes, such as camels, non-existent cities, caravan products, etc, are out of  place for the timeframes of the alleged patriarchal characters.

The priests of Yahweh, in authoring their version of “history,” also freely indulged themselves in reproachful commentary on any and all cultural neighbors—especially those to the east such as Moab and Ammon.  With holy hatred they declared that the nations of Moab and Ammon arose from sons born to the two daughters of Lot who had an incestuous union with their father following the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:30-38).  This was clearly invented propaganda by the 8th-7th century BCE priests to inflame followers with hatred for those rival nations across the Dead Sea.

Thus today do the three organized religions of the west still dish out the legacy of crafted lies and practiced hatred as the sacred path into God’s acceptance!