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View Diary: D'var Torah: Tetzaveh/Zachor (16 comments)

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  •  I read quite an interesting book (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Palafox, blueyedace2, Fishtroller01

    a short while back, called "Laying Down the Sword", by Philip Jenkins. It discusses the verses in the Judeo-Christian Bible that call for violence, and compares them with violent verses from the Quran. (In a nutshell, the Biblical verses come off looking far worse by comparison.)

    One of most disturbing ones is the command involving Amalek. The Israelites are commanded to entirely wipe out an entire people: men, women, children, even livestock (as you point out above.) In his book, Jenkins discusses this kind of warfare (called "herem" warfare, in which a entire city or people is completely destroyed as a sort of "burnt offering" to God). Sometimes this has been excused with explanations like "Genocide was common at this time" or "Everyone did it." According to Jenkins, though, though intertribal warfare was common in the Middle East, the idea of wiping out an entire people (not to mention their livestock!) was unknown. Women, animals, material possessions, etc. were commonly taken as plunder -- this is, after all, what makes "sense" from an economic point of view, as King Saul recognizes.

    There's something even more chilling about the fact that -- as my pastor pointed out at our Bible study a few weeks back -- the word used to refer to this genocidal destruction is the SAME word used to refer to a burnt offering to God that is entirely consumed. In other words...a "holocaust" offering.

    Living when we do and having seen the indescribably horrific consequences of ethnic cleansing and genocide, I'm not sure we can any longer excuse or explain away these verses. (Personally, I can't worship any God that would advocate genocide -- in my view, either He didn't command it or it didn't happen in that way and the texts were recorded wrong.) Perhaps "do not forget" is really all that we can do with this sort of story: not "never forget" to hate and persecute, but "never forget" the tragic consequences of such hate.

    "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 Feb 22, 2013 at 09:38:25 AM PST

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