Saturday, May 20, 2006

Is this a god worthy of worship or praise?

I fail to see how the following from Judges 11:29-40 (King James version) can be reconciled with the notion that God is good, wise, and just.

Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah, and he passed over Gilead, and Manasseh, and passed over Mizpeh of Gilead, and from Mizpeh of Gilead he passed over unto the children of Ammon.

And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the LORD, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, Then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD's, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.

So Jephthah passed over unto the children of Ammon to fight against them; and the LORD delivered them into his hands. And he smote them from Aroer, even till thou come to Minnith, even twenty cities, and unto the plain of the vineyards, with a very great slaughter. Thus the children of Ammon were subdued before the children of Israel.

And Jephthah came to Mizpeh unto his house, and, behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances: and she was his only child; beside her he had neither son nor daughter. And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he rent his clothes, and said, Alas, my daughter! thou hast brought me very low, and thou art one of them that trouble me: for I have opened my mouth unto the LORD, and I cannot go back.

And she said unto him, My father, if thou hast opened thy mouth unto the LORD, do to me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth; forasmuch as the LORD hath taken vengeance for thee of thine enemies, even of the children of Ammon. And she said unto her father, Let this thing be done for me: let me alone two months, that I may go up and down upon the mountains, and bewail my virginity, I and my fellows.

And he said, Go. And he sent her away for two months: and she went with her companions, and bewailed her virginity upon the mountains. And it came to pass at the end of two months, that she returned unto her father, who did with her according to his vow which he had vowed: and she knew no man.
If this story is taken literally it's absurd. Most people either conveniently ignore passages like this, or believe they are not meant to be taken literally.

I highlight this to make a point - Dominionists and Reconstructionists take passages like this as literal truth. What's more, they believe that a God that will let a man sacrifice his only child as payment for being allowed to commit "a very great slaughter" is a just and good God. If one can rationalize such actions as just, any such barbaric acts can be justified. If this is the model one follows as an example of omnibenevolence, then one is following a moral system where cruelty and horrors may be called just and good.

1 comment:

nicteis said...

Terrific blog.

Just a historical note, which doesn't distract from your point. There's a midrash on the Jephthah story which (based on 'bewail her virginity' and 'knew no man') says that what actually became of Jephthah's daughter was that she took a vow of perpetual virginity, thus leaving her father issueless.

Such a gloss is partially justified by the idea that a burnt offering is one in which the entire offering is consumed, leaving nothing behind; hence, leaving no issue.

There were early Christian commentators who adopted the Jewish explanation, though Dominionists and Reconstructionists are (aside from their frequent virulent anti-Semitism) aggressively ignorant of church history, and unlikely to stumble across this slightly gentler version of the story.