Monday, March 01, 2010

Jeff and I were reading a list of the Jewish mitzvot, which are 613 things that you're supposed to do. They range from the very sensible:
472. Not to move a boundary marker to steal someone's property
565. Judges must not accept bribes
592. Not to curse your father and mother
605. Prepare latrines outside the camps

To the outdated:
49. Not to pass your children through the fire to Molech
165. Not to refrain from marrying a third generation Edomite convert

To the bizarre:
185. Not to eat non-kosher maggots
309. Not to anoint with anointing oil
448. The metzora must not shave signs of impurity in his hair

To the distressing:
33. To burn a city that has turned to idol worship
38. Not to cease hating the idolater
514. Canaanite slaves must work forever unless injured in one of their limbs
596. Destroy the seven Canaanite nations
597. Not to let any of them remain alive (unless they're your slave forever, I guess?)
598. Wipe out the descendants of Amalek

I was curious about this Amalek. Here's God speaking in 1 Sam. 15:3: "Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey."

If there's anybody who has a chip on their shoulders about genocide, it's the Jews. Rightly so. How does anybody deal with an Old Testament God? How do you reconcile "Kill both man and woman, and infant" with "Never again"?

How do you condemn "Drive the Jews into the sea" but not "Those in the front will be driven into the Dead Sea, and those at the rear into the Mediterranean. The stench of their rotting bodies will rise over the land"? (Joel 2:20)


Jeff Kaufman said...

Most of the translations of Joel 2:20 appear to be about armies. There's a difference between driving a people into the sea and driving just their military there.

Julia Wise said...