this weeks bible highlights: Jehovah slaughters his own people to teach David a lesson
- Jehovah, God of Collateral Damage...
The story is vexing enough as it is, but it is worth looking at from other angles.
1. Consider that this story ends the 2nd book of Samuel, but it's simply somewhere in the midst of Chronicles.
2. Note that in Samuel, David simply gets an idea to conduct a census, something that does not seem to cause any displeasure anywhere else. (e.g., birthdays according to Bethel are pagan, but not the census every decade - and no objections raised about Joseph and Mary reporting to Bethlehem). Consequence: an ultimatum delivered from on high via a prophet named Gad. Pick your punishment,
3. The story in its second telling (Chronicles) says nothing about the events preceding it in Samuel ( David and Baathsheba).
4. In Chronicles, David got the idea from Satan...
Other than in Job, as far as I know, this is the only mention of "Satan" in the Old Testament. And he advises David to conduct a census of Judah and Israel... Can you imagine anything more sinister in the eyes of God?
Rhetorical question, of course. But look what happens as a result. David selects a site for an offering in Jerusalem to come to terms with the Lord in penance and the First Temple is erected on the site.
I see in this story a garbled, legendary explanation for why the Temple was built where it was. Re-told in Chronicles, David was a darling and not the ambiguous figure he was to the scribes of Samuel ( and Kings). David's capital has increased.
At about that time too, pretenders to the throne in the Persian protectorate of Judah were capitalizing on the lineage. But it didn't work. We've got Nehemiah and Ezra giving accounts of the early days - and then Judah appears to enter a phase of relative prosperity and happiness under a couple of centuries of Persian kings. They don't march off into exile so much as spread out within the Empire to Asia Minor and Mesopotamia...
By all indications Chronicles was written shortly after the time when its narrative concluded, with the return from Exile and a lot of influences of the Persian sponsors of the return. The Persians were emerging as a Zoroastrian nation; if not Cyrus ostensibly, then certainly his successors. They were dualistic and spoke of many things that earlier Hebrew texts did not.
@ John Aquila...
Is that Trish Stratus?
The Jewish standpoint is that this is a legend used to support the reason why Jews (and other Eastern tribes) have reservations about taking a census.
According to ancient Jewish superstition (yep, we got them in our culture just like others), a census can bring evil upon the people counted. It's not really known why we Jews have this superstition (some other cultures do too). Rabbinical sources and folklore connect the taking of a census to the cause of all types of problems, from national disaster to making a person susceptible to "evil eye"!
Yeah, I know. It's ridiculous, but we Jews used to believe that. Some believe it is because our G-d told Abraham that his children would be "like the sands of the sea, unable to be numbered," and thus holding a census is seen by some as tantamount to challenging the Almighty G-d. Exodus 30.11-16 even declares that in order to avoid "plague" each person enrolled in a census has to pay G-d for his protection from such adverse effects.
Our ancestors saw their fears and superstitions as intertwined with their religion, so it takes some knowledge of the culture, its quirks and its failings, to tell what the Jews were sometimes saying in the Scriotures...and sometimes even that helps but little.
Unlike the JWs we Jews don't claim we know for sure what is happening here, but like many things about Hebrew (like reading right to left), you need to read the story differently than with the approach many Christians take with it. Apparently there was a national tragedy which the Jews couldn't explain due to the ancient belief that G-d protects his people from all adversity no matter what. Yet when disaster did strike it left people looking for a reason.
What caused it? Hmm, nothing...the people were being faithful, they were showing allegiance to the King, and the King had just finished his census, and--
WAIT! The census!
So, according to genre, a narrative was devised that states how God sent a plague due to David's census, for as you know 'taking a census causes all kinds of evil!'
There's a lot in Hebrew writings of all types that you have to approach this way. There are genre earmarks that are common to legend, myth, or parable. Because the Jews never expected their writings to be read by Gentiles, they didn't write with other cultures in mind. Superficial readings caused by religions like the JW remove the texts from their intended audience and paradigm, and read in a vacuum where the demand is that everything written has to be fact causes nonsense.
Not that it makes too much sense to the modern Jew either, but at least we don't run around saying this is factual history and condemning others if they don't believe in our interpretation.
kepler - "The story is vexing enough as it is, but it is worth looking at from other angles."
Just like Trish Stratus.
How do believers explain this slaughter?
I'd looked up what little WT had to say about this and other accounts of the slaughter of innocents a long time ago, about the only statement I recall is that these people had no special right to life--it was as if WT was justifying it by saying, "people die all the time, so this is no big deal that he would slaughter thousands of his own chosen nation."
And although it was supposedly wrong in this account to conduct a census, there was no specifically stated law against it. There are plenty of times in the bible that the populations are mentioned. This all just sounds like an excuse for the angry desert sky-daddy to go on a random murderous rampage against his own worshipers. Nice.
Jah will whack anyone to show his power and might, even innocent babies, children or the elderly.
Apparently he's going to whack a lot more of these innocent ones very soon by the information put out by the leaders of the WTS. Publishing House.
Why ? because he's a loving and just god.
JWs are the Kings of Census taking, with all the reporting of time, placements, bible studies, baptized, unbaptized publishers, pioneers, elders, ms' partakers, disfellowshipped, inactive............
Is there anything they don't count??
Oh yeah, number of children abused and pedophiles.