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Did Israelite stick with one single belief?


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#1    ambelamba

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Posted 30 May 2014 - 03:17 PM

There's a pattern in the OT: Disobedience, Punishment, and Atonement. People tend to get an impression that Hebrews were very rebellious people. But...were they?

The story of OT was laid over many centuries. And...a lot of things could happen over a thousand years even back in the days. It is undeniable that Israel was constantly invaded, conquered and somehow liberated if you follow the Bible. But was it really like that? Well, the kingdom was located in the middle of a trade route. Although Canaan was not exactly a fertile piece of land (actually, far from it) it was a very important trade route despite the lack of natural harbor facing the ocean. And in that kind of environment, maintaining religious purity was next to impossible. New ideas and beliefs constantly poured in by many other peoples. The story of Solomon, regardless of its credibility, gives us the glimpse of such situation.

So, embracing pagan belief itself was not the direct cause of foreign invasion. It was all location. Probably YHWH was sitting out there, watching the whole situation while eating some popcorn without really intervening. Maybe he was giggling over the scenes, too.  And...were Hebrews strictly monotheistic? I somehow doubt it. A society is not a rigid object. It's more like a fluid. I bet there were a few fringe cults and variations of state religions practiced by various classes of people.

And...this reminded me something. When King David ordered a census to enumerate men for the military, God punished him. And David's decree was caused by a demon sent by...guess what, God. See, this gives me the glimpse of spiritual mindset of whoever wrote and redacted the Old Testament. They were far from reasonable people.

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#2    Orphalesion

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Posted 30 May 2014 - 04:21 PM

Yeah....no. A lot of the Bible is historical revisionism. The Hebrews were a polytheist people that slowly evolved into a monotheist people, they used to worship the same gods as the Canaanites (indeed, they probably were mostly Canaanites) Astarte/Innana or Isthar is even, I think, refereed to in the Bible in Jeremia, I think when the narrator laments over the Hebrews baking cakes to offer them to her. JHWH seems to have been a local deity associated with offerings.
Look up this article for more on that: http://www.jstor.org...43?__redirected

And one could argue that there are some bits and pieces left in the early Bible that hints towards ploytheism (Elochim=the Gods, the Nephilim etc.) And, it has been a while since I read about it more carefully, but didn't the Hebrews of Jesus' time ostracize the Samaritans because they had become Hellenized and turned to the worship of the Greek Gods?

One theory that shows up a lot is that they were influenced by Echnaton's Aton monotheism in Egypt, but there seems to be a trend sometimes among polytheist religions to sometimes attempt to put one God as the only "real' god. I.e. in ancient Greece there were movements to make Zeus not just a god, or even the king of gods, but something entirely above the gods even, something known as "Zeus monotheism". Or take Hinduism, which has some sects that practice Shiva, Vishnu or Devi focused monotheism. Among the Hebrews there seem to have been phases when they were more monotheistic (but never really completely until very late in their history) and phases were they were more polytheistic.


#3    Dark_Grey

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Posted 30 May 2014 - 04:34 PM

While we are on the topic of Biblical history, can someone explain to me the stories of Hebrew slavery at the hands of the Egyptians? From what I understand, new(?) evidence surrounding the pyramids suggests just the opposite: Egyptian workers were not slaves, but were well cared for and entirely voluntary. If that is true, where does that leave the Biblical accounts?

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#4    Orphalesion

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Posted 30 May 2014 - 04:54 PM

View PostDark_Grey, on 30 May 2014 - 04:34 PM, said:

While we are on the topic of Biblical history, can someone explain to me the stories of Hebrew slavery at the hands of the Egyptians? From what I understand, new(?) evidence surrounding the pyramids suggests just the opposite: Egyptian workers were not slaves, but were well cared for and entirely voluntary. If that is true, where does that leave the Biblical accounts?

Gladly, and also on that topic. why would the Egyptian Pharaoh let "their people go"? And never mention them again in their whole history?

I  once saw this really good documentary movie on TV were it explained that apparently the Hebrews were a mixture of several tribes that immigrated into Canaan over several centuries and some of them, possibly the ones that gave them the idea of Monotheism were refugees from Egypt (a small number, not a whole people convoying through the desert for 40 years) I wish I could find that documentary again... I'll look for it once I get a proper break from assignments, but hopefully someone else will find it first.

The old testament is a collection of legends, poetry and books about laws and customs and does not offer a picture of a monogamous or static set of believes without a lot of interpretation. One example are Ecclesiastics and Job which seem to deny the existence of an afterlife or the possibility to come back to life after death, compare that with the (much) later "Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt." in the book of Daniel. During Jesus' time the idea of a Resurrection was a topic highly debated among the religious leaders of Israel. Modern Rabbinic Judaism often rejects the thought, because of the belief that a person should be focused on the "here and now" and follow God's word because he is the Lord and not in the hope of getting some reward. Medieval European Judaism had a lot of different theories about the afterlife and resurrection.

Edited by Orphalesion, 30 May 2014 - 04:54 PM.


#5    karmakazi

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Posted 30 May 2014 - 05:08 PM

I look at the OT (and even the NT) and see stories recorded by the few that are supposedly about the many.  I compare it to our present fiction/non fiction libraries of books and wonder just how many books never "made it" into the Bible or history, with the various periods of book burning and general decay and such.  It seems like the stories of the bible are the idealism of a very small number of people that seemed to have originated and passed down in a single family line which ultimately became heralded by many families and entire religions.

I try to imagine what future peoples would think if through a series of events, thousands of years in the future the only books that have survived are bound in a compilation, re-written time and time again, containing segments from works such as Darwin's Origin of Species, Mein Kampf, Jurassic Park (the novels), 50 shades of grey, a few history and economics textbooks, etc.  Like if the library of congress burned to the ground around the same time our civilization fell, and eventually under the dust they find a small number of readable scraps that give them a terribly inaccurate picture of how we saw our own lives, as compared to how we actually see it today.

As fascinating as I find it, I have to view the Bible as the stories that won out, that were favored by people who lived long after they actually happened, for whatever reason struck their fancy.

It seems from what we can read in the bible that many of the people in the stories had different persuasions and that the compiler highlighted those people with the consequences of their actions as a way of saying "don't be this guy" but also recording quasi historical stories.

Edited by karmakazi, 30 May 2014 - 05:11 PM.

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#6    Paranoid Android

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Posted 01 June 2014 - 05:56 PM

View Postambelamba, on 30 May 2014 - 03:17 PM, said:

There's a pattern in the OT: Disobedience, Punishment, and Atonement. People tend to get an impression that Hebrews were very rebellious people. But...were they?

The story of OT was laid over many centuries. And...a lot of things could happen over a thousand years even back in the days. It is undeniable that Israel was constantly invaded, conquered and somehow liberated if you follow the Bible. But was it really like that? Well, the kingdom was located in the middle of a trade route. Although Canaan was not exactly a fertile piece of land (actually, far from it) it was a very important trade route despite the lack of natural harbor facing the ocean. And in that kind of environment, maintaining religious purity was next to impossible. New ideas and beliefs constantly poured in by many other peoples. The story of Solomon, regardless of its credibility, gives us the glimpse of such situation.

So, embracing pagan belief itself was not the direct cause of foreign invasion. It was all location. Probably YHWH was sitting out there, watching the whole situation while eating some popcorn without really intervening. Maybe he was giggling over the scenes, too.  And...were Hebrews strictly monotheistic? I somehow doubt it. A society is not a rigid object. It's more like a fluid. I bet there were a few fringe cults and variations of state religions practiced by various classes of people.

And...this reminded me something. When King David ordered a census to enumerate men for the military, God punished him. And David's decree was caused by a demon sent by...guess what, God. See, this gives me the glimpse of spiritual mindset of whoever wrote and redacted the Old Testament. They were far from reasonable people.
You are absolutely right on your first point.  There is a repeated pattern of SIN-REPENTANCE-GRACE found throughout the Bible.  However, your second statement holds no historical fact.  Israel was not constantly invaded.  It was perhaps constantly at war, but not constantly invaded (perhaps constant war was a result of being in the trade routes you suggested, and the fate of the Northern Kingdom may lend weight to your argument).  Only twice was Israel ever invaded.  The first was when the Northern Kingdom was destroyed in 722 BC by the Assyrians.  The second was 580-590 BC when the Southern Kingdom was invaded by Babylon.

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#7    Bluefinger

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Posted 07 June 2014 - 12:00 AM

View PostDark_Grey, on 30 May 2014 - 04:34 PM, said:

While we are on the topic of Biblical history, can someone explain to me the stories of Hebrew slavery at the hands of the Egyptians? From what I understand, new(?) evidence surrounding the pyramids suggests just the opposite: Egyptian workers were not slaves, but were well cared for and entirely voluntary. If that is true, where does that leave the Biblical accounts?

It is believed that the Hyksos took the Egyptian government by force after Joseph died.  That was what was implied, I think, by a king rose up that did not know Joseph.  It would have been impossible not to know him unless you were a foreigner.  So, during the Hyksos reign, the Israelites were mistreated.  I can't speak of any other dynasty.

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