The Postexilic Yahwist Conspiracy

In previous blogs, I have tried to make the point that institutionalized religious organizations which represent themselves as the “spokespersons of the Creative Force of Time, Space and Conscious Awareness (God)” need to be seriously re-evaluated. They need to be re-examined in light of our evolving knowledge and understanding of who and what we are and our relationship with the time/space continuum in which we live and have our being.

Furthermore, I strive to make the point that this re-evaluation should clear the air of long held definitions of deity. I refer to definitions that instill guilt, fear, frustration and anxiety in the religious relationship. And, on that note, I strive to expose the priest class and/or ministers who utilize these elements for mass manipulation. Who, for power, prestige and profit, bang believers over the head with these invented and self-serving motivators.  Again, I am referring to:

a) Guilt (according to the Yahwist priests) due to ”original sin’ and other acts committed or omitted.

b) Fear (according to the Yahwist priests) because of God’s wrath out of vengeance, punishment or sometimes, simply indifference.

c) Anxiety (according to the Yahwist priests) because we can never know exactly where we stand in the ‘eyes’ of this definition of God anyway.

d) Frustration (according to the Yahwist priests) because, in truth,  nothing we may do in terms of prayer, piety or profession seems to make any difference.

And, yet, we are culturally conditioned into clinging to these spiritually debilitating ancient and superstitious concepts by institutionalized religions that perpetrate them through the malleable minds of children generation to generation via Sunday Schools and Catechism classes. Based on so-called ‘lessons’ in the bible!

Punching holes in the bible

So, I punch holes in biblical traditions, legends and folklore to help open the door to new forms of spiritual expression which view humanity as an evolving and refining expression of the Creative Scheme. With a universality as opposed to biblical selectivity (chosen people). I present a view of religiosity that elevates and ennobles the practitioner with a spiritual resource that enhances personal empowerment. I allude to a point of view that dovetails what we are learning through science and technology with what we can experience through the spiritual dimension of our being.

Having said all of that, the hole I am punching today concerns the notion that ‘God’ decreed a generational line of kings from the “seed of David” to ultimately establish a holy kingdom on planet Earth. The kingdom would be the final preordained and prophesied stage of a tiny country in the area of Palestine and, on fulfillment, would be the leading political entity in the world with material riches … gold, silver, precious gems and whatever … pouring in from all four corners. Of course, the citizens of this country (Israel) would all enjoy the ‘good life’ par excellence as God’s ‘chosen’!

But, in order to continue being the ‘chosen people’ and remaining on the ‘good side’ of God, they would have to conform to the dictates of the priest class which included worship, sacrifices and the donation of other forms of riches to the Temple. Money, gold and silver would not be refused in this endeavor. Apparently God appreciates a little gelt with the guilt.

This notion is called, “The Messianic Hope”.

“Out of the seed of Jesse”

Prior to the conquest of Judea by the Babylonians, the destruction of the central Temple in Jerusalem and the deportation of tens of thousands of Jewish captives from 597 through 586 BC, there was no thought of a someday glorious future kingdom as per the ‘promise of God’. The kingdom, for better or worse, was a political fact and the priest class went happily about its business. They claimed military threats and national insecurities were punishments from their definition of God because the population was failing in one way or other. They blamed the people for any natural disasters, famines or plagues because they fell short of whatever it takes to keep on pleasing ‘God’. And, they claimed the best way to keep ‘God’ in an agreeable mood was through their priestly practices. Of course, offerings in the form of livestock, labor and money went a long way to keep things on a pleasant course. Yahweh equaled big business!  It was only afterwards, among the Jewish communities in Babylonian captivity that the idea of a someday great king would once again rule a someday great Israelite nation with a someday re-established central temple as a bridge between their definition of God and the world.

While in Babylonian  captivity, the legend of King David (who ruled nearly five hundred years before) became romanticized and exaggerated to an enormous degree. After all, David established Jerusalem as the center for the Yahwist priest class (who, in turn, endorsed him as being divinely selected for the role of king.) And his son, Solomon, actually built the first Yahwist temple. Plus, tradition held that all the succeeding kings were descendants of David, empowered by divine right. Since tradition held that David was the son of an Israelite named Jesse … it followed that, someday, the divinely ordained lineage of David, the seed of Jesse, would again be present on a throne in the new and re-vitalized Israel. David, the chosen by God. David, the anointed by God. David, the messiah of God.

After the deportation of Judea’s leading citizens and middle to upper social class, remnants of the population still remained in the area. Somewhat disorganized and, as such, not directly connected to the central government in Babylon. But, it really wasn’t an important matter. Feeble as they were, they represented no threat to Babylon and there was no immediate danger of foreign invasion from that quarter.

But, about fifty years after the Babylonian conquest of Judea, Cyrus, The Great of Persia defeated the Babylonian king, Nabonidus in 539 BC and became emperor of a huge piece of Asian geography which stretched from the Mediterranean Sea  to Western India. That included the tiny country of Judea and the Phoenician city states established on the coast.

Conquer, Control & Collect

Part of Cyrus’s international policy was to control the outlying regions of his enormous empire through the priest classes of those distant lands. He has been praised as a champion of religious freedom for not interfering with local religions. But, religious freedom wasn’t his main motivator. It was control. He made a deal with the priest class of local religions. The priests would tell the masses that Cyrus was “their salvation from ‘God’ (however ‘God’ was defined by that culture). Then, recognizing Cyrus as a divinely ordained ruler, the masses would process tribute through the priest class back into the treasuries of the Persian Empire and remain loyal because they were duped into believing that their ‘God’, somehow, wanted it that way.

Cambyses II, Cyrus’s son, had plans to further his father’s conquests by adding Egypt to the Persian Empire. He invaded Egypt successfully in 525 BC and assumed the role of Pharaoh. When his son, Darius, became emperor Egypt began plotting to rebel and regain its independence. The first Egyptian insurrection occurred in 486.  Darius died in the month of October 485 BC and his son Xerxes became the new emperor. Xerxes needed a more reliable structure in the area of Judea as a buffer and launching platform with regards to the troublesome efforts of Egypt.

Utilizing his grandfather’s ploy of strengthening relations in far flung sections of the empire through the priest class, he sent the high priest, Ezra, back to Jerusalem to organize the local Jews into a reliable buffer zone. (See Josephus Flauvius “Antiquities Of The Jews”). Of course, part of the commission included, “… prayers and sacrifices for the well being of the Persian king and his sons”. Ezra, Nehemiah and Zerubbabel (the biblical heroes of the reconstruction period) were in the employ of the Persian Empire. In fact, Zerubbabel is not even a Yahwist name. It implies worship of the Canaanite god Baal … a nature god. Their mission was to effect a reliable buffer zone controlled through a hierarchy of priests loyal to Persia. Rebuilding the temple that was destroyed by the Babylonians was a great step forward in instituting this loyal religious revival. To get the job done, however, the priest class used the ever reliable motivators mentioned in the beginning of this blog:  guilt, fear, frustration and anxiety!

They convinced the inhabitants of Judea … some, having lived there since the deportation and others having returned from exile … that ‘God” was mad at them for neglecting the temple (translated into,  “failing to live under the tithe and tribute collecting control of the Persian paid priest class.”).

Consider the account of the prophet, Haggai, supposedly speaking for ‘God’. (Hag. 1:10-11) Haggai, as ‘God’s mouthpiece, curses the Judean population for not completing the reconstruction of the temple. ‘God’  is supposed to have told them that he, personally, diminished their national productivity to punish them. That he, personally, caused droughts, famines, crop failures, diseases among livestock and plagues among people. Why? Because they did not complete building the old temple or, for that matter, fall under the controlling influence of the Yahwist priest class.

The ploy worked. Between Haggai, Zerubbabel, Nehemiah and other Persian agents, control was re-enforced and the Persian Period lasted for two hundred years.  Of course, the bible depicts these events as miraculous interventions in the development of the new Israel by Yahweh (with a few Zoroastrian embellishments). The ideas of Satan, Paradise, Heaven & Hell were inherited from Persia. And, more importantly, the idea that Persian emperors were a blessing sent by ‘God’ for the betterment of the Jews was the cherry on top.

Conclusion

The formula for manipulating masses of people by taking advantage of  the need to find an expression for the spiritual side of their nature is simple:

1.) Scare them with horrible consequences (like national disasters, natural disasters or, even damnation of the immortal soul) on one hand.

2.) Promise impossible benefits on the other (like material wealth, power and ,even, forgiveness of so-called “sins”).

3.) And, finally, convince them that all this is in accordance with the divine will of ‘God’.

This is all predicated on a definition of deity that acts like a paranoid and anti-social bi-polar child. A deity with whom you can make ‘deals’ and whom you can please or anger depending on a wide range of known or unknown extenuating circumstances. But, a class of priests or ministers must always be necessary as intermediaries and … keepers of the coin.

The bible is dripping with variations of this definition.

A better and more enlightened view of the spiritual nature of our being and its relationship with the Universal Force of Life is not beyond our grasp or our understanding. To begin, we need to look forward, not backward.

 

 

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The Exodus

The definition of “God” that has been woven into our cultural mind-set over the past thousands of years is made up of many strands. In this blog, I want to demonstrate that the way our culture has been conditioned with regards to this tapestry of legends, superstitions and beliefs has caused incalculable harm to the spiritual potential of humanity. I want to show that the resulting “definition” of the power, force, entity or deity associated with and, somehow, involved in the process of Creation has actually instilled a negative influence on how we think, act and relate to one and other. Since the definition is skewed or in error, then, our thinking, actions and relationships with each other (as much as they are based on the influence of those errors) have become hindrances to genuine religious refinement and spiritual sensitivity. Our thoughts and actions have become barriers to the divine dimension of our being. Stumbling blocks to our sense of who and what we are in the cosmic scheme of things. Less than our actual spiritually sensitive potential.

With a misdirected and misinformed idea about the definition and nature of that deity, we could be convinced, for instance, that waging war in the name of “God” would be a glorious thing and be fully approved (if not actually engineered) by the Universal Force of Life for property, personal power, profit or partisan purposes. “Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!”

Where are these superstitious strands, folkloric legends and misguided definitions of divinity located? The answer is … the bible!

So, let’s take a closer look at one of the most widely spread, universally sold and best known legends in that collection of ancient writings. Let’s take an analytical look at the story of the Exodus. Why? Because “God” is defined with regards to his power, his character, his plan for the future and his relationship with humanity in the context of this celebrated piece. Of course, I am using the male possessive pronoun for “God” in this case solely  as a literary convention.

It must be remembered that the story, in its final form as it was crafted by Yahwist priests and scribes sometime after the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem (circa 521 – 516 BCE) was designed to sell the Exodus tradition to the populace. It was crafted with that intent. Why? Because it emphasized the idea that obedience to the so-called dictates of “God” would insure prosperity, but, disobedience would displease “God” and bring about horrible consequences. Furthermore, the steps, processes and ritualistic observances to stay on the “good side” of God could only be accomplished through the channels of the priest class. However, these priests, story tellers and scribes were not technical people. Not, even, logical in their zeal to sell the story and so, their miraculous elements left much to be desired. They never had the thoroughness to cover all the bases. Perhaps, in those times, they never even needed to.

But, today, we do. Our spiritual well being and evolution depends on it.

Why? Because the Exodus story has had a profound influence on not only the history of the Middle East, but, on the history of belief systems that, today. encompass the world! For that reason, the story needs to be analyzed with a critical mind.

Let’s review the elements of this story:

a) A Hebrew family found themselves in Egypt around 1400 BCE after escaping a famine that was wreaking hardships in the Fertile Crescent.

b) Over the course of the next few hundred years, that family multiplied to become a population of more than a million subservient “slaves” who were now suffering under harsh treatment by their Egyptian overlords.

c) But, one of their number (Moses), who was lucky enough to be raised in a royal Egyptian household, killed an Egyptian citizen, fled out of the country, married non-Hebrew women, became a shepherd and (one day) was told by “God” to go back to Egypt and lead the enslaved Hebrews back to the Fertile Crescent which (several hundred years before) “God” promised to the patriarchs of the original Hebrew family mentioned in item (a). It was a conditional deal. They could have the land “flowing with milk and honey” as long as they worshiped this jealous and wrathful deity. (Oh!) And killed all the people who were living in that land at the time. God even offered to supply an “Angel of Death” who would help them out whenever necessary.

d) After a number of miraculous demonstrations that Moses executed to prove the power of  this Hebrew “God” failed to have their desired affect, a final demonstration  … the slaughter of every first born male child in the Egyptian population convinced Pharaoh to allow Moses to lead the enslaved Hebrew people back to the “promised land”. But. afterwards he changed his mind and chased the Hebrews with his army to re-capture them and enslave them once again. “God”, however, interceded and gave Moses the power to split the Red Sea into two parts so that the Hebrews could cross over and then it would close up over the pursuing pharaoh and his army, drowning them all.

e) Forty years later, this enormous mass of people finally arrived in the country East of Palestine (the promised land) and, under the charge of a few Hebrew generals, proceeded to invade and massacre the indigenous inhabitants because “God” told them that they could and should.

That forty year period is the story of the Exodus.

Some points to consider:

a) How many people were in this mass migration? According to the bible (Exodus 12:37) there were 600,000 fighting men. According to Numbers 1:46 the total is refined to 603,550. Then, Numbers 3:39 tells us that we need to include another 23,000 Levites (Yahwist priests). Add to that a logical estimation of the amount of women, children, converts and camp followers based on the calculations of eminent  biblical scholars and sociologists and you get a whopping 2 to 3 million people!

If this many people were marching ten abreast, they would form a column 150 to 190 miles long! The bible is loaded with preposterous exaggerations like this. (Why the biblical story tellers, priests and scribes felt it necessary to amplify these traditions with inflated numbers will be dealt with in another blog).

b) Archaeologists have determined that the population of Egypt during the reign of Pharaoh Merneptah (1213 – 1203 BCE) was around three to three and a half million. A mass migration of two or more million Hebrew slaves out of the country at one time would have caused an economic catastrophe of enormous proportions. There is no indication of any such catastrophe in the historical records of ancient Egypt.

c) This enormous wave of people subsisted on food miraculously provided by “God” as they wandered around in the desert for forty years. The food was manna in the morning and (occasionally) quails in the evening. What is “manna”?

“Manna”, also known as ‘plant lice’, is the crystallized honeydew of certain scale insects. In the environment of a desert, this honeydew rapidly dries due to evaporation of its water content. It becomes a sticky solid and turns whitish or yellowish in color. Honeydew of this form is considered a delicacy in the Middle East. It is a good source of carbohydrates. In particular, there is a scale insect that feeds on tamarisk trees. This is often considered to be the prime candidate for biblical manna.

Manna, therefore is a sticky sap-like substance produced by insects on plants. The bible tells us in Exodus 16:16 that the Hebrews were to gather an omer 0f manna for each person in every tent each morning. An omer is about four liters or three pounds. The mental picture of hundreds of thousands of Hebrews crawling around among tamarisk bushes gleaning flaky particles to the tune of (2,000,000 people X 3 pounds of manna =6,000,000 pounds) 3,000 tons over a span of more than a hundred miles every morning for forty years (!) boggles the mind and absolutely decimates credulity.

d) Exodus tells us in 14:28 that the Pharaoh was drowned in pursuit of the escaping slaves. There is no record in the archives of ancient Egypt of a pharaoh having drowned. Merneptah lived into his sixties. His mummy has been recovered and thoroughly studied. It shows evidence of arthritis and atherosclerosis, but, no evidence of having been recovered from the bottom of the Reed Sea.

Conclusion:

The mass migration of Hebrews “brought up out of Egypt by God with a mighty arm and an outstretched hand” never actually happened. Biblical scholars concur that the legend may have some background in a vaguely remembered episode of a much smaller nature in the history of a segment of the Hebrew peoples. But, it was elaborated, exaggerated and expanded upon by the Yahwist priests, scribes and story tellers of the post Babylonian exile period who knew what they were doing!

They were fabricating a “God” myth to impress the populace for power and manipulative purposes. As employees of the royal hierarchy, they also defined Yahweh as a “war god” and extolled the adventures of folkloric mass murderers as Yahweh’s champions. Joshua would be convicted as a war criminal today for the wanton killing of civilian women and children in Jericho and Ai. But, his alleged savagery was praised by the Yahwist priests. Sampson, David, Gideon, Saul and even Moses all dealt death to any peoples who did not allow the Hebrews to occupy their farms and villages, move into and take over their cities or subscribe to their form of religious observances.

An interesting note is that these events: the conquest of Judah, the fall of Jericho, the massacre at Ai, the slaying of Goliath and so many more blood thirsty narratives in the bible have been archaeologically proven to never have happened! They existed only in the minds of the Yahwist priests, scribes and story tellers who re-wrote their so-called holy scripture after the re-building of the Temple in Jerusalem.

And, from these anti-social, paranoid, bi-polar fanatics an enormous segment of the population of the world has inherited its definition of divinity. A definition infused with guilt, fear, frustration and anxiety. A definition built around the possibility of vengeance, wrath and punishment for real or imagined “sins”.

This sad conditioned needs to be recognized, re-evaluated and reformed.

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We Need Religion Today!

 I’d like to post a quote I have used many times in lecturing and preaching about the need for a re-evaluation of the ancient religious traditions that foster (among other evils) divisionism between peoples on this planet. Earlier blogs have expressed how I feel about the ridiculous notion that warfare could or would be condoned if not actually championed by the Universal Force Of Life.

OK. Here’s the quote. It’s by Rabbi Alexander Feinsilver from his book, “The Search For Religious Maturity”.

“We need religion today … We need faith in God. But, our faith must be able to stand up under scrutiny. It must be able to weather the storm of doubt and despair. It must be able to stimulate and challenge us to nobler living. It must be able to transform us … and through us … the lives of mankind!”

Beautiful!

Working for a religious renaissance and global spirituality

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