This week's Bible reading is the heaviest yet. We were asked to read much of the book of 1 Samuel in two days, or around 7-8 chapters a day. I love this story of Samuel and Saul and David. Fascinating characters, and so human. Saul, Israel's first king, shows so much promise, but then he becomes a typical politician, thinking of himself all the time. Then he goes crazy with envy of David, his successor. The story is so much more readable than the rules and regulations we were reading about recently.
I find much of the Old Testament to be so harsh and outdated, particularly the Torah (first five books). These have the strict dietary and worship laws that God set up with his people.
Then, in Judges, there is an instance of actual human sacrifice where Jephthah promises to sacrifice "whatever comes out my door" upon his return home, if the Lord grants him success in battle. The people in my class reasoned that he was trying to get rid of his wife! However, it was his daughter who came out the door, and he did sacrifice her.
Then there are God's problematic instructions to the Jews to wipe out the people of Canaan, to obliterate them and leave not a trace, so that they would not contaminate his people with their religions and ways. So hauntingly like genocide.
And there are the times that God destroys people -- not just the flood, but over and over again when he is angry and they have strayed away. It's such an old-fashioned view of God as the harsh disciplinarian, and that the presence of sin makes killing somehow acceptable. What about thou shalt not murder, when there is divinely ordered killing throughout the Old Testament?
I know that Judaism is a loving religion. I'm having trouble finding evidence of it in their holy scriptures. How could you live following just the law, the prophets, and other writings? Of course, I don't understand Judaism, but I don't see how I could ever practice it.
I am learning that the study of religion, any religion, is incredibly difficult and time-consuming. I am finding I have to do it, though -- I can't just practice or have faith. Faith in what? in whom? I have to dig, dig, dig for the meaning. There are so many layers of meaning, and ritual, and history. It's the work of a lifetime, to be sure.
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