12 October 2010

Oct 12

Reference links:
Old Testament

Jeremiah pulls another stunt, this time with a clay jar which he breaks to signify Jerusalem's impending doom. More interesting is the setting of this event. Jeremiah makes his point in the valley of Ben-Hinnom. There he conveys these words from the Lord,
For Israel has forsaken me and turned this valley into a place of wickedness. The people burn incense to foreign gods—idols never before acknowledged by this generation, by their ancestors, or by the kings of Judah. And they have filled this place with the blood of innocent children. They have built pagan shrines to Baal, and there they burn their sons as sacrifices to Baal. I have never commanded such a horrible deed; it never even crossed my mind to command such a thing!
First off, just to get it out of the way: child sacrifice is terrible. I am glad that Jeremiah and his vision of God are against it. But that's not why this passage interests me.

I am much more interested in the question of why Judah is turning to these idols (a subject that, sadly, the Biblical authors do not seem to actually address). Although people are far from rational about religion (especially when evaluating its likely truth), they do tend to be rational in so far as their choice to pursue some particular religion or religious act corresponds to some real need.

Throughout the Bible, we have seen God's chosen people turning to idols. This, to me, indicates that Yahweh was not adequate to fulfill the needs of the people. So why was it that, again and again, the cult of Yahweh was unable to meet the needs of the people ('cult' in the technical sense)?

I don't know, but what I do know is that after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, Jewish faith changed dramatically. Perhaps when they were separated from their traditional shrines for Yahweh and for other gods and goddesses, the Jewish people were able to synthesize the disparate ideas into one coherent God (and then bring themselves to think that Yahweh fulfilled all these needs the full time). Without the constraints of physical places of worship, the ideas associated with different shrines were able to flow into each other.

Also, Jeremiah hates his life and Jerusalem is totally going to be destroyed.

New Testament

We end 1 Thessalonians today. A little bit of advice. A little bit of encouragement. Nothing we haven't seen in the other Pauline letters.

Psalms and Proverbs

Avoid rushing to court. Don't share secrets even in anger.