#190. For what reason were the Canaanites expelled from the land: their sexual immorality OR idolatry? (Lev 18:24-28 vs Deut 7, 12)

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This is another contradiction between the 7th century BCE text of Deuteronomy, most likely written by Levite scribes, and the 6th-5th century BCE text of Leviticus written by an elite scion of the Levite tribe, the Aaronids. Like other contradictions we have reviewed between these two guilds (eg. #152, #153-154, #172, #174, #176, etc.) this one also reflects the specific historical crisis that each of these writers sought to respond to as well as each one’s unique religious agenda and ideology.

The most severe sin an Israelite could commit according to the Deuteronomic literature was to practice idolatry. This is the central and most significant argument of the book of Deuteronomy (see especially Deut 7 & 13). The crime was punishable by death (Deut 13). The covenant that the authors of Deuteronomy stressed through the mouthpiece of their deity was one that demanded strict allegiance and loyalty to Yahweh and Yahweh alone.

The Yahweh alone movement (excerpted from the Deuteronomist)

The Deuteronomic literature advocates a unique theological position that has often been referred to as the “Yahweh alone movement.” Textual expressions of this ideology include:

Know that Yahweh alone is god; there is none beside him! (4:35)

Yahweh alone is god in heaven and on earth below; there is none beside him! (4:39)

Yahweh our god is one, Yahweh alone! (6:4).

It is here in this movement that scholars identify the origins of Israelite monotheism, or monolatry as some critics prefer—that is the sole worship of one god. In other words, Israelite monotheism had its roots in the 7th century BCE at the tail end of Israel’s monarchy, and not in some archaic Mosaic past as portrayed by the biblical sources. It is, rather, the sole creation of the Deuteronomist. How do scholars arrive at this conclusion?

Contrary to the book of Deuteronomy’s divine proclamation “to exterminate,” “devour,” “put an end to,” and “utterly destroy” all the peoples of Canaan and their shrines and altars, the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings present a different picture: the Israelites are portrayed as repeatedly practicing Canaanite ritual practices and worshiping Yahweh and the gods of Canaan interchangeably at the high places, and even in the temple. This in itself, we must recall, is completely contradictory to Deuteronomy’s strict legislation of a single altar and place of worship at Jerusalem (#137-138).

More specifically, the books of Kings openly recognize that the worship of Yahweh along with other Canaanite deities at local altars and high places was a common and repeated occurrence in both the northern and the southern kingdoms from Solomon to Josiah. These types of cultic practices were labeled as apostasy by the Deuteronomist. Even the good kings of Judah, those “who did good in the eyes of Yahweh,” left the altars of the high places with their Canaanite, and Yahwistic, cultic practices undisturbed. All this was to change however with Josiah’s religious reforms in the last third of the 7th century BCE. Josiah, we are informed, was the only king of Judah to have destroyed the high places and to have centralized the cult of Yahweh in Jerusalem as part of a systematic religious reform (see below). The ideology behind this religious reform may be identified as the Yahweh alone movement.

It is not surprising that these two programs are the two essential features of the book of Deuteronomy. That is, part and parcel to this new Yahweh alone movement were the systematic destruction of all local shrines and altars where Yahweh and the other gods of Canaan were worshiped and the implementation of one authoritative cultic center at Jerusalem (Deut 12). These two religious innovations are only spoken of for one king in the monarchic period, king Josiah. It is true that Hezekiah, his scribes, and other court officials may have ushered in the Yahweh alone movement at the end of the 8th century BCE and implemented a program to centralize the cult of Yahweh at Jerusalem as well, but only Josiah is accredited by the Deuteronomist authors with destroying the high places. In other words, before Josiah’s religious reforms of the late 7th century BCE—which were legitimated by the text that expressed that ideological program, Deuteronomy—local shrines and altars, rooftop shrines, and cultic practices at the so-called high places to both Yahweh and other Canaanite deities were all part of the popular religious landscape of Israel and Judah. Yet the biblical authors, the Deuteronomists in particular, label this old popular tradition as apostasy. And we, its readers, have unknowingly bought into the Deuteronomist’s propaganda.

It is important to remember that the religious program propounded in the book of Deuteronomy to worship Yahweh alone and furthermore at Jerusalem alone was the product of an elite religious guild—educated Levites who may have been far removed from the religious practices of the people on a local level. Indeed, as some scholars have suggested, they may even have misunderstood local religious practices all together.1

In either case, the portrait they paint in the biblical literature is not a pretty one. Furthermore, according to the theological interpretive lens through which these elite scribes viewed history, it was these popularistic cultic practices that incurred Yahweh’s wrath which led to the people’s destruction by foreign superpowers in the region; two historical events were particularly interpreted through this theological lens: the destruction of Israel by the Assyrians in 722 BCE, and the destruction of Judah, Jerusalem, and the temple by the Babylonians in 587 BCE. It is no wonder that the Deuteronomist labeled these popularistic practices as apostasy—an apostasy created by the Deuteronomist as a means to scapegoat the real historical causes of each one of these destructions and, as the theology dictated, to accredit them to Yahweh himself. It was in all intents and purposes a way, a theological way, of making sense of the destruction and loss of land occasioned by the Assyrians and Babylonians, whose real and historical reasons for their brutal invasion and annihilation of both Israel and Judah respectively were that each of the kings decided to stop paying tribute to their foreign overlords.2

Yet contrary to the Deuteronomist’s derogatory and damning view of these sorts of popularistic religious practices, there is evidence from the Bible itself, archaeology, and inscriptions dug up throughout the whole monarchal period that make a rather strong case for understanding such practices as normative religious practices. It was how religion was practiced by the Israelites up to the religious reforms prompted by Hezekiah’s scribes and the Josianic Deuteronomists, who propounded a new religious movement, the Yahweh alone movement, and legitimated that movement by textually retrojecting it into the past as the ideal and pure state of Israelite religion as it was intended and as it had been practiced in the archaic past. Archaeologists Israel Finkelstein and Neil Silberman have written extensively on this topic:

The existence of high places and other forms of ancestral and household god worship was not—as the books of Kings imply—apostasy from an earlier, purer faith. It was part of the timeless tradition of the hill country settlers of Judah who worshiped Yahweh along with a variety of gods and goddesses known or adapted from the cults of neighboring peoples. Yahweh, in short, was worshipped in a wide variety of ways—and sometime pictured as having a heavenly entourage.3

The archaeological as well as biblical evidence for this widely accepted claim among archaeologists are:

First, numerous bull figurines and fertility goddesses have been unearthed at every late monarchic site in Judah, indicating a widespread and normative syncretic cultic practice across Israel.

Second, there have been a number of inscriptions found in sites from the 8th century BCE archaeological layer with the formulaic expression, “Yahweh of Sameria and his Asherah.” In Canaanite religious lore, Asherah was the consort of the high god El. Yahweh eventually came to be described in similar terms as El, and even apparently adopted his consort Asherah (see #27).4 Other inscriptions have additionally been unearthed that mention Yahweh along side of El and Baal. In the cultic sphere, the worship of El, Baal, and Yahweh were indistinguishable. Bull iconography was likewise associated with El, Baal, and Yahweh.

Third, there is even biblical evidence that some sort of syncretic cult of Yahweh and other Canaanite deities flourished in the monarchal period in Jerusalem. The prophetic literature, although advocating a Yahweh alone policy, clearly suggests that Yahweh was being worshiped at Jerusalem together with Baal, Asherah, and even the deities of Israel’s neighbors (see 1 Kings 11:5; 2 Kings 23:13; Jer 11:13; Ezek 8). Noteworthy as well, we are told that Josiah removed many of these deities’ cultic figures from Yahweh’s temple when he started his religious reforms in the late 7th century BCE (2 Kgs 23:4-5).

The point is that none of the earlier sources preserved in the biblical literature criticize or deem these practices as inappropriate until the Deuteronomist writes his history in the second half of the 7th century BCE. Given this evidence, together with the Deuteronomist’s strong polemic against such religious practices, scholars have come to conclude that this syncretic form of worship was an older normative tradition prior to the elitist Yahweh alone movement of the Deuteronomists. With the emergence of the Yahweh alone movement in the late 8th century BCE, however, this age-old religious practice was condemned as apostasy by 7th century BCE Deuteronomic authors. To cite Finkelstein once more:

“What can only be called an extraordinary outpouring of retrospective theology, the new centralized kingdom of Judah and the Jerusalem-centered worship of Yahweh was read back into Israelite history as the way things should always have been.”5

In short, this was the intention of the book of Deuteronomy.

The exclusive allegiance to Yahweh, and Yahweh alone, is best voiced throughout Deuteronomy in terms of the covenant. In fact the book of Deuteronomy is the covenantal document par excellence that defines this allegiance and stipulates the conditions of the allegiance as well as its punishments (curses) if the covenantal demands are broken. On the flip side of this demand for sole loyalty to Yahweh and his covenant is the systematic program to utterly destroy the Canaanites.

“You shall doom them to destruction. You shall grant them no terms and you shall not spare them!” (7:2)

“You shall devour all the peoples whom Yahweh your god delivers to you. You shall show them no pity!” (7:16).

This utter extermination of all the peoples of Canaan coincides with Josiah’s 7th century BCE religious reform of destroying all local altars and other non-Yahwistic altars, as defined by the Deuteronomic ideology promulgated from Jerusalem (see also #68). This is merely one way in which the text of Deuteronomy supported and legitimated the ideological program of Josiah in centralizing the cult of Yahweh around one shrine located in Jerusalem and exterminating all other Yahwistic and non-Yahwistic cultic sites. In reality the holy war against the Canannites and the divine decree to utterly exterminate them never happened. It was an idealistic program meant, theoretically, to eradicate the root or causes of apostasy: Canaanite cultic altars and statues. In practice, however, this never happened. Indeed many scholars have wondered if it ever happened under Josiah’s reign since once again the archaeological record indicates uninterrupted layers of cultic figurines and graven images throughout the monarchal period, even through Josiah’s 7th century BCE reforms.

It is for this very crime that the Deuteronomist’s Yahweh proclaims that he has expelled the Canaanites, and it is this very crime that Yahweh threatens to expel the Israelites from the land, to exile them (Deut 28-30). Indeed, as we have already seen in the affair of the Golden Calf narrative (#162), idolatry was the charge laid upon the north by the southern Deuteronomist and this crime resulted in the total annihilation of Israel in the north by the Assyrians in 722 BCE, at least according to the theological interpretive lens through which the southern Deuteronomist interpreted the fall of the north.

Surprisingly, the Priestly writer has little to nothing to say about idolatry. It does not surface in the priestly literature and was apparently of little to no concern for the Priestly writer and his historical circumstances. In other words, when the author of Leviticus sat down to compose his text, idolatry was not an imminent threat to Israelite religion. This has been one of the staple features in assigning the Priestly literature to the exilic or post-exlic era. Idolatry, as the books of Samuel, Kings, and the pre-exilic prophetic literature bear witness to was a religious phenomenon of the monarchy, not of the exilic or post-exilic periods.

The distinction between idolatry and purity also highlights the larger theological differences between D and P. The Deuteronomist was a strict monotheist, and following Yahweh’s commandment to obey and worship only Yahweh were the central theological tenets of his text. Not to say that P would have disagreed, but neither P’s theology nor his concerns were articulated in these terms. For the Aaronid priests, ritual and ethical purity defined its community and their relationship to Yahweh (see #185).

Although we might concede that the later Priestly writer would not have disagreed with the Deuteronomist’s call for strict allegiance to Yahweh, his concern and religious program however lied elsewhere. It was not idolatry, the swaying of one’s allegiance from Yahweh, that functioned to theologically explain the loss of the land and the extermination of the Canaanites, but rather, and in accord with P’s ritual and ethical sacrificial cult, the utter breach of ritual and ethical propriety between the pure and the impure. Leviticus 18 lists those sexual practices that were deemed impure, offensive, and blasphemous towards Yahweh, and which were also the reason why the Canaanites were expelled from the land. As is visible, maintaining the holiness of not only Yahweh’s people, but the land was of utmost importance to the Priestly writers.

Footnotes    

  1. In particular see William Dever, Did God Have a Wife?
  2. In fact, it could be argued that the Yahweh alone movement lead to Israel’s and Judah’s destruction, since in its most strict articulation, it meant that covenants or treaties with other sovereigns other than Yahweh was not permissible. But literature is a miraculous thing in itself, especially the use of literature to support monarchal or state policies—propaganda in short. Hezekiah’s scribes certainly had a flare for this as they extolled him as devotedly loyal to Yahweh alone, which resulted in his refusal to pay tribute to his Assyrian overlord, which then resulted in the Assyrians utter destruction of the land of Judah and besieging of Jerusalem. Yet the biblical authors relate this story as a triumph for the Yahweh alone movement by narrating how Jerusalem was “miraculously” spared because Hezekiah put his trust in Yahweh alone. However, we know from archaeological and extra-biblical material that Hezekiah finally acknowledged his Assyrian overlord—contrary to the stipulations of the Yahweh alone movement—and paid him a handsome tribute. See the Assyrian annals of Sennecherib.
  3. Finkelstein and Silberman, The Bible Unearthed, 241-242.
  4. For a lively treatment see William Dever’s recent book, Did God Have a Wife?
  5. Ibid, 249.

13 thoughts on “#190. For what reason were the Canaanites expelled from the land: their sexual immorality OR idolatry? (Lev 18:24-28 vs Deut 7, 12)

  1. Hmmmmm……I think I can work with that response. For one, I did not presume to link the authors of Deuteronomy or Leviticus with Hebrews 7. I did link the origin of tithing with its ultimate disannulment and included a common mistake made by modern-day religionists who appear to completely ignore both texts. I found it interesting that you attempted to relate Lev. 27:30-33, Num. 18:21-24 and Deut 14:22-27 as contrasting passages. However, you fail to note that they are not contextually the same “tithe”. That is on par with lumping federal taxes with state taxes and claiming they contradict each other when in fact they are orthogonal. A single “tenth” was not required when often four or more “tithes” were required. Each for a different function. Each orthogonal but hardly contrasting. So, discernment with respect to which tithe is being inferred is needed. For another, I found it interesting that you think the ancient concept of Yahweh to have nothing whatsoever to “do with today”. I would expound on that and state that the ancient’s concept of Yahweh has nothing whatsoever to do with today’s RELIGION. The difference is significant because you appear to claim Yahweh was simply another contrived diety (based on contradictory text?). Nothing could be less factual and if your objective was to justify such a claim, then you have wasted decades of time. The further back in time one goes in the history of mankind, the more it becomes evident that the existence of Yahweh as an absolute singularity is intuitively hardwired into the human genome, even without ancient texts. If I were to ask whether “Truth” exists, the most hardened atheist would instantly say, “yes, Truth exists” based solely upon intuition. And, when misunderstanding begins with the first translation of Elohym in the text, which should be “God of gods” (a statement of absolute singularity) created the heavens and the earth, rather than just “God” then one can easily be misled to conclude apparent contradictions. Then, misunderstanding continues with the translation of “in the image of God” when it should be “in the image of godS” (same word but used as fully plural). Consequently, mistranslation and presumption propagate to complicate what might at first appear to be a simple accumulation of contradictory text, even if using “language of the day”. I do not see where your studies, while very interesting, have fully considered such factors.

    1. “However, you fail to note that they are not contextually the same “tithe”” —this is the point however. These two different priestly guilds conceived of the tithe in different terms. Only later when these texts were edited together to form a single Torah, were there then attempts to “harmonize” them together or in your language, to see them as orthogonal. Indeed, they served different functions, because they were created independently of each other for that purpose. Or, as others have claimed, the later text, Leviticus & Numbers, was a polemic against the earlier tithing law in Deuteronomy.

      “I would expound on that and state that the ancient’s concept of Yahweh has nothing whatsoever to do with today’s RELIGION.” — that is exactly my point, if it wasn’t clearly articulated. However, the thesis that Yahweh was a contrived deity rests on archeological data and, yes, biblical and extra-biblical sources. The evidence suggests that Yahweh may have originated as another Canaanite deity in the court of El, the high god of Canaan, but that over time Yahweh usurped El’s position as high god.

      “The further back in time one goes in the history of mankind, the more it becomes evident that the existence of Yahweh as an absolute singularity is intuitively hardwired into the human genome, even without ancient texts.” — I’m not sure where you get such a speculative idea, but again the archaeological, biblical and extra-biblical data strongly suggest otherwise. See contradiction #27: Are Yahweh and El the same god or not? for a review of these data and how scholars have used them to support the thesis that El is the older deity of the Israelites, and Yahweh eventually usurped this role.

  2. It’s interesting that you would claim knowledge of Leviticus which was to the tribe of Levi, a PATRIARCH. The content of which I am intimately familiar with. A text written and re-written by unknown priests but ultimately disannulled in Heb. 7 of the New Testament. Much to the chagrin of modern-day religionist thieves who insist that tithing still applies to “Christianity” today. Yet, they completely ignore that the tithe, if paid in money, is 15% rather than a mere 10%. And, by usurping the law of tithing, they pretend the full levitical priesthood. Falsely so. The fact that you attempt to attack me personally using your knowledge of Leviticus is quite illuminating. I found your thesis interesting and replied based on what you hadn’t discussed. Not to attack or divide but to add to the conversation. Yet, you have called what I had to offer bullshit. That too shows how closely you guard your accumulated knowledge to yourself. Such egocentrism! I’m not all that impressed with factual data based on ego bias and presumptive deduction rather than objectivity.

    1. No Kim. I’m just tired of people spouting on about things they really know nothing about. And sorry, this is not egoism; it is confidence in a subject I’ve been studying for decades. In fact, the arrogance points the other way—to modern readers who think they can determine the meaning of these 2,000-3,000 year old texts while actually knowing nothing about the texts—and here I go again—their authors, the cultures that produced them, when they were written, why, to whom, as a response to what historical and literary circumstances, etc. etc.

      As for Hebrews 7, it has nothing whatsoever to do with the elite priestly clan that wrote the scroll that only centuries later became titled Leviticus. It has everything to do, however, with how readers living millennia later and who knew nothing of the authors of this text, when it was written, why, to whom, etc., (mis)perceived, (mis)read, and (mis)understood this book. Furthermore the Greeks who named this “book” Leviticus approximately 3-4 centuries after it was written when they translated the Hebrew into Greek were wrong in titling this book Leviticus. This book has NOTHING to do with Levites and in fact it only mentions Levites once in the entire book! The text itself tells us that it was written by an elite priestly scion of the tribe of Levi (never mentioned as such however) who traced their lineage back to Aaron—thus the Aaronid priesthood. One of the reasons they wrote their text, in fact, was to challenge and debunk the claims of the Levites as Yahweh’s priest—a view held by the Levite written book of Deuteronomy (also erroneously titled). The Levites are not priests in this Aaronid-written and Yahweh-sanctified text (see #152, #177, etc.). Deuteronomy and Leviticus are competing views about Israelite religion, who are Yahweh’s representatives, the role of religion, indeed what religion is, and so on. I have written extensively on the contradictions between these two books and the scribal guilds they represent. Check some of the posts out. I’d rather be discussing or debating with you over specific texts.

      What indeed you’re doing, it seems, is assessing knowledge of these texts and their authors through what you’ve been told about them by centuries, even millennium later Christina interpretive frameworks. That’s not studying the texts on their own terms; in fact I would argue it’s completely opposite. Furthermore, Leviticus and the beliefs of its authors, their worldview and their conception of Yahweh—all have nothing whatsoever to do with today. Period, There is no debate. The ideas, beliefs, worldview, legal code, religious system, ideology, and even the god of this 2,500 year old text is completely negated by our own beliefs, worldview, values, conception of God, etc. etc. This is not some whimsical nor biased nor subjective claim I’m making, Rather it comes from knowing this 6th century BCE text in detail, and the authors who wrote it, their beliefs, wordlview, ideology, etc.

      Look at the sidebar, there are plenty of posts on Leviticus that deal with Leviticus, not how Leviticus was perceived, appropriated, or misunderstood by later readers, but rather on the very terms of the author, the priestly guild, who wrote this scroll and from his own cultural perspective. My goal is not to assign a value to this study, nor advocate belief in these 2,000-3,000 year old texts, but rather to observe, understand, and know their own beliefs, views, god, etc., on the text’s own terms. The world, sacrificial legislation, and ideology envisioned by these elite priests, and authenticated by placing them on the lips of Yahweh, fascinates me to no end. It is radically different from ours; it is a world conceived of in terms of sacred and profane space and time. They believed that God himself at creation created certain spaces and acts as pure and/or impure and a specific day and other appointed times (Lev 23) as sacred and holy. That is why this author has Yahweh adamantly proclaim death to anyone who so much even collects wood on the day that God himself created as sacred, pure, and holy—i.e., our Saturday. We do not share in these beliefs (that the cosmos is inherently, in its essence at creation made up of sacred and profane time and space—modern day so-called Creationist are in fact the worst enemies to these texts and their authors and beliefs), worldviews, values, cultic legislation, etc. They are neither to be interpreted away by later theological Christianizing interpretive frameworks. They are to be understood for what they are—the beliefs of an elite priestly clan living 2,500 years ago in a vastly different geopolitical world than ours. Again, if interested, I have written extensively on this and much more. Look at the contradictions on Leviticus on the sidebar, 68 in all.

      As for tithing, Leviticus’ legislation on tithing also has nothing to do with us. True people us it, and the Bible in general to legitimate their own beliefs, views, ideology, etc., much like the biblical authors themselves used the mouthpiece of Yahweh, and later Jesus, to do the same. Again, this is not a subjective claim I’m making, but one that’s backed by the texts themselves—studying the texts each on their own terms. Furthermore, the addition of 1/5 to the tithed amount has nothing specifically to do with money; rather it has to do with whether or not the farmer, herdsmen, family wanted to redeem the tithe owed Yahweh, which was 1/10 of his produce, and specifically they were “tithes from the land.” I’ve written on this too, specifically how the law of tithes and to whom they’re given is contradictorily represented in the Torah (Torah only). See:

      #214. Who were the benefactors of the tithes: the Aaronid priests alone OR the Levites OR the people? (Lev 27:30-33 vs Num 18:21-24 vs Deut 14:22-27)
      #215. What was tithed: all the produce of the land and the animals OR only the produce of the land? (Lev 27:30-33 vs Deut 14:23)
      #216. Is one-fifth of the value to be added to tithes redeemed by money OR not? (Lev 27:31 vs Deut 14:24-25)

      You might be interested in this one as well: #212. An impure firstborn animal, particularly an ass, is redeemed with a lamb OR the priest’s appraisal price plus a fifth OR 5 shekels? (Ex 13:13, 34:20 vs Lev 27:27 vs Num 15-16)

  3. That is my premise. Patriarchy was not just a factor in context….Patriarchy was a PRIME factor in why different manuscripts existed simply because there were different Patriarchs. To not recognize that one of the most important reasons independent manuscripts were so valued outside of context indicates to me your motive is to hypothesize the Bible’s content as competitive based solely upon the idea of physical segregation in its origin. That is a flawed hypothesis. The Patriarchs from which the Bible originated were clearly not competitive. Most weren’t even alive at the same time. Yet, they all valued what they had to pass to their progeny. Then, the canonization into what we understand to be the Bible occurred with full understanding of Patriarchy in the context. Manuscripts without patriarchal context were easily seen to be false and rejected. Consequently, we observe a Bible that is HIGHLY patriarchal. Yet, in your thesis, you ignore any discussion of this.

    1. Kim,
      Sorry, but you’re way out of line here, both in what you’re accusing me of and in your knowledge or should I say lack of knowledge about the compositional history of these 70+ different and competing ancient texts which were roughly written during a 1,000 year period by varying authors—male authors!—with varying, different, and often competing and even contradictory agendas, theologies, worldviews, and ideologies. This is the fact!—born from an objective and honest study of these texts.

      Furthermore, if you had bothered to read any of the material on this site, you would see that most all of the entries here deal with the male authors of these texts. I don’t deny any context and quite the contrary bring historical and literary contexts to the fore in discussing these texts; that is perhaps my primary and most valuable objective. But this requires knowledge about the texts themselves, who wrote them, why, to whom, and more so how and why these once separate texts were later edited together centuries after their composition by authors and readers who had vastly different views and agendas of these original writers.

      What you have written above is what we call in the vernacular “bullshit.” It’s speculate, unfounded (on what texts are you basing it on?), abstract, and rhetorical with no grounding in any knowledge of the compositional history of the Bible’s texts, when they were written, by who, to whom, to address what historical circumstances, etc. All you do is cry forth a key word, “patriarchy!,” like someone screaming “Fire!” on a plane, and think you’re making a contribution to a topic you have of yet displayed no knowledge about. For instance, who wrote the scroll that later became the book of Leviticus? Why did he write it? To whom? When? What did this author believe and why? Were his beliefs representative of the common folk or just an educated elite class? Was he writing in response to an historical crisis or concern? What literary precursors was he working from? Was he writing against other writers that had competing views about Israel, Israel’s religious system, even the image of Israel’s deity, Yahweh? And for you: How did his worldview and beliefs represent or even challenge patriarchal notions in the ancient Near East? Etc. All these things and more are what I’ve been talking about here. And then further down the road: Who centuries later combined this scroll with other scrolls written by completely different scribal guilds and in different time periods and from different geopolitical contexts and worldviews? Why were they combined? To serve the needs of what audience? What historical period, crisis, or need? Etc. I can pretty confidently answer these questions because frankly this is my area of expertise, what I’ve spent my life doing, for better or for worse. If you can’t answer any of these questions, or haven’t even thought about them, then please admit ignorance (i.e., lack of knowledge on the topic), and read some stuff about it. I guarantee you, many of my readers would guarantee you, you won’t find a better source on the web, nor in the bookstore!, than this site, which has been growing in content for over a year now.

      So before saying speaking incorrectly again, feel free to actually read the contents on this site. I’ve written extensively about the authors of the textual traditions that went into the making of what later generations of readers—centuries later—labeled the Book. See: the Yahwist, Elohist, Priestly writer, Deuteronomist. I’ve written about how scholars discovered these textual traditions through studying the Pentateuch, about the compositional nature of the Bible and what studying the Bible is apart from our preformed and personal beliefs about the Bible, etc. In individual entries, up to 243 now, I’ve gone into greater detail discussing the specific beliefs, worldviews, ideas, competing agendas and, yes, contradictions between the Pentateuch’s varying authors, their historical, cultural, and theological ideas and contexts as it pertained to specific passages, etc. etc. In most cases, these authors or scribal guilds represented either court scribes in the service of early monarchs, archival scribes who collected traditions, copied them, even modified them, and elite priestly guilds, such as the Aaronids who wrote the book of Leviticus and most of Numbers. Our goal here is to understand these authors, each on their own terms. You haven’t even confronted such a concept yet, let alone the daunting nature of such a task. You speak in abstract terms with little to no knowledge about ancient Near Eastern texts, textual traditions, textual transmission, scroll production, and the specific hows and whys which brought these independent and once separate ancient texts into creation, and then centuries later the hows and whys of how these conflicting texts were codified together to form, in the words of the author of Ezra, “the Torah of Moses that Yahweh commanded,” and then centuries later the hows and whys of how this corpus was expanded to incorporate other biblia and only at this point became unalterable scripture (but even then the scrolls at Qumran tell a different story), and then centuries later the hows and whys behind the creation of the Christian canon, and then the hows and whys of the creation of what might properly be called the Bible and along with that the hows and whys behind the creation of certain, centuries later, theological interpretive frameworks, such as divine authorship, through which these ancient texts were now read or more so misread. Trust me, there is nothing I leave out in this study. I’ve studied extensively the biblical texts, the scholarly literature on these texts, other literature of the ancient Near East and the Greco-Roman worlds, etc. Stop substituting rhetorical jargon for the actual studying of these texts, each on their own terms and in their own contexts—and that’s 1,000 years of historical, cultural, and literary contexts to know!!

  4. Quite factual. But as we all know, facts do not necessarily lead one to actual Truth. In answering “So what does the Bible itself tell us about its compositional nature?” by stating “The Bible is a collection of ancient texts and traditions.”, one important factor is completely ignored in the overall equation………..the ancient concept of patriarchy, extant throughout the “collection”. The significance being that patriarchy was one of the prime factors in including text as it stands today, in what we commonly refer to as the Bible. Patriarchy, as defined by the passing of a tribal and/or familial surname to the first-born Son, including the wealth and promises such a passing encompass. If cannot be ignored without coming to some fundamentally erroneous conclusions.

    1. No, no factors are ignored. I’m talking about how the Bible as a corpus of ancient texts came about, what it is, who wrote it, etc. Discussing these texts’ contents and cultures, one aspect being patriarchy, is another conversation. How is a book made is a different query from what does the book say and why, although here we’re interested in both.

  5. Understanding old testament commandments and directives to the people of God must be interpreted with the understanding that everything recorded was with one purpose. That was to document as a witness how the coming of Messiah in holiness through faith came to be. Even to seemingly unrelated details such as an entire people being subjected to the holy commandments, to others being put to death and even to being conceived in a virgin of the seed (sperma) of Abraham through Joseph, Mary’s husband rather than through the mortal act of sex between Joseph and his wife.

    1. Wrong Kim! Sorry, but this is just plain abusive to the texts, their authors, the cultures that wrote them, the historical circumstances they were responding to, their historical audiences, the literary context within which they were writing, their beliefs and views about god Yahweh, etc. etc. etc. You’ve chosen to take an interpretive stance that denies all of these above factors—texts, authors, historical and literary contexts, etc.—and in place of these substitute your own beliefs about the texts (while knowing nothing of the above, nothing about the texts, their authors audiences, reasons for compositions, etc.) or those of a later generation, your presuppositions, your interpretive and theological grids, your assessment of meaning, your values, worldview, etc. Bravo! You’ve merely accomplished killing the text, its authors, and their competing messages, meanings, and beliefs.

      No Kim, understanding the Hebrew Bible starts by understanding the cultures that produced these ancient texts, their authors, their worldviews, beliefs, audiences, reasons for writing, etc., etc., etc. In other words, understanding the Hebrew Bible starts with the texts themselves, as their authors intended, in their own terms, and in their own historical and literary cultures! I’m just so tired and appalled by the lack of respect, knowledge, and honesty accorded these ancient texts by their so-called “followers.” Kill the authors, their texts, and their meanings, and conversely impose our own — this should be the motto of the new Christianity. Indeed you never confront the texts in “your” understanding of the texts. You rather start and end with a later interpretive belief system about these texts. But the texts themselves, on their own terms, in their own words, in their own historical and literary contexts, these are all irrelevant to “your understanding.” How shameful.

      If you’re sincerely interested in being honest to the biblical text, you might start by looking at these, below. I’d be more than happy to engage you on any one of these topics, questions or critiques.

      What is the Bible?
      Studying the Bible Objectively

  6. John, knowing you a bit through your extensive contributions here (thanks), I’m a bit surprised by the “Yahweh could have…” remark as if Yahweh were more than a literary creation—which he certainly was from the perspective of our authors. Should I read some sarcasm in this remark?

    Yes. I was arguing from the perspective of those who believe that Yahweh is actually an omni-everything deity who could have nipped the “Canaanite problem” in the bud very easily, since he would know which son of Noah’s would father Canaan and his “wicked” descendants. I’m aware that Genesis 9 is an etiological tale to justify the destruction of the Canaanites, but it, along with the Redactor’s “prophecy” of Genesis 15:13-16, make Yahweh look incompetent or sadistic.

    Genesis 15:13-16
    13Then Yahweh said to Abram, ‘Know this for certain, that your offspring shall be aliens in a land that is not theirs, and shall be slaves there, and they shall be oppressed for four hundred years; 14but I will bring judgement on the nation that they serve, and afterwards they shall come out with great possessions. 15As for yourself, you shall go to your ancestors in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. 16And they shall come back here in the fourth generation; for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.’

    Regarding post-Mosaic authorship of the Torah, I think that Ezekiel 44, a passage you already touched on in contradiction #152, provides such evidence, since it states that Levites, not Aaronids, were serving as Yahweh’s priests, and that Aaronids (through Zadok) replaced them and confined the Levites to a support role only because of the Levites’ idolatry (Ezek. 44:10-15), a division of labor which P retrojected back to the time of Moses.

  7. The passage from Leviticus is significant, too, because it betrays the fact that it was written after Israel already lived in Canaan, even though it is ostensibly given to Moses in the wilderness. Notice the past tense employed:

    Leviticus 18:24-27
    24 Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, for by all these practices the nations I am casting out before you have defiled themselves. 25Thus the land became defiled; and I punished it for its iniquity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. 26But you shall keep my statutes and my ordinances and commit none of these abominations, either the citizen or the alien who resides among you 27(for the inhabitants of the land, who were before you, committed all of these abominations, and the land became defiled);

    On another note, Yahweh could have prevented Canaanites from ever being in the Promised Land, or any other region for that matter, simply by not allowing Ham, the progenitor of the Canaanites (Genesis 10:6-20; see also Genesis 9:22-27), to board the ark, or by killing him for the offense of the latter passage.

    1. Nice. So you’re adding textual data here for the now widely accepted conclusion that the Torah is composed of all post-Mosaic texts. I don’t think I’ve seen this, nor similar passages, mentioned in the literature before. The typical passage referred to that indicates that the writers of these texts were in Canaan when they were written is the Deuteronomic expression “across the Jordan” when referring to Moses’ speech. More impressive would be if these references could be used to reinforce a post-exilic date for P, when the Israelites came back to the land from their exile. Obviously I’m of the party, the majority, that sees P as an exilic and/or post-exilic creation. A few, however, still argue for a pre-exilic Hezekian date, such as Friedman, Milgrom.

      John, knowing you a bit through your extensive contributions here (thanks), I’m a bit surprised by the “Yahweh could have…” remark as if Yahweh were more than a literary creation—which he certainly was from the perspective of our authors. Should I read some sarcasm in this remark? On the other hand, you pinpoint why the biblical authors choose Ham, the father of the Canaanites, who sins against his father Noah and is therefore cursed (Gen 9:18-25). “Yahweh’s” utter destruction of the Canaanites was rationalized, and perhaps legitimated, by drawing attention to this narrative of Ham’s curse. It’s an etiological tale which provides another reason for why the Canaanites were destroyed. To this extent, then, Ham was very much needed.

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