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God’s Quid Pro Quo
by BS Murthy Bookmark and Share
 

Continued from Advent of Dharma

Puppets of Faith: Theory of Communal Strife - III  

In what could have been the first irony of human history, at the very time when the Aryans were subjugating the free people in India, the Jews, in slavery, were enabled by ‘the God’ to escape from Egypt.

The God, as though in reciprocity, demanded of the Jews to submit to His Will, made explicit in the Torah. And, as if to massage their ego, besides gaining their servitude, ‘the God’ proclaimed them as His Chosen People. However, to rein them in, He imposed a code of conduct upon them through the Laws He revealed to Moses, the Prophet chosen for that purpose. Besides, as an incentive to their compliance with those harsh Laws, ‘the God’ promised to lead them into Israel, the ‘Promised Land’ for them. Nevertheless, the All Knowing God felt all that might not be enough to ensure an everlasting obedience and the abiding gratitude of His Chosen People. And thus, as though to keep the flock all to Himself, he warned them of their destruction if they ever worshipped other gods.

Hence, it is imperative to understand the nature of Jehovah, the Judaic God, and the tone and tenor of the Mosaic Laws to appreciate the life and times of the Semitic people in that distant past.

The Ten Commandments, with the God’s preamble, read thus:

I am Jehovah your god who liberated you from your slavery in Egypt.

  1. You may worship no other god than me.
        
  2. You shall not make yourselves any idols: no images of animals, birds, or fish. You must never bow or worship it in any way; for I, the Lord your God, am very possessive. I will not share your affection with any other God!
      
    And when I punish people for their sins, the punishment continues upon the children, grand children, and great-grand children of those who hate me; but I lavish my love upon thousands of those who love me and obey my commandments.
      
  3. You shall not use the name of Jehovah your god irreverently, nor use it to swear to a falsehood. You will not escape punishment if you do.
       
  4. Remember to observe the Sabbath as a holy day. Six days a week are for your daily duties and your regular work, but the seventh day is a day of Sabbath rest before the Lord your God. On that day you are to do no work of any kind, nor shall your son, daughter, or slaves - whether men or women - or your cattle or your houseguests. For in six days the Lord made the heaven, earth, and sea, and everything in them, and rested the seventh day; so he blessed the Sabbath day and set it aside for rest.
       
  5. Honour your father and mother, that you may have a long, good life in the land the Lord your God will give you.
        
  6. You must not murder.
       
  7. You must not commit adultery.
        
  8. You must not steal.
       
  9. You must not lie.
       
  10. You must not be envious of your neighbour’s house, or want to sleep with his wife, or want to own his slaves, oxen, donkeys, or anything else he has.

In the New Stone Tablets that He gave to Moses, Jehovah further implores the Jews thus:

“Be very, very careful never to compromise with the people there in the land where you are going, for if you do, you will soon be following their evil ways. Instead, you must break down their heathen altars, smash the obelisks they worship, and cut down their shameful idols. For you must worship no other gods, but only Jehovah, for he is a God who claims loyalty and exclusive devotion.

No, do not make a peace treaty of any kind with the people living in the land, for they are spiritual prostitutes, committing adultery against me by sacrificing to their gods. If you become friendly with them and one of them invites you to go with him and worship his idol, you are apt to do it. And you would accept their daughters, who worship other gods, as wives for your sons – and then your sons would commit adultery against me by worshipping their wives’ gods. You must have nothing to do with idols.”

Having thus laid the moral code of conduct for His Chosen People, besides revealing the religious regimen of Judaism, Jehovah advanced the enabling provisions of conformity that came to be regarded as the ‘Laws of Moses’. Understandably, these Laws lay down the prescriptions and proscriptions intended by ‘the God’ for man in the journey of his life ‘here’. What is more, and inexplicably at that, the Mosaic Laws detail the ordained punishments based on ‘eye for eye’ and ‘tooth for tooth’ jurisprudence. As the Mosaic Laws reveal, Jehovah comes out as an Impersonal Being, content Himself at punishing the wrongdoers in a legalistic fashion, rather than concerning Himself with imparting spiritual guidance to the Jews, His Chosen People, for their salvation. Nonetheless, as the following passages from the Torah illustrate, when it comes to His own relationship with them, Jehovah appears to be a very personal and demanding God.

“You must not worship the gods of the neighbouring nations, for Jehovah your God who lives among you is a jealous God, and his anger may rise quickly against you, and wipe you off the face of the earth. You must not provoke him and try his patience as you did when you complained against him at Massah. You must actively obey him in everything he commands. Only then will you be doing what is right and good in the Lord’s eyes. If you obey him, all will go well for you, and you will be able to go in and possess the good land which the Lord promised your ancestors. You will also be able to throw out all the enemies living in your land, as the lord agreed to help you do.’

“In the years to come when your son asks you, ‘What is the purpose of these laws which the Lord our God has given us? you must tell him, ‘We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt, and the Lord brought us out of Egypt with great power and mighty miracles – with terrible blows against Egypt and Pharaoh and all his people. We saw it all with our own eyes. He brought us out of Egypt so that he could give us this land he had promised to our ancestors. And he has commanded us to obey all of these laws and to reverence him so that he can preserve us alive as he has until now. For it always goes well with us when we obey all the laws of the Lord our God.”

The rewards that Jehovah accords to His Chosen People in exchange for their obedience are all materialistic as stipulated in the Torah thus:

“You must obey all the commandments of the Lord your God, following his directions in every detail, going the whole way he has laid out for you; only then will you live and lead prosperous lives in the land you are to enter and possess.”

“If you obey all of my commandments, I will give you regular rains, and the land will yield bumper crops, and the trees will be loaded with fruit long after the normal time! And grapes will still be ripening when sowing time comes again. You shall eat your fill, and live safely in the land, for I will give you peace, and you will go to sleep without fear. I will chase away the dangerous animals. You will chase your enemies; they will die beneath your swords. Five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you, ten thousand! You will defeat all of your enemies. I will look after you, and multiply you, and fulfill my covenant with you. You will have such a surplus of crops that you won’t know what to do with them when the new harvest is ready! And I will live among you, and not despise you. I will walk among you and be your God, and you shall be my people. For I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, so that you would be slaves no longer; I have broken your chains so that you can walk with dignity.”

“When the Lord brings you into the Promised Land, as he soon will, he will destroy the following seven nations, all greater and mightier than you are: the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Cannanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, the Jebusites.”

Equally significantly, the punishments of disregard too are mundane to the core.

“But if you will not listen to me or obey me, but reject my laws, this is what I will do to you: I will punish you with sudden terrors and panic, and with tuberculosis and burning fever; your eyes shall be consumed and your life shall ebb away; you will sow your crops in vain, for your enemies will eat them. I will set my face against you and you will flee before your attackers; those who hate you will rule you; you will even run when no one is chasing you!”

“And if you still disobey me, I will punish you seven times more severely for your sins. I will break your proud power and make your heavens as iron, and your earth as bronze. Your strength shall be spent in vain; for your land shall not yield its crops, nor your trees their fruit.”

“And if even then you will not obey me and listen to me, I will send you seven times more plagues because of your sins. I will send wild animals to kill your children and destroy your cattle and reduce your numbers so that your roads will be deserted.”

“And if even this will not reform you, but you continue to walk against my wishes, then I will walk against your wishes, and I, even I, will personally smite you seven times for your sin. I will revenge the breaking of my covenant by bringing war against you. You will flee to your cities, and I will send a plague among you there; and you will be conquered by your enemies. I will destroy your food supply so that one oven will be large enough to bake all the bread available for ten entire families; and you will still be hungry after your pittance has been doled out to you.”

“And if you still won’t listen to me or obey me, then I will let loose my great anger and send you seven times greater punishment for your sins. You shall eat your own sons and daughters, and I will destroy the altars on the hills where you worship your idols, and I will cut down your incense altars, leaving your dead bodies to rot among your idols; and I will abhor you. I will make your cities desolate, and destroy your places of worship, and will not respond to your incense offerings. Yes, I will desolate your land; your enemies shall live in it, utterly amazed at what I have done to you.”

“I will scatter you out among the nations, destroying you with war as you go. Your land shall be desolate and your cities destroyed. Then at last the land will rest and make up for the many years you refused to let it lie idle; for it will lie desolate all the years that you are captives in enemy lands. Yes, then the land will rest and enjoy its Sabbaths! It will make up for the rest you didn’t give it every seventh year when you lived upon it.”

“And for those who are left alive, I will cause them to be dragged away to distant lands as prisoners of war, and slaves. There they will live in constant fear. The sound of a leaf driven in the wind will send them fleeing as though chased by a man with a sword; they shall fall when no one is pursuing them. Yes, though none pursue they shall stumble over each other in flight, as though fleeing in battle, with no power to stand before their enemies. You shall perish among the nations and be destroyed among your enemies. Those left shall pine away in enemy lands because of their sins, the same sins as those of their fathers.”

“But at last they shall confess their sins and their fathers’ sins of treachery against me. (Because they were against me, I was against them, and brought them into the land of their enemies.) When at last their evil hearts are humbled and they accept the punishment I send them for their sins, then I will remember again my promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I will remember the land (and its desolation). For the land shall enjoy its Sabbaths as it lies desolate. But then at last they shall accept their punishment for rejecting my laws and for despising my rule. But despite all they have done, I will not utterly destroy them and my covenant with them, for I am Jehovah their God. For their sakes I will remember my promises to their ancestors, to be their God. For I brought their forefathers out of Egypt as all the nations watched in wonder. I am Jehovah.”

Thus, in essence, it seems that the religion of Judaism emphasizes the duty of the Jews to follow the Will of their God, in gratitude for His benevolence of their deliverance from slavery. It was this remarkable covenant of Jehovah, which made them His Chosen People that should have enabled the Jews to brave the pogroms in alien lands for centuries with unrivalled forbearance. Besides, the underpinnings of reward and punishment regimen that their faith inculcates in their consciousness would have served the Jewish people sustain hope in the face of adversity for millennia.

On the other hand, Jehovah, for His part, kept His word, first by punishing the Jews as he said He would, and then, in the end, gave them the Promised Land, also as promised. On the basis of the executed threats and fulfilled promises, and going by the recorded history of religions, the Judaism of Jehovah has a claim for authenticity amongst the faiths of the world. Thus, as Jehovah settled scores with the Jews ‘here’ itself, won’t the proposition be valid that, after all, there could be no Hindu swarga, no Christian Day of Judgment and no Islamic Hereafter for man to contend with?

And inexplicably, Jehovah, in His Quranic avatar as Allah, revealed to Muhammad that Paradise is for the real for the new faithful. And in times to come, the propensity of the zealot Musalmans to put their lives on line to attain it, though with debatable outcome, has become the scourge of mankind.

Previous Page

Continued to "Pyramids of Wisdom"  

Image (c) Gettyimages.com

6-Dec-2012
More by :  BS Murthy
 
Views: 1196
Article Comment Thank you Aravind for your liking it made me glad.
BS Murthy
09/11/2013
Article Comment good
ARAVIND
09/10/2013
Article Comment It is clear that when talking about God’s dealings with man, especially in the ‘quid pro quo’ terms you cite, it is never God’s actual words, but the understanding derived through a human intermediary, as the prophet Moses is, that is couched in terms attributed to God. Since God to the Jews of the covenant is an infinitely exalted being, whose name is too holy to be pronounced, it is clear the expression of God’s desires involve in all cases an intermediary or prophet. The prophet being a mere mortal can only comprehend the ineffable will of God in limited terms of human intellect, and within a specific community of people. However, once the rules and regulations are set out by the intermediary, they are referred to as God’s commandments. Further, scripture has it that it is an angel that mediates God’s will to the intermediary in all such encounters between God and man, since the holy angels identify with the will of God in all things, and even speak in the name of God.

Jesus Christ as an intermediary of God’s Will is radically different: in Christ there is comprehension by virtue of unity in essence with the Divine of the Divine Will, which He expresses as the new covenant of love. The sacrificial shedding of His own blood is alone the requisite atonement for the sins of the whole of mankind; what used to be the daily ritual atonement of blood sacrifice of sheep and oxen performed in the Jewish temple for the sins of its people (the Moses mediated understanding of the Divine Will).


rdashby
12/08/2012
 
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