Joshua, Judges, Ruth, and a little bit of 1 Samuel.

I think I’m moving through the “Heroes” section of the Bible. The books of Moses are like Greek mythology – tales of the gods and their pawns. These books are filled with the peers of Aeneas and Odysseus – men who are driven by duties to the gods and occasional redirectioning by visits from the gods or their emmisaries, but the main gods have pretty much withdrawn themselves from the action.

I’m still struck by the level of violence sanctioned by God in the Old Testament. Today, a man was visiting a Benjamite city (ie an Israelite city, not one of those crazy pagan cities), and the men of the city demanded that his host deliver him up so that they may “know” him. (That sounds kind of like Lot’s visitors in Sodom, doesn’t it? I’m beginning to suspect, though, that the request to “know” the stranger wasn’t the threat – the homosexuality wasn’t the scary part, but rather the veiled implication that the man will be mugged and beaten.) The host gives the men of the city his visitor’s concubine instead, and the rape and beat and abuse her horribly, so she dies on the doorstep of the host. The next morning, the guest goes outside to find his concubine collapsed on the doorstep, orders her to get up and follow him out of the city, and when she doesn’t, he throws her over the back of his donkey, takes her out of the city, cuts her into 12 parts with a knife, and sends each of the parts off to the ten other tribes and 2 half-tribes. The other tribes then come and wipe out all of the Benjamites, including women and children, except for about 400 men who escape to the hills. But, since they’re not too comfortable wiping out one of the tribes, the rest of Israel encourages the remaining Benjamites to pre-enact a Rape of the Sabines in order to get new wives.

Good stuff, God says.

The other thing I’ve noticed is how much prostitution there is so far, and nobody seems to mind, as long as it’s not their daughter. Indeed, several of the patriarchs seem to have been johns. I’ve been coming to the conclusion that America’s “Heartland” values are based more on the Old Testament than the New, but this seems like a real break in that theory…

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